Originally published through Hijacked
Lysergic acid diethylamide. Better known as LSD or acid, it’s a strong hallucinogenic that creates both trippy visuals and confronting internal journeys for those who take it. This stuff was the driving force behind the peace ‘n’ love revolution of the sixties, and also the probable cause of some interesting behaviour from that lovely gentleman I saw in St Kilda a few weeks ago, yelling at a lamppost at three in the afternoon.
LSD makes people act totally batshit crazy, yet there are a few mainstays of science and pop culture that just simply wouldn’t exist if this mind-bending substance had never been invented.
DISCLAIMER: While it’s basically impossible to OD on LSD, it can cause death – mostly when users do things like jump out of windows under the mistaken belief they can fly. It’s also very much illegal. If you’re going to dabble just make sure you do your research first, and take it in a controlled environment with at least one sober person present to keep an eye on things.
1. The iPhone
It’s common knowledge that Steve Jobs was one of the defining creative minds of his era. What is less known, however, is that he was also a bit of a rebel. When he was a young lad he used to employ his technical know-how to make annoying prank calls – to the pope! He also reported using marijuana between once a week and once a month in the seventies, which apparently made him “relaxed and creative”. After this, of course, he co-founded Apple, and invented a whole range of products beginning with a lower case ‘i’: iTunes, iMac, iPhone, you get the gist. So, what was the secret to his monopoly on computer innovation in the 2000s? LSD is “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life,” Jobs once said in an interview. He’s claimed he took the drug between 10 or 15 times in his life, and that he had “no words to explain the effect LSD had on me.”
2. The Double Helix
Okay, so the double helix – the base structure of DNA – would still exist, but we wouldn’t know about it. This particular discovery was a pretty important one. It bagged a Nobel Prize for the men behind it – Francis Crick, John Watson, and Maurice Wilkins – and led to myriad scientific advances. One of these scientists, Francis Crick, made his key breakthrough while under the influence of LSD, a fact he confessed on his deathbed according to reporter Alun Rees.
It’s hard to verify, but it does seem like a plausible story. The drug was invented in 1938 by Albert Hoffman, but wasn’t made illegal until 1968 – just the right time period for Crick to have tried it as a scientific curiosity. He was also known for his experimentation, and was once described by journalist Michael Brooks as a “womanising, hard-partying pot smoker”.
It should be noted, however, that controversy surrounds the identity of the real discoverer of the double helix. It was first seen in a groundbreaking x-ray image taken by Rosalind Franklin, who worked for Wilkins, but all of the credit is frequently attributed to the men involved in the process.
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
Ken Kesey was basically the counterculture figure of the mid sixties. Not only can he lay claim to one seminal work of fiction, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, but he was also the subject of another (Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test).
This book is an insane biography of the events of Kesey’s life: his participation in the first clinical drug trials of LSD at Berkeley, his time as a fugitive hiding out in Mexico, his role as leader of the ‘merry pranksters’ and their subsequent journey around America in a school bus during which they gave acid to anybody who was curious…
The book also details Kesey’s creative process in writing his debut novel. Kesey was working in a mental institution at the time of writing OFOTCN, yet at the same time he was struggling to find a way of condensing his experiences into novel form. The solution came to him while in the middle of a heavy acid trip. He hallucinated the figure of Chief Bromden, a mysterious Native American who, despite being mentally ill, could clearly understand the oppressive nature of power structures. Bromden would become the narrator of Kesey’s book, and Kesey’s book would go on to be considered a modern classic. It was later turned into the film starring fellow LSD-lover Jack Nicholson.
4. A LOT of really, really good music
The Beatles, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Eminem, Green Day, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues, Fatboy Slim, Suede, the Doors, Cream, and Janis Joplin are just a few of the artists known to use acid as part of their creative process. Probably the most obvious and well-known reason of any kind of drug use is to create art. LSD was instrumental to the creation of Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Aldous Huxley’s the Doors of Perception (after which the band The Doors is named), and the aforementioned masterpieces by Kesey and Wolfe.
Considering basically all modern music was influenced by the bands of the sixties in one way or another, it’s hard to imagine how different the landscape would be today without the drug. Would there be a Lonerism without Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, or a Back in Black without Disraeli Gears? Probably not.