There was much talk in the late seventies, that pop groups in general, but especially the current batch of punk rockers must all be “on drugs”. “On drugs” was the term used by the older generation to explain almost any behaviour which they didn’t understand, and so had collectively arrived at this conclusion via a little bit of knowledge, and a large amount of lazy guess work.
Young people had apparently taken “drugs” before; the mods and their purple hearts, the hippies and their “pot” and the Beatles with their Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Grown ups knew all about it.
In the late 1970s, Sid and Nancy were the new headline grabbing poster children of “on drugs” – mainly because they were.
In 1979, most of us were not “on drugs”. We were 14 years old, at school and despite the weekends wearing jumble sale finds, fluffy jumpers, and band badges, we were still a very long way from a heroin habit or a taste for amphetamines. This is not to say that we weren’t interested in drugs. Drugs were cool and rock and roll, and we were aware that taking “drugs” was part of the general scene, but where were we going to get any of these drugs? We weren’t even legally old enough to walk into a pub.
Like most things, it was all started by friend of ours, a boy at the neighbouring school, a long haired boy, who knew someone, who knew someone who had a copy of the original underground cult manual for late 1960s dropouts, The Anarchist Cookbook. Despite living by the “never trust a hippy” rule, our interest was definitely piqued. He was telling us that we could make our own drugs. Along with the other counter culture instructions on hot wiring a car, or avoiding the Vietnam draft, our conspiratorial friend told us that all we really needed to get high was…some bananas…
He told us that the secret was to scrape off the insides of the banana skins, dry them and then smoke the dried remains. Wow… it sounded so simple, inexpensive, healthy even. Never before, or since, has the act of walking into the local greengrocers to buy a small bunch of bananas, felt so utterly subversive. Bananas eaten, skin scraped and the results left on newspaper to dry out on the radiator. Saturday afternoon, Rizla papers, tobacco, matches and dried banana, at the far end of the park. We furtively passed round a banana joint, it didn’t stay alight very well but we played along for a while, acting like it was really good, like we could feel something, like we might hallucinate, we were our own punk rock, banana fed lab rats.
Afterwards we ate some mints and scuffed our monkey boots along the grass as we walked home, deciding that the drug thing had just been a waste of pocket money and bananas. The long haired boy had another idea, he’d also heard something about nutmeg….and hemp seeds in fishing bait…and decongestant tablets. We had another mint and walked on in silence, remembering to never ever trust hippies again.
Please don’t try this at home – Just Say No!
Following the original craze for psychedelic bananas, in November 1967 researchers at New York University reported that a chemical analysis of banana peel had found no intoxicating chemicals and that any reported high, was psychological.