A Biography of Psychedelic America uncovers a hidden history of the biggest psychedelic distribution and belief system the world has ever known. Through a collection of fast-paced interlocking narratives, it animates the tale of an alternate America and its wide-eyed LSD-slinging graffiti writers of Central Park, the Dead-loving AI scientists of Stanford, utopian Whole Earth homesteaders, black market chemists, government-wanted Anonymous hackers, rogue explorers, East Village bluegrass pickers, spiritual seekers, Internet pioneers, entrepreneurs, pranksters, pioneering DJs, and a nation of Deadheads.
WFMU DJ and veteran music writer Jesse Jarnow draws on extensive new firsthand accounts from many never-before-interviewed subjects and a wealth of deep archival research to create a comic-book-coloured and panoramic American landscape, taking readers for a guided tour of the hippie highway-filled with lit-up explorers, peak trips, big busts, and scenic vistas, from Vermont to the Pacific Northwest, from the old world head capitals of San Francisco and New York to the geodesic dome-dotted valleys of Colorado and New Mexico. And with psychedelic research moving into the mainstream for the first time in decades, Heads also recounts the story of the quiet entheogenic revolution that for years has been brewing resiliently in the Dead’s Technicolor shadow.
Featuring over four dozen images, many never before seen-including pop artist Keith Haring’s first publicly sold work- Heads weaves one of the 20th and 21st centuries’ most misunderstood subcultures into the fabric of the nation’s history. Written for anyone who wondered what happened to the heads after the Acid Tests, through the ’70s, during the Drug War, and on to the psychedelic present, Heads collects the essential history of how LSD, Deadheads, tie-dye, and the occasional bad trip have become familiar features of the American experience.
“A lucid, illuminating, profound, and often hilarious history of how psychedelics have shaped this great nation not just music (though the Dead loom large), but across the entire cultural-spiritual landscape. As all goes to hell in a bucket, there are lessons here about what gives our lives meaning and the roads forward.”
-Will Hermes, author of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five, Years in New York That Changed Music Forever
“Herein Jesse Jarnow charts previously unwritten histories of acid culture, outlining some of the various trade routes to our contemporary illumination. With Grateful Dead as a vehicle for Trips Festival dissemination via ecstatic concert music and tour nomadism, psychedelics opened the doors and minds that led to our time. This book offers a document of how heads culture spread across Humbead’s Revised Map of the World.
It is not advisable to drive or operate heavy machinery while reading this book.”
-LEE RANALDO, Sonic Youth/Lee Ranaldo & The Dust
“This book reads like an actual acid trip. The web of stories and characters grows. almost too fast to fully understand and appreciate, yet whenever the breadth of the threads starts to feel overwhelming, Heads centres you with the Grateful Dead as the connective tissue and you willingly go along for the ride.”-GEOLOGIST, Animal Collective
Computers are good news, maybe the best since psychedelics, Stewart Brand wrote, Following the dealers and the Dead freaks united all the way to the frightening and thrilling future of the present, Jesse Jarnow puts on his Uncle Sam top hat and Fabulous Furry Freak Brother moustache and connects microdot after microdot, from the medical academy to Bronx graffiti taggers to Silicon Valley techies to all-night dancers.
He writes like he’s seen the universe a few times himself. He certainly builds one.” – MICHAELANGELO MATOS, author of The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America
“What a trip! Heads is a fascinating, thought-provoking, and vastly entertaining psychedelic ramble that artfully traces the Day-Glo lines zig-zagging through the acid culture that spawned the Grateful Dead, New York’s gritty graffiti/street art scene, the rise of Phish and other jam bands, the rave explosion, and even the evolution of Burning Man. Jarnow’s kaleidoscopic tale is populated by an amazing array of artists, musicians, pirates, schemers, drifters, dreamers, free-thinkers, libertines, rogues, and visionaries. It’s a great story, wonderfully told.” – BLAIR JACKSON, coauthor, of This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead and author of Garcia: An American Life