Exit | Entrance | Living it up | Living it down | Waking up is hard to do | Stress and distress | Spring green and mushrooms | Depressing stuff | Deliverance | Departure
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©Marcus J Brierley, 1999
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7 - Spring green and mushroom
Sin, as usual, is a suitable stimulus for song.
How much musical and other creative output has resulted from successful intercourse with a guest partner?
Since Lem's leaving, Damian and Sheila had maintained a constant filial relationship which precluded sex. Was their union now, adultery or incest? Damian was not certain. Since it felt like a bit of each but was in fact neither, he made mournful most of it as it stirred his other creative juices.
The songs which resulted were powerful, melodic, lyrical and worthy of attention. He went out and tried them on an audience as soon as one was available. Ted Landsman was also impressed and immediately arranged a studio for new demos with which to further woo CBS Records and get another gig at the BBC.
Over the next few weeks, Damian stopped worrying and learnt to love three things.
The first was being woken up early on Saturday mornings by small groups of thespians and film technicians, moving almost silently around him, as they re-arranged his room for the day's shoot.
The second was the scratching sound of Sheila's long red finger nails as they roamed through his chest hair after making love.
The third was a surprising gift which came via Ted Landsman.
Damian had danced all night to the music of the Beatles in 1962. He had been able to stretch to affording his own copy of 'With the Beatles' in 1963; enjoyed watching 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Help', but with the sheer force of Bob Dylan and much much more, he had largely missed out on the Beatles gem years.
When Ted gave him an advance copy of 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band', a new age dawned.
"Trevor got a couple of these in from Parlophone this morning, Damian. You're in luck!" said an ebullient Ted Landsman who had decided that since Damian's epic song writing of the past week or so, there might be a future for him after all. He handed him one of the brightly coloured double-sleeved LPs beautifully recorded in mono.
Damian turned it over in his hands and opened up the interior.
"Have you played it, Ted?" he asked with an immediate sense of impending excitement brewing from deep inside his gut.
"Not got round to it yet, but it's going to be big, big, big!"
"Mmm. I've been reading all the hype in the Melody Maker. Well, when's it released? Week on Friday, week after?"
"Something like that. Well you'll have to let me get on Damian. Enjoy listening!" Ted breezed him out of the office and shut the door.
Damian hastened back to Bickersley Park to comply with Ted's instructions.
Some four hours later, Damian was playing 'Sergeant Pepper' for the seventh or eighth time, was examining the cover picture with the aid of a magnifying glass to see what additional secret or coded information might be embedded in it, and had begun to invite selected and favoured people round to hear it in the seclusion of his room.
Those words. What did they signify?
There was no doubt that this was a landmark record. It was free, fresh, pure rock 'n' roll and yet English to the core, in the traditions maybe of Noel Coward or George Formby say. Nobody but the Beatles could have done a thing like this. Why had he missed out on the Beatles for so long?
Damian sat with Bertie and Dave and Sheila, trying to fathom the inner meaning of some of these phrases.
'Lucy in the sky with diamonds'? 'Picture yourself on a train in a station with Pleistocene porters with looking glass ties'? 'Blew his mind out in a car, didn't notice that the lights had changed. I'd love to tur-ur-ur-ur-urn you-ou on.'
Turn us on?
"OK. So where do we get this stuff?" said Dave.
"What stuff do you think it is then?" said Damian looking seriously at Dave. Dave had a nose for these things and invariably wanted to sniff them out as soon as possible.
"LSD. No doubt about it!" said Dave.
"Never heard of it," said Damian.
"Don't be a prat Damian," retorted Dave, "Everyone's doing it. All those San Francisco love-ins and flower-poweries are doing it all the time. They practically live on it. That Professor Timothy Leary has been telling everyone out there that they've got to do it for the sake of peace. They've got to do it to expand their minds. You must have heard him saying that catch-phrase of his, 'turn on, tune in, drop out'? They've been doing it for years Damian, where've you been?"
"I've been turning on for years too! Before you had hairs on your lttle titties," retorted Damian, considerably affronted with Dave's insinuation that he wasn't entirely as cool as he could be.
"Well where would the Beatles get it?" asked Sheila.
"When they were in the States, they got it of course. Use your head," mocked Dave.
"The question is, 'where are we going to get it?'" Bertie mused, and looked questioningly at Damian, who he felt sure would be able to come up with an answer now he knew what the question was.
Damian paused and looked into the empty fireplace.
"LSD. Well we've got to have it if the Beatles are doing it. It's doing something special to their songs and I want that something special done to my songs. Do you suppose that's what Dylan's been doing to his songs? Is that how he did it? We simply must know. You must be able to get it if people are doing it. Who to ask? No good asking Ted. He's too straight. Doesn't even do dope."
"In the music business and doesn't do dope? What kind of a music business person have you got?" said Dave.
"One that's not a dope. Look you're not being helpful Dave, by mocking everyone, just 'cos we've got to do something new and we haven't figured where to get it yet. Just shut up if you can't be serious. Anyway, I thought you were the king of crap around here, always going off to Brixton and scoring and stuff."
"Brixton isn't LSD country," said Dave.
They all looked at Damian as if he was about to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
"OK. Right. Here's an idea then. There's a guy who goes down to the Rose and Crown in the High Street. He does a mime act or something psychedelic. He lives round the corner from us and he goes up to that club in Chalk Farm for psychedelic people, UFO it's called, and does his thing. I've seen him in Sainsbury's on a Saturday afternoon, buying cheese. He's managed to get himself between the folk clubs and the rock scene somehow. Clever guy. Davie something. I've spoken to him a few times, mainly about cheese actually. But I bet he's got a line on this one. I've got an idea where he lives, literally in the next road. Think I know someone who knows his manager too. I'll make some enquiries. Bet we've got some LSD by this weekend!"
It wasn't necessary to wait until Saturday for the queue at the cheese counter to locate LSD. Damian simply phoned Ted and got the number of the guy who ran UFO and called him instead.
He came straight to the point. Phone tapping was an unknown at this time.
"Hi, Mike, my name's Damian James, I got your number from my publisher," said Damian confidently.
"Hi Damian, nice to hear from you. I've been thinking about you actually. Heard your gig on the Don Quillie Show a while back and thought you might fancy coming down to UFO some time to do a spot or two."
Damian was taken aback.
"Whoo! Gosh. Really? Never thought of that. Do you think it's my scene? I don't play electric or anything. I don't have a band or anything. I don't sound very loud or anything."
"You worry too much, Damian. We've got guys playing acoustic all the time at UFO. We don't think of it as folk in particular. We just call it music here! The bands play for some of the time and when people want to sit around and cool down, we've got acoustic acts. No money in it mind, but good exposure for you. Why not come down and take a look?"
Damian was surprised to learn that his fame had travelled beyond the boundaries of folk mainstream and now curious to dip a toe into maybe murky water beyond.
"Mmm. Well, I just never thought of it before. When can I come? Should I bring my guitar? What do you reckon?"
"Just come down and get the feel of the place. Come tonight if you want. We've got the Floyd and Bowie and Bolan and Ron Henderson with his lights. See, two acoustic acts there already. You don't have to worry about the axe. Someone'll lend you one, no problem man."
"What about the LSD thing? Any ideas?" asked Damian.
"Are you sure you really want to do that Damian? There's a lot of people blowing their minds on that stuff. A lot of them on my premises. I mean, I don't mind. I don't want to say 'don't try it' if that's what you really want to do man. I'm just saying, 'do you really want to do it?'"
"Is it dangerous?" he said.
"Could be. I don't know. It depends on the stuff. It depends on you. I don't want to recommend you to someone, you have a bad trip, and then you come back to me with no brain left and say it's my fault, get it?"
"Bloody hell!" said Damian.
He said 'see you tonight' and hung up thoughtfully.
Over the next few minutes, Damian raised these questions with the group, Bertie, Dave and Sheila. Bertie and Sheila were doubtful, but all objections were swiftly swept aside by Dave the explorer.
"Look man, you can get it! So get it! We'll find out if it's good or not when we're doing it!" The decision was made.
At around nine that evening, all four were climbing the steps at the Round House Chalk Farm and persuading the guy on the door in charge of entrance money that they were there at the specific behest of Mike the organiser and might even be playing.
"Nobody gets into UFO free," shouted the very tough looking bouncer.
"But Mike invited me, and I've come specially. I'm an artiste and I don't usually pay to get in to places I'm playing at." Damian bleated.
"So show me your name on the bill!" said the bouncer.
"I can't. This is the first time I've been here. We've come to check it out to see if I'm going to play here."
Oh Jesus this was complicated.
"Can't we just get a message to Mike so that he can tell you whether we need to pay or not?" Damian remonstrated.
The fact was, he never paid at any folk club. Never had done in his life and by now, he was welcome at almost any folk club in London if not the rest of the country. To be asked to pay to get in to somewhere, anywhere, was a personal insult. Like the Queen, he didn't carry money for this purpose.
"Oh, I don't mind paying," said Dave, who didn't have these scruples and was simply anxious to get inside the door so he could score LSD. He wasn't even bothered about the music.
At that moment, Damian's pride was saved by the appearance of Mike the organiser at the door, on one of his many tours of duty to check that everything was under his tight control. He did not recognise Damian by sight, but instantly recognised the voice.
"It's OK Joey," he said, "He's my personal guest. This is Damian James, Joey. Don't you know a star when you see one?"
It was all Damian could do to resist a blush. He tried not to smirk. He tried not to notice the compliment. He tried to stay cool. He tried not to trip up the steps. He failed on that one.
They trooped into the vast interior behind Mike, who despite his organisational control and authority, was openly smoking a large joint which he passed round to them as they walked about. The whole scale of the auditorium was beyond Damian's experience as a performer up until that point.
The atmosphere was completely relaxed and informal with small groups of people in different alcoves of the building. Folk were mainly sitting round and talking, smoking and looking suitably vacant. When the music started, some people gathered round the stage area and watched, others danced at the sides. It was hardly packed. The music was loud and the ink-blot lights blobbed and fused vaguely in time to the rhythms. Damian and Sheila sat down to watch. Bertie and Dave went off in search of forbidden fruit. Mike returned a while later, Damian had no idea how long.
"Want to play a few numbers? Got you an axe lined up," Mike smiled encouragingly.
"Hmm. I'm not sure," replied Damian. He looked at Sheila for reassurance.
"It's OK, Damian. We can mike you up," reassured Mike. "You'll be heard all over the building. Folk'll just gather round and listen if they want to. It'll be just like any other gig you've played only louder and with more audience." Mike was not kidding.
Sheila nodded and Damian, still somewhat fearful stood to go with Mike to look at the guitar which was being offered.
A young fresh-faced curly-haired tie-dyed chappie was taking his acoustic guitar out of its case and somehow managing to tune up despite the other loud ambient noise. He looked up at Damian and smiled as Mike introduced them.
"Damian - Marc. OK guys? Marc'll lend you his axe for a few numbers. Just sort yourself out and I'll sort out where you're going to play."
Marc said "Hi man" and waved a peace and love sign.
Damian smiled at him nervously, took the guitar and played a few chords, but within a few seconds, Mike was taking his arm and leading him towards a small stage equipped with an arsenal of heavy duty rock 'n' roll mics on big cantilevered stands.
"OK, folks," his voice boomed out and echoed round the building, "Now we've got a surprise guest with us tonight who's going to do a few numbers for us for the first time at UFO. He made a hit on the Don Quillie show a month or so back and he's already got a name in the contemporary folk scene. Please put your hands together and give a big UFO welcome to Damian James!"
Damian was on. Just like that. The applause which Mike had cued duly came. The audience was open and willing to give him an ear. He felt stronger inside. He sat on the stool in front of the mics and someone who'd done this before, quickly arranged them in front of his face and the guitar sound hole.
Damian nervously strummed a chord.
"Whew! loud," he said. An expectant but sympathetic giggle rippled round the space, but distantly because of the physical size. He just launched into his first number without introduction.
"Across the sea the matchbox men blow, with tinfoil sail and fingertips aglow "
Damian played for twenty five minutes to a warm reception and judging that he'd done enough, he stood up and waved to the glaring lights and the void beyond.
"OK well thanks very much for listening and I hope I'll see you again!" He meant it.
Mike caught him as he stumbled down the steps into the blackness of backstage.
"Pretty good, man. Did you like it? They liked you fine. You did a great job. See it was just like I said. They're a cool crowd here man. They dig good sounds. You did great."
"Really?" said Damian, "I loved it. A bit sort of vague and distant and out-of-reach, you know. I'm used to being able to see the audience and having them sitting there in front of me. You know if you're doing OK 'cos you can see the gleam on their faces. You know if you're doing bad when they throw beer bottles."
"Yeah, well, if you want to come down again, it's up to you. Can't give you any bread, but you don't have to pay to get in and it puts you touch with the right audience. These people are making the news right here, Damian. Not the folk clubs, not the record companies, not the BBC, except Don Quillie maybe. He's right here digging the sounds man."
"He's here? Tonight?"
"Sure man. He's over by Ron with the lights. He'll hang around for a bit then piss off to do his gig at the Beeb. Then come back later maybe. You should stick around, do another spot later on."
"Sure. It's up to you man. Stay loose."
Mike floated off into the dim recesses of the Round House to encourage more minor attractions before the big build some time around midnight for the Pink Floyd, London's answer to the West Coast.
Damian did not stay later that night. Maybe he should have. It would have done his image more good to be seen. Instead, he was rejoined by an ecstatic, definitely unloosed Dave who was waving a small clutch of silver slivers in his hand shouting,
"Turn on. Tune in. Drop out. We got it! Here it is! Drop in. Clear out. Drive off, I say! Time to go!"
Damian was excited too. Like naughty children they raced away from UFO and towards the great experimental solitude of the room.
* * *
The substance was impregnated on small squares of blotting paper each enclosed in its own tin foil wrapper. The delivery system was simple and effective. You unwrapped the packets and popped the blotting paper into the mouth, chewed and swallowed. Then you waited to see what would happen. If you had never done this before, you had no idea what would happen, indeed if anything would happen at all or how long it would take to start and how long it would last when it did.
They waited until they got back to the room and then set the scene.
Four cushions which Damian had accumulated since Christmas were dragged to the corner. On a ragged Persian rug, a home-made wooden table was dressed with an antique oil-lamp, Damian's mother had passed on. Or had he borrowed it? The lamp was ceremonially lit and all other lights were turned off. The curtains were drawn tight shut on a black night beyond.
Gathered round the lamp, Dave and Bertie on one side, Damian and Sheila on the other, each took one of the four tabs now sitting in a saucer on the table. They looked at each other around the lamp, eyes glinting in the flickering light. In the brief pause for consideration there was an air of excited expectancy. Dave was the first to pop the tab into his mouth and the others followed quickly. Then they sat and waited.
"God what'll we do if Mikley comes down?" murmured Sheila.
"He's hardly likely to do that unless we freak out and run amok amid his roses," giggled Dave.
"Do you think we will freak out?" said Bertie.
"Don't suppose we'll do anything actually," said Damian, "I think Dave's been ripped off again. Can't feel anything happening anywhere in my body."
They fell silent again.
"Music?" asked Dave.
He moved to get up in the direction of the gramophone. Nobody looked enthusiastic but he went over to the records just the same. He thumbed through the collection and pulled out 'Axis Bold as Love'. "Axi oo oo oo. Ax oo ax " he said.
Damian looked up at where he thought Dave was standing.
"O. O. yes I mean o mmm yes. That's mmm yes a o Dave you mmm "
Dave was dripping into the lamp-light like melting wax. The album sleeve was pouring like milk from a jug.
"Do you see it?" Damian managed to say turning his head towards Sheila. She reached out to hold his hand. They looked at each other's hands entwined twinend twinned
"He's dripping. Ha ha ha he's "
"Mmm o yes m mmm far out "
"I think "
"Yes I think "
"Think I yes "
"Do I mmm O yes far out "
Dave was seated again. They gazed at one other around the lamp. Faces. Lights. Nods for gestures. Thoughts not words. Words not part of the process of communication anywhere.
"Gosh!" said Damian.
They all nodded. But very slowly.
For a while little more than this took place. It was difficult to know precisely how long this while was. Was it days? Or simply hours? Ours, yours, who cares?
No sentences got beyond their first syllable. Then there was a communal assent.
And someone said, "Yes. I know. Isn't it?" Everything either was, or was being. So that was how things were.
"Is" ness. "I" ness. "Am" ness. "Ness" ness.
Dave decided to try rolling a joint. He got so wrapped up in the sticking of papers that he lost the purpose of the exercise.
At one point, Sheila said,
"I think I need a pee. I'm going to have a pee. OK everyone? I'm going out of the door. Over there. And out into the DARK I can't do it!"
They collapsed in helpless laughter.
"I'll go and see," said Dave.
He stood, but his legs would not hold him up and he collapsed on the cushion in a fit of giggles and splutters.
"I'll have another go!" he said.
He stood and this time made it out across the great darkness of the room to its double doors. Opening one he peered out into the hallway blackness. His shadow made by the oil-lamp light was vast and menacing, yet he was minute.
"Oh no! I can't go out THERE No O You'll have to come with me."
"But it's me that wants to go," giggled Sheila.
"No we all have to go," said Dave.
They stood. The others stood. Damian couldn't stand. He crawled. He crawled to the door amid helpless fits of laughter and tears. They were all by the door, standing, looking at him crawling.
"Ha ha ha he's, he, Damian, stand up. Stand poo. Nstad oop."
Damian couldn't stand up. He crawled all the way to the bathroom with the other three walking sideways, backwards, forwards, stumbling, laughing, singing, spinning, swinging madly through the hallway gloom. Just the lamp light spilling out through the door and dimly down the hall. Finally they got to the bathroom and actually managed to turn on the light which, by contrast, was absolutely dazzling. They shielded their eyes from the glare and sat down on the bathroom floor. Dave managed to light a cigarette and blow smoke up at the light bulb. They passed it round and blew smoke upwards, each in
"Very roomy "
"Room rooomy roooomy "
"Mmm and bathy "
"Why are we here?" asked Damian.
"Mmm very good question!" said Bertie. "Why ARE we here?"
"We are here, because we are here!"
"We are here because we are "
"We are, because we are, because we are "
"Because we are here "
"But why here?" someone started again, and then the loop re-ran and re-ran for another ten minutes.
Eventually, Sheila said,
"I want to pee."
"Then pee," said Dave and they all collapsed in giggles once more.
Sheila peed. But not on the toilet and not with her knickers down. Nobody noticed.
They managed to get back to the safety of the room after what was a small lifetime, even a long lifetime. They didn't attempt exit again until daylight could be seen outside.
Possibly there was some 'speed' mixed with the drug, who knows, but they did not have any desire to sleep. Well, they did not think that they slept. Certainly they didn't go to bed, or lie down as far as they could tell. When light dawned, the room was cold, bitterly cold. The lamp had burned down, there was no more paraffin. They drew back the curtains and daylight filled their eyes. The LSD effects had largely evaporated, in that the takers were no longer so helpless, no longer so mirthful, more serious, and above all unified.
They trooped out into the garden and stood among Mr Mikley's best rose beds. Then they walked around his other flower beds hand in hand, a foursome. Inseparable for ever. Then they stood together in a cluster on the lawn and hugged each other until they were warm. They came back into the room and sat down together on the bed.
There was no speech.
They wiped the morning dew from off their feet and used it to wet each other's lips. They held hands again and lay back to gaze up at the ceiling.
"It's still doing it you know," said Damian.
"Doing what?" said Bertie.
"You know, ceilinging."
"Oh that, yes."
Dave went into the kitchen and began to ferret around making cups of tea. He even managed to knock up some hot buttered toast. They ate it thoughtfully, sitting in different parts of the room, less united now, more into their own identity. What was their own identity? Would they ever know again? Would they ever recognise themselves as separate people credited with an individual identity? They each wondered the same thing but in their isolation. Finally at around eight in the morning they hit the sack. Sheila curled up with Damian, Bertie and Dave went to their own rooms.
* * *
The first thing that Damian noticed when he was up and about again was how different he felt from other people who had not shared the experience. He felt entirely separate from them, separated from them, alienated from them. He felt superior to them and yet threatened by them. With the dwellers in the room, he felt fine.
"We just went through a warp man," he said. "We went through into a new dimension. We are now on the other side. We may never come back. We may never want to come back. What worries me, is what is going to happen to all the others who we left behind."
"We have to turn them on!" said Dave. "Turn them o oi oi oi on like John says."
Damian shook his head. He wasn't sure how. They listened to 'Sergeant Pepper' one more time. Did it make any more sense now? Dave said it did. Damian wasn't sure. But he sat down and started to write a song which was as good a representation of the past night's experience as he could muster. It was called 'The Room'. The song ran for about ten minutes and was the longest Damian had written.
"It's not quite 'Sad Eyed Lady', but it's the nearest thing I'm goin' to get," he told everyone.
* * *
They did it again the following weekend. It wasn't quite as good the second time around.
On the third weekend, everyone was away except for Dave and Damian and they decided to get some LSD together.
This time, they dropped the tabs in a petrol station at Crystal Palace, without waiting until they got home. By the time they got to Penge they were not noticing that the lights had changed. They sat and watched them change for half an hour or more before moving slowly forward. They inched their way back to the flat and sat shaking in the corner of the room. At one point, the entire bookshelf began to pour itself over in a gush as if it were a waterfall. The illusion was so vivid that Damian rushed over to it and spent twenty minutes trying to push it back up.
At dawn, the two of them decided to venture out into the streets again, this time on foot.
With a sense of enormous bravery, they walked down the un-adopted road of the Park to the main road. Once on the corner, they stood and watched the on-coming traffic with the wonder of children seeing monkeys for the first time. Then they were gripped with fear, terrible fear. How could they get back to the flat? Try as they could, neither of them could remember where they had come from, despite the fact that they had not moved from the street corner where they had emerged from the Park.
The only choice was forward.
Like visitors from another world, they proceeded hand in hand at a snail's pace in the direction of the High Street. Every aspect of this journey, a distance of barely a quarter of a mile, was a fascination of detail and discovery. At one point, Damian noticed a white dot in the wall past which he was walking. He stopped and peered at it intently. He peered closer. He stood back from it and slowly absorbed the context in which it was placed - a wall beside a front door - and moved back in to peer even closer. Slowly, ever so slowly, his gaze fell beneath the white dot, a button. A small, neat, hand-written, Perspex covered tab spelt the words, 'Mr and Mrs Bell'.
He exploded with helpless mirth. Dave leant forwards and peered at the self same item.
"I see what I see ha I see what's so ha fun ha, ha, ha, funny ha," he too was convulsed.
Together they physically rolled on the ground locked in uncontrollable bouts of laughter. People stepped over them as they lay on the pavement laughing. Others looked at them and giggled too.
"Press it," said Dave, "Let's see if it goes 'ting-aling'."
He said 'ting-aling' again and again savouring the sound and its onomatopoeia.
They decided against pressing in case someone did come to the door to be dealt with, and they were beyond human interface precisely now.
Their journey across space continued for another hour by which time they were outside a coffee lounge some way down the High Street. They now considered that they were possibly sufficiently 'down' to be able to place an order for two coffees, but when the coffees arrived, they changed their minds to raspberry milk shakes much to the irritation of the waitress. When they did it a second time, she refused to serve them and insisted that they pay for both lots of orders. At this point they became confused and cried into large white handkerchiefs.
This was the nature of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
* * *
Damian watched Sheila walking on her hands on the vast square lawn which spread out behind Bertie's bedroom window. It was as if it had recently been lain by a team of expert carpet fitters, perfectly smooth and flat.
"God, it's green. That's so green Bertie. It is so green man. Bertie have you ever seen anything so green?"
"Damian, shut up. Just shut up will you. It's grass. It's been there all year. It's spring that's all. Grass always looks greener in spring 'cos new grass sprouts up," said Bertie.
"It looks so green. Out there." Damian trailed off into lost silence.
He failed to notice Bertie's irritation. He failed to see Sheila's slender legs waving in the air, her upside down mini skirt revealing her underwear. He gazed for moments longer at the spring green and then wandered off to write a song about it.
* * *
'Sergeant Pepper' was released amid a fanfare of publicity in which the LP was heralded as a new type of pop record, not just a collection of songs, but a concept, an expression, an outflow of consciousness. The fact that it had some pretty good tunes on it, and some pretty original orchestrations for a rock 'n' roll band, was also not overlooked. It was a landmark not just for music, but for changing consciousness in the world, whether it came from drugs, or the drugs came from it in the absence of anything more substantial. What did it tell us? Turn on, tune in, drop out, was Dave's explanation.
Shortly after the release of the record, news broke that the Beatles had gone away for the weekend on a retreat with someone called Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and were going to learn Transcendental Meditation. Maharishi himself was on TV explaining how his system of meditation released deep rooted stresses and made you more creative day by day. John, Paul George and Ringo stood next to him and John said that it was really great that you could feel high all the time without the aid of drugs. Damian read about it in the newspapers. He saw the photos of the beautiful central London house where it was possible for people to go to learn Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The article didn't say the house actually belonged to a wealthy Londoner and Damian assumed it must belong to the Maharishi. He looked across at Sheila,
"Some folk have all the luck! Now the Beatles have got a permanent high for free. But it looks like it costs too much bread for us to get it judging by the place the Maharishi lives in. It's out of our class, but God, I wish I could do that!"
The next day it was announced,
'Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager and personal friend, was dead.'
"God, those guys have been getting it tough," said Damian.
* * *
Dave squatted in the hearth in front of the empty fireplace. He had a small pill box between finger and thumb of his right hand and shook it methodically from side to side, while periodically jabbing at it with his other forefinger and alternately sniffing at it with a worried air.
"Do you think it really is?" he asked Damian.
"What did they say it was Dave?"
"Well he told me it was magic mushroom. That's what he said. That's why I bought it. I mean you can't turn down an offer like that?" said Dave.
"And you went up to UFO on your own to get this?"
"Well you weren't about Damian, I just read about the stuff in a magazine and I thought we should try it out."
"Which magazine writes articles about magic mushroom Dave?" laughed Damian. "Was it Time Magazine?"
"No it was Playboy if you must know," retorted Dave. "It was a very interesting article and it said that magic mushroom was kinda like acid only more interesting. Softer. More organic. More like LSD was supposed to be before they invented it and manufactured it. This is the stuff that the Red Indians are supposed to have used for their religious rites and stuff."
"And you are sure that this stuff you've got here is the same stuff? Who did you get it off?"
"A guy called Jacko."
"Jacko! What kind of a wacko name is that? You seen this Jacko before?"
"He's always there. He's the guy with the long hair."
"Dave, at UFO they've all got long hair."
"Well his is extra long. Like this long," Dave waved a hand down past his knee.
"So how much d'you pay for that stuff?"
"Serious investment! Right, so you may have got ripped off again?"
"That's what I'm wondering."
"Well there's only one way to find out I reckon!" said Damian.
"That's what I hoped you were going to say!" said Dave. "When shall we start?"
"How shall we start?"
"Smoke it, do you reckon?"
"Or lick it and swallow it," said Damian.
Damian took the pill box and inspected it thoroughly. He stuck his nose into it so far, Dave was terrified that he'd sniff it up and sneeze it out.
"Careful, there's not much stuff there to waste any," he shrieked.
"Well it is difficult," said Damian. "Didn't Jacko give you any instructions at all? Wasn't there anything in Playboy to tell you what to do?"
Dave shook his head.
"Have you still got the article?"
Dave shook his head.
Damian handed the box back. Dave put the lid on it and clasped it in both hands like a precious stone.
"Well my vote is for smoking it," said Damian.
"But what if we're wrong and we should've taken it?"
"Don't think it'll make any difference," said Damian, "I think that the sort of thing the Red Indians used to do is smoke things."
"Or cook with things."
"Or cook with things."
"Well it's only five quid," said Dave, "let's smoke it. It'll be quicker to find out if it works!"
He took out papers and ciggies and began preparing a spliff to put the magic mushroom dust in. Damian went out to the kitchen to make some tea. When he returned cups in hand, Dave was sitting cross-legged on cushions in the corner of the room with curtains drawn and ready to light up.
"How much did you put in?" asked Damian.
"All of it," said Dave.
"So how are we going to be able to try it the other way if you used it all in the spliff?"
"Oh shit!" said Dave. He lit up.
They passed the spliff from one to the other and took big draws, holding the smoke in as long as they could, but it was much hotter than a normal joint and it made them cough vigorously. They sipped tea between drags. Not a lot seemed to be going on, but then they had learned to wait for results with the LSD, so they thought it might take a while. Thirty minutes or so went by. Dave got up and stood over by the window, peering out between the curtains.
"Getting anything?" asked Damian in scientific appraisal mode.
"Mmm." replied Dave.
"Mmm yes or Mmm no?" asked Damian.
"Mmm don't know. Mmm think not. Mmm think it's not going to happen. Mmm think I might've been ripped off."
"Mmm think you might've," said Damian. They waited another half hour and then gave up and rolled a real joint. It seemed magic mushroom was harder to get authenticated purchases of than more certain substances.