Mar 26, 2024

1981: Jerry Garcia Interview


MUSICIAN: You guys have probably put out more live albums than anyone I can think of - two double live releases this summer alone. Is the mysterious "x factor" that sometimes transforms a Grateful Dead concert impossible to capture in a studio situation? 

GARCIA: I'm not sure if it can or can't be captured in the studio, though I agree that so far we've failed to capture it there. But we've never really been set up to perform in the studio. Our idea of performance is what we do live, and making records is more of a concession to the realities of the music business than a real expression of our natural flow. Let's put it this way: if making records was a thing you did as a hobby, it's possible we might have turned to it at one point or another. But I really think live music is where it's at for us.

MUSICIAN: How about playing live in the studio? 

GARCIA: Yeah, we've tried that, but it's difficult to do with the type of band set-up we have, especially the technical problem of recording two drummers at once. We can't baffle or isolate them; they have to be together, they have to communicate. So live in the studio the microphone hears them as one big drum set, and that's not something you can straighten out in the mix.

MUSICIAN: But isn't there also a psychological reason having to do with the role of the audience? 

GARCIA: Very definitely. But that's something we have to talk around; we can't talk about it directly. It's not an exact science, it's more an intuitive thing, and you're right, it does have a lot to do with interacting with the audience. But we don't manipulate them, we don't go out there and try to psyche them out or anything. It's quite involuntary.

MUSICIAN: Can you feel when it's happening?

GARCIA: There are times when both the audience and the band can feel it happening, and then there are times when we have to listen to the tapes afterwards to confirm our subjective impressions and see what really happened. That's the way we've been able to deduce the existence of this "x" chemistry. In any case, it doesn't have to do with our will.

MUSICIAN: Is there something you can consciously do to facilitate it?

GARCIA: Well, in a way that's what we're all about: making an effort to facilitate this phenomenon. But the most we can do is be there for it to happen. It just isn't anything we can control on any level we've been able to discover.

MUSICIAN: All right, if it isn't what you do, maybe it's who you are: the chemistry between you; the internal dynamics of the band; your value system; what you eat for breakfast...

GARCIA: I'm sure that's a major part of it.

MUSICIAN: Can you delineate some of the principles that you feel help maintain who you are?

GARCIA: Actually, trying to pinpoint those principles is our real work - it's what we're all about. As far as I can tell, they have to do with maintaining a moment-to-moment approach, in both a macro- and micro-cosmic sense. It's hard to maintain that moment-to-moment freedom in large-scale activities because things like booking tours have to be planned well in advance. So it's in the smaller increments, the note-to-note things, that we get to cop a little freedom. You can see it in our songs, where there's an established form and structure, but the particulars are left open. In terms of the macrocosm - the big picture - we know the tune, but in terms of the note-to-note microcosm, we don't know exactly how we'll play on any given night, what the variations might be. Even simple cowboy tunes like "Me and My Uncle" and "El Paso" change minutely from tour to tour. "Friend of the Devil" is another tune that's changed enormously from its original concept. On American Beauty it had kind of a bluegrassy feel, and now we do it somewhere between a ballad and a reggae tune. The song has a whole different personality as a result.

MUSICIAN: How much improvisational space is built into the longer, more exploratory pieces like "St. Stephen" and "Terrapin Station"? 

GARCIA: An awful depends on the piece. "Terrapin" has some sections that are extremely tight, that you could actually describe as being arranged; there are specific notes that each of us have elected to play. The melody, lyrics, and chord changes are set, but the specific licks that anyone wants to play are left open.

MUSICIAN: Would you say that this looseness, this willingness to stay open and take risks is a crucial factor in creating a space for that special energy to enter?

GARCIA: Absolutely! It's even affected the way I write songs. In the past, when I had an idea for a song, I also had an idea for an arrangement. Since then I've sort of purged myself of that habit. There's simply no point in working out all those details, because when a song goes into the Dead, it's anybody's guess how it'll come out. So why disappoint myself?

MUSICIAN: Who or what gives the Dead its overall direction, then?

GARCIA: It's been some time since any of us have had specific directional ideas about the band... The Grateful Dead is in its own hands now; it makes up its own mind, and we give it its head and let it go where it wants. We've gotten to be kind of confident about it at this point. It's becoming an evolving process that unfolds in front of us. 

MUSICIAN: As a band you guys seem to have a dual personality; on one hand there's the improvisational, exploratory material like "Anthem" and "Dark Star," while on the other there's this very structured, tradition-bound sort of music. It was generally the earlier material that was stretching boundaries, while the albums from Workingman's Dead onwards have been more structured. So I was wondering if that was because the relationship between artist and audience was falling apart at that point, and that '60s energy envelope you were tapping into was beginning to disintegrate, forcing you to resort to simpler, more formalized material that didn't depend on that energy field? 


MUSICIAN: was such a great little theory...

GARCIA: Let me straighten that out right now. First of all, you're right about the audience/artist communication thing falling apart, although that didn't happen to us. Let me give you a time frame that might shed some light on all this: at the time we were recording and performing the Live Dead material onstage, we were in the studio recording Workingman's Dead. We weren't having much success getting that experimental stuff down in the studio, so we thought we'd strip it down to the bare bones and make a record of very simple music and see if that worked. Time was another factor. We'd been spending a long time in the studio with those exploratory albums, six to eight months apiece, and it was really eating up our lives.

MUSICIAN: You didn't feel any aesthetic conflict?

GARCIA: No, not at all. Because those two poles have always been part of our musical background. I was a bluegrass banjo player into that Bakersfield country stuff while Phil was studying Stockhausen and all those avant-gardists.

MUSICIAN: Is that where the...

GARCIA: ...prepared piano stuff on "Anthem" comes from? Sure.

MUSICIAN: Wait a minute, how did you know I was going to ask that?!

GARCIA: (Smiles)

MUSICIAN: Okay, never mind, but what happens when you reverse the procedure and play Workingman's Dead in concert? Can you still get the same kineticism?

GARCIA: Yes, it turns out we can. For the last year or so we've been doing some of those tunes, like "Uncle John's Band" and "Black Peter," and they fit in well in that they become poles of familiarity in a sea of weirdness. It's nice to come into this homey space and make a simple statement. It comes off very beautifully sometimes. And inevitably it draws some of the weirdness into it. What's happening with the Grateful Dead musically is that these poles are stretching towards each other.

MUSICIAN: Which of your albums do you believe come closest to capturing the band's essence? 

GARCIA: I'd pick the same things that everyone else would: Live Dead, Workingman's Dead, American Beauty, Europe '72. I'd take Terrapin Station, too, the whole record. I'd also definitely recommend the two live sets that just came out.

MUSICIAN: How important is the acoustic approach to the band?

GARCIA: Not very, because we only do it in special situations. In fact, there have only been two periods in our career when we did acoustic material: first in the early '70s, and then again just lately.

MUSICIAN: Why did you come back to it?

GARCIA: It's something that's fun for us because of the intimacy involved; it brings us closer together, both physically and psychologically, and as a result we play with a lot of sensitivity. I mean, I can just turn around like this and go (swats imaginary band member) HEY, WAKE UP! Lotsa fun...

MUSICIAN: Speaking of direction: some people are wondering if you've gone totally off the experimental approach, since you haven't released anything in that vein since Terrapin Station back in '77.

GARCIA: Yeah, but '77 isn't really so long ago in Grateful Dead terms, you know. That's just a few records ago! Ideas around here take a year or so just to find their way to the surface, much less achieve their expression, which can take three or four years. We're always looking at the bigger picture. People have been hollering for us to bring back "Dark Star" and stuff like that for some time now, and we will. But in our own time.

MUSICIAN: You're not afraid of your old material?

GARCIA: Oh, absolutely not. It's partly that there's a new guy who hasn't been through all that with us, and we have to bring him up through all those steps slowly. It's not that he's a slow learner, it's because we originally spent months and months rehearsing those things that were in odd times.

MUSICIAN: Like "The Eleven"?

GARCIA: Right, that was tacked onto the "Dark Star" sequence. It's called "The Eleven" because that's the time it's in. We rehearsed that for months before we even performed it in public. Luckily Brent's a much better musician now than we were then, so it shouldn't take that long. But we've still got to find the rehearsal time to put those songs together again.

MUSICIAN: Are you ever concerned that any of you will fall into cliched patterns, either as individuals or as a group?

GARCIA: No, because the musical personalities of the various members have been so consistently surprising to me over the years that I'm still completely unable to predict what they would play in any given situation. In fact, I'd challenge anyone to check out any Grateful Dead album and listen to, say, what Phil plays, and look for stylistic consistency. You won't find it. These guys are truly original musical thinkers, especially Phil. Let me give you an example: Phil played on four songs for a solo album of mine called Reflections. Now, I write pretty conventionally structured songs, so I asked Phil to play basically the same lines on each chorus so I could anchor it in the bass. But I didn't really see the beauty of what he'd done 'til later when I was running off copies of the tape at fast forward. The bass was brought up to a nice, skipping tempo, right in that mellow, mid-range guitar tone, and I was struck by the amazing beauty of his bass line; there was this wonderful syncopation and beautiful harmonic ideas that were barely perceptible at regular speed, but when it's brought up to twice the speed... God, it just blew me out.

MUSICIAN: Considering all the improvisations you do, I'm surprised you don't acknowledge jazz more as an influence on your playing. You had to be listening to Coltrane, at least.

GARCIA: Oh, definitely Coltrane, for sure. But I never sat down and stole ideas from him; it was more his sense of flow that I learned from. That and the way his personality was always right there - the presence of the man just comes stomping out of those records. It's not something I would've been able to learn through any analytical approach, it was one of those things I just had to flash on. I also get that from Django Reinhardt's records. You can actually hear him shift mood...

MUSICIAN: The humor in his solo on "Somewhere Beyond the Sea" is amazing...

GARCIA: Anger, too. You can hear him get mad and play some nasty, mean little thing. It's incredible how clearly his personality comes through. It's one of those things I've always been impressed with in music. There's no way to steal that, but it's something you can model your playing on. Not in the sense of copying someone's personality, but in the hopes that maybe I could learn how to let my own personality come through.

MUSICIAN: So it's a question of imitating essence, not form.

GARCIA: Right. My models for being onstage developed from being in the audience, because I've been a music fan longer than I've been a musician. A very important model for me was a bluegrass fiddle player named Scotty Sternman [sic], who was just a house-a-fire crazed fiddle player. He was a monster technically, played like the devil. Anyway, he was a terribly burnt-out alcohol case by the time I saw him, but I remember hearing him take a simple fiddle tune and stretch it into this incredible 20-minute extravaganza in which you heard just everything come out of that fiddle, and I was so moved emotionally that he became one of my models... I mean, there I was standing in that audience with just tears rolling out of my eyes - it was just so amazing. And it was the essence that counted, none of the rest of it.

MUSICIAN: Looking back, were there any other groups or artists that were pivotal influences on your concept of the band? 

GARCIA: There have been a couple of different things for a couple of different people. For myself, I was very, very impressed by the music of Robbie Robertson and the Band. There isn't any real textural similarity between what we play; I just admired their work very much.

MUSICIAN: Is there anybody on the current scene that you feel a particular kinship or identification with?

GARCIA: The Who. I think the Who are one of the truly important architects of rock 'n' roll. Pete Townshend may be one of rock 'n' roll's rare authentic geniuses. And there's also the fact that they're among our few surviving contemporaries... I'm just really glad they exist.

MUSICIAN: I was talking with Ray Manzarek recently, and he remembered reading Kerouac describe this sax player in a bar who had "it" that night, and how badly Ray wanted to get "it" too...whatever the hell it was.

GARCIA: Hey, that same passage was important to us! Very definitely. Our association with Neil Cassidy was also tremendously helpful to us in that way.

MUSICIAN: And of course there was Kesey and the Acid Tests. That must also have been about going for the essence and not getting stuck in forms...

GARCIA: Right, because the forms were the first thing to go in that situation. You see, the Acid Tests represented the freedom to go out there and try this stuff and just blow.

MUSICIAN: Did the acid simply amplify that impulse, or did it open you to the possibility in the first place?

GARCIA: Both. The Acid Test opened up possibilities to us because there were no strictures. In other words, people weren't coming there to hear the Grateful Dead, so we didn't have the responsibilities to the audience in the normal sense. Hell, they didn't know what to expect! Sometimes we'd get onstage and only tune up. Or play about five notes, freak out, and leave! That happened a couple of times; other times we'd get hung up and play off in some weird zone. All these things were okay, the reality of the situation permitted everything. That's something that doesn't happen in regular musical circles - it took a special situation to turn us on to that level of freedom.

MUSICIAN: Had you experimented with either acid or musical "weirdness" before?

GARCIA: Yeah, we'd taken acid before, and while we were on the bar circuit playing seven nights a week, five sets a night, we'd use that fifth set when there was almost nobody there but us and the bartenders to get weird. We joined the Acid Tests partly to escape the rigors of that 45 on, 15 off structure that the bars laid on us every night.

MUSICIAN: Did you have ideas about what all this might open you up to, or was it just "let's step through this doorway"?

GARCIA: Just that: let's step through this doorway. We didn't have any expectations.

MUSICIAN: Do you feel any ambivalence about it now? Acid had a down side for some people...

GARCIA: No, I loved it. I'd do it again in a second because it was such a totally positive experience for me, especially when you consider that we were at the tail end of the beatnik thing, in which an awful lot of my energy was spent sitting around and waiting for something to happen. And finally, when something did happen, boy, I couldn't get enough of it! When we fell in with the Acid Test, I was ready to pack up and hit the road. We all went for it.

MUSICIAN: How did that evolve into the whole Haight-Ashbury scene? 

GARCIA: What happened was that the Acid Test fell apart when acid became illegal, and Kesey had to flee to Mexico. We ended up down in L.A. hanging out with Owsley in Watts, then moved back to San Francisco three or four months later.

MUSICIAN: Were psychedelics really the main catalysts in initiating the Haight scene?

GARCIA: I think it was a very, very important part of it. Everyone at that time was looking hard for that special magic thing, and it was like there were clues everywhere. Everybody I knew at least had a copy of The Doors of Perception, and wanted to find out what was behind the veil.

MUSICIAN: What closed that doorway?


MUSICIAN: Just cops?

GARCIA: That's it, really, cops... It was also that this group of people who were trying to meet each other finally came together, shook hands, and split. It was all those kids that read Kerouac in high school - the ones who were a little weird. The Haight-Ashbury was like that at first, and then it became a magnet for every kid who was dissatisfied: a kind of central dream, or someplace to run to. It was a place for seekers, and San Francisco always had that tradition anyway.

MUSICIAN: Sort of a school for consciousness.

GARCIA: Yes, very much so, and in a good way. It was sweet. A special thing.

MUSICIAN: Sometimes I think that whole scene was a chance for our generation to glimpse the goal, and now we've got to find out how to get back there.

GARCIA: Right, and many people have gone on to reinforce that with their own personal energy. It is possible to pursue that goal and feed the dog at the same time, it just takes a little extra effort.

MUSICIAN: Can you talk about your relationship with the Hell's Angels? I played in a band backed by them in Berkeley and it was, ambivalent experience.

GARCIA: Well, that's it. It is ambivalent. I've always liked them because they don't hide what they are, and I think all they require of you is honesty - they just require that you don't bullshit them - and if you're out front with them, I think you don't have anything to worry about.
The Angels are very conscious of their roots and history, so the fact that we played at Chocolate George's funeral way back during the Haight-Ashbury was really significant to them. They didn't have many friends in those days, and so anybody who would come out for one of their members was demonstrating true friendship. And with them, that really counts for something.

MUSICIAN: What do you feel attracted Kesey to them in the first place? The noble savage concept? 

GARCIA: No, I think Ken saw them for what they are: a definite force of their own which you can't hope to control. When they come around, it's reality, and you go with it.

MUSICIAN: What about Altamont?

GARCIA: Horrible.

MUSICIAN: It sure was. But having been in the Bay area at the time, I can understand how you might have thought it a good idea to recommend them as security people...

GARCIA: We didn't recommend them!!

MUSICIAN: I thought the Stones people said you suggested it?

GARCIA: Absolutely not! No, we would never do that. The Angels were planning on being there, and I guess the Stones crew thought this might be a good way to deal with that fact.

MUSICIAN: The Angels aside, as soon as you entered that place you could feel this incredible selfishness - the complete antithesis of what went on at Monterey and Woodstock.

GARCIA: Yeah, that's what it was: an incredibly selfish scene. Steve Gaskin pinned it down best when he said that Altamont was "the little bit of sadism in your sex life the Rolling Stones had been singing about all those years, brought to its most ugly, razor-toothed extreme." Kind of ironic, since they were the ones who started that "Sympathy for the Devil" stuff.

MUSICIAN: You guys have avoided falling into the darker side of things. Did that require any constant vigilance on your part?

GARCIA: It did for me at any rate. During the psychedelic experience, the fear and awfulness inherent in making a big mistake with that kind of energy was very apparent to me. For me, psychedelics represented a series of teaching and cautionary tales, and a lot of the message was "Boy, don't blow this!" Back in the Haight there really were some Charlie Manson characters running around, really weird people who believed they were Christ risen and whatever, and who meant in the worst possible way to take the power. Some of them saw that the Grateful Dead raised energy and they wanted to control it. But we knew that the only kind of energy management that counted was the liberating kind - the kind that frees people, not constrains them. So we were always determined to avoid those fascistic, crowd control implications of rock. It's always been a matter of personal honor to me not to manipulate the crowd.

MUSICIAN: Did that temptation present itself?

GARCIA: Yeah, sometimes we'd discover a little trick that would get everybody on their feet right away, and we'd say let's not do that - if that's going to happen, then let's discover it new every time. Let's not plan it.

MUSICIAN: Back in those days there was a real bond between the audience and the musicians. Something changed around '71, and it became a spectacle, with the audiences sucking up your energy and the band falling into egotistical superstar routines. It was entertainment rather than communication, and something special was lost. Were you aware of this change, or am I crazy?

GARCIA: Yeah, it was obvious, because in spite of all that talk about community, we knew it couldn't happen among the musicians, because each wanted to be the best and overshadow the others. A truly cooperative spirit was not likely to happen.

MUSICIAN: Was it the record companies and the materialistic orientation they represented that spoiled it? 

GARCIA: I don't think so. To me, the record companies have never been a malicious presence...they're more like a mindless juggernaut.

MUSICIAN: I didn't mean that it was intentional on their part. I just feel they represent a set of values and a means of organization that are at odds with the goals of music. They created an environment in which the soul of music couldn't survive...

GARCIA: Yeah, I agree it was the music business and entertainment as a whole that killed it, because in entertainment there's always this formula thinking that encourages you to repeat your successes. All that posturing and stuff is what show business is all about, and that's what a lot of rock became: show business. It's just human weakness, and I guess it's perfectly valid for a rock star to get up there and...

MUSICIAN: But wasn't what happened in San Francisco a few years earlier on a much higher plane of experience? Audience and performer were meeting and interacting in a real way...

GARCIA: That's true, but that was something that just happened in the Bay Area, you know. It never made it to the East Coast, and it definitely didn't make it to England. And so those people were coming from a much more rigorous model of what it meant to be a rock 'n' roll star. That came from their management and business levels, as things were lined up for them in advance and they were given those models as the way to do things. When we met English rock stars at the time, it was like meeting birds in gilded cages; they really wished there was some way of breaking out of what they were into, but they were trapped. 

MUSICIAN: What happened to the energy field you'd established with your audience when you went to, say, New York or London?

GARCIA: We found that we'd brought it along with us, and the people who came to see us entered right into it. And that's what's made it so amazing for us, because our audience, in terms of genuineness, has been pretty much the same as it was back in the '60s. And so has our own experience.

MUSICIAN: Including your new generation of fans?

GARCIA: Sure. The 16-year-olds coming to see us now are no different than they were in the Haight; they're looking for a real experience, not just a show.

MUSICIAN: Going back to the idea that there was an opening for a while to a different quality of experience that gave people a taste of something other, it seems - and I don't want to sound mawkish - that you guys are one of the guardians of that experience. On a good night, anyway. It's as if you guys serve as a touchstone for some people.

GARCIA: Well, that's the way it's sort of working out, but it isn't something we decided or invented. In fact, it's inventing us, in a way. We're just agreeing that it should happen, and volunteering for the part.

MUSICIAN: I wonder how many people really believe this is a bona fide phenomenon you're talking about, and not just a purely subjective impression.

GARCIA: Deadheads already know, but they disqualify themselves just by being Deadheads. We try to measure it all the time, but it's hard to communicate to people. But that's okay, 'cause it probably isn't everybody's cup of tea. But it ought to be there for those who can dig it.

MUSICIAN: This conversation keeps bringing me back to something I heard in an interview a few months ago. It was the idea that maybe music is looking for a musician to play it...

GARCIA: There's more truth in that than you can know. It just chooses its channel and goes through. And you may be able to spoil it in other situations, but you can't spoil it in the Grateful Dead.

MUSICIAN: But couldn't you destroy that matrix by egotistically closing yourselves off from each other and the audience? Lots of other bands have.

GARCIA: Certainly, but luckily for us the music has always been the big thing for the Grateful Dead, and all that other ego-oriented stuff is secondary. I mean, we've had our hassles, who doesn't? But all of those things have only added more and more into the experience. Nothing has made it smaller. It's been a fascinating process and...

MUSICIAN: ...a long strange trip?

GARCIA: (Laughs) Yeah! And it still is.

(by Vic Garbarini, from Musician, October 1981, pp.64-74)

A companion piece to this Grateful Dead article: 

1981: Grateful Dead Interview


He's a 35-year-old happily married father of four - the respected director of a research institute in Washington, D.C. But Jerry Toporovsky has a secret obsession, and on this cool All Hallows Eve he's about to drive six long hours to New York's Radio City Music Hall to indulge it. 
"Sometimes I try to reason with myself," explains Toporovsky. "I'm pushing 40, I've got a family and a full-time job - I've gotta be crazy to be doing this. But then I think of the last time I saw them and realize it's going to be worth it. It always is." Yes, friends, it's sad but true: Jerry Toporovsky is a confirmed Deadhead. 
There is no known cure. 
There are thousands like him who follow the Grateful Dead's moveable feast around the country like medieval pilgrims pursuing some mobile Canterbury. They range in age from 16 to 60, and some have been "on the bus," as Ken Kesey might put it, since the band's inception over fifteen years ago. What is it that attracts them? Certainly not nostalgia. The Grateful Dead are not the Beach Boys - a traveling oldie show cranking out sentimental favorites for aging hippies. No, the Dead are a living, evolving phenomenon who are still capable of acting as channels for the special quality of energy that can transform an ordinary concert into a transcendent event. Unfortunately, very little of this magic (what Garcia refers to as their "x chemistry") finds its way onto vinyl, making it difficult for the average un-Deadhead to understand what all the hoopla is about. 
"There are a few passages on 'Dark Star' and some of the other material from the live albums or old concert tapes that capture that 'otherness,' but they're the exception," explains Toporovsky. 
"We just don't play with the same fire in the studio," concurs guitarist Bob Weir. "We've even toyed with the idea of taking the time off from touring to learn how to make records in the studio; desperation being the mother of invention, we'd have to come up with something!" 
Well, maybe. 
True, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty came close, but those were albums of simpler, more concise material that sidestepped the real problem of how to deal with the more free-form exploration of a "Dark Star" or "Saint Stephen." It's not simply a question of capturing the spirit of the jam; there's another dimension that emerges when the Dead walk into their free-wheeling improvisation, a quality that seems impossible to recreate in the studio.
"It's not just a question of jamming - it's a little bit like jazz, but that's not it either," says Toporovsky. "It's a question of really connecting on a higher level with each other." 
Since a principal difference between the Dead live and the Dead in the studio involves the presence of an audience, it would follow that interacting with said audience is an indispensable part of the Grateful Dead experience. "Sure, we can get that magic on a record," laughs drummer Bill Kreutzman, "just cram about 5000 people in a studio with us while we record!"
Considering the band's early involvement with psychedelics, some have claimed that this "x chemistry" is entirely dependent on drugs. "Not true," argues Toporovsky. "Acid can give you a headstart in getting to that 'other' place, but it's not required in order to plug into the experience. I haven't taken psychedelics on over five years, but I still get the same high at a Dead concert now without drugs as I did on acid in the beginning." 
In addition to having an audience to work with, the other indispensable factor in the Grateful Dead equation is their commitment to taking risks. Not just propositional and conceptual risks, but a willingness to step out over the edge every night in concert. 
"That spirit of adventure is crucial," claims Weir. "We're dedicated to pushing everything a little further each time. Every time another verse comes up, even if I've played it a thousand times before, I try to play it a little differently, to understand and make it a little better each time...and then when we've really loosened up, we go for something we've never played before."
In short, nothing is allowed to ossify into a predictable pattern - everything is kept alive, fresh, and evolving: the Rolling Stones may be content to gather moss, but not the Dead. They have firmly grasped the idea that the only way to maintain their connection with the ineffable is through constant growth and change. 

As the band's newest member, keyboardist Brent Mydland discovered just before his first Dead concert two years ago, living with the unexpected can be a bit disorienting at first. 
"The day before the concert I asked what tunes we'd be doing, so I could concentrate on those songs, but no one would tell me. It freaked me a bit, but then when we got on stage, I realized that nobody knew what we were going to play. Keeps you on your toes..." 
Once into those swirling, birth-of-the-universe jams, almost anything goes; even long forgotten songs may emerge from the maelstrom like time travelers popping out of a black hole: "'Cold Rain and Snow' just reappeared after six years in the middle of a jam 'cause Garcia realized he could superimpose it over what we were doing," reflects Weir.
Band members encourage each other to step out at any point; if somebody states a theme emphatically enough, the rest will inevitably follow. "Well, almost always," corrects Weir. "Sometimes only half the guys will come along - but that's rare."
Of course the same is true of the mysterious "X factor": "We can prepare ourselves to be proper vehicles for it, but we can't guarantee it'll happen on any given night," explains the Dead's other drummer, Mickey Hart. "We can raise the sail, but we can't make the wind come." 
Toporovsky agrees: "Out of any five given concerts, one will be mediocre, one or two will be very, very good, and one or two will be utterly incredible."
In the old days the Dead would often come into an area for a sustained engagement of half-a-dozen shows, guaranteeing compulsive Deadheads at least one or two transcendent performances. Today, engagements are generally limited to two or three per city, and the faithful often have to catch the band in at least two different towns to secure their cosmic hit. 
But the amazing thing is that those moments do happen. In the course of interviewing all the band members (except Phil Lesh, who wasn't available), I tried to get them to articulate what they'd discovered about the principles that sustained this matrix, that kept the cosmic dance between performer, audience, and the music itself from collapsing into a chaotic jumble. This was more than a matter of mere curiosity on my part; the problem of longevity is one that must haunt every band as their youthful passion and energy wanes. Any group that's been around for 15 years and can still call down that illuminative power has something to teach all of us. Maybe something that could even save somebody's life. 
I can't help but think of a Bruce Springsteen concert a few weeks back. The magic just wasn't happening during the first set, and Bruce knew it. But being Bruce, he insisted on pushing himself and his band with a harsh urgency bordering on desperation, as if he hoped to break to the other side on sheer bravado alone. It hurt to watch him struggle like some beached swimmer, who thinks he can bring back an ebbing tide if he just continues to flail away hard enough on the sand. "My God," said a voice in the next aisle, "if he keeps that up, he'll kill himself." It was a frightening thought, and one that came back to haunt me the other day when I heard that Springsteen had cancelled a series of midwestern dates on account of exhaustion. 
After a decade and a half of experimentation, the Dead are convinced that sheer force alone isn't the answer. "It is not even a question of concentration," insists Weir. "You've got to let go and surrender to it; drop your cares, and be there for it." 
Okay, but who calls the shots? "Nobody calls the shots," counters Weir. 
"The Dead is bigger than the sum of its parts," adds Garcia. "We go where it leads us." 
Sounds simple enough, but how the hell do you keep everybody's egos from tearing apart the delicate balance needed to keep things open? According to the Dead, the answer involves standing the normal traditional Western attitude towards music on its head: concentration and individual assertiveness give way to a more diffuse awareness and the commitment to ensemble playing. 
According to Weir, "You have to reverse gears from the way you originally learned things. For a musician to master his instrument requires excruciating concentration; each note has to be conquered, then strung together to form riffs and passages. For ensemble playing you've got to let all that go and be aware of others. The key here is listening to what everybody else is doing. You can always tell when somebody's not listening, because they play too much and spoil the chemistry." 
So you divide your attention between what you're doing and what the group is doing? 
"No," insists Weir, "that's not it. Dividing your attention implies a separation between yourself and the music where none exists. Actually, I am the music and all that's necessary is to maintain a little concentration, just enough to articulate my part so it blends with the whole."

The Dead are guaranteed to consistently confound your expectations: every time you think you've got them pegged they toss you another curve. On their debut album they were cleverly disguised as an electric jug band, progressive-minded, but obviously tied to their blues and folk roots. Then came Anthem of the Sun - an about-face if ever there was one. It was an acid-drenched psychedelic garage sale that owed more to Stockhausen and Coltrane than Kweskin or Seeger. Next came Aoxomoxoa, a noble if not entirely successful attempt to compress all that weirdness into traditional three-minute segments. 
It wasn't until the double Live Dead that the record-buying public got a glimpse of what all the excitement was about. Although it remains for many, including most of the band members I polled, the quintessential Dead album, the fact that it's simply a taped concert performance served to highlight the Dead's inability to produce a studio recording that reflected their essential nature. They decided to shift gears once again, this time abandoning their complex improvisational material in favor of simpler musical forms whose spirit might be easier to capture on tape. The resulting albums, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, are the musical equivalent of the Gothic flying buttress: slender, delicate structures that somehow support a cathedral of sound and feeling. 
About this time the Dead were presented with a challenge of a different nature, with the death of the lead vocalist and keyboardist, Ron McKernan (alias Pigpen). Mickey Hart remembers: "A lot of people may not realize it now, but Pigpen was the boss in those days; it was his band, he was the leader, not Jerry or Bob. When he died, his responsibilities fell on everybody else's shoulders." 
It was also a time when rock bands were undergoing fundamental changes in their relationship with their audiences. The sense of communion, of oneness between player and listener, was disintegrating as musicians became unreachable superstars, and the audience in turn chose entertainment over communication. Instinctively, the Dead opted out of the whole mad game. They gave up the chance to become superstars, but it didn't matter. They had discovered how to keep that inner dynamic alive within themselves, and there was no way they could commercialize that without crushing its essence. They had something that money couldn't buy (besides, the very thought of Jerry Garcia in a gold lame jumpsuit is too painful to bear). 
Compelled by what Garcia refers to as "the call of the weird," the Dead returned to experimental themes on albums like Blues for Allah and Terrapin Station. The latter album's orchestral sweep, pristine production values, and superb ensemble playing qualify it as probably the most successful attempt yet at a studio rendering of their concert persona. Producer Lowell George brought a taste of funk to Shakedown Street and in the process showed the band how to take greater advantage of the rhythmic dynamics inherent in their two-drummer configuration in the studio. Last year's The Grateful Dead Go To Heaven was disappointingly tame AOR fare, though Garcia's peppy "Alabama Getaway" was the closest thing they've had to a hit in years.
This summer the Dead have presented us with a double-dose of what they do best: two double live albums, one acoustic and one electric, both recorded last fall in New York and San Francisco, the twin capitols of Dead-dom. (The band jokingly refers to the N.Y.-Long Island area as "The Grateful Dead Belt.") These releases are being heralded as the "definitive" Dead albums, and on the evidence presented by the acoustic set, which is the only one available now - the electric record should be coming out by the time you read this - that may be a fair assessment. Dan Healy's recording and production are state-of-the-art, and the performances are among the best I've ever heard from the band. 
Is the Grateful Dead satisfied enough with these live efforts to give up their eternal quest for perfection in the studio? Are they finally willing to concede that it can't be done without the help of an audience? 
"Well, maybe," says Garcia, sitting like a Buddha in a black T-shirt in his San Rafael home, "but I feel it's time for another wave of weirdness to hit, and I was thinking about trying a few ideas in the studio..." 
During a break in the interview, I buttonholed Brent Mydland, figuring as the new guy in the band maybe he'll give me some tips on dealing with the Ancient Ones. 
"I'll tell ya a funny thing," says Mydland. "When I first joined these guys I had the feeling I was on the outside of a massive inside joke, but I think I'm beginning to catch on." Gee, Brent, can you toss me any clues? "Of course not!" he replies in mock anger. "Are you trying to get me in trouble or something?" 
That's what I like about the Dead: they never preach or proselytize. Instead, they quietly go about constructing a working model of what might be a brave new world, based on openness to change and risk, diffusion of ego, sensitivity to the needs of the moment, and receptivity to higher forces. Rather than mere relics of a mythic past, Garcia and company may yet prove to be touchstones for a viable future.

(by Vic Garbarini, from Musician, October 1981, pp.60-63)

* * * 


Bill Kreutzman's music career did not begin auspiciously; his teacher tossed him out of the school band because he couldn't keep the beat. His revenge was twenty years coming but well worth the wait. Encouraged by a sympathetic high school music instructor, Bill eventually wound up teaching drums in a Palo Alto music store, where he and another instructor named Jerry Garcia got the idea of starting a band. The Warlocks soon metamorphosed into the Grateful Dead, and a debut album was cut for Warners. 
Shortly after its release, Kreutzman faced a crisis when the band invited Mickey Hart to join as a second percussionist. "In my darkest moments," admits Kreutzman, "I was sure he was trying to get me out of the band so he could take over. But in the end I saw it wasn't so, and that spirit of conflict served as a catalyst for getting me off my duff and deeper into the music." Thus began one of rock's most successful double-drummer combinations. 
Both drummers soon discovered that their styles were naturally complementary. "I tend to play the more rudimentary, straight ahead stuff," explains Kreutzman, "while Mickey handles the embellishments, tom fills, and other exotica." 
Hart agrees: "Usually Bill winds up doing the straighter, rock 'n' rollish stuff, while I'm turning it in, out and around. But there are no rules." 
How do they determine their respective responsibilities on any given tune? 
"Normally we just attack it and see what happens," says Mickey. "We might then discuss it, but we find the best work doesn't come from our minds, but from somewhere deeper. We actually breathe in the same time. It's not just two good drummers playing together; something is different between me and Bill. We feel our pulses before a show to get in common time, and we really are beating together." 
"You can never be afraid to take chances," says Kreutzman. "We may play the same song a lot, but it's different every performance. If you try to hold on to something you inevitably kill it." 
Hart takes it even further: "It's more than just an option - we have to take risks. I go up there every night hoping that someone will have a great idea that will take me away, that'll really make me understand what music is about after all these years. But you're part of an ensemble, so you wait for a good idea to come up, and if it's right, something makes you do it and it inspires the rest of the band." 
Sometimes this creative risk-taking spills out beyond the boundaries of the songs to fill in the spaces between tunes. "Call it rhythmic modulation," offers Bill. "Instead of a sudden modulation or key shift between songs, we try to establish a rhythmic relationship so we can slowly amble from one to the other. It's one of my favorite exercises, but it's damn tricky to pull off." 

Both Kreutzman and Hart are deeply involved with Asian, African and American ethnic musics. For Hart, interest centers on what he refers to as "pre-entertainment music": "It's music that's not based just on entertainment; it deals with activities such as making work easier or chasing away demons or washing clothes."
One incident that helped Hart develop a healthy respect for the innate power of this kind of music involved a gift from his friend, Airto Moreira, the noted Brazilian percussionist. "Airto gave me this Brazilian stringed instrument called the berimbau. He gave me a quick lesson in how to play it, and I took it home to practice on. Well, I wound up just staring into the fire and playing this thing for weeks. It just took over; I wouldn't accept phone calls or anything," laughs Hart. "Three weeks later I called up Airto and asked him what the hell was going on! He explained that in Brazil the berimbau was used to induce an altered state of consciousness for practicing the martial arts." Hart pauses. "The weird thing is that I've been into the martial arts for years, but had let it go for a while, and then got back into it when I started playing the berimbau... And there was Airto talking about how this jungle instrument could take you without you even knowing it!" 
Both Hart and Kreutzman cite Sudanese oud player Hamza El Din as a major source of both musical and spiritual inspiration. "It's so great to meet someone who could be so damn strong and yet not exude even a trace of evil, meanness, or fear." A few years ago, Hart accompanied Hamza on a journey up the Nile to visit his ancestral village in the Nubian Desert. "The first thing those Nubian drummers taught me was that Bo Diddley didn't invent that beat," said Mickey. Not speaking Arabic, Hart utilized the univeral language of music to exchange ideas and converse with the Sudanese, who were impressed with his dexterity. "Hamza had taught me to play the tar, a single-membraned African drum, and his people were really blown out by the rhythmic exercises I'd worked up." 
The Nubians would often hold the same rhythmic groove for hours, with different sectons of the ensemble coming forward to improvise over the basic pattern. But when Hart's turn to solo came up, he met with an unexpected reaction from his hosts. "My polyrhythms startled them at first. I asked Hamza why they were staring at me, and he explained that when they heard the off beat and polyrhythms they felt I was forcing the drum. They feel the drums should tell you what to do, and not vice versa, which they see as artificial. They say, 'Excite the drum and it will tell you what to play,'" reflects Hart: "It's a great concept, and I've found it works if you approach the instrument with the right attitude." 
Both Hart and Kreutzman were afforded an opportunity to draw on their work with African and Brazilian musics when they, along with bassist Phil Lesh, Airto, Flora Purim and others, accepted a commission from Francis Ford Coppola to compose the score for Apocalypse Now - The Rhythm Devils Play River Music. Hart's marching orders from Coppola were short and to the point: "All Francis said was 'you know what I want - you know how to make magic. Do it!'" recalled Hart. "I watched the film constantly. I had it on video cassette in my kitchen, in my bedroom, and in the studio. It played continuously for three months." 
Their task was complicated by the fact that the battle sound effects Coppola brought back from the Philippines sounded unconvincing. In the end they were asked to find a way of simulating the cacophony of war in the studio. "Try reproducing the sounds of a napalm attack using wooden instruments and bells," suggests Hart wryly. "The artillery sounded like cheap firecrackers, so we had to reinforce that, too, with steel drums I had built, and other percussive devices. We had over fifteen hours of material!"
For all their inventiveness, both drummers are surprisingly self-effacing about the Dead's success. "It's the audience that's the key," reveals Kreutzman. "They're really the eighth band member. There is some power, be it God or whatever, that enters the Grateful Dead on certain nights, and it has to do with us being open and getting together with the audience. If we can do that, then it comes...and spreads everywhere."

(by Vic Garbarini, from Musician, October 1981, p.68)

A companion piece to this Jerry Garcia interview: 

Feb 12, 2024

1966: The Dead in the Daily Californian





"The Family Dog presents a Tribute to Dr. Strange" was the title of the very first of the large rock and roll dance-concerts, with local rock and roll groups performing. It was conceived by a chick named Luria and some friends of hers. In this fast moving world of pop culture and pop thinking, it seems like a long time ago, but it was only last fall. Now everyone is in the act. 
The Family Dog, seeing all the new groups around, felt this was a good way to present them, give them the opportunity to perform, and make money. They presented the Jefferson Airplane, The Charlatans, and The Loving Spoonfulls, when they were in town. Last week they presented a "Tribal Stomp" featuring the Airplane plus Big Brother and the Holding Company. Meantime various groups such as the Mime Troupe presented huge rock benefits featuring many groups, including such others as "The Great Society" and "The Mystery Trend." These latter groups are not among the best. 
The Airplane is due to have an album released very soon, having achieved a $25,000 advance from RCA Victor. A Berkeley group, The Answer, is under contract to White Whale Records in LA (producers of The Turtles) and although they have had one or two releases, none have yet been successful. There are local groups which have made it, the Vejtables and the Beau Brummels among them. 
The group which, if it ever makes it, will make it the biggest, is the Grateful Dead. They have been playing for The Acid Test most of the time, and appearing weekends at The Matrix in San Francisco. The Dead, originally known as The Warlocks, do incredible rhythm and blues, with an indescribably haunting organ sound. The lead guitar of Jerry Garcia (Captain Trips) will make your head its own reverb unit. They do a lot of original material as well as making total experiences of old numbers like "Midnight Hour." Among their best material is "The Only Time Is Now," "Down the Line," and "You Gotta Live for Yourself." 
[ . . . ] 

(by Mr. Jones, from the "Something's Happening" column, Daily Californian, February 24, 1966)


ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK (excerpt - no Dead content) 

The Jefferson Airplane is the best local rock and roll group. Their sound is very tight and very beautiful. With the possible exception of Signe Anderson (who is too pregnant to put out too well), their talent is top-notch and they mix in person like on a record. "It's No Secret" takes a bit to get used to, as most everything else, but then it is a joy to hear. 
KEWB gives it airplay (here I want to plug their midnight-to-six disc jockey), but KYA, perhaps scared of dance competition, hasn't so far. The last time I heard the Airplane do "Midnight Hour" I was very disappointed, but it pointed out their drawback. Their arrangements are so tight that they become restrictive. The lead guitar isn't allowed room to ad-lib and the group has difficulty sustaining happenstance ecstasy for more than a moment. 
The Quicksilver Messenger Service has a fairly ordinary loud sound. They are very close as a group, perhaps explaining their rather limited performing repertoire. The sound is nice, but the Airplane really captured it first and best, and all other groups in this area better start moving on. 
Big Brother and the Holding Company has potential in their lead guitar player, but the group's sound is too specialized and narrow, and consequently too boring for them to amount to much at this time. Their singing is poor. With one exception, maybe two, all their numbers lack inner coherence. Their songs could be stopped at any point before the end and it would still seem like the end. The exploration of the electronic possibilities of their equipment (and this is their uniqueness) is not terribly pleasant or even interesting. 
[ . . . ] [also reviews the Family Tree, Sopwith Camel & a high school covers band]

(by Mr. Jones, from the "Something's Happening" column, Daily Californian, March 10, 1966)



The last Acid Test was presented two weeks ago. It will never be held again. The Merry Pranksters have split; some to New York, some to Mexico, others to Arizona and so on. About a dozen of them are still in Los Angeles. 
There are many reasons why they broke up. When Kesey split for Mexico, the dynamic force of the Pranksters left too. The rest of the people involved were too hung up on too many ways to keep the scene going. Ken Babs, who inherited Kesey's mantle as leader, was too dictatorial and alienated many of the Pranksters. More and more it became his trip, and room for self-expression was diminished. 
The inner tension in the Pranksters developed to the breaking point with Kesey's departure. There were too many hangers-on, and no one was quite sure who was an official Prankster and who wasn't. In Los Angeles they had to run a show for the people, rather than the people running a show for them as in the Bay Area. There was unfavorable publicity and many problems with the rock and roll band, The Grateful Dead. They lost their flexibility, and now they are no more. 
The Grateful Dead are playing every weekend in Los Angeles. So where is Kesey? Everyone seems to think he's still in Mexico. However the most probable theory I have heard to his whereabouts is this: Somehow Kesey has connected himself, if not running the entire scene, with the flying saucers appearing in Michigan. 
[ . . . ]  [review of Sopwith Camel at the Matrix
Paul Butterfield's Blues Band was in town last weekend, playing three nights at the Fillmore Auditorium. Friday night there was only a light crowd; Saturday night it was jam-packed, and Sunday it was nearly empty. At the end of his final set on Sunday Butterfield said, "I've played at all sorts of clubs, but this place is certainly the most bizarre." 
Butterfield's band was fantastic. The two guitar players have frizzy hair like Bob Dylan. To watch the two of them work out on the guitars was an incredible listening experience. 
If you ever have an opportunity, drop everything you might have planned and go see this group - they are fantastic blues, and indescribably rock and roll. Short of that, buy their record (Elektra 294). On the back of the record jacket it says "We suggest that you play this record at the highest possible volume in order to fully appreciate the sound of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band." 
Ralph Gleason says "This is a real 'take-charge' band. They come on like they know what they are up to and play as if there was no question about their success. This is a great stance and it helps a good deal. The solo guitarist, Mike Bloomfield is really an extraordinary player. He produces long, exciting, soaring solos that leap out over the sound of the band and come alive, whirring and snapping through the hall." They return April 15 to the Fillmore Auditorium and April 16th to Harmon Gym with the Jefferson Airplane. 
These weekend dances at the Fillmore Auditorium are being promoted by a little man named Bill Graham. When these things were originated by The Family Dog, they were meant to present local rock groups and generally provide everyone with a good time, as little hassle as possible, and just be a gas for the performers, participants, and spectators. Graham has turned these dances into money making schemes first and foremost. Whatever fun one has is strictly incidental to, almost in spite of, Bill Graham.

(by Mr. Jones, from the "Something's Happening" column, Daily Californian, March 31, 1966)



During the past few weeks I've been madly running about trying to keep up with local folkies and the nearly 3000 acid bands in San Francisco. Here are a few observations therefrom. 
The single finest rock/acid/beat/blues band to hit this town in months, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band from Chicago, appeared at one of the musical rites of psychedelia at the Fillmore Auditorium. 
Promoter Bill Graham has endeavored to titillate all the senses of those parting with their two buckses via blasting music, exploding galaxies of lights, silent films, and rather ghoulish ornaments on the walls. Unlike the usual teen-age concert riots, Graham's customers keep cool, dig the fine sounds, and generally cause no problems. 
I think one reason for this extraordinary behavior on the part of 2000 hip kids is that they appreciate the nice surroundings, continual entertainment, and chance to dance without blowing ten dollars for an evening. (That's a rough estimate of the tab for a night of bar-hopping downtown.)
At any rate, the atmosphere of hot, swaying bodies, luscious young chicks, and totally non-violent dancers tripping around the floor in their own passive worlds was a gas. 

The Quicksilver Messenger Service opened the spectacle with some wild, deafening songs. They have some difficulties keeping their menagerie of guitars running on the same track, but they do try harder and a couple of numbers exhibited some definite polish. What they lack in repertoire they make up in raw enthusiasm, but I had trouble hearing many of the words in their songs. 
After a short pause the Butterfield aggregation trooped onto the stage, plugged in and screamed off into another universe. Where other bands hammer away, occasionally finding some nice phrases and momentary agreement, the Butterfield group has total, consummate control at all times. Each instrument hauls a share of pure power, but the band's arrangements provide the real proof of ingenuity and taste. 
Butterfield handles the majority of the singing and his direct, shouted style shows the influences of numerous Chicago bluesmen. His harp work is devastating - always covering the spaces apportioned him by guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. 
Alternating between pulsating riffs, rich bass chords, and shrieking upper register notes, Butterfield places his harp between, under, and solidly with the movement of each number, inciting his band to evermore magnificent, inspired music. Bloomfield plays an astounding lead guitar with more notes per second than I thought possible. When Butterfield or organist Mark Naftalain take lead, he chords in the precise mix that supports the harmonic balance of the entire group. Given a chance he can carry the whole stage away in one climactic run. 
To top off the evening, Bloomfield pulled out the stops and with Butterfield sweeping in and out on the harp, he delivered a guitar solo that can only be described as Shankaresque concluding with an honest-to-god fire-eating exhibition. The place promptly sailed into shock waves of ecstatic approval. You better not miss this group!

I heard the "Great Society" and thought them quite over-rated. Their female lead singer is fair, but the band fails to carry the songs along with her. 
At the Matrix I caught the Wildflower, who suffer from undistinguished arrangements and a dearth of musical invention. Mostly they thrashed about with weak singing and uninteresting guitar work. Perhaps with some more practice and attention to coordination of instruments they'll discover some better sounds.
[ . . . ]

(by Michael Chechik, from the Daily Californian, April 14, 1966)


ROCK 'N' ROLL PARAPHENALIA (excerpt - no Dead content)

Probably the best rock and roll concerts so far in the Bay Area were presented last weekend: The Jefferson Airplane and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. It was the first time I really had an opportunity to listen to Signe Anderson; she is stunning and sings powerfully. There were fantastic speaker systems mounted on large box-like structures. By standing up against the box, closing your eyes, you could simultaneously hear the sound and feel it pulsing and pounding through your body. Airplane drummer Skip Spence was particularly good in this regard. The Airplane is an excellent group, certainly better than most American top-40 groups, including the Byrds. 
Butterfield's group was again incredible. In the areas of blues harmonica, lead and rhythm guitar work, they have the finest talent available in the United States today. They put a group like the Rolling Stones to shame. Mike Bloomfield, who did the lead guitar work on Dylan's last album, is a master, and as much a star as Butterfield. Both of them know it. Butterfield will blow on his harp and Bloomfield will reply on the guitar creating soaring electronic sorties against fast moving heavy rhythm, all of which is beyond comment by me. On stage they seem as if, with all their talent, they might well explode. Each number they do seems as if it is being performed for the first and last times; it has that kind of spontaneity, instant creation, polish, and beauty. 
Bill Graham presented the three shows, climaxed Sunday afternoon by an hour-long jam including the Airplane, Butterfield's band, and Muddy Waters. Graham says: "I'm trying to present the best sound, the best lights, and the best groups available. If I was in it just for the money I'd never have presented the Airplane and Butterfield on the same bill. Ultimately I hope to turn the Fillmore Auditorium into a total theatre where I can present anyone with something valid to say. A promoter has to like what he puts on stage, but it must be marketable. I will never be connected with what is called a concert and should be a dance. It's a crime you can't look at and dance to the Beatles or the Stones anymore; your only connection is through a record. I'm proud of the Fillmore. I'm proud that we move, we swing, and that we wail." 
Toward this end, Graham is driven by what he describes as a "maniacal frenzy." In attempting to secure a permanent rock and roll scene at the Fillmore, his drive and passion have not won him any new friends. I think he believes he owns the whole scene, and this is wrong. He recently told the Family Dog they couldn't put on any more concerts at his auditorium. It was the Family Dog which began the concert-hall scene, originated the light shows, and has always been out front in the lead. They were the first people to bring Butterfield out here. They recently brought Love and the Sons of Adam up from L.A.
This weekend the Family Dog presents The Blues Project from New York with the Great Society. They will play at the Avalon Ballroom, Sutter and Van Ness in the city, a gassy Victorian style place with carpeted lobbies, drapes, gilt decor, mirrors, and some crazy sort of spring suspension dance floor. Also on April 22 & 23, Bill Graham presents the Grass Roots from L.A., the Quicksilver Messenger Service, and The Family Tree at the Fillmore.
Meanwhile, the Outline is presenting a "Trips 66" festival at the Longshoreman's Hall. Rock groups include The Grateful Dead, finally returning from L.A., The Loading Zone, and The Answer. The theme is supposed to be a Renaissance trip with appropriate decor and costumes, but the predictions by old hands from the original Trips Festival are not very good. Go at your own risk. [ . . . ]

(by Mr. Jones, from the "Something's Happening" column, Daily Californian, April 21, 1966)



[ . . . ]  Saturday night's dance at the Harmon was a beautiful scene, by far the best of the recent "Trips" dances. The music was great, with Jefferson Airplane and Paul Butterfield providing the sounds. The sound system, though turned up too high, was the best I've heard at any of these affairs. Having only two groups eliminated delays between sets and confusion with all that electronic gadgetry which collects when several groups must share the stage. 
To the usual wild lighting effects, Bill Graham added a strobe light. Rapidly flickering on and off, the strobe gave dancers in its beam a weird, old movie appearance which resembled a series of still photographs. [ . . . ] 

(by Martin Marks, from the Daily Californian, April 21, 1966)

BLUES FESTIVAL SPARKLES (excerpt - no Dead content) 

[ . . . ] On Saturday night, Bill Graham presented the Paul Butterfield band and the Jefferson Airplane in Harmon accompanied by Tony Martin's mind-bending light display. The Airplane's amps were excessively loud, so much so that it was difficult to discern harmonic paths and runs. Signe Anderson's version of "Me and My Chauffeur" (Memphis Minnie) was phrased like a popular jazz number, distinctly an idiomatique anomaly. After three sets the group sounded tired and somewhat trite, but their material is partly to blame, being mostly folkish and repetitive in chordal structure. 
The Butterfield band demonstrated tremendous ingenuity in a potporri of blues and rock arrangements. Butterfield is definitely leading the group to some fascinating eclecticism, mixing jazz and oriental flavors with the inherent power and drive of the amplified instruments. Look for this band to move into some shadings of modern improvisation heavy on foreign melodies and themes.
This weekend the Blues Project from New York will be appearing with the Great Society at Avalon Ballroom on Friday and Saturday nights. I hope they dream up more interesting music than their lp exhibits. The record was rather unsuccessful, a combination of awkward, weak blues imitation and some cute rock. [ . . . ]

(by Michael Chechik, from the Daily Californian, April 21, 1966)


HERE THEY COME AGAIN (excerpt - no Dead content) 

Friday night Bill Graham's Fillmore dance was raided by the police, ostensibly to enforce a statute requiring kids under 18 to be accompanied by an adult. This incident should be fair warning to other San Francisco promoters that the local authorities are heading towards another tangent - against "bohemian" promoters. 
In Graham's case there may have been some ill feeling from a Chronicle cartoon and editorial chastising the police and civic administrators for trying to close the Fillmore. (April 21st issue; see Ralph Gleason's column in the April 25th edition also.) 
These periodic fits of morality are always saddening, the power structure clumsily stomping on another threat to teenagers' morals. Apparently someone up high fears brawls and drinking, these activities being the substantive reasons for our elders to have attended such functions. Times have changed slightly, these kids behave in a more orderly manner than a gang of legionnaires running wild at a downtown convention, and they certainly pose less of a threat than the out-of-control grownups. So what else is new? 

The Family Dog presented the Blues Project from New York along with the Great Society at the Avalon Ballroom last weekend. I can only compare the Project's talent and polish to that of the Butterfield band. Sounding like a huge calliope, the group performed some tightly balanced, melodically complete numbers ranging from blues to love songs with a couple of gospel numbers for a change of mood. 
A good measure of the band's fine show must be attributed to the two giant speakers adjoining the stage which all the instruments are piped through. The entire range of acoustic brilliance found in electric instruments is transmitted through this system, each note and phrase comes out clearly without fuzzing or distortion.
[ . . . ] 
The Family Dog offered a strange and energetic light show centered on the half-moon backdrop of curtains behind the stage. In renting the Avalon Ballroom, the Dog has moved slightly into the lead in the environmental settings department. Full of musty remembrances of the roaring twenties, carpeted with plush fireproof rugs, surrounded by graceful carved columns, and topped with some swooping light fixtures, the Avalon provides an eerie setting to dig the crass sounds of the sixties. 
[ . . . ] 

(by Michael Chechik, from the Daily Californian, April 28, 1966)


[ . . . ] If you like to listen to music, Bill Graham presents the Jefferson Airplane, Lightning Hopkins, and the Jaywalkers tonight at the Fillmore Auditorium. Tomorrow night the same bill except the Quicksilver Messenger Service substitutes for the Airplane. I heard the Messenger Service last weekend and they have gotten much better. All their songs show that this group is looking for perfection and finding it. They had a particularly good "Mojo" number. 
One of the first 'cops vs. rock and roll' battles is being fought over Bill Graham, who was busted last weekend. In Berkeley last Saturday, the cops stopped a Scheer Benefit dance for lack of a permit. The cops had long discussions with the Scheer committee during the week, but told them about needing a permit less than an hour before the dance. Rock and Roll is something the police don't understand, and they're scared. It would be nice to see a good crowd at the Fillmore Auditorium this week, as a gesture of support for Bill Graham and/or rock and roll. 
Along the line of unfortunate events, the so-called "Trips 196?" show at the Longshoreman's Hall last weekend was an unelaborate hoax and a complete fraud. What happened there was completely unrelated to the previous trips festival, nothing in the least "trippy" happened, and the rock and roll was a major disappointment. There wasn't even a light show worth speaking of. In the crowd were aspiring hippies (people who have to be told where it's at, and then don't know they're being told a lie), aspiring teeners (who missed the usual Action USA scene), and aspiring Hell's Angels (the Gypsy Jokers). 
The Grateful Dead were there, back from L.A. with about $20,000 worth of new electronic equipment, including not a single piece of conventional Fender-like amplifiers. They have much new material, but I didn't stay to hear much of it. Jerry Garcia is still the best lead guitarist in the Bay Area rock scene, and Bill Croitsman is the best local drummer. They plan to remain in the Bay Area - they're getting a house in Marin county - until August. 
"The Acid Test," the recording that Kesey and the Pranksters made at Sound City a few months ago, is boring and uninteresting. I've listened only to the free promotional EP which supposedly has excerpts of the best parts on it. What a drag. First of all, the Acid Test doesn't seem to be the type of thing that can be recorded, and secondly, Kesey seemed to think that their session that day at Sound City was a bad trip anyway. 
The Airplane will have a new 45 release in two weeks. The two sides will be "Blues from an Airplane," and "Let Me In." Their previous release was a success in the Bay Area, but didn't make it elsewhere. Their album, already recorded and finished, won't be released until at least late May. The Dead released a single in L.A., but it didn't go anywhere and was ultimately recalled. 
[ . . . ]

(by Mr. Jones, from the "Something's Happening" column, Daily Californian, April 29, 1966)



A rather disappointing rock and roll weekend, this last one, despite a dozen dances and concerts. At the Fillmore: The Airplane is always the Airplane, but after an initial showing of strength, The Jaywalkers are rather disappointing having only a good singer to their credit. At the Winterland Ice Arena (capacity 2500) The Mojo Men, The Vejtables, and The Hedds, drew less than 25 people each night. The Beaux Arts Ball in Berkeley was highly praised for its conception and atmosphere. The Quicksilver Messenger Service did their thing, but no one liked the Bethlehem Exit who tried to compensate for musical ability by the length of material. They are from Walnut Creek. 
At the Avalon Ballroom, the Daily Flash was an utter disappointment. They are competent vocalists, but that's it. No originality, no rhythm, no interest. They try, oh so hard, to be psychedelic... The three of them wear wigs. The Rising Sons, however, were very good and kept up a strong rhythm. The lead singer (named Taj Mahal) (really) has a nice fast voice, reminiscent of Jagger, and he maintained a happy and competent stage presence. They have good original material (signed with Columbia) and a strong on-stage rapport among themselves and with the audience. I'd like to hear them again.
For me, the highlight of the weekend was at Harmon Gym when the Grateful Dead performed "Midnight Hour." It is one of their best numbers, and the best version of that song I've heard any group do. They are supposed to be playing next Saturday night at the Veterans' Memorial Hall in Berkeley with the Final Solution, a group just breaking into the scene which has, barring possible setbacks, a very bright future. However, the Veterans, scared by these dances, are backing out of the rental agreement. 
Also next weekend: The New Generation from LA, The Charlatans, and the Jaywalkers at the Fillmore; The Sons of Adam and the Blues Project at the Avalon Ballroom (Sutter & Van Ness, SF). Tonight the Blues Project plays at Pauley Ballroom on the campus. 
Promoters are more and more often going out of town to get groups for their weekend dances. It's nice to see what's going on in other cities and be presented with the variety. Some of the non-local groups have been superb (Butterfield's Band), others mediocre (Love), and others embarrassingly bad (The Daily Flash). But on the whole, San Francisco groups are the best available anywhere, certainly better than Los Angeles, and most of the time more distinguished than current national stars. Here groups have developed their own distinct styles, doing their own material interestingly and in an original manner. San Francisco will be known as the Liverpool of the United States.

(by Mr. Jones, from the "Something's Happening" column, Daily Californian, May 12, 1966)



"Whatever It Is" portion here: 

. . . The best thing in town was Bill Graham's show of Muddy Waters, Butterfield's Band, and the Airplane. In spite of commercial success Graham presents a show in excellent taste. That's positively un-American. Although the cops shut down the show early, Muddy's band and Butterfield's constantly outdid themselves. On their first night, the weekend before, ne plus ultra was ne plus ultra'ed all evening. 
This weekend it goes on again at the Fillmore, minus Muddy, but with the Dead added to Butterfield and the Airplane. More on all of them when it happens. This Saturday on Mt. Tamalpais, a peace benefit with the Dead and others. And at the Avalon the Family Dog has the non-electric Kweskin Jug Band.
Tomorrow a "Love-Pageant-Rally" will be held at 2 p.m. at Masonic and Oak, San Francisco. That's the day the LSD law comes into effect, and this is about that. We shall see... 

(by Jann Wenner, from the "Doin' the Thing" column, Daily Californian, October 5, 1966)



"Whatever It Is" portion here: 

. . . Let us hope the SF State organizers will spend a few weekends at the Fillmore or Avalon where they can see a "happening" that really happens. 
Bill Graham is currently presenting the finest electric band in the country, Paul Butterfield's band from Chicago. For the past two weekends they have appeared with the Muddy Waters blues band (remember them?) and the Jefferson Airplane. Though fighting inherently bad acoustics in the cavernous auditorium (best referred to as the "Winter Palace"), Butterfield and company presented two sets of blues interspersed with jazz improvisation (Nat Adderley's "Work Song" for example) and a few rock numbers.
In the months since their last Fillmore appearance they have drifted much closer to jazz phrasing and arrangements, perhaps best heard in the improvised solos of lead guitarist Mike Bloomfield and organist Mark Naftalin. Butterfield's harp solos stretch the capabilities of the instrument to the extreme. Often sounding like a raucous sax, Butterfield pumps out punctuating rhythmic riffs or full wailing upper register screams that burn into your ears and rattle your brain. 
I missed the Sept. 30-Oct. 1st program which had been moved back to the Fillmore Auditorium after the "racially-oriented" disturbances scared some of us away. Hopefully the bill will remain there as the acoustics are vastly superior and the cozy brown alcoves somehow suit the music and audience better than empty, Lawrence Welkish Winterland.
The Waters band came on as stiffly show business, an image that can never really fit Muddy, the bluesman with his slashing slide guitar and down-home singing. He followed his regular format of roughly half contemporary rhythm and blues and half his now legendary sides for Aristocrat and Chess from the early 1950's. "Little" George Smith has replaced Jimmy Cotton on harmonica and Sammy Lawhorn has returned as lead guitar. 
I felt the Airplane was shucking like mad on both evenings - not playing to capacity, that is. Signe Anderson's torchy vocals sounded strained and superficial, Marty "Tell it to the people" Balin's singing came out a bit melodramatic during instrumental breaks, and Jorm Kaukonen's guitar work never achieved any momentum. I think the group has been over-exposed locally and might benefit from a change of audience and atmosphere.

(by Michael Chechik, from the Daily Californian, October 7, 1966)



A year ago this weekend the first dance-concert of the current style was presented by the original Family Dog: the Great Society, the Jefferson Airplane, the Charlatans, and the Marbles. It was m.c.'d by Ross The Moose Syracuse. The next weekend the Lovin' Spoonful was presented at a "Tribute to Sparkle Plenty." (You remember old Sparkle Plenty, don't ya...?)
Ken Kesey is back, and promises climax on Halloween. He says he'll be there, palm fronds courtesy of the Merry Pranksters, protection courtesy of the Hells Angels, and revelry care of the Grateful Dead. This final Acid Test is going to be a "put up or shut up" to J. Edgar and the Narcotics Squad. (Good name for a group.) 
So they've been circulating mug shots of Kesey all around the Bay, 'cause if they don't get him now, they'll never get anyone. [ . . . . ] 
Another name in the news is Augustus Owsley Stanley. He hasn't dropped out of sight but is very much in town. The "growing army of acid heads" didn't applaud him this weekend, if they ever did. That part of the Chronicle expose was probably an anonymous tip from Owsley himself. But he sure made great acid... 

San Francisco's two top bands were on display last weekend. The Airplane, distinguished by professional perfomers and top quality original material by Marty Balin, has increased its kilowatts with a new drummer. Next week Signe Anderson will be replaced by Grace Slick, ex of the Great Society. Grace is a competent organist and that instrument would make a nice addition.
The Grateful Dead took two encores Saturday night. They put a group like the Blues Project to shame. (If Danny Kalb wouldn't sing and that group re-formed as "Al Kooper's Band," then it would be of comparable quality.) The Dead are currently negotiating a very liberal recording contract with Warner Brothers. They figure on signing this week with assurances of creative freedom, money, and an excellent publicity program. They'll be Warner Brothers' only rock group. 
Big Brother and the Holding Company were at the Avalon. They're just not interesting, in any way. The Jim Kweskin Jug Band was cute, as far as jug bands go. Back at the Fillmore, Paul Butterfield's traveling zoo wailed as if tomorrow wasn't coming. Every time they get on stage you know you're going to hear something new. Even their old structured numbers ("Born in Chicago," "Mystery Train") are different and original each time, in fact they're practically new songs. This band violates the Federal Incredibility Statute. 

Saving the best for last, the Mama's and the Papa's were at the Civic Auditorium. It was presented in a teenage concert format by KFRC with The Association the preceding act. Despite "Cherish," The Association is a high school band. The Mama's and the Papa's were excellent: Denny with a Lennonesque German accent ridiculing the security guards at the stage; John with a story of Americans in Europe never leaving their hotels. 
Momma Cass was SUPER-SUPERB. Her beautiful voice comes from the depths. She dances in her boots when she sings and when she wasn't singing she was giving the teenagers lectures on middle class morality. They did their famous numbers, and closed the set with a rocking, swinging "Dancing in the Streets." You wanted to be at the Fillmore and by rights this show should have been. They are the top new group of 1966. They gotta come back.

(by Jann Wenner, "Doin' the Thing" column, Daily Californian, October 12, 1966)


10/26/66 - excerpt from Wenner's column: 
"What's happening are Pigpen tee-shirts, which come in three assorted, various, sublime, colorful colors. If you don't have a friend in the group who could have given you one free, they're available for $2.50 from the Grateful Dead Fan Club, P.O. Box 31201 San Francisco... 
Ken K. Kesey, who wrote two excellent books, is somewhere around. That's his bag and although I would rather listen to the Grateful Dead, I'm supposed to know what Kesey is up to. . . . Who cares? People who want to be hip."

11/2/66 - Wenner column tidbit: 
"Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead is AIRing the Jefferson Airplane's new album this week in Los Angeles."

(On the same page, an editorial asks readers to "Vote for Brown" instead of Reagan in this week's election for governor of California. "To say that 'the lesser of two evils is still evil' may be a fine moral position to take, but it fails to take cognizance of the fact that the greater of two evils is in this case very evil indeed.")


QUEEN HAROLD'S TROUSERS (excerpt - no Dead content)

The Jefferson Airplane is around and about with new female vocalist Grace Slick. She has brought in some new material and her voice, while not as mellowly pleasing as Signe's, is more dramatic. She seems to enjoy working with Marty Balin. The best of their new numbers is a cute, lonesome-sounding song, "My Best Friend." It will be released as a single with several others before another album. Their new LP has already been recorded, reportedly with somewhat of a Mama's and Papa's style. Although the Airplane is one of my favorite groups, their style and material have not really changed or developed substantially since they first began. 
Moby Grape, a six-weeks old unit from Sausalito among other places, is a lot of fun. Skip Spence, the Airplane's old drummer, and Peter Lewis, Loretta Young's son, write most of their material. They are good entertainers, but have not made the best use so far of their full five-voice potential. Their manager is also an ex of the Airplane, Matthew Katz. He says, "Tell 'em that Moby Grape loves you more." 
The Thirteenth Floor Elevator, from Texas, are a group without much musical merit, except they are great to hear and dance to. Melodies and lyrics are without flair, but they have a real hard-rock smash sound. I could do without the screaming of singer Rocky Ericson, but I suppose it's part of his own exuberant stance, and that is really what makes this group fun.
[ . . . ] 
Notes for acid-eaters: Ken Kesey and the boys and the girls have split for Santa Cruz where they take up residence in retreat. Little Acid Annie and Wonder-Dog Cap have stayed behind and it looks like she's left Ken forever... [ . . . ] 
In the rock and roll future, Bill Graham is throwing a 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. dance, concert, breakfast, orgy, around-the-clock spectacular with the Airplane, the Dead, and Quicksilver on New Year's Eve. That's if you're the type who doesn't drink.

(by Jann Wenner, from the "Doin' the Thing" column, Daily Californian, November 16, 1966)




S.F. ACID-ROCK: WHERE TO GO FROM HERE? (excerpt - no Dead content)

After a year's development, San Francisco's acid-rock dances are settling in. What was once an amateur project for a few friends has become big business. The question is, "Where do we go from here?" Are these dances to become another function of the city's tourist trade, like North Beach, or will they remain essentially underground with primarily hippy audiences? 
The answer to this question will come from the men who determine the city's range of musical experiences - the promoters. 
Bill Graham (Fillmore Auditorium) and Chet Helms (Avalon Ballroom) appear to be heading in different directions as reflected in their recent bookings. 
Both halls have greatly broadened the range of entertainment in the area, and nearly every national news media has featured stories on the Bay Area rock scene. 
Graham has presented a wide range of performers: saxophonist Charles Lloyd, a truly electric band - the Yardbirds, and flamenco guitarist Manitas de Platas. In comparison, Helms has restricted his bills to rock bands, most of them from San Francisco or Los Angeles.
Graham has been criticized for deviating from the hippie concept of a dance: As hippies originated the first dances a year ago, they've come to think of the Fillmore and Avalon as their special domain. Now big-time show business types are filtering in - record company reps, fan magazines, and pushy agents. 

The infiltration of the glittering shills was quite apparent a few weeks back when I attended a late night jam at the Gay 90's in North Beach. Three local bands and some hundred dance-goers (camp followers?) filled the posh club. Everyone was trying to look right at home. 
Like plastic caricatures of slap-em-on-the-back Sunset Strip night clubbers, young hippies scurried from table to table whispering the latest show business gossip. 
One chickie in a smartly tailored pants-suit next to me said, "They've been offered a contract with MGM but they're holding out for Columbia." And a wispy young man talking in hushed, staccato phrases said, "There's supposed to be a friend of Phil Spector's up here scouting for new groups." 
Suddenly, underground fun has turned into super-serious business. New groups spend more time manicuring their images and planning trips to England than they do arranging songs. 
Now everyone knows Bob Dylan's bass player. The chick next door put up Mick Jagger's third cousin and your roommate turned on a girlfiend of the Mothers' ex-drummer. 
Absurdity breeds further madness: twenty-year-old hippies whose musical experience began with the Stones' second album are making learned musical criticism. 
So and so plays better guitar than Mike Bloomfield and Howlin' Wolf learned to sing from a Captain Beefheart record. Sure, baby. . . . 
Bay Area rock and roll can claim one worthy service: Kids who normally would listen to the Beau Brummels are now digging Ravi Shankar, or are they? 
If one hears Indian music (or Bach or Coltrane or Butterfield) he doesn't necessarily understand the music's structure. . . . 
After a few guitar players discovered some "Eastern-sounding" runs, every hippy in town started dropping knowledgeable terms: raga, tabla, sarod. When local groups trotted out their blues repertory, hippies mentioned Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. 

If the rock scene has turned a few people onto fine music, it has produced precious little outstanding music itself - certainly not as much as most of Haight-Ashbury would have you believe. 
There are admittedly some pretty imaginative musicians around: Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, bassist Jack Cassidy of the Airplane, and Barry Melton of Country Joe and the Fish are prime examples. 
But acid-rock cannot claim much more than a fast start for itself. Ninety percent of the musicians working in the acid-rock groups are still in their musical infancy. It takes time to have five or six musicians meld their styles and start to work as a unit, and this scene is only a year old. 
In the same vein, I wonder about the sanity of hippies who feel only electric rock is the road to true musical innovation. Musical styles do not exist in a vacuum. Muddy Waters follows a line of delta blues singers, jazzmen have their antecedents in the swing music of the '40s and dixieland of the twenties. And to take this analogy to its obvious end: Ali Akbar Khan did not spontaneously master the Indian culture's complex music, he listened to the sages of his country who, in turn, had learned from their predecessors. 
Every musical style and fad had its roots in related fields, and it's ridiculous to think of electric rock as a means of expression free of influence from earlier eras.
[ . . . ]  (digression on why rock groups don't use horns like R&B bands do) 
A few local groups think their music is pretty important, and in terms of their personal development I can't disagree. But in an overall survey of all pop musicians, they rank rather near the bottom. In jazz or pop music, few artists attain prominence without many years work shuffling from one orchestra or band to another. . . . Placing acid-rock in the spectrum of all music, its innovations are comparatively minor. 

Why has such a furor been made over San Francisco rock and roll? First, the performers onstage have droves of friends and these friends love being part of the glamor and attention of public performances. Where there isn't something happening, the hippies are creating an artificial sense of activity - more in their own heads than anywhere else. 
Second, in a very real sense, the Fillmore and Avalon are the coffeehouses of hippiedom. Many of the musician-freaks playing the two halls are refugees from defunct coffee houses. What was called "folk music" in the early '60s was an expression of a generation's attitudes towards adult society. . . . 
The standards of the coffee house boom have carried over to the present dances. Performers were rarely criticized for a lack of innovation then and they aren't now. Coffee houses grew, in part, out of a desire on the part of folkies to protest the inanities of the middle class. As such, no one wanted to bring down their friends by saying their singing was off-key. It was a time of fun and escape from the middle class, and this feeling was a basic component of the first rock bashes. 
Third, every record label is desperately ensnaring local groups with contracts - few of which offer young groups anything but their name on a record label. In the past, if a musician was offered a recording contract, it signaled his ascension into the big-time. Now it means the companies don't want to be caught short of a ready supply of new faces if demand merits some new releases. Rock and roll is a profitable business, you know. 
Fourth, no other city has found itself with two such unusual dance halls complete with light shows and poster art. Both the establishment and the hippies recognize the uniqueness of this phenomenon and they're damn well going to crow about it. 

No matter what the musical low points to the dances, they will continue to prosper for the moment, but a few changes could be made which would help the scene retain its vitality. 
Besides horns and organs, someone should follow the lead of the Beach Boys and begin experimenting with such instruments as the theramin. 
So far the audiences at both dance halls have been predominantly white. Graham helped overcome this with Martha and the Vandellas, and Otis Redding will appear soon. 
But all the experimentation and integration in the world won't hold the scene together without an increase in the quality of the sounds. Right now such an increase does not seem very likely.

(by Michael Chechik, from the Daily Californian, December 9, 1966)

Thanks to Dave Davis. 

The Daily Cal

Background on Jann Wenner at UC Berkeley