I wouldn’t be able to place the first time I ever heard of the Grateful Dead, as in the actual wordplay, of the word grateful and the word dead put together and what images they conjured in my head. Words that come to mind – strange, weird, eerie, and different.
Coming of age in the 70’s, I most likely heard the name first on the radio introducing Trucking, one of their hits that made the airways, or a friend’s older brother who went to a Dead concert, not sure, but some of the eerie part probably stems from a popular horror movie from back in those days called Night of the Living Dead, about a few survivors of a zombie apocalypse, where the dead come to life and feed on the living. There is a question that presents itself in the idea of gratitude and death conceptually when put together, something along the lines of giving all you’ve got then expiring.
What is it to be gratefully dead? To have fulfilled the mission and reason for your existence and be ready for the grave.
How the Dead got their name.
All Deadheads know the tale of how the Grateful Dead came to be known as the Grateful Dead. They originally chose the name The Warlocks, but when they were about to be signed to a record deal, they found the name was already taken by another band, on the east coast, so finding a name, that they could “wear”, as Jerry expressed it was a challenge. Legend has it, that magically, leaving it up to The Fates to decide, Garcia plopped open the Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary, and his finger landed on that phrase.*
* This was in the spring of 1978 and the story Kieth, my high school friend, related to me and it came from a Rolling Stone interview where Garcia described the dictionary moment, and as it turned out, thanks to the internet, Alan Trist, manager of the the Dead’s publishing stated that it was a folklore dictionary as opposed to a regular dictionary. So the folklore that grew surrounding the naming, came from a folklore text, because finding that name in a regular dictionary may have been hard. I assumed at the time that some old massive dictionaries have more words than others, but it was actually a folk dictionary. So the name was a folktale from a folklore dictionary that itself became folklore.
Now, that’s folked up.
This act of randomly opening a book and seeking answers from the spirit realm for guidance is called bibliomancy. Right off the bat, on some level, there was a mystery, hell, just the word warlock itself, is an ancient term of someone who practices and has knowledge of the hidden dark arts. The Warlocks had a problem, so Jerry accessed the other side, for guidance in renaming themselves. Fact or fiction, Strange but true.
When Kieth was turning me on to the music and albums of the Band, and bong hits, after all, it was high school. Kieth told me that story, the legend of the naming, and it seeded an idea in me, that maybe I too could find answers by consulting with Destiny through some kind of divination process.
I had heard of kids doing the Ouija board and didn’t trust the accuracy of each one touching the board while it floated around to form words, it seemed too clumsy and variable of a way to get a message. The method that Jerry used in skipping the Ouija part of each letter and going for the whole word, or idea, was quite a different concept. The notion of presenting the universe with a question and reading an answer in a random instant. It was the first time I ever heard of or taken seriously the idea of listening to, and or the act of divining an answer, the act of a soothsayer, who wasn’t a charlatan, or wasn’t selling anything regarding it. It appeared like he happened onto an access channel. In the least it demonstrated some kind of practical magic.
So upon hearing about the naming, on some initiate level I was made aware that there was a way or force that can guide us, to reach our higher goals, and that Jerry and the Band were successful ‘warlocks’, who demonstrated the possible different way of being in the world.
Winning the Cosmic Lottery
It is in this commitment to the moment, the instantaneous wonder of how the Fates or Force of the universe may have cosmic significance for us. It is a faith that registered in that being open to the moment, a knowing of being occurs, to be willing and open to guidance, that the Universe will answer your question, when you are truly heartfelt, there will be an answer. When the instant response to your query happens, there is a magic feeling of touching the Source, the transcendent experience when this synchronicity occurs feels like you hit the numbers on a cosmic lottery, the realization that your question matters, that you matter, and the Spirit World cares about you, it’s a mind-bending, heart-shaping experience. There is a portal, a way, to open access to the secret of the universe.
This was my first lesson and introduction to the Grateful Dead as a mystery school, the fact that their incarnation began with an act of opening a book randomly puts coincidence on a different map and charting answers through divination techniques opens up a whole other world of seeing. A seed was sown that would later flower revelatory mystic fruit on my path.
So in a material age where people are consumed with reason and rational existence, here is this Grateful Dead band of gypsies, who are relying on some kind of clairvoyancy to guide their lives. It was very compelling, that these wizards or Warlocks were talking the talk and walking the walk, they were winging it the whole way, finding their path along the way. It was evidenced in the way they lost money in their efforts to hold true to the sound, in how they put fidelity uppermost in their efforts, how they refused to do business as usual.
Kieth was explaining and noticing that there was something really different about this particular band. He excitedly pointed out, “They don’t give a shit about marketing, the fame, they weren’t about selling out, they were about the music, and their fans.”
To understand the difference of this band, he went on, partially paraphrasing The Rolling Stone interview, he was perusing, “They kind of exist under the radar, they admit their studio efforts lacked the energy, that magic, they were a live band, that had a cult following, and didn’t care for the business of selling records.”
When confronted with the issue of people taping their shows, Jerry stated. “Every show is different, when we’re done with it, they can have it.”
They were about the music in the moment, they didn’t wear glamorous outfits, put on airs, they were offering an experience, it was no show that you could see with your eyes, it was something you felt and heard, it was a different kind of show.
The truth is . . .
There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert.
It was a Saturday, around 11 that I came over to Kieth’s house, his folks were out so we could hang unencumbered and blow our bong hits out the window. He expressly wanted to check out the Dead, he had albums and Rolling Stone articles and wanted to get my reaction to what I thought of this group. We started with the usual smoke session, he was reading a Rolling Stone article and I read about the folktale.
The Grateful Dead folktale was an Old English Folktale that relates the story of a hero, he gives his last penny in order to pay off the debts of a corpse, and the spirit of the grateful dead man assists the hero appearing in many guises throughout the adventure to acquire a vial of the water of life, magic arrows and a magic lute that aids the hero to save and marry the maiden and accomplish his destiny of saving the king and the kingdom. In the end, the grateful dead man reveals himself to the hero prince of his identity.
Strange and Ugly Rumors
Kieth, said, “They put secret things in their album cover art.”
He handed me the album From the Mars Hotel and challenged me to find the message ‘ugly rumors’ on the cover. The trippy font on the cover didn’t say it, I couldn’t find it. He goes up to the mirror and turns it upside down and declares,
There, see it, “Ugly Rumors“.
I erupt, “Who the hell would be able to find that one out? What’s it mean? ” I ask.
He assumes, “Telling fans that they are not breaking up the band, that those were just ugly rumors.”
“Ahh,” shaking my head, I was young but I remember how crazy people went when the Beatles broke up.
Fairly recently I found mentioned on a dead site, that the building on the cover of The Mars Hotel is a San Francisco Flophouse and that it’s probably more of a pun, instead should be thought of as ugly roomers, based on the characters who resided there, and not wanting to be blatantly offensive switched the spelling to rumors, this sounds plausible.
When I looked at the cover AOXOMOXOA it was so conceptual, I naturally was intrigued looking for the hidden message in that one.
As I was studying it I blurted out excitedly, “Spermatozoa sun, all the other sperms are the rays and budding in the earth, egg-like future beings !” (the skull shot its load, fertilized the sun, first dick on the planet? or the sun god? Or the Sun of a gun? The other light sperms drawn to the sun god ? All the sperms trying to be suns? The sun as fertilized egg? Who knows, but it was cool and strange. The art seems to be a snapshot of the idea of some kind of . . . Panspermia.
. . . But this seed, this spermia is about consciousness, some kind of enlightened mind that has shot its seed and impregnated light or the sun. It’s the difference between a lightbulb going off in your mind and the Sun going off in your mind. It’s just skullfuckery, but images tell a thousand words, and that cover is conceptually fascinating.
Kieth looks over and in his patented stoner fashion, replies, “Yea man, AOXOMOXOA is a palindrome.”
I say, “A what?” He blows out a bong hit, “Yea like racecar, It’s a word thats spelled the same forward and backward.”
“Oh, cool” , the tenet of which wasn’t clear, the importance of the deified relationship, since I assumed the Dead made up the word, but words and wordplay have always fascinated me ever since . . .
I learned about homonyms in a different way, a few years before, from Led Zeppelin’s song, Stairway to Heaven , the lyrics, ‘And you know words sometimes have two meanings’, became very important in my lessons in the spirit world, and in parsing truth through metaphor.
There was a strange rumor going around about that song that I heard from a classmate, a heavy metal friend, Eric, who was a tough cat who always wore a jean jacket with Black Sabbath emblazoned in trippy font across the back, he excitedly revealed to me in the hallway right after the school day ended.
” You know the song Stairway to heaven.”
“Yea.” I give him a dead pan look. Everybody knows that song, it was dominating the airways.
“When you play the album backwards, it says Satan is Lord.”
I look up at him and give him a short shake of my head as if to say you’re bullshitting me, this cannot be.
“C’mon, man.” I look in his eyes.“Why on earth would someone play it backward.”
“Yea that’s exactly what I said, I don’t know, but someone did.”
I give him the doubting smirk.
“ No really, someone played it backwards and thats what came out.”
I give him another, are you sure look. And he responds with a mixture of strange fascination and revelatory glee.
“Yea Jimmy Page is into Black Magic.”
I give him a look digesting it, wondering the truth of it.
“Weird. Huh” he stated flatly.
I nodded and went off to wrestling practice.
Weird is right, are there dark forces underneath the Zeppelin music? Is Page taking a page out of the dark playbook? The music was so electrifying and pure it brought to my mind images of a present day old english fairy tale, some kind of tribal world that I yearned to be part of, it had some kind of ancient and romantic energy, yet it was new and youthful and free. Something inside of me wanted to find my tribe, and it was mythical and magical and medieval like my favorite tales of heroes, who were in castles and such, some ideal fantasy world, it’s hard to put into words, but a quest for something more was lurking, and or I was gathering data, to try to understand where the real action was at, the call of the mystic was stirring something in my soul.
Previous to getting the black magic tale from Eric, upon hearing the title name of one of their albums; it was Houses of the Holy, there was another one of those, consciousness raising question moments that made me pause and wonder, my Catholic Bible belt involuntarily started to tighten around my waist, in my mind and gut.
It was like my mind said “Holy shit, These guys are ballsy in the Spirit World.” They were audaciously spouting heaven juice, using powerful concepts, it was just a glance at the iceberg, I wondered what are they talking about? Was there spiritual information to be found in the soundscape of rock and roll? Was there cryptic secret knowledge about the nature of life there, or is it another enigma, just weird shit, or were they playing with fire? Is the dark and light opposite sides of the same coin, or do you keep that change in different pockets.
On the one hand I was struck with a wonderment, a calling out to me, that’s where I want to go, some Hippie Viking Valhalla, where the freaks and fairies are all together in a mythical Sherwood Forest feasting on the magic of the divine, and on the other hand, careful where you tread, cause you must keep your eyes open so you don’t get deceived and find yourself in the abyss. My young mind took a simplistic causational approach.
If one way is a stairway to heaven, the other way is a stairway to hell. I suppose it’s a two edge sword, playing it forward cuts a path to heaven playing it backwards cuts to hell, though the lyrics are vague and strange enough, can you buy a stairway to heaven? How do you gain a purchase of such?
No one’s perfect, we all are just rocking through, but in the music of the times these questions would pop in my mind occasionally, and I would register them, and collect them, kind of a map of wonder, was formulating. They raised questions that didn’t make sense till years later when I could connect the dots and gather them in to see light while going thru this tunnel called life.
I suffered from a horrible reoccurring nightmare as a child and many weird dreams, and a staunch Catholic upbringing, so the Devil was in the details as they say. And somewhere deep down, my moral compass was always wondering how God was going to teach us, and gather us, if all that stuff in the Bible was true, and with the state of the state, of and after the Cuban missile crisis, as a 7 year old, being taught to duck under your desk – if you see a mushroom cloud in the distance! The real world was fucked up.
That the whole world could be blown up in an instant. That the leaders who tried to create change were murdered. The assassinations of the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, the peacemakers, the hopes for change constantly killed, digesting where in the historical timeline we as a culture, as a race were at, and what was going on in the world, my young mind trying to get a footing on what’s really important and what’s worth knowing and learning on this planet.
The fear my father expressed to me of sending us to Vietnam or some other God forsaken war was a possibility, that if your number came up on the draft lottery, you would be shipped off. Growing up in that turbulent era, with my young eyes saying, there’s got to be a better way. Here we are in suburbia going about our little happy lives and meanwhile the streets and newscasts, coffins with flags draped over them and marches on Washington, the Kent State shootings of students at a peace rally, shit was hitting the fan.
But in my eyes the counter culture, thanks to the psychedelic revolution and the movement of the youth of America to stand up to Nixon and guys like John Lennon saying what the fuck, give peace a chance, those demonstrations throughout the late 60’s, standing up to the man, the powers that be had to change their tactics, eventually eliminating the draft, but it was still recent history that the long haired heroes and freaks bent on a new way staved off the war, there was an alternate wisdom of not joining in the machinery and stupidity of the modern world, which seemed bent on the sickness of greed, power and sanctioned murder, that was real, everything else seemed like bullshit.
It was 1978 the war was in the rear view mirror, but I remembered what passed, registering the luck of the draw was never outside of my viewfinder.
Shock seems to be the theme of rock and role, that’s not a misspell, just humming homynyming along. Can you imagine what a kid conjures up in his mind, especially one who had a nightmare vision that visited him over and over as a young lad, thinks when he hears the name Black Sabbath. Somehow I feared that there might be some reality to it, that it could open you up to the dark side. Some kind of nightmare horror where you all of a sudden find you are part of some kind of real Black Sabbath, stuck in some kind of weird Twilight Zone episode, some strange scene celebrating Satan. It was too dark for my blood, I knew I wasn’t into horror because horror movies scared the Bejesus out of me, because I have an over active imagination, (which I also suffer from which will be my glory and downfall) and Ozzie’s sound was so heavy, tortured and intimidating, I didn’t even give the lyrics a chance, till many years later, it wasn’t for me.
Yea, I was a rebel stoner guy, but man alive, damn it, I want to be a knight of the round table of some kind of Camelot, part of a magical quest, to find the Holy Grail. I was raised tuned into the Beatles. As I grew up, the changes that they went through from moptops to psychedelic revolutionaries rang in my ears. And became a blueprint for my life experience too. These guys had everything anyone could want, and they chose to bail on the machine. Yes love songs and trippy shit, but just. . . let it be, let it be, Mother Mary whispering words of wisdom.
The ultimate “beat”niks took the word beetle in honor of the Buddy Holly and The Crickets, and put a beat in the locust and called themselves The Beatles.
How about another bands moniker, from back in the day, Judas Priest, I know a name is just a name, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to give the devil his due. I wanted to find a way out of hell not flirt with it at all. World’s crazy enough. On some level some names are chosen for affect, or some kind of gimmick.
Kieth then says, “yea its like oxymoron, another term, two words put together that are opposites, like live/dead, hells angels .” As I blow out the bong hit, it dawns on me, and I state “Yea Grateful Dead is oxymoronic too,”
Early on I loved to twist a word up.
When you’re young it seems that grateful and dead are opposites, but understanding life is tied to contemplating death, going through it and a rebirthing out of the crypt. It wasn’t till a few years later that I experienced my first death, and realized the church reference mentioned in my opening salvo, found in the Book of Revelations.
Kieth had an extensive album collection it was spring 1978, our senior year, he wanted me to check out the Dead albums, he himself was just starting to get the dead bug himself. Music to me at that point was mostly background, and my natural state was restless, just sitting around and listening to albums, I had to be plied with bong hits to just chill out. When I heard Workingman’s Dead, I said, “It seems, slow, and I don’t think I can dance to this.” I learned early, that dancing, was one sure fire way to pick up girls.
He put on Live Dead and that was rangy, wild, like Jim Morrisons’ other worldly sound that was that combination of rock, blues, mo-town, it was distinct, now this had a danceable beat, that sound was psychedelic. Pigpen’s guttural voice and the fusion and tight guitar licks did appeal to my novice ear. The opening leads on Death Don’t Have No Mercy, drew me in, there was an expectancy in the sound, like you were taking a ride, and the notes could go anywhere, it was jazzy and fresh, yet sinister and bold.
Kieth countered, “Check this one out,” he pulled out another Dead Album, ” They play all kinds of shit, man, all kinds of styles. Americana, folk, blues.”
He slipped the album out of the sleeve, “It’s a three box set.” He handed me the bulky album jacket. “Careful with that there are two other albums in there.”
“What is it called?” He puts the album on the turn table, “Europe ’72, it’s a live album from a tour in 72.”
“I was in Europe in 72, my parents took all of us on a cruise ship from NY to all throughout the Mediterranean.” I start looking at the pictures of the ragged band of pranksters. Was it in the spring? I shoot Kieth a teasing look. He answers affirmatively “ah huh.” I give him a wry smile. “Hey man, I was in Europe with the Dead when I was 12.”
He shakes his head, he’s not interested, he gives me that, whatever man, cool aloof style that he has mastered, turns up the volume on his 50 amp speakers. The musics’ raw intensity, filling the room. I start reading the inside jacket of ’72. Robert Hunter penned a short tale of the bolos and the bozos, the two camps of the two buses that stormed Europe, and one Saint Dilbert was managing to clarify shit in the land of hypnocracy.
My minds radar goes up, there haven’t been any saints in ages I thought, where are the saints now? I look up and ask Kieth, “What’s Hypnocracy?”1
Kieth replies, “Its the hypocritical bullshit thats become the status quo.”
Footnote 1: Upon writing this as I revisit the word, I believe it’s derived from the root word hypnotize rather than hypocritical, that most bozos and bolos (all of us suffer, varying degrees thereof) but the end result is the same, we become hypocrites, believe the ideal thing but actually fall short when the pedal meets the metal. The idea that we individually are in a hypnotized sleepwalking trance state, and collectively we are in an Orwellian State, blind, lemming-like, going along cause everyone else is.
Kieth continues expounding, “The Dead came out of the Acid tests, where Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters would dose everybody, and when everybody was tripping, they would plug in, they were the house band for the Acid Tests. Back in the day it was not illegal yet, the military were experimenting on soldiers giving them LSD, so they could fuck with mind control, they were trying to find a way to control the Russians, put it in the water supply, or on Castros’ cigar in Cuba, to keep fighting these fucked up wars, for freedom supposedly, but it backfired on them.”
I interrupt Kieth ” Hypnocracy.”
He enthusiastically raises his voice a notch, “yea, man, next thing you know, Hunter smuggles LSD out of one of these tests, and turns the band on, and next thing you know we have the summer of love, the birth of the counter culture, saying fuck your old ways, fuck your wars, half a million freaks at Woodstock.”
“Cool.” I respond. I reach for Kieth’s U.S. bong, light the bowl and enjoy the stoniness, that fuzzed feeling of nothing left to do but smile. I go back to Europe ’72 album liner notes, St. Stephen is on the turntable, the names of the Bands songs do cause you to think, King Solomons Marbles ? There is definitely something different about this band, there are a lot of biblical references. As I sit back and relax somewhere between St. Dilbert and St. Stephen . . .
A memory of my European trip floats in . . . my two brothers and sister, we all got sick, a bug in different cities, mine came in Rome. I stayed in the rented station wagon, while everyone else went in, I already saw the Coliseum earlier and wasn’t up for going in the Vatican. As I was laying down in the back of the car, my Dad came back, and said, Greg, you may never get to see this again. I didn’t care, but Dad picked me up and carried me towards the Chapel. They’re were old women praying outside, waiting to get in, Rosaries in hand and veiled heads, they parted, Dad did not hesitate, to imply I was terminally ill, as he was seamlessly and seemingly cutting the line, an old woman looked in my eyes, and declared, “He has the eyes of St. Lucy.” A few other women peered into my eyes and shook their heads affirmatively. We get through the crowd, my Dad, the original prankster, jokester, smirks at me, and I roll my eyes, and think, “oh brother.”
I finally flip over the album jacket and see the front cover Europe ’72.
It dawns on me, “Kieth, this is a picture of the punchline of a joke my Dad told me back in the day.”
My Dad is and was the king of setting up a joke, disguising that it was a joke at all, till the punch line came out. He told us stories after meals to teach, entertain and have fun. It was around 1971, when he told it to us. I’m uncertain if it was an old one being retold, or if it was making the rounds by word of mouth, going viral to say, not sure, but here’s how it goes.
Dad: “There was this kid who lived nearby us, when we were young, this is before we moved out to Riverhead, out on the end of Long Island, in a nearby building in Astoria, Queens. He was this spastic kid.”
Me: “What’s spastic ?”
Dad: “Spastic, someone who has suffers from a mind body disconnection, their motor functions are not connecting properly with their brain.”
Dad: “There is this nurse that’s working with this kid every day, day in and day out to help him. She’s trying to get him to work thru his problem. She shows him this big beautiful ice cream cone, She says if you can finish up your soup, by yourself, you can have the cone. He reaches for the spoon, it takes all he’s got, he scoops the first spoon in the bowl (Dad is physically showing his hand shaking, all his concentration, and the apparent difficulty of doing that simple task. He does it again, with a funny looking face, shaking his arm and hand as he demonstrates the effort it took to just get the spoon into his mouth, he does it again, the last spoonful, again he’s almost there, he finally accomplishes the feat of getting the last sip from spoon to mouth. He’s all excited, now he can have the ice cream , the nurse hands him the Ice Cream Cone, he’s so anticipating that ice cream cone, he loses all focus, the cone winds up, splat!!! Smack right in his forehead.)
Dad started laughing hard, but since it was a story about his neighbor, I felt bad for the kid, it wasn’t funny, it went over like a lead balloon (is that another way to look at Led Zeppelin’s name? ). Dad would say when a joke didn’t work it would not rise like balloons filled with helium when released, but sink to the ground like lead.
I later under the influence of finding meaning in everything, thought of the cone right in the third eye spot. Hence the word play of third eye scream or (third ice cream) sounds similar but that is punning outside the box, lets just cool off the third eye a bit, shall we, or lets just leave the Third Eye Blind ( another band’s name, but that’s so much more recent history, than the 70’s of where this tale is now,) so on with the logos.
The particular morning I heard this joke, back in 71, I was in a foul mood because I had the nightmare vision dream revisit me the night before and Dad was trying to cheer me up. Dad just got finished telling us 3 or 4 real, crazy stories from his youth, true wild ones and then ended with the ice cream kid one, it was like the difference between live performances to studio performances, one story was living and real, you weren’t sure where it was going, the other was scripted, less vital, it took the experiential out of it, planned jokes, weren’t as funny as the true tales that were comedic, where the story was a description of ad libbing, of true life experience, winging it, that’s the place where the real juice is at. That, on the fly, is how the Dead did it, and once you flew like that, it was hard to go back. Comedians get into the zone like that riffing, because live is a different beast entirely, than pre-recorded, just check out Saturday Night Live and you can feel the difference between with a net and without a net, Hit or Miss, Do or Die. It is also the, in the moment, pass or fail, acid test, whether or not it cuts the mustard, or better yet what’s left of the substrate after the acid wash, the acid should burn all the bullshit away, and leave you in the garden.
Kieth barely listened to my attempt to explain Dad’s joke, probably cause I was a first-born ball buster, always cracking. He was always staying on stony point, a dead serious thing to him, he was riding on, scouting, and did not want to lose the scent of what was really cool, not get distracted, to find it and share it, but only with the select. Those seemed like different days back then, even though every generation has their rebels, we were aligning with the stony troubadours, the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, that was still in the air from the late sixties, and still on the air on the radio waves. We were the Indians, smoking the peace pipe, following our medicine men; straight America were the cowboys, bent on genocide, control, doing the same old shit that led to Vietnam, the assassinations of King, the Kennedys, and Malcom X . The cowboy leaders like Nixon, lying, cheating, stealing, killing, in it for the buck, the power . . . Utter Hypnocracy.
Spirit Travel Trips
Apparently, LSD was a sure fire way to break the spell of the hypnotized, a way to a transcendent state, a spirit travel trip. At times a mind blowing laugh riot, other times a trip to the strange. The Beatles started out as the mop tops, coined because of their longish hair in the early sixties, were loved for their new sound, only a few years later to be frowned upon by the corporate elite, when they let their faces grow long (a reference in one of their songs to growing beards, and letting their freak flags fly). Because of the anti-war sentiment, their honest revelations about drug use, in the south the religious right were burning Beatle records because of a slanted article that Lennon made a statement about being more popular than Jesus.
Weed and LSD opened the doors of perception. The CIA certainly opened Pandora’s Box, when they were conducting those LSD experiments, and when Ken Kesey did the shoplifting and turned on, tuned in, and dropped out, and conducted those Acid Tests with the Grateful Dead and then they took it on the road, they were emissaries of a free form, spontaneous lifestyle and mindset, a mind set to open, not set in stone, but stoned, in the words of Morrison, ‘Stoned Immaculate‘.
The music filled the room and my mind filled with seeds of wonder, planted, germinating, what is this about? Secret messages in album art, cryptic verses about saints, warlocks consulting spirit guides, all around a tribal dance party.
Kieth always has an us against them mindset, drawing lines in the sand. Either you’re cool or you’re not, either you’re with us or against us, a take no prisoners attitude. He rambles on,
” Garcias nickname in the 60’s was Captain Trips, he used to eat it like it was candy, it’s been said he can see auras.”
Stoned and drifting I murmur “What?“
” It’s like we have energy of color around each of us,“
More wizard folklore as I digest that idea.
We both go back to reading and thinking. He bursts forth with another rant.
“ You know what’s really fucked up, The day they made LSD illegal was October 6 1966, 666 the mark of the beast.“
I cocked my head and gently shook my head in the negative. There are strange things afoot in the world.
According to The Good Book, in the last days God’s gonna pour His spirit on the Earth, Old men will dream and the young will have visions, that the Spirit, would whisper words of wisdom through the bards of the times, through every possible channel possible. A scriptural reference about the Spirit being poured out to mankind. Who knows, I was trying to make sense of how God was gonna do it, since how else would we know or learn the truth, being a generation lost in space, seemingly cut off from Paradise. As I was purveying the state of the union of the times and youth of America, as a teenager, it seemed like music and what kind of music you were into was a tremendous influence on the mind body of the times.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane just crashed and burned the past year, it was a shock, as with anyone taken in their prime, God has his reasons, we are clay in his hands, my gut reaction was that what they had to teach and learn was not going to help the Godhead. Life is a crazy thing and being aware of how crazy it is, seems to be the first step.
The warnings of the Prophets of the Bible were in the recess of my mind, there was going to be a pouring out of the Spirit upon man, there were the ominous signs of the last days, wars and rumors of wars, Israel will become a nation again, so many other signs of the end times. Right off the bat, in Genesis, God made a covenant with Noah, with a rainbow, I will never destroy the earth by flood again, the portent of which is next time He is gonna burn it down.
So the imminent fear of the mushroom cloud conjures up fire, but what I found later that year that there is another kind of mushroom cloud, the visions that happen when you ingest mushrooms. Sometimes words have two meanings. This conjures up fire in a different way, kind of like a burning bush, but I am getting ahead of myself, at this point in life, I had yet to eat the forbidden fruit (though my first weed stoning years earlier produced a strange psychedelic trip, I hadn’t yet done LSD or mushrooms.)
I thought of one of my favorite songs, Woodstock covered by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, ‘ we gotta get back to the Garden, We are stardust,’ Most of all of the CSN&Y music resonated in that paradise lost Hippie Valhalla energy field, that sounds like heaven on earth, that place that’s free of the mundane, some kind of spiritual utopia. Deja Vu – a CSN&Y album title Song aptly captures the fertile soil of dream and quest that was percolating inside of me.
I blew out another hit from the U.S. bong in Kieths’ room, One More Saturday Night was on the turntable.
Rock and roll music as a way to enlightenment. Crazy, baby, just crazy. The Beatles already flowered my youthful mind with so many ideas and images, The Magical Mystery Tour pops into mind, nursery rhymes like 1 2 3 4 can I have a little more, 5 6 7 , all good children go to heaven, Hey I love you, they started something. I was young but I heard it, felt it. Rock and Roll Mystery Theatre with rhyme and reason, and song and dance, and shamans and medicine men have sprung forth to relate the truths from the other side.
I don’t think I can underestimate the power of music and mind and dance. I must credit the haunting music of Jim Morrison’s affect on my mind’s eye. “Break on through to the other side.” That guy was crazy. He was on something and onto something.
Most only could deliver snippets, flashes of the extraordinary live channeling flame where the words came to the artists from somewhere else, to deliver words of wisdom to us in a way that stimulated the awe of reverence for the signposts of the gods. So many musicians have a song that is dropped in on them from somewhere else, words and music coming to them from the other side, the magic of the Grateful Dead is that they tapped into that gateway through the found sound of receiving the channel, but also found a way to convey the channel live in the delivery of it in the same vein, truly remarkable.
Morrison chose the name The Doors, based on Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception.
The Grateful Dead chose their name through the doors of perception.
The Warlocks, originally settled on that name, honest, straight to the point.
But as Fate would have it, they would have a name that chose them.