Dec 25, 2012

July 1975: Blues for Allah Letter

Dear Deadheads:

This letter is to announce the completion and immediate release of our new album "Blues For Allah", and to fill you in on the fate of the record company venture.
After going collectively insane about 2 years ago from pressures of traveling and devastating internal and external intrigue, we hatched with the last breath of fatigue a structure to keep our vital organs protected while we contemplated hibernation, a modest recording and film making empire. What was known as "The Grateful Dead" was dismantled and the parts sent off for repairs and replacement of worn parts. This is an operation a monster can sustain, which distinguishes him from an individual body.
The encouraging sounds of returning animation, recorded through six months recovery in a secluded recording studio, are presented on "Blues For Allah". The authentic cry of the monster that cannot be killed beyond repair is heard again.
If this seems a fanciful account, I remind you that no two stories agree, only that something hapened and it was kind of like that. Washed in the rain of contrite hearts and re-avowed purpose, we commend this new effort to your attention.
At the moment of financial crises we had no recourse but to turn our distribution over to the enterprise which could best serve our necessary market interests. United Artists seems as good as any and better in some technical respects relating to contractual obligations and distribution capability. So they will be paying people to press and sell our records, and our full attention can turn to music and recording, perhaps performing, matters.
A new kind of tour "hit and run" consisting of unannounced concerts is being considered. If it happens in or around your area, you will know first and other sources will learn from you. This will keep the size down, and we will not feel obligated to play a place before announcing it if something else comes up. Money raised from such gigs would only pay the costs of the performance, and we will depend on record sales and the nearly completed movie of the last 5 nights at Winterland (before we went on our year's leave of absence) to sustain further projects and support us.
Anton Round (ex-record czar) formally ate a roast crow at a dinner with other top record executives, to whom he had boasted that the small, independent record company could handle a band's product more efficiently and with greater margin for profit than could they with their redundant bureaucratic overflap. The crow, you will remember, was an early emblem of GD records.
Both Grateful Dead and Round Records still retain their internal autonomy. It is with a sigh of relief we shake off perpetual business hassles.
Any new names for our mailing list should be sent to:
P.O. Box 1065
San Rafael, California 94902


  1. Blues for Allah was released the next month.

    Garcia commented in the November '74 interview that songwriting was a burden that was pushed on him by the band needing material, and he felt they needed to develop more musically. In '75 they had the ability to record in Weir's home studio (rather than an expensive regular studio), so that was the impetus for trying a new approach to the album - rather than Garcia bringing in finished songs, they would come & try to develop new material from the ground up, as a whole band.
    Per McNally & Scully, "Garcia set it up that way to end the Garcia-Hunter domination of songwriting by ensuring that the whole band participated in the creative process from the beginning." (McNally p.482)

    The unannounced concert plan barely happened - there were only a couple "hit and run" performances in '75, and none in early '76.
    But over the course of '75-76, the Dead found it increasingly difficult to "depend on record sustain further projects and support us." (Not that that was ever a good idea!)
    Alas, the movie was not "nearly completed" as announced - in fact it wouldn't be finished until spring 1977, meanwhile sucking over $600,000 from the band.

    Grateful Dead/Round Records was also going downhill in '75, til it finally expired in spring '76 - with a combination of expensive projects, lack of successful records, and perhaps other financial problems, it dug its own grave.
    Rakow had said in the November '73 Rolling Stone article, "Did you see that crow on our label? So many people have had reservations about this company of ours, we decided to put the crow on our album and the labels. That crow's for eating. Either we or a lot of other people are going to have to eat that crow."
    Now in '75, financial crisis has arrived, and they have called on United Artists to bail them out, and Rakow metaphorically eats the crow.

    The UA deal had mixed results. Rakow had turned to them to keep the Dead from going bankrupt & to keep the film project going. But, once they'd signed on, UA required results, and gave deadlines.
    Blues for Allah, after being leisurely tinkered with for months, ended up being hastily recorded in a couple weeks once the deadline loomed. It got worse in '76: lacking another album, the Dead felt forced to offer a live album from the '74 tapes, and Rakow kept demanding that they turn in Steal Your Face and Diga on time, resulting in bad feelings and a final blowup between band & Rakow; and so their record company folded.

  2. An article from Record World, 6/28/75:

    Los Angeles - Al Teller, president of United Artists Records of America, and Ron Rakow, president of Grateful Dead and Round Records, have jointly announced the signing of a long term manufacturing, marketing and distribution agreement whereby United Artists will manufacture and distribute all Grateful Dead and Round Records product. All current and future Grateful Dead and Round product is included in the agreement which is effective immediately.
    Initial new releases under the deal are a newly-recorded Grateful Dead lp to be released in August, and solo lps from Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir to be released in the fall. Catalogue albums included in the deal are two by the Grateful Dead, two Jerry Garcia solo efforts, two lps by Robert Hunter...and albums by Keith and Donna Godchaux and Phil Lesh and Ned Lagin.
    ... The group is completing editing an as yet untitled movie of the band in concert. The movie soundtrack will be released by United Artists, early in 1976."