When I’m Sixty-Four: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

140px-timothy-leary-los-angeles-1989.jpg“Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out.”

-Timothy Leary


            The hippie counterculture was in full swing in the 1960’s San Francisco, with young people from all over America coming to join the movement. Bands like Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, and most notably, The Grateful Dead, fueled the music scene and aided in the entertainment of the “Acid Tests” put on by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, where they would have large parties with everyone taking LSD. The idea was to see what would happen when people took the drug in a situation with no rules or boundaries. However as the government began to view the hippies as only druggies and trouble makers the laws became stricter, including the illegalization of LSD in October of 1966. This new pressure brought on the need for advocates of LSD and the counterculture to come to the forefront.

            Timothy Leary was one of those advocates. He was a psychology professor at Harvard, until he tried psilocybin mushrooms and became so obsessed with psychedelics that he was dismissed for giving them to students through his experiments and other activities, though the official reason was he wasn’t giving his class lectures (1). He continued to experiment with LSD and its effects on others, and became extremely popular among the counter culture movement, participating in numerous gatherings such as the Human Be-In in San Francisco.

            He argued that LSD helped open up the mind to new experiences and ideas and helped people have deep religious and personal awakenings, and conducted numerous studies and experiments on anyone willing to participate, including clergymen. However with all the government resistance to LSD and the hippie movement at large, he needed a catchy phrase to help popularize the movement, and he came up with “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.”

            The saying was meant to urge people to join the counter culture and tune into their inner selves. He explains it in his autobiography Flashbacks:

            “‘Turn on’ meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. ‘Tune in’ meant interact harmoniously with the world around you – externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. Drop out suggested an elective, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. ‘Drop Out’ meant self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean ‘Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity.'(2)”


            The reason I use this as the title of my blog has nothing to do with drugs or getting in touch with your inner self, but rather getting in touch with your musical self and in touch with music you may not have heard of, old and new. For my purposes, Turn On means get involved with music and the music scene, Tune In means find your kind of music and new stuff you haven’t heard yet, and Drop Out means rid yourself of MTV and over-hyped “popular” music and find the real music that still exists under the surface.

As the idea behind these history posts is for you to learn something, I hope you did just that, and hopefully learned something new about this blog and its author. And remember to Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out

-Kid Zeppelin


Cited Sources:

  1. http://www.erowid.org/culture/characters/leary_timothy/
  2. Leary, Timothy F. Flashbacks. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1983. 2 Aug. 2007.

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