The Dropouts synopsis - an autobiographical account by The Bard of Ely

Steve Andrews/Bard of Ely in 1972

Steve Andrews/Bard of Ely in a 1972 photo
Steve Andrews/Bard of Ely in a 1972 photo

Timothy Leary

Back in the late sixties Timothy Leary was advocating that people should “turn on, tune in and drop out,” but convicted killer Charles Manson said this was bad advice. He knew what the young people were dropping out into and it was not a good world to be part of.

Drugs and Self-destructiveness

Many people look back on the sixties and think of it as a time of peace and free love, of flower power and pop festivals. But in reality that was just a media image. Those who dropped out often entered a world of madness, crime and poverty, much worse than the lives they were running away from. Where are the ageing hippies today? Many of them died young. Drugs and self-destructiveness are killers.

The Dropouts is a collection of autobiographical stories as remembered by a survivor of those times. In its 10 chapters it looks in graphic detail at drug addiction, insanity, sexual promiscuity and decadence.

The book should appeal to anyone who lived through that time and any younger people today who want to find out what it was really like being a hippie.

Surnames have been omitted and some names changed. People often don't like being identified. The stories are how I remember them though.

Tuinal

Tuinal capsules
Tuinal capsules

Downers and Squatters

Downers

“Downers” was the slang name for sedatives such as Tuinal and Mandrax. The author ended up a barbiturate addict and by the age of 21 was on the sick and unemployable. He got hooked on the drugs after his first girlfriend dumped him. He reveals what it was like sleeping in telephone boxes, being kicked out of a friend’s flat for urinating all over his fireplace, and throwing a fit at his parents’ house.

Squatters

How the author ended up living in a squat in Camden Town after meeting a girl at the Windsor Pop Festival. The only rules of the place were if you value any of your belongings hang on to them or they are up for grabs. There was no gas, electricity or running water. All the squatters were drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill or political extremists. Big Mick, a former Hell’s Angel, was known for being the one to sort out any trouble. How he takes Datura, becomes a reformed character, and goes back to his wife and family.

The Moon Club

The New Moon Club was a venue where rock bands played and Cardiff’s hippie types congregated. It was in a redbrick building overlooking the Docklands and up a rickety fire-escape behind the fruit market. It was the place to be. Drugs of all sorts were in use and on sale. It was where the author went on his first full acid trip. But this sort of place attracted some violent criminals too. Whilst in the toilets, the author was threatened with a knife by Mano, a dangerous ex-convict, who wanted a silver heart-shaped pendant the author was wearing.

The Nightmare of Elm Street

The author and two other friends move into a house in Elm Street owned by his friend known as Rod the Mod. It seemed a great idea but things started to become like something out of The Young Ones TV series. Rod has a fire out the back garden in the early hours and the fire brigade is called. Jill, a girlfriend of Adrian (a tenant) threatens to axe the front door down. Rod is bullied into getting married but tries hiding out in the attic until the wedding day is over.

The Dropouts - old drawing of Steve Andrews/Bard of Ely

A sketch from 1974 of the Bard of Ely as he then was
A sketch from 1974 of the Bard of Ely as he then was

Living in Newport

Hard times in Newport

After meeting Celia and Lesley, two female art students, the author gets invited to move to Newport and share a flat with his own bedroom in the attic. He starts a relationship with Celia and accepts. The chapter includes the New Found Out scrumpy pub and some of the hippie types the author met. How he got locked up in the attic once when Celia’s parents called round. Haydn and Dawn who were neighbours who had 35 cats they believed were the “eyes of aliens.” Patches, a junky, breaks into the author’s room and steals his guitars.

Drugs raid in Cathedral Road

The author is invited by a friend called Hwyel to share a large 3-bedroomed flat in Cathedral Road and he moves in. Bob, a busker and bakery worker is the first sub-tenant. He has an airgun and shoots up a photo of himself, and indulges in a 12 hour Hare Krishna chanting session. Rod the Mod we have already met moves in and the author and Rod nearly drown after stealing a rowing boat in Cardiff Docks. The author meets Jonno and girlfriend Debs looking for somewhere to stay so he says they can use a vacant room. The flat gets raided and they were arrested for drugs.

HAWKWIND - Watchfield 1975.wmv

Watchfield

Watchfield Festival

The author hitches to Watchfield Festival with Mike N and realises it was a bad move from the start. Mike N is an Oxford University dropout and chronic abuser of any and all drugs and is on a real bender and swigging gin as they hitch. At the festival he gets worse. The author spies Patches who stole his gear and asks a policeman to arrest him. The policeman does nothing. The author confronts Patches who curses him out for having ‘grassed’ on him.

Claude Road, Connaught Road and a new relationship

The author meets Jan for the first time at the Moon Club. She is dressed in a white sari and has oriental make-up and with Mike N. The author walks her home to her small bedsit in Claude Road and stays the night sleeping in her single bed. This is the beginning of a long relationship and a move to a shared flat in Connaught Road. Jan invites a messed up guy she and the author had met in a park to move in. He signs his name as “Robert Woodside, Definitely 999”. Mike N takes Datura in the flat and talks to a satin jacket he thought was the most beautiful woman he had even seen.

Bard of Ely in hippie gear

Steve Andrews/Bard of Ely in Richmond Road
Steve Andrews/Bard of Ely in Richmond Road

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Laugharne

Fear and Loathing in Roath and Laugharne

The tenancy ended but Jan and the author find a large bedsitter in a house Bob, whom you’ve met earlier, was living in Richmond Road. On the top-floor lived Stan, a drugs-user and small-time crook. A pimp called Scotty, along with prostitute Dusty, moved in as his guests. Scotty, girlfriend Trudi and the author go on a crazy car journey to Laugharne. The car had a broken windscreen and was stolen. Jan got pregnant that year and had a baby boy but then had a major breakdown, and ended up sectioned. The author became a single parent and the house was up for sale.

A council house in Ely

A council house in Ely was on offer and the author jumped at the chance. Within weeks though, he ended up with former squatters he knew all moving in to the two-up and two-down council house. Steve D, who had had mental and drug problems for many years, often called but one night decides to hang himself using the washing line. The author joins Scientology and all the ‘druggies’ get out of his life. After leaving the cult he meets with King Arthur and becomes a druid. He also meets Fred Frantic a very funny singer-songwriter with a punk hairstyle. Fred becomes a junkie and dies of a heroin overdose.

Ely, Cardiff

© 2011 Steve Andrews

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Comments 15 comments

grinnin1 profile image

grinnin1 5 years ago from st louis,mo

Thanks for sharing your experience from the revolutionary 1960s. I was born in 1971, but my parents recollections about the communes in Colorado where they lived were pretty de-mystifying. They worked with little kids who came from drug addicted parents and were born in communes where they didn't know who's father was who's.I've often wondered what in the hell did happen between 1955 and 1975? And why on such a broad scale? Vietnam? The feminist movement? JFK, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy's assassination? The 1960's changed the world so much that it was basically unrecognizable by the time it was over. As one who was born after it was over, the world before seems like the better of the two.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I would agree the past was a better world. If only I could go back and not make the same mistakes! lol


LewSethics profile image

LewSethics 5 years ago

One of my favorite things to forget about the sixties was the occasional bad acid trip experienced as a group because someone insisted they were god and tried shouting everyone out of existence. He was a sergeant home on leave from 'nam and way overdid everything. Next thing you know we got this badass (and he was a boxing instructor in the army to boot) standing on the table yelling 'I AM GOD!!!!' and scaring the chicks, who were screaming like it was the end.

Someone got some chlorophyll on a rag and was able to sneak up behind him and he dropped like a sack.

Why anyone would have chlorophyll laying around is anybody's guess, but there was an overlaying weirdness to everything that made that kind of stuff seem normal.

Fun article Bard, Those Were The Days.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, LewSethics! But speaking of weirdness don't you mean chloroform? Chlorophyll is the green stuff and there's plenty of that around! lol


LewSethics profile image

LewSethics 5 years ago

You're right. In my haste to get my story down I guess I used the wrong word, haha. Chlorophyll just would have got our asses kicked lol.


anonymous 5 years ago

This is a very interesting and well-written article.

Some ex-hippies are no longer living on that free-love trip. They are married with children, yet they are still attracted to whatever is the new pop-culture trend. Some hippies remain intact as though time has stood still.

Some hippies would have been hippies even if the culture wasn't tipping in that direction. Where are the hippies of today who are young, alone and considered "uncool."

LOL. Thanks Bard. Another interesting article.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you!


pmccray profile image

pmccray 5 years ago from Utah

I absolutely, love your hippie look. Boy how I long for days gone by . . sex, drugs and rock n' roll, what a legacy. Wouldn't mind reliving this time, but know what I know now to AVOID the mistakes. Voted up, marked interesting.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, pmccray! Yes, I would like to go back and do it again without all the mistakes I made!


Pleasure Venues profile image

Pleasure Venues 5 years ago from South West US

Man that was pretty groovy! I don't think Colin Wilson would have anticipated what his "phenomenological" underpinnings would inspire with sex, drugs and rock and blah blah blah. There were and still are great ideas out there, but yeah, what ever happened to the hippies original drive? despite the shortcomings of that time, seems like there was "fire" in the hearts of people to change. That era was just ... I think, an excuse for some to get their 'whiskey on'.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks for your interesting comments!


fen lander profile image

fen lander 5 years ago from Whitstable

Great stuff Bardic One. To reply to some of the comments above, as an astrologer I have to point the finger heavenwards when looking for 'causes.' The slow-moving outer-planets were in long-term Revolutionary mode and when the mode was over, had passed, the Revolutionary Impetus also passed away. But I have to say that those planets are in that mode again now - and that is for THE GOOD in the long term. Long Live The Revolution !


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks for that, Fen!


Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 3 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

Whoa, eye opening. I lived through the 60's and 70's in the mid west so was sheltered from that scene. Had a few friends ending up drug addicts but years (many) later were able to get clean. This is the down and ugly side of the era for real. I like what grinnin1 said above and understand her point of view! Groovy man . . . hee!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 3 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for commenting! I must get back to finish writing this book.

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