Turn off Your Mind, By Gary Lachman
Reviewed by Christopher Hirst
Friday, 8 January 2010
Briefly a bassist with Blondie before moving to the UK, Lachman was
too young to turn on with Leary or drop out in Haight-Ashbury.
Nevertheless, he has produced an impressively researched guide to the
odder aspects of a weird decade. Lachman reveals the Sixties as a
period when the credulous were willingly led by the duplicitous.
Spiritual tourists resurrected forgotten gurus like Gurdjieff,
Ouspensky, Blavatsky and the creepy Crowley.
Lachman notes that the fraudulent Carlos Castaneda was published by
the University of California. Such was the strange power of the
repellent Charles Manson that Rolling Stone almost ran a cover
declaring "Manson is innocent", until the paper interviewed him. The
result was more accurately headlined: "Is this the most dangerous man alive?"
Given Lachman's background, it is strange that music, the most
enduring legacy of the Sixties, is oddly underplayed in this book.
Syd Barrett's sad decline is again retold, though Lachman fails to
explore his still-potent oeuvre, a profoundly English hybrid of
psychedelia and nursery rhymes.
There is, however, much in Lachman's book to entertain and inform
those who wished they had lived through the Sixties and those who did
but can't remember it. If you want to know about, say, beatnik king
Brion Gysin, ley -line apostle John Michell and zen master Alan
Watts, this is the place to start.