Sunday, October 30, 2005

Electric Kool Aid Acid Test Revisited

Over the past year, my renewed interest in The Grateful Dead has inspired me to learn more about the band's history, the band members, and the surrounding culture. A month or so ago, I was looking for a new book to start, and took a look back at our bookshelf, where I encountered The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.

I read this book originally while a student at The Univ. of Maryland in the early 90's, the height of my 'Deadheadness'. The most interesting thing about re-reading this book was the difference in my perspective then compared to now. Back then, in my early 20's I was a bit more free of mind and spirit. I had an adventurous soul and had very little to tie me down or hold me back. Going to Dead shows back then also gave me a sense first hand of what the days of the Acid Tests were like. In other words, I could relate.

Reading this book now, at the age of 34, with a wife, two kids, a job, a mortgage, a car payment, etc., I naturally had a very different point-of-view reading this. Earlier in the year, I read On The Road for the first time, and thought to myself, 'how could people actually live like this?' The Kool Aid Acid Test the second time around made me wonder the same thing. It may not be all me though, it may be the today's sanitized, pre-packaged culture that makes it much harder for me to relate.

Today, 12 years removed from being 'on the bus', I'm a very different person in a very different world. The beatnik and hippie cultures of the 50's and 60's seem like centuries ago. Both were before my time, but at least I was fortunate enough to get a taste of it in the late 80's-early 90's. Reading these great books brings that spirit back to me once again, an escape to a different time, a different place. I'm starting Garcia: An American Life by Blair Jackson now. I've heard great things about it and will share my thoughts when I'm done (may be a while, I'm not the fastest reader). Yet another escape to another time...


At 2:15 PM, Blogger wildflower seed said...

Having read EKAAT many times, I sometimes have the same thoughts. I think it is undeniable that while psychedelics can open the mind, they can also confine it in many ways. By the way, the Acid Test reels (meaning everything that went down during those parties) are available for download at Its so crazy that you'd probably want them only if you are a completist. Anyway, enjoy Garcia. It is one of my favorite books.

At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed Blair Jackson's Garcia book also. The focus is on the music, where it belongs, though he also doesn't shy away from discussing Garcia's less than admirable treatment of his various wives and girlfriends and also his well-documented drug use. He also has a great section in the back in which he reviews the Dead's many studio and live recordings out on CD. I look forward to reading your thoughts. --Stewart

At 1:52 AM, Blogger Ben said...

I'm liking Blair's book so far.
As for EKAAT, I've heard some of the Acid Tests on the Archive. I'll have to check out what they have one Thanks for the tip Ventilator!

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous jonathan said...

Ben - Have you read McNally's fairly exhaustive "Long Strange Trip" yet? It is bar none the best document of the band. 700 pages of Dead. I'm definitely going to check out 'Garcia' as well.

And EKAAT has been on my radar for a long time now. I can't believe I haven't read it yet.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Ben said...

Jonathan - I have read McNally's book and really enjoyed it. I'm at the point in Garcia now which covers the same period as EKAAT, and makes alot of references. Interesting from another point of view. Strongly recommend EKAAT.

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous US Blues said...

After your done with your current books, I suggest you plow through Phil's book "Searching For the Sound." It helped me understand the Dead beyond the somewhat Jerry-centric perspective that naturally exists.

For me Phil is as critical to the music as Jerry. Seeing and listening to Phil in these last 6 years has only reinforced this, since Phil's shows (with his Friends and his work with TOO and the non- grateful Dead) carry the clearest expression of the musical vibe that made the Dead so special.

His recent shows in SF and Vegas have some wonderful moments, and bringing in Joan Osbourne when Ryan Adams had to cancel was brilliant. She really brought a great energy to the vocals. She and Warren did a great duet of Sugaree at Vegoose.

Sorry for the run-on comment.

PS- Dicks Pick 36 (Philly with Boulder filler) is great!

At 8:54 PM, Blogger Ben said...

US Blues - Thanks for the suggestion. I was just thinking today that his book may be my next book purchase. They said that when Phil was on, The Dead were on, and I believe it.

For a great Phil-moment, check out the "Let Phil Sing Rant" on 7/2/88 at The Archive.


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