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Recent Psychedelic Writings

The latest Psychedelic Press Journal, Issue XXIX, contains an account of ‘My First Trip’ – another in the long-running series initiated by editor Nikki Wyrd.

For me this is the latest of many iterations in writing about this formative experience, which took place in December 1975, over forty-four years ago now. The longest version, of course, is the seventeen-thousand-word account at the start of my memoir, The Mad Artist, but here was an opportunity to boil it down and make it more concise for magazine purposes.

Processing the experience once again, I was reminded of the hair-raising aspects of the trip, which was both extremely strong – due to the LSD itself: Operation Julie Vintage in double dose – and was rendered more hazardous still by the poor choice of setting – country woods and roadways, involving passing cars, on a cold unforgiving winter’s night. In a way it’s a cautionary tale about how not to conduct a first trip!

Nikki Wyrd sets these factors in context in her Editorial and comes up with the delightful phrase ‘retroactive enchantment’, in order to describe how a subject’s view of an event can mature and transform over time as the various factors are processed and its true value comes to the fore. Nikki has said she sees these ‘First Trips’ as watersheds in peoples’ lives, a significant rite of passage, and she hopes the collection will provide a resource for historians of the future, with a range of times and places featured. A worthy project indeed!

Also the excellent cover of Issue XXIX, designed by Tom Andrews of Done London, was inspired by my ‘First Trip’ account, with the woodland setting featuring awesomely in the mandala-based imagery.

Other pieces include a wry trip poem by Kerry Rowberry, written in Birmingham dialect, which evokes Irvine Welsh’s use of dialect in Trainspotting; there’s a very vivid account of an epoch-making DMT trip from Anthony Pellegrino, with great existential resonance like my own; Mike Fioroto provides a psychedelic short story, and there are articles from Daniel Kelley, Mark Juhan and a review of Andy Roberts’ Divine Rascal from Rob Dickins. Another superb knowledge-packed issue!

More information: Psychedelic Press

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Going back to last December, I wrote the booklet essay for the new Arrow Video Limited Edition Blu-ray release of Terry Gilliam’s legendary psychedelic movie, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Entitled ‘Broken Dreams and Vegas Flashbacks’, it was an opportunity to roll out some counterculture history alongside trippy film exposition, touching on Ginsberg and Kerouac as precursors of the Haight-Ashbury scene, which also involved Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Alan Watts, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.

In addition, I mention the work of pioneer acid chemists, such as Owsley Stanley and Nick Sand, whose mission it was to transform the world through pharmaceutical elevation – a project that went somewhat awry in relation to Thompson’s characters.

That kind of forges a link between the two pieces of writing, since my ‘First Trip’ was undertaken in a similar period, using Operation Julie acid, manufactured by Richard Kemp who had very much the same vision as his American counterparts. And again that particular component of the ‘Acid Revolution’ didn’t quite go according to plan!

The new two-disc edition of the movie features a 4K restoration and a host of extras, including documentaries, commentaries, interviews, archive footage and image galleries.

The perfect-bound book containing my essay also has another on ‘Thompson on Film’ by Dr. William Stephenson, a 1999 interview with Terry Gilliam by Ian Christie and original production notes.

There is also double-sided fold-out poster of the original theatrical one-sheet and a sketch by Terry Gilliam, plus collectors’ postcards.

More information: Arrow Video

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