by Dave Segal
on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 8:39 AM
If you’re a fan of psychedelic music, you likely had an epiphany with a song or an album or a show that blew open your mind to the proliferating possibilities of sounds that evoke surreal, hallucinogenic mind states. Sometimes this happens under the influence of illicit substances, sometimes it occurs while you’re as straight as 6 o’clock—or, as in my case, it hits you when you’re 6 years old.
Back in 1968, I was riding in the back seat of my parents’ car as we drove down the Lodge or Southfield Freeway to Detroit or Dearborn (memory’s kind of hazy after all these years; sorry). The Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today” came on the radio (commercial radio; there were no college stations back then in Detroit—or if there were, my dear old pop probably wouldn’t have been tuning in in that context), and time seemed to stop. About 2:40 into the song, the sweet little guitar motif, rampaging rhythm, and chanted “time”s of “Time Has Come Today” gradually decelerated and things got really weird: the “time”s got slowed and reverbed and stacked atop one another like elements in Steve Reich's "Come Out," and the cowbell hits likewise. The mantra of “time” and the illusory vortex into which the song seemed to be spiraling messed with my fragile, eggshell sense of “tiiii-iii-iiiii-iiime” and space.
After this freaky interlude, the song gradually sped up and returned to the charging garage-soul stormer it had begun as (this was the 45 radio edit, not the 11+ minute LP version), and then launched out of our mundane world with one of the greatest yells in musical history: “OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH, now the time has come! (Time!)/ There's no place to run! (Time!)/But I had my fun! (Time!)/I’ve been loved and put aside! (Time!)/I’ve been crushed by tumbling tide! (Time!)/And my soul’s been psychedelicized!” You can practically hear Lester Chambers conspiratorially winking to all the heads out there in the way he emphasizes the last word. And this jam nearly cracked the top 10! Frank Sinatra must've been pissed.
I don’t know how you could emerge from your first listen to "Time Has Come Today" without having your aesthetic DNA forever altered. From that point on, I had my ears attuned to extraordinary sounds and gravitated toward them—albeit naïvely and haphazardly, until I got into high school— whenever they infiltrated the radio or the TV. In the ’60s and ’70s, both mediums offered a decent amount of out-there music, if you stayed up late enough and knew where to look.
The Chambers Brothers spurred an impulse in me to revel in strange, otherworldly music, no matter what form it took. They set me on a path to aural enlightenment that continues to this goddamn second. The algebra of this need can never be completely sated—if you're doing it right.
Enough blather from me. What was your psychedelic gateway song?