"I don't know how I started writing for 'Friends' as 'B.S. Shoes'. It was very early, in the second issue. I still felt very naive among all these people who seemed to be rushing about and being very impressive and together. I still felt sort of outside it, although I obviously felt very akin to the approach, to the idea of doing things as BS Shoes. He was very Kesey: BS Shoes was hardly cosmic, BS Shoes was deeply paranoid. One was beginning to see all those lovely stories coming through in the medical journals and seeing them in a sixties way... body transplants... that was an early BS Shoes story. All the stories were tinged with paranoia. I enjoyed the freedom of writing the column, it was great fun. There was lot of stuff that I genuinely believed in then that I would think is complete bollocks now. Total bollocks. For a start only trusting somebody who's got hair below their shoulders. That's one of the things it took a stupid amount of time to learn. All the stories of Sobhraj and all those monsters blow that out of the window."
Eddie and Steve organized a bridge tournament starring Omar Sharif in the Piccadilly Hotel. I dropped this really great quote that freaked Eddie and I can't remember who their press officer was... I don't know how they made money on it but they did, brilliantly. And because I looked like a freak the man from the 'Daily Mail' was asking me a series of questions all of which were leading up to his asking 'Are you the doctor who gives Omar his drugs?' So I said 'Yeah, Omar needs the heroin, so I give it to him twice a day. Usually through the eyeball with a bicycle pump. He finds he likes to get it straight through to the brain.' The guy goes running off, at which point Eddie, Steve and their PR go totally spare. And they're convinced that the 'Mail' will believe it and the story will be printed next day. And I'm rubbing my eyes thinking 'Come 'on', lads...'
I did the Bath festival at Shepton Mallett in 1970. That one, I was living in Ibiza at the time and they flew me back, the white car, Dr. Groovy, I must have been horribly groovy. It was brilliant. I had nine doctors, eight of whom were freaks and one was straight. And one of the great images of sixties was in the medical hut at Bath. The doctors getting down on the ground with the people having the bad trips and hugging them back into being all right again. We didn't just shoot them full of largactyl. Because that was horrendous. Largactyl was a chemical straight-jacket and you'd see somebody on largactyl who's having an awful, dreadful experience because they can hardly move physically. You can see in their eyes that the madness hasn't gone away. I remember loving one guy back. He was completely out of it, completely gone. He talked in this funny high voice, he was like a cartoon from "Film Fun". Eventually he decided that he was... ready for the outside world! He said 'Hold me from the back, hold me up' so I was behind him and he was standing on my feet and I was walking behind him with my arms under his and we were walking along and he was saying 'OK, I'm ready now'. And I'm saying 'OK, all right mate, you're ready...' And you get to the door of tent and there's the whole thing milling around and we stand and this guy says 'Allright, I can go another couple of feet... allright... oh, oh, doc! we'll have to go back a bit!' and all the time holding on to him. And there's one doctor, very straight, who disrespects me to this day because of that. In fact a pop festival was a fucking ludicrous place to take acid: the sight of hundred thousand faces can give you the willies, seriously. Because you see the pain in those faces. For the last six hours of the Bath Festival I signed off, said 'OK lads, it's all fine', signed off and dropped my trips. The very last act was Dr. John. He came on 14 hours late, I think, about 6.30 in the morning, and he was the most stoned person I have ever seen in my life. He was so massively stoned he couldn't move his eyes in his head, nor could he move his head on his shoulders and if he needed to look at you he had to move his whole body. But he was brilliant.
In 1969 I joined Ian Dunbar who'd started a general practice for young people in Ladbroke Grove. He was particularly interested in helping people who were coming off junk. Ian had discovered this anomaly: that you could prescribe cannabis and he prescribed it and I did too, quite genuinely. Extract of cannabis extracted alcoholically from the plant and then made into tincture, this dreadful surgical spirit with the stuff in. It was a genuinely good link with people coming off heroin, because most treatment for heroin is still very authoritarian - be a good boy and stop taking heroin or go on to safe methadone, which has always been a red heroin. We were trying to give people something to get high off, not to be authoritarian. It doesn't replace the heroin experience at all but at least it's something to get high. And at least it's a connection with a doctor. We went on prescribing it, lots and lots, to prevent our patients committing illegal acts. If I found out you were going out and buying dope, of course I'd prescribe it for you, to stop you being a criminal. I didn't want my patients to be criminals, I wanted them to be within the law. That practice lasted about a year, and Bernie Greenwood also came and joined us. For Bernie and I the main thing was that we could actually work in a situation and a place that we enjoyed, that wasn't white coated. Now that's totally unimportant, but then it was very important that I wasn't like an institutional doctor. That was heaven, that little practice. We had very hairy situations with junkies threatening us if we didn't give out prescriptions; I had a chair thrown at me; strangeness like that. It was very close to the ground, it was very good. But the police put pressure on the local council - it was church property, right opposite the church on the brow of the hill at the top end of Ladbroke Grove - and we were on the top floor and they found something wrong with the drains at the bottom and so we were kicked out. From that point I became a private doctor.
I became involved in the Wooton Report through Steve Abrams who got in touch with me when I was a doctor and I signed the "Times" advert... 'George Harrison, Sam Hutt'... I liked it. I went along to Wooton as a professional person who smoked dope. I went along with Abrams. He was much better with the words. I just said that I couldn't speak for anyone else but certainly the literature was very good about it and it didn't do me any harm."Update March 23 2000: Will Birch's book, "No Sleep Till Canvey Island", is an in depth history of the British Pub Rock scene of the '70s and contains a wealth of information on Brinsley Schwarz, Famepushers, Barney Bubbles, Omar Sharif, Sam Hutt, Friends magazine, and other stuff mentioned on these pages. Now available in association with Amazon.co.uk.
The interview texts are from
"Days in the Life: Voices from the London Underground 1961-71" by Jonathon Green,
used here with permission. Any reproduction is prohibited without permission from the author.
Days in the Life excerpts © Jonathon Green
contact: Phil Franks (freax AT arrakis.es)
Freax/Friends website produced by Malcolm Humes