This piece appeared in Alan Moore's short lived but magnificent Dodgem Logic magazine. I submitted it with a layout that sought to recreate the heyday of Oz Magazine and its contemporaries. Unfortunately some files I'd sent didn't turn up in the right place at the right time, and the piece was laid out - nicely enough - by someone who didn't know what I had in mind. So, for better or worse, here is how I intended it to look. Once again, my thanks to Zane Kesey and poster artist Chris Shaw for permission to use some of the images shown here. Enjoy. I did.
A few words of update seem appropriate, particularly with regard to the final page of this piece. In 2015, the Grateful Dead members who are still with us got together with some of their associates and staged their 'Fare Thee Well' anniversary concerts in June and July, celebrating 50 years since the band began. Three of the originals are now gigging as Dead And Company, with various recruits including guitarist John Mayer. Like many of their post '95 line ups I'm not sure it will last more than a year or two. More interesting to me, at least, is the separate path being followed by bassist Phil Lesh. He and his wife now run a music venue/eatery in California named 'Terrapin Crossroads' (TXR), where many of the surviving older and subsequent generations of psych musicians play regularly - sometimes with Phil on bass in 'Phil Lesh & Friends' line ups. He also gigs there with an occasional band (Including one of his sons of guitar and vocals) under the name Communion. Communion play original material plus Dead and other covers. Check out their February appearence at TXR online - a fine, excellently performed set of songs, and very much the embodiment of the West Coast psychedelic rock sound.
Meanwhile the David Nelson Band keeps on keeping on, releasing a fine album 'Once in a Blue Moon' last year, and doing regular tours in the USA. Nelson also revived the New Riders of the Purple Sage around the time I originally wrote the article, and they have released two excellent albums with a large number of songs co-written with Robert Hunter. Three of the remaining DNB still moonlight with Roger McNamee in Moonalice, also.
We've lost a luminary or two in recent years, inevitably. Most notable, I guess, being Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane whose mind left his body for good early in 2016. Social Deviant and International Times luminary Mick Farren left us in 2013, whilst performing on stage with a reformed line up of the Deviants. (And, as I should have done when I wrote the article, I should mention that 'Ptooff!' was the title of the Deviants' first album.)
Of the newer bands and line ups I mentioned in the article, don't expect all those names to be still with us now (now being March 2016, by the way). Some were, it turned out, pretty short lived. So look out for new line ups such as Heron Oblivion - which includes ex-members of Espers, Comets on Fire and Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound. And while you're at it check out some of the complete newcomers who I'd not heard of back in 2010 such as Chris Forsyth and Ryley Walker. Psychedelic music is very much with us still, and shows no signs of going away. Personally I'm well chuffed to think it'll still be around even after Phil Lesh, David Nelson and I are dead and gone.
The surviving and up and coming poster artists continue to get plenty of work, it seems, too. Whilst some of the Moonalice posters of late have veered into realms merely decorative, some psychedelic radiance still shines in a fair few of them. But Nelson, Lesh and the likes of Steve Kimock, Papa Mali and the still continuing Hot Tuna all publicise their shows with some great psych artwork.
As for the appearences of the psychedelic muse in literature, I'd recommend work by the ever reliable Iain Sinclair, the well-informed and highly intelligent John Higgs, and the challenging but potentially rewarding work of Steve Aylett. Oh and you might like to check out this new book of short stories called 'Wilful Misunderstandings' that's out in April - there's a touch of acidity to quite a few of them!
As when I wrote in 2010, it concerns me that most of the names I'm mentioning are those of men. I know there are some highly talented and somewhat visionary women working in the poster art field. (I recently bought a real gem of a poster by Carolyn Ferris, for example.) And the ex-Esper in Heron Oblivion is Meg Baird. But I bet there's more, and I'd love to know about them. Update me folks ([email protected]). I wanna know!
July 2020 - update!
Things move on, as inevitably they must. Since I wrote the additional section above, the psychedelic/jam band scene continues to thrive but names and line-ups change. I'm not going to attempt a summary just now, not sure where to begin! Some of the survivors I mentioned are still with us. Phil Lesh just turned 80 but continues to play with his '& Friends' and 'Terrapin Family Band' line-ups (whilst his son's band, 'Midnight North', appear to be developing a following of their own). David Nelson survived a tussle with colon cancer and continues to play - recent 'singles' can be bought as downloads and feature lyrics sent to Nelson by Robert Hunter in his final years. The loss of Hunter last year was, of course, a major event. Plenty of fine tributes appeared in a special issue of Relix mag in the autumn, and my own tribute appeared in online magazine Gonzo, issue 359/60. Many of the middle aged and younger bands do tend to veer towards an updated form of prog-rock, others head for the thrashy end of psych. Perhaps it's my age now, but I find myself sticking with known likes more than seeking new. One band I don't think I've mentioned seem to me to be carrying the torch rather well - and they are based in London. Known as 'The Green Ray', they've been going under that name since the late 90s. Founder members were Richard Treece and Ken Whaley, once of 'Help Yourself', but sadly both of these gents have died in the past few years. The band, however, goes on - with former drummer (and brother to Ken) Simon Whaley playing lovely, psychedelic lead guitar. Their long time association with Barry 'the Fish' Melton has continued, and you can find plenty of videos of Barry's UK summer visit gigs with them on YouTube - along of course with the band on their own. Recent album 'Five Points of Light' on Reckless Records comes highly recommended.