Alice D. Millionaire was performed a handful of times by the Grateful Dead toward the end of 1966, but the song was not released until it was included in the Golden Road box set which came out in 2001 and it was also included on the expanded version of the first Grateful Dead album The Grateful Dead which was released in 2003. The song’s title is a pun inspired by several newspaper headlines that referred to their original sound man and benefactor Augustus Owsley “Bear” Stanley III as an LSD Millionaire. A headline in the San Francisco Chronicle when Owsley got busted for the first time read, “LSD Millionaire Arrested” and this is what prompted this song.
Narcotics agents raided his home/lab on Virginia Street on February 21, 1965 which was known as “The Green Factory”. Owsley, by then was the dominant producer of LSD in California, if not the United States, and he was charged with producing methedrine. The methedrine charge was used because LSD was still legal, and it would be until October 6, 1966. Federal agents entered the house dressed as hippies and they took the chemicals to be studied and analyzed. Stanley was arrested and the police confiscated his stash of LSD, and they impounded all his lab equipment. Stanley hired an attorney and because LSD was not illegal at this time, and he was released. After his release Owsley sued and got back all his lab equipment. Owsley went on to operate LSD manufacturing labs in Point Richmond, Orinda, and Denver. Stanley produced 1.5 million doses of acid, which were sold under the brand name “white rabbit” after the animal who introduced Alice to her bizarre, surrealistic Wonderland. Things changed and by December 1967 LSD became illegal in California, so there was a new raid on his lab in Orinda, just north of San Jose. No one did more to alter the consciousness of the generation that came of age in the 1960s than Owsley Stanley (who died at the age of 76 on March 13, 2011) in a car accident in Australia. Long before the Summer of Love drew thousands of hippies to Haight-Ashbury, Owsley was already an authentic underground folk hero, revered throughout the counterculture for making the purest form of LSD ever to hit the street.
Stanley reportedly became a millionaire at the age of 31 and with the considerable money he made from the LSD trade, Owsley let the Grateful Dead practice at his Berkeley home, financing the band as it was getting started, buying quality equipment for them. He found a way to record a band playing live in stereo, by plugging his tape recorder into the sound desk. As a sound man for the Dead, Owsley created the famous Wall of Sound and he recorded every show he worked on, leaving a priceless legacy of live concert recordings and without him, that music would have been permanently lost. His widow Shelia Stanley said that her husband left behind a priceless archive of more than 1,300 recordings, including shows by Miles Davis, Steve Miller, Thelonious Monk, Dr. John, the Allman Brothers, Chuck Berry, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Electric Flag, Blue Cheer, Old and in the Way, Fleetwood Mac, Johnny Cash, the Youngbloods, Dan Hicks, Doc and Merle Watson and Taj Mahal, among others. He came up with the concept for the iconic skull and lightning bolt symbol that was designed as a way of marking the band’s equipment, which became known as the Steal Your Face logo.
John Lennon wanted some of Owsley’s acid for his own creative use and he hired a cameraman to film the Monterey Pop festival, but his main task was to smuggle some of the 100,000 tabs of Monterey Purple that were manufactured for the concert back to him. Stanley sent the cameraman home with a telephoto lens packed with tabs of acid. When the Beatles recorded Magical Mystery Tour, they were flying high on Owsley acid. Owsley got the nickname “Bear” because of his hairy chest, but some tales say this came from the noises he would make during sex. The Grateful Dead Dancing Bears symbol is a reference to him.
Although the title of this song relates to Owsley, the lyrics don’t seem to be about him. My best guess is that it is about a girl named Alice, but in my search, I didn’t come up with any connection of an Alice and the Grateful Dead, except for a song that Robert Hunter sang a few times called ‘Alice Garbonzo Garbet’. I finally figured this out after reading the Bill Kreutzmann book Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead that this title came about because L.S. sounds like Alice. The song seems to be about getting over paranoia and changing bad luck, but the “wheel of fortune has a flat tire”, which might be fixed by finding a horseshoe.
You say you’re living in a world of trouble
All your schemes have popped like a bubble
Your mother told your sister
And your brother told your friend
Now your secret’s out, and you don’t have to pretend
You can see for yourself, it’s really not the end
You’re standing there with tears in your eyes
There’s too much going on now, there’s no time to cry
You say the walls are closing in on you child
All your friends have put you in exile
Bad luck seems to follow you all around the world
You can’t seem to find no peace of mind girl
You will take a chance to seem so bad
Every minute is a brand new day
And there are some games that I’d just love to play
Even bad scenes are for real, there’s no time to cry
Since you left your old scene behind you
Go ahead and let the green light find you
It’s warm and friendly girl and it won’t blind you
Come out in the street and the weeds won’t grind you
See the love is in the air, you feel it all around you
Your yesterday’s are all left behind
There’s a brand new light in your mind
You don’t need a key to define
What’s written on the magic sign
There’s no time to cry
When the season of the magic lantern
Is transformed into a funny pattern
And the wheel of fortune has a flat tire
You can’t seem to get any higher
When you go above the machine, you find a horseshoe
Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is Brother/Sibling/Sister.