Photo from here - http://i.ytimg.com/vi/_ZSLGTqUl7U/maxresdefault.jpg
When I say, Alice in Wonderland, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Mad hatter? Queen of Hearts? Rabbit Hole? Hookah-smoker Caterpillar? Tea Party? And what else? A trippy trip down a kaleidoscopic world? It is exactly these elements that made Alice and her Wonderland a very familiar place for all the hipsters. Who would have thought Lewis Carroll’s innocent tale for children (the article here -http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/lewis-carrolls-shifting-reputation-9432378/- says otherwise, but let us delve into it some other day when we are in the mood for a “tea party”) would inspire so many psychedelic songs, the world he created would become a happy place for the drug snuffling musicians of the 60s, 70s and the 80s?
When I first listened to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” from their 60’s album “Surrealistic Pillow”, I assumed that it could be a description of how Grace Slick’s mind imagined all the Wonderland materials. But what I didn’t know was that there were several versions of the Wonderland as mused by many other prominent bands of that era. I became a Beatles’ fan very recently and after having listened to “I am the Walrus” song’s obscure lyrics, I anxiously researched more about it and voila, or should I say goo ga joo, there it was again – the Wonderland. Lennon was a huge fan of Alice book and often used the characters in his songs. In fact, the song Lucy in Sky with Diamonds, was not at all something he wrote after being inspired by his son Julian’s drawing, but for LSD – the drug that causes the user to hallucinate the world to be made up of radiant colors – a la Wonderland’s Rabbit Hole!
Then Aerosmith came up with Sunshine (this wasn't a psychedelic song, but since it belongs to the rock genre and I love Steven Tyler, I have added it here)! Steven Tyler was not to be left alone. He tried his hands into writing something about this perceived mad land. While the other writers resorted for writing about the place and the cornucopia of weirdness of it, Tyler, the narcissistic yet affable Tyler wrote about how Alice could be his friend!! Because let’s face it, he is not less of a mad-hatter himself :P
It makes me wonder if Lewis himself was a believer of a parallel universe where characters of his book are real. One’s imagination has no bounds but how, oh how, did he come up with an entirely dopey world as the one in his book! An interesting observation about this book that could have ignited the minds of many a great musician into wandering off “through the looking glass” is that it is not a utopia! It is not some place where everything and everyone is happy. It is a place where there are hazy characters (Hookah Smoking Caterpillar, what now?), mysteriously cloaked personalities (mad hatter), large well-built creatures (White rabbit, the white effing rabbit), dull sadist characters (the Queen of Hearts with her famous line “off with their heads”) and yet this is the place someone high prefers to the real world! Ah the mystery!
What really amused me is that there is a paradigm shift from Alice in Wonderland being a children’s book which was written possibly to encourage creativity to a place, an unhealthy place if I may, for the acid tripping rock stars of the psychedelic era to dwell in, to avoid the reality of their lives and responsibilities and to experience a universe of falseness! Whatever it is, Alice would always remain relevant to pop culture. She won’t fade, she won’t let anything faze her and she never will be restricted to a “phase” of a culture! Alice, please inspire more and more musicians, may the creativities flow.
P.S – Here is a list of songs that were written on Alice and her Wonderland - http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/yradish/classic-rock-songs-inspired-by-alice-in-wonderland.html