So begins R.U. Sirius’s history of Mondo 2000 magazine and its circle of fellow travelers. I approve of how it starts with this wonderful personal anecdote about his first exposure to the underground press as a teen, in the form of the San Francisco Oracle. Many people will tell you of an “Oh wow! This exists! And there must be more of it!” epiphany like this—I had a similar experience discovering David Bowie and reading Lester Bangs in Creem magazine eight years later—and it’s a highly enjoyable essay. Worth pointing out that kids today and forevermore will be unable to have an experience like this due to the always on mediascape we inhabit today. Discovering something rare used to require luck, a knack for ferreting out weird stuff or a hip relative. Not saying it would be preferable to go back to this earlier era, of course, I’m just saying that back then it took work:
Let the story beginning in the Spring of 1967. I am 14 years old and in 9th grade. It’s early evening and the doorbell rings at the suburban house in Binghamton, New York where I live with my mom and dad. It’s a group of my friends and they’re each carrying a plastic bag and looking mighty pleased. They come in, we shuffle into the guest room (where the record player is kept) and they show off their gatherings — buttons (“Frodo Lives!” “Mary Poppins is a Junkie” “Flower Power”), beads, posters (hallucinatory), incense with a Buddha incense burner, and kazoos. A lonely looking newspaper lays at the bottom of the pile, as though shameful, the only item unremarked.
Without realizing the implications, I happen to throw side one of Between The Buttons on the player. Eventually, the song “Cool Calm and Collected” plays and a kazoo sounds through the speakers. In an instant, newly purchased kazoos are wielded and The Rolling Stones only-ever kazoo solo is joined by three wailing teenagers, bringing sudden shouts of objection from my famously liberal and tolerant Dad in the living room. It’s quickly determined that it’s late, Dad’s tired, and it’s time to send all kazoo-wielding teens packing. As each of the friends moves to retrieve his items, I grab the newspaper to see what it is. There are, I now see, two of them — two editions of something called “The Oracle.” It has hallucinatory visuals on the cover and boasts an interview with a member of The Byrds (David Crosby). Vinnie, who had bought it — but who, despite writing poetry — avoids any signifiers of intellectual curiosity as the teen status crushers that they are, feigns disinterest and gives the copies to me.
And that’s where it begins, this strange love affair with the periodical, particularly the periodical that has flair and style… where you can almost feel the energy and fun emanating off the pages.
I remember only one thing from the content inside those two Oracles and that’s David Crosby denying that he was “some kind of weird freak who fucks ten chicks a day.” That stuck in my mind. I didn’t know it was possible even to think that, much less print it, much less be in a position to find it necessary to deny being it!
How great is that last sentence?
Read the entire essay—and support the project—here.