"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beatles did damage with drug reputation

Here's the "Abbey Road" cover.
One of the reasons I have always been an outcast within my generation is that I never saw the necessity of taking drugs.
Bill Clinton said he "didn't inhale." It's sad that Clinton had to go through gyrations to show that even though he didn't really "get high," he tried. I'm not sure "trying" would have been good enough to escape the stigma.
My generation was sordid with its distractions in the early and mid-1970s. I saw a lot of that firsthand. I would never be one to "preach" about such things. There's no high-mindedness being evoked here. I'm just trying to be rational. My generation consumed rock music artists who gave this impression of trying to be "mind-expanding." Remember that vapid talk? How could we be so stupid as to internalize it?
I feigned some interest. Left alone, I would have thought such activity silly and irrational. I'm not on any sort of soap box saying this - I'm just trying to be straightforward. I'm applying my own common sense which God in his love and wisdom gave me.
Do you sense that I'm still being defensive? Good God, I'm four months from turning age 60. I didn't attend my last class reunion. Who needs to be reminded of all those old peer pressures? The phrase "man without a country" comes from classic literature, I guess. I'm a "man without a generation."
How did we all get pulled into such questionable behavior? Well, stop and consider: it was the days of the "monoculture." We were observers more than producers. You defined yourself by whether you preferred the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. You bought vinyl records and played them. You couldn't go on Facebook or the myriad other online platforms of today and assert your own identity. You consumed the work of others.
So if you were a Beatles fan - many of us were infatuated - you paid attention to their lifestyle and values. I'll quote Mark Hertsgaard: "The crucial catalyst for the Beatles' transformation from lovable mop tops to high-minded rebels was their involvement with consciousness-raising drugs, specifically marijuana and LSD."
Hertsgaard, in a book I otherwise like greatly, asserts that marijuana and LSD were "more profoundly tools of knowledge" for the Fab 4 - "a means of gaining access to higher truths about themselves and the world."
Has science ever demonstrated how such drugs "raise your consciousness," Mark? They do something to your mind, obviously. Mark also wrote that "Eastern philosophy" was a building block, with those drugs, in the Beatles gaining a grasp of the truth of our world, beyond what us pathetic souls in our traditional existence would realize.
"Eastern philosophy?" No doubt those "Eastern" people do their thing. Did young people develop skepticism of traditional Christian beliefs because of this perceived fascination with "Eastern philosophy" among the Fab 4?
The four Beatles were immensely gifted professional musicians. It has been said they spoke for a generation - mine. But the so-called baby boomers with our overwhelming numbers didn't start coming into the world until 1946. Weren't all four Beatles born before that?
Hertsgaard wrote that the Beatles had fooled with drugs for years, popping pills and "swilling" beer. It's a shame such behavior calls for attention in a historical tome. How many of us would want to go to our graves being remembered for such stuff? But with the Beatles, we are to believe that a tapestry of drugs actually contributed to their creative output. It wasn't merely a distraction, it wasn't merely a vice. It "raised their consciousness," whatever that means.
Transcendental meditation was supposed to do that too, remember? Whatever happened to TM and all its teachers who would promote seminars? It seemed to me that TM was nothing more than a helpful period of forced relaxation each day. As a "movement" it was like a scam. 
"Scam" also describes, in my view, how this perception grew that illegal drugs had to be part of the new music scene.
Hertsgaard wrote that Bob Dylan introduced the Beatles to marijuana. He writes that the Beatles hadn't tried it before. How would he know that as fact, any more than he would know that drugs are "consciousness-raising?" Why should I care when the Beatles first tried marijuana? I would assert it had nothing to do with their music. They were evolving professionals as musicians, reaching new vistas of creativity simply by virtue of their accumulated experience and the resources they could tap simply by being successful.
Hertsgaard wrote that by the time of the movie "Help!" the Beatles were smoking pot every day. "It offered them welcome relief from the all-engulfing pressures of Beatlemania," Hertsgaard wrote. So, now such drugs give relief from pressure, in addition to the creative stimulus.
These perceptions were shared with my generation which like all generations can get dragged into regressive behavior when young, you know, that phase of life where we feel invulnerable.
More from Hertsgaard: "But the larger significance of their embrace of marijuana was that it further stimulated their already prodigious creativity, and it made them think, really think, for the first time in their lives."
Hyperbole, at least.
It doesn't end there, as now we move on to LSD. George Harrison said of so-called psychedelic drugs that "it just opened up this whole other consciousness." He also said "it was like gaining hundreds of years of experience within 12 hours."
Lay it on thick.
More from Hertsgaard: "For four individuals as creatively inclined as the Beatles, it was only natural that the personal growth sparked by marijuana and LSD would affect their art."
Personal growth! The Beatles did in fact start making drug references in their music. The "Rubber Soul" album is an example. Typically the references aren't overt, rather we infer, with great relish in the case of the young who like clawing past taboos. Consider the hissing sound on "Girl" (inhaling pot smoke). "Ish" is all I can say.
As much as one can smell marijuana when looking at the "Rubber Soul" album cover, the underlying message of humanistic sensibility - that 1960s badge - strikes me as unrelated to any drug consumption. The druggie thing appealed to kids because the young generation is always seeking separation from parents. If drugs were taboo, let's try this. Let's exult in this and suggest they improve us - they "expand our mind."
Again, has science ever had anything to say about this? Does science affirm these attributes? I think not.
The Beatles used rebellion as a tool to connect with their naive, fawning audience. I once read that Dean Martin often had mere apple juice in his glass when making the rounds at parties. He wasn't really so hooked on alcohol. I laugh because that doesn't surprise me at all.
Being a successful entertainer is highly demanding. The dirty little secret is that the Beatles, too, probably lived lives more sensible and disciplined than what they had the good sense to claim. We all know that Hunter S. Thompson did his defining work before he went on to all that foolishness. This is documented.
Commercial success in entertainment and art is very demanding and calls for focus, proper rest/sleep and discipline. If you're going to suck in marijuana - again, "ish" - you'd have to do it in "time off" periods away from your serious work. Enough said.
Would my peers still sniff at me for saying this?
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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