In the spring of 1968 I was sitting, not completely in my right mind, at a
table in a very large house in Palo Alto rented by a group of Stanford medical
students. These future doctors were then my very own merry pranksters and I
had often tagged along while they tried radical politics, communal living,
vegetarian foods, medical school laboratory pharmaceuticals, even raising a
lion cub, whose nightly roaring eventually alerted the neighbors and
gave one of the students a rare African lion's disease.
But on this night, after a meal of randomly exotic foods and sundry medications,
they retired with their lovers to the (not quite adequate) privacy of their
rooms, leaving me alone in the immense dinning room, while a recording I had
never heard before (oh Ginger, Jack and Eric!) gradually invaded every neuron
of my not so slowly blowing mind.
As I stared intently at the remains of a dinner that in my peculiar state
resembled a disorderly old Dutch Master's still-life, a basic blues grew relentlessly
from elemental simplicity into melodic improvisations worthy of a south Indian
master, and the blues pulse multiplied into an infinity of polyrhythmic patterns,
and the individual lines became a counterpoint that extended above and beyond
the fifth species, and then, finally, when after a shattering climax of impassioned
instrumental virtuosity Willie Dixon's great tune returned, I knew I had heard
something I would never forget -
that - spoonful.