Hot Best Seller

Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America

Availability: Ready to download

Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America uncovers a hidden history of the biggest psychedelic distribution and belief system the world has ever known. Through a collection of fast-paced interlocking narratives, it animates the tale of an alternate America and its wide-eyed citizens: the LSD-slinging graffiti writers of Central Park, the Dead-loving AI scientists of Stanfo Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America uncovers a hidden history of the biggest psychedelic distribution and belief system the world has ever known. Through a collection of fast-paced interlocking narratives, it animates the tale of an alternate America and its wide-eyed citizens: the LSD-slinging graffiti writers of Central Park, the Dead-loving AI scientists of Stanford, utopian Whole Earth homesteaders, black market chemists, government-wanted Anonymous hackers, rogue explorers, East Village bluegrass pickers, spiritual seekers, Internet pioneers, entrepreneurs, pranksters, pioneering DJs, and a nation of Deadheads. WFMU DJ and veteran music writer Jesse Jarnow draws on extensive new firsthand accounts from many never-before-interviewed subjects and a wealth of deep archival research to create a comic-book-colored and panoramic American landscape, taking readers for a guided tour of the hippie highway filled with lit-up explorers, peak trips, big busts, and scenic vistas, from Vermont to the Pacific Northwest, from the old world head capitals of San Francisco and New York to the geodesic dome-dotted valleys of Colorado and New Mexico. And with the psychedelic research moving into the mainstream for the first time in decades, Heads also recounts the story of the quiet entheogenic revolution that for years has been brewing resiliently in the Dead's Technicolor shadow. Featuring over four dozen images, many never before seen-including pop artist Keith Haring's first publicly sold work-Heads weaves one of the 20th and 21st centuries' most misunderstood subcultures into the fabric of the nation's history. Written for anyone who wondered what happened to the heads after the Acid Tests, through the '70s, during the Drug War, and on to the psychedelic present, Heads collects the essential history of how LSD, Deadheads, tie-dye, and the occasional bad trip have become familiar features of the American experience.


Compare

Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America uncovers a hidden history of the biggest psychedelic distribution and belief system the world has ever known. Through a collection of fast-paced interlocking narratives, it animates the tale of an alternate America and its wide-eyed citizens: the LSD-slinging graffiti writers of Central Park, the Dead-loving AI scientists of Stanfo Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America uncovers a hidden history of the biggest psychedelic distribution and belief system the world has ever known. Through a collection of fast-paced interlocking narratives, it animates the tale of an alternate America and its wide-eyed citizens: the LSD-slinging graffiti writers of Central Park, the Dead-loving AI scientists of Stanford, utopian Whole Earth homesteaders, black market chemists, government-wanted Anonymous hackers, rogue explorers, East Village bluegrass pickers, spiritual seekers, Internet pioneers, entrepreneurs, pranksters, pioneering DJs, and a nation of Deadheads. WFMU DJ and veteran music writer Jesse Jarnow draws on extensive new firsthand accounts from many never-before-interviewed subjects and a wealth of deep archival research to create a comic-book-colored and panoramic American landscape, taking readers for a guided tour of the hippie highway filled with lit-up explorers, peak trips, big busts, and scenic vistas, from Vermont to the Pacific Northwest, from the old world head capitals of San Francisco and New York to the geodesic dome-dotted valleys of Colorado and New Mexico. And with the psychedelic research moving into the mainstream for the first time in decades, Heads also recounts the story of the quiet entheogenic revolution that for years has been brewing resiliently in the Dead's Technicolor shadow. Featuring over four dozen images, many never before seen-including pop artist Keith Haring's first publicly sold work-Heads weaves one of the 20th and 21st centuries' most misunderstood subcultures into the fabric of the nation's history. Written for anyone who wondered what happened to the heads after the Acid Tests, through the '70s, during the Drug War, and on to the psychedelic present, Heads collects the essential history of how LSD, Deadheads, tie-dye, and the occasional bad trip have become familiar features of the American experience.

30 review for Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Arielle

    I'm really interested in this topic but the first 2/3 of this book was SO BORING. Like your friend who tells you a story and doesn't spare you ANY details. I think if I'm going to continue reading about psychedelics it's going to be from a historical, Terence McKenna perspective and not the biography perspective. I also sort of wish the subtitle of this book warned you that it's like 80% about the Grateful Dead, which I guess sort of has to be interwoven with the story of LSD but I'm not super w I'm really interested in this topic but the first 2/3 of this book was SO BORING. Like your friend who tells you a story and doesn't spare you ANY details. I think if I'm going to continue reading about psychedelics it's going to be from a historical, Terence McKenna perspective and not the biography perspective. I also sort of wish the subtitle of this book warned you that it's like 80% about the Grateful Dead, which I guess sort of has to be interwoven with the story of LSD but I'm not super well versed in Deadness so...yup.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Pearlman

    Jarnow does an excellent job of pulling together a lot of information from disparate sources to compile a unique history of LSD and psychedelic use throughout American history. For readers familiar with the subject, there's much here that's has been covered more thoroughly in other classics on the subject. Where Jarnow's book excels is in uncovering the underground figures who helped ensure a supply of LSD was regularly available on Grateful Dead tour. Many of these sources have a unique perspec Jarnow does an excellent job of pulling together a lot of information from disparate sources to compile a unique history of LSD and psychedelic use throughout American history. For readers familiar with the subject, there's much here that's has been covered more thoroughly in other classics on the subject. Where Jarnow's book excels is in uncovering the underground figures who helped ensure a supply of LSD was regularly available on Grateful Dead tour. Many of these sources have a unique perspective and viewpoint on what was happening at the time, and unique nuggets from the entire history of the band's career are sprinkled throughout the text. A detailed description of the rise of Vermont's Bread and Puppet Theater was highly illuminating, as was the saga of the founders of the Greenwich Village art gallery Psychedelic Solution. On the other hand, a focus on Richard Wright, an early friend of the band Phish seemed a little more extensive than necessary. It seemed a result of Jarnow trying to explain the bridge between Phish and their psychedelic followers. This sprawling history of the infiltration of LSD to all corners of American society will appeal to people with an interest of the subject. If you're already well-versed in the subject, it's still worth reading if you're a fan of the Grateful Dead, especially if you're seeking a social history of what was occurring in the parking lots during the band's final years.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve Carter

    Maybe this book should be subtitled “A Biography of Music and Jam Band’s Association with Psychedelic America”. There is a lot of material on The Grateful Dead in here. It’s almost shows that LSD and its distribution was completely tied into the Dead and their national tours. This might be the case, I don’t know. During this read I spent a lot of time thinking about myself in association with the world around me. I never was much interested in THe Dead, never went to a show, but have a long intere Maybe this book should be subtitled “A Biography of Music and Jam Band’s Association with Psychedelic America”. There is a lot of material on The Grateful Dead in here. It’s almost shows that LSD and its distribution was completely tied into the Dead and their national tours. This might be the case, I don’t know. During this read I spent a lot of time thinking about myself in association with the world around me. I never was much interested in THe Dead, never went to a show, but have a long interest in psychedelics. I also have not been able to get LSD when I wanted it. I last saw any of it in the 1990s. I guess I didn’t understand that one had to go to Dead shows to get it or somehow be associated with the community of The Rainbow Family, Deadhead, or something else that is a focal point for people with interest in these substances. I don’t know that one could actually make connections to get acid through NYC places like The Psychedelic Solution gallery or The Wetlands club. Both of which I went to a couple times each. So the book mostly made me think about the importance of social connection particularly in situations of the people wanting something opposite the government and corporate rulers. In these sorts of association, I have not personally done very well. And that left me out of a lot of things, more LSD and maybe even some sort of arts career, or a career in something. (Not that I am at all socially or career oriented.) The book is written in a breezy style of one-of-us, a partisan, not a academic distance stance. This makes it all clip along nicely but has some pitfalls. Sometimes he is too brisk. It would have been better not to mention “acid casualty Syd Barrett”, than to discard him like that and not explain in a book about acid how someone could become an casuality. What does that even mean? “Well, good bye Syd, thanks for the wacky songs.” (To paraphrase a little running joke Jarnow makes when someone departs his narrative.) There is almost a feeling of wrap up around the whole thing, that the LSD has been eliminated by the law and the movement moved on anyway, Maybe that is so. He does a good job illustrating the three parts of psychedelic culture, the academics, the religious types, and the Heads (people who use it because they feel like it.). I had an encounter with this recently being a Head, trying to deal with the religious types. It was frustrating for me and no doubt my contacts in that world as well. ----- I heard about the book through this podcast: http://expandingmind.podbean.com/e/ex...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Winchell

    I’ve read many books on psychedelics and their intersection with society, but this one covered some new ground for me, notably about the connection between 1970s New York graffiti culture and LSD. There’s so much to the tale of LSD in America and Jarnow is a wonderful narrator and investigator, following the connecting threads across the country and through time. A great addition to one’s psychedelic library!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    Made me want to do some acid.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Roberto

    Wow, so much information! Maybe not so much a history of psychedelic america as a history of the psychedelic and entheogenic culture surrounding the Grateful Dead. Worth knowing if you're going into this and not a Grateful Dead nut. This book is about the phenomenal reach of the Dead, how Deadheads practically invented the world as we know it, pioneering ideas that infiltrated the world of business, cybernetics, law, spirituality and the way we listen to and consume music. Oh and drugs. And how Wow, so much information! Maybe not so much a history of psychedelic america as a history of the psychedelic and entheogenic culture surrounding the Grateful Dead. Worth knowing if you're going into this and not a Grateful Dead nut. This book is about the phenomenal reach of the Dead, how Deadheads practically invented the world as we know it, pioneering ideas that infiltrated the world of business, cybernetics, law, spirituality and the way we listen to and consume music. Oh and drugs. And how closely the production and consumption of LSD was so tied into the Dead being in town. Amazing. There is also stuff on graffiti, Keith Haring, the Whole Earth Catalogue, Phish, tapers, dance culture and loads more. This was dense, fun and kind of chaotic, which i liked, Jesse Jarnow has done an astonishing job here.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason Diamond

    Whether or not you like the Dead or hate jam bands and hippies, Jarnow's book is so much more than a tale of drum circles and bad trips. Heads is a thoroughly investigated and super engaging book about psychedelic America and how it ended up influencing our culture. Whether or not you like the Dead or hate jam bands and hippies, Jarnow's book is so much more than a tale of drum circles and bad trips. Heads is a thoroughly investigated and super engaging book about psychedelic America and how it ended up influencing our culture.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Connor Magary

    Took awhile but just in time for the dead show. Bucks down 14. Ranger is very cute

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nick Carnac

    WowMom ! The lid is off ! 1959 til now,,,,,Psychedelics Rule OK . As The Kool-Aid Acid Test informed so well in '69 , this is an update for 2019 , half a century on and Grokking still ! The L.S.D. annals .....ongoing !! WowMom ! The lid is off ! 1959 til now,,,,,Psychedelics Rule OK . As The Kool-Aid Acid Test informed so well in '69 , this is an update for 2019 , half a century on and Grokking still ! The L.S.D. annals .....ongoing !!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stven

    There is by all appearances in this book a great amount of information and history of the assimilation of the use of psychedelics in Western society. But I am shocked and appalled to find this whole history written in present tense. Is writing books in present tense the latest literary fad? This is the fourth book I've picked up in the last year written in present tense instead of the conventional past tense. But the other three at least were fiction. Presenting a sequence of facts from decades p There is by all appearances in this book a great amount of information and history of the assimilation of the use of psychedelics in Western society. But I am shocked and appalled to find this whole history written in present tense. Is writing books in present tense the latest literary fad? This is the fourth book I've picked up in the last year written in present tense instead of the conventional past tense. But the other three at least were fiction. Presenting a sequence of facts from decades past in anything but past tense is fatuous. This must have been a nightmare for the editors. They don't even always manage to keep it consistent. At one point they're describing a trial, and it reads something like, "He shows up every day for the trial. He thinks Timothy Leary is going to testify as a character witness, but unbeknownst to him, Leary had made a deal with the prosecutors." Slipping out of present tense (which would have been: "has made a deal") into past tense because it's so confusing because it should have been in past tense in the first place. Don't do this.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This history of LSD in America bypasses the famous landmarks (Leary, Millbrook, and other luminaries) to stop at people and places more off the beaten path: dealers, tapers, and many, many Deadheads. At times I was thrilled to learn more about female chemists and cults I'd never heard of, at others I was bored by the waterfall of details about the Grateful Dead. Though no one can talk about the cultural history of psychedelics in America without mentioning the Dead and the many jam bands they in This history of LSD in America bypasses the famous landmarks (Leary, Millbrook, and other luminaries) to stop at people and places more off the beaten path: dealers, tapers, and many, many Deadheads. At times I was thrilled to learn more about female chemists and cults I'd never heard of, at others I was bored by the waterfall of details about the Grateful Dead. Though no one can talk about the cultural history of psychedelics in America without mentioning the Dead and the many jam bands they inspired, I wish Jarnow had spent more time mining the discographies of more recent EDM luminaries.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Good overview of the psychedelic drug scene from the 60's to present day - not quite as good as Robert Sabbag's SNOWBLIND, but then again, few are - Burning Man gets more than a mention as a nexus for present day activity. Worthwhile. Good overview of the psychedelic drug scene from the 60's to present day - not quite as good as Robert Sabbag's SNOWBLIND, but then again, few are - Burning Man gets more than a mention as a nexus for present day activity. Worthwhile.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Leftjab

    After Freaks & Geeks was released on DVD (2004), I went through a brief period of listening to the Grateful Dead – mainly American Beauty. Actually only American Beauty. Anyway, I enjoyed the final scenes of Freaks & Geeks and, having never realized what good songs “Box of Rain” and “Friend of the Devil” were, I then dipped my toe into the Dead. Around this time I was working on an indie feature with an established director. I would drive him around and listen to relatively innocuous music in th After Freaks & Geeks was released on DVD (2004), I went through a brief period of listening to the Grateful Dead – mainly American Beauty. Actually only American Beauty. Anyway, I enjoyed the final scenes of Freaks & Geeks and, having never realized what good songs “Box of Rain” and “Friend of the Devil” were, I then dipped my toe into the Dead. Around this time I was working on an indie feature with an established director. I would drive him around and listen to relatively innocuous music in the car – you don’t want to play anything too abrasive or distracting. The stress of the director in the car with you on top of NYC traffic would make something like the Stooges' Funhouse not appropriate (though solo in a car in NYC traffic Funhouse is IMMENSELY appropriate). Anyway, most of my musical choices received no comments – which is a good thing – until “Box of Rain” came up. The director – well into his 40s - turned and looked at me: “Is this the Grateful Dead?” “Uhhhh, yes, yes it is.” “Why are you listening to it?” “Well, I’m trying to broaden my musical horizons.” “Well, you can broaden them when I’m not in the car.” And then he shut off the radio. More than any other band, the Dead - their music, their fans, and their lifestyle - seems to polarize. As the fans would say, you either get it or you don't. (And LSD helps with that sentiment, it seems.) I listened to more Dead while reading this book than I had in my life - I'll return to Live/Dead, Aoxomoxoa, and some of the other earlier albums again, but I can't say the mountains of live versions do much for me, most likely because "I wasn't there." The Bob Weir doc on Netflix piqued my interest and ultimately led me to Heads. I wondered why there was no mention of Thomas Pynchon anywhere in the book – felt that Vineland, Inherent Vice, and especially The Crying of Lot 49 were super appropriate in the context of what Jarnow was chronicling: "Either you have stumbled indeed, without the aid of LSD or other indole alkaloids, onto a secret richness and concealed density of dream; onto a network by which X number of Americans are truly communicating whilst reserving their lies, recitations of routine, arid betrayals of spiritual poverty, for the official government delivery system; maybe even onto a real alternative to the exitlessness, to the absence of surprise to life, that harrows the head of everybody American you know, and you too, sweetie. Or you are hallucinating it…" The “network by which X number of Americans are truly communicating” seems to anticipate in some sense what the Dead created throughout the 70s and 80s – a safe place where freaks, outsiders, and druggies could come together and really experience life, man, for either the duration of the show, the duration of the acid trip, or, for the more daring individuals (or true believers as it were), the rest of their lives. The straight world of property and careers and marriage melted away to reveal a more genuine sense of American life. Well, if the Man (government, landlord, boss, Captialism, commercialism, what have you) doesn’t get in the way or take it away from you, that is. Jarnow traces the legacy of the psychedelic experience in the American sensibility, pretty much starting his journey in 1959, when the Beats and Folkies began to morph into Hippies. By my math, that can be attributed to the proliferation of acid (and other hallucinogenics) throughout the counter culture – the Beats and the folkies liked their drugs, but the peyotes, mushrooms, ayahuasca, what-have-you, were not as widespread until the early 60s when they started selling it in the Village and the Bay Area. This is when the Beats went from wearing black to wearing tie-dye. The visuals of LSD show up in graffiti in NYC which then leads to street and outsider art (Keith Haring to Banksy and onward); the alternate internal reality of the hallucinogenic experience influences a generation of science fiction writers and authors with cyberpunk; the tape trading community (not to mention the acid underground) leads on a smaller scale to Napster and Spotify and on a broader scale to the mass distribution of the Internet, social media, electronic mail; the Dead show leads to a sub-culture of traveling and stationary music festivals and the bands that populate them – raves, Phish, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Burning Man, etc – this, more than the some of the loftier ideals of the 60s (civil rights, women’s lib, etc) , seems to be the true legacy of the 60s, for better and, more likely, for much worse. The instruments of liberation – drugs, computers – after presenting the possibility of freedom or Nirvana, can turn into the tools the forces of oppression use to monitor and control. Carrying or selling anything illegal in the eyes of the US Government, while the intentions can be noble, those intentions aren’t going to get you out of federal custody. The Dead and the LSD prophets are outlaws, and you don’t become an outlaw by playing by the rules. And lord knows America loves an outlaw – it’s ingrained in our history, from the Old West to the Revolutionary War. The cast of characters is impressive – from the usual suspects (Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, the freak folk bands of the early 60s, the Dead, John Perry Barlow, Owsley Stanley, Albert Hoffmann, Terrence McKenna, to more obscure acid heads - Nick Sand, Tim Scully, the Shulgins) to the less frequently cited in conjunction with acid: Keith Haring, Basquiat, Sonic Youth, early Saturday Night Live cast members, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Jaron Lanier, and even Ann Coulter (!) – there are definitely connections between the Dead and Coulter’s bullshit libertarianism, and while the Dead rejected politics outright (part of the acid experience makes the psychonaut see through politics, so to speak), the freedom they preach appeals to both sides of the political spectrum. You go so far left eventually you become right, if you want to stay on the political spectrum at all. Jarnow adopts a very loose, free-flowing narrative style (it’s been a while, but maybe modeled slightly on The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test?). To be honest, and I’m thinking of Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin’s son in Flirting With Disaster, the story of the 60s and LSD has been told so many times it’s become schtick – so what’s to gain from another book about how the drugs freed the straight world from its confines? Primarily, psychedelia and Dead Culture’s influence on the internet and electronic communication. Beyond its founders taking acid at some point, many of the early computer engineers were into the Dead, and as necessity is the mother of invention (cliché). They used their early attempts at email to communicate with other Heads, and of course John Perry Barlow (Dead lyricist & early Internet proponent) is in many ways more important than Jerry Garcia to this narrative. The “freedom” the Dead followers sought seemed to find a parallel in the cyber universe. Before the social media and the commercials and the masses taking the online revolution and making it into just another series of advertisements and government monitoring, it did seem like there was some freedom to be found in the wires. No countries, no laws, no landlords, no cops – just the free flow of information. Well of course, some capitalizing entrepreneurs saw that this freedom could also be used to make people rich, so the open plain then grew some fences. And now the lower reaches of the Web seem to be used for the darker aspects of humanity: weapons, espionage, depraved pornography, drugs, etc. It can still all be found there. (Though of course, as the Internet grows and becomes more omnipresent, the irony of the initial burst of freedom become the same thing that monitors and potentially manipulates and enslaves the populace – it’s similar to that junkie who first saw God when he took LSD then spent the 70s struggling with heroin and coke addictions – all of the parallels are valid.) If there is nothing but freedom and love under the psychedelic sun, why would the Dead and their fans be the target of such scorn? At first, I was concerned that Jarnow would adopt a “psychedelics are great and are the cure for modern society’s ails” approach which, while I don’t completely disagree that a little internal journeying and self exploration would be good for most people, I know of several people whose experiments with LSD permanently affected them for the much worse. It is a powerful drug – I can’t completely get behind the government’s war on drugs (which seemed to arise to nail the coffin of whatever brief glimmers of hope in this 60s alternative communal/nomadic lifestyle could spark, crack cocaine and heroin notwithstanding, of course), but giving children LSD seems a bit, I don’t know, dubious at best. Jarnow addresses this, thankfully – “(the Dead’s) music comes to represent numerous freedoms that maybe aren’t fully thought out.” Even analyzing the Dead show experience like this would probably be seen by the participants of the experience as missing the point. I enjoyed the trip to Wetlands and the brief cyber-delic fad of the early 90s – I remember it well. Having read Neuromancer and Snow Crash relatively recently (and having a copy of Mondo 2000!), it seems that smart drinks and films like Johnny Mnemonic, Hackers, and Strange Days have aged as well as, well, The Trip, Easy Rider, and Getting Straight (not to mention The Butterfly Kid or some of those Incredible String Band and Pearls Before Swine albums). I would say that in the films at least, the psychedelia is really window dressing and shallow – which would date them pretty much instantly. In terms of the literature, Infinite Jest presented the day after tomorrow in a much better context than the cyberpunk novels, and when the Internet and virtual reality (not to mention the dot com boom and bust) hit actual reality, the romance of outlaw hackers “jacking in” seems a bit dopey. It’s still an interesting side trip and Jarnow’s illustration of the connections between the Deadworld and the cyberdelic early 90s is well stated. (That post-apocalyptic fiction and movies – The Drowned World, Mad Max, A Boy and His Dog through to The Hunger Games and The Man in the High Castle & The Handmaid’s Tale novels and series – feel more prescient than the cyberdelic early 90s is more than a little disheartening. Scary is probably a better word.) In the end, what’s the point of all this? Is there liberation to be found in the psychedelic experience, even if it is not for everybody? It is a colorful and interesting ride at the very least, and I’m interested to pick up Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind as a semi-sequel to Heads, and see what he says about the practical application of psychedelics. Costume and haircut are surface elements. If the hippie in question proceeds to freeload on your couch for a month or two and smoke all of your weed while "borrowing" money and food, it might color your viewpoint of the free love 60s as being a load of crap (“hippies use back door”). The lifestyle of the Dead attracted lost souls – the freaks as it were – who could not or didn't want to hack it in mainstream society, negatively similar to internet trolls who become opinionated, cruel wordsmiths in the cyber-realm because they wouldn’t dream of being so grandiose and offensive outside of their screens. These are the negative troughs to be taken along with the self-realization and creative breakthroughs' crests. Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out shouldn't be taken literally by all people, but as a sign or as an act, or as an inspirational sentiment. You could either eventually come back down to Earth or continue spinning amongst the cosmos (or the psych ward). The choice is yours. Maybe America needs the extreme to jar it out of complacency. Or to combat the fascism lurking underneath the desire for junk food, cable television, automatic weapons, and a good internet signal. You know, “freedom.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    It is entirely possible to hate the Grateful Dead and still be interested in the history of psychedelic drugs, their culture, and the people who synthesized/sold them in the US. So they should warn you of that. The first part of this book was largely revelatory and massively well researched. Do you want to know why LSD originally came in sugar cubes? Who invented window-pane acid? Where did microdots come from? When did the shift to blotter take place? When did cocaine really enter the rock and It is entirely possible to hate the Grateful Dead and still be interested in the history of psychedelic drugs, their culture, and the people who synthesized/sold them in the US. So they should warn you of that. The first part of this book was largely revelatory and massively well researched. Do you want to know why LSD originally came in sugar cubes? Who invented window-pane acid? Where did microdots come from? When did the shift to blotter take place? When did cocaine really enter the rock and roll drug scene? First part of this book has got all that and I tore through the first 150 pages totally fascinated. It’s well written, superlatively sourced, and exhaustively researched. Loved reading about Owsley’s various operations and challenges, and I was hoping they’d cover the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in detail, as well as aspects of the production underground that followed. While they do profile a few figures who buy crystal LSD in bulk and dip blotter in it, there’s very little about the culture of LSD labs, what kinds of backgrounds the people who run them have, what that life is like. Expected at least some of that info from this book, and the absence was palpable. The writing isn’t fantastic. It isn’t terrible, but lord (as other have pointed out), why write a book about the past in the present tense? It’s continually jarring and a sign of how little sense Jarnow has for the sound of his language. Plus he tries too hard to make the text itself both whimsical and profound and often fails grandly on both counts, often ending chapters or sections with lines I think he believes are clever but often read as dashed off attempts to charm the reader. Meanwhile, the rest of the book was mostly about the fucking Grateful Dead—but not just them, also Phish (where I find the Dead tedious and tiresome, I find Phish’s forced wackiness assaultive and nightmarish), the Spin Doctors (! How hard i’d tried to forget them), and jam bands like the String Cheese Incident and “moe.” whose name for some reason has to include a period. And though we can all agree that yes, psychedelics helped shape those bands and those scenes, are they really the history of “psychedelic america,” or are they the stories of some bands I personally find intolerable who took a lot of psychedelics before finding a commercial niche for themselves? I’m not sure how purposefully Jarnow captures the hippie movement’s easy slide from anti-consumerism, “everything is free! except we’re going to need you to pay for some of it” into unapologetic, self-indulgent avarice. Sure, jokers like Steve Jobs took psychedelics, then turned into the abusive bosses and family members psychedelics were supposed to free us from. Is apple part of the history of psychedelic america? No, it’s just a fucking company selling stuff—to presume it, or Bonnaroo, or the Well, or Dead lyricist/registered Republican John Perry Barlow’s work to help Dick Cheney win a congressional seat, or the Dead endlessly touring when they’d clearly stopped giving a fuck—is revolutionary, or a sign of psychedelic reshaping of American culture, that’s a laugh. Ann Coulter is a Deadhead, which should tell us as much as we need to know about how strongly the Dead stood for anything or challenged people to live more ethically, as apparently they believed they were doing. Eventually Phish found the ideal way to play for their audience—on a cruise ship with attendees paying $500 to more than $1000. To see PHISH. The mind fairly boggles. Even by the middle of this book, the supposedly enlightened Dead crowd, removed from what Jarnow repeatedly calls “consensus reality,” have started working with the military industrial complex because it turns out soldiers and longhairs both love computers. Isn’t that nice? They were supposed to have revolutionized the world but mostly what this book charts is a bunch of people getting high and a little later getting selfish. As an early-ish internet adopter myself (1993), I remember the Dead présence but I also remember the early internet had a lot of people who hated the dead but talked about psychedelics and undergrounds and music that interested me. This book contains precious little mention of the role of psychedelics in shaping non-commercial music (by the 80s, the Dead were a wholly commercial venture). Psychedelics were still associated with post-punk, post-hardcore bands like the Meat Puppets, Alice Donut, and the Butthole Surfers, all kinds of industrial music (ranging from more electro stuff like Meat Beat Manifesto to metallic bands like Ministry and Skinny Puppy), and other alternative scenes where it fuelled far more revolutionary sounds and ideas than the Dead (and many of those people later gave it up for consumerism too). Where’s the revolution here? This book ends up being about a commercial culture bearing little difference from the mainstream, other than a few illegal drugs. (Or course there’s Terence McKenna with his cringy theories about 2012 and “time waves” and “the voice of the mushroom.” All you can do with that shit is shudder.) For all Jarnow’s talk of the “hip economy,” the Dead and many of their contemporaries seem like they surrendered the search for truth and whimsy when they discovered they could instead search for material contentment and oblivion. That’s fine, I don’t care that’s what they did with their time, but it’s a drag to want to read about disparate aspects of a social movement only to get stuck reading about the Grateful Dead and Phish. (The index listings for “Grateful Dead” in this book on psychedelics are twice as long as the index listings for “LSD,” and nearly 20 times as long as the listing for “psilocybin mushrooms.) In Please Kill Me, Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s superior history of early punk in New York and London, Nico says something to the effect that she never trusted hippies because “they were always selling something.” I was willing to lose myself in this book’s details of psychedelics-arcana but before long it just became a treadmill routine of one “shakedown street” after another, which is perhaps the legacy I most strongly associate with the Dead—getting scammed by a longhair in a drug rug to an uninspired soundtrack of tepid but incessant guitar noodling. PS Listen to the Ramones

  15. 4 out of 5

    Corey J

    I thought this book was supposed to be about psychedelic drugs and the culture that has sprung up around same throughout the modern era. It is instead about the Grateful Dead and their legion of acid dropping fans. The author starts with the premise that Deadheads are the cultural keepers of the psychedelic flame and takes it from there. Though occasionally tying the Dead tenuously to other bands and culture movements (Phish, Burning Man, Silicon Valley), the major thread to which the book alway I thought this book was supposed to be about psychedelic drugs and the culture that has sprung up around same throughout the modern era. It is instead about the Grateful Dead and their legion of acid dropping fans. The author starts with the premise that Deadheads are the cultural keepers of the psychedelic flame and takes it from there. Though occasionally tying the Dead tenuously to other bands and culture movements (Phish, Burning Man, Silicon Valley), the major thread to which the book always returns is the history of the Grateful Dead. Any detail on the drugs and their effects are superficial and brief asides to the touring Dead. If you want an interesting history of the Grateful Dead and Deadheads, this is for you. If you want to read a book about LSD, DMT, Psilocybin, or Heads, Dead or otherwise, this is not your jam.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    This book is awesome. Jesse Jarnow did a great job.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hollie Rose

    From my review written for myself in December 2016: It's about the LSD world. Where it started, how it grew and changed, and who were the key players throughout the decades. Because the Dead was such a conduit for mind expansion via LSD, Jarnow centers much of the historical timeline along a parallel with the band's timeline. There is, indeed, mention of people and scenes with which I am familiar from my days on tour but I expected more of that. (Though it's probably good news that my people were From my review written for myself in December 2016: It's about the LSD world. Where it started, how it grew and changed, and who were the key players throughout the decades. Because the Dead was such a conduit for mind expansion via LSD, Jarnow centers much of the historical timeline along a parallel with the band's timeline. There is, indeed, mention of people and scenes with which I am familiar from my days on tour but I expected more of that. (Though it's probably good news that my people were not so much named in this book…) This book is not shy about talking about the dangers of the LSD world in just the way I experienced it. There's a lot of talk about the ways Deadheads moved their product and the laws of it all. Talk of how it was a business with spiritual meaning to most involved and why and how that took so many innocents down. And discussion of whether or not the Dead have any responsibility for this - and about how they "have nothing against LSD, they just wish it wasn't so associated with them.” He mentions how the Dead never voiced any response to the DEA being out there on tour. He goes into the history and current incarnation of many of the huge festivals that have sprung up around acid culture since the passing of Jerry. I have a gazillion post it notes in here. Here’s just a few. From the second page of the intro - that the term "psychedelic" comes from the ancient Greek - a sort of mash up of words that mean "mind-manifesting." On the same page he asserts that the introduction of psychedelics into the American art scene began a "culture war that continues to cleave the American population." Page 108 - the fact that Dick Latvala (the Dead's tape guy) was the resident chronicler and diary keeper at the commune he belonged to - Morehouse. Where are those diaries I wonder? Pg 128 – Keith Harring (famous artist) made and sold shirts on Dead your before he was famous. There are quotes from his journal. Pg 151 "If the long psychedelic renaissance has a melting point… it is the 1980s." Pg 154 quoting Garcia in 1965 - why not use the positive sides of your nature to act out your fantasies rather than struggling? Pg 172 - - "The Deadheads move in four or five car caravans, breathing and highly visible groupmind organisms zipping the interstates." That line excited me. Pg 178 - how putting Dead stickers on your car might be dangerous because "For starters, the people that the police seek are actually out there." Pg 193 and 194 some great talk of how the Dead and the audience feed off each other with their own sort of group mind. Great quotes on 235 by Jerry about why it's important to get high, and on 237 about how there is no place to go from here. It's up to us to invent it. Pg 235 - about how we live in a sick and dysfunctional society, and psychedelics offers a way to see beyond that, and often will cause its users to live differently once they have seen through the crap. And onto page 256 - how many people who distributed LSD thought it their duty to open as many minds as they possibly could - it was a crusade - not to make money (that was a nice side benefit) but to benefit the world by making more aware people. Pg 260 "It is well known lore that a critical mass of trippers creates an altered atmosphere for all." Yes - we believed this. I still do. Pg 264 about the Dead world - "It's going to take more than a sociologist to make sense of all this anyway, to get down to the weird and beautiful and dangerous center of it all." Pg 345 "The universe is all just question marks all the way down. Gigantic wondrous question marks, with question mark shaped holes and more question marks inside." Pg 381 "To find the Dead is to find something old and strange and pure, a sure and true connection to an authentic mystical and spiritual and ever-questioning America." Pg 382 "With no central Grateful Dead, the music seems more mysterious than ever, remnants of a ritual expressing some nearly captured truth."

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Paolantonio

    HEADS is super technicolor fantastic. First of all, if you thought you knew about The Grateful Dead (I guess, unless you lived it) you really know nothing at all. In HEADS, Jarnow looks at The Dead from a whole new angle--the hip economy, the true countercultural underground, and the lifestyle that came with it...all because of LSD. This book is so huge in scape. Jarnow told me that he spent five years researching it. It's a piece of history from psychedlia's beginnings in The East Village and C HEADS is super technicolor fantastic. First of all, if you thought you knew about The Grateful Dead (I guess, unless you lived it) you really know nothing at all. In HEADS, Jarnow looks at The Dead from a whole new angle--the hip economy, the true countercultural underground, and the lifestyle that came with it...all because of LSD. This book is so huge in scape. Jarnow told me that he spent five years researching it. It's a piece of history from psychedlia's beginnings in The East Village and Central Park to the start of Burning Man to Silicon Valley and BitCoin. It will satisfy the needs for any American Historian, whether you're a head or not. It's a fascinating read that scales across the country. (I found the origins of Phish and the "new" "jam" band to be a much more detailed version I've ever read before, without having read their individual biographies or a bio of the band.) His quotes from Garcia and people who were there all along are astounding. My favorite is from an Jerry Garcia interview from the early 70s, "To get really high is to forget yourself, and to forget yourself is to see everything else, and to see everything else is to become an understanding molecule in evolution, a conscious tool of the universe. That's why I think it's important to get high." (My other favorite is a great Garcia one-liner: "It's not my fault you watch TV, man.") A pleasure to read, you'll never stop learning. Jarnow touches on drug policy, the evolution of how acid was made, stored, and sold. Who made it, who took it, why they took it, and what happened when they were nabbed. HEADS is a massive undertaking of nonfiction writing, research, and organization. This review doesn't do it justice. You could pick it up and put it down again, but just stick with it. Jarnow's rhythm is seamless and his humor is charming. What a wonderful world of LSD, hippies, heads, and the stories we thought we knew.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Wannemacher

    This book was a slog the past few weeks with everything I had going on, but I finally made it through HEADS: A PSYCHEDELIC BIOGRAPHY OF AMERICA by Jesse Jarnow. I had my eye on the one for a long time because the cover design by Alex Camlin (a book design friend who freelanced for us at Columbia) is SO. FREAKING. BRILLIANT. This cover gave me one of those moments of creative self loathing designers often have when they see something so perfect. "Why can't I come up with anything as brilliant as This book was a slog the past few weeks with everything I had going on, but I finally made it through HEADS: A PSYCHEDELIC BIOGRAPHY OF AMERICA by Jesse Jarnow. I had my eye on the one for a long time because the cover design by Alex Camlin (a book design friend who freelanced for us at Columbia) is SO. FREAKING. BRILLIANT. This cover gave me one of those moments of creative self loathing designers often have when they see something so perfect. "Why can't I come up with anything as brilliant as that?!" Because this is SO clever. The uncoated paper stock has seen better days than the inside of my purse for 3 weeks though. The book, however, left a lot to be desired, including a list of characters typical of anything resembling an oral history format (this isn't exactly one, but dialogue, and conversations full of story-telling make up the bulk of the book). As someone who came up musically in and around this scene, I was familiar enough with some of the major players to figure it out. The book lends itself to too many voices: an academic one, a conversational one, and a zany "ooooo then Jerry died, farewell friend! Anyways!" vibe that got on my nerves after awhile. All this aside, the book really was fascinating, and if you squint your eyes, it feels like a love letter to the Grateful Dead and the psychedelic America they developed. As someone surrounded by Phish heads and Phish culture, and am myself a RADIOhead, formerly SpreadHead, I really started to engage with the last ⅓ of the book that dealt with the early 80s through the early 2000s. It's a strange feeling reading about a music festival you went to in high school in a "history" book. There was a ton of trivia and information, I learned way more about the Dead and Phish than I ever had, especially the early days of the latter. My thoughts are still mixed on the final verdict, but the book cover makes me not want to return it to the Paolantonio/Wright library anytime soon.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jon Lasser

    The beginning of the book is a breezy and readable summary of psychedelic history through the early seventies. Readers interested in this might be better served by Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream. The end of the book is a kinda-vague summary of the current state of the psychedelic culture and its influence at music events. Perhaps to protect the safety and freedom of current players, it's very high-level, and the through-line seems to fade away. However, between those bookends lies an The beginning of the book is a breezy and readable summary of psychedelic history through the early seventies. Readers interested in this might be better served by Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream. The end of the book is a kinda-vague summary of the current state of the psychedelic culture and its influence at music events. Perhaps to protect the safety and freedom of current players, it's very high-level, and the through-line seems to fade away. However, between those bookends lies an incredible story: the story of the international LSD distribution network connected via Grateful Dead and later Phish concerts. I found this section of the book in particular to be very page-turny and un-put-downable. The book does dwell on the positive powers of psychedelics, mentioning but not dwelling on the negative impact of drugs like cocaine, heroin, and nitrous oxide. It's certainly not a complete picture; it's a didactic work, and a celebration of the roots and vines of psychedelic America. Despite my relatively extensive reading on this topic, I learned a bunch of stuff I didn't know, about the way that network of chemists and distributors operated; the connections between the Dead scene and other groups I'd not imagined were connected, such as New York graffiti groups in the seventies; Keith Haring's connections to the Dead scene; and more. If you're interested in a book that really picks up where Storming Heaven leaves off, Heads is the place to go.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris Wharton

    The emergence of LSD and its convergence with the post-Beat generation morphing into the West Coast Grateful Dead scene of the 1960s and across a wider stage for three more decades are at the center of this detailed history of a long, strange, off-center-stage sociocultural trip. A good half or more of the book is centered on the Dead; their music; the developing Deadhead population and Shakedown Street culture around Dead tours; various technological music-related developments (taping, trading, The emergence of LSD and its convergence with the post-Beat generation morphing into the West Coast Grateful Dead scene of the 1960s and across a wider stage for three more decades are at the center of this detailed history of a long, strange, off-center-stage sociocultural trip. A good half or more of the book is centered on the Dead; their music; the developing Deadhead population and Shakedown Street culture around Dead tours; various technological music-related developments (taping, trading, Dick’s Picks, etc); and always the drugs. Interesting synergistic connections are made between the drug culture and contemporaneous developments outside Grateful Dead world (urban graffiti, tie-dye, drug distribution technologies in the early days, computer technologies, cyberspace later). There is also quite a bit (sometimes too much for me) on obscure (to me) heroes of new psychedelic drug discoveries.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steve Siegel

    I will read (nearly) any Grateful Dead book you put in front of me, despite the fact that they generally tread the same well-worn pathways. But Heads is different – it doesn’t really even purport to be a Grateful Dead book, and yet it somehow is! Under the guise of a social history of psychedelic drugs in America, the Dead sits happily at the center of so many of its narratives. It dives deep into the cultural impact of the band and how intractable it is with the spread of LSD in its wake. The h I will read (nearly) any Grateful Dead book you put in front of me, despite the fact that they generally tread the same well-worn pathways. But Heads is different – it doesn’t really even purport to be a Grateful Dead book, and yet it somehow is! Under the guise of a social history of psychedelic drugs in America, the Dead sits happily at the center of so many of its narratives. It dives deep into the cultural impact of the band and how intractable it is with the spread of LSD in its wake. The history of America’s complex relationship with these hard-to-pin-down, yet ultimately important, substances reveals tells the history of the Dead and their fans in a way that is completely missed in more traditional summaries.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Luke X.

    Altogether a worthwhile read, although a tad tedious at times, primarily due to a fairly dry writing style of Mr. Jarnow. The "biography" traces the evolution of a psychedelic drug culture in the US, starting with the "invention" of LSD, onto psilocybin mushrooms and ecstasy, and assorted peripheral drugs. Attention is focused on LSD and most of the conversation takes place around the decades of the 60's and 70's, for obvious reasons. There is a lot of discussion about the Grateful Dead's commun Altogether a worthwhile read, although a tad tedious at times, primarily due to a fairly dry writing style of Mr. Jarnow. The "biography" traces the evolution of a psychedelic drug culture in the US, starting with the "invention" of LSD, onto psilocybin mushrooms and ecstasy, and assorted peripheral drugs. Attention is focused on LSD and most of the conversation takes place around the decades of the 60's and 70's, for obvious reasons. There is a lot of discussion about the Grateful Dead's community of followers, and some interesting information on the beginnings of Phish in Vermont. I particularly found the merger of the psychedelic community into the early days of what ultimately became the Internet quite interesting.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This was an interesting book reached from a rather fragile premise which when finally digested seems likable. Someone took a poster out of the 60's literally, apparently, and wanted to prove the existence (qv, "Humbead's Map of the World") of this imaginary land in real time...hmmm. People who will be interested in psychedelics and their evolution over the last 7 decades will note, lots of it is about the connections between LSD chemists and the parking lot cities that inevitably accompanied all This was an interesting book reached from a rather fragile premise which when finally digested seems likable. Someone took a poster out of the 60's literally, apparently, and wanted to prove the existence (qv, "Humbead's Map of the World") of this imaginary land in real time...hmmm. People who will be interested in psychedelics and their evolution over the last 7 decades will note, lots of it is about the connections between LSD chemists and the parking lot cities that inevitably accompanied all late-period Grateful Dead (and related) concerts. Since our government spent a great deal of time and money harassing this portion of our society it's nice having something of a record of many of its depredations upon same. As the saying goes, We Are Everywhere.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    Heads by Jesse Jarnow is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-March while on a road-trip in Wisconsin. Something immedialy apparent to me during Heads' non-specific, non-fiction timeline of psychedelia is the concept of the privilage of mass specialty: that everyone seems to have access to money, notoriety, manufacture, inspiration, and musical/artistic tools they need to bring awareness and create a concrete memory of something that happened while high. It all seems very freeing and there's Heads by Jesse Jarnow is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-March while on a road-trip in Wisconsin. Something immedialy apparent to me during Heads' non-specific, non-fiction timeline of psychedelia is the concept of the privilage of mass specialty: that everyone seems to have access to money, notoriety, manufacture, inspiration, and musical/artistic tools they need to bring awareness and create a concrete memory of something that happened while high. It all seems very freeing and there's an ease about the idea of sitting back and just letting things happen, of tilting your head back and letting a multicolor tide fall over you and have normality and obligations wash away.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    I was already a big fan of Jarnow for his work as a WFMU DJ and for his book about Yo La Tengo, but after making my way through this highly exciting, well researched history of psychedelics, I'm a fan for life. It's incredible to follow all of the connections and ripples that followed the wake of LSD and The Dead through the last five decades. This is such a well written history that I really can't wait to find out what he takes on next. I was already a big fan of Jarnow for his work as a WFMU DJ and for his book about Yo La Tengo, but after making my way through this highly exciting, well researched history of psychedelics, I'm a fan for life. It's incredible to follow all of the connections and ripples that followed the wake of LSD and The Dead through the last five decades. This is such a well written history that I really can't wait to find out what he takes on next.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    A fascinating, sprawling tour of the intersection of psychedelic drugs, music, culture, and the birth of the Internet with a capital "I." Jarnow did some heavy research, including many, many, many original interviews, many of people who had never gone on the record before, to really get the dope. Jarnow is a known baseball fan, but when I check the index, no entry for Doc Ellis. C'mon, Jesse! A fascinating, sprawling tour of the intersection of psychedelic drugs, music, culture, and the birth of the Internet with a capital "I." Jarnow did some heavy research, including many, many, many original interviews, many of people who had never gone on the record before, to really get the dope. Jarnow is a known baseball fan, but when I check the index, no entry for Doc Ellis. C'mon, Jesse!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Burgoo

    An addictively readable history of the influence of psychedelics in contemporary culture. It goes beyond the usual suspects to talk tapers, art, graffiti, computer programming, and more. If you think you've already read the last work on the subject, well you haven't. Read this. http://fedpeaches.blogspot.com/2016/0... An addictively readable history of the influence of psychedelics in contemporary culture. It goes beyond the usual suspects to talk tapers, art, graffiti, computer programming, and more. If you think you've already read the last work on the subject, well you haven't. Read this. http://fedpeaches.blogspot.com/2016/0...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    I really never read nonfiction, but this one was a highly entertaining weirder-than-fiction history of "psychedelic America." Doubling as a history of the Grateful Dead and beyond, zigging and zagging through multiple subcultures and a zany cast of characters, and reading like Pynchon at times this is just a whole bunch of fun. I really never read nonfiction, but this one was a highly entertaining weirder-than-fiction history of "psychedelic America." Doubling as a history of the Grateful Dead and beyond, zigging and zagging through multiple subcultures and a zany cast of characters, and reading like Pynchon at times this is just a whole bunch of fun.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    A fun and informative read! Diligently researched and entertainingly delivered. Lots of moments where the reader really feels like they were there. A must for any student of the subculture.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...