Stewart Brand, Father of Online Social-Networking

By |

For our fortieth anniversary, the editors of Rolling Stone have interviewed twenty artists and leaders who helped shape our time. Over the next four weeks, every day, we'll be debuting exclusive audio clrips from the Q&As, giving you unparalleled access to some of the most compelling personalities in history.

Today, we present technological visionary and Merry Prankster pal Stewart Brand, who is living proof that hippies can accomplish something once they get off the couch. Yeah, he was name-checked in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, rode shotgun on Ken Kesey's day-glo bus, and can theoretically be thanked for those Pink Floyd laser rock shows. But Brand's biggest accomplishment? Always on the cutting edge, Brand created in 1985 an online community called The Well, which in essence, is the original daddy-site and patient zero of something we call "MySpace." So be Brand's friend and listen as he talks about the 1960s (what he can remember, at least), the terrorism problem's problem and why things aren't nearly as bad as you think they are on this volatile planet. Listen to four highlights from the conversation. But for the magazine's definitive profile, pick up a copy of our Fortieth Anniversary issue, which hits newstands this Friday.

Brand was among the first ever to test LSD (when it was legal!), but all those trips didn't obscure his memory of the exact moment the '60s ended: "The success of the Monkees was a sign of something. People liked the Monkees! They thought they were important! Also, I quit acid in 1969. For me, the last trip was on the great bus race with Kesey and the Hog Farm in New Mexico. After that, I didn't want to mess with it anymore..."

Brand thinks the U.S. has something worse to fret about than hijacked planes and terror warnings -- our own fear: "Certainly the overreaction against terrorism is a much bigger problem than the terrorist events themselves..."

As Brand looks back, he concludes the '60s produced at least one good thing: The Grateful Dead: "Communes failed, drugs went nowhere, free love led pretty directly to AIDS. A lot of people thought Mao Tse-tung was a hero. Domes leaked. Graphic art was dreadful, except for Andy Warhol and Robert Crumb, the underground cartoonist. The rest was basically tie-dye. Music was good... "

4. Brand wants all the baby-boomers to grow up and stop worrying. Seriously. It's rubbing off on their kids: "Our world-framing event was the atomic bomb. For later boomers and on, the framing event was the man on the moon. Instead of the mushroom cloud, they had the photographs of the Earth from space -- a far more optimistic image. [That image] doesn't say death, it says life. It doesn't say, 'Separate and kill,' it says, 'Consider all at once.'"

Check back tomorrow for the next installment of our twenty-part audio interviews, featuring some of the most iconic and influential pop culture figures of the last 40 years. Tomorrow's interview is a can't-miss segment with one of the world's greatest living artists.

Here's a taste:
Lennon, to this day, it's hard to find a better singer than Lennon was, or than McCartney was and still is. I'm in awe of McCartney. He's about the only one that I am in awe of. He can do it all. And he's never let up..."

x