“The Hippie Temptation”: An Angst-Ridden CBS TV Show Warns of the Risks of LSD (1976)

To lyser­gic acid diethy­lamide, bet­ter known as LSD, we owe much of what has endured from West­ern pop­u­lar cul­ture of the mid-20th cen­tu­ry: con­sid­er, for instance, the lat­ter half of the Bea­t­les’ oeu­vre. In Rev­o­lu­tion in the Head: The Bea­t­les’ Records and the Six­ties, Ian Mac­Don­ald describes LSD as “a pow­er­ful hal­lu­cino­gen whose func­tion is tem­porar­i­ly to dis­miss the brain’s neur­al concierge, leav­ing the mind to cope as it can with sen­so­ry infor­ma­tion which mean­while enters with­out pri­or arrange­ment — an uncen­sored expe­ri­ence of real­i­ty which pro­found­ly alters one’s out­look on it.”

So pro­found is that alter­ation that some came to believe in a utopia achiev­able through uni­ver­sal inges­tion of the drug: “If there be nec­es­sary rev­o­lu­tion in Amer­i­ca,” declared Allen Gins­berg, “it will come this way.” But most Amer­i­cans did­n’t see it quite the same way. It was for them that CBS made its broad­cast “The Hip­pie Temp­ta­tion.” Aired in August 1967, three months after the release of Sgt. Pep­per’s Lone­ly Heart’s Club Band, it con­sti­tutes an exposé of LSD-fueled youth cul­ture as it effer­vesced at the time in and around San Fran­cis­co’s coun­ter­cul­tur­al mec­ca of Haight-Ash­bury.

“The hip­pies present a strange prob­lem,” says cor­re­spon­dent Har­ry Rea­son­er, lat­er known as the host of 60 Min­utes. “Our soci­ety has pro­duced them. There they are, in rapid­ly increas­ing num­bers. And yet there seem to be very few def­i­nite ideas behind the super­fi­cial glit­ter of their dress and behav­ior.” In search of the core of the hip­pie ide­ol­o­gy, which seems out­ward­ly to involve “stand­ing apart from soci­ety by means of mutu­al help and love,” Rea­son­er and his col­lab­o­ra­tors delve into the nature of LSD, whose users “may see a wild com­plex­i­ty of images, hear a mul­ti­plic­i­ty of sounds. This is called ‘tak­ing an acid trip.’ ”

Alas, “for many, the price of tak­ing the short­cut to dis­cov­ery the hip­pies put for­ward turns out to be very high.” A young doc­tor from UCLA’s neu­ropsy­chi­atric insti­tute named Duke Fish­er argues that most LSD users “talk about lov­ing human­i­ty in gen­er­al, an all-encom­pass­ing love of the world, but they have a great deal of dif­fi­cul­ty lov­ing one oth­er per­son, or lov­ing that spe­cif­ic thing.” Also includ­ed in “The Hip­pie Temp­ta­tion” are inter­views with young peo­ple (albeit ones clean­er-cut than the aver­age denizen of late-60s Haight-Ash­bury) placed into med­ical facil­i­ties due to hal­lu­cino­gen-relat­ed mishaps, includ­ing sui­cide attempts.

“There is the real dan­ger that more and more young peo­ple may fol­low the call to turn on, tune in, drop out,” Rea­son­er declares, in keep­ing with the broad­cast’s por­ten­tous tone. Even then there were signs of what Mac­Don­ald calls “the hip­pie coun­ter­cul­ture’s incip­i­ent com­mer­cial­iza­tion and impend­ing decline into hard drugs.” But to this day, “that there was indeed some­thing unusu­al in the air can still be heard from many of the records of the peri­od: a light, joy­ous opti­mism with a tan­gi­ble spir­i­tu­al aura and a thrilling­ly fresh infor­mal­i­ty” — a qual­i­ty Mac­Don­ald finds con­cen­trat­ed in the work of not just The Bea­t­les but the Grate­ful Dead, who sit for an inter­view in “The Hip­pie Temp­ta­tion.” LSD may no longer be as tempt­ing as it was half a cen­tu­ry ago, but many of the cre­ations it inspired then still have us hooked today.

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch The Bicy­cle Trip: An Ani­ma­tion of The World’s First LSD Trip in 1943

Artist Draws 9 Por­traits While on LSD: Inside the 1950s Exper­i­ments to Turn LSD into a “Cre­ativ­i­ty Pill”

Aldous Hux­ley Trips on Acid; Talks About Cats & the Secret of Life (1962)

Rare Footage Shows US and British Sol­diers Get­ting Dosed with LSD in Gov­ern­ment-Spon­sored Tests (1958 + 1964)

R. Crumb Describes How He Dropped LSD in the 60s & Instant­ly Dis­cov­ered His Artis­tic Style

New LSD Research Pro­vides the First Images of the Brain on Acid, and Hints at Its Poten­tial to Pro­mote Cre­ativ­i­ty

When the Grate­ful Dead Per­formed on Hugh Hefner’s Play­boy After Dark & Secret­ly Dosed Every­one With LSD (1969)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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