Hear a Six-Hour Mix Tape of Hunter S. Thompson’s Favorite Music & the Songs Name-Checked in His Gonzo Journalism

Of all the musi­cal moments in Hunter S. Thomp­son’s for­mi­da­ble cor­pus of “gonzo jour­nal­ism,” which one comes most read­i­ly to mind? I would elect the scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when Thomp­son’s alter-ego Raoul Duke finds his attor­ney “Dr. Gonzo” in the bath­tub, “sub­merged in green water — the oily prod­uct of some Japan­ese bath salts he’d picked up in the hotel gift shop, along with a new AM/FM radio plugged into the elec­tric razor sock­et. Top vol­ume. Some gib­ber­ish by a thing called ‘Three Dog Night,’ about a frog named Jere­mi­ah who want­ed ‘Joy to the World.’ First Lennon, now this, I thought. Next we’ll have Glenn Camp­bell scream­ing ‘Where Have All the Flow­ers Gone?’ ”

But Dr. Gonzo, his state even more altered than usu­al, real­ly wants to hear only one song: Jef­fer­son Air­plane’s “White Rab­bit.” He wants “a ris­ing sound,” and what’s more, he demands that “when it comes to that fan­tas­tic note where the rab­bit bites its own head off,” Duke throw the radio in the tub with him.

Duke refus­es, explain­ing that “it would blast you right through the wall — stone-dead in ten sec­onds.” Yet Dr. Gonzo, who insists he just wants to get “high­er,” will have none of it, forc­ing Duke to engage in trick­ery that takes to a new depth the book’s already-deep lev­el of crazi­ness. Such, at the time, was the pow­er of not just drugs but of the even more mind-alter­ing prod­uct known as music.

Noth­ing evokes a peri­od of recent his­to­ry more vivid­ly than its songs, espe­cial­ly in the case of the 1960s and ear­ly 1970s that Thomp­son’s prose cap­tured with such improb­a­ble elo­quence. Now, thanks to Lon­don’s NTS Radio (they of the spir­i­tu­al jazz and Haru­ki Muraka­mi mix­es), you can spend a good six hours in that Thomp­son­ian peri­od when­ev­er you like by stream­ing their Hunter S. Thomp­son Day, con­sist­ing of two three-hour mix­es com­posed by Edu Vil­lar­roel, cre­ator of the Spo­ti­fy playlist “Gonzo Tapes: Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!” Both that playlist and these mix­es fea­ture many of the 60s names you might expect: not just Jef­fer­son Air­plane but Buf­fa­lo Spring­field, Jimi Hen­drix, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Cream, Cap­tain Beef­heart, and many more besides.

Those artists appear on one par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant source for these mix­es, Thomp­son’s list of the ten best albums of the 60s. But Hunter S. Thomp­son Day also offers deep­er cuts of Thomp­so­ni­ana as well, includ­ing pieces of Ter­ry Gilliam’s 1998 film adap­ta­tion of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as well as clips from oth­er media in which the real Thomp­son appeared, in ful­ly gonzo char­ac­ter as always. Vil­lar­roel describes these mix­es as “best served with a cou­ple tabs of sun­shine acid, tall glass of Wild Turkey with ice and Mez­cal on the side,” but you may well derive a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence from lis­ten­ing while par­tak­ing of anoth­er pow­er­ful sub­stance: Thomp­son’s writ­ing, still so often imi­tat­ed with­out ever repli­cat­ing its effect, which you can get start­ed read­ing here on Open Cul­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the 10 Best Albums of the 1960s as Select­ed by Hunter S. Thomp­son

Bill Mur­ray Explains How He Pulled Him­self Out of a Deep, Last­ing Funk: He Took Hunter S. Thompson’s Advice & Lis­tened to the Music of John Prine

Hunter S. Thomp­son Remem­bers Jim­my Carter’s Cap­ti­vat­ing Bob Dylan Speech (1974)

Hunter S. Thomp­son Inter­views Kei­th Richards, and Very Lit­tle Makes Sense

Read 11 Free Arti­cles by Hunter S. Thomp­son That Span His Gonzo Jour­nal­ist Career (1965–2005)

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Day: Stream Sev­en Hours of Mix­es Col­lect­ing All the Jazz, Clas­si­cal & Clas­sic Amer­i­can Pop Music from His Nov­els

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Will L says:

    Hunter was tru­ly one of a kind in that he was the typ­i­cal deranged drug­ster want­i­ng only a good time, yet had to inter­face with the “nor­mals” in order to be Dr Gonzo. His star rose at pre­cise­ly the right time in Amer­i­ca’s rocky his­to­ry — a coun­try rabid­ly pur­su­ing impe­ri­al­is­tic grand­ness while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly cas­ti­gat­ing the Brits & the French for the same thing. Between that inter­na­tion­al quag­mire and the slav­ery hang­over going on at home (still), Hunter came along as if ordered from God’s catalogue.…by Whom, though?

    Kudos to the cre­ator of this playlist, he got it as right as any­one else could’ve, I reck­on. He describes these mix­es as “best served with a cou­ple tabs of sun­shine acid, tall glass of Wild Turkey with ice and Mez­cal on the side,”.…actually, that should be one tab of acid, an iced snifter of Chivas, and 2 huge rails of cocaine. Now that is the REAL Hunter Spe­cial!

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