The psychedelic era is considered to be one of the most colorful periods in human history, as the clothing trend and artworks that were created or produced in that era were full of colors that surprisingly blended well together. In addition to the colorful clothing and art, the psychedelic era was also a period in history where the lifestyle of people and the music they listen to were largely influenced by a psychedelic drug that is popularly known as LSD. What does LSD stand for? And how did it affect the music industry in the early 1970s? To know more about the said period, here is a brief overview of LSD and the psychedelic era.
Where Did LSD Come From?
LSD, which is an abbreviation for lysergic acid diethylamide, was first discovered by Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist who was working then in the pharmaceutical-chemical department of Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland. While he was working for the said company, his main goal was to research the different uses or applications for squill, a species of medical plant, and ergot, a group of fungi, in order to utilize them as pharmaceuticals. So, it could be said that Hoffman created the first LSD through his research.
The first LSD was synthesized by Hoffman on November 16, 1938, when he successfully extracted the lysergic acid derivatives from ergot and squill. As for the intended use of LSD, Hoffman indicated that it is supposed to act as a respiratory and circulatory stimulant. But, even before the research was finished, Hoffman decided to set it aside to work on other studies at the lab.
On April 16, 1943, Hoffman started to view his LSD research again. During his study, he accidentally ingested a tiny amount of the LSD sample he created, and a few minutes after the ingestion, he began to experience hallucinations and dream-like visions. As per his statement, Hoffman clarified that he was in an “unpleasant intoxicated-like condition” wherein he would see various colors and hallucinations through his eyes. The effect of the tiny amount of LSD he ingested lasted for about two hours, according to Hoffman.
Three days later, Hoffman began experimenting on the dosage or amount of LSD that should be taken before it can be considered as an overdose. He ingested 0.25 milligrams of LSD on that night, which is supposed to be the threshold amount for the drug. After a few minutes, Hoffman started to hallucinate heavily, wherein he was unable to decipher where he was walking or heading to. He then called for his assistant to escort him home as he cannot go home on his own in his condition.
Because the assistant also had a bike during that time, Hoffman had no choice but to ride a bike with his assistant. During the bike ride, Hoffman’s hallucinations became worse, as he started to think that his neighbor was a witch and that he was poisoned by the drugs and was going insane. Despite the rough trip, his assistant was able to take him home. Worried about his condition, the assistant called for a house doctor, who saw nothing wrong about Hoffman’s wellbeing besides his pupils that were dilated.
From then on, the infamous bike trip became known by many LSD users as “Bicycle Day,” and they celebrate this particular day yearly on April 19, which is the exact day when Hoffman took 0.25 milligrams of LSD. After Hoffman’s discovery, LSD would slowly catch on in the late 1960s until it became a phenomenon that started the psychedelic era in the early 1970s.
Influence of Psychedelics on Music
LSD and music seemed like the “perfect combination” during the psychedelic era, as music can sometimes be considered to have the same effects as LSD since it can be hallucinatory, calming, addicting, and dream-like depending on the chord progression, key, instruments used, and the overall sound of the song you are listening to. Furthermore, most of the artists in the 1970s take LSD, which is why it cannot be denied that psychedelic drugs played a huge part in how musicians write songs during that era. In fact, some musicians would even write songs while they are taking LSD and hallucinating.
While there have been many artists and bands that have been inspired to write songs through LSD during the late 1960s, one of the first bands that popularized psychedelic music was The Beatles, who have created two albums in 1967 that are heavily influenced by the effects of LSD, which are Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that are both released. A song found in Magical Mystery Tour titled “I Am the Walrus” is even considered by many Beatles fans and LSD users to be the anthem of psychedelic music in the late 1960s. To prove the point that the song and the album were influenced by LSD, John Lennon, the composer of “I Am the Walrus,” once stated that he was inspired to write the song after experiencing two acid trips and reading “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” a poem written by Lewis Carroll that was published in 1871.
One of the icons of psychedelic music in the early 1970s was Pink Floyd, who released albums that were purely inspired by acid rock, a subgenre of rock that is influenced by LSD as well. On the other hand, Pink Floyd was also responsible for popularizing progressive rock, another subgenre of rock that is supposed to have different chord progressions and tempos in one track. Despite moving in a different direction by the mid-1970s, there is no denying that Pink Floyd’s music is still influenced by psychedelic music, as the songs they included in iconic albums like Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall still have some elements of acid rock in them.
Despite ending right around the late 1970s, the psychedelic era is still influencing many genres and musical styles over the years, and this can be evident in the rising indie genre that combines the dream-like sounds of shoegaze or dream pop with the calming and hallucinatory ambiance of psychedelic music.