music friday: the trips festival, 1966

The Trips Festival took place in San Francisco over three days, January 21-23, 1966. Quotes from Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test:

The Trips Festival was billed as a big celebration that was going to simulate an LSD experience, minus the LSD, using light effects and music, mainly....

“An LSD experience without LSD”—that was a laugh. In fact, the heads are pouring in by the hundreds, bombed out of their gourds, hundreds of heads coming out into the absolute open for the first time....

A hulking crazed whirlpool. That’s nice. Lights and movies sweeping around the hall; five movie projectors going and God knows how many light machines, interferrometrics, the intergalactic science-fiction seas all over the walls, loudspeakers studding the hall all the way around like flaming chandeliers, strobes exploding, black lights with Day-Glo objects under them and Day-Glo paint to play with, street lights at every entrance flashing red and yellow, two bands, the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company and a troop of weird girls in leotards leaping around the edges blowing dog whistles—and the Pranksters....

Three nights the huge wild carnival went on. It was a big thing on every level. For one thing, the Trips Festival grossed $12,500 in three days, with almost no overhead, and a new nightclub and dance-hall genre was born. Two weeks later Bill Graham was in business at the Fillmore auditorium with a Trips Festival going every weekend and packing them in. For the acid heads themselves, the Trips Festival was like the first national convention of an underground movement that had existed on a hush-hush cell-by-cell basis. The heads were amazed at how big their own ranks had become—and euphoric over the fact that they could come out in the open, high as baboons, and the sky, and the law, wouldn’t fall down on them. The press went along with the notion that this had been an LSD experience without the LSD. Nobody in the hip world of San Francisco had any such delusion, and the Haight-Ashbury era began that weekend.

Here is some video from the Festival. The music is the Grateful Dead playing "Viola Lee Blues":

The Dead's first album was released in 1967. Everyone agreed it failed to capture the band's live sound. It wasn't a hit ... there wasn't much interest in it as a Top 40 tune, and FM "Underground" radio was a few months away. There was a single from that album, and it got played on Bay Area radio ... I had to have heard it somewhere (I was 13). I was never a Dead Head, and the A-side of the single, "The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)", remains a favorite of mine to this day ... it's a lovely fantasy of life in the Haight in 1967:

See that girl, barefootin' along,
Whistlin' and singin', she's a carryin' on.
There's laughing in her eyes, dancing in her feet,
She's a neon-light diamond and she can live on the street.
Hey hey, hey, oh, by the way, come and (party every day)
Hey hey, hey, oh, by the way, come and (party every day)
 
Well everybody's dancin' in a ring around the sun
Nobody's finished, we ain't even begun.
So take off your shoes, child, and take off your hat.
Try on your wings and find our where it's at.
Hey hey, hey, come (party every day)
Hey hey, hey, come (party every day)
 
Take a vacation, fall out for a while,
Summer's comin' in, and it's goin' outa style.
Well lite up smokin' buddy, have yourself a ball.
Cause your mother's down in Memphis, won't be back 'till the fall.
Hey hey, hey, come right away
Come and join the (party every day)

I can't overstate how much this was all part of my ambition in 1967: to be a hippie.


manos: the hands of fate (harold p. warren, 1966)

This is the eighteenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 7th annual challenge, and my third time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", and last year's at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21"). Week 18 is called "One-and-Done Week":

At least no one can say they didn't try. Though the reason behind some of these single directorial filmographies may be apparent upon viewing, there are certainly a number of filmmakers who left us wanting more after just one outing. A fun, grab-bag experiment.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film by a director who has only directed one film. Here is a smaller list with focus on notable names, and here is a larger compendium.

The story goes that Howard Hawks and Ernest Hemingway were fishing together, and Hawks told Hemingway he could make a good movie out of Hemingway's worst book, which Hawks said was To Have and Have Not. The resulting film was a hit. Maybe it came from a bad novel, but it had Howard Hawks as a director. It starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, with a supporting cast of everyone from Walter Brennan to Hoagy Carmichael.  At one point, William Faulkner came in to work on the script. Even coming from a poor source, Hawks and Warner Brothers could produce something fun.

Some 20 years later, Sterling Silliphant, who had written mostly for television and who later won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, met a man named Harold P. Warren. Warren, an insurance and fertilizer salesman, bet Silliphant he could make a horror movie all on his own. Silliphant took up the bet. Now, Warren wasn't Howard Hawks. Warner Brothers wasn't bankrolling the affair (Warren got the money together himself, eventually getting $19,000). With such a low budget, he couldn't pay the cast or the crew, so he gave them a cut of the hoped-for profits. Warren also saved money by directing, writing, producing, and starring in the film. With no budget for cast or crew, Warren wasn't going to get Walter Brennan or Hoagy Carmichael, so the rest of the cast was culled from local talent. The result, Manos: The Hands of Fate was no To Have and Have Not ... instead, it regularly makes Worst Movie Ever lists.

It was the only movie Warren ever directed ... I'm pretty sure it was the only movie any of the people associated with it ever made. It is godawful. It's not worth the time to list everything that is wrong with the movie. It's impossible to see any vision that Warren might have had, the way Ed Wood movies, bad as they were, often were recognizably Ed Wood movies. There isn't a single moment worth watching.

The film was mostly forgotten ... heck, it only had a few local screenings in 1966. But then it turned up as an episode on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and it became an "instant" cult classic. Even if you are not a fan of MST3K, you'll probably find their version more watchable than the original, Because the original was just that bad.