Amazon Streaming: Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place
I haven't been watching much T.V. lately. Over the weekend I decided to look for something interesting to watch and stumbled across this documentary about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. What a pleasant surprise. When I came across this documentary on Amazon I had to watch it.
I grew up with a few devout Dead Heads and attended a few shows in my time. I grew up hearing the legendary stories of these guys. For those that don't know, many credit Ken Kesey with starting or at the very least kicking off the counter-culture movement of the 1960s. He was the author of One Flew Over The Cukoos Nest, basically discovered the Grateful Dead, and ushered in the psychedelic culture of the 60s.
In truth, the counter-culture movement of the sixties was fueled by the beat generation of the 50s. The best part of this film is that there are appearances from many of the beat generation as well. Iconic figures like Kerouac, Ginsberg, and even Timothy Leary. These guys paved the way, but Ken Kesey and the Pranksters pushed it "Further" :)
Stories of the Acid Test parties may have been exaggerated or they were just toned down for this documentary. However, this actually ends at the Acid Test parties and starts with a trip to NY. The Acid Test parties are more like a mention at the end of the film.
This is basically the birth of the Merry Pranksters and where it all started. In this documentary, Ken Kesey and the Pranksters buy the "Further" bus, redecorate it and start their adventure driving cross country to the Worlds Fair in NY. The driver of the bus is the great Neal Cassady from Jack Kerouac's novels and adventures.
It should have been titled "Misadventures In America While Traveling On Acid".
What a wild group. I love the beat generation. Could you imagine bumping into these guys in 1964? A bus full of hippies, poets, artists, and beatniks. I couldn't imagine how fun this "trip" must have been.
1960s counterculture was the start of the peace movement, equal rights, and feminism. Ken Kesey's acid test parties kicked off the revolution and inadvertently created the Grateful Dead. This was woke culture well before anyone even thought about waking up. They weren't woke, they were just being themselves.
What a long strange trip it's been!
Basically, the documentary covers the purchase of the bus, the redecorating and painting of it, and the trip to the Worlds Fair in NY. It ends by talking about the acid test parties and talking a little about the Grateful Dead. There was some great Warlocks footage. (The Grateful Dead were the Warlocks and the house band for the acid test parties before they were the Grateful Dead. My understanding is the Grateful Dead formed when the Acid Test parties ended and Jerry decided he wanted to keep the party going so he didn't have to get a "real" job.)
They do talk a little about the government LSD experiments in which Ken Kesey participated. According to the documentary, they weren't told about the CIA's involvement and thought they were testing medicine that would help change the world and put an end to mental illness. They had no idea the CIA was experimenting with mind control and considering using it for enhanced interrogation.
There really are a lot of conspiracy theories about the early acid test parties and CIA involvement. This documentary doesn't really touch on that at all. As a matter of fact, Ken claims he had no idea the CIA was involved at all until well after the fact.
I really enjoyed this documentary a lot. It was really cool hearing the stories from the perspective of the people that were actually there. The adventures and misadventures were fun to listen to as well.
I wonder if they realized they'd be making hippie history as they embarked on this trip.
The movie only got 6.8 out of 10 stars on IMDb, but I enjoyed this one a lot. I may even purchase it and add it to my movie collection.
If you're interested in finding out more, you can stream the documentary on Amazon. Here's a link to the official website and I'll leave you with the movie trailer.
Neal Cassady - from Jack Kerouac's stories
Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead appear as the Warlocks from archive footage.
Kerouac, Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and more.
Run time: 1 hour 47 minutes.
Image credits: Further bus (WikiCommons) Header (IMDb screenshot) Warlocks (IMDb image used under fair-use)