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March 23, 1967, Vol. XII, No. 23
The Psychedelic Yenta Strikes Again!
By Richard Goldstein
The Lovin’ Spoonful may soon find their names anathema to the very underground which nurtured them.
Reports which accuse Zal Yanovsky and Stere Boona of acting as informers in a marijuana bust have been spreading by word of mouth and print. In San Francisco, where the alleged treason took place, one shopkeeper hung a copy of the Hums album near a sign which read “These men are informers.” Also displayed was a supposed court transcript, which cited the two and the group’s manager for aiding the cops.
From the nub event has sprouted a series of half-truths and over-truths. The group is maintaining a strained silence, motivated by an understandable fear of recriminations. But from the lack of forthright explanation, the hearsay has reached mind-manifesting proportions.
From the point of record sales, clamming up is a wise move. But the underground grapevine grows fat on silence. Gossip on the Love Generation can be as vicious and agonizing as a Walter Winchell teaser.
Just last weekend it was announced that a recent police raid of a party which Stones Mike Jagger and Keith Richard attended netted a quantity of “dangerous drugs” and brought rumors of a crackdown on the scene in England. Crackdown is a perpetual state, as Donovan will attest.
These two incidents are the latest in a long list of semi-publicized scandals involving rock groups and drugs. The great untold story in pop is the direct influence of psychedelics on the fabric of modern music. It is virtually impossible to analyze rock today without mentioning drugs, and it is definitely impossible to mention drugs without pointing an unintentionally accusing finger. But subject matter, instrumentation, and especially age can never really be evaluated in depth without referring to the incusive effect of drugs. The fear of bad publicity has created a pernicious press-lingo of hints and euphemisms.
Very soon some top group is going to speak out publicly about their own use and advocacy of drugs. Their admission will inspire suppression and a gleeful waving of banner headlines, but it may just provide the impetus for a needed re-evaluation. Because rock ‘n’ roll has scrapped utterly the notion that acid automatically produces a withdrawn and apathetic cretin. LSD has meant involvement as well as isolation. In its ultimate neutrality, the psychedelic experience provides both the means for inscape, and for profound self-expression. The choice, turned on or straight, is still with the artist.
In pop music, the best people have made this decision: turn on, tune in, do. Only when the scene opens up for real will anyone be able to seriously evaluate this music in print. Until someone has the courage, and perhaps the foolishness, to give an honest accounting, the cops will continue their divide-and-conquer tactic with undue success whenever fame and fortune are at stake. Well meaning men will continue to be pitted against each other. Tragedies will continue to happen. And the only thing that benefits will be the scene, which gnaws at reputation and devours scandal like a juicy tidbit.
Psychedelic yentas still ply their milkbox trade. Love still snickers.
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]