The new Psychedelic Sex book published by Taschen this spring is currently being sold on eBay for $69. That’s a silly point to make about what amounts to a seriously in-depth look at what happened to the burgeoning culture of “men’s magazines” when they ran smack into the psychedelic revolution in the 1960′s.
During a tiny, titillating window between 1967 and 1972, LSD, the sexual revolution, pop art graphics and the go-go entrepreneurialism that’s always been the hallmark of the pornography industry all combined in a cauldron of hippie chicks, surfer girls and counterculture couplings that created “psychedelic sex.” While the freaks flew their flags of free love and good drugs in San Francisco, men’s magazine publishers were anxious to sell the revolution to the squares on the sidelines.
Magazines like Way Out and Where It’s At attempted to capture the aesthetics of psychedelic culture beginning at the place where the jeans and the fringe and the flowers hit the floor. In a sense, the magazines were playing catch-up — the actual permissiveness and experimentation that was happening in the youth culture of the time was making the forbidden fruit that men’s magazines always claimed to offer look like something much more boring that what might have been happening on a college campus or after hours at the coffeehouse.
Like Hollywood films and television of the era, these magazines ultimately had to be satisfied with presenting a facsimile of the hippie lifestyle, but there’s something refreshingly honest and direct and innocent about these pictures of real people with real natural bodies that makes contemporary magazine photography in any genre look cold, slick, machined and unreal. The book also recalls a time when a premium nudie magazine would have to be purchased in person for a pretty penny, long before the internet make similar images available for nothing and in private, devaluing both the images and the viewer according to Taschen’s Sexy Books Editor, Dian Hanson.
Make no mistake, Psychedelic Sex is a pornographic publication full of outrageous images from six years of niche publications that capture the psychedelic era in a wild spread of flesh, fantasy, paisley and pop art. The book is gorgeous and hilarious and — at the risk of sounding like a square myself — it also includes two illuminating essays by collector Eric Godtland and that timeless spokesman of the 1960′s, the “father of the underground press,” Paul Krassner.
The book measures in at 408 pages and comes in a great pop art slipcase.
To get you in the mood for, er, reading, here’s a chapter from Terence McKenna’s True Hallucinations audiobook in which he recounts a boudoir encounter under the influence of datura and DMT. Bizarre. Freaky. Hilarious…