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Category: Health & Wellness

More than Ecstacy, MDMA is Medicine


RW Klarin partaking of local wares at toking space, MAPS conference 2017

Walking around hotel ballroom,  swirling images of hallucinogen inspired paintings, dozens of clinical study bulletin boards, and bean-bag chairs, I had a natural flash-back.   The colorful denizens of this reminded me of  my psychedelic infused college days in the 70s, except this time they came from all over the world and you couldn’t tell the straights from the freaks.  But times have changed, most overtly in the toking space outside of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland, where bongs and vapes were freely passed around in the open.

Coinciding with this year’s 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and prohibition of LSD, the worldwide  community of psychedelic therapists, researchers, and enthusiasts emerged from the shadows.  I joined over three thousand  at the quadrennial MAPS (Multi-disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) conference in Oakland, CA this April. From the large conference halls to the smaller workshop rooms to the marketplace of psychedelic art, I sensed a new confident exuberance. No longer confined to secretive latter-day hippies or the laboratories,  psychedelics came out this year. For this old Sixties psychonaut, it felt like reconnecting with my long-lost tribe. We spoke freely about inner journeys without couching personal stories in the third person or providing a lot of explanation.

Psychedelic inspired painting

But more than a party, data dominated the conference.  I attended several lectures that elucidated the therapeutic benefits of MDMA, ayahuasca, ibogaine, LSD, and cannabis. MDMA has shown promise in treating PTSD and addiction in numerous studies both here and abroad. First synthesized by Merck chemist Anton Kollisch in 1912, former Dow chemist Sasha Shulgin discovered its’ relaxing properties accidentally and used it as his evening cocktail.  Soon it occurred to Shulgin that MDMA may be helpful with psychotherapy and shared it with therapist friends. Quickly spreading within that community, it proved too much fun to keep in the doctor’s office. Perfect for the 80s party culture, it became a staple of  rave culture worldwide from Ibiza to Dallas.  The genie had again escaped from the bottle.  The liberated and joyful mood generally experienced attracted the attention of the DEA,  placed MDMA in Schedule 1. Schedule 1 drugs are deemed to be of no medical use and pose serious health risks. Included in Schedule 1 are cocaine, heroin, cannabis, and MDMA. That effectively ended its use in therapy until MAPS associates began to use it with Iraq War vets suffering from PTSD.

The recent approval of MDMA (also known as Ecstacy, Molly, Adam, and dozens of other names) for study by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for phase three clinical trials culminates a long struggle for scientific support of its efficacy. If these are successful, then the possibility is for doctor prescriptions with very narrow guidelines. If approved,  it would have limited availability.  But that is how medical marijuana opened, first approved twenty years ago in California the door for legal cannabis . Regardless, not only a new found respectability, but I noted a new honesty  with researchers reporting the results of studies of psychedelics from Brazil to Israel some of  which have not been met expectations.  Seeking to not repeat the mistakes of the Sixties of overpromising the virtues of the drugs and incurring a the backlash from conservatives, MAPS and its executive director, Rick Doblin, proceed methodically .

Attending the MAPS conference was like visiting a long ago friend who had been on a long odyssey: She had changed, wiser and more nuanced, but still offered a familiar essence—freedom, expansion, and bliss. One thing has changed now, fellow-travelers include science and business types, along with the counter-culturalists, the artists, and the curious.   Perhaps Doblin is on the right track and going through channels will lead to respectability.   And that we can learn from the past, and treat these entheogens (god chemicals) with the respect and love they deserve.

Strawberry Alarm Clock Is Right On Time in 2017


1967

50 years on

One minute I’m a 17 year old kid in the high school gymnasium listening to the coolest sound of the year, the next I’m on Venice beach with mike in hand interviewing them—50 years later.   Out of the mists of history and the utopian haze that enveloped our generation reappeared this summer.  Wearing the flowing kaftans with brightly swirling flower and paisley designs, the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s sound hasn’t changed.  Rare among old rock bands that do the legends thing, the majority of its members were there at the beginning.  But more importantly, they sound the same.  Even the new songs are in the pocket of Incense and Peppermints their number one hit.

This year all over the San Francisco Bay Area 1967’s Summer of Love is  being celebrated with numerous art exhibits, concerts, and tours.  Heavily supported by the local political establishment, weekly reports of happenings are published in the San Francisco Chronicle.  Notables from that era have been so heavily interviewed that Peter Coyote (one of the original Diggers) has said, no mas.  But down here hardly a whimper is heard.

But being a local Venetian and life-long counterculturalist, I can verify we had a  scene and we are celebrating the LA hippie era.   The epicenter of LA hippie was Venice/ Ocean Park with local faves; the Doors, Canned Heat, Spirit, Chamber Brothers, Love, and many more.

Venice hasn’t forgotten.  For the past twelve years the Venice Music Festival has hosted hippie era performers the Chambers Brothers (‘Time Has Come Today’), Country Joe and the Fish’s Barry Melton and this year the Strawberry Alarm Clock headlined.  As the sunset and a marine chill settled in, I smelled patchouli and herb in the air.  It felt like we’d taken the magic carpet ride back in time fifty years.

2017 Strawberry Alarm Clock with the LA Free Press Reporter, RW Klarin, holding a copy of the LA FP ad announcing them as Headliners at the Venice Beach hotspot, The Cheetah, in 1967

Before the show, representing the legendary LA Free Press, I interviewed the band.  Friendly and natural, they could have been your local BMW sales agent or fish store owner (which are the day jobs of a couple of the guys).  In response to my inquiry on changes to their music, Greg Bunnell (the bassist) said it is the same.  I can vouch for that— flute and organ highlights and ethereal harmonies replicate the sound of fifty years ago.   New songs contained a gentle social commentary just as the old songs were played with passion and fidelity.

The Alarm Clock insists that psychedelia lives and they do a great job of maintaining that vision of flowers, peace, and love.  At least for a couple hours in Venice time-travel was possible.

In search of hippie, I’ll be on the look-out for revivals of the hippie vision and report on these pages.  If you know of an event you think might fit, please send me a line.  Upcoming is a video report of the 50th anniversary of the Griffith Park love-ins.

 

 

Acid Test Graduation Party


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There’s no question of what news in this week’s Throwback Thursday Issue of the LA Free Press deserves your attention – and that’s why the Victory of the Farm Workers is on its 50-year-old Front Page. That’s also the reason that we’ve put it into our A Unique Perspective section… so you can read it in its entirety AND make comment. Here’s how you get to that: http://losangelesfreepress.com/farm-workers-win-big-grape-victory/

That said… nothing says 60’s more than that sub-headline at the very top of the page – Ken Kesey’s ‘Acid Test’ except, maybe, ‘Is Love Obscene in S.F.?’. So, you’re getting both! The Article about the Acid Test (Graduation, as it turns out) is right here. And the other story is on the 2nd page of the article about the Farm Worker’s Victory (at the link given above). It’s just like the Ellen Show.

Now to those of you who might have a spare moment for contemplation… LSD is back, and micro-dosing has been said to have had a positive impact on those who need to think creatively – like those .com types up in Silicon Valley. Might LSD be beneficial for us, as well – teachers, philosophers, sci-fi writers, medical researchers, musicians, et al? Time to bring that Acid Test back?
(btw… if you’d like to know the history of how the Test arrived in LA and its evolution there, just let us know. The whole story is in the LA FP Archives.)