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Tom Wolfe, THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Inc., 1968, Copyright 1968 by Tom Wolfe. excerpts ( JH picked out all passages describing sound or sound equipment ) Typed by Barb Golden, Aug. 17, 1994. 1291w

--Kesey! Let me pawn the Ampex Four-hundred-dollar tape machine, p.203

For months Kesey has been trying to work out ... the fantasy ... of the Dome. This was going to be a great geodesic dome on top of a cylindrical shaft. It would look like a giant mushroom. Many levels. People would climb a stairway up the cylinder__buy a ticket?__we-e-e-elllll__and the dome would have a great foam-rubber floor they could lie down on . Sunk down in the foam rubber, below floor level, would be movie projectors, video-tape projectors, light projectors. All over the place, up in the dome, everywhere, would be speakers, microphones, tape machines, live, replay, variable lag. People could take LSD or speed or smoke grass and lie back and experience what they would, enclosed and submerged in a planet of lights and sounds such as the universe never knew.

Lights, movies, video tapes of themselves, flashing and swirling over the dome form the beams of searchlights rising from the floor from between their bodies. The sounds roiling around in the globe like a typhoon. Movies and tapes of the past, tapes and video tapes, broadcasts and pictures of the present, tapes and humanoid sounds of the future__but all brought together now__here and now__Kairos__into the dilated cerebral cortex...

The geodesic dome, of course was Buckminster Fuller's inspiration. the light projections were chiefly Gerd Stern's, Gerd Stern of the USCO group, although Roy Seburn had already done a lot with them, and Page Browning showed a talent that surprised everybody. But the magic dome, the new planet, was Kesey and the Pranksters. The idea went beyond what would later be known as mixed-media entertainment, now a standard practice in "psychedelic discotheques" and so forth. The Pranksters had the supra-medium, a fourth dimension__acid__Cosmo__All-one__Control__The Movie__ p.206

About all the advertising they could do was confined to the day of the Test itself. Norman Hartweg had painted a sign on some cardboard and tacked it onto some boards Babbs had used as cue signs in the movie, and put it up in the Hip Pocket Bookstore. CAN YOU PASS THE ACID TEST? The Hip Pocket Bookstore was a paperback bookstore that Hassler and Peter Demma, one of the Prankster outer circle, were running in Santa Cruz. They left word in the store that afternoon that it was going to be at Babbs'. A few local bohos saw it and came out but mostly it was the Pranksters and their friends who showed up at the Spread that night, including a lot of the Berkeley crowd that had been coming to La Honda. Plus Allen Ginsberg and his entourage.

It started off as a party, with some of the movie flashed on the walls, and lights, and tapes, and the Pranksters providing the music themselves, not to mention the LSD. The Pranksters strange atonal Chinese music broadcast on all frequencies a la John Cage. p.209

The Dead had an organist called Pig Pen, who had a Hammond electric organ, and they move the electric organ into Big Nig's ancient house, plus all of the Grateful Dead's electrified guitars and basses and the Prankster's electrified guitars and basses and flutes and horns and the light machines and the movie projectors and the tapes and mikes and hi-fis, all of which pile up in insane coils of wires and gleams of stainless steel and winking amplifier dials.... p.211

...The Grateful Dead piled in with their equipment and the Pranksters with theirs, which now included a Hammond organ for Gretch and a great strobe light. p.214

...The strobe, the projectors, the mikes, the tapes, the amplifiers, the variable lag Ampex__it was all set up in a coiling, gleaming clump in the Lincoln Log lodge, the communal clump, Babbs working over the dials, talking into the microphones to test them. p.215

___Norman, zonked, sitting on the floor, is half frightened, half ecstatic, although something in the back of his mind recognizes this as his Acid Test pattern, to sit back and watch, holding on through the rush, until 3 or 4 A.M., in the magic hours, and then dance__but so much of a rush this time. The Movie and Roy Seburn's light machine pitching the intergalactic red science-fiction seas to all corners of the lodge, oil and water and food coloring pressed between plates of glass and projected in vast size so that the very ooze of cellular Creation seems to ectoplast into the ethers

and then the Dead coming in with their immense submarine vibrato vibrating, garanging, from the Aleutian rocks to the baja griffin cliffs of the Gulf of California. the Dead's weird sound! agonyin-ecstasis! submarine somehow, turbid half the time, tremendously loud but like sitting under a waterfall, at the same time full of sort of ghoul-show vibrato sounds as if each string on their electric guitars is half a block long and twanging in a room full of natural gas, not to mention their great Hammond electric organ, which sounds like a movie house Wurlitzer, a diathermy machine, a Citizens' Band radio and an Auto-Grind garbage truck at 4 A.M., all coming over the same frequency.. p.216

Those who didn't care to wait would tend to drift off, stoned or otherwise, and the Test would settle down to the pudding. The Prankster band started the strange Chinese cacophony of its own, with Gretch wailing on the new electric organ. Norman got up and danced, it being that time. p.218

The Acid Tests were the epoch of the psychedelic style and practically everything that has gone into it. I don't mean merely that the Pranksters did it first, but, rather, that it all came straight out of the Acid Tests in a direct line leading to the Trips Festival of January, 1966. That brought the whole thing full out in the open. "Mixed media" entertainment__this came straight out of the Acid Tests' combination of light and movie projections, strobes, tapes, rock'n'roll, black light, "Acid rock"__the sound of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper album and the high-vibrato electronic sounds of the Jefferson Airplane, the Mothers of Invention and many other groups__the mothers of it all were the Grateful Dead at the Acid Tests.

the Dead were the audio counterpart of Roy Seburn's light projections. Owsley was responsible for some of this, indirectly. Owsley had snapped back from his great Freakout and started pouring money into the Grateful Dead and, thereby, the Tests. Maybe he figured the Tests were the wave of the future, whether he had freaked out or not. Maybe he thought "acid rock" was the sound of the future, and he would become a kind of Brian Epstein for the Grateful Dead. I don't know. In any case, he started buying the Dead equipment such as no rock'n'roll band ever had before, the Beatles included, all manner of tuners, amplifiers, receivers, loudspeakers, microphones, cartridges, tapes, theater horns, booms, lights, turntables, instruments, mixers, muters, servile mesochroics, whatever was on the market. The sound went down so many microphones and hooked through so many mixers and variable lags and blew up in so many amplifiers and roiled around in so many speakers and fed back down so many microphones, it came on like a chemical refinery.

There was something wholly new and deliriously weird in the Dead's sound, and practically everything new in rock'n'roll, rock jazz I have heard it called, came out of it.


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