As the VH1 docu-series The Drug Years began last night, I thought back to my high school football coach, who always used to say, “Clifford, you missed your time.” Now I know what Coach Dodds was talking about.
The first of this four-part series, “Break on Through” (1950s-1967), focused on the birth of the counterculture movement, from jazz to beatniks to full-blown hippies, who got a little help from their friends marijuana and LSD. It touched on everything from the influence of drugs on jazz, the poetry of Alan Ginsberg (my dad is very proud of his picture with Ginsberg—the two were friends, though details are hazy), and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
Actor Peter Coyote said of Kerouac, “He rewrote Huck Finn and gave him a big fat joint, making everyone want to go on their own trip.” The special also hit on one of the craziest people of all time, Timothy Leary, whose psychedelic mantra of “tune in, turn on, drop out” is still well known, and the Merry Pranksters, who led a series of festivals in Haight-Ashbury. Those were huge parties that gave out acid to the entire crowd…what happened to those?
Then there was the music, with Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and the Grateful Dead leading the way, and those artists’ drug experimentation. One funny moment detailed when Dylan visited the Beatles in New York. Thinking the “I can’t hide!” lyric in “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was actually “I get high,” Dylan brought an illicit gift for the Fab Four.
The Drug Years, the second part of which airs tonight (“Feed Your Head,” 1967-1971) at 9 p.m. ET, is a very cool look at the time and the people that used drugs and music to challenge themselves and the establishment.
I guess Coach Dodds was right.
by Scotty C. the Intern