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Friday, August 14, 1998 Published at 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK


Ken Kesey's return trip

Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs with their Mark II bus this year

The undisputed king of the counter-culture Ken Kesey has left his Oregon farm to make a rare appearance in Britain.

The last time the American novelist and psychedelic icon visited was almost 30 years ago, when he came at the invitation of The Beatles.

He will be joined by fellow 60s legend Ken Babbs for a mystery multi-media show at London's Barbican centre.

His publicist says Kesey isn't giving much away about the content of the show, other than it will include readings and vintage film footage from their days with The Merry Pranksters.

The pair are also performing at the Edinburgh festival.

Travelling on acid

Kesey first found success at the age of 27 with what is regarded as one of the great post-war American novels, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

Made into a film starring Jack Nicholson it tells the story of a group of characters who organise a rebellion on a mental hospital ward.

[ image: A young and clean cut Kesey]
A young and clean cut Kesey
Kesey is equally well-known for his drug experiments which began in 1959 when he volunteered for medical tests to supplement his income.

An ardent advocate of the then-legal LSD, he assembled a string of like-minded souls in 1964 and set off across America in a brightly painted bus.

The so-called Merry Pranksters travelled the highways with Neal Cassady at the wheel. Cassady was the inspiration for Jack Kerouac's Dean Moriarty in the classic book On The Road.

The travels were also chronicled by writer Tom Wolfe in his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Out of the spotlight

The law caught up with Ken Kesey in 1967 and he was jailed for six months for possession of marijuana.

He then retreated to his farm and family in Oregon and has produced only five books in the past 30 years.

His visit to Britain marks a flurry of activity. He and Ken Babbs will also launch a new spoken-word record label.

Its first release is an original recording of Ken Kesey and friends raving on acid in the sixties.

Visits to Britain may not be such a rarity in future. Kesey's already talking coming to back to Edinburgh in 1999 - with a new bus in tow.

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