Jun 15, 2018

Spring 1975: Jerry Garcia Interview

This interview was broadcast in several parts in 1975 on WVOI 95.9 FM, Tisbury, Massachusetts.

PETER SIMON INTRO: We're gonna be playing a lot of Grateful Dead music, some of the underground tapes that aren't available on record at all; but the main thing that we're gonna do tonight is listen to Jerry Garcia talk about himself and his music. I did an interview with him about three weeks ago, the tape of which I will now play to you all because it's very informative and I'm sure you'll dig it. So here's the first part of the interview.

SIMON: I'm honored to be in the presence of my musical guru, Jerry Garcia, and we're taping this interview in sort of a movie laboratory where they're working on a film. So why don't you talk about it for a second, the Dead film?
GARCIA: Well, what would you like to hear about it?
SIMON: Well, I'd like to know first of all when you think it might be done, 'cause there are a lot of people who are interested in seeing it as well as yourself.
GARCIA: Well, we hope to have it done and maybe out by around October, but it could go longer than that, it's comparatively difficult to deal with it, it's a lot of film and...y'know...it's just gonna take a long time. The big thing is it's gonna take a long time making it be anything besides a ten-hour movie. That's gonna be the hard part.
SIMON: Well, let's see, it consists of three consecutive Dead concerts, the last Dead concerts of the current series, right?
GARCIA: Well, actually, what it is, is that the last gig we played at Winterland, we played for five nights - so it's all five nights. Plus documentary stuff all surrounding it, concerned with the setting up of the equipment and all that sort of thing. The whole thing is [covered], really.
SIMON: So it's not gonna be just straight music?
GARCIA: Well, no, because...it'll include more of the rest of the scene, mostly the people. If you could describe the characters, the characters in it are basically the audience, the band, and our whole technical staff. That's really who's moving in the movie.
SIMON: Are you gonna try and like put the songs together like a typical Dead set?
GARCIA: Well yeah, it'll be something like that - it can't be a typical Dead set because we don't have - because the idea of having just four hours of concert is gonna be hopeless in a movie. So we have to make some concessions about that, but we might end up not doing that. It really has a lot to do with what we decide to do in terms of exhibiting it and the whole - right now we're finding out about distribution and all the rest of that kind of stuff, which turns out to be, just like in records, turns out to be the main bummer in film.
SIMON: Really?
GARCIA: Yeah, distribution, because it represents that large middle structure in everything that goes on in America, which is the middleman, the famous middleman; and the distributors in movies are much more, I think, in that position than almost anything else in terms of their piece of whatever, you know, profit or whatever, however they're structured, and so we're - Part of this is to develop a way to distribute it that makes us feel that we haven't been just building another brick in the wall, y'know - that's always part of it, but this particularly since it's the new field, really, for us to be involved in, and we're into sort of approaching it with whatever purity we can muster initially, rather than having to do it later like we do with records.
SIMON: Do you think you'd put out a soundtrack?
GARCIA: For sure. Yeah, probably a triple set, something like that.
SIMON: Wow, far out. When you were playing and filming, did you put more juice into this particular five days than you did in like a normal concert in Nassau Coliseum?
GARCIA: Well, I would say it definitely had more juice for a variety of reasons - first of all, because it was our last concert - and so emotionally, it had a certain pitch to it, just on the basis of it being the last Dead concert for a while - had a sort of nostalgia thing to it. But as for the energy, you know, it goes both ways, I mean - some of the nights are the kind of nights I like, the kind that are sort of effortless and flowing, and some of 'em are ones with incredible jagged intensity that, y'know, is like another aspect of what we do. What we do and the way we do it is pretty much covered - so it's mostly a matter of constructing it into something that moves along smoothly and has the same effect as a concert. Hopefully it'll be able to get you off the way a concert does. Part of the idea of doing this film in the first place was - we've been trying to develop alternatives to performing live because it's the logistical difficulty and the economic difficulty involved in touring nowadays, the way we do it, y'know, it's really a trip. So this represents one possibility, y'know, the idea of filming a concert and seeing if really, authentically, y'know, whether any of the feeling or the good moments or the highness or whatever is able to be translated to this medium, that's really what it has to do with.
SIMON: It would be a great exploration and, if it's successful, it would be some breakthrough because, like, the movie Woodstock and stuff like that kind of just sort of skimmed the surface of what that event was. But going to a Dead concert from the paying customer's point of view can be a drag at times because of the way they tend to push a lot of people into one space, and they bum you out at the gate 'cause they check you to make sure you don't have any alcohol - it's kind of like these peripheral problems, but just to sit in a nice theater where it's all controlled - I mean, you can really get off on it.
GARCIA: Right, exactly. Plus it wouldn't have to be very expensive, it wouldn't be in the range that concert prices are these days, so it wouldn't have that level going for it, and - yeah, that's part of what we're trying to deal with too, because just where we've been having to play because of audience demand has been these intense control situations, big stadiums and stuff like that where there's millions of cops and all that, you know - it's the same problem that everybody has to deal with. So this is one of our tries on that level, y'know, on the level of idea, y'know - and just in terms of something to do, you know, as an artist or whatever, for me it represents a new level of interest and development that - it's gettin' me off, y'know, that's what it's doing - that's the way I feel about it, I enjoy films, I've been a film buff for a long time and all that. It's neat to be sort of forced into making a movie. (laughs)
SIMON: A lot of artists kind of branch out into moviemaking after exploring other media but just don't quite get to it - it seems like movies kind of, sort of have all things going for them, in a way.
GARCIA: Yeah, in a way, I mean in a way it represents, in terms of the amount of impact - emotional content that you can communicate to an audience, on that level, it's the ideal situation; people are receptive when they're watching movies; and the movies, I mean for me, movies have been incredible experiences, good ones, bad ones, y'know, moving, emotional - all different kinds. Not too often ones that just get you off and make you feel real good - that's like a rare movie. 
SIMON: What movie comes to mind that did that to you?
GARCIA: None. (laughter) Maybe some Walt Disney movies, y'know, that's about as - I mean, I don't know, it's kind of hard to relate to - well, Children of Paradise is a good movie, it makes you feel good... I don't want to go into that. 
SIMON: That's a tangent!
GARCIA: Right, for sure. 

SIMON: Okay. So the movie is a [current] project and you're also doing an album now, another Dead album. How's that going at this point?
GARCIA: Well, it's going pretty well, it's - I would say that it's the most...musically adventurous album we've done in a pretty long time.
SIMON: In what sense?
GARCIA: Well, it's just that we're doing things that are really unconventional for us. Musically we're approaching ideas - we're evolving our own development, is what we're doing, we're consciously guiding it through a certain stream of possibilities, mostly having to do with new and unusual harmonic relationships that may - well, I don't know, quite frankly, some people might not like what we're doing. But it's another thing, you know. In a way, our development has been to synthesize various kinds of forms - like playing jazz, playing country & western, rhythm & blues and all that sort of thing, and then forming combinations of all these various genres and styles within what we're doing, within our instrumentation; and now we're sort of working on creating styles, you know what I mean?, rather than just being eclectic or just synthesizing other styles, so it's a little more difficult, and it's also considerably more experimental, I mean it's really questionable as to whether the things that work will be successful musically, but we're sort of into defining new spaces for ourselves, musically, to go to.
SIMON: Are you talking, like as opposed to the last two albums in the studio, which have been sort of like precise songs [Garcia: Yeah.] and this is more like the jam trip that you do?
GARCIA: Something like that, and even - yeah, and also incorporating songs but not in song sense, not in that kind of framework, but that's part of what we're trying to adjust, you know, is what are those relationships, what are those definitions; and for us, all those things represent, on some level at least, cliches in our own material, in our own musical habits, y'know; there are things that we've done and we've done 'em a lot, we've done 'em lots of different ways and - so, you know, it's a question of sort of restructuring, I mean, suppose none of the forms that we've been playing existed, what would we be playing instead? It's that kind of a question, you know. So it's experimental, I mean, that's really the right word for what we're doing, it's experimental.
SIMON: So do you like have songs written?
GARCIA: No. We're developing those ideas en masse - you know, I'm not, for example, doing like I normally do, which is run off for a week or so and Hunter and I, you know, knock out nine or ten songs a year, you know - wham, there they are, and those are songs and we learn them, and the arrangement grows depending on everybody's contribution - we're not doing that, what we're doing instead is just developing ideas, musical ideas, everyone more or less participating, you know, on the actual ideas, you know, no one person is responsible for it.
SIMON: Is this kind of an outgrowth of the fact that you aren't touring together, therefore you haven't been together in such a long time, so you might as well do something completely different?
GARCIA: Well, we've been together - we haven't been touring, certainly, but we've been, y'know, certainly dealing with each other on other levels, and doing other things. But yeah. It's also what we hope to be able to accomplish by not performing a lot, which is get away from our habits, get away from our old repertoire, and just, you know, cut ourselves loose from the past basically, shocking as that might sound, and develop, you know, new levels to go off of, really, to depart from. And this is the start of that; I could see this kind of developmental thing lasting for a long time, going on for a long time, and we would continue to work on things this way. And it'll be interesting, it's the first time we've ever done things that purely [ ? ] in the studio, rather than trying out - rather than learning a tune and then developing it a little live or in an onstage situation and then recording it, (that's not really what we do).
SIMON: What about the very early albums, like maybe the third album you did or the second, it had the long sides [...] - anything like that?
GARCIA: Uh - in a way, I don't think it'll be... I think we have enough knowledge and experience now to pull off some of the things we tried to do on those albums and didn't make. But it won't be...it won't have that - it won't be like that, it'll be different, it'll be its own - it'll be something now, you know, something that's happening now, rather than what was going on then - it's a little difficult to relate to it, because at that time our music was based on certain conceptions in the world and everything else that was going on around us, and our experimental tries at that time were of a certain nature, in other words, they were intended to have a certain effect, say, that was what we were hoping for - those things turned out to be delusions later, because everybody hears what they want to hear, really - and so our purposes in what we're doing are usually only interesting to us, you know, I mean, in terms of how greatly it affects the music and how well you notice, for example, some obscure little idea that we were trying to communicate. In those days we would spend a lot of time working on an idea that might not even be successful, just to try to do it, but we were also learning how to record. So, you know, we were into being - we were unconventional just because we were inexperienced, in terms of our approach to it. So now we have all this experience, but now we're trying to determine unconventionality, you know what I mean? It's a little tricky, it is - it's a little tricky, we've covered a lot of ground, so we've used up a lot of things, in terms of freshness, you know.
SIMON: Right, right. Wow, you're also doing a solo album and doing all - you just amaze me that you have so many projects at once.
GARCIA: Yeah, I know, it's incredible.
SIMON: I understand you're doing a solo album, you're also touring with Merl Saunders - how do you -
GARCIA: How do I find the time?
SIMON: - channel your energy in such productive ways?
GARCIA: Well, things tend to work - tend to overlap, generally speaking, like, the way I'm working - I wouldn't be able really to concentrate on sitting in front of a movie editing device for - I couldn't do that for eight hours a day, I can do it pretty easily for six, though, it's pretty interesting for that long, and I feel my attention is on it and I can do a good job keeping up with it. Then I would, y'know, like to play music, it would be nice to play music in a studio situation, like recording is something that also can hold your attention, if you're cooking, up to eight hours, maybe. But on the average it's more like six - just, I mean, if you're being honest, since we're working in a situation in which the pressure isn't on us particularly to stay there a specific number of hours, cause we've booked it in advance and so forth, it's more relaxed, so really it looks like it's more than it really is; and then if I'm on the road, I'm not doing anything during the day, I'm playing evenings; so during the day is a time when it's convenient to compose. I might sit around an hour a day, just play the guitar and practice, and maybe learn some things, and maybe some ideas will come out that are like songs, and that represents maybe two or three hours a day on the road, where nothing else is happening but television and a gig that night - usually a gig will take maybe four hours or five hours, in total time - actually playing maybe only two of those, or two and a half - really it looks like more, you know, it isn't really that much.
SIMON: But just viewing you from afar, you just seem to be one of the most productive musicians around.
GARCIA: Just because I'm crazed, I'm obsessed, you know.
SIMON: People have said that you're a musical junkie. 
GARCIA: Yeah, that's as good a description as any, that's a good description.

SIMON: [With the] Grateful Dead, it seems that live Dead is the essence of what you did, and that recorded Dead kind of is a different thing, and most people thought, well, they're so different, how can they be the same group and yet be so different in the studio as live. Do you have any preference - whether you dig your music live better than - whatever it is? 
GARCIA: Oh, I prefer playing live to playing in the studio, for sure - just as an experience it's definitely richer, y'know, because it's continuous - I mean, you play a note and you can see where it goes, you can see what the response is, what the reaction is, there's - y'know, it's reciprocated. In a studio, you can also do that, but you're doing it with the other musicians, and musicians are like - When you have a group of musicians in a studio, it's not unlike having a roomful of plumbers. I mean, what we might be interested in as musicians and what we're doing might not relate to anybody else, y'know. That's the difference - if there's a real big difference, that's the difference. And also, generally speaking, the studio, in terms of just energy, is a more relaxed, quiet sort of scene, it's not like a concert, and we're not into being artificially energetic - y'know, we're not into just getting ourselves excited in the studio and trying to be - trying to perform live in the studio, essentially - we have never tried to do that, so it's been appropriate in our case to do a lot of live records, just because that's what we do - even though the records I don't believe are successful - I don't think the records are a successful form to record our live performances because of the time thing alone, makes it sort of ridiculous.
SIMON: You mean the lack of enough time?
GARCIA: Yeah, the fact that a record really can only hold about 28 - no, no, closer to 23 minutes a side, at the outside, and that's not really appropriate, our records would have to be - for our records to be reflections of our live thing they would have to be four records, four-album sets, and that's impractical as can be. So we really are - the definition of what we do is we're a live band, for sure we're not anything but that, and recording has been sort of gratuitous - just because we play music, one of the forms that music can go out on is the record. But it's a distinct form, it's not a reflection of what we do, so we just treat it as though it is what it is - it's as though, if you're an artist, you might work in - you might prefer to work in lithographs, you know, but sometimes you do gouaches, y'know - and lithographs might be what get you off the most - but, y'know, if you have to do a gouache, you do a gouache, y'know, watercolor, whatever - it's that sort of thing.
SIMON: So then - what was the reason you decided not to play live anymore? 
GARCIA: There's really a lot of reasons for it. There are kind of two levels, or maybe three levels of reasons. One of them has to do with just the economics of moving around the amount of stuff we have - that the amount of money that we would make at the gigs basically wasn't able to pay for moving us around and being able to develop everything and also to pay everybody - we had a huge organization with a colossal overhead on a weekly basis. And so past a certain point, we were really working to keep the thing going, rather than working to improve it or working because it was joyful.
And that brings up the next level, is that we're interested in doing stuff that's joyful or that's fun, you know, but then how do we reconcile that with economic survival? You know, how can we work and have a good time and also pay the bills? Y'know, so we don't have that together, we don't understand how to do that so far - and what we were doing was not it.
And also the thing of always playing large, y'know, venues and feeling that remoteness, and feeling as though we're creating an unpleasant situation for the audience to come into, which is not what we want to do, and we don't want people to be busted at our concerts, we don't want them to be, y'know, uncomfortable or any of those things, and that's been more the standard way they've been.
And plus, it's basically sort of dehumanizing to travel the way you have to travel in a rock & roll band. The quality of life on the road and everything is pretty slim.
But mostly, it has to do with economics - it also has to do with the thing of we've been doing it for ten years, we haven't spent any time away from it, y'know. That's a long time to do anything without really getting away from it for a while. So we just decided to stop it before it, y'know, just overwhelmed us, before it got to be really ridiculous, and try to consciously see what the next step is for us, what the thing for us to do is. We don't want to go into the success cul-de-sac, you know, we don't like that place, we don't want to - And it's not possible for us to really do something that would be totally altruistic like going and playing free everywhere, y'know - if it were possible for us to do that. Really, we need a subsidy is what we need, the government should subsidize us, y'know - we should be like a national resource.
SIMON: Better than the Pentagon.
GARCIA: Yeah, right. We can have a lot more fun besides. But that's - those are the kind of things - and just the thing of being - trying to fit in responsible consciousnesses with what's happening in the world, and trying to - feeling that it's really as much our responsibility as anything to create the right situation for what we're doing to be in, just on any level - that all is what it has to do with.
SIMON: Was it a hard decision to come to, like did you not want to admit it, or was it so painfully obvious that it was like a relief?
GARCIA: It wasn't painfully obvious, no, because there was a lot of different factions - there's always factions that want to keep on doing it because - well, because y'know, how am I going to make a living, you know, or whatever, y'know - there's always different, everybody has different reasons for wanting to do it or wanting to not do it or whatever. But it was time, that's all, it was just the time to stop.

SIMON: Well, you reunited recently at the Kezar thing, had a quick flash of sound for about thirty minutes, which was beautiful. Do you see getting back on the stage again eventually, and if so, in a different format?
GARCIA: Well, I can see getting back on the stage eventually - format is part of what we're trying to determine. And one - well, one possible fantasy that we've thought of, thinking about ourselves as a more or less permanent musical association, is the idea of eventually building a place that would be like a permanent performance place, that's designed around us and designed around our, y'know, specific ideas.
SIMON: People would have to come to you.
GARCIA: Yeah, right - well you know, at least for like two months of the year. Because in terms of our music getting finer and finer, it gets finer and finer if we play in the same room - if we keep playing in the same room we really understand it, and so the music gets really articulate, which is one of the directions it needs to go in, to be more clearly stated and more - greater subtlety and greater nuance, y'know, all that - and that has to do with understanding a room really well, and you can do that if you're playing it really often. So that's one possibility, and that would also be a facility for recording, and videotaping, or filming, or whatever, in the event that the idea of a canned concert works - if that works. But that would be one possible approach; it would also let us live, y'know, comparatively normal lives - we wouldn't have to tour. And then if we were going to tour, we could do it, y'know, selectively, certain times of the year or whatever. That all has to be defined, but that's one possible fantasy.
SIMON: That's a nice idea.
GARCIA: Yeah, it would work - it would be good for the music - that one is one that really would - that's what makes it the most valuable in terms of - you know, it's a good idea because it allows the music to develop.
SIMON: Next question relates to the vast cult-like following that you've amassed through the years and how you relate to deadheads. Do you feel like you're responsible to supply them with music or that their feelings affect you? And the second part of the question's about the incredible underground tape library that is traveling the country - whether you find that you get ripped off - do you feel ripped off by that, or is it groovy?
GARCIA: Not particularly, I don't feel ripped off by it, I think it's OK, if people like it, they can certainly keep doing it, y'know. I don't have any desire to control people's, y'know, what they're doing.
SIMON: Some artists get freaked that people would bother to tape their concerts, and they actually stop people from doing it all the time.
GARCIA: Yeah, we've - our guys have done that too, y'know, guys have freaked out, "Whoa, we can't have that going on," but I don't know, it doesn't really matter to me that much, too awfully much - and there's something to be said for being able to record an experience that you liked, you know, or being able to obtain a recording of it. Really, we have all that stuff - our own collection of tapes of just many, many performances. I would love to see all that stuff somehow put into a form that we could put it out and have it be real inexpensive so people could get at it if they want it - it's another thing. My responsibility toward the notes is over after I've played them - at that point I don't care where they go (laughs), they've left home, y'know.
SIMON: Well I for one, I have my own collection which is maybe 50 hours' worth of music -
GARCIA: God, amazing.
SIMON: And you know, I hook up with people in New York and people out here who have tapes and we share them, and so many people get off on you guys -
GARCIA: Well that's the thing, you know, if people get off, that's what's good - you know, it doesn't matter whether we make a profit on other people's getting off, that's not why we do it in the first place. That's the way I feel about it, pretty much. But it would be great if there were some way we could work it out, y'know, so we could survive and do what we want to do and not have to scuffle - basically we scuffle, we've been scuffling ever since we started, y'know, we get into a larger and larger scale of a scuffle, in terms of now we have this movie thing, record company, and so forth and so on - but they're all just large scuffles, y'know, rather than small scuffles.
SIMON: Do you pattern your music at all according to what you think the audience wants to hear? 
GARCIA: No, we never do that. More - it has to come from us, y'know, it has to be genuine on that level - and that's one of the things that makes it difficult because, like I say, we've really used up a lot of ideas, y'know, we've gotten ourselves off on an idea and then murdered it, y'know, used it until it's gone, it's kind of like that. In a sense, we've just bankrupted our own material by using it so much, and so our idea is to, y'know, create new levels of places to get off. And the audience - I think our audience is more helpful than - they're not a hindrance on that level. I think that - when we do a show and it's like 40% new material - when that happens, which it rarely does, but when it happens, people welcome it, I think they welcome the changes, and I don't feel as though there are certain things I must do for the audience.
SIMON: Like Dark Star.
GARCIA: Yeah, I mean - you know, it's just, I don't think that - I think the audience is ready for whatever, rather than insist on hearing Casey Jones or - there's always people that are into that kind of stuff and, that's neat, you know, I'm glad that they are, on certain levels, some levels I'm not. Also, the whole thing is pretty mutable, I mean there's some songs you can keep doing over and over again, they still live, they still have something - you can really feel as though the song means something to you, you can do it and feel honest about it - some material just really lasts that way, some doesn't, so it's all those things. Nothing is real solid but the thing of being able to progress or kind of work on ideas, we always have felt free to do that - in fact, compelled.
SIMON: Well, one way that you do, I think, is the way you plan - if you plan the sets, that's another question, or whether - just the way that one song segues into another, like, it seems so spur-of-the-moment - is it?
GARCIA: Usually it is. Sometimes we - somebody will have an idea before, like during the break, and have an idea for a possible sequence of things that can relate, we might talk it over real fast, or sometimes there's little huddles onstage - so it's "hey, I've got a great idea, why don't we blah blah blah, you know, take this and go from that to that and unfold this and that." Sometimes we'll do it and sometimes we'll go along with the program and sometimes we'll depart from it entirely, sometimes we won't have any program at all, we'll just be spur-of-the-moment. It works every different way - God, we've been doing this so long, that you know, every conceivable possible permutation has been - 
SIMON: Do you have like signals, so that people know, "well let's stop this and go into that," you know?
GARCIA: No, but we all are so well-acquainted with each other's playing and also with the ideas contained in the tunes, that I can play the most, the barest minimum of an idea from another tune that we do, and the band will understand and pick it up - even if I don't intend it, even if it's just accidental - that kind of thing happens a lot. And then a lot of it is miracles, y'know - and that's part of what creating new forms has to do with, it has to do with creating a situation in which miracles can happen, in which amazing coincidences can happen, that all of sudden you're into a new musical space. And that's the challenging part about coming up with structures that are loose and tight, they have an element of looseness to them which means they can expand in any direction and go anywhere from anywhere, or come from anywhere, but they also have enough form so that we can lock into something. So it really has to do with the element of what's knowable and known and what isn't known and what isn't knowable, and what can be invented on the spot, and there's a delicate balance in there, and since we're dealing with, y'know, several consciousnesses at the same time, everybody going through their individual changes, that there's times when everybody's up for it and everybody feels right about it, and the form provides openings, then y'know, miracles can happen, amazing miracles. And that's what we're in it for, that's one of the reasons we do it, you know, is for those moments of ah, unexpected joy, the most amazing stuff - and that's, y'know, that's something that you definitely have to think about how it works mechanically, just how does it work, we have to sort of explore that thing. And we've been exploring it for a long time, we don't really know anything about it.
SIMON: Simple twists of fate.
GARCIA: Yeah right, that's what it is - orchestrated twists of fate.

SIMON: I've noticed through the years your music changing a lot - you know, it started off as the San Francisco psychedelic sound and Pigpen was a big part of it, and then after he kind of left his body, you sort of went into an acoustical phase like with American Beauty - well, he was around for that, but you were obviously changing. And the last couple albums have been sort of a slicker studio sound, which I have enjoyed, but other people have kind of - some people are edgy about it. (Garcia laughs) When Pigpen departed, was that a big break in your sort of history as a group?
GARCIA: Well, yeah, sure, it's like - yeah, all of a sudden it's not the same group, y'know, it's a different group. And Pigpen had influenced a lot of what we were doing just by - because of who he was, and that - the music had to be able to include him. In a way, Pigpen - technically at any rate - Pigpen represented sort of like the low water mark, you know what I mean? (laughter) We couldn't go past that, because if we came up with anything that was too complicated for him, he couldn't play it, and so everything was structured to be able to at least [include] Pigpen, or else he wouldn't play, he'd lay out or stuff, and then y'know, there were the tunes that he sang and the rest of us got to just goof around, you know, and he could - he had that thing of being able to really carry an audience too, y'know, he was like really more of a showman and more out there than the rest of us - and so that element, y'know, we don't have that any more, what we have is a more group-like identity, probably. And, you know, it's definitely different, it's hard to say, it's not a question of better or worse, it's just different.
SIMON: Were you aware that he was like on the way out?
GARCIA: Oh yeah - well see, we were all prepared emotionally for it a full year and a half before, because that was when he first went into serious illness, and we all - there was a week or so where everybody gave blood for him and everything like that, and he was in real bad shape, and that was when it looked like he was gonna die, so we were all emotionally prepared for it during that two or three-week total emergency bummer, and then he recovered and slowly got himself back together, and was back in the band and we were working and everything, and then he just snuck away, y'know. It was really sort of - it was typical of him, typical of the kind of person he was.
SIMON: Did you try and influence him to a more like healthy existence?
GARCIA: Oh sure, but we failed. We failed just, y'know, because - he was an incompleted person, in a way, and we all knew it and he knew it and that was just the way it was, it wasn't the kind of thing where - you know, you can only do that so long and so hard and have effect. Actually, the thing of him getting that ill straightened him out way more than any talk from us, and he was in fact really working at getting himself together, he hadn't been drinking for a year and a half, at all, y'know, zero - but his body was just gone, it was just shot, it was beyond the point where it could repair itself, and that was the thing that finally did it - it wasn't as though he was on some kind of final bender and then killed himself, he was actually on the road to, y'know, a new persona, a new self.
SIMON: A new incarnation. 
GARCIA: Yeah, it turned out, yes.

SIMON: What particular album that you've done like seems the most satisfying work, or song - anything that comes to mind?
GARCIA: Um... Well, it's kind of hard to say, you know - they don't - usually aren't like that - most of the time when we're working on an album, there's stuff going on in life, y'know, that more has your attention than working on the album, and working on the album is just like going to work, it's like having your job and you go in and you work on it, and you don't really know what's on it until much later, and sometimes you never know, sometimes you don't know until somebody says to you one day, "That album, y'know, says this and that and whatever, y'know" - sometimes you just don't know. So like for example, Workingman's Dead, which has turned out to be our most significant album on that level, on a certain level, y'know, was the album that we worked the least on - we spent, y'know, I think we spent 19 or 20 days or something like that, we finished the whole album - and while that was going on, that whole being busted in New Orleans was hanging over our heads, we were in the middle of this Lenny Hart weird hassle going on internally, all this other stuff was going on, and it was like - the record was like an afterthought, I mean it was really beside the point compared to what we were going through at the time; and with American Beauty, there was this rash of parent deaths where everybody's parents kacked in the space of about three or four weeks, or maybe two or three months, you know, [when] we were working on that record, it was really incredible, it was just like tragedy city, you know, everybody was getting - it was bad news every day, y'know - really, it was incredible, and we were working on this record, but y'know, the work gets - you're so distracted by what's going on in life that the work gets to be something - it has a mysterious life of its own, and you don't even notice until way later.
SIMON: I had no idea.
GARCIA: Yeah, it's odd, you know, it's - it seems like it's always something like that, y'know, something like that is happening in the middle of it.
SIMON: How do you feel about the last two records?
GARCIA: They were near-misses. Y'know, the first one [Wake of the Flood] we were extremely rushed to make - pull it in under the wire because of our whole deadline setup and the pressure of putting out our first record on our own label. We were rushed, we didn't really get to do the job on it I wanted - plus we were in a studio that was not really - it didn't really make it as a studio. [Record Plant, Sausalito] And then that's also true of the second one, of Mars Hotel, because there we were working at Columbia which is so straight it might as well be General Hospital, you know, it really is straight, and the vibes there were abominable, y'know, they were appalling, we were working with a real straight engineer, and he was - y'know, it was wrong for us, really. We had some good ideas and some nice music and stuff like that, but I think the execution and the spirit suffered because of the place we had to work. [CBS Studios, San Francisco]
SIMON: You couldn't have changed that in midstream?
GARCIA: Ohh, we could've, but we're not really that bright, y'know. And besides, the way - financially, the way those things are structured when you make a deal for the studio time, it doesn't - we don't have that kind of power, y'know, to make snap decisions, because, like if we're getting a cut rate, it's because we bought a month's worth of time, y'know what I mean, that kind of stuff. It's all part of the scuffle.
SIMON: Money.
GARCIA: Yeah, right - and it's amazing how much it's limited what we do and how we do it, and still does. It represents - in the real world, it's the main limit. And y'know, sometimes we have it together to work around it or something, sometimes - most the time we don't. And we don't want to work with the big record company, the kind of people who have that kind of power, because we don't like those people.

SIMON: I noticed on your albums that any song that comes from you is also associated with Robert Hunter. How does that work? And have you ever tried to actually write words yourself?
GARCIA: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I've tried. (laughter)
SIMON: Nothing that you would say would stand the test of time?
GARCIA: No, I don't - I have never developed the necessary discipline to really write gracefully. I'm a better editor than I am a writer, for sure. I do some writing, but I'm not at all serious about it, and I usually find that if I have an idea that wants to be expressed in words, that Hunter can express it better than I can - and also, he and I have such a good working relationship that if I have a suggestion of any sort, y'know, it works just very smoothly, we don't clash in terms of our egos, we both tend to focus on the work and neither of us focuses on ourselves, so it works out to be very comfortable. And y'know, I mean, my capacity as a person who chooses a lyric to sing is really about as much as I would want to have toward the responsibility [for] the content. I mean, the fact that those are the things - of Hunter's output, which is really pretty enormous, only a small part of it ever gets to be he & I songs, and those get to be - those are usually edited quite a lot from what they originally were, and we work together to make - to form something that's satisfying to both of us and that works out right, but y'know, we overlap - it's like the tip-of-the-iceberg kind of thing.
SIMON: Do you usually think of the melody and he adapts the lyrics, or - ?
GARCIA: It works both ways - sometimes I think of the changes, the melody, the phrasing, y'know, where there should be vowels and where there should be consonants, y'know - I can get down to as much musical detail without actually having words - and then he can, y'know, he has enough technique to be able to actually fill out those requirements. And sometimes he has a lyric and I'll read it and it'll just knock me out, I'll say, "This is amazing, I want to set it," and I'll take it and work on it - and sometimes we'll take bits and pieces of things, y'know, different ideas, stick 'em together, polish them - I mean, we work every different way. That also is not limited by some particular stylistic approach, it's just whatever works.
SIMON: His lyrics do have a certain feel to them, they're very unusual, they're kind of very surreal, and you can't always like grab them and say, "Oh yeah, I understand this song," it's like very amorphous in a way.
GARCIA: Well see, that's part of my editorial finger in there, that's the editorial hand of Garcia in there, and my feelings about it are that - well, personally, I have this hangup about songs, I'm fascinated by fragments - I'm fascinated by fragments because of my involvement in traditional music, there's a lot of things around that are fragments of songs, old traditional songs, and there'll be like this tantalizing glimpse of two or three verses of what was originally a thirty-verse extravaganza, y'know, and there'll be two or three remaining stanzas left in the tradition, that you read them or hear them and they're just utterly mysterious and evocative, for odd reasons, different times; so I have a tendency to want to not have a song be topical in the sense of an idea surrounding an idea, I like for a song to be speaking to the mysterious, y'know, just because that tends to make it so that you can - your own images can happen, your own images - it's a little like radio plays, your own images, you fill in what you want, y'know, on the basis of what you're hearing. I like songs that are more evocative than, say, thought-provoking or obvious.
SIMON: Protest songs.
GARCIA: Right, topical songs. We've written a few topical songs but they were just that [or "just bad"], that's the way they work out, is they end up being, y'know, topical because they're frozen to a certain time.
SIMON: Like which one?
GARCIA: Well like Speedway Boogie, for example, I think that's probably the most topical song we've ever written.

SIMON: What musicians have stood out in your mind as ones who definitely influenced you or that you look up to and think you have stuff to learn from them?
GARCIA: Oh, everyone, everybody, all music, I don't have - I'm not, y'know, particularly attached to any one idea or format or anything, I just appreciate whatever's good - and it's just whatever I hear, like endless numbers of anonymous musicians who I don't know on the radio and stuff like that have influenced me, you know - not to mention all the people that are well-known and whose names I do know and they've influenced me too, millions of 'em - I listen to everything.
SIMON: Well, your guitar playing is kind of unto its own, you know, there's nobody that I can think of who plays like you, but you - how did you learn that kind of whatever it is?
GARCIA: I can't really say, it hasn't been the product of - y'know, I haven't - I don't know, the only thing I can really relate to you in terms of the roots of my own playing has to do with a sound that I wish I would hear, y'know - something that I wanted to hear, or maybe a little snatch or moment of a guitar player, y'know, on some record, or y'know - just a little moment, and there's something about it that says, "That is a door to something." I can't really explain it, it's emotional, and it goes back to my earliest years, it really is that deep and it just is me really selecting out of the universe stuff that's part of that sound. It's a thing which, sometimes I hear it very clearly, sometimes I don't hear it at all, but it's produced my whole development.
SIMON: Did you pick up a guitar at an early age and start learning basic chords?
GARCIA: No, I didn't, unfortunately; I wish I had. I got my first guitar when I was 15, and it was an electric guitar, and I played it for six months, almost a year, without knowing how to tune it at all, I had it in some silly open tuning, something that sounded good to my ear, and I figured out all kinds of chords and things in it; I didn't know anybody that played guitar and I wasn't - I was too arrogant to take lessons. And finally somebody showed me the right way to tune it and I - but I blundered all along, you know, I didn't really get - I didn't really start playing or start working at the guitar until I was about 23.
SIMON: Oh, wow.
GARCIA: Y'know, all the rest of the time I just screwed around. And I worked on the banjo for a while, that's the thing that taught me about working, or about learning. I got serious about the banjo. And then after that, getting serious about the guitar, I'd already been through the step of getting serious, y'know, so that means that I knew how to learn, so I started learning how to play the guitar and working at it - but I'm still working at it, I'm still learning - I mean, it definitely - it's not a process that just finally you're through learning and you know how to play - it's never that way. And I feel I'm a person who doesn't have a great amount of talent, in a sense, I don't feel like I'm a gifted musician - I feel like what I've learned, I've had to really work at learning - it's been a hassle, basically. That's one of the reasons I play a lot, because it - I need to play a lot just to keep myself together, just to keep my chops together. But - I mean, I'm always trying to develop myself, I haven't arrived anyplace yet.
SIMON: Well, one thing that I get from your playing and your presence onstage and you as a person is the sense that what you play isn't you playing it as much as coming through you from a higher place, in a way. Can you relate to that?
GARCIA: Oh sure - yeah, I can definitely relate to that, and when I'm talking about playing, I'm talking about being ready for that - just like all those other things, when I talk about miracles and stuff like that, that's what I'm talking about, is being ready for that; and for me, it has to do with being technically ready, to be able to let it flow, if that's what it's gonna do; and when it's work is when it's me doing it, y'know, when I have to do it, if I don't feel like - if there isn't a flow, either I'm hanging it up, or it's just not happening, or whatever, then I have to work at it, which is a level of competence I like to have, y'know, I like to be able to at least rely on my own resources if that's what it comes down to; but I prefer to be ready to be able to play what, y'know, whatever's there, and it's not really - I can't say that there's a certain sense that I am transformed, y'know, and then all of a sudden, y'know, God is speaking through my strings - it isn't really like that. It's more like - if you're real lucky, you know, and practice a lot and play a lot and try to feel right, you know, and you're lucky, and everybody wants for it to happen, then there's the possibility that things - special things will happen. And when those things happen, everybody gets off on it, not just me. I can get off on it, on an evening that is like, for an audience, mediocre, because I'll get off on it because it feels good or the groove is nice or my hands are working well, y'know, I can get off on a lot of different levels, but really getting off, y'know, really - 


Mar 29, 2018

October 30, 1970: SUNY Gym, Stony Brook


Seeing the Grateful Dead ever more becomes a complex situation, filled with ritual, worship, and even madness. There are those who would (and do) pursue them across the country or put their asses on the line by attempting to steal past fences and security guards that they might trip out of their faces on stage behind Jerry Garcia's amplifier. If any band is enchanted, it is the Grateful Dead and if any night is the Dead's night, it is Halloween.

We journeyed to see the Grateful Dead at Stoney Brook on Halloween as, no doubt, thousands did, until Penn Station, it seemed nothing less than a pilgrimage.
I was enchanted from the very beginning. With Kevin's car incapacitated, the only alternative was hitching. So, two friends and myself waited along with six others in an intermittent drizzle on the entrance to the Thruway.
But the spirits of the day were partial to our malaise and within four hours, by way of two long rides, we arrived at Binghamton, cramped and woozy. Kevin and I grew uneasy. Things that go too smoothly are always subject to suspicion. Certainly the worst was yet to come.
We left our friend at Harpur with night an hour old already and the cold becoming quietly noticeable.
A short ride left us, along with one other passenger, several blocks from Route 17. Together the three of us walked down Susquehanna Ave. in this silly town of Binghamton. Our guide, short and large with curly hair, a ring in her nose, an American Indian and four months pregnant to boot. Being with her was one of those few fragile and precious human interchanges that remind you, if need be, that you are alive.
We walked slowly through the ghetto of Binghamton while our little lady rapped on about most everything. Early trick or treaters in masks and sheets danced around in the streets.
She asked us if we were hungry ("We don't have much, but if you boys are hungry, y'gotta eat"). We explained that we'd eaten and we blessed her kindness silently.
We left her at her house and she wished us luck, reminding us once more exactly where on 17 we should stand. We wished her the best with the new baby and she laughed. "Oh, don't you worry none 'bout the baby, it's me you gotta worry 'bout with three of them now, running around all crazy." We moved on as she stood at the gate, calling on her roommate in Spanish.
A short ten-minute ride and then the final deliverance - a ride all the way to New York with two guys from Cornell. Well, we thought, the worst doesn't necessarily have to come.
The Bronx! The Bronx! How unholy it seemed, walking away from Kevin's house - still, yet watchful; Halloween pumpkins glowing beside American flags in shaded windows. Change in the Bronx is subtle - always - a few more cracks in the pavement, another tree missing from Mosholu Parkway.
I talked with the folks for a while over coffee and then collapsed into sleep. The little three rooms that compose home never seemed smaller.
The next day's visit to my high school left me shaken. Perhaps it should not have; the stagnancy that has beset every human artifact, movement and situation certainly should not be exempt from a high school.
I spoke for some time with last year's English teacher who, for me, was that one person who remains synonymous with the high school experience. We talked long and the resignation was in his voice, the last voice in which I'd expect to hear it.
Well, high school was always a joke, wasn't it? So why shouldn't it now simply become a different kind of joke? A guy I know raced up to me. "Hey, next week we plan to lower the American flag and put up the YIP and NLF. Plus we got a special knot so they won't be able to get it down!" Said with all the political fervor of a kid with a new toy.
My friend, Maria, in the three weeks I hadn't communicated with her, had transferred to night school close to her home.
Lastly, I spoke to Maryam, a friend visiting from Cornell. Maryam is half Black and Cornell is no place for halfway situations. She sounded beleaguered. We parted, and she told me to try and get in touch with her backstage at the concert that night. Maryam has been with Pigpen for about a year now.
Kevin and I took the subway to Penn Station. It was an old train, its floor littered with that morning's Daily News: "Brunette Found Stabbed In Apartment."
We decided to walk from 34th and Sixth to the station. New York was in the midst of rush hour. Suddenly being thrust into the tumult of New York City after an absence creates an amazing elevation of the senses. Unable to keep pace, we walked slowly as people pushed by us, absorbing fragments of conversation and the smell of roasting chestnuts.
When I bought the train tickets, one-way to Stony Brook, the teller smiled knowingly and said something about the Dead.
Everyone congregated on Track 18, people with packs and guitars, flutes and harps. The commuters shivered.
I met a guy from (of all places) my driver's ed class.
The trip was long and the car filled with cigar smoke and the cries of card players. The guy from driver's ed walked to the back of the train and got quietly stoned outside the car. As we pulled out of some Long Island town, a rock crashed through the window alongside his seat. Calmly, he pulled a frightening splinter of glass out of his ear.
Stony Brook is a completely schizoid environment. Perhaps that is the nature of Long Island. After all, suburbia is in a tenuous position, never knowing when the first project will mark its absorption into urbanization.
Stony Brook is where a person suddenly lays down a rap about Marvel Comic Books and just as suddenly disappears or where two folks with painted faces join your game with the salt shaker at a table in the snack bar or where some non-descript individual joins your plan to locate your friends and just as soon melts back into the crowd that spawned him. It is where people's social games are either much too obvious or else non-existent.
Stony Brook is where the Grateful Dead played on Halloween weekend.

The early show never ended at midnight, having begun late, and we massed outside the gym until 2 a.m.
The Dead's cars, nice, shiny limousines, were parked outside. Limousines. "I thought the Dead don't use limousines?" someone remarked. He sounded offended.
"Seize the Time" lay on the front seat and we slipped some nonsensical note into the book.
Security was quite prominent as they began to admit us slowly, the ushers begging the crowd not to push. The gym filled to capacity.
The New Riders opened. A bit unsure at first, they quickly gathered momentum, mixing the old with the new, until they climaxed with "Honky Tonk Woman."
I had never seen the New Riders of The Purple Sage before, but I am convinced that they produce some of the sweetest and tightest music around. Marmaduke is an intense performer and his songs are all fine compositions. Garcia wrenched amazing sounds out of his steel pedal (an instrument to which I am partial) complete with a wah-wah. They left stage after "Honky Tonk" to a standing ovation but didn't return for an encore.
After a spaced-out Betty Boop cartoon, the Dead came out.
They opened with a brand new song about the hard life of the workingman. Garcia got a nice steel pedal sound out of his guitar during the piece. It seems that he plays both instruments in a similar fashion. After one song, the audience was on its feet and smoke spiralled through the lights.
"China Cat Sunflower" followed and flowed into "Know Your Rider." The combination was possibly the best work of the evening. The Dead seemed especially nostalgic that Friday evening, getting deep into material off Vintage Dead. Besides "Know Your Rider," "Dancing in the Streets" and "It Hurts Me Too" were heard.
"Dancing in the Streets" was the spiritual highlight of the set. Bob Weir turned the vocal into a high-powered plea that brought everyone to their feet. The gym shook as the lights played upon several thousand wiggling asses.
The entire set was a field day for Pigpen. His vocal graced "It Hurts Me Too," "Too Hot to Handle," and the inevitable "Lovelights." He also displayed some fine harp work on "It Hurts ..." Unfortunately he almost completely avoided his organ except during tune-up, when it could be heard grumbling above all else.
Garcia took a back seat for the first half of the concert, allowing Weir to get into some of the finest guitar he has ever produced. Gradually, Garcia began to cook and the entire band swung into that old Grateful Dead magic. Somewhere around here, during "St. Stephen" - "Not Fade Away," they launched into some incredible jamming that had everyone mesmerized.
At last, the Dead moved into a comparatively short "Lovelights," a smoke bomb exploded and they left the stage. The audience screamed and stamped their feet but the Dead didn't reappear.
I found Kevin, who'd disappeared early in the evening. He had found Maryam and spent half the concert in a tiny room backstage, drinking cider, eating cheese and talking with her as the New Riders quietly nodded out in respective corners. The second half, he stood behind Garcia's amplifier, tripping out of his face.
We stepped outside as the sun crept up, red through the grimy air of New York City.
The Dead had come across strong, even in the face of several hassles. During "Not Fade Away" Weir's mike passed out and he spent a moment in a famed Bob Weir fit before moving to another. Later, a speaker blew and had to be completely replaced. It was accomplished quickly and efficiently by the Dead's whiz kid, Ramrod (who turned down Kevin's offered aid). Lastly, the Stony Brook gym is a limited environment, yet the band seemed to need little time to feel it out.
The set was somewhat abbreviated, perhaps due to the overtime allotted to the first show or even a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Dead themselves. The customary acoustic section was sorely missed.
Nonetheless, too many questions were raised in my mind. The Grateful Dead have been playing quite a few concerts these days. In truth, can they be expected to be enjoying themselves even 50% of the time? At what point does pleasure become business and business become drudgery? During "Lovelights" Pigpen wandered away and had to be frantically called back by Weir. And, as a billion flashbulbs popped when Garcia lit a joint, he was heard to mutter: "Big fucking deal."
And as for us, packed inside a gymnasium, the sweat rolling down and joining the sweat of basketball and calisthenics, how far will we go in our frantic worship? Outside the concert, several people attempted to gain free admission. A cop singled out one and proceeded to beat the living shit out of him as an usher implored: "There is no need for that, no need at all!" Who then is the manipulator? The manipulated?
It is said that Garcia's new rap is that we don't need the Grateful Dead; we should learn to entertain ourselves. He should know better and perhaps he does, only falling a victim to wishful thinking. As Robert Hunter, the Dead's lyricist said: "One man gathers what another man spills."
Trick or treat, Jerry.

(by Alan Meerow, from the Spectrum, Buffalo NY, 6 November 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also:

https://archive.org/details/gd1970-10-30.121125.sbd.deluca.digitalrbb.miller.flac1648  (early + late shows w/ NRPS)  

Mar 27, 2018

June 27, 1970: CNE Grandstand, Toronto


"...and unrest was replaced by discontent."

 . . . There will never be another Woodstock. This is a reality which few people seem capable of accepting. It is a reality brought upon our counter-culture by its own technocratic children.
In an age of frozen food, pre-prepared anything you might wish, and programmed individually, the counter-culture has failed to live up to itself and has sold out to pseudo-Woodstock nations presented by hip capitalists who know that the electric freak will usually fork over 15 to 20 dollars to hear what "they think" is "their" music.
A perfect example of pre-programmed Woodstock, hip commercialism, Express in Toronto.
Generally, I have always enjoyed rock music when it is presented live and in great quantities. Having missed Woodstock I have been searching for my own individual Camelot whereby all is togetherness, happiness and music.
Being a bit quixotic, I have been searching for my windmills for a long time. So you can understand that when I began receiving rumors to the effect that this Festival Express thing up in Toronto was going to turn out to be another Woodstock (and remembering the same type of rumors that had been circulating last year about Woodstock) with two or three hundred thousand kids absorbing music, sunshine and each other. Anyway, I contacted my Sancho and fled into the deeply blued cotton filled horizons of Canada.
Well, what it turned out to be and what I had hoped it would be were two completely different things. And as a result of the ensuing events, I have firmly decided to hang up my well-worn stash bag and retire from the festival circuit for good.
It's really a shame that a good thing had to be spoiled by hip capitalism at its finest. Like an assembly line during the Industrial Revolution, rock "promoters" have set up a musical assembly line. It produces prefabricated Woodstock nations (on the minute scale, of course) which flaunt themselves under the guise of the musical "revolution."
Assembly line-rock festivals have a number of highly similar characteristics. Like some poorly written epic drama, each festival contains (sort of like an army survival kit): two or three promoters who are Capitalistic pigs (to quote an oft used phrase), a group of kids fucked up on drugs or trying to get fucked up on drugs, security problems like you were inside a prison camp trying to see the commandant, two light towers that are placed almost exactly like those at Woodstock, a stage that looks slightly the same, sound work by Hanley, thousands of kids all trying to be on stage with the performers, and if you are in an upper class rock festival area, you get to have the pleasure of having road vultures work as your security men, etc., etc.
Now, if you put all this together, hype it up through advertising, rumor, whatever, you will have what we had up in Toronto. 
Also, almost as predictable as the constant shouts for more (an encore is generally always given by the group as a regular part of their act) you have the stigma known as the gate crasher. Every festival has them, and every festival generally succeeds in deterring these people's attempts.
In Toronto, the practice of gate crashing had reached its organized best. An organization known as the May 4 Movement organized the international gate crash at the Toronto festival. As was to be expected, security and gate crashing didn't mix. About 27 people were arrested, many injured by the police who used horses and wrestling, they had no guns in their holsters, and very few seemed to have clubs.
Many people did get in, but the hassle that derived from the mess to make it a futile and needless waste of blood and energy.
One really good thing that did result from this excess of people (about 2,000 to 4,000) in the stadium area on the outside was the organization by the Grateful Dead of free concerts over in Coronation Park. At one point it was estimated that about 5,000 people were at this free festival.
After the continued hassle with security forces and whatnot, the promoters of the festival seemed to think that it would be cool to make this festival an imitation of the Woodstock nation festival created last year.
So what they did during the act changes was play through the huge sound speakers the Woodstock album. This really made everybody happy and gay. I mean here we were in the middle of a rock festival, so why not make believe that we have gone back in time and are at Woodstock, I mean what's the difference if we think we all can dig ourselves and how cool we really are?
Anyway, after suffering through all this pretense and inane tripe, we had nothing left to really enjoy except the pure essence of anything like this - music.
So no matter what anybody tells you about how cool and far out it was up in Toronto, it was about as far from Woodstock as anything could ever be.
At Woodstock the people were together, the music was free and easy, the grass and woods were wet and soft, the pastures stank with cow shit, the peace officers actually kept the peace, and the whole world was watching.
At the Festival Express in Toronto, we had thousands of small groups digging the shit out of each other, but nobody else; no togetherness whatsoever, music which cost plenty, security which was absurd, horseshit from the horses used by the police in crowd control, plastic grass on the field and an asphalt track if you were lucky, and very few people seemed to care what was happening at Toronto, that is until violence occurred, and we all know what violence freaks this country has for its respected citizenry.
The children of the technocracy had once again had a meeting, only this time they numbered only 20,000 and they blew it. [ -- ] negative charge from the people inhabiting the counter-culture and what ensued was sad but true. The only thing that keeps us together as a culture right now is our music, and the only thing that kept Toronto from being a real waste of time and energy was the music.
Music is what they had all come to hear and music is what they heard. It flowed from the delicately balanced sound machines perched high atop towers entangled in a maze of electrical wire.
This high energy event had cost the promoters almost $500,000 in talent fees. The array of talent that showed and played still [ -- ]
There were many moments in this two day montage of musical mania. Much of what happened musically is blurred after the passage of a couple of hours. Yet, those moments that do survive are ones which will survive for a long time in one's memory.
The "New Riders of The Purple Sage" made a rare and very successful appearance. This group is composed of members of the Grateful Dead and some Garcia and Mickey Hart.
Garcia was an absolute joy playing his steel pedal guitar. Especially on the steel pedal version of Saint Stephen.
This group should prove to be a method of perpetrating [sic] one of the finest groups on the American scene. The Grateful Dead have been making faint noises of splitting up. At least it seems that Pigpen is no longer with the group. That distance which can be seen in such groups is appearing within the Dead and yet they play on, and will do so for a long time under the guise of the Grateful Dead or the New Riders of the Purple Sage.
As for the Dead, their moments in this concert will last for a long time. The images of Garcia flailing the notes from his guitar with Phil Lesh pumping away on his bass and all the other Dead meshing together for one final flurry of "Turn On Your Love Light" are burned on a brain already numbed with fatigue, dope, and constant music.
After the furious conclusion of the Dead set we had the harsh folk/western/country sound of the Band. The high point of the Band set came when the group launched into a version of "The Weight". Garth Hudson the mountain organist preambled this song with a ten minute off key/on key organ solo. Robbie Robertson's guitar work improves with age and experience.
The other memorable set came from the newly reformed Traffic. Long since the first demise of Traffic we have seen Steve Winwood in a number of roles. He has coupled with Blind Faith, and Ginger Baker's Air Force, but he has found his way home again with his reaffirmation of faith in his old group, Traffic. Minus Dave Mason, Traffic as it stands now contains Chris Wood and Jim Capabaldi.
The set started out on a rough note, namely Wood playing the electric piano familiar to Mason. But then the group came together with Winwood's vocals bouncing off the people and walls of the stadium.
Of particular interest was the guitar work done so little by Winwood. Always an underestimated guitarist, Winwood ranks up there with the best, his guitar is gentle and his riffing calculated. His sounds are flowing, gentle and well-meaning, and seemed to stop the fatigue-worn crowd from squirming and make them just sort of sit back and let the music bathe them in a night purple glow of thought and sense.
As far as the music goes, the Festival Express was the success it had claimed it would be. If it hadn't been for the people the whole affair would have really put anyone's head in a fine, fine place.

(by Joe Fernbacher, from the Spectrum, Buffalo NY, 2 July 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJhnOq2q3ag (Lovelight from Calgary 7/4/70)

Mar 23, 2018

October 4, 1970: Winterland Ballroom


The San Francisco sound is alive and well and living in, you guessed it, San Francisco. One might think that a place so totally saturated with rock and roll would finally tire of it and move on to other things. Hardly. The very fact of that saturation seems to be perpetuating the mode and redefining the mold.
Witness the opening of a new rock ballroom, Winterland, right in the middle of the city, not far from Bill Graham's Fillmore West. The Winterland debut bill featured the progenitors of San Francisco musical essence: Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, groups not exactly new on the scene.
Probably everyone in San Francisco who has thought of grass as other than that green stuff you are supposed to keep off of has seen them half a dozen times. But the head count for the two nights was more than 15,000 with a turnaway mob of about 5400.
Winterland is the first solo venture of promoter Paul Baratta, recently and significantly a Graham associate. Baratta has learned his lessons well. And some of them have been rather expensive. He was put in charge of the Los Angeles shows at the Olympic Auditorium earlier this year.
[ . . . . ]
Winterland is a sprawling hall with an audience accustomed to rock shows, comfortable in the crush of people and sophisticated enough in its musical tastes to settle for nothing less than excellence. It makes a Los Angeles audience, which gets frenzied over the musically impoverished likes of Grand Funk Railroad and the Iron Butterfly, look like Philistines.
Winterland has a health-food concession in the balcony section, and popcorn and sandwiches are sold downstairs for the less demanding. The sound is excellent from just about any place in the hall. Security is handled by an inside "peace patrol" and outside by a few special service San Francisco police.
The debut show also was the first San Francisco ballroom scene to be broadcast live over television and in quadraphonic sound over two FM radio stations.
Winterland is going to be stiff competition for Graham and the Fillmore. In the first place, Graham's shows usually are more expensive. And it isn't hard to imagine the politics that must be going on to snag the bookings. Graham can use his Fillmore East in New York as a wedge, declining to book any act that chooses to play Winterland in San Francisco. But then he may find himself out of the money if the act is big enough.
With the Family Dog on the great highway out of business, Graham has been running free in San Francisco. Now he is faced with a real rival - and one to whom he has taught all the secrets.
The competition is breathing new life into San Francisco rock.

(by Kathy Orloff, Chicago Sun-Times News Service, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, 18 October 1970) 

* * *  


LOS ANGELES - The "San Francisco Sound" is a phrase that has been used frequently over the last several years to lump together a group of bands who live and play in and around S.F. It was the first geographic designation given to a particular kind of music - the "Motown Sound" was generated out of a record company, more than from the city of Detroit itself.
Since the surfacing of the San Francisco Sound, there have been several claims to geographic excellence, among them the Boston Sound, most notable for its publicity and total lack of any musical content.
San Francisco has endured - grown with the times, kept its integrity, continued to supply its audiences with top entertainment - good live shows and fine recordings. Seeing the Grateful Dead recently in S.F., I was reminded of several of the elements that have contributed to the success of the bands up north.

The Dead was probably the first of the San Francisco bands. They were scuffling around with Ken Kesey in the days of the early Acid Tests, playing at parties, benefits, and in the ballrooms. Jerry Garcia, their lead guitar player, is credited as "spiritual adviser" on Jefferson Airplane's first album with Grace Slick, "Surrealistic Pillow." His fine pedal steel guitar can be heard on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Teach Your Children."
The Grateful Dead are better today than they ever have been. Their show at the opening of the Winterland Ballroom was as fine an example of musical compatibility as ever I have heard.
The songs themselves were topnotch, both melodically and lyrically, and unlike so many of the overamplified groups hammering away at audiences today, they could actually be heard and understood. Like most of the San Francisco bands, they are not intimidated by acoustic instruments. They suit the instruments to the songs, rather than the other way around.
At one point during "I Know You Rider," they actually stopped playing for a phrase or two, letting the vocal harmonies, tight and strong, carry the song. The 7,500 people in the audience were quiet, and when the number was through, let up a tremendous yell of appreciation for the group whom they must have seen dozens of times. San Francisco audiences are not bored by their groups, because their groups are not boring. Among other things, they recognize the difference between live situations and recording in the studio, and plan accordingly.

While the Grateful Dead serve as a superb example of San Francisco music, each of the groups has its own particular style. The Dead have a more countrified flavor than Jefferson Airplane, which frequently tends toward more folk and blues sounds. The Airplane is another example of incredibly good musicianship coupled with a great sense of theater and of the absurd.
The Airplane's latest album, "Volunteers," is their best to date. The album recently released by lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bass player Jack Casady, titled "Hot Tuna," is one of the best acoustic blues albums of the last five years. And rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner, who writes much of the Airplane's best material, has an album of his own coming out shortly which promises to be extraterrestrial.
The Youngbloods have become much the S.F. band, even though they are transplants from New York. Credence Clearwater, which insists on its Berkeley base, is also immediately identifiable, but is one of the few S.F. groups that depends so heavily on one leader. Quicksilver Messenger Service and It's A Beautiful Day continue to enhance the flavor of the locale's reputation, although it is rumored that Quicksilver has broken up.

(by Kathy Orloff, Chicago Sun-Times News Service, from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 29 October 1970)

* * *


WINTERLAND, S.F. - If you're going to open a new ballroom in San Francisco, there's no better way to do it than to call upon the three top San Francisco bands to come put on a show. Paul Baratta, being an alumnus of the Bill Graham organization, went one step further and had the opening of Winterland (an existing facility, formerly used on occasion by Graham but now being run exclusively by Baratta) telecast over educational TV. Sound was carried by two (count 'em, two) radio stations. Both nights (Sunday and Monday) found a capacity crowd (7500) to enjoy music at its peak.
The music of the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and the Quicksilver Messenger Service is, or should be, well known to all, and it is way past the point of doing critical analysis of their respective styles. Having seen all three groups at various locations around the country, the only point to be made is that San Francisco music just seems to sound much better in San Francisco. If Baratta can keep his level of booking high, there's no reason why San Francisco can't once again support two major ballrooms. If nothing else, Winterland may give agents an alternative to the Cow Palace!

(by A.R., from Cash Box, 17 October 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.


See also:

Mar 22, 2018

1968: Jazz vs. Rock


"I mean jazz, man. You know, that's where it's at. I mean, you know where I'm at. It's jazz."
With this jumble of half-sung, almost too-hip phrases, Stevie Winwood, leader of Traffic, begins and ends an instrumental piece, "Giving to You."
It's not jazz in the sense of long, improvised solos working out a musical theme, but it is closer to jazz than most of the Traffic's repertoire.
Traffic generally is considered a rock or pop band. But Winwood indicates he also leans toward a different bag - one which has not been considered remotely similar to Top 40 material since the '30s and '40s.
Now, however, one of the major controversies in music circles is whether pop and jazz actually are merging.
West Coast critic Ralph Gleason believes they are, calling it "a natural musical and sociological development and there is no reason to expect it to get any less intense. Rather, expect it to increase."
Another view is expressed by Nat Hentoff. He contends that because the "core of identity" of jazz comes from black artists, "the new pop, while sometimes provocative, is not deeply nor directly enough related to the growth of black consciousness."
Both arguments, of course, are highly subjective, but there are indications that jazz (which Bob Dylan once maintained never "appealed to the younger generation") is starting to heavily influence some rock groups, as well as some rock music making inroads into jazz.
The Grateful Dead's concerts are almost totally improvised. Jefferson Airplane's crew acknowledges debts to John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk. Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton, once with The Cream, have been strongly influenced by jazzmen. Kaleidoscope sometimes sounds like an avant-garde jazz group.
Meanwhile, jazzmen are crossing over to rock territory.
Hugh Masakela made a hit of "Grazing in the Grass." Long-haired vibist Gary Burton not only looks like a rock musician, he often plays with a rock group. Jeremy Steig and the Satyrs are almost as near to jazz as to rock. Gabor Szabo, who believes "Jazz is dead," does jazz renditions of pop tunes. Charles Lloyd's pitch to the new generation is a new record, "Love-In," recorded live in the Fillmore Auditorium.
The growing appeal of jazz music to rock-oriented young audiences is evident in the successful billing of some jazz groups at San Francisco ballrooms: Don Ellis, Cannonball Adderley, Count Basie, Cecil Taylor, Buddy Rich, Thelonius Monk, Roland Kirk.
In addition, one of the new albums to be released through the Beatles' new company, Apple, will be one by the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Naturally, purists like to think that forays by jazz musicians into the rock realm are purely for commercial reasons.
"Musically rock 'n' roll hasn't influenced jazz, jazz has influenced rock 'n' roll," Lionel Hampton said in an interview in Down Beat magazine.
Charles Tolliver, however, thinks "rock 'n' roll has had a very strong influence on jazz. Of course, the roots are close." Pianist Herbie Hancock feels this influence has been "healthy." So does Gary Burton: "I dig rock myself, and I think my experience with it has helped me."
Says Don Ellis, whose "Electric Bath" enjoys some popularity among young listeners, "There's a certain affinity between the things I'm doing and rock. We're both interested in rhythm."
Chris Connor comments, "Rock hasn't hurt jazz one bit. A lot of jazz musicians are incorporating that sound - Bud Shank, Ramsey Lewis - and I'm glad to see them make it. Actually, there are some good sounds in rock."
Down Beat, the staid, traditional jazz magazine, apparently agrees. It reviews rock records and even uses some pop artists on its covers.
Jazz magazine has added "Pop" to its title and every issue strives to include something about the fusion of the two forms. Eric Clapton, for instance, told a Jazz & Pop interviewer:
"Right now there's such a close affinity. Apart from volume, there isn't a lot of difference between Gary Burton and a good rock group. Larry Coryell - he plays a lot of runs about the same as I play. You know, his simple ones. I can't play all those things that he does. But he can play the things that I do. And he does."
Important jazz influences still are largely centered in England and San Francisco. As music critic Philip Elwood puts it: "The San Francisco sound in electronic music holds much the same position, compared to the commercial pop-Top 30 music, that jazz held for so long during the Hit Parade-Tin Pan Alley era of popular music."
The Grateful Dead, one of the innovators of the San Francisco sound, is also one of the rock bands furthest into jazz. The group uses two drummers, allowing for complex rhythm patterns, and every set is almost complete improvisation.
The group's songs no longer are constructed around lyrics, but around musical themes, as is jazz. Yet it maintains the high volume and social appearance, both associated with rock music.
The Dead and The Cream are the best examples so far of how close rock musicians can come to jazz. Jazz is more complex than rock and financially less rewarding, so few other groups have abandoned their thing for jazz music.
Still, the line between the two musics is increasingly blurred, mainly because rock musicians have become more proficient and like the challenge of jazz music.
The popularity of what is called rock music is beginning to support a lot of musicians who like to think of themselves as jazzmen. What remains to be seen is whether the cohabitation will one day produce a new kind of music, an exciting amalgam of rock and jazz music.

(by Geoffrey Link, Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, from the Baltimore Sun, 19 December 1968)

See also:
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/09/1967-garcia-django.html (Ralph Gleason 1967)

Mar 20, 2018

February 5, 1969: Kansas City Interview


4:15 P.M., February 5th

Phil Lesh, Tom Constaten, and Mickey Hart were having an early dinner in the motel restaurant when I found them. They didn't know I was coming. I had been informed earlier (by a Top-40 bigwig) that the Dead had refused interviews to local television and newspapers, and I hadn't been able to reach their manager by phone, so nothing was guaranteed. Suspecting they might be more apt to talk to a freak than some crew-cut cat from Channel 4, I introduced myself and told them what I was after. All three nodded a yes, and Phil said, "Sure, sit down." They bought me a coffee and I began with a question about the evening's concert. Mainly, how did the Grateful Dead feel about playing second bill to a group like the Iron Butterfly?
"We don't give a shit," said Phil, but he sounded a little disgusted. "How do you feel about it?"
I assured him that I thought it was wrong, but it was to be expected. The Who have been billed under Herman's Hermits, the Yardbirds under Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Hendrix under the Monkees. It's always that way. Phil wanted to know why.
"Well, you know," I started, trying to break it to him easy-like, "you guys haven't had A Hit Record."
"What have the Iron Butterfly done?" he demanded. "I've never heard anything by the Iron Butterfly."
"Never heard of it. Who are the Iron Butterfly? What do they do? Thud-thud."
I thought that answered my question pretty good.
Next question: why were the new members added? Did the Dead purposely set out to find an additional drummer and organist, or did it just happen that way? They sort of corrected me, pointing out that Mickey and Tom weren't really 'new members,' having been with the band for some time. But anyway, it just happened that way. Mickey told me his story.
It seems that one night Mickey walked into a place where the Dead were doing a gig, "stoned out of my mind," and registered that what was going down was something he wanted in on. He asked to sit in, was allowed to, and has been with the band ever since. Fine.
Writing? All write. Singing? "We all sing, but Jerry and Pigpen do it the best."
We talked of stage acts. Whereas many groups (the Jimi Hendrix Experience, in particular) seem to feel that if the audience isn't reacting heavily, the thing to do is to get showy (freak out!), the Dead think that the way to liven up a slow crowd is to play better. A better idea, from the Grateful Dead.
Did the group, or any members of the group, have any plans or desires to make a record with musicians outside of the group, something along the lines of Super Session? Phil said if they did decide to do that type of thing, it would be a very low-volume record, and not built up and blown out of all proportion. He thinks most of that that has been done so far is "a lot of pretentious shit."
My primary intention in coming to the Dead was to find out what side one of their latest record is all about. To my surprise nobody seemed to know. The fact that no member of the group could come anyplace near giving me a reason or a meaning was a tremendous joke to them. With titles and sub-titles like "Critical Envelopement" and "New Potatoe Caboose," I had thought, "Ah, there must be more to this than meets the ear; this is Very Deep Stuff." Apparently I'll never know how deep. One reason for the vagueness is that different people wrote different parts at different times. It just happened that it all fit together nicely. But the lyrical content was a mystery to all.
I did learn of one section, "The Faster We Go the Rounder We Get." Bob Weir wrote it about a friend of the band (Neal Cassady?) who used to drive their bus and carry the equipment around. Soon after the song was written, the friend died, and the song became all the more significant. But as to whether the driver friend is the subject of the entire piece, I couldn't say. Neither could the Dead. At any rate, nobody know exactly why "the boy had to die."
I was just getting to the really hot questions, questions on drugs, the draft, the Revolution, when a man named West came in to the restaurant and to our table and told the boys that it was time to film an interview for good old Channel 4. Or 9, or whatever it was. They must have changed their minds. So I had to split. Phil told me to come back and talk some more after the night's show. I asked him if 1:00 would be okay, and he said that would be fine.

1:30 A.M., February 6th

I was a little late.
The Grateful Dead were all sound asleep, or at least the lights were off. I knocked on the door of what I thought was Phil's room. Nobody kept answering, so I kept knocking until somebody did. The somebody finally got out of bed and pulled back the curtain and gave me a look that would kill a mule. I sort of ambled off.
The light was on in the manager's room. The manager was West. He told me the Dead were getting up at ten and leaving at ten-thirty, and they probably wouldn't have any time to finish the interview.

9:50 A.M., February 6th

I sat outside the Dead's motel rooms in my car, the local underground radio station turned all the way up in an effort to draw out one of the boys in the band.
Phil showed and I caught him. He had a few stops to make, then we'd go to the restaurant and join Jerry Garcia for breakfast. The first stop was a familiar one. We entered and Phil said to last night's angry face, "This is Harv. He was interviewing us last night."
The angry face was Bear, the road manager. Bear the road manager said, "Yeah, I know. He was here last night knocking on the door while I was balling some chick and I almost punched him right in the nose."
I apologized, but he still wasn't too happy about it. Phil realized it and we moved right along to the next stop, another room on the other end of the sidewalk, where Phil picked up his hat and said goodbye to a groupie with a headache. Then to the restaurant.
Mostly we just more or less chatted, there not really being time to carry on with the interview. They told me that the next album might include "Turn On Your Lovelight," which the Dead opened up with at the concert the night before. The show'd consisted of "Lovelight," a pause, side one of Anthem of the Sun, which led into another long highly improvisational segment, which led into side two of Anthem of the Sun, which led into and concluded with the "and I bid you goodnight" chorus from "A Very Cellular Song" by the Incredible String Band. Anyway, I took some pictures, and a flashcube went off all by itself in my hand and that amazed everyone no end. The waitress talked to Phil about the length of his hair, and Jerry read the funnies.
I had to be at traffic court at 10:30, and they were supposedly taking off for St. Louis any minute, so we did our goodbyes and I made a mad drive to get to court on time.
Just a few blocks (and fewer seconds) from the motel, I flashed that I had neglected to ask an all-important question: Were the Grateful Dead still friends with the Rock & Roll Double Bubble Trading Card Company of Philadelphia after their big hit with that nasty line, "Well, the Grateful Dead just leave me cold?"
I figured they didn't give a shit.

(by Harv Tawney, from Crawdaddy no. 22, May 1969)


Mar 15, 2018

1965: The Warlocks (Massachusetts)

Cash Box ad, June 5, 1965

NEW YORK - The Warlocks, the group that introduced the Temper Tantrum dance in a Boston night club, has recorded a single, "Temper Tantrum," for Decca.
The dance, introduced May 12 at the Forum, a Hub discotheque, was shown in film clip form on "The Tonight Show." It has received exposure on Boston radio and TV stations and in the local press.
Dick Jacobs, Decca a&r man, recorded the disk in Boston. Charlotte Holicker, one of the dance's inventors, explained the dance on "The Mike Douglas Show" Friday (28).

(from Billboard, 5 June 1965)

* * * 

BOSTON - Alan Ross of Decca Records may be responsible for a new dance known as the Temper Tantrum, by the Warlocks, ready for release on Decca. It grew out of a session at Boston's Forum with most of the record distributors present. Alan secured tape of music and film of the dance and sent it to New York. Presto! a new record and perhaps a new dance. Hub dancer Charlotte Hollicker will show it to Mike Douglas and Patrice Munsel on the Douglas Show soon.

(from Billboard, 12 June 1965)

* * *


NEW YORK — Decca Records has rushed into release a single record based on the new dance, “Temper Tantrum.” The dance was introduced last month at The Forum, a Boston discotheque, that had invited the Hub press, radio, television and the general public to the first public demonstration of this new “tension relieving” dance conceived by Charlotte and Joe Holicker. The room was jammed to capacity as the dancers stamped their feet and gyrated, as a small child in a fit of temper, in time to the music, as the patrons joined in and a new dance craze was born.
The next day the Boston press and radio-TV carried the message that this was the dance to do in Boston and the surrounding areas. “The Tonight Show” heard about the excitement generated by the dance and showed a film clip of the steps of the “tantrum” to a national viewing audience. At the same time it was brought to the attention of A&R staffer Dick Jacobs, who immediately flew to Boston to record “Temper Tantrum” with The Warlocks, the musical group that first introduced the dance.
The Decca record was cut, mastered and shipped all in the period of three days to keep pace with the national excitement being generated by the fad. Charlotte Holicker made a guest appearance on “The Mike Douglas Show” this past Friday (28) to tell the story of the dance to the show’s vast syndicated audience. Many national publications are now planning spreads on the dance.
Decca’s full promo forces are going all-out to garner similar reaction in all areas to “Temper Tantrum” as happened when first introduced in Boston.

(from Cash Box, 5 June 1965) 

from the Record Reviews:

WARLOCKS (Decca 31806)
THE TEMPER TANTRUM (2:25) - Easy driving beat behind smooth vocals on this outing make for possible clicking with  dance crowds. The free moving rhythm could connect with good sales and spins resulting.
I’LL GO CRAZY (2:46) - Pounding beat on this rock number.

The Temper Tantrum (by Joseph & Charlotte Holicker; A-side)
I'll Go Crazy (by James Brown; B-side)


October 1965...

Phil Lesh: "I was browsing in a record store and found a single by a band called the Warlocks, on Columbia. I brought the bad news to the guys, and we started to bandy new names about...but nothing really sounded right, and we just couldn't decide. Meanwhile, we were recording some demo songs for a local record label, and we needed not to be the Warlocks anymore. So we agreed on a temporary name - the Emergency Crew - for our first recording sessions. What on earth to call ourselves?..."

Jerry Garcia: "Our name was originally the Warlocks, [but] we discovered that there was a band back east or something like that recording under that name, and we decided, 'Oh, no, we can't have that. We can't be confused with somebody else.' So we were trying to think up names..."