Wednesday, November 23, 2016

UCLA Acid Test (CXL)

! ad: Daily Bruin, March 16, 1966, p. 2.

Suggested audio accompaniment for this post:, especially 30 minutes in when Ken Babbs is just raving, and things are just WILD.

The UCLA Daily Bruin has been digitized, and is accessible via the Daily Bruin Print Archive at The access is rather cumbersome, basically at the volume level, and this runs from spring to spring. I recommend 1) targeting a date and searching on it, 2) verifying the resulting date range, 3) clicking on "Back to Item Details" toward the top-left, 4) right-click-and-saving-file-as... (or whatever you Macs do), using either the PDF (quite large files) or, for a first sweep, text (much smaller). The text can be searched for your key terms. But I will say, just looking at the text, the OCR'ing appears highly imperfect. So you might need to try many different searching strategies to find anything. I had a pretty low yield rate on the things I was interested in.


Since I didn't have a canceled UCLA Acid Test in my cxl spreadsheet field, it didn't exist for me, even though I guess your average w00k might know of it. So I got inordinately excited when I found stuff around it, until reality came around and burst my bubble.

Anyway, still fun.


I found the preview first, and it is just about the most distilled piece of Babbsiana you'll ever encounter.
Barring the apocalypse, GSA ASUCLA, will allow the Merry Pranksters of Intrepid Trips, Inc. to let loose their version of interpersonal nuclear fission. The Acid Test, from 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. March 19 in The Student Union Grand Ballroom. What is The Acid Test? Well, it is a sort of a happening, a very total happening. There is no audience, no group of performers; everyone comes and the thing happens. There is music — The Grateful Dead will play genuine rock-'n-roll for dancing. But anyone can play music — there will be mikes and amplifiers available — and any person or group is urged to bring their equipment. There will be movies, three or four at a time, of the Pranksters and others doing whatever they do. But anyone can bring their own films and/or equipment. There will be people in strange clothes; come as you will. There will be strange lights, strobes and color wheels; bring more if need be. There will be Neal Cassady of On The Road doing battle with the fabled Thunder Machine, Roy's Audioptics, the Electric Man, the Psychedelic Symphonette, assorted miracles and marvels, more noise and yet more music. Tickets ($1.50 for students) are on sale at the Kerckhoff Hall Ticket Office or can be purchased at the door.
! preview: “Acid Test to Happen Here,” Daily Bruin, March 11, 1966, p. 14

In my recent post on the 1/17/69 UCSB show I posted about the winky-winky LSD references. Three years earlier, before acid was illegalized, there is no winking, there is just straight-up "come drink some acid punch with us and trip your _____ off right here on campus", presumably decodeable by enough Initiates to make it a happening.

I love the thought of Cassady ("of On The Road") doing battle with Babbs's Thunder Machine, the soundimage of whatever Roy's Audioptics was capable of laying down, "mindless chaos" as Garcia says in the late 33 minute of the audio accompaniment - the whole scene, naturally enough. Is "the Electric Man" anyone special? I'll leave this mostly to the commentariate to have at. Links to existing work will be gratefully received.


The ad mentions Tiny Tim and Paul Butterfield, whom we were just discussing in a comment thread, coincidentally enough, and drops the canonical name for the liquid medium of choice. Uncle Sam is in the house. Good stuff.


Universities document themselves religiously, full of their own senses of historical importance, and so I imagine that there might be materials in the University Archives about this. I didn't know of this cancellation, and even a closer scan of the Daily Bruin and probably the LA Free Press would reveal more. Perhaps Ross has already gone through it all and already knows everything I am saying! I thought it was fun.


  1. There's a really fully amazing article about the cancelled test in the 3/25/66 LA Free Press, "UCLA Acid Test Cancelled, Grateful Dead Cry 'Foul!'", complete with a visit to the Dead's house in not-Watts and, I think, the first published interview with the band. It also includes Rock Scully playing a preview of the band's new single coming out NEXT WEEK featuring "I Know You Rider" backed with "Otis On A Shakedown Cruise," making it also the earliest on-the-record piece of Rock bullshit.

    1. That does sound like a remarkable early article!

      The acid test was moved to Carthay Studios at the last minute after the UCLA cancellation. (I guess the university was frightened by the prospect of an on-campus Acid Test!)
      I think that's well-known, as mentioned here:

      Maybe it missed the JGMF canceled-show list because it was considered "moved" instead of "canceled?"

    2. Probably right. That's a bad rule - I should just include everything more consistently.

    3. The LA Free Press article has been posted here:

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Rock Scully goes into great detail about the cancellation in the 3/25/66 LA Free Press article (the interviewer visited on the 19th) - in short, on Thursday 3/17, reps from the Student Union & administration "told Ken Babbs they wanted $1500 guarantee [in cash, same day], because they didn't think there'd be a draw."
    The Pranksters couldn't deliver in time, so UCLA cancelled, further saying that the contract was invalid since the GSA vice president hadn't signed. Scully sounds mystified as to the university's real reasons for pulling out.
    "Then they took our ad out of Friday's paper (the Daily Bruin) and put in a notice that the Test was cancelled." The Pranksters hastily set up a new location: "I don't know if anyone'll come, if anyone'll know where it it's at. We put up a sign in the Grand Ballroom with the new address, [but] they tore that down and put up one that just said 'Cancelled.' Everyone's out postering now, and there's word of mouth - that's about all we can do about tonight."

    In the Friday 3/18 Daily Bruin, there's a notice on page 13:
    "CANCELLED - The Program Manager's office late yesterday ordered tomorrow night's performance of The Acid Test cancelled on grounds that the troupe displayed a lack of talent and ticket sales were going slowly, making this production economically unfeasible. Students holding tickets to The Acid Test may obtain refunds at the Kerckhoff Hall Ticket Office."
    There's an eye-catching illustration of a big psychedelic "ACID" logo with "CANCELLED" stamped on top of it.
    You should add the image to this post, if you can!

  4. see also Babbs in Jackson and Gans 2015, 42.


!Thank you for joining the conversation!