My feelings about the Grateful Dead are not complicated. I like a lot of their music just fine, but it was their audience that turned me off.
I never got into that whole spinning hippies/Hacky Sack patchouli vibe, but I love the shit out of Workingman’s Dead, Anthem of the Sun, American Beauty, Live Dead and Terrapin Station. Notwithstanding the above, what I did like about Deadheads was when the tie-died circus came to the New York area, all of sudden there would be plentiful amounts of blotter acid, quality mescaline, DMT and opium around for weeks afterwards…
Drugs. Which brings me to the media below, recordings made of The Grateful Dead and Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters at the infamous San Francisco “Acid Tests,” as immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s classic book of “new journalism,” The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
This is the Dead in 1966, some of the earliest recordings that exist of the group, but what makes these tapes of even greater historical interest is that this is the soundtrack, essentially, of the “early adopters” of the psychedelic culture getting turned on together, as large groups gathered together in one place.
On that level, the recordings go from being merely an early period Grateful Dead bootleg and become something weirder, deeper and of Smithsonian Institute-level historical importance. Incidentally, today, April 16th, is the 70th anniversary of Dr. Albert Hofmann’s 1943 discovery of LSD.
The sound can be ropey, but here it is…
This early film of the group playing at an “Acid Test” in Los Angeles on March 19, 1966 at Carthay Studio is some of the earliest footage that I’ve ever seen of the Grateful Dead: