We needn’t remind you of The Grateful Dead’s quiet influence over rock and roll. Breaking out of the San Francisco scene during the summer of love the band cultivated a wild stage show that enraptured their fans and left them feeling in a spin.
As well as having one of the most incendiary live shows around The Grateful Dead were famed for something else too; drugs. The group acted as one of the bastions of free-thought during the sixties and invariably that including expanding one’s mind to achieve them.
The Grateful Dead weren’t just about drugs. The group are wildly talented musicians who have an uncanny ability to feed off one another when performing. While some of this may be down to the pre-show libations, much of it is through tireless practice and working with each members’ own vibe.
It can all sound a bit ridiculous until you see the band in full flow amid a chaotic scene. Somehow they retain the peace of mind of a Buddhist monk. A perfect moment to see this in action is when The Grateful Dead arrived at the Playboy Mansion to take part in Hugh Heffner’s late-night CBS show, Playboy After Dark, back in 1969.
Drummer Bill Kreutzman recently revealed that though the show went off without a hitch, even receiving a glowing review from Hugh Hefner himself (see below), the show was a lot more chaotic behind the scenes. Much of that can be pinned on one man, Owsley Stanley.
If that name rings a bell then you already know where this heading. Stanley was a famed chemist and has been widely credited as being at the epicentre of the explosion of LSD on the West Coast in the mid-to-late-60s. Naturally, he and The Grateful Dead were good friends and would often travel to gigs together. This performance was no different.
When the group arrived on set ready to chat and play a few songs, something felt a bit wrong. They realised the cameras were out of focus and the whole crew seemed to be acting strangely. Reports were rife that Stanley had dosed the crew’s coffee pot with LSD during the soundcheck and turned the set into a crucible of fleeting thought and kaleidoscopic tales.
This is where you see the inner calm The Grateful Dead possess. As the world loses its cool around them they just motor on through like the champions they are. Watch The Grateful Dead perform amidst a chaotic scene on Playboy After Dark.