The psychedelic movement followed three common stages of the LSD trip: come up, rush, come down. Three stages narrated in music through live recordings.
Singing with a warm and broken voice, Janis Joplin invites the Canadian audience to come and booze with her at her house in San Francisco. Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick thanks a spectator for offering her a cookie, before she starts singing a Lewis Caroll and Ravel-inspired ode to LSD. Amon Düül II are playing in London. Renate Knaup’s voice shouts a mystical delirium, accompanied by two drums in unison and an alien-sounding guitar. “You alright?” Jagger asks, sounding like he’s embodied the devil.
The Who transmute an old Mose Allison song into an electrified cymbal-charged hymn. The heavy and bewitching sound of John Fogerty’s guitar transports us to Louisiana, a land inhabited by spirits and sorcerers.
Swirls of notes and percussion... The Byrds improvise a long raga-influenced rock, inspired by Ravi Shankar and John Coltrane. Intense, mind-blowing, and even at times demanding.
The descent begins. Quicksilver Messenger Service revisits a Bo Diddley standard by slowing it down considerably. In a similar manner, Grateful Dead extend Reverend Gary Davis’ blues to turn it into a gigantic memento mori. John Mayall sings California over a haunting bass line. The improvisation turns melancholy, particularly when the roaring cries of the saxophone start to resonate. In the middle of the night, Beefheart launches into the blues in front of a huge mud puddle that separates him from the audience. Amongst them, an impressionable teenage Joe Strummer is changed forever. Neil Young sings with the desperation of a man ready to kill his girlfriend with a bullet in the head. Leonard Cohen plays, as the Isle of Wight Festival draws towards a gloomy failure, still unaware he would become the messiah in the imminent fall of the hippie movement. The imminence of this end is obvious in the baroque and tormented curses of Tim Buckley who, while already drowned in drugs and alcohol, will eventually lose his life to a drug overdose.
Jim Morrison shouts the words of a nightmare weaved in red hair and magical snakes. Hendrix pays tribute to the oppressed American Indians with “I Don’t Live Today”. His guitar screams, cries, convulses, seethes, agonizes. High on acid, Iggy Pop shouts out, climbs on spectators, spreads peanut butter on his chest, in front of the TV cameras. The Mothers Of Invention generate a deeply violent drone, by way of an end.
With Suicide, a ’60s garage standard (“96 Tears”) comes across like an industrial shock punctuated by chilling imprecations. Nico resurrects the apocalypse of the Doors to make it an electronic and terrifying mass that shook the Tokyo public in 1986. The Velvet's muse died two years later coming off a bike, after a long fall through heroine.
The ’80s were the final completion of the hippie agony.