One of the last really good comic strip ideas I came up with

When the punchlines start punching back.

 

I was a cartoonist for 20 years. And one of the last really good ideas I came up with before I burned out on the gig was: I decided to do a series of comic strips. And I’d do a different drug while I was drawing each comic strip.

I’d start out the first panel of each comic strip like: “Its 9 PM and I just dropped that acid and I’m starting to work on this comic strip. . .” or “Its 9 PM and I just smoked this crack cocaine and I’m starting to work on this comic strip. . . ” or  “Its 9 PM and I just snorted this heroin and I’m starting to work on this comic strip. . .”

And so on. And I’d draw these series of comic strips while being under the influence of all these different drugs. Crystal meth, pot, alcohol, and so forth.

It was a great idea. Because I could not only illustrate the affect of these drugs on my mental processes. But also the affect on my motor skills as I physically drew the comic strips.

The problem was: I ended up doing all the drugs. But I never got around to drawing up all the comic strips.

I guess they don’t call them “pipe dreams” for nothing.

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Acid Part 8

(Originally published in 2004)

The next day when I came down from the experience–that’s assuming you EVER really come down–I felt stunned in a pleasant sort of way. LSD had definitely lived up to its billing. It had been a powerful, magical, and exhilarating experience with curiously uplifting spiritual and–YES!–even cosmic overtones. So LSD was quickly added to our repertoire of weekend party drugs along with beer, pot, vodka, and Boone’s Farm Strawberry Wine.

One night Donna and I tripped on acid and staggered across the street to the big strawberry farm by my house. Strawberry Fields Forever, literally. We laid on our backs in the wet dewy strawberry patch staring up at the black sky and the twinkling stars of forever feeling like we were lying on top of a  massive space-ship that was hurtling us through the endless expanses of time and space at amazing speed. Which it was, of course.

Another night on another trip, we snuck into my father’s church, which was a spooky experience in itself  after dark with the creepy cemetery behind it. I sat down behind the big church organ, Phantom of the Opera style, and noodled out the opening riff from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” each note dripping into the air like golden drops of electric quicklsilver. As Lennon once said about the mind-boggling soul-warmth of psychedelic sounds: “You don’t just HEAR the music on acid.” And as the music touched my soul I realized why Lennon and so many other rock musicians had been taken by LSD in such a big way. The LSD added this other indescribable dimension to music, this other-worldly sensual pleasure, like consuming the nectar of the gods, this most exquisite mind-candy that reverberated and echoed through your psyche and touched the deepest levels of soul-meaning. As I sat behind the big church organ tripping on the haunting keyboard riffs I intuitively understood how psychedelic rock music had been at the very epicenter of the ’60s revolution. Donna and Suzie Q in their stoned-out craziness picked up the big church speakers off the ground and began rocking them back and forth in their arms while I played at top volume, setting of the most amazing series of musical explosions and sizzles and  sonic crackles. I sat there in stoned-out awe at the mind-boggling, never-before heard sounds we were creating, aural sculptures in the air, as we methodically blew out the circuits of the big church speakers. And I realized in that moment that perhaps I was a musical genius after all.

Near the end of the school year I got busted by the cops for smoking a bowl of pot in my car. My Mom and Dad had to come down to the police station to pick me up. My Mom was distraught to the verge of tears. My son the drug addict. My father sternly said: “We’re going to search you bedroom for drugs and if we find anything we’re going to turn you into the police.” Fortunately they didn’t find the 20 hits of blotter acid I had stashed between a book. A couple weeks later, my parents discreetly slipped a copy of the book “Helter Skelter” about the Manson family and their LSD rampages, into my collection of books, I guess to warn me about where I was headed.

Alas, my high school acid-tripping career would end on a sour note. Finally it was June, the last big weekend of our Senior year, the end of the line, the culmination of 13 long years on the scholastic assembly line. And now, here we all were, poised on the verge of leaving the cocoon of school and stepping out for the first time into the mysterious Adult World of jobs, careers and marriages. But first there would be the big graduation party on the last Friday of the school year, the last gathering of the tribe that was the Doomed Class of 1974.

The big graduation party was at the home of Stan Oinst, the star quarterback of the football team. Just about the entire senior class was there that night crammed into Stan’s suburban house. Donna and I decided to add a little sparkle to the occasion by gobbling down some LSD, naturally. We were “the stoners” of course so we had to live up to our high school roles. Party on, dude. We entered Stan Oinst’s house just as the first rush of the acid was kicking in. There was a rock band playing in the living rooms, the coolest kids from the cool crowd, naturally, and they were playing the hits of the day, mostly “folk rock” which was the thing that year. The room was jam-packed with people and I tripped out on all the faces, my classmates, all the fuckheads I had known for the last 6 years, and all the secret stories between us. The band was playing a cover of the Eagles big hit “Take It Easy” and I wanted to get a good look at the band so I made my way to the front of the room. It was extremely crowded but I managed to find what seemed like a good place to sit and groove to the tunes. Unbeknownst to me, what I was sitting on was, alas, a glass coffee table. Suddenly there was some kind of loud explosion and shards of glass went flying straight up into in the in slow motion like the coolest hallucination. And then I noticed I was sitting on the floor amidst the broken shards of glass that only moments before had been Stan Oinst’s glass coffee table. Suddenly it had gotten very quiet and everyone was staring at me. The band had stopped playing their instruments like THAT–! which was a jolt in itself, the first inkling that something had gone tragically awry. Everyone from the Doomed Class of 1974 was staring at me, it was like a frozen painting and only I was moving. I sat there amidst the broken glass, tripping on powerful LSD as my brain struggled to make sense of this queer scene. Surely this was one of those strange hallucinations that occur with regularity on acid. Wait’ll I tell Donna about this one, she’ll laugh good about that. And I had a momentary sense of hopefulness.  Which quickly passed.

Next thing I knew I was in the kitchen and Donna was helping to wash the blood and glass splinters from my hands. Everyone was glaring daggers at me. I caught a glimpse of Stan Oinst–star quarterback–as he was rushing back and forth from room to room with his hand on his forehead in an anguished pose. I felt an urgent need to talk to Stan Oinst at that moment, to straighten out this misunderstanding. Whatever it was. Surely he would understand. Perhaps there was some way I could fix the shattered glass coffee table and make things right, possibly with glue or tape. Then Stan Oinst was standing in front of me. We went back a long ways, me and Stan. We had been the 11th and 12th men on the end of the bench of the Jay Vee basketball team in 1971, and we had spent a lot of time at the end of the bench over the course of the season arguing over which one of us was actually the worst player on the team (it was Stan). I momentarily considered mentioning to Stan an amusing anecdote from that season past, but Stan cut me short.

“Just leave!” he said.

Next thing I knew Donna was driving me around in her car as I slipped into a subhuman funk. “Just don’t think,” said Donna. I thought about that for awhile. I was the cosmic loser of all-time (but at least it was cosmic). I had made a fool out of myself in front of the entire class. One final memory of me to last a life time. “So long kids, I’ll never forget YOU!” I had cemented my reputation as High School Loser forever. Plus the fiendish intensity of the LSD drug was magnifying everything a thousand percent. Donna pulled her car over to the shoulder of an off-ramp and we got out for some fresh air. We stood there on top of  a bridge overlooking the buzzing traffic of the car headlights below, and I just wanted to fly away to somewhere else, and to BE somebody else, forever.

The next day was the big cap-and-gown graduation ceremony on the football field behind the high school. I listlessly pushed my way through my acid-hangover knowing that I had made a fool of myself in front of everybody and that they all knew.

“I heard you had a smashing time last night,” smirked sexpot Suzie Q. She had always thought of me as a fool, and now I had officially confirmed it. My high school career was now over, so I threw my cap in the garbage and went off to face my so-called adult life, whatever that would be.

Acid Part 7

(Originally published in 2004)

I shuddered involuntarily as the bitter taste of the LSD went down my throat. (For the rest of my acid-tripping career, every time I took acid I would get that same shudder effect in my cheeks, this YING!-YING! feeling as I called it. Or even if I just THOUGHT of taking acid I would get the shudder reaction, like some weird Pavlov’s Dog reflex.)

“It takes about an hour to take effect,” said Donna. The plan was to sit in the bleachers and watch the baseball game while we tripped on acid. My friend Roger was pitching in the game…

“Do you feel anything yet?” asked Donna. I looked over at Donna, her eyes were glassy and she was grinning wildly.

“Yeah,” I said.

Now is there anything more boring than acid stories? (Guess I should have thought about that before I started writing this damn book) Or, as ’60s cartoonist R. Crumb put it: “Our generation told acid stories like the previous generation told war stories! ….AND THERE I WAS!! TRIPPING ON 100 MIKES ON THE FREAKIN’ SUBWAY…!!!”

And besides, I’ve never been able to convey the LSD experience in words. It’s kind of like trying to describe a dream, usually the imagery is too personal and symbolic to make any sense to anybody else. The closest I’ve come to describing the LSD experience is: “It’s kind of like having somebody else’s brain suddenly stuck inside your head, and not necessarily a human brain, perhaps the brain of an ancient reptile or some alien creature from another dimension.” Which is perhaps the first shock of the LSD experience. Because you suddenly realize that your own brain is creating the pictures. And that when you alter the chemicals in your brain, the world that you thought was Out There — the so-called Real World –changes along with it.

“What are you doing?” asked Donna.

“I’m staring at my hand,” I explained. The palm of my hand was glowing, throbbing, undulating, with this translucent beauty. I could see through the transparency of the skin to the little green veins and cells, and underneath that was something else…the most precious and mysterious gem, my own fucking hand. I stared at the palm of my hand with utter fascination, as if seeing it for the first time. The intricate patterns of lines carved in my flesh seemed as if a road-map that explained some ancient secret from the beginning of time. If only I could read the patterns. I stared at my hand with rapt fascination. At the center of my palm was this glowing, diamond-like pin of light, shining and throbbing like the eye of a crystal ball, like the portal, the very doorway, leading to some fantastic cosmic realm. I felt myself getting sucked into it.

“Why are you staring at your hand?” asked Donna.

“I just realized something incredible!” I explained, beaming with happiness. “All this time people have been looking at baseball games thinking it was the national past-time. When looking at your hand should have been the national past-time all along! It’s been there all along, only nobody noticed it before. If only they would take the time to look at their own hand. It’s all right there in the palm of their hand!”

“Wow!” said Donna.

I was overjoyed by this profound revelation. I went back to studying my hand, amazed at the cosmic joke of it all. It had been right there under my nose all along. I looked over at Donna and tried to explain this keen insight to her, but I was transfixed by the shape of her skull. She was ginning wildly, her skin was stretched so tightly across her skull that I thought it would burst any second.

I tried to follow the baseball game, but it was as if time had shattered. The pictures came as if on broken shards of glass, each moment disconnected from all the other moments. One moment Roger would be on the pitcher’s mounds as if ready to pitch. And then the next moment people would be walking back and forth from the mound to the dug-out And then suddenly I realized the game was over and Donna and I were sitting alone in the bleachers.

Donna ran across the deserted field, her bra-less cone-like breasts swiveled around and around in strange patterns. Then I was home alone, in my parent’s bedroom, staring at my shining translucent face in the full-length mirror. The phone rang, and it was Donna, her voice pouring into my brain from a million galaxies away. Are you all right?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. I glanced at the center of my palm to see if It was still there. That magic glow. It was, only slightly fainter.

Acid Part 6

(Originally published in 2004)

In 1970, age 13, I started my freshman year of high school. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all died that year, and it was supposed to be symbolic of something.  Meanwhile all the cool kids in my class mysteriously started parting their hair in the middle, as if they had received a secret signal from somewhere. And the first long-haired hippie types were seen loping around the streets of suburban New Jersey.

Well, I did in fact end up stumbling upon one of those marihuana cigarettes with the twisted ends, and I did in fact smoke it. I got stoned for the first time at age 16 at a big free Carol King concert in Central Park in New York City. I went there with two of my high school buddies, Red and Brian. We were sitting in this big field with about a half a million people sprawled out on the grass. Somebody handed me a joint and the rest is history.

I looked up from the circle of stoners and Hari Krishnas in orange skirts and shaved heads and wispy ponytails were dancing around me clasping finger cymbals. Hippies, gypsies, and Greenwich Village street freaks with golden rings pierced through their noses all drifted past my stoned-out eyeballs. It was as if that Fugs album cover from the 7th grade had somehow come to life. Carol King was bleating out her songs from a tiny stage a million miles away on the other side of the field like looking through the opposite end of a telescope. Thus began my 30-year experiment with mind-altering drugs.

Later, still very stoned, we tried to order some hotdogs from an Italian hot dog vendor. The vendor kept asking “You wanna mustard or onion?” To which Brian, in his stoned-out bewilderment (I think it was his first time too) kept answering “Munions.” The angry vendor cursed Brian out left and right as Brian stood there with his mouth open in confusion, as Red and I rolled on the sidewalk in fits of stoned-out laughter. And “munions” became an inside joke amongst our stoner crew for the rest of the school year.

In 1973 I saw the Grateful Dead for the first time with my older sister and her hippie boyfriend in this big old barn of a basketball arena in Philadelphia with clouds of pot smoke hanging from the ceiling. I remember this ancient hippie who was sitting in front of me wearing a fringed leather jacket and a bandana around his forehead and ancient owl eyes that seemed to stare off into another dimension. It was shocking in 1973 to see an entire auditorium filled with long-haired hippie freaks. I had finally stumbled onto the epicenter of the mysterious “drug culture” I had read so much about. It was like being initiated into an ancient secret society that had existed parallel to normal society since the beginning of time. The crowd cheered the loudest when the Dead sang the line “…riding that train, high on cocaine” from their hit song “Casey Jones.”

Later that summer, Brian, Red and I went to the big outdoor Watkins Glen rock festival featuring the Band, the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead. Almost a million people showed up, it was the biggest concert of all time, even bigger than Woodstock. On the other hand, nobody would call us The Watkins Glen Generation, so it wasn’t bigger than Woodstock in that sense.

In 1974 I started my fabulous senior year of high school, and John Lennon had his last hit song before he disappeared from view, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.” Somehow, it symbolized the difference between the ’60s and the ’70s: we were no longer soaring to the heavens, but just trying to get high in the muck. I managed to worm my way into the big high school stoner scene, I started hanging out with Donna and Suzie Q, the two biggest stoner chicks in our class, or “the two air-heads” as they were affectionately known. We spent a lot of time in the parking lot cutting class and getting stoned, then staggering around in the hallways. Donna was a total pot freak, the first of a long line of pot freaks I would meet over the years. Pot was her thing. She owned every kind of pot paraphernalia; pipes and bongs and 20 different kinds of rolling papers and roach clips and stones and do-hickies, you name it she had it. Donna was dedicated to being on the cutting edge of all  the latest technological advancements in the pot-smoking field. You wouldn’t have thought it would be that difficult to take a weed and turn it into smoke, but there you go. One day in 1974 Donna whipped out the first issue of High Times we had ever seen–if memory serves me the cover featured an Eskimo woman holding a joint. It was vaguely shocking to see our secret, and very much illegal, pot-smoking habit on the cover of a mainstream looking magazine.

Anyway, pot really tripped me out, it seemed to stimulate my intellect, I would see things in a deeper way, things I hadn’t noticed before. And I would FEEL things intensely. At first I thought I could “see through” people, see through the surface of all the high school games, to a deeper psychological reality. Then the pot turned on me and I’d get hideously self-conscious; I’d sit there in the back of the class bug-eyed, thinking that everyone could tell that I was stoned out of my gourd.

Anyway, one afternoon as we were smoking pot on “the path” behind the school Donna asked me if I wanted to try some acid  she had just scored.

“Acid?” I asked. “What’s it do to you?”

“It like makes you see trippy colors and stuff,” said Donna. “You hallucinate, like when you move your hand you see tracers and stuff.” Donna had tried acid two or three times before, so she was the expert. Well, that sounded pretty cool, seeing tracers and shit, and I had always been curious about LSD ever since I read that Beatles book back when I was 11-years-old. I wanted to see the “tangerine trees” and “marmalade skies” for myself.  I had always been fascinated by all things “’60s” reading anything I could get my hands on on the subject. LSD seemed like the missing piece that would explain all the “love” that the hippies had experienced at Woodstock, and maybe even unlock the mystery that was “Inna-Gadda-Da-Vidda.” I wanted to take the Magic Carpet Ride that all the rock stars had been singing about. Donna handed me two hits of blotter acid. “You chew it up like bubble gum then you swallow it,” she explained. We sat there on the bleachers behind the high school and waited.

Acid Part 5

(Originally published in 2004)

In September of 1968 I started the 7th grade. Meanwhile “the ’60s” was sort of an off-stage, but all-pervasive, presence that was gradually seeping into the bubble of our self-enclosed junior high school world. One day Doug, one of the taller hipper kids in our class, brought in an album by a band named the Fugs for show-and-tell. The Fugs were about the dirtiest, hairiest, freakiest critters any of us kids had ever seen. If I remember right, there was a little flip-book that came with the album and you could flip the pages and watch a little movie of the Fugs stripping off their clothes all the way down to their pubic hairs. When our homeroom teacher Mr. Pitz got a load of that Fugs album, well, ol’ Doug was suspended for two whole weeks. Doug would be the first,  but most definitely not the last, casualty of the Culture War that was “the ’60s” in our 7th grade classe.

It was the age of “turbulence, upheaval, and political dissent.” And we 7th-graders did our part, fighting and protesting and winning the right to wear blue jeans to class. “The people united will never be forced to wear corny plaid trousers!” So there. Another crucial issue was hair length. And we fought with our parents over every inch over the ear, as if some kind of Battle Line was being drawn.  Which it was.

The summer between 7th and 8th grade, Doug was the only one from our class to go to the big Woodstock hippie festival. He came back with tales of grooviness, and his hair was frizzed out into kind of a Hendrix white-boy afro. Shortly after that, Doug dropped out of school, amidst vague rumors that he was living in some kind of psychedelic shack and seeing colors.

After Woodstock everything seemed to change. The Swinging Sixties poured out of every television, radio and magazine. It was The Thing. The Style. The Fad. “Laugh-In” and Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair. It was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Hippie was in. Everybody was excited about Something. Though from our 8th grade vantage point we weren’t sure what. Mostly it seeped into our lives through rock’n’roll albums. We searched the Sgt. Pepper album cover with magnifying glasses for “clues” and pondered the mysteries of “Inna-Gadda-Da-Vidda.” My friend Hoffy had all the latest psychedelic albums by Cream, Hendrix, the Doors, and Led Zeppelin, and a big poster of Peter Fonda riding his chopper from the movie Easy Rider. I was really into buying 45s of what they called “psychedelic bubblegum” music, which I guess was trippy drug music marketed for that crucial pre-teen audience, stuff like “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James & the Shondells, and “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers, and “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf. Even the bubblegum band the Monkees went psychedelic. I think the first full-length album I bought was “Women Women” by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. The second album was the White Album by the Beatles. I think the third was Led Zeppelin 3. And the fourth was “I’m Getting Closer to My Ho-o-o-ome” by Grand Funk Railroad (everybody sing). You know what they say: “When the music changes, the old culture collapses along with it.” For music is the heartbeat of humanity, is it not? Anyway, the Beatles looked weird yet again on the starkly black-and-white White Album, as if all the color had been drained from their psychedelic faces. And there was a new witchy-looking character named Yoko Ono who had been added to the soup. The Yoko Ono doll would go down as the “Edsel” of the Beatles toys.

Some of the cool kids in my class formed a rock band and they played at an 8th grade dance in the gym.  The one song I remember was a sludgy version of “Come Together,” the Beatles big hit of that year, a song John Lennon had originally written as the campaign song for Timothy Leary when he ran for Governor of California in 1968. And all of us kids danced to it.

So the grooviness that was “the ’60s” was beginning to hit with full force. But there were dissenting voices on the horizon. One day, this guest lecturer came to our classroom, this drab looking woman in a gray Salvation Army type dress buttoned up to her chin. She had come to warn us about The Dangers of Drugs. And she had charts and graphs and she spoke in ominous tones about “drug parties,” some involving kids as young as high school age, where they smoked “marihauna cigarettes” and took tabs of LSD and other pills. It might seem like fun at first she said, but pretty soon you’d end up staring into the sun until you went blind or jumping off a building thinking you could fly, and that sure didn’t sound like fun. Eventually you’d end up living somewhere in the ghetto in a seedy hotel room with nothing but a mattress and you’d wear a guinea t-shirt and sweat all the time and have “tombstone eyes.” And it would all start with one of those “marihuana cigarettes” which she said “looked just like a regular cigarette except they were twisted at the ends.” So I made a mental note of being on the look-out for funny-looking  cigarettes that were twisted on the end.

Well sir, 8th grade finally came to an end, and we, the Doomed Class of 1970 got to choose which three songs we would sing at the big graduation ceremony. So all of us wise-ass imps stuffed the ballot box so we could sing the famous “Fish Cheer” from the Woodstock album with the famous “Whats that spell? FUCK!!!” intro, and “The Lemon Song” by Led Zeppelin with the line “I want to squeeze your lemons till the juice runs down your leg.” We thought that it  would be hilarious, all of us clean-cut 13-year-old kids in our best Sunday suits belting out “The Fish Cheer” and “The Lemon Song” to an audience of our adoring parents. But the principal got wind of our plot and nixed that one in the bud. The fucking fascist. Instead we ended up singing that great hippie peace-and-love anthem “C’mon People Now” by Jesse Colin and the Youngbloods. I loved that song, and I’d get goosebumps as we rehearsed it, all 300 of us kids from the Doomed Class of 1970, belting it our at the top of their lungs, while a couple of the cool kids in our class who were in bands backed us up on electric guitar, bass and drums. “We are but a moments sunlight/ fading in the grass/ C’mon people now smile on your brother/ everybody get together try and love one another right now/  ri-ight now/ RI-I-IGHT NOWWWWW!”

Yeah.

Acid Part 4

(Originally published in 2004)

John Lennon would be my first Acid Hero. The first in a LONG line of Acid Heroes.  You could say “the ’60s” was about a lot of different things, but one thing they were definitely about was Acid Heroes. The Acid Heroes came at you from every direction.  There were the spiritual acid heroes, like Timothy Leary and Ram Dass and Alan Watts.  There were the literary acid heroes like Aldous Huxley and Ken Kesey and Alan Ginsberg. There were the political acid heroes like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. There were movie star acid heroes like Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider,” man. And, of course, there were all the great rock’n’roll acid heroes like Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane and the Doors (of Perception). There were even jock acid heroes, like Dave Meggesey–the first hippie in the NFL–and Peter Gent of the Dallas Cowboys–who wrote about his acid-tripping in his novel “North Dallas Forty,” one of my favorite books as a kid–and Phil Jackson–the famous zen basketball coach of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, who started the first chapter of his jock autobiography with a heroic account of an acid trip that changed his life (for the better, naturally). And then there was the greatest of all the great 60s acid heroes: John Lennon, and Sgt. Fucking Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Now a lot has been written about “the ’60s generation.” Probably too MUCH has been written about “the ’60s generation.” You know? The ones who protested against the war in Vietnam, the ones who went to the Haight Ashbury with flowers in their hair, and blah blah blah. But very little has been written about the generation that came directly AFTER “the ’60s generation.” MY generation of fuck-heads. And the fact is, from our slightly more objective vantage point, we might have seen “the ’60s generation” more clearly than they saw themselves, in the same way that children usually see their parents more clearly than the parents see them. (You ever notice how most kids can do a devastating impersonation of their parents, but it rarely works the other way around?). We might have only been 7,8,9, and 10-years-old during “the ’60s” but we nonetheless experienced all the turmoil, changes and confusion of that decade also. In fact, we were the first mutant flower to grow out of the ’60s soil. So we knew the ’60s in our BONES, man.

There have been a lot of books written by a lot of tedious boneheads that purport to explain What Happened During The ’60s. Well, I’m going to tell you a secret: If you want to know what happened during the ’60s, you really have to look at what happened in the ’70s, the ’80s, and the ’90s. That’s where all the real action was. The ’60s was just the seed. What happened after that will tell you all you need to know about “the ’60s.” Or, as The Man put it: “By their fruits you will know them.”

Acid Part 3

(Originally published in 2004)

And then the Beatles toy got weird. While I had been out playing basketball and kickball in the schoolyard the Beatles had recorded what became known as their trilogy of “psychedelic drug” albums: Revolver, Sgt Pepper, and Magical Mystery Tour.  Now there’s nothing new about “musicians and drugs.” There have always been “drug songs.”  There are all sorts of drug references in those old jazz songs from the ’30s and ’40s, mostly veiled references to “tea” and “reefer” and “skag.” But it was only the jaded old hipsters and hepcats on the bohemian circuit that were hip to what the musicians were singing about. What was unprecedented about the Beatles “drug music” was that, for the first time, it was being marketed directly to millions of little kids like me.  Piped right directly into all the kiddies bedrooms as a matter of fact….

And there was another thing about the Beatles “drug music” that was slightly unsavory.  Many, many of the Beatles drug songs could easily be looked at as direct appeals to the listener to take drugs. One of the great secrets of the Beatles great song-writing was their use of the word “you.” “She Loves YOU.” “P.S. I Love YOU.” “I Want to Hold YOUR Hand.” Etc. It gave the Beatles songs a directness, as if they were singing directly to YOU YOU YO-O-OU (as the song goes). And in their “drug” songs the Beatles kept up that direct approach:

“Turn off YOUR mind relax and float downstream…”
“Let me take YOU down cuz I’m going to…”
“Picture YOURSELF on a boat on a river…”
“The Magical Mystery Tour is dying to take YOU away…”
And of course the all-time classic:
“I’d love turn YOOOOOOOUUUUU on…..”

The Beatles were talking to YOU and nobody but YOU, pal. So there was Paul McCartney–the Cute One–as carnival barker no less, inviting one and all to the Beatles fabulous LSD drug party, the Magical Mystery Tour. “Step right this way! Step right this way! Roll up for the Mystery Tour! Satisfaction guaranteed!” (Be sure to check the fine print. No refunds. The management cannot be held responsible for loss of brain cells, etc.)

And there was that loveable, sad clown Ringo, reassuring the rubes: “When you buy a ticket for the Magical Mystery Tour, we guarantee you the TRIP of a LIFE-TIME! The incredible MAGICAL-L-L MYSTERY-Y-Y TOUR-R-R-R-R (spoken with heavy-echo Wizard of Oz-like special effects).

McCartney has said many times that the Magical Mystery Tour was directly inspired by Ken Kesey and his magic bus. You might remember Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. They were famous in the early ’60s for throwing these big, wild LSD bashes. Like the one they threw in Los Angeles back in 1966.  The Pranksters had big buckets full of free Kool-aid that was dosed with pure LSD, man. Many of the people in the crowd didn’t even know what LSD was, let alone that the Kool-aid was spiked with it. And there was ’60s icon Wavy Gravy–later famous as the emcee at Woodstock, the greatest LSD bash of the decade, standing behind the counter ladling out the free LSD to one and all. Many cool cats ended up in the nut-house later that night (“Never trust a Prankster!” ha ha). What a cool party it was.

Of course Paul McCartney, ever the cautious one, cleverly left the word “LSD” out of the lyrics to the “magical mystery LSD trip” so that nobody would get the wrong idea (wink wink). But whaddaya’ know, millions of kids DID get the wrong idea (or was it the right idea?) and immediately went out looking for that magical LSD stuff. Last year it was gobbling down jellybeans, this year its gobbling down LSD-25. And it now comes in many exciting flavors: Orange Sunshine! Purple Haze! Blue Cheer! (“But don’t eat the Brown Acid, kids, its a bummer!” “Thanks, mister!”)

Remember those old Pez candy-dispensers? Well, now it was like the new improved Beatles toy came with this fabulous new accessory: the LSD Pez dispenser. Just pop the top of the plastic John Lennon head and a hit of acid pops out at the end of John’s smiling tongue! Cool!

Years later Paul, as cute as ever, would say: “I didn’t want to excite people into taking LSD. Drugs have now become such a serious menace that it is very difficult to write about the subject; I don’t want to influence anyone in this day and age–I’ve got kids of my own.” But back in THOSE days, McCartney didn’t seem to have any problem with inviting millions of OTHER people’s kids to the Beatles fabulous new LSD drug party.

The Magical Mystery Tour was followed by the animated Beatles movie Yellow Submarine. So now you had a psychedelic cartoon movie for kiddies. What a life, sheesh. All aboard the Yellow Submarine, kiddies, we’re on our way to that magical realm of Pepperland. And who’s that at the head of the ship leading us on our voyage. Why it’s  John “the Walrus” Lennon, captain trips, the man of a thousand LSD trips. Talk about fun. And now the Beatles toy came with an exciting new accessory, not just regular old I-want-to-hold-your-hand-type Love, but now the Beatles toy comes with new improved Cosmic Love. All you need is love love love. Them Beatles were always going on about love love love. They were full of it. Or something.

And so, at age 12, John Lennon replaced Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers as my new space hero. Only now we were voyaging into Inner Space. To Pepperland. With those plasticene porters and looking glass ties and flowers that grow so incredibly highhhhhhhhh.

Now I know what some of you are probably thinking: “Sour turd blames the Beatles for his own drug abuse.” And there’s probably some truth to that. But what’s the point of writing a fucking book in the first place if I can’t even a few old scores in the process?

But ya see, maybe it wasn’t just me. Maybe there was also something a little odd about the fabulous Beatles cartoon toy in the first place. Because like I said, unlike all the other cartoon characters in cartoon-land, there happened to be grown men inside the Beatles cartoon. It was as if after the Woody Woodpecker Cartoon Show was over, old Woody went backstage to his dressing room and pulled his cartoon mask off and there was a grown man behind it. And then Woody took out a cigarette and smoked, maybe rubbed the beard stubble on his chin or scratched his beer gut. And then Woody pulled down his pants and ejaculated on the face of one of his girl fans, and then took out a big hit of heroin and injected it directly into his arm. And then the man put his Woody Woodpecker mask back on and went back out and did his kiddie cartoon show. YEAH!! Its PECKER-MANIA!!

So yeah, you could say there were some disturbing connotations to the new improved Psychedelic Beatles Cartoon Show.  The Beatles toy that all of us kiddies had been playing with had suddenly got WEIRD. And it was about to get weirder.

The Magical Mystery Tour is dying to take you away……………..