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The American Century

Rise of Drug Culture

Golden Gate Park

 Drugs were always a significant part of the counterculture movement as they were considered the only way to truly drop out of the mainstream and establish a viable alternative to the dreaded culture of America in the 1960s. However, in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, the drug culture did not serve as a vehicle for people to establish a new way of life that was anywhere close to viable. Instead, drug culture became the new normal. People who initially took LSD and other drugs to expand their minds eventually were consumed by them. Because mostly everyone was solely worried about drugs and “dropping out” there were few people left to efficiently lead the movement in any coherent direction. The movement that once inspired hope for peace and love devolved into an environment where people did not take care of themselves and their basic human needs. The district housed many people in squalor, as people stopped looking after the Haight-Ashbury, which was devastated by the end of the Summer of Love. The following are three very influencial songs that strongly promoted the drug culture of the time.


Tune In Turn On Drop Out

 Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out

This album, released in 1967 by Timothy Leary, is the spoken word and psychedelic rock album that was made along with the documentary film also named “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out.” The phrase became a popular phrase that came to define much of the drug culture of the 1960s. Leary, a former Harvard psychology professor became a huge proponent of the recreational use of psychedelic drugs, such as psychedelic mushrooms and LSD as a means of mental expansion. He spread his message across the nation and it came to be a sort of motto for much of the counterculture, especially those in the Summer of Love. These people had become so fed up with society that they did not believe anything could change it, so the best alternative was to completely “drop out” and embrace the drug culture of the time.

 Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit

Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” was a revolutionary song because it was one of the first to reference drug use and get them by the censors of the time. A reference to Alice in Wonderland, the song takes the listener down the same psychedelic road that the novel does. “White Rabbit” makes direct mentions of not only Alice, but also the smoking caterpillar, the Red Queen, and the White Knight. The song is widely regarded as one of the best and most influential on its time and one that really defined the psychedelic rock of the Summer of Love. “White Rabbit” makes subtle references to the drugs of the time, which came to define much of the counterculture in the summer of 1967.

  Jimi Hendrix - Purple Haze

"Purple Haze" was performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Monterey Pop Festival and was written about Hendrix's trip on hallucinogenic drugs. The Summer of Love cannot be discussed without talking about the heavy drug use of many of its participants, especially the musical artists performing at the time. “Purple Haze” is a perfect example of a song about the psychedelic drugs that were so popular at the time. References to psychedelic drugs are littered throughout the song, such as “I don’t know whether I’m coming up or down” and “hold on while I touch the sky.” While he never publicly stated that the song was about drugs, the prevailing opinion, and public perception, was that it was about LSD and Hendrix’s experience on a trip, being stuck in a “purple haze.” Hendrix’s creativity on the guitar in the song became iconic and what every other musician could only aspire to recreate.