For those of you straining your brain to comprehend just what my “Summer Of ’64” post was all about, let me enlighten you. This year is the 50th anniversary of Ken Kesey and The Merry Prankster’s bus trip across America. Ken Kesey is the author of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, a book based upon his time spent as an employee of a mental hospital when he was in his early 20’s. It also became a movie released in the mid ’70’s starring Jack Nicholson. However, what made Kesey famous or perhaps infamous was how he inspired the use of LSD in the early sixties. It all started out, innocently enough, when he signed up to get paid by the U.S. government to be one of the many test subjects who would try the new drug Lysergic acid diethylamide which later became a very popular drug among some of the first hippies originating in the San Francisco Bay area.
Now, this infamous road trip sixty years ago made by Kesey and his newly formed band called The Merry Pranksters has been officially chronicled in a movie entitled “Magic Trip” (http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Trip-Stanley-Tucci/dp/B005HI4LLO/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1391824872&sr=8-4&keywords=magic+bus) Click on this link to the left to check it out on Amazon.com.
The film, Magic Trip is a documentary of how one aspect of the sixties began and incidentally what was to become the root of a very interesting musical group from the bay area called, The Grateful Dead. And although this post is not specifically about The Grateful Dead, I cannot resist letting any of you Dead Heads out there know about a great Dead documentary entitled “Dawn Of The Dead” (http://www.amazon.com/Grateful-Dead-Dawn-Of-The/dp/B007EQQOX0/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1391825209&sr=8-4&keywords=documentary+of+grateful+dead) It is a must-have DVD to add to your collection. It is the history of how they began, including what Kesey’s trip upon Furthur contributed to their music for many years to come.
To be honest with you, I have never taken LSD or any illegal or dangerous drug. I was way too much of a square in high school. I couldn’t even drink beer very much without causing myself to get sick. I was more interested in girls, playing the guitar and jamming with my brother and writing. However, my lack of experimenting with drugs didn’t necessarily interfere with me appreciating The Grateful Dead. For some reason or another their music just got into my very soul. I remember listening to the first album I bought on a very rainy day.
I went over to hang out at the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa on Long Island, New York where I grew up. I rode my bike up there. It was 1975 and the mall had just opened a couple of years ago. I had never seen a mall like that before. It was a great place to hang out, especially on a rainy day, roaming the two levels of stores like the Gap where I bought my first pair of $10.00 jeans. My mother frowned upon me when I showed her the receipt.
“Don’t you dare go bragging about your new jeans to your father, Jimmy,” She said with a scowl. “If he’s see’s that receipt and how much you paid for those pants, he’ll have a shit fit.”
My dad was very conservative and didn’t like us spending money unnecessarily. So, I ripped up the receipt and hoped the damn jeans would fit past their first washing. They fit like cardboard, those stiff cardboard-like jeans they used to sell. So, I was relegated to wearing them and feeling like the Tin Man from the wizard of oz for a couple of months until they were washed enough where they fit more comfortably on me. They ended up being the longest worn jeans of my young teenage life.
But, I digress……….allow me to continue.
My main destination as I entered the hallowed halls of The Sunrise Mall was a store called Spencers. But, although Spencers was a pretty cool specialty gift shop in its own rite, it was what was located in the back of Spencers that I was interested in.
THE INFAMOUS HEAD SHOP
Yes, the head shop. The purveyor of rolling papers, bongs and everything you ever needed to maintain your marijuana smoking habit.
Okay, there’s no sense in denying it any further. I smoked pot. I actually smoked a lot of it but only until I finally quit smoking it in 1979 and I assure you I have never smoked nor ingested or even inhaled second hand pot smoke since that time when I dumped the remained of my dime bag into a glittering stream in Northern California.
But, there was always this allure of THE HEAD SHOP. The reason it drew me in there was that whenever I entered its seemingly masked shop through the hanging beads from the doorway, I always heard excerpts from the pirated concert recordings recorded on vinyl LP’s of Grateful Dead concerts. When I first saw these pirated album covers the first thing I thought was, “Is it illegal to buy these? What if there’s a cop waiting around the corner by the mall entrance to Macy’s ready to arrest me for knowingly purchasing pirated recordings like these.
That’s just how naive I was at that time. So, what I ended up doing was going over to Sam Goodys and buying a non-pirated copy of “Europe 72” one of the best live recordings officially released by the Dead, a recording of their concerts played during their tour of Europe that year.
So, with this double album in the Sam Goody bag strapped to my bike rack, I unlocked my bicycle and road straight home so that I could play it on my new record player. That afternoon I sat in my soft easy chair with my first Grateful Dead album playing on a cheap record player I got for $50.00 at Sears.
I listened so carefully and intently to each song all alone on that rainy afternoon. I was mesmerized by Jerry Garcia’s melodic lead guitar tones. China Cat Sunflower was such a magical song. Truckin’, a much different version then what was officially released on “American Beauty” back in 1970. Prelude, Epilogue and then melting into Walk Me Out In The Morning Dew with a rousing psychedelic orgasmic conclusion to top off a nicely edited group of songs which, by the way, were taken from a couple of different shows they played, but so professionally edited together to create a jam that otherwise wouldn’t have fit on any LP until the dawn of CD’s later on in the mid 80’s.
And that was the beginning of my love affair with The Grateful Dead.
But, this post is all about the 50th anniversary of Kesey’s trip across America. That, my friends is the stuff of legends as far as the history of the hippies is concerned. So, if you really want to know what was the impetus……the emotional and spiritual beginning of the hippie culture that originated in the San Francisco Bay Area, keep reading my short story in Part 3 of The Summer Of ’64. And for those of you who want more information than you can shake a stick at about the history of the hippies and The Grateful Dead, you will be so well informed as to read Dennis Mcnally’s “A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History Of The Grateful Dead” (http://www.amazon.com/Long-Strange-Trip-History-Grateful/dp/0767911865/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391827746&sr=8-1&keywords=a+long+strange+trip+the+inside+history+of+the+grateful+dead)
So, get your beads, bell bottoms (or what’s left of them) and bongs and join me for the next post. You’ll be glad you did.