Reading Twitter while waiting for Lisa Murkowski to say on CNN how she’ll vote on Trump impeachment trial witnesses. See familiar 60’s poster from San Francisco and New York Times obituary for its creator, Wes Wilson. See latest New York Times scoop on drama queen John Bolton’s book, another bombshell hours before crucial Senate vote. Start tripping.
I remembered a small version of the 1966-1967 poster pasted — I think to cover a stain — on the back of an old Starr’s Guide to the John Muir Trail, published in 1964 and now resting on my bookshelf here in my Placitas office.
Wes Wilson, Psychedelic Poster Pioneer, Dies at 82
His work announced concerts by the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and more — to those who could read them.
I say 1966-1967 because the Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco was billed as a “New Year Bash.”
I did not attend. I would have been living oversees at the time, reading a few months later about a cataclysm in New Mexico, where I had lived even earlier — Tijerina and the Tierra Amarilla courthouse raid, in the thin-paper international edition of Time — but I lived in Marin County, across the Bay from San Francisco, before an after. The only Fillmore concert I remember attending was later in the summer or fall of 1967, after I returned to the U.S. It was Cream with Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. I’m not sure who else was on the bill. And the truth was, those days, that one or more of the locals often played in a park somewhere for free.
At age 70 now, I still have to look twice at the dates on the Fillmore “New Year Bash” poster. Maybe I wouldn’t have then. I smoked pot whenever I could get it — $10 a lid was a fortune’s worth in my canned-soup, college-days budget. (Tomato soup was 11-cents a can at the Berkeley food coop). But the one and only time I dropped acid was on March 31, 1968, after seeing LBJ announce on a friend’s black-and-white TV that he would not seek re-election. This led to a hitch-hiking trip from Marin to “the city” and back to Mt. Tamalpais and, then, a walk, much of the way, to Bolinas. I still believe the LSD was mixed with speed. The acid hit me as we entered this tunnel above Sausalito on Highway 101, years later painted with rainbow colors and then renamed for Robin Williams after his death in 2014. My 1967 LSD-trip guide was an easy-going Canadian art student named Jim.
I’m sure I freaked out the guy driving the car by announcing from the back seat, as we entered the tunnel, “The funny thing about this is that we’re driving this car.” They are the last words I remembering saying for the next 24 hours.
My head has been aching recently with a contemporary TV commercial for ocean cruises featuring Jefferson Airplane lyrics, “Remember what the doormouse said: Feed your head, feed your head.” Still trippy but mostly dippy, it seems to me now.
I left the Starr’s Guide with a friend when I moved oversees during high school. She returned it many years later, out of the blue. I don’t know whether she or I pasted the Wes Wilson Fillmore handbill on the back. Thank you anyway, Dolores, for keeping me in the loop.
And rest in peace, Wes Wilson. I’ve always enjoyed your work, even if I had to look twice.
I remain a fan of Eric Clapton — shaken by his racist comments in 1976 but accepting his later apologies. https://www.thedailybeast.com/eric-clapton-apologizes-for-racist-past-i-sabotaged-everything.
I never was much of a fan of the Dead, but I’ve always admired this lyric from Truckin’.
“Lately, it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.”
Then, again, these are just sparks flying from my fingertips.