Los Angeles, CA
I read an interview that John Lennon did with Rolling Stone in 1971. Jann Wenner (the luminous editor who was rumored to have canceled Hunter Thompson's travel insurance when he went to Vietnam to cover the war) asked Lennon in depth questions about his LSD usage. Lennon revealed a funny, yet chilling story about his first acid trip. Apparently, his dentist of all people dosed him an a few other Beatles at a dinner party, when he slipped it in their tea. The dentist was a renown London swinger, so Lennon was initially freaked out because he had never done acid before and was worried that the dentist was luring him and his wife into a bizarre orgy against their will.
Somehow, Lennon got everyone at the party to leave the apartment (thereby avoiding an unwanted potential ass pounding) and they hit up a few clubs and bars in London with their minds fried to the tits. Lennon mentioned being so crocked that they were laughing their asses off in the middle of the street, which reminded me of my first experimentation with similar substances.
Laughing. Uncontrollably. At the stupidest shit.
That's my favorite part of psychedelics... the re-entry from the other side into the normal atmosphere. You have a semblance of sobriety while you withstand the last remnants of the mind-bending effects as it hits you in cycles. One second you're fine, having an astute conversation about the influences of jazz music on the beat generation of poets -- and then BLAM! You're pudding and can't stop laughing at the back of your hand.
Lennon had a lot to say about his acid days. Once, he and his crew were tripping balls inside a lift and they thought it was on fire. Lennon also admitted to having a couple of bad trips (out of the thousand times he dropped acid). Down the rabbit hole. Crazy shit that acid. Even Lennon got dragged into the darkness by the powerful nature of the drug.
Lennon also admitted that during the Hamburg club days early on in his career, he and the boys were popping pills and boozing. Hard. Speed freaks. Hard Day's Night. And they've been working like a dog. They needed pills to stay up and play for hours on end. They favored pharmaceutical enhancements. Prellies. I think the hip cats in the day called those pep pills Prellies. The actual drug is Preludin and of course it was an amphetamine created by (no shocker here) the Germans, who marketed the drug as a diet pill. Heh. I love picturing the early Beatles in their nice suits and those mop flop haircuts all jacked up on high-grade German speed playing old blues songs. Supposedly, Paul was a pussy and only took low dosages. Lennon? He's a fuckin' monster and would boldly eat four or five times what Paul popped.
After they band was introduced to marijuana by Bob Dylan in his hotel room in 1964, they stopped the boozing and smoked heavy. Potheads. Speed freaks. Acid junkies. Of course, I had no idea about this when I was a little kid. I heard tons of Beatles songs, but was clueless to the chemicals they ingested. I Wanna Hold Your Hand takes on a whole new meaning.
I was eight when Lennon was killed 150 or so blocks south of where I grew up. I remember it being a big fuckin' deal at the time. The news was splashed all over the papers. We had only four or five TV stations at the time and all the local newscasts were shooting live from in front of the Dakota where Lennon lived with Yoko and their son. When there was no more room on 72nd street for production vehicles, news crews had to shoot in Central Park where Beatles fans from all over the world converged on (what is now Strawberry Fields) and held candle lit vigils and sang their favorite Beatles tunes. I would show up at the same area the day that Jerry Garcia died about 15 years later. Deadheads in mourning, just like Beatles fans.
Lennon has been on my mind a lot this past week because that's what I immediately thought when I heard the news about the death of J.D. Salinger. Heck, I wasn't even going to write anything on the blogs until I finish Lost Vegas, but I felt compelled to open up a blank page and start writing about Lennon and Salinger. A copy of A Catcher in the Rye was found in the possession of Mark David Chapman when NY city cops picked him up after murdering Lennon with hollow point bullets in front of the Dakota. Chapman signed the book "This is my statement.... Holden Caufield."
I wonder what sort of misery Salinger had to live with knowing that a misinterpretation of his work killed one of the most influential musicians of all time? Who knows what sort of music Lennon would have made if he didn't die. Would he continue to make noise disguised as art with Yoko? Would Lennon hook up with other great musicians and form an All Star Band? Would the Beatles have ever come back? Would Lennon and only George play a bunch of shows as a duet? Would Lennon become a cliche, get hooked on junk, and end up another rock and roll suicide? Or maybe Lennon would have turned to politics full time and spoken out about the numerous injustices in the world over the last three decades?
Some of those tin-foil-hat-wearing-freaks think that Lennon was whacked because he was going to speak out about America's stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Don't forget that in 1980, we were under the Ronald Reagan Regime with W's poppa as the second-in-command. By the way, let's call a spade a spade - Reagan was the puppet with perfect hair and Bush's cronies at the CIA were the ones really pulling the strings. So in 1980, America is at the height of the Cold War with the Ruskies. Lennon was against the build up of weapons on both sides. The establishment feared his powerful voice. He would rally the hippies and America's disaffected youth who spent the majority of the 1970s stoned to the gourd. The suits, bankers, and politicians didn't want another counter-revolution on their hands so they cut off the dragon's head... using a schizo-patsy carrying around a copy of A Catcher in the Rye.
It's not Salinger's fault Lennon died, or that the guy who tried to shoot Reagan was also a fan of the book (although the real reason he wanted to shoot the Gipper was to impress Jodie Foster - but we all know it was party of the plan to get rid of the puppet). Well, depending on who you talk to, Salinger's book plays a tremendous role in triggering some sort of mind control. Those conspiracy freakazoids believe that Salinger was an active CIA agent (he was a former intelligence officer in the OSS - a precursor to the CIA) and wrote A Catcher in the Rye as a way to profile potential government assassins. Who knows. It was a great fuckin' book. Rich characters. Complex themes. Simple story.
But that's a tremendous weight to hold on your shoulders... knowing that some piece of art you created was indirectly involved in the death of another human. No wonder Salinger went into hiding in his small New Hampshire town. He didn't want to talk to reporters or share his words. Who knows, he could have had an anonymous blog somewhere on the intertubes and been writing for years and no one would have known.
I read A Catcher in the Rye when I was in 6th grade. Holden Caufield, the anti-hero, became my hero. I spent most of my teenage years identifying the phonies and knew that the entire system was rigged. I read the book again in college while we were tripping. A bunch of us did that knowing that the book was used as means of mind control from the government. I dunno if we were being wise asses or flirting with disaster or trying to find out which one of us were a sleeper cell. It seemed like the craziest thing we could do at the time -- walking the razor's edge.
I for one hope that there's a manuscript somewhere, the last words of J.D. Salinger, that is currently being fondled by a publisher. Salinger never wanted to share his words again with an audience. But maybe that he's no longer with us, he will throw everyone a literary bone.
But any real writer will tell you that the best words they wrote were the ones they never showed a soul. It's the words that you write for yourself that are the most powerful.