Reading Robert Stone’s memoir (he’s about to get stomped by a quartet of redneck sailors — and he’s a guy who was in the Navy himself — back in the era where beards and long hair were on the Stompable Offense list along with black skin and a female smart mouth), prompts me to reflect on the spring and summer of 1975 when I encountered Ken Kesey a few times. More later. But a couple anecdotes now.
Kesey offered me two bits of music wisdom. At one of the numerous parties at Maggie’s house (yes, that Maggie), Kesey was staring at the cover of Let It Be as it played in the background. “It’s the Beatles’ worst album,” he declared. “And it’s still ten times better than anyone else’s.” Both before and after that he mentioned how much he dug Rahsaan Roland Kirk and that one of his absolute favorites was the 1972 version of “the Old Rugged Cross” from Blacknuss:
Weeks later, in a guest house on Kesey’s farm in Oregon I was puzzling over a then-recently-reissued mystic-manefesto oddity, The Urantia Book (very popular with rock stars), and was discussing it with satirist and Realist publisher Paul Krassner.
“I understand there’s a few crypto-racist and even anti-Semitic passages in it,” I said.
“Huh. You know,” replied Krassner, “my father once told me that ‘a man will sometimes write a whole book in order to include one sentence.'”
If you haven’t yet, you really gotta check out The Realist.