Weekend links 497

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Poster by Zdenek Ziegler for Roma (1972), a film by Federico Fellini.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: a short history of Straight to Hell, a long-running fanzine launched by Boyd McDonald in 1971 dedicated to true stories of men having sex with other men. The post gives an idea of the contents but for a deep dive I’d suggest Meat (1994) at the Internet Archive, a collection of the best of the early editions of STH. Related: “Straight to Hell was an immensely popular underground publication. John Waters, William S. Burroughs, and Robert Mapplethorpe were fans; Gore Vidal called it ‘one of the best radical papers in the country.'” Erin Sheehy on Boyd McDonald’s determination to kick against the pricks.

• RIP psychedelic voyager and spiritual guide Richard Alpert/(Baba) Ram Dass. The Alpert/Ram Dass bibliography includes The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964), an acid-trip manual written in collaboration with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner from which John Lennon borrowed lines for the lyrics of Tomorrow Never Knows. But the most celebrated Ram Dass volume is Be Here Now (1971), a fixture of countless hippy bookshelves whose first editions were all handmade.

• “An Einstein among Neanderthals”: the tragic prince of LA counterculture. Gabriel Szatan talks to David Lynch, Devo and others about the eccentric songwriter, performer and voice of Lynch’s Lady in the Radiator, Peter Ivers.

• For the forthcoming centenary of Federico Fellini’s birth Stephen Puddicombe offers suggestions for where to begin with the director’s “exuberant extravaganzas”. Related: Samuel Wigley on 8½ films inspired by .

• “I met resident Tony Notarberardino for the first time in 2015 and entering his apartment was like crossing into another dimension.” Collin Miller explores the Chelsea Hotel.

• “More green tea, professor?” The haunted academic, a reading list by Peter Meinertzhagen. Related: Our Haunted Year: 2019 by Swan River Press.

• “30 July, Yorkshire. Thunder, which is somehow old-fashioned.” Alan Bennett’s 2019 diary.

• More acid trips: Joan Harvey on the resurgence of interest in psychedelic drugs.

• At Lithub: Werner Herzog’s prose script for Nosferatu the Vampyre.

Tief gesunken, a new recording by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore.

In Heaven (1979) by Tuxedomoon | Die Nacht Der Himmel (1979) by Popol Vuh | Roma (1981) by Steve Lacy

The kosmische design of Peter Geitner

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Cyborg (1973) by Klaus Schulze.

More German music design. Once you start delving into the music produced in Germany between 1969 and 1975 you eventually notice that a) the good albums generally have decent cover designs, and b) there are many justly forgotten albums with astonishingly tasteless artwork. Most of the well-known names were smart enough to craft a visual identity: Kraftwerk’s efforts have been explored here recently but there was also the Gothic Surrealism of Falk-U Rogner’s photo montages for Amon Düül II (worthy of a post in themselves); Neu! followed the lead of Kraftwerk with strikingly minimal presentation; Faust’s debut album was released on transparent vinyl in a clear sleeve while their second album was an all-black sleeve with a series of strange pictures inside, one for each song. Can are a notable exception in having no clear identity.

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Peter Geitner is unique in this scene in being the only graphic designer you can find who was creating any kind of consistent identity for a label and a group of artists. Almost all the work here is for Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser’s short-lived Kosmische Musik which replaced the earlier Die Kosmischen Kuriere. Both labels were offshoots of Ohr Records (Tangerine Dream’s original home), and catered mostly to the musicians based in Berlin, with a later detour to Switzerland. All the releases feature Geitner’s recurrent motifs of radiating stars and sunburst graphics. I think one of the reasons I like Geitner’s design is because I have a tendency to use similar spiky sunbursts in my own work. Whatever Geitner did after the collapse of Kosmische Musik I’ve yet to discover.

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The standard design for the vinyl labels. Many of the albums were released as quadrophonic mixes so the star logo also signifies multi-directional sound. Klaus Schulze’s album is nothing if not cosmic, four sides of treated strings and swirling synth noise.

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Seven Up (1973) by Timothy Leary & Ash Ra Tempel.

This is a reissue design that replaces the more common sleeve with its Walter Wegmüller doodles and poor layout. I didn’t used to like the music very much either, two sides of bluesy jams with Tim Leary and cohorts bellowing over the top. But it’s a historical oddity, a rare connection between the US psychedelic scene and the German music which took psychedelia in new directions.

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Acid albums

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LSD (1966).

A handful of album covers, all for the vinyl equivalents of the books and magazines in the Acid covers post. The album-as-documentary/essay is one of those curiosities that no one would ever produce today but in the 1960s there were still many of them around. All of these albums have been plundered for samples in recent times.

Capitol Records’ LSD is in two parts: The Scene, examining the attitudes of the youthful acid trippers, and The Trip, which looks at the acid experience itself. Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary and Sidney Cohen offer expert testimony. Side two apparently features a 5-minute recording of a bad trip to balance the proselytising elsewhere. Discogs shows the interior art which typically depicts the trippers as looking far more freaked out than people usually do on these occasions. The drug that regularly turns people into mewling, puking, unhinged maniacs is called alcohol.

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The Psychedelic Experience (1966) by Dr. Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner & Richard Alpert.

The album of the book of the same name from which John Lennon borrowed some lines for Tomorrow Never Knows. The cover shown here is from the CD which slightly altered the typography. Neither CD or vinyl have a credit for that nice piece of art. Side one is Going Out, side two is Coming Back.

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Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (1966) by Dr. Timothy Leary.

Timothy Leary’s doctor status was very much to the fore until possession of LSD was made illegal and he became public enemy no. 1. Here he talks for two sides about the drug. Typical ESP Disk cover art which tends to the cheap and perfunctory.

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LSD (1966) by Dr. Timothy Leary.

And Leary again on the same subject. It’s hard to believe there might have been enough of a market for four spoken-word albums on the subject of LSD in one year alone but that’s what we have here. After 1966 there was no further need to instruct the public, acid was out in the culture at large, and no longer required support or qualification from voices of authority.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
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

The Art of Tripping, a documentary by Storm Thorgerson

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How does this sound? 100 minutes of solidly informative documentary about the use of drugs by artists from the early 19th century on; a production that calls upon a remarkable cast of contributors (see below), with music by David Gilmour, and the whole thing “devised and directed” by Storm Thorgerson, better known as one third of the great Hipgnosis design team.

The Art of Tripping was broadcast in two parts in 1993 during the Without Walls arts strand on Channel 4 (UK). David Gale was the writer, with actor Bernard Hill playing the part of the narrator and guide. The programme managed to deal with a contentious subject without indulging in hysteria or insulting the intelligence of the audience, a rare thing today. Twenty years ago it was still possible to make a documentary about a popular subject without having any low-grade celebrity-du-jour offering their wretched opinion. The contributors here who aren’t medical people are almost all writers of one kind or another; Thorgerson and Gale punctuate the proceedings with a few actors who impersonate various historical figures.

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Without Walls was a very good series on the whole but this for me was a real highlight (no pun intended). In addition to it being a rare example of Storm Thorgerson working in television, the direction showed how it was possible to match the theme without recourse to cliché or flashy visuals. There isn’t a single moment of archive footage either. Thorgerson’s history of “socially unacceptable” drugs is structured as a journey through the levels of a multi-storey building, from ground floor to roof; being familiar with the director’s free-associative working methods I can imagine this being a result of thinking about getting high. Bernard Hill encounters the various commentators in successive rooms, each of which is furnished and lit to suggestively imply the drug in question. The use of lighting as a key motif is a smart one, and another metaphor, of course, for literal and symbolic (or spiritual) illumination. Editing effects are also deployed to thematically correspond to the different substances.

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This would be very successful even without a wide range of contributors but Thorgerson and company assembled a stunning array of different writers, many of whom I’d never seen on TV before, and many of whom didn’t turn up again. Some of them fill dual roles, so JG Ballard is on hand to enthuse about Naked Lunch, and appears later talking about his bad LSD trip. Similarly, Brian Aldiss talks about Anna Kavan, and also about Philip K Dick. Below there’s a rough list of the drugs covered and the people involved. In the two decades since this was made many of the people involved have since died, the director included, so the film now has the feel of a historical artefact. The Art of Tripping can be see in full at YouTube. This is how good British television used to be.

Opium
Dr Virginia Berridge (author), Grevel Lindop (author), Marek Kohn (author), Dr EMR Critchley (author), Phil Daniels (as Thomas De Quincey), Dr Tony Dickenson (neuropharmacologist), Dr Ian Walker (author), Thom Booker (as Edgar Allan Poe), Dr Peggy Reynolds (author)
Hashish
Prof John Hemmings (author), Ronald Hayman (author), Patrick Barlow (as Theophile Gautier), John McEnery (as Charles Baudelaire), Jon Finch (as Gérard de Nerval), Bernard Howells (lecturer, King’s College, London), June Rose (author), John Richardson (author), Margaret Crosland (author), Danny Webb (as Jean Cocteau), Robin Buss (translator), David Gascoyne (poet), George Melly (collector, Surrealist art)
Mescaline
Prof Eric Mottram (University of London), Francis Huxley (nephew of Aldous Huxley), Jay Stevens (author), Laura Huxley (widow of Aldous Huxley),
Psilocybin
Brian Cory (as Robert Graves), Paul O’Prey (author)
Marijuana / Nitrous Oxide
Harry Shapiro (author), Carolyn Cassady (author), Prof Ann Charters (author), Allen Ginsberg (poet)
Kief
Paul Bowles (author)
Heroin
JG Ballard (author), Prof Avital Ronell (author), Hubert Selby Jr (author), Brian Aldiss (author)
LSD
Dr Oscar Janiger (experimental psychiatrist), Diana Quick (as Anaïs Nin), Prof Malcolm Lader (psychopharmacologist), Dr Timothy Leary (author), Todd Boyco (as Andy Warhol)
Amphetamine
Lawrence Sutin (author)
Cocaine
Robert Stone (author), Prof. Annette Dolphin (neuropharmacologist)
MDMA

Previously on { feuilleton }
Storm Thorgerson, 1944–2013
Hipgnosis turkeys
Enter the Void
Opium fiends
La Morphine by Victorien du Saussay
In the Land of Retinal Delights
Haschisch Hallucinations by HE Gowers
Storm Thorgerson: Right But Wrong
Demon rum leads to heroin
The art of LSD
Hep cats
German opium smokers, 1900

The psychedelic art of Howard Bernstein

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Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (1967).

I made a post a while back about the work of Bob Pepper, an artist whose illustrations from the 1960s can also be described as psychedelic and who was equally visible in the music and book publishing worlds. Howard Bernstein (not to be confused with musician Howie B) wasn’t as prolific as Pepper but this post was prompted by the appearance at Sci-Fi-O-Rama of the swirling abstractions of his Roger Zelazny cover. Like Pepper, Bernstein produced album cover art as well as book covers although it’s possible the Zelazny piece may have been a one-off. This was the jacket of the first edition and a rather flagrant attempt by Doubleday to co-opt the trendiness of the psychedelic style for a science fiction readership. They tried something similar with the cover for Harlan Ellison’s landmark anthology Dangerous Visions in the same year, the art in that case being the work of Leo & Diane Dillon. The Zelazny cover caught my attention for another reason, the typography is a variation on the 19th century Kismet typeface by John F Cumming which I used for my two Alice in Wonderland calendars and which turns up regularly in psychedelic design. And while we’re considering conjunctions of music and science fiction, I ought to note that the Hawkwind song Lord of Light lifts its title from Zelazny’s novel.

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The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra, Vol. I (1965).

As for Bernstein’s music work, most of this appears to have been for Bernard Stollman’s eccentric ESP Disk label where the roster of artists included many free-jazz greats along with The Fugs, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary and fringe psychedelic groups such as Pearls Before Swine, Cromagnon, The Godz and others. Bernstein’s Cromagnon cover (below) exists in both monochrome and coloured versions but the monochrome one seems to be the original. In fact much of his art looks like it was drawn in black-and-white with the colours being created by separations at the print stage. His poster for The Godz is especially striking, so much so I’m surprised to find there isn’t more of his work around. Wolfgang’s Vault has a blacklight poster and there are some other blacklight works here. If anyone knows of other posters, please leave a comment although I suspect if there was much more then Wolfgang’s Vault would have the goods.

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