Now Playing: Marcus on cassette dub
Topic: Minor change or comment
During the slow but steady grind to transfer anything worthwhile from old cassettes to WAVs and MP3s on my hard disk, I ran across an old Maxell C90 that is charged with lysergia. Not to sound too much like Grandpa Simpson, but the history of this tape is strongly linked to some substantial changes in my life that are still being felt today.
The year was 1988, I was doing college but spent as little time at 'campus' as possible, preferring instead to hang out with my psychedelic colleagues in the newly formed Lumber Island Acid Crew. Through Mr Subliminal we had hooked up with the now legendary record dealer Paul Major, whose mail-order catalog was entering a phase of rapid expansion. We marvelled over Paul's informative and clever rants on obscure LPs none of us had heard of before, and with frequent intervals cash or trade deals were set up with Paul, who was as genial on the phone as his list indicated. After I mentioned to him that my top want was The Deep "Psychedelic Moods" Paul promptly came up with a stereo original in just a few weeks time--although as rare then as it is now, he actually underpriced it.
Another thing he offered was to tape his rarer or lesser known records to the extent that he had time. I was just shedding my collection of Doors picture sleeve 45s, several of which I already had sold to a DJ guy from Los Angeles while at Plastic Passion in London (a story in itself). Knowing that Paul dug the Doors I offered him a 45 for each tape, and he went for it right away. I checked off a few things I had been curious about and the tapes duly arrived shortly after. All of it was worth hearing, but what really did a number on my head was the the cassette seen below, with Marcus "House Of Trax". As I recall we deliberately held back playing the tape until the next psychedelic session, which came about soon enough. There were several of us doing good quality blotter, and at an early stage the Marcus tape was put in the deck.
I can still recall the bewilderment in my semi-lysergic head as the swirling keyboards, feedback guitars and trippy vocals came on. One must bear in mind that this was 1988, and private pressings were still an almost unknown phenomenon, for which there was no real frame of reference. My view of psychedelic music was traditional, even if I had begun chewing on the Bobb Trimble and DR Hooker side of things. What boggled my mind with Marcus was the fact that it was A) clearly a 'modern' production from a multi-channel studio, but B) at the same time totally psychedelic. I was familiar with 'neo-psych' which was like twee Pink Floyd imitations, but this Marcus record sounded real--being an acidhead I felt I could identify another acidhead with some certainty. This raised the question: who the hell recorded full-blown psychedelia in the late '70s? And of course: are there more records like this? As the private press collector scene exploded in the late '80s-early '90s the answer to the latter question would be a resounding Yes, to my and everyone else's delight.
But that Marcus record, man, there was more to it than the realization that psychedelic music was a timeless phenomenon. Its sentiments, as presented via Marcus' lyrics and voice, seemed to align perfectly to my state as a new-fangled psychedelicist. There were messages running through it which I immediately understood--"Tripping In Time" was easy enough to grasp, but "The City Of Inbetween" and its rejection of dichotomies in favor of ambiguity was exactly the kind of unorthodox wisdom you aquire during those first few trips. The arc of Side 1 reaches an appropriate LSD peak with "Sweet Inspiration", where an otherworldy warmth blends with life-affirming melancholy into the kind of complex emotional cluster that awaits inside the trip space, if nowhere else.
One of Marcus' greatest achievements may be his ability to present the psychedelic consciousness as an open space that anyone, more or less, can enter. He rejects the egocentric pull of acid creativity and insists on the availability of radical insight and spiritual love for all, much like newly converted psychedelicists tend to do. It's all there in "Sweet Inspiration"--the peak moment of celestial love, the insistence upon the value of the trip, the exhortation for one to join with him and all the others that have opened the doors to Innerspace.
Knocking at your door
Come on in
There's room for more
As a psychedelic philosopher and weekend buddhist I don't really believe in coincidences, except on a very small scale. There couldn't have been a more propitious time or a better LP for me to come across as a sophomore hallucinogen student than Marcus, no matter that only 75 people in the world had heard of it at the time. During the year that followed I would set aside a "Marcus moment" for each psychedelic journey, during which I pulled out the Maxell tape, located an available ghetto blaster or Sony freestyle, and went inside the "House Of Trax" for 30 minutes of private headphone meditation. My fellow Acid Crew members were fully aware and slightly amused by this ritual, not least since Marcus' greatness was far from agreed upon. But as my testimony here hopefully shows, there was more to my infatuation than just the musical quality in a good/bad sense.
Things continued like this for a year or two until one day my psychedelic self had matured enough that Marcus' role as teacher for the newly initiated seemed less important. I still loved the LP, and I still love the LP in 2014, but the special part it played in my life was a thing of the past, brought forth today by coming across this old C90 cassette. The Lumber Island Acid Crew kept tripping and a new musical talisman would soon present itself to replace Marcus, once more with a perfect fit for where my mind and soul were at the time, circa 1991. This new talisman was Spirit Of Love by C.O.B, but that's a whole other story for another time...