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Tripping the light fantastic!,
This review is from: Trippers (Paperback)
For those of us who (allegedly) `grew up' in `flower power's' early 70s wake, Trippers will amaze you with its period accuracy. We, freaks, as we called ourselves at the time, thought we were individual, yet take a look down the time tunnel and there, sat in a Leicester pub, is Bill Booker with his chums dressed just how my friends and I dressed, listening to the same music, doing the same drugs and having the same conversations. Damn- we were conformists after all! But what a conformity it was!
Trippers, is Booker's psychedelic memoir of one summer in 1971, a summer that revolved around houses and bars of ill repute and topped off with a fateful road trip to the coast. Imagine psychedelic summer hanging round with Jack Kerouac, Tim Leary, and Alan Bennett and you'll start to get a flavour of what's going on
Booker's world - as was mine- was one of small cliques of hairy friends, dubious fashions and record shops in which the soundtrack to our lives were quaintly listed under the heading `progressive' or `underground'. Weirdness, the occult and eastern philosophies hung in the air along with the omnipresent lysergic glitter, and the world, the universe even, seemed limitless. Dope came as standard with the lifestyle, LSD the secret ingredient. It's almost impossible to convey an LSD experience in print but Booker tries and excels, right down to the little rituals all groups of trippers had and the weird little games they played to freak themselves out. Booker and his chums stared at paintings to get the `whoopability', we used to do it with mirrors. His clique had The Trippers, the- not-necessarily-real elemental forces made your trip what it was. Our version of trip-lore had The Intergalactic Drug Squad, who did pretty much the same thing, but were perhaps a tad more sinister.
Tiring of Leicester and its grimy sameness, Booker and his motley crew head off to Weymouth where they pitch tent and go about the business of a Withnail-on-drugs style holiday. Acid is duly procured and taken and the trip starting on p. 189 is on a par with trip experiences described in any other acid memoir. Coming down from this trip, with Pink Floyd playing in the background Booker almost suffers `Death by English epiphany' as Granchester Meadows splashes about his synapses.
Most acidheads were on a quest in those days. Many of them, with or without the drug, still are. And Booker closes with some acid-fuelled philosophising. Let's face it we've all been there. Acid philosophy often sounds trite, but that doesn't make it any less true. `Your senses are your friends- invite them to your party'- why not? `Know "I matter, I have the right to exist. Possibilities are infinite. Love is life". As good a message to live by as any message you'll get from a formal religion. Do you think this might be why acid was outlawed?
Booker and his friends considered themselves part of the The Semi-Secret Society of Freaks. I was and you probably were too, even if you didn't know it. If you were `there', you'll read Trippers with a warm glow of recognition and possibly longing for a time when things were simpler and weirder, all at the same time, usually on the same day. If you weren't there but just like a ripping yarn and an insight into an alien culture, then you'll laugh and shake your head throughout this opus. Trippers is never going to be ranked along with Leary, Watts. Huxley and other lofty psychedelic brethren, but it's a solid, raw and honest account of how it was, and one that doesn't take itself too seriously. And it's probably the only memoir you'll ever read that mentions Principal Edwards Magic Theatre!