Man tries to fix vintage synth and ends up on a 9-hour LSD trip

If you’re into vintage musical gear, you’ll know that old synthesizers are in huge demand, especially units from the late 60s and through the 70s. There’s just something special about the analogue sounds they can make.

Old Moogs are highly prized (there’s even something called The Moogseum which has preserved some of these units) but so are synths made by Don Buchla, who was for a time, Bob Moog’s main rival.

Buchla synths–huge modular constructions that often required patch cords to program sounds. Here’s one that’s on display at the National Music Centre in Calgary.

Deadmau5 used this Buchla. National Music Centre/Calgary

Eliot Curtis, who works for KPIX-TV in San Francisco, was given the job of restoring a Buchla D100 that had been sitting in storage since the 1960s.

Buchla Model 100

He took it home and started to clean off 50 years worth of crud. That’s when he noticed some crusty stuff that wouldn’t rub off, so he scrapped at it with a fingernail.

Forty-five minutes later, Eliot felt all tingly. It was the first signs of a nine-hour trip. That crusty stuff was later determined to be LSD residue.

That there was acid on this synth isn’t all that surprising. Don Buchla was a friend of Owsley Stanley, the Grateful Dead’s sound engineer. Owsley was also renown for making a very potent form of LSD.

It appears that this particular synth used to be with Owsley and The Dead. With both being fans of dropping acid, it’s completely understandable that some LSD ended up on the synth. And because LSD remains active for decades if stored in a cool, dark, place–as this keyboard was at Cal State–it still had the power to induce a high, even if it’s just absorbed through the fingers.

Elilot’s fine. The machine is completely LSD-free. But let this be a warning to anyone who might be restoring musical gear from that era.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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