The Dedalus Book of the 1960s: Turn off Your Mind, By Gary Lachman

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The Independent Culture

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.