Catching the 60s by it’s Tail….

weiser-antiquarian-book-catalogue-110-aleister-crowleyI woke this morning around 4am and watched the mist rolling back across the marsh as the first brave deer led their young out to feed on the new grass. The Marsh Harrier was already swooping low across the dyke in search of baby rabbits for his brood; there must be several in the brood for within minutes his mate had joined him in the hunt leaving the young unprotected, needs must when they squawk so loudly. The Canada Geese strut up and down the purlins on the groyne beside the station box – they violently object to anyone even overflying their territory. Probably what woke me up.

Now awake, I searched for something to take my mind into different areas. The venom directed at me over the past two months is still very fresh and I have to be vigilant that it doesn’t overwhelm me. I found this programme on iPlayer. For anyone born after 1979 it will be educational – for anyone born before then it will be a welcome reminder of how life was in the 60s for teenagers. I do recommend you watch it. It is well researched, and well documented, not a ‘surface feeder’ type of documentary at all. More in the league of Adam Curtis’ work.

It showed how the ‘nature boys’ – a group of German naturists who lived free off the land, and started the first ‘Diggers’ shop in San Francisco where food was literally free (Did you know that Nat King Cole’s song ‘Nature boy’ was written about them? I didn’t) joined forces with what was then the radical left – believing in free love, equality of sexes, even the rights of paedophiles, all came together with the first ‘yippies’ (not hippies at that stage) those following the mystical beliefs of the far east – and even dates the start of the ‘Hippy’ explosion as being January 14th – with a concert in San Francsicso where all three ‘tribes’ were invited to join together and form one movement.

Both Aldous Huxley (Did you know that Jim Morrison’s group was called The Doors in homage to Huxley’s book ‘Perception of Doors’? I didn’t) and importantly, Alastair Crowley with his Satanic beliefs were invited to join in and 100,000 free ‘doses’ of lsd were handed out for the occasion. The idea was that lsd would enable a melding of thoughts amongst those present, so that what would emerge was a single figure that believed in eating raw vegetables from the nature boys; would absorb Crowley’s Satanic beliefs; the Marxist rhetoric of the radical left – now neutered to form the basis of Spiked magazine, where latter day Marxists still expound their views – and present it under a single banner of ‘hippies’ fastening flowers to the guns of soldiers heading for Vietnam.

It was the start of a remarkable counter-revolution that didn’t look towards the traditional working classes to rise up against their masters, but rather harnessed the ideals of a young, well-educated, middle class that had no need of jobs and could afford to indulge themselves. More than worth watching for anyone interested in how that social counter-culture explosion has led us to the present day ‘horror’ of viewing any sexual behaviour between young and old as being repugnant and criminal – at that time, both young and old were being pressured into behaving in exactly the way they did – or being seen as ‘not cool’.

It was only an hour-long so I followed that up with another programme;  A repeat from 1978 ‘Where have all the flowers gone’. It followed the progress of several early hippies who had had to abandon their ideals of free love, free food, and free-living, when they formed relationships and had families. They had finally realised that carrots are only free to be picked if someone – the farmer – has paid for the seed; paid for someone to tend the plants; paid for someone to pick the crops – and that they couldn’t create nirvana in isolation. It was an excellent choice to watch straight after the first documentary.

That took me up to 8am and the first nurse of the day – and I promptly went back to sleep until 2pm when the next set of drugs arrived, so have answered no emails, seen no DMs and am now on the hunt for something to watch this afternoon – suggestions more than welcome.

I think I have finally sorted out the comment facility on this new blog, though as someone pointed out, all the people who were happy to comment on my old blog seem to have deserted me, frighted off by the intimidation and threats, so if you are out there and have never commented before, then please do – it encourages me to write, and that is good for me. It keeps me focussed on what I can do rather than on what I can’t do.

36 thoughts on “Catching the 60s by it’s Tail….

  1. I knew The Doors were named after Huxley’s book only because I was a huge fan of both. Odd notion that a bunch of people taking LSD together would somehow develop a mass belief in anything as it’s a very introspective drug. But they were naive times of course.

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  2. In turn those German ‘nature boys’ had taken their inspiration (or were themselves) “Wandervogel” which translates as ‘wandering birds’ , a movement that started in Germany in the arse end of the C19. No lesser an another then Chateris featured them in one of his ‘Saint’ stories:

    Anyways, this dwarf is as pleased as punch to see you blogging again-having spent the morning himself writing for that other blog.

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  3. Hi Anna, good to see you blogging again and you sound better now. Must try and have a look at that programme, my era too though not quite as adventurous as some. Take care.
    Love
    Carol x

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  4. How about Kenneth Clark’s ‘Civilisation’, currently on iPlayer? Alternatively you could enjoy the best of both worlds and watch the assorted wildlife while enjoying a radio programme; Radio 4’s recent ‘Pygmalion’ might be a good place to start, though I hesitate to recommend something so lightweight when you are clearly in serious intellectual mode.

    (As an aside, if you permit a small amount of pedantry, I think you mean ‘The Doors of Perception’ – your version suggests you’ve spent rather too much time recently discussing carpentry with the excellent Mr G.)

    It’s great to read another of your pieces anyway; I was beginning to think I’d have to start a twitter account to send you greetings and best wishes and I really don’t think I am brave enough for that!

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  5. I remember the 60s well. It was like any other decade — you get up on Monday morning and go to work.

    All that flower power and stuff involved only a small minority of people. I was busy teaching Biology, and then doing cancer research (badly). I learned a lot, as in every other decade.

    Wonderful to see a new blog post. Keep at it. Never mind the spelling and grammar — whoever edits your Collected Writings (6 Vols, hard cover, £80 per volume) can tidy up. 😉

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  6. Happy to comment, be associated with you etc..I see you as a seeker of truth, and have never understood intrigue or trolling. Asperger’s does have its positives then I guess!

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  7. Gosh …..Actually Golly Gosh …..Anna.
    Unaware you were still with us till for some unknown reason on a sunny Sussex afternoon I thought of googling you and traced you to your old licenced premises (via the website of that short one of the flatlands) which I see has reopened one again though for the moment with a smaller clientele.
    Not sure of what all the nastiness you speak of is all about since when you ceased blogging which coincided with me no longer being quite so tied to my computer I haven’t troubled much with bloggers ….but…but….but ….time to put you on favourites again and pick up on worthwhile topics to make me think.
    Interesting you have picked up on the hippy era …..and unsurprising ( to me at least) that the Blocked Dwarf has knowledge of the Wandervogel movement that started it all. Like most things nowadays (Savile and much else in modern life) its about tut tuting before returning to ‘entertainment’ rather than actually understanding something starting with its history.

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  8. @FS, very glad to see you found your way here, Steve. But I should point that you probably stumbled across Grandad’s blog not my own (my own , now defunct, is blockeddwarf.blogspot.com) -he kindly lets me post the odd brainfart or two, especially if it is raccoon centric, and that also I wouldn’t claim to ‘have knowledge’ of the Wandervogel. It has always interested me that a Victorian ‘free spirit’ movement could give rise to both the hippies and the nazis….there is something just deliciously Germanic about that.

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  9. @Blocked Dwarf
    Haven’t wandered the web much since Anna went silent in December and for someone who is slow at the best of times in the cyber world I couldn’t work out why you seemed to have moved to Ireland so thanks for the explanation.
    You are on the button as you have been many a time in the past about Germanic culture……so often ‘pure’ notions that morph and remorph into something so different than the original idea. The Wandervogel movement had many spin offs as I understand it ….perhaps unsurprising if one thinks about it …..an individual asiration for freedom but no real blue print how an individual can manifest that fredom …..a gift to all manner of charlatans not unlike happy clappy Cristianity.
    No criticism of Germanic culture by me …..quite the contrary and I pray in aid that I have just returned from three days in Budapest for the sole purpose of watching a performance of Wagners Parzival and had time permitted I would have stayed this week to watch the Ring Cycle which is performed annually in Budapest and which I have attended previously. No claim by me to be cultured but an admission that at least I try to aspire to be
    To me its fascinating that it was only Germanic Culture that seemed to formulate any sort of response (particularly philosophic) to 19th century urbanisation and industrialisation……I still see it now in more simple terms when travelling in Southern Germany and Switzerland where on the week end people take to the countryside rather than sitting in front of their electronic icons to worship their modern gods of the market place mainly football and celebrity as I seem to understand it.
    Even more fascinating and paradoxical is that those areas are amongst the most prosperous in Europe …..and to me the most civilised and courteous though of late I have noticed (to me an understandable) lack of patience and distrust of those from less ‘conservative’ cultures

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  10. Hi Anna, glad to see you back writing on the blog once again, great to see The Blocked Dwarf commenting too..looked forward to reading the old blog and all the great comments… hope you are having a good day..much love Carole x

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  11. Glad the comments are working – I was wondering what was up…
    Thanks for the Hippie TV links, shall watch with interest (hope this doesn’t mean that my aging hippie friends are ALL EVIL).
    BTW: was up Norfolk yesterday (bike club do). Seemed pretty “normal” to me.
    And so, with all that, did you win the election? What were the scores?

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  12. I was wondering about the election, too. Being out of the U.K. loop for so long I have difficulty keeping up with the ins and outs. It’d be interesting to see an analysis of your impact on the other parties.

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  13. The Doors and LSD gave my wife and I one help of a night in the bedroom once. The Doors Greatest Hits CD was playing and we had both had taken an acid blotter. The music carried our minds to a whole myriad of different worlds while we fell in and out of making love. It was a truly wondrous night and one I shall never forget.

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  14. Aleister Crowley and Aldous Huxley in San Francisco, gettig together with the Yippies, hippies and Diggers in the Summer of Love? Huxley died in 1963 and Crowley passed in 1947 (in Hastings, of all places), so that must have been some pretty powerful LSD!
    In reply to mrjnh – No, Crowley had nothing to do with the ‘Peace Movement’; I rather think he would have disapproved of the hippies and their soft ways and their cannabis (his drug of choice was heroin, I believe). His writings became very popular in the 1960s; it was Lennon who wanted him on the cover, having apparently just read quite a lot by and about the old showman.

    Lovely to see you back writing, Anna!

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  15. “Huxley died in 1963 and Crowley passed in 1947 (in Hastings, of all places), so that must have been some pretty powerful LSD!”

    Thank you for pointing that out ….but you do realise you have just condemned poor old Mr.G to a morning of putting up with the AR in a foul temper? She HATES getting her facts wrong-to the extent it actually causes her physical pain, I think. She’ll be distraught at not having picked up on the dates.

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  16. Sorry Val – I wasn’t taking notes and just wrote from memory – I really just wanted you all to watch the programme. I think the gist of it was that Huxley and Crowley were an early influence on the people who later formed the ‘meeting of the three tribes festival’ I was just interested in how Huxley’s writing which encompassed a mistrust of the establishment, Crowley’s which encompassed satanic practices, and radical left politics with their demands for free love and more more equality between the sexes had passed down through the generations to perhaps form our present view that figures from the 60s and 70s were preying on young girls and boys, possibly via satanic practices, and that the mistrusted establishment might be to blame.
    I’m still sleepy this morning, so shall attempt to sleep it off and see if I can’t write something more intelligent this afternoon. The nighttime medication is pretty heavy duty, os takes a while to wear off.

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  17. Blocked from using iPlayer by location, and I’ve forgotten the workaround (which probaby no longer works anyway) so I’ll have to use my imagination.
    Weren’t the Yippies an Abbie Hoffman ‘thing’? I must still have a copy of ‘Steal This Book’ in storage somewhere, some unfortunate family member unwittingly harbouring ‘terrorist training material’…

    I didn’t steal it of course – I bought it in an American bookshop decades ago.
    Goggle-eyed, I was, amazed at what the First Amendment let ’em get away with! Poor ol’ Abbie took his own life (disputed by some), disillusioned (disputed by some) with the lack of revolutionary spirit in Reagan’s USA (disputed by none). He should have stuck around as his book’s top tips on the best way to stab a copper are finally, it would seem, being taken up by some – way to go, Abbie!

    The Doors were one band I could never bring myself to love, though they were undoubtedly different & talented. Around about the time of picking up the above tome I’d have been off to the pictures to see Oliver North’s biopic. I was more interested in Billy ‘Billy’ Idol’s foray into acting than anything else; I think he was given but a single line which for some odd reason I still recall: “Fahk yoo, Ray!” Then someone wet themselves at the bar or summat. I was rapidly having second thoughts about the sixties – a decade I’d missed out on – being quite the magic time I’d been led to believe.

    Crowley? As a kid I’d flit from one thing to the next, trying to find my way by scribbling a swastika on a notebook cover one week only to be replaced by a ‘CND sign’ the next. I blame the magazine ‘The Unexplained’ and Arthur C. Clarke (& his ‘Mysterious World)’ for any interest shown in such spookiness. A very aloof girl at school once lent me a copy of Al’s ‘Bumper Boock Of Spells’ but I recall being disappointed as she really should have chucked it in the fireplace after reading.

    One Sunday afternoon – aargh!, Sunday afternoons! – the ‘grandmother who never seemed to speak’ was immobile in an armchair, innocently annoying me with her bloody silence, so I went to my bedroom to use those devilish new powers to cause her to spill her tea! It was a test to see if anything would happen. I returned downstairs to see her cup still stubbornly balanced, but sometime within the next thirty minutes she did, indeed, spill a bit of tea. I felt like a shit but didn’t really think I’d caused it.

    My days (er, ‘day’) as a satanoid came to an end. Some of the book was what I later came to realise was just yer bog-standard meditation/visualization technique. How to clear the mind of extraneous thoughts? Picture a conveyor belt carrying them into oblivion as and when they arise. Er, trouble was Bruce bloody Forsyth kept appearing to interject inanities in the subconscious – that beast!

    A week or so ago here I caught a tiny bit of a documentary on the Charles Manson/Beach Boys connection. (Just had a look and it was a French production about the USA on Spanish television… can’t find a copy, but this looks pretty much the same:

    I love The Beach Boys, and it’s hard to imagine a more chalk ‘n’ cheesy combination than their harmonizing on material pilfered from Manson. Fascinating story.

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  18. What shall I write about today? Hmmn. Am watching a documentary on the outback in Australia – I think that might figure in it. I was in Australia in 1975. Sleep first.

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  19. ” I blame the magazine ‘The Unexplained’”-Bandini

    As do I. I even had the bloody binder…mind you, the lessons from The Unexplained came in handy when X-Files came along later. After The Unexplained I subscribed to ‘Amateur Winemaker’. Yes I was a very confused child.

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  20. Today’s useless fact, the book being read by Stan Lee in the film Doctor Strange was The doors of perception (which if you’ve ever seen the art work in the comics makes perfect sense)

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  21. Anna
    If your attention hasn’t wandered on to more edifying periods of history than the 60s try this by no means bad deconstruction of the era

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  22. Hiya. Glad to hear of the life and death battles of nature going on but as I only know what I know, has there ever been a revolution where the working classes rose up without being led by somekind of higher class leader. Just genuine workers overthrowing the establishment. I don’t know that and would be interested. Can baby rabbits kill the hawk? Glad to see you writing though.

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  23. Thank you Sommelier. Good to see you too. I thought that was an interesting point that is takes an uprising of the middle classes to get a revolution going – not the working classes! So much for ‘up the workers’!

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  24. That certainly seems to be the case historically as in the French and Russian revolutions and was true in the Iranian revolution when I was there. I think poor working people were too busy trying to survive to ferment revolution and, given the way they turned out, it might have been better if they had not happened as the poor and workers didn’t get any better off, just gained a new sort of elite.

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  25. Channel 4 did a documentary on Crowley as part of a series on docus about controversial figures around 15 years ago.

    I think it should be on YouTube

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  26. ‘The Doors (of Perception)’, whether of Jim Morrison or Aldous Huxley, is taken from a poem by William Blake. The full quotation reads: ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.’

    As I understand it, Huxley pinched the reference for a short book describing his experiences with mescaline, and Jim Morrison, in turn, pinched it from Huxley.

    While I am here, Mrs. R., lovely to see you back. I have, sort of, been following you around the internet – the short-lived comeback tour version of the website – I had just finished posting three beautifully written posts, when the whole website disappeared (again) – then a rather unsatisfactory experience on ‘Twitter’ – the only sensible thing that David Cameron said was that many a twit makes a twat – and now here. I hope you are home, both physically and virtually, as it gets difficult following you around.

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