“We just set up the equipment, everyone got high, and stuff would happen,” Jerry Garcia says of the six months the Grateful Dead spent playing music at Ken Kesey’s infamous LSD parties in the mid-1960s, a run best known as the Acid Tests.
The PBS series Blank on Blank has delved into the Library of Congress to animate a portion of a 1987 interview with Garcia as he muses on the band’s psychedelic experimentation. Initially conducted by Joe Smith for his book Off the Record: An Oral History of Popular Music, the video focuses on the early incarnation of the Grateful Dead, back when they were going by the name the Warlocks, dropping LSD, and letting the Acid Tests inform the direction of the band. The animation is the latest installment in the on-going series, which chronicles the recorded wisdom of everyone from Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison to Fidel Castro and David Foster Wallace.
At one point Smith pointedly asks, “You guys now, you’re doing some acid, you’re playing around. What did you expect to be? We’re you going to be the Beatles? Were you going to be a great rock and roll [band], what were you going to do?” Garcia is quick to answer that they didn’t care what they were doing specifically; they just wanted to have fun. “We fell in with the Acid Tests. We were having the most fun we’d ever had . . . I mean it was just incredible.”