29 Nov 2011

Book Review: To Live Outside the Law by Leaf Fielding; Operation Julie Acid Bust.

I began writing this review after a very long night of reading. During Summer past, I was asking myself about this book and what it could say to me as one of those who participated in the British 60's & 70's counter-culture. Sure, I had heard of Operation Julie. Big news at the time, but the details escaped me. I was busy then with a war in another part of the United Kingdom.

What made me read on and on was simply the story. Living outside the law is an exciting biography about Fielding's remarkable early life as a Hippy on the road and subsequent rise in Intertrans Acid supply company. But his story is more. It's also an account of the British Acid Movement's drug fuelled social revolution and how a whole section of society viewed their world at that time.

What do you think about acid” he asked me straight out. “Mmm, difficult” I said ... Let's see...LSD is probably the best hope the human race has got of coming to grips with its problems.” (p 219).

That universal period of Hippy subculture is well documented in music and folklore. However, Fielding opens the door to the activities of a core British youth galvanised by heady events from Haight-Ashbury's Summer of Love in 1967 to the thrilling half a million strong Isle of Wight pop festival in 1970.
Leaf Fielding's Infidel Waltz 1979. He made the sketch while serving his
sentence in  Horfield  Prison with Alston "Smiles" Hughes and 13 other
 "Operation Julie" was the biggest ever L.S.D. bust.

This is a superb read for those who desire to understand the mind of a rebellious youth. A time of Hippy temptation and solidarity. Fielding fills the gaps and provides us with continuity. He describes the fate of those who led the British Acid Movement to Turn on, Tune in and Drop out after we all married and got sucked into the society we opposed.

Indeed I had spent some time with the legendary Alston “Smiles” Hughes, later to become a top player in the Acid ring. Meeting in London in 1970 when I was seventeen years old, we joined the party at the Isle of Wight after which we hitched together to north Wales and on to Birmingham. All the time discussing the merits of a bohemian sub-culture based around the use of a psychedelic drug people have used since religion was invented. And, a drug some informed people will continue to use as a source of spiritual and creative influence forever more.

The revealing detail around Operation Julie and the subsequent jail term is chilling. Fielding provides a rare insight into a tormented imprisonment for those who should not have been there. The fifteen strong Julie mob, as they are referred to in the book, bear more resemblance to a group of political prisoners. In many ways they were just that. Their collective motivations toward creating social change is captivated perfectly through Leaf's own personal stories. What a journey.

The book, for those who understand the effects of LSD, takes the the reader on its own gripping trip of discovery and ultimate realisations.

First there is the initial rush to reach the first plateau of awareness. Then it swiftly engages the delights of Fielding's mad crazy and unconventional behaviour often associated with the drug. The book then finally passes the doors of perception to reflect on its conclusive study while the inevitable bad comedown is reported from a prison cell. Clever Fielding, he knows his drugs.