Psychedelic Flashback: Trippin’ in Fantastic Galaxies

The Obsessive Collector contains drug themes and some profanity and trippin’ musical selections. Groovy, baby. Far-out, bummers, bad trips and beat poets, man. Its ladies night tonight and all girls in mini-skirts, go-go boots, mesh hose and long hair will be featured on our dance floor. “Sock it to me, baby!”

When I started collecting vinyl, way back in the late fifties, I started with soundtracks; “Around the World in 80 Days” being my first, and naturally being a kid, children’s records like The Flintstones, Gingerbread Man, Peter Churchmouse, Quick Draw McGraw and thanks to my parents and aunt, classical, jazz and ballet/opera music. I am unashamed to admit I had no interest in Elvis and was confused as to why, when he played on Ed Sullivan, his “pelvic area” was not shown on television.

My, my how time flew into a temporal warp of excess since days when parents were afraid the Elvis gyrations would make teenagers want to do naughty things…like they needed an excuse once natural hormonal changes were implemented. Unless they were into time travel they could not have dreamed acid rock, Viet Nam flag-burning protests, women burning their bras as women’s liberation evolved, the Age of Aquarius and Woodstock (I’ll admit, that I did not attend like so many liars. I do have the triple album and sequel set and saw the documentary movie by Michael Wadleigh; Martin Scorsese was one of the editors) trans-mutated the musical landscape.

Even those wild days would be sandblasted into infinity by gangsta rap, hip-hop, with sexist and violently profane lyrics that would make Spiro Agnew’s skeleton do a back flip in his grave (he was the first person to want advisories on record labels to clue parents to drug lyrics), and the era of music videos with scantily clad bimbos dancing in such graphic sexual gyrations they probably would have embarrassed “The King.” I still remember my mother seeing an early music video and saying: “Like a virgin? It looks like she is fucking!”

Yes, my mother, who was not prone to saying fuck, really said it and she was correct.

I can only imagine Ed Sullivan telling “the virgin” to get the fuck off his stage had she tried her moves in 1960.

Of course, today’s music lovers may be unaware of myriad shows like Dance a Go-Go, Hullabaloo, the short-lived Music Scene (with comedian David Steinberg hosting), the California Jam Concerts, Monterey Jazz Festivals and other venues that promoted rock music on television from the 1960s into the 1970s. Music videos, which one may believe arrived around the beginning of the 1980s, as the new record label promotions for music groups, were already in existence long before: even a Buddy Holly song that was recorded and played back could be considered an early music video.

There are so many sub-genres of music today I’ll bet musicologists get migraines just trying to make a definitive list!

I grew up in the era of hula hoops, bobby sox, hoop skirts, bullet bras, beatniks and beat poets like Kerouac and Ginsberg, greased back hair and, sadly, the crew-cut mentality. I was fortunate to have wavy hair and a “curly q” that hung down from my forehead. Now balding, I kind of miss that one curl that allowed other kids to make sarcastic remarks. How fortunate to see one of the guys that kidded me so much a few years back: totally bald and with most of his teeth missing. Fighting after school accounted for many boys reaching puberty with fewer teeth than brain cells.

I would later only have two albums by The Beatles (The White Album and Magical Mystery Tour) and both would be stolen from my college dorm room.

In my teen years I became intrigued by what was originally called “acid rock or psychedelic music,” even though I wasn’t into drugs at the time. In fact, I became so paranoid after smoking a joint, at a 1969 party, I thought my hands were my feet and I was trying to walk on them!


My friend at the time, Ronnie, said something to the effect, “Just mellow out, man,” and he gave me a pill to chase with a bourbon.

“What in the fuck?” So, now I had gone from straight to a joint and Quaalude popper in one fateful evening.

Everyone was listening to Jefferson Airplane, before they became a Starship and crashed to earth, and I had a huge crush on Grace Slick. Who didn’t? Fleetwood Mac was still a stone groove in this era and soon I was experiencing levitation without getting off the couch.

Fucking Ronnie. I always wondered what happened to him. He fled town after a life-changing hook-up in New Orleans and when the “girl” he picked up on Royale turned out to be a trannie.

It has always been a unique flashback at how fascinated I was with music that was intended to be listened to under the influence when I wasn’t. Let me digress back two years before I was introduced to herb and ‘ludes, when in 1967, I bought what could be considered my first rock album, “The Bee Gee’s First,” which was nothing like the disco songs they would score for the film, “Saturday Night Fever,” and instead a collection of ballads and more rock-infused folk song hybrids.

“First” is still in mint condition and evokes great memories of my late Aunt Virginia who when asked what I wanted for my birthday and then gave me the $7.98 for the album. I only knew the AM Radio hit, “Turn of the Century,” not realizing the entire album would change my perspective on music forever.

My cousins, and a neighborhood friend, all had bigger allowances and bought every new “hit” album that was released. I was more selective in my purchases and was always interested in anything different. Most every rock group – straight rock or acid rock, all produced tripping music: The Rolling Stones, The Who, 10 Years After, Pink Floyd, The Yardbirds and naturally, The Beatles were always entertaining with music that was just a bit “out there.” Even Emerson Lake and Palmer’s debut platter had some trippy tunes, like “Knife-edge” and “Lucky Man.”

ELP was a great fusion group, started when the trio left three other groups, only one of which still exists today; King Crimson. Keith Emerson left The Nice; Greg Lake, King Crimson; and Carl Palmer, Atomic Rooster. When I saw them in 1974, by then under the influence of plentiful pot, especially since an ounce was $15.00! Talk about changing times, when I scored my first lid, in the early seventies, it was $13.50 (the half dollar, to cover baggies, if you can believe that in 2010) and when last I checked that amount probably wouldn’t cover a 1973 matchbox, which was just that, a matchbox for five bucks, containing enough reefer to rolled a couple of jays.

Those were the days my friends and they did in fact end.

Rock groups had discovered the moog synthesizer, named for creator Robert Moog, however, only a few groups learned how to use it and were it not for Walter (Wendy) Carlo’s amazing “Switched on Bach,” it might have been as short lived a technology as Quadraphonic.

10 Years After’s “50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain,” would signal that music could be esoteric and simultaneously commercial and they produced one particular album that was in everyone’s collection: “A Space in Time,” featuring “I’d Love to Change the World” and “Here They Come,” and of course I had it on long playing and 8-Track (so I could listen to it in my 1970 Cougar XR-7). “Stonehenge,” with “There Are No Words,” would introduce me to the mystical rock formations and The Stones would take me “2000 Light Years From Home.” Pink Floyd was always expanding the mental landscape with their early works and anyone who has ever listened to “A Saucerful of Secrets,” can attest that stoned, or not, you can see the flying saucers landing in your backyard during one particularly cool and ethereal guitar riff.

Thanks to the video age, PF would release an album and vid, “Live at Pompeii” which answered the burning “secret” question as to how Roger Waters and David Gilmore achieved specific sound effects. The selected video gives away the secrets by the saucerful and was profound for me to realize that what I thought was an organ or synthesizer was guitar!

The Stones, who I saw in 1973 in Tuscaloosa, were always pushing the envelope and once they became hugely successful I lost interest. The last album I bought by them was “Exile on Main Street!”

Iron Butterfly would bring us the lengthy “In A Gadda Da Vida” (don’t listen to the single version unless you want to learn how to fuck up a great song; the mid-section with all the solos are cut) and Jethro Tull, whose albums were full-length operatic experiences (“Thick as a Brick” and “Passion Play” with the later a fold out newspaper that today is as wild as it was over 35 years ago).

Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher” could almost qualify as the first “anti-drug” message in a rock song with it’s lamenting lyrics: “God damn the pusher man, I’d cut him if he stands or shoot him if he runs…” Most radio stations played an edited version because “god damned” is prominently featured throughout.

It could take a thousand posts to try and explain just how much psychedelic was being produced because every artist had music that sounded different with a tab or acid, a tightly packed bong bowl or a Quaalude. Suffice to say, I would never suggest to anyone to take drugs to enjoy music but in this particular era even 3 Dog Night could sound like Ultimate Spinach under the proper circumstances. “Mama Told Me Not to Come?” Listen to those lyrics and it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to realize what kind of party mama warned against! “That cigarette you’re smoking is about to scare me half to death!”

Hmm, cigarette, eh?

Next Wednesday: Part 2 of Psychedelic Flashback: Trippin’ in Fantastic Galaxies with a look at other influential acid rockers, including Ultimate Spinach, Cactus, the Mike (Suzi’s brother) Quatro Jam Band, Genesis, PFM, Hot Tuna and Van der Graf Generator.