Q&A with Jerry Garcia: Portrait of an Artist as a Tripper
So it was through the dark period and then up again?
Yeah. There was one time that was really memorable, actually it scared me silly but it was also wonderful. One time when I had taken LSD and I think artificial mescaline, and the LSD was “White Lightening” which was incredibly strong and very, very pure. I remember I was lying down on the grass and we were living at the time in a large sort of ranch place in northern California, the band was, and we were all tripping that day, us and a lot of friends. I was lying on the grass and I closed my eyes and I had this sensation of perceiving with my eyes closed—it was as though they were open. I still have this field of vision and the field of vision had a partly visible pattern in it and then I had this thing that outside the field that little thing that you spin around and it takes the little strip of metal off? It was like that and it began stripping around the outside of the field of vision until I had a 360 degree view, and it revealed this pattern and the pattern said “All” in incredible neon. It was, (laughing) it was one of those kinds of experiences. But the fact that these things are happening to you in your own personal language means that they have something to do with whatever it is that’s in your own personal programming. Now a lot of this stuff that I experienced and saw and felt and so forth are things that I don’t think I picked up in this existence. They aren’t directly memories. They aren’t some kind of fusion. They aren’t things I’ve read in books. I don’t know what they were or where they come from. So, there are a lot of questions that would be nice if somebody would address them in a serious way. It’s one of the reasons it’s unfortunate that psychedelics have become confused with drugs.
You have said that the Acid Tests were the best environment for taking acid.
It was for me. A lot of people freaked out though. A lot of people became completely unglued, absolutely. I can’t unqualifiedly say that this was really totally great. My personal experiences were absolutely great.
Why were the acid tests so good for you personally? The freedom?
Yeah, the freedom had a lot to do with it and the synergy—the thing of lots of things happening at once. No specific focus which meant that the kind of pattern beyond randomness, the whole study of chaos has been an interesting kind of affirmation of this sense that when you take away the order something is left. Another level of order comes to the surface. So in that sense the modern study of chaos—fractals and [Benoit] Mandelbrot’s chaos—reflects to me something about the way the Acid Test was when you took the order away from it, the focus away from it and all of the traditional trappings of the division between audience and performer. Say you put a bunch of people in that setting, everything becomes everything, audience and performers are one. The performance and the reality outside the performance are one. And all these things start to happen on other levels and it’s terribly interesting. It’s more than interesting.
What was it like playing the Acid Tests?
It wasn’t one of those things where people paid to come and see us specifically, so we had the option to be able to not play, and there were times when we would play maybe 20 bars and everybody would come unglued and we’d all split. So there were times when we really didn’t want to play, but there were times when we really did want to play, and not only could we play, but since nobody had any expectations about what we were going to play, we could play anything that came into our minds.
Does this have something to do with expectations?
We’ve chosen to go with the thing of we don’t care whether they have expectations or not. We do what we want to do anyway, because what’s in it for us otherwise? We don’t want to be entertainers. We want to play music. That’s what we want to do and we want the music to be interesting for us as performers.
Did you ever have contact with the more scientific side who said you were just wasting your time, destroying yourselves?
People used to say it all the time about the Acid Tests. Too high energy, it’s dangerous, the kind of stodgy, Tim Leary school of the east coast, very cheerful, this is a sacrament.
And what did you say in return?
We said, “Well, who said that we are all doing the same thing? I mean we aren’t researching, we’re partying. We’re having fun.”
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