Issue date: 10/30/08
Over the years people have wondered just what was real and what was
not in the world of gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson. His books
often blended reality and fiction with a dose of chaos to become
"The Gonzo Tapes: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson,"
chronicles the homemade audio tapes Thompson made starting from his
immersion book, "Hells Angels," then to "Fear and Loathing in Las
Vegas," and ending with his tapes from Saigon during the final days
of the war in Vietnam.
Disc one focuses on Thompson's venture into the world of the infamous
motorcycle gang, the Hells Angels.
The audio is Thompson describing scenarios at various parties with
the biker gang. Also included is the infamous party at author Ken
Kesey's place, included in the books "Hells Angels" and Tom Wolfe's
"Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," with a dialogue between Thompson, beat
poet Allen Ginsberg and two cops who pulled the two over while
leaving the party at Kesey's.
It is interesting to hear Thompson interject in between the tape with
Ginsberg and the cops and his own narration in between to explain
what was going on for his own records for the book.
Thompson's voice is very distinct, a stop-start style that Johnny
Depp perfected in the film adaptation of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."
Also included on the disk is Thompson's interview with Hells Angel,
Terry the Tramp, on various crazy events the Angles were involved in,
including notorious events involving violence and indulgence.
This disk is interesting to listen to, being the private tapes of a
journalist keeping tabs on the goings on for his story. It is also
entertaining due to Thompson's narrative wit and humor as he dictates
ideas for chapters of his book.
Disc two is "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," and is perhaps the most
interesting of the disks. It starts off with Thompson explaining his
assignment into the tape recorder as his attorney, Oscar Acosta,
plays a flute.
Acosta is also known as "Dr. Gonzo" in the famous book, a drug addled
attorney who partakes in the massive drug indulgence with Thompson,
who refers to himself in the book as "Raoul Duke."
This disk follows Thompson on his assignment to cover the Mint 500
motorcycle race for Sports Illustrated and a drug conference for
At one moment Thompson is asking Acosta about a crazy girl he found
in his hotel room that was out of her mind on acid. This turned out
to be a scene in the book and movie, with the girl being obsessed
with Barbara Streisand and painting pictures of her.
It is also humorous to hear Thompson and Acosta discussing expense
accounts and if any of the magazines would finance their crazed
ideas, such as renting motorcycles and dune buggies to race around
the desert in.
After this, the listener is transferred to the actual road trip, with
banter between Thompson and Acosta roaming around in their own way in
Las Vegas. They are driving, messing around with a tape machine
playing soul music and discussing money, drugs and what to do in the city.
At one point Thompson explains how the casino, Circus Circus "gets
old fast." Then they wonder where they can find drugs.
Another point, Acosta tells Thompson he gets awful legal advice from
his lawyers because he refuses to pay his bills. "You get what you
pay for," Acosta said to Thompson.
Disk three is the continuation of "Las Vegas" with Thompson and
Acosta bickering about prejudices against Mexicans, the drug
conference and Thompson's problems with getting his story into
Rolling Stone on time.
This is a strange disk, with acid bent conversations between Thompson
and Acosta discussing what they are seeing while under the influence of LSD.
It is filled with vignettes of such drug induced gibberish. At one
point Thompson begins to ponder what exactly his story is. He even
confides to Acosta he actually does not have a story at all.
This disk is also full of music by Aretha Franklin, Jefferson
Airplane and Led Zeppelin playing in the background as Thompson takes
his notes into his tape recorder.
It also includes his fear after waking up after Acosta fled in a drug
induced frenzy. This scene is a classic moment in the book. He gets
detailed in the entire environment around him, finding little aspects
here and there to keep track of what might have happened.
He is also wondering how he will escape with all the soap and fresh
fruit he wants to bring with him, due to his massive hotel bill that
he cannot pay for.
It ends with Thompson coming to grips with having to put together the
mess he has and turn it into a story somehow.
Disk four is a sleuth of various assignments Thompson worked on in
the '70s. He talks about football and other random notes.
Another part is a coked up Thompson preparing to read Sigmund Freud's
"Cocaine Papers." It is a depressing, drug addled example of the
extremes that Thompson often took. This documents the hazy era when
Thompson became the fictional character and persona he came up with.
Disk five ends with Thompson's trip to Saigon during the final days
of the Vietnam War. This would also be Thompson's final piece for
Rolling Stone as a regular contributor.
This box set displays the era of Thompson's life where he found fame.
He begins as a journalist finding his voice in print media and ends
with a drug addict who has lost his true identity amidst fame,
fortune and notoriety.
This is an excellent box set for hardcore Thompson fans. It gives an
interesting insight into how the famous gonzo journalist worked. It
is funny at times, boring during others and depressing as well.
For casual fans, the documentary film, "Gonzo" will be a better
option. This is merely a companion piece for that film. Depending on
how much one is into the work of Hunter S. Thompson, this is a hit or miss.