Dr. Timothy Leary's 'Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out' Soundtrack Receives an Enlightening Kaleidoscope Vinyl LP Reissue

A special limited reissue LP on kaleidoscope vinyl reveals the historical relevance of Dr. Timothy Leary's takes on philosophy, existence, and life in the 1960s, for the "soundtrack" to the indeterminable film Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out
Dr. Timothy Leary

Real Gone Music

1 February 2019

The soundtrack album for Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out resonates heavily to document and demonstrate Dr. Timothy Leary's philosophy and influence in the mid-1960s. It's at once a loose soundtrack taking a spoken-word ESP-Disk album recorded by Leary a year earlier and adding instrumental pieces, and a musical journey meant to accompany a five-part film of the same name (or is it, maybe that's part of its mysterious allure – there was no film). Leary's historical prominence is as mystical and philosophical on Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out, as the supposed nature of the album's existence as a soundtrack.

Originally issued by Mercury Records in 1967, the soundtrack incorporated Leary's cultural presence, his "teachings" and advocacy for LSD use, and historically presents a trip deconstructing the mind. Revisiting the sonic and guided landscape 42 years later for a special limited-edition reissue LP pressed on kaleidoscope vinyl by Real Gone Music takes you into the 1960s and the wide range of Leary's cultural impact. Labeling the reissue a trip is equally too easy and unnecessary a pun and a limited range description for the musical qualities that accompany the Guide (Leary), the Voyager (Ralph Metzner), and the Divine Connection (Leary's partner Rosemary Woodruff) as they explore the psyche and the human condition.

Leary's commentary on and denouncing of conformity in American society and the problems in educational systems generated tremendous insight into the responses he earned from musicians and young Americans alike. The effect of his cultural presence and experiments in the mid-1960s often recognized primarily by his appearance at San Francisco's Human Be-In in early 1967, is recreated and tangible by this soundtrack, possibly inferred in its capability when released of giving its listeners the communal gathering and interpersonal experience captured by the emerging hippie movement. The soundtrack additionally individualizes the process of attaining his mantra to "turn on, tune in, and drop out" through the solitary listening experience and the hypnosis in the Guide and transcendence of the Divine Connection. Forty-years later, this reissued version acts as more of a historical document, revealing the experience of the mid-1960s without necessary transferring the mind-altering application of Leary's immediate relevance or advocacy of LSD as an enhancement.

The incorporation of Eastern and Western instrumentation places the soundtrack at the height of 1960s musical culture. It's structure and loose approach is appealing, with the opening for the album in "Turn on, tune in, drop out" and the "Epilogue" featuring accessible and enticing interplay between the musical performers hired by producer Al Lam to accompany Leary's spoken-word recitations by engineer David Hancock. Leary's spoken-word recordings possibly originated at the Millbrook, where he and company conducted many of their mid-1960s experiments following his firing by Harvard. One can imagine the long-form looseness in Leary's spoken-word guidance, but the music on the soundtrack truly demonstrates the intended results of "turning on, tuning in, and dropping out" and catapults the trip by Leary's Guide into the unknown.

The visual accompaniment of Real Gone Music's kaleidoscope vinyl reissue offers a tangible depiction – safely without necessitating any experimentation or enhancement for the trip. Where most reissues add outtakes or demos that break down or bolster the musical qualities of a finished album and its historical relevance, Real Gone Music has approached this album with a visual accompaniment recreating the tangibility of the LP and its medium. Colored vinyl editions often seem unnecessary for casual listeners and reserved solely for collectors, but this reissue offers the kaleidoscope red-green-blue as the revisited component for the album. The sleeve, labels, and music are recreated fully and enhanced colorfully by the vinyl. If there was a film Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out, it's surely unnecessary 42 years later and the colorful quality pictured by the reissue vinyl creates its own refreshing interpretation of 1960s cultural history.





Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.


Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.


Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.


2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.


Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez


Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.


"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.


The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.


Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.