Trip texts revisited

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An update to a post from several years ago about the handful of significant books that appear in Roger Corman’s The Trip (1967). The earlier post was prompted by a DVD viewing; this update has been prompted by a re-viewing via blu-ray which yielded screen-grabs showing more detail. As I’ve no doubt said before, one of the pleasures of home viewing is being able to scrutinise film frames in this manner, something that was previously only possible if you were a writer with access to a cinema print.

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Corman’s film is probably the only feature from American International Pictures that contains any kind of extraneous intellectual reference. The AIP ethic was always “shoot it fast and cheap”, a production rule that had no time for winking to the hip contingent of the audience with books, of all things. Leave that stuff to the French. The Trip was still shot fast and cheap but Corman had been stretching himself increasingly while making his cycle of Poe films, especially with The Masque of the Red Death which had a longer production schedule, a British cast and crew, and a symbolic finale that sets it apart from its rivals at Hammer and other studios. The Trip is as far-out as Corman gets, the cut-up shots of Peter Fonda stumbling in delirium around Sunset Boulevard wouldn’t be out of place in any underground film of the period.

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The surprising thing about the books that appear in the scene where Fonda’s character, Paul, drops his acid is that they’re perfectly appropriate items of set decoration but only two of them—the unmissable copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and David Solomon’s LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug—would have been discernible to an audience. The latter inclusion is probably more to do with the three magic letters being so prominent on its cover than anything else, although it is the kind of book you’d find in a house owned by lysergic voyagers. The blu-ray detail now reveals more of the book hiding behind it although this one has eluded my attempts to search for a match: “The [something]….”? I thought it might be The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran but none of the editions prior to 1967 resemble the cover.

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The main discovery this time round was finding a match for the book hidden by Howl, a title that I now confidently declare to be the 1962 Avon edition of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. (The reds and blues of the cover art are more discernible in a full-frame shot.) When watching the DVD I thought those words might be “Hugo Award Winner” but couldn’t make out an author’s name, and “Award Winner” was a guess. The book might also have been written by someone named Hugo… Heinlein’s novel was a hippy favourite in the 1960s, one of several books together with The Prophet, Richard Brautigan’s novels and poetry, Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf, etc, that were popular with turned-on readers. The irony of the author of Starship Troopers being mooned over by the love ‘n’ peace crowd wasn’t lost on the younger generation of SF authors but their criticisms didn’t travel outside genre circles. Heinlein could evade opprobrium for being one of the signatories of an ad in Galaxy for June, 1968, supporting the war in Vietnam because hippies en masse weren’t reading SF magazines.

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As noted in the earlier post, the book behind the Heinlein is a 1960 edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which I was only able to identify because I own a copy of the same edition. Behind this there lurks another title whose identity is now going to nag at me. The cover decoration means it will be easy to find if it ever turns up somewhere. But will I remember it when it does? We’ll see.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alice’s Adventures in the Horse Hospital
LSD-25 by The Gamblers
More trip texts
Trip texts
Acid albums
Acid covers
Lyrical Substance Deliberated
The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson
Enter the Void
In the Land of Retinal Delights
Haschisch Hallucinations by HE Gowers
The art of LSD
Hep cats

Weekend links 478

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Poster by Tadanori Yokoo for The Trip (1967).

• Post of the week is this long-overdue introduction by Warren Hatter to the French rock and electronic music of the 1970s and 80s, a variety of Continental culture which has never commanded the same level of interest in the Anglophone world as its German equivalent. The music made in Germany in the 1970s became popular in Britain thanks to record labels UA and Virgin, and support from enthusiasts like John Peel, but the label “Krautrock” demonstrates how even a favourable form could be promoted in a manner not much better than a tabloid slur. French underground music, as Hatter notes, was never recognised enough to be explicitly labelled although the term “Eurorock” was common for a while in the UK music press, useful for avoiding the slurs while also ignoring national boundaries. Now that German music of the period has been thoroughly explored, resurrected and plundered, more attention may be given to the musicians across la Manche.

Related: Eurock, the long-running distributor/publisher/website/podcast; David Elliott’s Neumusik fanzine, 1979–82; Richard Pinhas: Electronique Guerilla – A Profile by Tony Mitchell; and (linked here before) a Discogs list, French Underground Rock—1967/1980.

• More music: The Flower Called Nowhere, a previously unreleased instrumental version by Stereolab, and Midsummer’s Queen by Meadowsilver.

• Hard Time for the Hardcore: Nick Pinkerton on the pleasure of long feature films, and a decent article once you’re past the stupid sub-heading.

• Coming soon from Strange Attractor Press: Bass, Mids, Tops, An Oral History of Sound System Culture by Joe Muggs & Brian David Stevens.

Anthony Quinn reviews It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track, Ian Penman’s collection of music essays.

Bajo el Sigo de Libra on the art of Touko Valio Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland.

• Territory of Dreams: Becca Rothfeld on the world of Bruno Schulz.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 601 by Sa Pa.

• RIP Richard Williams, master animator.

A trailer for The Trip. RIP Peter Fonda.

The Trip (1966) by Donovan | Trippin’ Out (1967) by Something Wild | The Trip (1968) by Park Avenue Playground

Trip texts

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I would have changed the subject today if it wasn’t for spotting a copy of David Solomon’s LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug (1964) in Roger Corman’s notorious and rather creditable stab at psychedelia, The Trip (1967). Corman’s film is an oddity in his run of AIP exploitation films in being far less condemnatory than you’d expect (although Peter Fonda’s character isn’t always enjoying his experience), and must also be the only film in the whole AIP canon with signifying texts.

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By the time Solomon’s book makes an appearance, Fonda’s character, Paul, has started freaking out but earlier on, during his conversations with John (Bruce Dern), we have Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (1956) shouting out of the frame. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” Okay Rog, we get it.

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There’s more, however. Behind Howl there’s another book whose identity eludes me, while behind that you can make out the red typography and white dorje symbol from the 1960 OUP edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The only reason I recognised this is because I own that edition so the cover is very familiar. This would be a popular text in an acid-tripper’s apartment; John tells Paul to “Relax and float down stream”, a line that recapitulates the advice given in Leary, Metzner and Alpert’s The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964). Most surprising for me about this inclusion is that The Tibetan Book of the Dead features a lot more prominently in that other major film about psychedelic experience, Enter the Void (2009). Am I the only person to have made this material connection? Probably. Does anyone care? Probably not, but I do like recording these associations.

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Cover design by Lawrence Ratzkin.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Acid albums
Acid covers
Lyrical Substance Deliberated
The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson
Enter the Void
In the Land of Retinal Delights
The art of LSD
Hep cats