‘America’s leading scholar of High Strangeness’ Dr.Erik Davis, enters the Bureau.
We hear about Erik’s career charting the highs and lows of counterculture, esoterica and psychedelia in America and meet three of the most influential radical psychedelic characters of 1970s - the writers / thinkers / lunatics Philip K Dick, Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson.
Each had extraordinary mystical experiences in the heady days of early 1970 countercultures which kickstarted an incredible outpouring of radical theories, fiction, speculations, conspiracy theories and consciousness exploration.
We hear about radical politics, drugs, strange new religions, environmentalism, cults and the darkening of the psychedelic dream as the sunny uplands of the 1960s turn into the confused melting pot of the 1970s.
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Mike Jay, the UK’s foremost historian of psychoactive plants, joins us to talk about the deeply strange hallucinogen/drug/medicine/sacrament mescaline - a substance derived from the peyote cactus.
Whilst other psychedelic compounds are more popular - and much more in the news - Mike tells us why mescaline was actually the very first psychedelic.
We hear strange stories of drug use in 19th century London, Native American medicine ceremonies - and Bovril..
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Forget California, swinging sixties London or the Paris riots for a moment, Estonian filmmaker Terje Toomistu joins us to talk about the hippie movement of the Soviet Union.
It had all the characteristics of Western hippiedom: long hair, groovy music, esoteric spirituality and drugs. The only thing missing perhaps was the radical public politics that would have pushed the repressive Soviet authorities into drastic, brutal action
Terji’s film, with its super groovy soundtrack of rare tunes, provides a fascinating glimpse into a moving, daring subculture that flourished east of the Iron Curtain.
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We tell the story of the music fans and bootleggers who ran the risks of imprisonment to defy the Soviet censor for the sake of the songs they loved.
We learn how they made records of forbidden tunes by building home-made recording machines and re-purposing x-rays illegally obtained from Soviet hospitals.
We hear how they did it with selections of music drawn from various x-ray records and hear the words of a surviving bootlegger - and we explore what it actually takes to cut music onto x-ray film.
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We meet with film director Olivia Litchenstein and BBC Russian Arts presenter Alexander Kan to hear about the extraordinary musician Sergey Kuryokhin, ‘the Soviet Punk Frank Zappa’ who with his underground cohorts in Leningrad tried to soundtrack perestroika as the cold war crumbled around them.
Olivia tells of the strange circumstances of the making of the BBC TV series Comrades during the twilight of the Soviet Empire, with tales of tapes smuggled in diplomatic bags and a bizarre intervention by Ronald Reagan.
Alex tells of his friendship with Kuryokhin, an incredibly talented, charming musical provocateur whose live performances astonished Russian audiences. And we learn of the bizarre prank Kuryokhin played on National TV claiming Lenin was a magic mushroom, just one of many dadaist interventions he made before his tragically early death.
The Comrades program featuring Sergey Kuryokhin: https://youtu.be/ibY2lXdgdnM
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Was counterculture possible in the oppressive, repressive circumstances of the Soviet Union?
Join us as we meet with broadcaster, author and cultural commentator Artemyi Troistsky - the 'Russian John Peel’ - to find out.
We hear some entertaining, comical, tragic, moving and frankly strange stories including tales of the ‘Stilyagi' Soviet Hipsters, the first disco in Moscow, Che Guevara and Lenin as a mushroom.
And we hear how rock music evolved in secret before breaking into the light as perestroika transformed Soviet society.
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In this episode, we meet with radical doctor Sam Hutt who ministered to countercultural London in the 1960s and with Hank Wangford, English Country and Western singer par excellence.
Sam tells us about growing up in a 1950s communist household in a posh part of London. We hear stories of sixties Soho and psychedelic marmite, about buying heroin from Boots and about prescribing cannabis for some very famous musicians.
We learn how Sam frequented underground clubs like The Flamingo, dropped acid, made one of the greatest psychedelic singles of all time, hung out with rock stars and witnessed the tragic decline of Syd Barrett
Hank tells how Sam Hutt became Hank Wangford after a broken love affair. We hear how he and Keith Richards were turned onto country music by Gram Parsons and about his days as part of the Red Wedge anti-Thatcher movement in the 1980s - all along with two tunes recorded live at Soho Radio.
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