Back in 1963, the patent for LSD expired. There was a three-year period after that where the drug was legal and, although it seems very un-sixties-like to mention admin, it was this logistical oversight that helped to define an era as the kaleidoscopic headwind of acid blurred the zeitgeist in a tie-die hue of peace, love and utter psychedelic mayhem.
While the CIA were rather questionably giving mammoth amounts of LSD to Tusko the elephant at Oregon Zoo as a ‘scientific experiment’ (naturally it died), musicians were slightly less questionably experiment in the name of art. While the drug’s presence in the music scene might be somewhat overstated as an engine of change considering the huge impact of instruments like the Sitar have been quashed, there is nevertheless a hint of acid in everything that followed.
As the burnout of the sixties suggested, however, creatively dabbling in something like acid is far from recommendable, as the story of Jenny Lewis’ track ‘Acid Tongue’ will attest. The song from Lewis’ debut solo album of the same name, references her first trip as a teen quite openly in the lyrics: “I’ve been down to Dixie and dropped acid on my tongue / Tripped upon the land ’til enough was enough.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the singer-songwriter fleshed out the dark experience even further. “It culminated in a scene not unlike something from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas—the scene where Hunter S. Thompson has to lock the lawyer in the bathroom,” she humorously remarked.
Thereafter, however, the humour quickly went out of the situation as it went from laughable fiction to a far darker reality. As Lewis adds: “I sort of assumed the Hunter S. Thompson character and my friend – she had taken far too much – decided to pull a butcher knife out of the kitchen drawer and chase me around the house.”
Naturally, this experience proved somewhat scarring. As Lewis concludes: “At the end of that experience, my mom was out of town on a trip of her own and she returned to find me about 5 lbs lighter and I was so desperate to get back to normal I decided to drink an entire gallon of orange juice. I saw that it was in the fridge and decided that this would sort of flush the LSD out of my system, but I didn’t realize that it did exactly the opposite.”
The serotonin of the Vitamin C in the orange juice sadly amped Lewis’ horrors to the next level, illuminating the dangers of experimentation. Fortunately, both Lewis and her friend came away from it unscathed. Although, clearly, it proved memorable enough to spawn the song ‘Acid Tongue’ and its transcendent melody proves that life moves on from past mistakes.
Lewis brought this same approach to the recording of the record itself. She told Nashville Scene: “The songs weren’t written off-the-cuff, but they were definitely recorded, not carelessly, but with a real effort to capture a live feeling, particularly with the vocals.” The title track, in particular, benefits from this approach and enters the cannon of the many great acid-inspired songs, even if they all have a dark undercurrent floating beneath them.