Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Book Review: Speed-Speed-Speedfreak: A Fast History of Amphetamine by Mick Farren
The first thing you notice about Speed-Speed-Speedfreak is the design - it is literally a giant Dextroampethamine capsule. The second may be the author’s name, Mick Farren. As leader of The Deviants and Pink Fairies, Farren has first-hand knowledge of the subject at hand.
Honestly, I did not expect much out of this cleverly shaped, 208-page tome. Farren is no burned-out druggie extolling the virtues of meth though. With no axe to grind, he just lays out the facts. The bonus is how tremendously enjoyable I found his writing style to be.
Although herbal stimulants have been around for centuries, amphetamines were not synthesized until 1887. Much like hardcore speedfreaks themselves, the U.S. governmental attitude toward the drug have been completely schizoid. A substance that makes a person aggressive, fully alert, and uninterested in sleep sounds like a dream come true for the military. And as Farren details, troops have been given (covertly or otherwise) the drug since World War One. He even offers anecdotal evidence of the practice going on in Afghanistan today.
It is well known that Hitler was a speedfreak. But we never hear about JFK, who reportedly was addicted as well. As Farren shows, the whole post-War, New Frontier era was all about speed. Over the counter, pharmaceutical-grade amphetamines such as Benzedrine are what really what made the engine of the U.S. economy roar in those years.
He also does a marvelous job of laying out the ridiculous “War On Drugs” policies of the government. In 2010, you cannot come up with a more demonized drug than methamphetamine. But the same tired, patently false, and outrageously exaggerated tales have just been recycled. This whole fake Puritanical attitude is just bizarre when you think about it - and Farren’s book does make you think.
Look back to Prohibition. Well that sure worked, huh? Then it was pot, and Reefer Madness (1938). Post-War bohemians who listened to jazz were (by definition) hooked on heroin. The current War On Drugs really began in response to LSD, yet the rhetoric remains Reefer Madness. In the seventies it became angel dust. In the eighties we had crack. Today it is meth.
Mick Farren goes to great lengths to point out that he is not advocating drugs, or even legalization. Meth isn’t pot; it is a very serious drug. And I have to absolutely agree with him that in 10 years, there will be a new biggest threat to our nation’s youth, indeed civilization itself.
The points Mick Farren makes in Speed-Speed-Speedfreak are just so damned commonsense it is ludicrous. Not only is the guy something of a musical cult-hero, he is one hell of a great writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. But that should come as no surprise, as it was published by Feral House. In fact, with the creative shape design, and well-reasoned writing inside - I have to say that Speed-Speed-Speedfreak is my favorite book of 2010.
Article first published as Book Review: Speed-Speed-Speedfreak by Mick Farren on Blogcritics.