Chapter 1: Getting Turned On
I think it was John Perry Barlow who once told me in his trying to explain the difference between New York and San Francisco (of which if he had to choose between the two he’d go with New York)–he said he’d much rather have someone say, “Fuck you,” and mean “Have a nice day,” than the other way around.
This rings true for me when it comes to punk rock versus the hippie scene. At least it rang true back in 1978 when leather jackets and spiked hair and spitting and vomiting and cussing resonated much more honestly and deeply with my mother-loss weary young broken heart than a bunch of smiling, touchy-feely, patchouli-soaked, tie-dye clad folks did.
So that’s why it felt so weird at that show in the early ’80s, my very first Dead show, that my boss Blair from Mix Magazine, my very first gig outta college, and his lovely wife Regan dragged me to, when I let my freak flag fly. I felt like an imposter, a failure in way, that I was betraying the hard edges the punks had worked so hard to build up and maintain. I felt embarrassed as I walked through the crowd. I wanted to be invisible, but there I was in the middle of this Grateful Dead hippie rainbow of freaks, thousands of them, and I had to surrender, I had to let go of the hate and my closed heart and reluctantly embrace the love. And man, it was weird.
I don’t think I could’ve done it without the drugs. Drugs so thick and all-consuming at one point I thought I was on a spaceship and I got cold and then I forgot I was cold and then I was sweating and hot and that’s when I thought I should put my jacket on, but then I couldn’t figure out what a jacket was, and there I am standing–or rather dancing some bizarre dance I’d never done before–and I forget that I have half a jacket on and I kinda freak out, in a mellow kind of a way, that I now have this strange sort of growth on my arm, swirling around with the circular, goofy movements of my limbs, like some contorted giraffe, long and gangly and quite the fuck high.
But then there’s that moment of super clarity that comes at Dead shows, of which I was unfamiliar and supremely surprised, where the music is perfect and the band is narrating your moment, the exact workings of your interior brain, and you’re suddenly right there with them, with everyone. And it is a goddamn spaceship.