Leary probably would have denied it, but he and Lyndon Johnson had at least one
thing in common: both were boring orators. At least Johnson’s deliberate
southern drawl varied in pitch, rising up like a question at the end of a
statement. Leary wasn’t so lucky.
speak a phrase.
pick-up the sentence.
the same monotone.
matter what he was saying.
Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out, now
available in reissue for the first time since its 1966 vinyl release on ESP (a
similarly titled CD with different content was released in ’95 by the
Performance label) comes from a recording that engineer David Hancock made of
Leary talking candidly at his Millbrook, New York estate. ESP figurehead
Bernard Stollman explains in the liner notes that Hancock made over 1,000
splices to the original recording, cutting out pauses that disrupted the flow
of the guru’s words. “Leary now appeared to speak briskly,” Stollman says. If
this is brisk, I shudder at the thought of the unexpurgated reels.
album still features plenty of pregnant pauses, as if Leary can’t think in
phrases with more than a few words at a time. Combined with his relaxed voice,
it makes the 58-minute album (!) hard to swallow in more than a few increments
at a time. It’s a small consolation that the reissue bands the album into 22
was a significant period for Leary, who was just starting to garner a
reputation as “the most dangerous man alive,” as he espoused the benefits of
LSD, and he soon became the victim of several raids on his estate. Here, he
repeatedly speaks out against people over 40 (not 30, as Abbie Hoffman would
later declare), who aren’t open to his ideas as younger people. Among his other
philosophies, he explains how everything we do is based on the fear of
displeasing our mothers. When he goes on about LSD, he never really gets to the
issue of what the drug is exactly,
preferring to dwell on why it’s so
important that we obey the instructions that give the album its title. While
there may be some historical significance to this recording, it doesn’t make
for interesting listening.
Standout Tracks: “A
Message to Young People,” “The Taking of LSD.” MIKE SHANLEY