LSD was first synthesized on 16 November 1938 by Dr. Albert Hofmann at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland. 5 years later, he accidentally ingested an unknown quantity of the chemical, and felt a bit funny – he had discovered that LSD had psychedelic properties. He also learned to never bite his fingernails in the lab without washing his hands first.
In 1943, Hofmann intentionally ingested the chemical as an "experiment", he freaked out on the cycle ride home, and became convinced his neighbour was a "malevolent witch". I imagine his peers took his research papers less seriously from that day on…
Set the guitars to Pictures-of-Matchstick-Men octave-up fuzzzzzzzz, slap a blotter on your tongue and psych out to the sound of Les 5 Gentlemen. The group were from Marseille; LSD-25 was an early code-name for the drug more commonly known as acid; I have no idea who Margaret Steinway** was – a lonely spinster perhaps, whose world was turned upside down after some serious malpractice on the part of her Doctor. He fed her a harmless looking little square of paper, you see, he told her it was a cure for her overwhelming melancholy. She tripped for two hours in beautiful rapture, but in a flash she plunged deep into freak-out hell. Oh Doctor, what have you done?
[Les 5 Gentlemen - L'Integrale 1965/1968 is out of print]
**Margaret Steinway does, of course, have her own myspace.
She is 62 years old and lives in Nantes, France. In her ‘about me’ section she writes: "FRENCH, JOURNALIST, HORSEGIRL, STUDENT, FREAK, MUSIC ADDICT, HARD TO LOVE EASY TO LAY, CYNICAL, BAD DANCER, HIPPIES HATER, SMOKER, GEEK, OFTEN DRESSED UP AS A BOY, ALCOHOLIC, DRUGGIE, MAD WRITER, NOT THAT MUCH INTO SOCIALIZING, ETC."
She has 5 friends. None of them are Tom.
And now, Serge Gainsbourg has a cautionary tale for all you RockandRoll little Lord Fauntleroys flouncing around in your fine lace threads, behind the wheel of your chocolate-brown Rolls Royce. He’s seen you, cruising for teeny boppers: you take them for a wizzz in the country, racing down the winding roads, they giggle as they slide around in their knee-socks and mini-skirts on the leather upholstery of the backseat.
There’s a bag of sugar lumps in the dashboard, you offer one to your little filly, she shouldn’t take sweeties from strangers, but, sure, she knows you…
Then the real trip begins, a trip down the river to the edge of madness, flowers of exquisite colours drifting and bleeding in the strong currents. Is that Mick Jagger in the Thames? She dives in to get a kiss off ol’ rubber-lips, and she drowns in her beautiful Biba twin-set.
[buy France Gall: iTunes | Amazon.uk]
The moral of both of these stories is that girls can’t handle their pharmaceuticals. At least that’s what the boys in the sixties would have us believe. As for Dr. Hofmann, he recovered from his "Bicycle Day" and continued to research hallucinogenic substances, convinced of their benefits for use in psychoanalytic practice. He died of natural causes on 29 April 2008. He was 102.