I did not really know Patrick Lundborg—who died earlier this year, at the age of 47—but he was clearly a guy who loved psychedelic music and the context in which it was created. His writings about the stuff (Acid Archives, The 13th Floor Elevators Complete Reference File and Psychedelia, primary amongst them) are well-researched, highly opinionated and very readable. Patrick's presence will definitely be missed, but his work remains, and he also left a few projects in gestation at the time of his death. First among these is the highly mysterious LSD Underground 12 LP.
Virtually nothing is known about who, why or how the album was created. In his liner notes, Lundborg writes about seeing ads for the LP in several American underground newspapers from the fall of 1966. Described in these ads as being the first LP recorded by musicians under the influence of LSD (which was legal in California until October 6, 1966), it was obviously something well worth hearing. But after trying to track down a copy of the record, Patrick came to the belief it had probably never been issued. At least, no dealers or collectors had ever run into it. And so the mantle of “First Album Recorded on Acid” was returned to Ken Kesey's The Acid Test LP on Sound City, which documented a portion of the SF State Acid Test (part of the Whatever It Is Festival) in that same October.
“I like to think the album was called this, because 12 is the age at which I discovered LSD.”
But, not so fast—behold—a copy of LSD Underground 12 showed up on eBay. Mr. Lundborg secured this copy. And so it is that you, me and everyone else can enjoy the odd pleasures of a release whose singularity is based on when it was recorded, as much as anything else. Presumably the session dates from earlier in '66, and Lundborg speculates it may have been related to the LSD album that Lawrence Schiller put together for Capitol. But thus far, no one really knows. Even the title is a puzzler.
I like to think the album was called this, because 12 is the age at which I discovered LSD. 1969 was my first year away at prep school, and the Bantam paperback edition of Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was issued that October. No book has ever had anything approaching the impact that one delivered to my brain. Wolfe's tales of Ken Kesey, the Acid Tests, Neal Cassady and Furthur resonated deeply. So when I had a chance to drop some acid that November, I took it, and my internal cosmos was permanently reconfigured. And if I'd had this album up in my dorm room that fall, it would've gotten a lot more play than the The Moody Blues' In Search of the Lost Chord. At least I like to think it would have.
“It sure as hell sounds like it is what it claims to be — a bunch of musicians on acid.”
Heard today, the music will not sound particularly revolutionary to anyone who's spent time with the recordings of ensembles like Red Crayola, Intersystems, The Deep, Cromagnon, Gravity Adjusters Expansion Band, Citizens For Interplanetary Activity, and so on. But it is not exactly like any of them, either, and it sure as hell sounds like it is what it claims to be — a bunch of musicians on acid.
Tapes are sped up so the guitar sounds like some weird synth in spots, with spastic percussion and Lilliputian mouth-noises poured over the whole skreeking mess, like some sort of Bruce Haack nightmare scenario. Then parts slow down a bit and things space out like the weird little tastes of live '68 Grateful Dead you might put on mix tapes for people who reflexively say they hate the Dead. Teasing apart the layers of action isn't very easy, but it's fun trying to figure out what's going on, at what speed, and whether it's meant to sound like this is all some massive joke. The piano/guitar duet near the beginning of the second side seems to be a searing blast of real time audio, but who the fuck really knows?
“Tapes are sped up so the guitar sounds like some weird synth in spots, with spastic percussion and Lilliputian mouth-noises poured over the whole skreeking mess, like some sort of Bruce Haack
The LSD Underground 12 LP will be little more than a curiosity for many people, but it's a fun, whacked-out listen, and has an abstraction-index that keeps it from cohering into a fixed form even after repeated listenings. In the flux-bubble of acid-time all opposites reconcile, and so it is here. Over and over.
Begin again, Patrick. So long.