Until now there have been no books which deal specifically with the history of LSD use in Britain. The American scene is well served by tomes such as Storming Heaven and Acid Dreams and the uninitiated would be forgiven for thinking that LSD story is exclusively American in nature. Albion Dreaming puts the record straight on this matter and in the process opens up a window into a world few are aware of - a hidden history of a vital part of Britain's underground culture. But LSD wasn't always underground. In Albion Dreaming, Roberts charts the early days of the drug in Britain, a naïve world in which MI6 and later the MOD, believed they could make LSD work for them as a weapon or interrogation tool. Roberts' accounts of the rather pathetic attempts of MI6 to test LSD as an interrogation tool on unsuspecting servicemen make for amusing - if disturbing - reading. Clearly the intelligence services hadn't got a clue about what they were dealing with and they soon abandoned the drug. At the same time the military were flexing their lysergic muscles there was a revolution taking place in psychotherapy as LSD became widely used, most notably in hospitals such as Powick in Gloucestershire. There, Dr Ronnie Sandison embarked on a major programme of LSD psychotherapy in a specially built `LSD Block'. What Sandison didn't know at the time was that the funding had been arranged by a close friend of Sandison's who, unbeknownst to Sandison, was actually attending Secret Intelligence Services meetings!
Eventually and inevitably LSD made the leap from the clinic to public use. Roberts has traced the recreational use of LSD to the late Fifties, years before it was made illegal. From 1965 onwards growing media hysteria about LSD in the US and Britain made governments jittery about allowing its continued use. Pressure was brought to bear and LSD was made illegal in October 1966. But the consciousness revolution had started and LSD was appearing on the streets in huge quantities and high doses, shaping the music and fashion worlds of the Sixties and Seventies.. The bulk of Albion Dreaming traces the counterculture's fascination with the drug as well as the media's condemnation. The book's content is too vast and detailed to relate here, but everything you could wish for, and more besides is present.
Besides a detailed study of LSD culture throughout the Sixties and Seventies, there are separate chapters which deal with how LSD was a driving force behind the free festival movement and one which analyses the infamous Operation Julie busts from a counterculture perspective.
It's clear that Roberts is an apologist for LSD and an advocate for its legalisation or at least regulated use. This might be seen as contentious until you reach the final chapter which takes a look at why LSD has been so severely legislated against - war on drugs? - war on lifestyles more like! For instance Roberts relates the tale of Casey Hardison who, in 2005, received 20 years in prison for manufacturing large quantities of LSD in a Brighton suburb. Yet murderers and paedophiles routinely get sentences of less than 10 years. This and other anomalies suggest to Roberts an underlying desire by the `establishment' to prevent individuals experimenting with their consciousness, for fear of the significant changes LSD can bring about. After all, you're hardly likely to take the corporate world seriously after you've seen through humankind's social, political and religious games. But there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Several senior policemen are campaigning for the drug laws to be changed and numerous medical professionals are revisiting psychedelics for use in psychotherapy.
Of course there are some minor cavils; a few typos, one or two factual errors and the author's interpretation of a culture which few are prepared to talk openly about for fear of legal repercussions. Some people may think the history of LSD Britain wasn't like this at all, but every fact Roberts states is fully referenced and if any of the so-called counter culture movers and shakers doesn't like his interpretation they should write their own history!
All in all, Albion Dreaming does for the British LSD scene what Jay Stevens' Storming Heaven did for US DSL history. It's a fascinating, roller coaster of a ride, with probably 90% of the information being new to even the most ardent student of psychedelic culture.