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 expiramental sound activity or sound equipment ) Typed by Barb Golden, Aug. 17, 1994. 1509w


Then somebody__Babbs?__saw a classified ad for a 1939 International Harvester school bus. The bus belonged to a man in Menlo Park. He had a big house and a lot of grounds and a nice set of tweeds and flannels and eleven children. He had rigged out the bus for the children. It had bunks and benches and a refrigerator and a sink for washing dishes and cabinets and shelves and a lot of other nice features for living on the road. Kesey bought it for $1,500__in the name of Intrepid Trips, Inc.

Kesey gave the word and the Pranksters set upon it one afternoon. They started painting it and wiring it for sound and cutting a hole in the roof and fixing up the top of the bus so you could sit up there in the open air and play music, even a set of drums and electric guitars and electric bass and so forth, or just ride. Sandy went to work on the wiring and rigged up a system with which they could broadcast from inside the bus, with tapes or over microphones, and it would blast outside over powerful speakers on top of the bus. There were also microphones outside that would pick up sounds along the road and broadcast them inside the bus.

There was also a sound system inside the bus so you could broadcast to one another over the roar of the engine and the road. You could also broadcast over a tape mechanism so that you said something, then heard your own voice a second later in variable lag and could rap off of that if you wanted to. Or you could put on earphones and rap simultaneously off sounds from outside, coming in one ear, and sounds from inside, your own sounds, coming in the other ear. There was going to be no goddam sound on that whole trip, outside the bus, inside the bus, or inside your own freaking larynx, that you couldn't tune in on and rap off of. pp60-61

....Cassady guns the engine some more, and from out of the bus comes a lot of weird wailing, over the speakers or just out the windows. Paula Sundsten has gotten hold of a microphone with the variable-lag setup and has found out she can make weird radio-spook laughing ghoul sounds with it, wailing like a banshee and screaming "How was your San Ho-zay-ay-ay-ay-ay," with the variable-lag picking up the ay-ay-ay-ays and doubling them, quadrupling them, octupling them. An endless ricocheting echo__and all the while this weird, slightly hysterical laugh and a desperate little plunking mandolin sail through it all, coming from Hagen's girl friend, who is lying back on a bench inside, plunking a mandolin and laughing__in what way ... p.64

...goddamn flow of America. The bus barrels into the super-highway toll stations and the microphones on top of the bus pick up all the clacking and ringing and the mumbling by the toll-station attendant and the brakes squeaking and the gears shifting, all the sounds of the true America that are screened out everywhere else, it all came amplified back inside the bus, while Hagen's camera picked up the faces, the faces in Phoenix, the cops, the service-station owners, the stragglers and strugglers of America, all laboring in their movie, and it was all captured and kept, piling up, inside the bus. Barreling across America with the microphones picking it all up, the whole roar, and microphone up top gets eerie in a great rush and then skakkkkkkkkkkkkkk it is ripping and roaring over asphalt and thok it's gone, no sound at all. The microphone has somehow ripped loose on top of the bus and hit the roadway and dragged along until it snapped off entirely__and Sandy can't believe it.

He keeps waiting for somebody to tell Cassady to stop and go back and get the microphone, because this was something Sandy had rigged up with great love and time, it was his thing , his part of the power__but instead they were all rapping and grokking over the sound it made_"Wowwwwwwwww! Did you__wowwwwwww"__as if they had synched in to never-before-heard thing, a unique thing, the sound of an object, a microphone, hitting the American asphalt, the open road at 70 miles an hour like if it was all there on tape they would have the instant, the moment, of anything, anyone ripped out of the flow and hitting the Great Superhighway at 70 miles an hour__and they had it on tape__and played it back in variable lag skakkkkkk-akkk-akkkk-akkkoooooooooooo. p.76

...Kesey...gets on top of the bus roaring through Alabama and starts playing the flute at people passing by. The Alabamans drawn into the PINK DIMENSION do a double-freak take for sure... p.82

He would like something nice and peaceful, closed in softly alone on the bus. He puts on a set of earphones. The left earphone is hooked into a microphone inside the house and picks up Kesey's cousin Dale playing the piano. Dale, for all his country ways, has studied music a long time and plays well and the notes come in like liquid drops of amethyst vibrating endlessly in the ... acid ... atmosphere and it is very nice. The right earphone is hooked into a microphone picking up the sounds outside the house, mainly the barbecue fires crackling. So Dale concertos and fire crackling in these big padded earphones closed in about his head...only the sounds are somehow sliding out of control. There is no synch. It is as if the two are fighting for his head. The barbecue crackles and bubbles in his head and the amethyst droplets crystallize into broken glass, and then tin, a tin piano.

The earphones seem to get bigger and bigger, huge padded shells about to enclose his whole head, his face, his nose__amok sound overpowering him, as if it is all going to end right here inside this padded globe__panic__he leaps up from the seat, bolts a few feet with the earphones still clamped on his skull, then rips them off and jumps out of the bus__

And the heat__Sandy has to do something to pull himself together, so he takes a shower. He undresses and gets in the shower and ... flute music, Babbs! flute music comes spraying out the nozzle and the heat is inside of him, it is like he can look down and see it burning there and he looks down, two bare legs, a torso rising up at him and like he is just noticing them for the first time.

...No difference between I and Thou inside this shower of flutes on the Florida littoral. He wrenches the water off, and it stops the flute. He is himself again__ It becomes very important that nobody know he has taken Unauthorized Acid. He can trust Jane ... This is not very out front, but he must remain very cool. Chuck Kesey is marching around the yard blowing a tuba, going boop boop a boop boop very deep and loud, then he comes by Sandy and looks at him and smiles over the mouthpiece and goes bup bup a bup bup , very tender and soft and___ pp84,85

This tootling had gotten to be a thing where you got on top of the bus and played people like they were music, the poor comatose world outside. If a guy looked at you fat and pissed off, you played on the flute in dying elephant tones. If a woman looked up nervous and twittering, you played nervous and twittering. p.89-90

Next down to Boise, Idaho, and everywhere Kesey and Babbs up top the bus with flutes, mercilessly tootling the people of America as they crowd around the bus and getting pretty good at it even. Winces here and there as some little cringing shell in the population pinioned in his crispy black shiny shoes knows, no mistake, that it is him they have singled out__they are playing my song, the desperate sound track from my movie__and Kesey and Babbs score again and again, like the legendary Zen archers, for they no longer play their music at people but inside them. They play inside them, oh merciless flow. And many things are clear in the flow.

They are above the multitudes, looking down from the Further heights of the bus, and the billion eyes of America glisten at them with electric kernels, and yet the Pranksters are grooving with this whole wide-screen America and going with its flow with American flags flying from the bus and taking energy, as in solar heat, from its horsepower and its neon and there is no limit to the American trip. p.100