Psychedelia: An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way Of Life – Youth’s book review in full
The bus followed us as we drove into this field where about 200 freaks, tripping off their nuts, gawped as the ‘Further’ Bus circled the field like something from a surrealist dream, the freaks barely blinked and just carried on dancing, probably dismissing it as an hallucination. The bus didn’t stop and the Keseys wanted out of there fast. I could understand their trepidation; these cats were in their 70′s now and they weren’t going back into ‘the field’ again. Not now anyway. However the most hilarious Monty Python-esque moment occurred as they left. Since they’d appealed to the public on TV to join them in a convoy on their journey, there were about thirty cars and vans following them. Suddenly the bus stopped and Kesey’s wife stepped out onto the rear platform, held her palm aloft and stated to the assembled convoy (who were by now all out of their cars): “Stop! Do not follow us, leave us alone!” Then one lone hippy voice piped up from a young student-type, who said: “But, you said on TV yesterday to follow the bus? We’ve driven 400 miles to be here for you.” She curtly replied: “Well, we have changed our minds… Please just go away” and swiftly turned her back on us, and them, and went back into the bus! The convoy turned around and went back to Ahimsa where a wonderful time was had by all.
There were some lovely people on board that bus that, I realise now, I was very fortunate and privileged to meet, not least Kesey but at that moment I was thinking, ‘Who was it who said “never meet your heroes’”? Classic…
There are a few omissions in the book (not least an index, which would have been useful), though you clearly cannot include everyone, there’s just too many – Gregory Sams (Uncommon Sense: State Is Out Of Date) for instance, there’s also hardly anything on the psychology of psychedelics, ex-Oxford Don, earth energy master and neo-Platonic psychedelic philosophy genius John Mitchell (New View Over Atlantis), John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins (who started the legendary 60′s UFO club and is still seen at psy-trance gatherings) and – especially – the late Brian Barritt, the British Leary, who co-wrote a book with Leary based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which is still a definitive guide for lay psychedelicists, but is unfairly dismissed and ignored.
Barritt broke Leary out of his house arrest in the Black Panthers lair in Algeria in 1970 after they had, along with the Weathermen, bust Leary out of jail in the USA.
They held him hostage for a book advance and then went to the same spot in the desert where Aleister Crowley had famously invoked a famous ritual on mescaline in the 1920′s, which they re-enacted with LSD. They then escaped to Switzerland and made some sojourns into Germany to invent Krautrock (I kid you not) while producing Ash Ra Tempel (check the album 7-Up) Krautrock is arguably the most influential musical genre on contemporary music today than any other (NME recently rated Neu! as the number one influence with Velvet Underground second: yet another psychedelic experiment). Lundborg (bizarrely) devotes a lot of pages to ‘exotica’ records yet misses this most significant period entirely.
Brian Barritt was part of the west London psychedelic illuminii centred around Labroke Grove. He, along with Raja Ram (another West London veteran: Quintessence in the 70′s, latterly Shpongle and TIP), and my former assistant at Butterfly Studios, the Kubrick-like electronic genius Simon Posford, took on the legacy of the Grateful Dead’s retro, acid country, acoustic ramblings and (amazingly) won over their sometimes stubborn and Luddite – but huge – US audience to Psychedelic Trance and Shpongle’s unique World Electronica.
Both Brian and Raja had told me that in the 60′s their prime psychedelic influence were the beat poets of the 50′s including Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs (both of whom are also well covered in this book) and the beats’ influence was 1920′s Paris.
My interest in all this is very personal, as Brian also mentored me when I had a classic acid meltdown.
In ’82, when I was 21, I was arrested on the Kings Road, semi-naked in a kimono trying to give money away and then, when no one would take it, burning five pound notes. This was after taking a Mickey Mouse ‘sorcerers apprentice’ acid tab that had been given to me by a friend as a test to see if I “really” was his friend (he’d heard that I thought he’d stolen my TV from my squat).
A week later he threw himself off a bridge onto a railway line.
My acid didn’t wear off.