Life Is GOOD

Life Is GOOD

The Last Light Organ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Carrick   
Sunday, 14 February 2010 07:51
San Francisco was a huge part of the psychedlic movement to Tune In Turn On, and Drop Out. People threw some awesome parties, and the light shows of that era gave rise to Lasarium, and ultimately to giant rock spectacles costing millions of dollars.

I got inspired to pay homage to the last light organ - a real one, with three separate spinning optical platters, not the cheesy thing you got at radio shack that strobed three patio light sized bulbs. It came with a series of plexiglass discs filled with colored things or painted with designs. The wheels were positioned over an overhead projector and they rotated at differing speeds.

I had one in my living room for a whole day as it left town.
But that's another story. There are 250 more light show pictures over here:

Read this whole article at the TATE.

The Ambassador Theatre in Washington DC was a Baroque cinema palace from the silent days that was pressed into service for the psychedelic circuit in the late 1960s. San Francisco had the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom, New York had the Fillmore East and Washington had the Ambassador, where every weekend you could see one of those strangely named bands that played psychedelic music. I remember I showed up there a week early to see Canned Heat. When you're on psychedelics time sometimes plays tricks on you. Instead, the Strawberry Alarm Clock was playing. This was not cool. This was more uncool than going to see the Electric Prunes or Ultimate Spinach. But I decided to stay anyway.

The Ambassador itself was a cool place, where a person stoned enough to see Canned Heat could be entertained by the angels carved on the walls or the state-of-the-art psychedelic light show, which was the same sort of thing that was going on at the Fillmores. Dyes and coloured oils were swished in water and shown on overhead projectors, the kind of machines we studied maps on in school. This was mixed in with coloured gels, slides of mushroom clouds or American Indians, snatches of film - maybe a Three Stooges scene here and a train speeding into a tunnel there - and other lighting effects such as the strobe, which was usually switched on during a drum solo, highlighting the freak dancing of the more stoked audience members. But it's the pulsing blobs I remember, like chromosomes imploding in time with the band, a hopped-up visual artist doing action painting in real time on the canvas of our minds. As I drifted away from the stage, the band, dressed like warlocks in a Russ Meyer film, played their cheesy repertoire of acid-tinged muzak: Incense and Peppermints, Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow, Barefoot in Baltimore, Sit With the Guru...

I wandered around the room where black lights were strategically positioned so you could delight in your radiant teeth, and I discovered a strange machine with a viewing port that fit close around the eyes, like an old one-person movie viewer. It had a button on it that said "Zap". I put my face to the opening and pressed the button and got zapped. Literally. The word ZAP was imprinted on my retina by a flashed light. Delight turned to fear quickly. Okay, enough of the joke. Will it ever go away?

It went away. And so did the Strawberry Alarm Clock, and the Ambassador was demolished, but the light shows remain, deeply rooted in the acid flashback archives of my brain. Those pulsing blobs! They once had meaning
Last Updated on Sunday, 28 February 2010 02:24
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