Dec 31, 2012

January 1976 Newsletter (Excerpt)

Dear Deadheads,

Here's the rundown on everything completed or sufficiently near completion to announce. This is the biggest batch of stuff we've ever got together, the fruits of incessant activity known as the Vacation. It includes four record albums, a feature length movie, and a decision that vacationing is too exhausting to continue, meaning the Grateful Dead has decided to get back into touring.

Intensive rehearsals begin this week to get the performing edge back on the band and to outfit it with new material. Rehearsals and then recording and then back on the road. The date is not yet agreed upon, or the place, but it will be somewhere around the middle of '76. Announcements will be made prior to the gigs. The hit and run method. In the words of Phil Lesh, "We're all horny to play." If you're as hot to hear us as we are to do it, we can get the mother rollin' one more time, for sure.

So, here's what we have for you in the meantime.

[ . . . . ]

When I first appeared around, the chaps known as the Grateful Dead (for some strange reason they did and still do call themselves Bozo's), I was always impressed by how hard they worked at their performances, records, and now their most interesting movie and how close they feel to you folks their "Dead Heads". It's really a source of great pride for me to have the Grateful Dead be part of my world.
Thank you.
Anton Round

P.S. Don't just sit there, popularize and proselytize!

* * *

MAY 1976

Dear Deadheads,
The Grateful Dead is planning to go out for 18 gigs starting June 9th. We don't want to pack around the equipment necessary to do ultralarge productions - in plain fact, we don't want to play giant gigs at all - so we're going to book into smaller places, keep promotion way down and give you first crack at tickets.
In our experience, the bigger the production, the bigger the expense and the overall feeling is not as satisfying as a smaller scale effort.
It will be good to be back on the road, actually trying to fulfill our fantasy of playing for a mostly deadhead audience in a comfortable environment.
The band is now into full scale rehearsal, preparing new material and re-working the familiar stuff. This tour will be strictly to satisfy us and you and to find out if such a format can work. If it does, it can point the way to future tours which are a necessity for any band which wants to stay at a dynamic level musically and serve as an energy source for itself and others.

St. Dilbert

Dec 28, 2012

September 1974: Hunter Letter (Excerpt)

This is an excerpt from a Robert Hunter letter that appeared in Crawdaddy.

London
September 23, 1974

You ask which comes first: the lyrics or the music, in general. Usually, I sit down with a guitar and write a song. Sometimes I write to changes provided to me, which is the hardest way to do the number. Or, I play a song I've written to a friend, and it is dismantled and put together in a new and often more pleasing fashion. [ . . . ]
The Grateful Dead have never required melodies from me (coals to Newcastle) and consequently I have a great stock of "Orphan Tunes" in my head which I used to write my lyrics to. My tune writing does not approach the richness and subtlety of Jerry's so I've never felt overlooked and misunderstood in that area - it was simply not required of me. I've worked some with Weir and think his compositional sense is just amazing, though he does little of it; it takes him a long, long time to fashion one of his tunes. The only song I've written with Phil ("Box of Rain") remains one of my favorites. Keith's head is awash with melody and I look forward to many more good nights of carving out tunes with him and listening to Donna interpret them for us. The actual act of writing a good song with someone I like being around is the closest thing I know to the way things ought to be. It's strange to write tunes with a drummer, but Billy and I were working away at it in Munich last week and he turned me on to some rhythmical possibilities I'd not considered on a song which I've been hammering out called "The Last Flash of Rock and Roll."

The idea of the Grateful Dead "breaking up" - I really don't see how that would come about. After ten years of touring, we've decided to cut that way down. A gig here and there - a solstice or an equinox, perhaps. The physical strain of touring is pretty grueling and we've been on the road for a long, long time. At least a six month's vacation to just cool out and survey what we've been up to. Building and carting that sound system around is, in my head, akin to building a pyramid. It's the world's greatest hi-fi system, and there's no one who would deny that. Recording and practices will go on as usual, but leaving space for personal diversified musical projects.

The Dead is the logical extension of a meeting of energies which you all know more or less about already. If, as you propose, it had not happened, it would have happened anyway. I mean, there was no way that thing wasn't going to happen. My energies were turned to songwriting before there was an "official" G.D., as was everyone else's involved in their own peculiar way. If it hadn't been this Grateful Dead, it would have been another, and if not that one, another yet. Sensible? I suppose not, but just so, nevertheless, I don't mean to get mystical on you, or nothing like that, but there was a question asked in the early '60s which demanded an answer, and those who demanded to answer naturally came together and recognized one another. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that we would accomplish what we've accomplished, and it seems too foredrawn that there has never been any need to rush it, promote it or pluck it before it was ripe.

(From "Robert Hunter, Dark Star," Crawdaddy, January 1975. The whole letter is reprinted in Dodd/Spaulding's book The Grateful Dead Reader.)

Dec 26, 2012

September 28, 1975: Golden Gate Park

THE DEAD AFTER A DECADE: 'ALLAH' MEANS BUSINESS

The event was officially billed as a free concert sponsored by the Haight-Ashbury People's Ballroom, with music by the Jefferson Starship and Jerry Garcia and Friends. But for the estimated 50,000 people who flocked to Golden Gate Park's Lindley Meadows on September 28th (including a smattering who flew in from as far away as New York), it was a nearly perfect flashback to the Sixties, a Sunday afternoon with the latest incarnations of the Jefferson Airplane and surprise -- the good ol' Grateful Dead in their first public performance in nearly a year.

Chilly, overcast weather never had a chance to dampen enthusiasm as the Starship mounted the stage to a standing hometown ovation and for the next two hours kicked ass in a manner that only months of roadwork, a Number One album and a vacation in Hawaii can make possible. "Don't anyone go away!" a beaming Paul Kantner shouted over the applause following a "Volunteers" encore, "The Grateful Dead are comin' on!" And half an hour later, after a well-orchestrated equipment change, they did.

Bassist Phil Lesh was the first to plug in and face the audience. "Hi! Long time no see!" The crowd roared approval. And when he was joined by guitarist Bob Weir, one on-the-scene photographer was impressed enough to yell, "Aw look, it's the fuckin' Bobbsey twins!" Elsewhere onstage, pianist Keith Godchaux breathed into cupped hands to keep them warm, while his vocalist/arranger wife Donna smiled with the anticipation of singing some of the newer Dead songs. Behind them drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann checked snare tunings with tentative rim shots. Then a leather-jacketed Jerry Garcia stepped forward and sent a trademark guitar riff sailing all the way out to Seventh Avenue, marking the start of a satisfying two-hour concert. Earlier Weir had joked to friends that "San Francisco was about to hear the rustiest band in show business" and that "the audience would probably end up holding torches and pitchforks." By the set's end, however, he was euphoric.

The concert also coincided with the beginning of the Dead's second decade as a musical entity, business enterprise and, significantly, near legendary social institution. The Dead's extended family, perhaps 200 in all, has survived a peculiar saga. Somehow the "karass" has managed to play out most of the variations on the themes of growth, change, jealousy, loyalty and loves won and lost, and still emerge with its collective sense of humor and vision intact. Today its principals live quietly in affluent hillside homes tucked away in woodsy, secluded niches around Marin County. To a man -- and one woman -- they're still mavericks, but life now is a trifle less insane.

In Mill Valley the afternoon following the park concert, Garcia, dressed as usual in a t-shirt, jeans and Puma track sneakers, paused to consider what it feels like going into the second ten years:

"It feels pretty purposeful, much more so than our first ten. Before, if we ever had any guiding philosophy, it was just to go with it. Instead of making decisions, we just let it happen. And what it culminated in, professionally, was hugeness -- the Oakland Coliseum-sized places and all those monster rooms. So the first real decision we made was not to go on with it 'cuz it isn't really what we want. We'll still gig together in the future as the occasions arise, depending on how things strike us -- as long as we don't have to willfully step back into our old roles. Now that we've all formed little bands, each of us can individually start that climb again. Because really, there's no place else to go from here if you're a musician. But at least we're going back to the comfortable part of it, little theaters and clubs that are on a human level."

Surprisingly, this decision comes when the Dead are on the verge of enjoying their biggest recorded success with Blues for Allah. The album is quiet, introspective and distinctive. It blends jazz and atonal improvisation with melodic passages and clearly phrased voicings, establishing its own identity and yet echoing previous Dead albums. "It's the first of our albums that's really grown on me," Lesh commented. "I've always been happy with our albums but I've rarely listened to them after they're finished. This one's different. It indicates a new point of departure for our music. We wanted to free ourselves from our own clich├ęs, to search for new tonalities, new structures and modalities. I think we succeeded. We'll still play a lot of our old stuff, of course, but we're all pleased with the new areas to explore."

This suggests that the Dead will still play together. "We'll definitely be getting together for a few months at a time to do concerts," Lesh said. "I sure don't want to stop playing with those guys."

Still, the shift away from fulltime touring did lead to the closing of two Dead-supported enterprises: the booking agency, Out of Town Tours, and the travel agency, Fly by Night (motto: "Here today, gone tomorrow.") But though the Dead's collective profile has been less visible this year, there's been no letup in activity. Jerry Garcia is rehearsing with an as-yet-unnamed group that includes bassist John Kahn, drummer Ronnie Tutt and keyboard ace Nicky Hopkins. Bill Kreutzmann has joined Keith and Donna Godchaux's jazz and R&B band (currently called Keith & Donna, though manager John McIntire is tempted to rename it the Godchaux-Kreutzmann Band "just to make it more interesting"). Phil Lesh has teamed up with MIT trained composer Ned Lagin to create Seastones, a venture into "bioelectric music" (one Round Records LP out so far). Bob Weir has been gigging for several months around California with Kingfish, a rock and blues band featuring ex-New Riders bassist David Torbert, and will soon enter the studio to begin a solo album. And finally, there's Mickey Hart's innovative Diga Rhythm Band, a high-energy percussion ensemble showcasing tabir master Zakir Hassain.

In June there was the sale to United Artists of world distribution rights to both Grateful Dead Records (a band owned label created in July '73 solely to distribute Dead albums) and Round Records (a second label founded in January '74 to handle solo albums by members of the band as well as other artists). "We were never strong enough to do the distribution and promotion correctly because we just didn't have the product flow one needs," explained Ron Rakow, the irrepressible president of both companies and the Dead's longtime adviser on matters financially transcendental. "Blues for Allah came out 14 months after the one before [Grateful Dead from the Mars Hotel], and it's hard to get independent distributors to really go to work for you on that basis. So we sold to UA. I can't reveal figures, but we got a good advance and complete artistic freedom."

According to Round Records general manager Greg Nelson, UA's involvement has already made a difference. "Most Dead albums sell phenomenally for about four weeks after release because of the group's fanatic following, but by the time the albums get to the teens on the charts they suddenly drop off. But Blues for Allah is already in the Record World Top Ten and may have a hit single in "The Music Never Stops." This LP could do much better than Wake of the Flood, which sold around 450,000 copies." Then, too, Nelson added, the distribution deal was timely because the Dead needed the cash. "We'd put up some real nice debts recently, mainly because of two movies in which we've become involved."

The movies, both Dead-financed, feature-length documentaries, appear promising. Rakow said, "We put up the money for a film about the New York Hell's Angels called Angel Forever, Forever Angel, directed by Leon Gast. The film's almost finished and it's superb -- scary -- transcendental, in fact. The other one we're more involved in -- a film of the Dead's final five days at Winterland last October. Phil Lesh titles it 'The Grateful Dead, Zits and All' but so far everyone else just calls it 'The Dead Movie.'

"We used as many as nine crews, each with a cameraman, an assistant cameraman, a sound man, a loader and a runner," Rakow continued. "Together with supervisory personnel we hired 46 people on 11 days notice. But by the third night we were all a unit. We loved working together. And good cinematographers like Al Maysles and Kevin Keating. And Don Lenzer -- he shot a lot of Janis and Woodstock. I knew it was gonna be good when Lenzer went up to Phil as he was tuning his bass. Somehow Don's camera motor registered on the amp through Phil's bass pickup, and the two guys started this raving, screaming dance together. Phil's personality, which is incredibly bizarre, came tumbling out at this joyous expression of new weirdness."

And then there's the obvious question: Did the crew get dosed at any point? Editor Emily Rakow replied, "Sure, it was probably inevitable by the last night. But as stoned as those guys were they sure shot straight." Since the Winterland finale, a full-time staff of four editors has worked in the Mill Valley "film house" of the Dead's production company, appropriately named Round Reels. Thus far 125 hours of raw footage have been meticulously screened, matched to a soundtrack and cataloged. Out of this total, a 24-minute presentation print has been assembled, with directing editor Garcia making sure the film is cut precisely on the beat ("I'm very picky about that shit"). From the looks of the teaser, "The Dead Movie" has the makings of a two-and-a-half-hour genre classic -- if not of rock movies then certainly of the Grateful Dead's in-concert gestalt.

Past manager Mclntire sees possibilities. "The movie is starting to look like something you can get high to go to. To sit back and really kick in. Instead of just the screen and the audience, there'll be two audiences -- on the screen and in the theatre."

Though a final print will not be ready until next spring (together with a two-album soundtrack), Weir is no less enthusiastic: "There's a whole dynamic side of the film that doesn't appear in the teaser because it was edited to create a constant hysteria, but there are lulls and dips and slow numbers and stuff. We were all into making it really count since it was the last time we'd be playing for a while."

It's a risky project, as Garcia readily acknowledges. "This is our first movie and we're feeling our way around in the dark. We'd like to finish the film owning it rather than selling pieces of it, so we haven't started its distribution yet. But the total investment will probably end up being maybe six- or seven-hundred-thousand dollars. Which is high for us but low for making movies."

If there is any one objective that emerges from the welter of purposeful activity -- of documentaries, distribution deals, solo albums and new bands -- it's the Grateful Dead's eventual liberation from the economic necessity of always having to be the Grateful Dead. "I think we've got a chance," Weir remarked, "of establishing ourselves to the point where the Grateful Dead will be self-sustaining for as long as we're into it. We'll be able to keep going and to fulfill ourselves as a group. Maybe by the time we're old and gray, people will still be listening to us."

For his part, "Cash Flow" Ron Rakow is not about to wait that long: "With everyone out making a living on his own, the Dead will achieve the status of being patronized by its members. And that's when I think they're gonna do their furthest out stuff yet. We're already working on some killer idea -- flying ballrooms and holographic reproduction. Really out there. We're even looking at a concert structure that Buckminster Fuller is doing some design work on right now. I can't give you details but it's gonna be sensational, really transcendental."

(by John Grissim, from Rolling Stone, November 6 1975)

http://archive.org/details/gd75-09-28.sbd.fink.9392.sbeok.shnf
http://archive.org/details/gd1975-09-28.fob.menke-falanga.motb-0069.91769.flac16

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:
DEAD HEADS
P.O. Box 1065
San Rafael, California 94902

April 1975: Ron Rakow & Round Records

GRATEFUL DEAD AND ROUND: INNOVATIVE INDEPENDENCE

Ron Rakow has served as president of Grateful Dead Records and Round Records since the companies' inception two years ago. With a strong background in business and finance, Rakow was able to overcome many of the capitalization problems that frequently face newly created independents. His business acumen is at least partially responsible for the success of a burgeoning artist roster that includes Keith and Donna, Old And In The Way, Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter and, of course, the Grateful Dead.

RECORD WORLD: Upon going independent, why were two companies formed as separate entities as opposed to one label for all of your product?
RON RAKOW: When the Grateful Dead formed their own company, they didn't want to take the risk of being spread too thin. We agreed, then, that Grateful Dead Records would be only for the Grateful Dead and would be owned collectively by the group. Round Records is owned by Jerry Garcia and myself.
RW: Could you describe the way that your mailing list works? How many people receive your promotional material?
RAKOW: We had about 63,000 "Dead Heads" on the list last month, but it grows at the rate of about 1,000 per month, so we'd be safe in saying that there are now about 64,000. They all receive a package whenever we're planning a new release. We ask them to play the sample record they receive - they're 7-inch discs with six minutes of music on each side - for 15 friends, and a large number of them really try to do that.
The result is that we're sending out 64,000 packages to get a million ears exposed to our product. A lot of those kids also know how to call the record stores in their area to make sure that the records are stocked, and even to call radio stations to get them played. The Grateful Dead is a band, but what's hard for people to understand is that it's also a cult, a religion. The "Dead Heads" know that we're not trying to make the music conform to any particular format except our own. But in order for us to survive, the music has to be worked into the mainstream of public taste, and those people out there help us do that.
RW: Have you tried to determine how many of those people actually buy your records?
RAKOW: No, that would be expensive, but I have the feeling that it's a very substantial percentage. At present, though, we're finding that the unemployment rate among our audience is very high, much higher than the figures that are reflected in government reports. I'd estimate that about one third of the Grateful Dead audience is out of work.
RW: How has that affected your sales?
RAKOW: Well, it makes them somewhat slower. There's a certain amount of product, though, that people feel they have to own. If they're into that particular music tree, they have to partake of the branches, so we're not drastically affected. People will save up and buy the output of the Grateful Dead family.
RW: Is the Grateful Dead's following concentrated in specific markets?
RAKOW: California has an intense concentration; the percentage of our fan club membership, the "Dead Heads," in California is twice that of its normal percentage of the market. New York State has 15 percent of our membership. But our fan club has members all over, with heavy concentration in places that we've played frequently. And our distributors have made Round and Grateful Dead records available even in really remote spots; they've done an excellent job.
RW: Are your marketing efforts centered around the mailing list?
RAKOW: That's the most important single aspect of our marketing approach. The other things we've done haven't really been too interesting, because everybody does the same things: radio spots, TV spots, print advertising, a promotion allowance, and a rather substantial package of graphics that goes into record stores. Actually, I think we've done too much to expose our product; I think we should do nothing. The Grateful Dead, in fact, have decided that on some future album, we're going to do no promotion of any kind, because we have the feeling that it won't affect sales even one percent. I think that when you make a good record, the best advertising is somebody who really gets off listening to it. That person tells his friend, who in turn goes out and gets it and tells another friend. I think that's the way to sell records.
RW: Who handles radio promotion for your product?
RAKOW: We've engaged Howie Rosen and Noel Love in New York, two guys who are good traditional promotion men. They coordinate their activities with the promo men at our distributors.
RW: Round Records artists are basically spin-offs from the original Grateful Dead group or their collaborators. How immediate is the transfer of popularity from the Grateful Dead to its members, writers etc? For example, how are the sales of a Jerry Garcia or Robert Hunter lp compared to the sales of a Grateful Dead album?
RAKOW: Well, Jerry Garcia has a more direct connection in the public's mind with the Grateful Dead than Robert Hunter, because Jerry is in front of the group on stage. A Garcia record sells about two thirds as well as a Grateful Dead album and meets with an instantaneous excitement. The first Robert Hunter album sold far less than that, but still did surprisingly well, especially considering that he had never had a record before and had never performed. It was a profitable record, and his second album will be even more so. A record is profitable because of two things: on the one hand, there's how many records go out and therefore how many dollars were generated; on the other hand, there's how much is spent on getting the record out.
We take very realistic looks at how much can be spent on making our records. When Jerry Garcia is producing a Robert Hunter album, I'll tell him that he has "X" number of dollars to spend, and he invariably comes in below his budget. If I tell him that he has to have it in 36 days, he invariably delivers it in 32 or 33. That's the kind of responsibility that he feels about anything he undertakes. He never fools around; he's never casual or purposeless, and he'll never go into a studio and waste time.
RW: Do you envision any of your product being very successful in the singles market?
RAKOW: Yes, and I've been very dissatisfied up until this point. I would rather fail than be moderately successful, and the only way that we can ever score a dramatic success is to have a hit single. I identify very strongly with the music that I represent, and it would make me feel very good if a million people would agree that anything I offered was worth having. I want to sell a million records not only because of the monetary considerations, but because to get a million people to agree with you about anything is something to be proud of.
RW: How did you first become involved with the group and eventually come to head their record company?
RAKOW: I was part of the Grateful Dead family for years before Christmas of 1971, when Garcia was interviewed by Rolling Stone. That was a major interview in several parts, and one of the things he said was that he wanted to figure out some way to initiate an independent record company situation. I thought about it for about three months until the method of setting the operation into motion occurred to me. We spent six months putting it all together.
RW: I've heard that your financing is very unusual. Would you explain it?
RAKOW: Grateful Dead and Round Records are financed through the First National Bank in Boston. They evaluate the credit of every distributor that we do business with.
RW: Have you had problems with distributors placed on hold?
RAKOW: No distributors have been cut off for credit reasons. When they're late they are called by the bank and are asked to explain why. The bank is obviously active on the financial marketplace; they know when business is bad and when money is tight. They'll make allowances when necessary and as a result, we've had no losses of credit and nobody on hold. Our distributors have always acted responsibly and our product always sells through. The advantage lies in my not having to be in the horrendous position of having to sell something to somebody while demanding money from them at the same time.
RW: How high is the returns rate on Grateful Dead and Round Records product?
RAKOW: We haven't had enough returns. They've been averaging about 12 percent, and since our catalogue sells at that rate, the returns are simply shipped to another outlet. Experience tells me that if I were to get our product into the stores in greater depth, we'd sell a larger quantity of records. The problem is that everybody is now governed by the same recession-oriented negative psychology and they're buying lightly. Right now, for example, we have an album called "Old And In The Way" that's selling dramatically, and I think we could increase our volume substantially if we had more records in the stores. In some markets, every store is out of that record, and we've had to rush product to the distributors as fast as we can. Among the greatest sins in the record business is to have somebody walk into a store desirous of a record and not have it available. That's inexcusable, especially since records are returnable. One of the chief problems with the independent distributor mechanism is that it's difficult to spread the confidence that we have in our product to the distributor and retail levels.
RW: We've heard that your company is currently involved in developing an alternative recording device. Would you describe it?
RAKOW: There's not too much that I can say about that because I'm under the advice of council that we should first get further along with the patenting process before we divulge the details. We think that music has been the least considered aspect in the development of the electronics industry. Speakers, for example, are basically the same as they were 50 years ago - they're paper cones. Records are also basically in their original form. Technology has advanced sufficiently though, to permit the development of alternatives, and that's what we've been spending our time on. We're now working on a holographic retrieval system that we believe will be out in about one year.
RW: How important to the quality of your records is the polyvinyl chloride lining of your sleeves?
RAKOW: We've found that our records have met our quality standards at the pressing plant, but didn't by the time they were out of the stores. We then analyzed what happened between pressing and delivery and found that there's constant friction caused by the paper sleeve rubbing against the vinyl, and that problem is exacerbated by the lower quality vinyl that is now commonly used. There's much less aberration in recording reproduction when a vinyl sleeve is placed against the record. The sleeve costs us a little more than three cents, and it's one of the hidden benefits in buying our records.

(by Eliot Sekuler, from the "Dialogue: Viewpoints of the Industry" section, Record World, April 12 1975)

February 1975: Old & In The Way Album

GREAT BLUEGRASS WITH GARCIA

There is an unfortunate tendency for names or labels such as "bluegrass" or "country" to turn off potential listeners who might well enjoy the music if only they had a shot at hearing it without any preconceptions.
Not that I am a particularly avid fan of bluegrass, for instance, but there is an album which has just become available which I would hate to see ignored by anyone. It's that good.

It's "Old and In the Way" (Round Records RX 103). The title of the album is also the title of one of the songs on it and the name of the group which recorded it. Old and In the Way played around here in 1973 and 1974 a number of times and achieved considerable attention not only for its excellence, but for the fact that Jerry Garcia, normally the lead guitarist with the Grateful Dead, played banjo with this group, an instrument he had not until then been noted for. This album, in addition to Garcia's presence on banjo and occasional vocal, also offers Vassar Clements, a most extraordinary fiddler from Appalachia, home of that music which John Cohen illustrated so dramatically and lovingly in that rarely seen but beautiful film, "The High Lonesome Sound." Along with Garcia and Clements are David Grisman, who sings and plays mandolin, and Peter Rowan (of the Rowan Brothers) who plays guitar and sings, and John Kahn.

The album was recorded in the autumn of 1973 at The Boarding House by Owsley Stanley and Vickie Babcock, edited by Grisman and Stanley, and mixed and mastered by Stanley. The mixing was done "live" at the time of the recording itself, an unusual practice.
I go into all of this detail because the album is not only an utterly delightful series of musical performances, but also one of the very best recordings I have heard in a long time. I have played it on a number of different rigs, mono, stereo and quad, and it comes through as a definition of good recording each and every time.
The technique of using eight microphones and mixing live onto a Nagra stereo tape recorder worked like a miracle. Engineers ought to study this one and musicians, too, as well as producers. If there is such a category in the national record business annual awards, it ought to win as engineering triumph of the year.

Now to the music. David Grisman says in his short but eloquent statement on the album back that this music "embodies the spirit of that original Blue Grass quest and a genuine affection for that superlative blend of banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, string bass and voices."
That is absolutely accurate as a description. The musical sound of the performance resonates with love for the music and, since the players themselves are all truly first class despite Garcia's humble opinion of his own playing, the result is superlative music. And the voices, both individually and in ensemble, are absolutely wonderful.
What this album does, if I may switch rhetoric around a bit, is swing. There are no drums nor piano, but it has a remarkable rhythmic pulse and a glorious, propelling rhythm on every selection. The general format is for the voice of the singer on a particular song to be accompanied in at least part of the song by one or more of the other voices in the kinds of vocal harmony that have been associated with Appalachian music of the past 50 years.

The selections include traditional material such as "Pig in a Pen" and "Knockin' on Your Door" (Garcia sings the first and Rowan the second), an instrumental featuring Vassar Clements ("Kissimmee Kid"), an astonishingly imaginative and effective version of "Wild Horses" (the Mick Jagger/Keith Richard song the Rolling Stones made famous), Carter Stanley's "White Dove" beautifully sung by Garcia, several compositions by Rowan and Grisman including "Panama Red" (by Rowan) and the title song (by Grisman) - and Jack Bonus' "The Hobo Song."
Rowan is a very effective singer with a voice that has real warmth and feeling and is very flexible. It is particularly suited to these songs. Both Garcia and Grisman are heard here in the kind of setting which makes them sound their best.
Oddly enough there is no touch of country corn at all in this album. The music is free from that kind of feeling which for many people has marked the Appalachian and other urban white folk music.
Since the recording is of such exceptional quality and the stereo effect so revealing, it is possible to hear the individual instruments and the voices much better than is usually the case.

Despite the primitive implications of music such as this, which is generally classified as folk music, this is really very sophisticated music depending for its success on the same kind of instrumental virtuosity as the best jazz. John Kahn's bass playing, for instance, is delightful to listen to. And that brings up something else. It is possible to play this album many times and at each playing concentrate on one of the other of the instruments. You can't always do that, I have discovered, with most of today's product, and it is a pleasure to discover you can do it with this.
Old and In the Way does not appear to be a working group at the present time, though I suspect that this album, if it has the success it deserves, might well make it imperative for the group to perform in public again. I certainly hope so, for I have seldom heard such warm, loving, swinging and delightful music from any group of musicians in any idiom.
Round Records, incidentally, is the record company of the Grateful Dead. I think they have another hit on their hands with this album. I certainly hope so. The album deserves to be on everyone's turntable. It's really that good.

(by Ralph Gleason, from "This World," SF Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, March 9 1975)


* * * * *


10 March 1975

Editor
Record World
1700 Broadway
New York, New York 10019

Dear Sir:

I noticed in your February 22nd column "Album Picks" on the "Old & In The Way" album, Round Records RX 103, that you placed the term "live" in quotes, as if you meant to infer that you did not quite believe that the album was a live recording. I don't feel too badly about this, as it's a compliment of a sort on the quality of the recording.
Let me assure you that "Old & In The Way" is as live as you can get, the only processing was editing of the audience noise between cuts, which was done with a razor blade.
Eight microphones, half of them omni directional and half cardioid were mixed directly to a two track Nagra tape recorder set up off stage right and monitored on head phones to produce a 15 IPS master tape. No equalization of any kind was used at any point in the procedure. The tape record curve was "Nagra Master", which is flat low frequency with 12,500 Hz high frequency pre-emphasis.
Lacquers were cut from the original master directly - unequalized - from a Studer A-80 preview tape deck adjusted to the Nagra Master Curve and cut on a Neumann SAL 74/SX74 Mastering lathe.
Since the album was cut directly from the original tape, [with] no processing - no overdubbing - or other tricks or gimmicks so common to "live" recordings, I felt the quotes were misapplied.

Sincerely yours,
Owsley Stanley
Recordist

February 1975 Newsletter

Dear Dead People:

As you read this, the Grateful Dead will be in the studio recording a new album. You've no doubt heard the Dead are taking an indefinite break from touring. The reason for this is simply that the megagig form is sort of bankrupt; devoid of dignity for either the listener or the player. There are three plans under study which could make it possible for the band to perform. The fact is the Dead won't go out again unless the situation is groovey.

As an ongoing creative organization, there are several things we should be doing:

I. Expand the quality in all areas in which we interface with our own means of expression.
a. Films
b. Records
c. Musical Performance
d. Life
II. Remember to go after the big one-------all limitations are self-imposed.
III. Bring on tomorrow (at least be helpful) our emphasis in this regard is going into holography about which Anton Round will have some words in this same communique.

A description of the activities of each band member will give the clearest picture of how we move toward these goals.

GARCIA

Jerry along with Merl Saunders on organ, John Kahn on bass, Martine Fierro [sic] on saxophone and flute, and Ron Tutt on drums, have formed the "Legion of Mary", a band that gigs on a rather regular basis. "Legion of Mary" is planning to play all the major cities in '75.
Jerry just finished producing Robert Hunter's new album, "Tiger Rose". He played the guitar, the pen and the voice on the "Keith & Donna" album, guitar and vocals on the Ned Lagin & Phil Lesh album, "Seastones". He just finished producing a Blue Grass album called "Pistol Packin' Mama" which was a session of Blue Grass giants, Chubby Wise, fiddle; Don Reno, banjo; Frank Wakefield, mandolin; Dave Nelson, guitar; Pat Campbell, bass. You'll find it on Round Records sometime in the Spring, it's a continuation of Jerry's interest in Blue Grass evidenced by the "Old & In The Way" album.
Garcia has undertaken the responsibility of supervising the editing of the Grateful Dead movie shot at the last five night gig at Winterland in San Francisco. The film should be released sometime before Christmas.
In his spare time he's preparing material for a solo album which will be recorded in the Spring and released in the Summer.

GODCHAUX

Keith & Donna recently finished an album appropriately called "Keith & Donna". The cover is a photo of their now one year old son, Zion Rock. Interesting because we consider the musical form Neo-Gospel.
Keith & Donna are going to be performing before too long and have, for some reason, asked us not to say any more about it. They have been getting into working on the completion of the film.

KREUTZMAN

Billy has been doing studio work with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He's going to be playing with Steven Stills on his solo album.
In addition, Bill has gotten involved in trying to make a given amount of land yield more produce through Hydroponics. Hydroponics being the science of growing plants in solutions or moist inert materials containing the necessary nutrients instead of in soil. Bill's current theory is that 18" square can yield 1 1/2 tons of alfalfa. We, of course, are interested in the outcome of his experiments since the implications are incredible.

LESH

Phil along with Ned Lagin are taking their art slowly but surely to the further reaches of its limitations which, of course, are impossible for the human intelligence to define. Fortunately, they have been invited to share the capacities of the world's largest artificial intelligence network. Not understanding any of this is unimportant because over a period of time a body of work will be produced which your own senses will make clear. "Seastones" is, of course, the first of these works.

WEIR

Bobby is working locally in Northern California with a band named "Kingfish" consisting of Robbie Hoddinott, lead guitar; Matthew Kelley, harp; Dave Torbert, bass guitar; Chris Herold, drums. "Kingfish" will be playing many cities later this year.
Bob has been working hard on the completion of his studio which is being christened now by the Grateful Dead. He's also preparing material for his solo album which will be out in the Summer.

These changes have caused us to make major shifts in our structures, we employ far fewer people now and do everything as economically as possible; including the operating of this communication network. While we can't handle things as personally as before, we will keep in touch somewhat regularly using the magic of computerization. We'll also make available, at a reasonable price, the stuff you most often request.

The Grateful Dead record being worked on now is planned to take a longer time than usual so that these additional activities can have the attention they need and so that fresh input to the Dead can result in ? ? ? ? ? ?

Grateful Dead Records

P.S. If you change address, we need the old and the new.


* * * * *


Dear Dead Folks,

Enclosed you'll find samplers of our new offerings. This time they're really collector's items since only the Old & In The Way cuts are the same as the ones on the album. Just a few words about each. The first two will be out by mid February and the second two around mid March.

"Old & In The Way" features
Vassar Clements - Fiddle
Jerry Garcia - Banjo
David Grisman - Mandolin
John Kahn - Bass
Peter Rown - Guitar
Playing America's own musical form, Blue Grass, recorded live by Owsley Stanley.

The "Keith & Donna" sampler contains what's called a rough mix of "Every Song I Sing" in order to show how vastly different a final mix is from a rough. The album has 9 songs; 7 written and produced by Keith & Donna, and features performances of a bunch of our old friends like Garcia, Merl Saunders, John Kahn and a host of new friends all listed clearly on the back of the album.

Robert Hunter's "Tiger Rose" sampler has the title cut and a song by his cat (that's what he told us) called "Talking Money Tree"; the album was recorded at Mickey Hart's studio and produced by old iron fist in velvet glove, Jerry Garcia.

"Seastones", the Ned Lagin and Phil Lesh sampler contains only the basic structure of this portion of the piece. You'll be blown away by the difference. The music is interestng as it's really a union of music, biology and physics. The effect that it's having on the studio personnel and musicians is amazing. It makes people act as if they were high (exactly as Ned predicted years ago). I believe the word is stoning. The album will have vocals by David Crosby, Grace Slick, Jerry Garcia and David Freiberg.

We hope you'll enjoy these samplers. Last time we mailed out free samplers, so many people wrote to say thanks it thrilled us (a mail truck came to our office with a truck load of thanks). Now, however, with the Dead off the road and the necessary personnel cutbacks, we can't handle the thank you notes.

Instead of writing us, please just play these sides for 15 people who haven't heard them; have a party!

When he heard that this request was being made, Garcia said "these are our folks, don't try to get them to do anything without telling them why." We ask you to do this so that we can sell enough of these albums to be able to finance our next major step: the replacement of records and tapes as musical reproduction forms and the change over to holographically encoding our music on a one inch pyramid to be read by an optical fiber. This would have the advantage of no surface noise, no pops, scratches, skips or any of the baloney about present day records and tapes. The pyramid's musical quality wouldn't change until it is broken clean through which wouldn't be easy even on purpose.

Technically, it is possible to make a small player (same size as two packs of cigarettes) to retail in stores for about $13.00. Of course, we have lots of music to listen to over such a device, and the pyramids would cost no more than a record and perhaps less.

Another important reason for our doing this is realizing the other potentials of holography, such as retraining the eyes of people who wear glasses, or getting more efficient in terms of energy usage (Einstein's formula E=MC2 means one pound of coal per month should supply the entire energy requirement of the U.S.) or dozens of other potentials so farout it's dangerous to write them down.

The first step is the one we're closest to now--music better presented than anyone ever thought possible. To do this we only have two things to depend on:
I. Our good music.
II. Your sincere effort.
We'll do our part and know you'll do yours.

See ya!
Anton Round

Dec 24, 2012

November 1974: Garcia Interview

A MESSAGE FROM GARCIA: NOTHING EXCEEDS LIKE SUCCESS

"Basically, success sucks. And all the other crap that goes along with it. We've unconsciously come to the end of what you can do in America, how far you can succeed. And it's nothing, it's nowhere. It means billions of cops and people busted at your gigs. It means high prices and hassling over extra-musical stuff. It's unnecessary, so we're into busting it. That's all. That's it."

It's not as simple as you might think. Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, sitting beside his beautifully inlaid custom guitar in a hotel room across from Paul's Mall (where he will play three nights with organist Merl Saunders) is not at all announcing the death of the Dead. Someone who's been through the entire gamut of late '50s and '60s changes is not about to throw out the baby with the bath water simply because of the hassles that have accompanied mass success.

"We haven't broken up, we've just stopped performing. We're going to keep on recording, and we probably will get back into performing, but we'll wait until we've had a chance to define how we want to do it. Our whole development has been 'going along with the changes.' It's not as though we've plotted to get to a certain level. By just not thinking about it, or not making conscious decisions about what we were doing, we ended up in that place of stadiums, coliseums, large civic-owned and civic-controlled buildings, high ticket prices, enormous overhead, in an effort to fulfill the requirement of whatever the level change was. For example, we changed from playing theaters to large places. The reason we were doing it was because there were more people who wanted to see us than we had time. So the obvious thing was to go to bigger rooms. Okay, so that meant we can only go to bigger rooms if we sound good in them, and that led to our whole p.a. thing, which is expensive. Our rationale was, 'We'll divert the income into developing the resource' because, really, we have a relationship with our audience, and we're only interested in keeping that straight - independent of what the rest of the rock 'n' roll world is doing. But the truth is we've been stuck in this total control situation; our whole lives are controlled by economic circumstances. We're sort of up against the back end of success."

To the uninitiated, it might have seemed that the Grateful Dead became a mass success rather suddenly, about three years ago. According to Garcia, this was not really the case. In fact, instant success might have been easier to deal with. "It's been gradual. We've been really successful ever since the very beginning in terms of not really having to sweat surviving. We haven't done really brilliantly, we haven't scored big. We've only been able to raise the level of survival and also include more and more people in our trip. It's been gradual, but that's the really insidious thing about it. We were prepared mentally for any quick jump, but going slowly into this scene, it becomes almost habitual. Finally we all realized: 'it's gotten to the point where we can no longer really make enough money to keep it working at the present rate. And also there isn't anything for us to get off on. We're removed from the audience, we're removed from what we're doing and it just is a drag."

Did the Dead reach a point of musical stagnation?
"I feel that we have to spend more time developing ourselves musically, which is one of the reasons for taking a break, in addition to trying to solve all these other problems."

Does that mean allowing some of the other band members to catch up with him and Phil Lesh?
"Well, basically that's it, but it's not a reflection on various levels of capacity, because everyone's developing his own musical interests at whatever rate they're capable of. It's not a competitive trip. Everybody in the band is, in my opinion, a pretty good musician. It's not like there are guys who are totally fucked up. To me, just because of default, I've fallen into the role of being the main writer in the band. And I'm not really a writer, I'm not really a composer. I'm not even really a singer, you know? But these are roles, and since the band has needed them I've fallen into them, just like we all have. But it's been on me to be the guy who's developing the material. And frankly, I'm tired of my own writing, I'm bored with it. Since it's sort of an artificial situation, I'm not an inspired writer. It represents work. I would rather let it happen, in terms of my own creativity, without the pressure of having to deliver a certain amount of material."

The band's lack of musical growth and Garcia's forced writing would seem to explain the flaws in the last two Dead albums, but Jerry feels it runs much deeper than that. "I never have been happy with an album. I never have thought, 'Well, this album is really neat.' Making albums is our attempt to reconcile our musical identity with the rest of the world and the musical business. That's been our dovetail. I don't think we've pulled it off too good, mainly because the format is just fucked up. Eighteen minutes to a side is not an accurate representation of what we do."

But do the Dead really have the musical ability to sustain all those long jams?
"That partly has to do with the kind of situation we've had to play in. When we go out on tour we go out for maybe 14 to 21 days, and we're playing every other night in a different room. For every gig there's the same series of adjustments, and it doesn't give us a chance to get past a certain point. The first half we're trying to psych out the room, we're trying to understand what's happening acoustically, which is purely mechanics. By the second half we're starting to develop a sound in the room, and that's the first step towards getting off into decent improvisation, which is where you can hear everybody clearly and any new idea has potential weight.
"My fantasy is eventually for us to build a permanent place to perform in that would be like a whole theater. It would be small and tasty and it would have a permanent set-up."

Since the band has always been headquartered in the Bay Area, I wondered whether such a set-up would not make it difficult for the Dead's East Coast fans to hear them.
"Well, we're working on how to deal with that. The video thing is a possibility, and there's also the possibility of having another house on this coast. We would play a run of about a month and really develop an advantage acoustically in a room. The thing that happens when we play in a place more than one night is that it gets subtler and more articulate, and that's the kind of thing that lets you go into new realms. When we went to Europe this last time we got into some new directions in improvisation which have been the opening of new, fertile ground. But even so, it would be too easy for us to keep on doing what we've been doing. We've got this large scene, and everybody's developed this neurotic attachment to the Grateful Dead, just because that's our baby. On the other hand, it's only an invention."

The Grateful Dead are the only rock group that own their own record companies. They are involved in every aspect of the business - producing, pressing, distribution and publicity - and a host of peripheral businesses have sprung up around that one initial idea. But various figures in the music industry have predicted the venture will cause nothing but headaches for the Dead, and will eventually fail. Garcia claims he doesn't see it in those terms.

"We've never really tried to be successful, but we have in spite of that. It's just been able to support itself, keep its own scene going. And we've been able to pool our energy so we're getting more of it. Our record companies are doing okay, but we don't have a huge amount of output. It's all smaller now, because we've cut everything back to get tight focus. We sell as many copies, and the amount of improvement over how much we actually make from the records is amazing, compared to what we were making with Warner Brothers. And we own the company, so we can do it however we want.

"These are all things that are weird for other reasons. The making of records is an amazing bummer. It's a sweatshop situation, one of the worst. It turns out to be this horrible scene - you wouldn't want to support it if you understood how it works. In a pressing plant there will be a dozen people in a poorly ventilated, miserable place with hot vinyl fumes - the most monotonous, mindless kind of work and it's an awful situation in which to work. I really object to it. Vinyl chloride is poisonous, it's a carcinogen."

Shouldn't he stop making records, then?
"We're trying to finance the development of holographically storing audio information and avoiding discs and all the waste of petroleum-based products. And storing all of the Grateful Dead's recorded past with none of the kind of things that you have with grooves - no wear, no surface noise, because it would be a light-scanning thing. Consequently it would be pretty hip ecologically. One of the things that's really disgusting about the whole music business, and it's disappointing for someone like me, is that there isn't any effort on the part of the music business as a whole to develop this thing. They don't care. They want to make the profit and thats it. I mean, that's America, that's just the way America is. You can't really do anything about it. You can't change people's heads. We used to try to do that, but it's turned out to be easier for us to get together as much stuff as we can do and focus it in new directions."

So Jerry Garcia has begun a period of experimentation, "woodshedding" and playing with small groups in small venues. However, this isn't the first tour he's made independent of the Grateful Dead. In the last three years he's performed with a bluegrass group, Old And In The Way, and with organist Howard Wales, whose place in the Matrix (a Marin County, California club) jam sessions Merl Saunders now occupies. Both tours encountered the same two problems: the bands, quasi-bluegrass and quasi-jazz, were not in the same league with aggregations who devoted their full-time musical energies to those particular genres; and there was a major discrepancy between the expectations of the audience (who came to see Garcia) and Jerry himself, who intended to remain in the background.

When Garcia and Wales played at Symphony Hall almost three years ago, they were, at least to my ears, blown off the stage by the warmup act, the fledgling Mahavishnu Orchestra. Garcia didn't quite hear it that way.
"I don't really like Mahavishnu. I don't like John McLaughlin's playing. It's too stiff. Technically, I admire it - he can do things that are difficult to do, his execution is remarkable. But the way it ends up sounding is nervous and agitated rather than energetic. And also I like music that has more beauty to it and more soulfulness. You know, I'm not a really competitive dude, and I dug it for what it was. But listening to it at home, it's just not the kind of thing that moves me that much. I do think that it's possible to suggest emotion without using devices that are traditionally harmonic. I don't think you have to be restricted to particular tonal things to have that. In other words, it's not a question of cliche, it's whether the attitude of the playing is soulful. There's no other word to describe it. It's possible for a player to play modern and to also move you.

"Also, I didn't really go on the road that time to play. The thing was really misrepresented. I just wanted to get Howard out playing, and his band had a nice thing going on which really didn't have much to do with me. I was just there fucking around."

What is he doing on this latest tour to prevent such false expectations?
"I don't even try to prevent it. This time I'm prepared to accept that role, if that's what it is. It could be a limitation if I wanted to accept it that way, but I just try to live out my life as a normal musician in spite of all that stuff. And I'm pretty lucky, because I have a lot of friends who are players. The fact of being a celebrity is sometimes groovy and sometimes it's a bummer, but it hasn't gotten in the way so far, and I'm just not into it. I don't want to be that way. I just want to play."

For those who wonder what the future holds in the way of Grateful Dead recordings, let me mention just a few of the upcoming projects. Garcia himself is scheduled to go into the studio for a solo album in January (when apprised of this by manager Ron Rakow, Garcia emitted a disbelieving moan). Also on the agenda are albums by Bob Weir, Robert Hunter, Keith and Donna Godcheaux, Old And In The Way, and a four-disc recording of the Grateful Dead live. Breaking up is hard to do.

(by Peter Herbst, from the "Boston After Dark" section, Boston Phoenix, November 19 1974)

November 12, 1974: Garcia Plays Boston

JERRY GARCIA OF 'DEAD' VERY MUCH ALIVE

The Dead will be very much alive in Boston for the next couple of evenings - The Grateful Dead that is. If last night was any indication, the memory of the San Francisco rock group should be resurrected by a few thousand enthusiasts who will converge on Paul's Mall, tonight and tomorrow night, to see and hear ex-Dead man Jerry Garcia.
It wasn't a throng of fans who crammed into a sweltering basement last night, but a cult of worshippers. Even Garcia's rather long tune-up breathers between the marathon numbers were filled with cries of JERRY!!; sporadic outbursts of applause followed each tuning stroke.

He walked to the stage unannounced ahead of fellow musicians Merle Saunders on keyboards, Paul Humphrey on drums, John Kahn - bass, and Martin Fieno - sax. [sic] He began a two-hour opening set with a slow easy blues number, "It Ain't No Use."
Garcia has an intimate, almost whispering vocal style that manages to evoke the necessary emotion of a blues ballad without ever getting flustered or rattled. For want of another term, "laid back" might be an apt way to describe how the group limbered up with this first number.
There were traces of Elmore James and B.B. King in Garcia's guitar play. He is a study in relaxed concentration. His thick black hair and full beard draw you to the eyes beneath the glasses. Observers used to refer to "Jerry's cosmic stare," back in the days of The Dead, and it is indeed a very intense yet warm and confident look he exchanges with the audience and the members of the group he casually spars with.
The mood is low key. Garcia stands off to the right of center, leaving the focal point for Fieno, the colorful and extremely fluid sax man. "It Ain't No Use" grew to set the tone for the evening, for it wasn't too long into the number that Garcia started to spin off a rich myriad of chord progressions. But like a trio of stunt pilots, these instrumental flights were always flanked superbly by Saunders and Fieno.

Though the moods of the numbers changed from a tropical-jazz instrumental reminiscent of Stan Getz, to an expanded version of Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion," a specific pattern was established.
Garcia would usually lead the instrumental leaps, always in tight rapport with Saunders on organ, bassist Kahn and Humphrey. Then he would give the floor to Saunders, for some sizzling, free-wheeling play. All the time Fieno, in the center, would be helping out on percussion as in the samba-like instrumental or "Second That Emotion," or he would be weaving like an Indian in a tribal dance. (His long pigtails beneath western hat made the image that much stronger.) Then it was Fieno's turn, punctuating each number with staccato attacks or long swelling drifts that always honed into aggressive outpourings.
Garcia has expanded from the rock past and his audience knew and appreciated this. His foundations now seem to lie in a jazz motif. Only the familiar Motown riff and the vocals bore any resemblance to Smokey's "Second That Emotion," for the jamming was a jazz showcase. Garcia's guitar was tickling, almost sarcastic sometimes, pacing Fieno's sax that was ready to explode.

Merle Saunders offered a beautifully accented version of Randy Newman's "Leave Your Hat On," his vocal delightfully sleazy. The wah, wah phrasing of Garcia's guitar and Saunders' loping electric piano blues gave the effect of a steam roller's steady, surging bustle.
That lazy, subdued vocal delivery of Garcia was again evident with "Are You Gonna Let Me Stand Alone." His guitar ran in the background of Saunders' organ work.
Garcia's style last night was light, but piercingly exact and fluid. He races along smoothly not particularly caring to accent his play with an abundance of vibrato or harping on repeated phrases.
With a serving up of an old Elvis tune, "Money Honey," it seemed to this viewer at least that Garcia crept back momentarily into the days of The Dead. Not only the guitar licks, but even the vocals seemed nicely similar to a classic Dead song - "Truckin'." The song was done in that same effortless, tumbling style.
"Train, Runnin' Down The Track," was the finale and you could most definitely feel that train rumbling through that basement. The cohesion was masterful, as it had been all evening, and the tempo was a relentless back and forth sound that brought those old steam cylinders into view.
Garcia and his management were mute about his current plans. Jerry Garcia is billed as the headliner, but a source noted that it is actually Garcia playing with Merl Saunders. More bluntly put, it's Jerry Garcia jamming with four excellent musicians and the results are worth bucking the legions of the dead.

(by Peter Gelzinis, from the Boston Herald American, November 13 1974)


* * * * *

JERRY GARCIA PLAYS MALL
FANS CRACK 'SECRET'

The traffic began to back up on Boylston Street Tuesday night, and Boston drivers, never noted for their patience, were getting a bit testy. Cars were stopping, their occupants gaping at hundreds of scruffy kids lined up on the sidewalk, standing out in the cold and drizzly New England night.
"Hey, what's happening?" shouted a truck driver as his behemoth ground to a halt.
"We're waiting to get in," yelled a wet but smiling young woman as she pointed up to the marquee at Paul's Mall.
Noting that the sign was blank, the truck driver shook his head, mumbled something to himself and drove away.
The attraction was Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead and father figure of the rock culture, whose appearance at the Back Bay bistro was to have been a well-kept secret.
Trouble is, you can't keep a secret from Deadheads, by far the most fanatical music fans alive. There was no advertising, no promotion, no names on the marquee. Garcia's drawing power is absolutely phenomenal. He is perhaps the only pop figure who plays and tours regularly and is still able to sell out his concerts through word-of-mouth alone.
The Dead are currently enjoying a one-year self-imposed "retirement" from the rigors of road work, but their leader has taken the opportunity to tour the country with some of his favorite musicians.
The three-night engagement which ends this evening was sold out instantly when word leaked out over a week ago, and the music played Tuesday night was not at all like vintage Dead material.
The band features Merl Saunders, the Bay area keyboard wizard with whom Garcia has already recorded two albums. Paul Humphrey is on drums, Martin Fierro on a fiery, electrified sax, and John Kahn, producer of Garcia's second solo record, on bass. As a group, they play amazingly diverse music, shifting emphasis effortlessly from blues to free-flowing jazz to soul variations to hard rock.
Saunders was an absolute delight on the organ. Trading riffs with Garcia on Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion," he extended the three-minute soul classic to a quarter-hour without once losing touch with the spirit and feeling of the original. Switching to electric piano for Randy Newman's sardonic "You Can Leave Your Hat On," Saunders showcased his rich, gravelly and authoritative voice.
The mood of the audience was one of euphoria. After all, most of them were veterans. Some had surely seen Garcia a dozen times with the Dead but at places like Woodstock, Watkins Glen or, at best, in the Garden. Here was Dr. Trips, picking in his sweet staccato style only ten or 20 feet away. People were pinching themselves. It was simply too good to be true.
Garcia, an extremely interesting and articulate conversationalist, declined interviews but related his reasons through a spokesperson: "I don't want my silence to be interpreted as an ego thing. This isn't the Dead. We are working musicians and would prefer to be judged solely on our music this time around. We just hope you enjoy the music."

(by William Howard, from the Boston Globe, November 14 1974)

November 1974: Garcia & Dead Projects

BITS AND PIECES OF THE GRATEFUL DEAD
THE MANY MOODS OF JERRY GARCIA

Sure, all good things must come to an end, or so they say, but even as such, any reports of the dissipation of the Grateful Dead must be taken with jaundiced eye, one colossal grain of salt, and a Heineken chaser, for the Dead are in truth forty-odd people, a cooperative functioning Gestalt group survival unit within which dwells the definitive live rock ensemble to have ever graced the earth.
So when told of any de-Deading, merely respond that after ten years people tire and it's time to advance backwards; time to go fishing. And anyone who does want them to keep it up is wanting them to drop dead on the spot through a collective weariness only a total change can combat.
Accordingly, Bob Weir's got solo projects, Phil Lesh and Ned Lagin are headed for the stratosphere by way of electronic cybernetic biomusic, the Godchauxs have a son, while Jerry Garcia's fishing trip is an electric combo with Merl Saunders, Billy Kreutzman, John Kahn and Wake of the Flood sax man Martin Fierro.
It's like scratching an itch; just like pedal steeling with NRPS, banjo with Old and In The Way, and playing on Starship and other LPs, taking this band on the road is. Good times still being the key to all of it, Uncle Jer's gonna do what he likes and little else, which is how it all came about anyway.
Cause there really ain't nothing Garcia'd rather do anyhow than pick guitar (or banjo or whatever) with musician friends; just playin' what's there, doing other's things to an extent the Dead never could, like reggae, r&b, blues, gospel, anything.
A good example is Fire Up, a Merl Saunders album with Garcia, Kahn and Tommy Fogerty featured. Two years old at least, it's a stellar example of upbeat and electric California jamming.
The Garcia-Saunders vinyl experience is Live at the Keystone, a two-record delicacy, truly live, where Jer and the boys get real loose and cook all night. It's one of those albums that really never ends, and as good a guide as any to what material they'll be playing this Saturday at the Tower Theatre.
But the point is that there is no predictability; Garcia's instinctual pursuit of a pretentiousless, fully artistic, unself-conscious life style precludes pigeonholing and explains the essence of the whole thing.
Not to imply that the Grateful Dead have ever been time-, style-, or anything-bound, but after ten years can "El Paso" possibly stay fresh? Assuredly no; the consciousness that is the Dead simply won't let it, it would stop everything first, and that is precisely what's happened.
So perhaps the principal vibe going for this band is not its musical expertise (taken for granted with Garcia anyway), but rather the absolute new and refreshing artistic maneuverability providing yet another opening to another space, room to move if you will; elbow and breathing room which became constricted over time as regards the Dead proper.
If nothing else, Garcia's best guitar playing of late has come not with the Dead, but in his further adventures. Garcia [the LP] lets him stretch mightily considering its frequently tight context, while Live At is essentially one scintillating guitar passage after another, far more fluid and relaxed than the staccato choppiness on Dead LPs of late.
Perhaps at once point rock's premier lead guitarist (and now if nothing else its most versatile), Jerry Garcia, and the rest of le Dead appear headed toward places that will only enhance the band and themselves; the drag energy will be eliminated.
Meanwhile, with a new Dead LP due spring-ish and a Weir as well, everyone's Earth Uncle truly keeps on keepin' on, getting back to his and other roots, making the fishing all the better and the eventual rendezvous inabouts a year only the more sublime. Prosit!

(by Richard Vaughn, from the Drummer/Daily Planet, November 12 1974)

Dec 23, 2012

October 1974: Sunshine Daydream

GRATEFUL DEAD STAR IN UNRELEASED FILM

Stanford's Memorial Auditorium will be the site of an unusual film premiere tomorrow when Sunshine Daydream, a movie about the Grateful Dead, will be shown twice, at 8 and 10 p.m. Tickets will be $2 for everyone.
Filmed in Oregon at a benefit for writer Ken Kesey's dairy in Eugene, the movie features the Dead playing some highly psychedelic music, reminiscent of performances when the Dead were the Kesey-led Merry Pranksters house band.
Filmmakers Joaquin Villegas and Alan Curtiss then took the benefit footage and intercut it with old footage of Merry Pranksters doing their thing on a cross-country bus trip ten years ago.
The escapades of the Merry Pranksters, for those unfamiliar with them, are detailed in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Kesey, the Dead and the Merry Pranksters all got together in the midpeninsula area around Palo Alto-Stanford in the middle 1960s. The film should give students of the Dead in 1974 some idea of the way it was in the beginning.
For example, there's a clip of infamous prankster Neal Cassidy driving the "magic" bus to the sounds of the Dead playing "I Know You Rider."
In conjunction with the first public screening of Sunshine Daydream, KZSU disc jockey Mike Lopez will host a show from 7 to 8 p.m. tonight featuring many unreleased Dead tapes.
Audience comments on the test screening are encouraged, according to the two filmmakers. The Memorial Auditorium Box office will open at 6 p.m. for the event.

(from the Stanford Daily, October 5 1974)

* * *

MEM AUD CROWD TRIPS ON DEAD FILM

Imagine working for over two years on a movie without realizing any monetary gain. Such is the dedication of a group of filmmakers and Grateful Dead freaks, who prefer to be known as Canis Major, who have put together Sunshine Daydream, a film about the Dead and their music.
Since the Dead have always been associated with the beginnings of psychedelia, the Ken Kesey-led acid tests and other early phenomena that became the "counter-culture" to the rest of America, filming the Dead in action in Oregon at a benefit for Kesey's Eugene dairy was only fitting and proper.
What isn't fitting and proper are the delays and the inaction on the part of the Dead that has kept the film from commercial release. According to Joaquin Villegas, spokesman for Canis Major, the Dead have refused to sign a release authorizing commercial distribution of the movie.
The Dead have seen the movie, however, Villegas said, and "they haven't been the same since." He thinks they were freaked out by the accuracy of the cinematic portrayal, and are consequently unsure of what action to take toward the film.
What of the movie, which was given its first public screening at Memorial Auditorium last Saturday night, attracting more customers than Stanford night at Marine World? It succeeds in capturing the easy ambience of the kind of crowd that would show up for a free Dead concert on a hot August day, but Sunshine Daydream doesn't really show the musical versatility of the Dead that well.
With the Kesey-acid test connection most important in showing where the Dead come from musically, much of the film's second half is devoted to a long spacey version of "Dark Star," one of the classic head-trippy songs.
Sunshine Daydream uses an imaginative animated sequence, all done with stills clipped from National Geographic to illustrate "Dark Star," which gives much of the film's last 40 minutes a Yellow Submarine-ish flavor. But when one isn't "in the mood," long improvisational pieces like "Dark Star" tend to get boring, although aided by imaginative graphics to go with the music.
Even with an overly long "Dark Star" sequence, the vibrant first half of the movie makes up for any second half excesses. The old footage of the Kesey days and early acid tests is masterfully mixed in with the Oregon benefit and as the Dead segue from "China Cat Sunflower" to "I Know You Rider," Neal Cassidy, the speediest bus driver of all time, appears driving the Merry Prankster bus named "Further" with classic abandon. The music fits perfectly, and anyone in the audience can see how it was to be "on the bus" in the acid-augmented mid-60s.
The footage of the people attracted to a free Dead concert allows anyone to see how it is to be a part of the crowd of Dead freaks. From small children playing under the stage to a naked man writhing on top of a pole in time to the music, it's your typical crowd out for a good time and a good tan in the Oregon sun.
At a brief intermission while reels were being changed on the lone projector, questions and comments were solicited from the audience. In the best Flicks tradition, someone called out, "There's sure a lot of tit in this movie."
Yes, many nubile women's breasts were getting a tan in the hot Oregon sun, and in the first reel, breasts received a lot of attention from the filmmakers.
The number of bare breasts did help to convey the atmosphere of freedom and openness at the benefit, but cramming almost every bare bosom into a five-minute sequence may be an overly pointed use of the phenomenon.
Technically and aesthetically the film is not yet the way its makers want it to be, Villegas said after the first show. The Stanford screening made enough money to pay for a print of the film, and the next showing, at San Jose State, will have a better sound system, according to Villegas.
But finished or not, Sunshine Daydream should be considered must viewing for all Dead fans and budding filmmakers interested in seeing how much can be done well on a shoestring.


(by George Powell, from the "World of Cinema" column, Stanford Daily, 11 October 1974)


1974: A Step Back

We falter and fall away, nothing holds. Political action is impossible. All we are left with is our arts. I propose we turn our tools away from the service of all but their muses. Great deeds are needed. It is the time to retreat. It is time to advance backwards. No longer are there any choices. What a relief.
People tire and you can only do one thing so long. The band is tired of touring for ten years and needs to take a year and go fishing, because they really do. They all have projects they wish to pursue and new material to write. Anyone who does not want them to do it is wanting them to drop dead on the spot through a collective weariness which only a total change can combat.
We mean to keep an office together during the vacation, but revenues will be slight. The Dead Heads list has been turned over to Grateful Dead Records to maintain and to let you know what they're doing - so please be patient if it takes a while to get a response of some sort.
Each of the departments of the Grateful Dead must now become self-supporting in order for the organism as a whole to remain healthy. There is a scheme to keep the overall structure intact so that there is something to take care of the details as the show goes back on the road. It is the fine response of Dead Heads over the years which leads us to conclude that there is something worth maintaining and that is what we're up to.

(by Robert Hunter, from the Dead Head Newsletter, December 1974)

1974: Wall of Sound Technical Specs

THE GRATEFUL DEAD'S SOUND SYSTEM
(HOLLYWOOD BOWL - JULY 1974)

Recently there have been major changes made in the Dead's sound system, bringing it a big step closer to the ancient ideal of the perfect sound system*. This is a technical report; from the standpoint of the ideas on sound reproduction incorporated into its design, and with a description of its sub-systems.

The system is unusual in that all the speakers are arrayed behind the musicians. Conventionally, vocal systems occupy the front corners of the stage. There are two disadvantages to this. It creates a blind spot for people sitting in potentially good seats, and the musicians themselves don't really know how they sound. They have monitors, but these are not very effective, nor are the echoes which ricochet around the hall. With the speakers behind them, in integral array with the instrument speakers, the band is in a much better position to hear what the audience hears, and to adjust accordingly.

With the new set-up there is no need for a mixing console to adjust the various sound levels. Each microphone has a volume control on it, enabling the band to mix the vocal sound from the stage. Each musician has control of his own local sound environment, being able to adjust his stage monitors of other instruments as well as his own instrument.

The sound system is actually a combination of six individual systems, each being electronically separate and having a specific purpose and function. No two musical 'voices' go through the same system. Thus the vocals, piano, drums, lead guitar, rhythm guitar and bass each have their own channel(s) of amplification. This separation is designed to produce an undistorted sound, a clean sound in which qualities like 'transparency', 'brilliance', 'presence', and 'clarity' are substantial musical dimensions.

The whole system operates on 26,400 Watts of continuous (RMS) power, producing in the open air quite an acceptable sound at a quarter of a mile and a fine sound up to five or six hundred feet, where it begins to be distorted by wind. A sound system could get the same volume from half as much power, but it wouldn't have the quality.

THE VOCAL SYSTEM - The signals from each of the vocal microphones are brought together by a Differential Summing Amp, where phase purity can be regulated and hence the transparency of the sound maintained. From there the combined signal goes to a Crossover which divides the frequency range into four band (High, Upper Mid, Lower Mid, Low). The signal in each band is then separately amplified by MacIntosh 2300 amps fed to JBL 15 inch, 12 inch or 5 inch speakers or Electrovoice tweeters.

The center cluster of the vocal system, consisting of high and midrange speakers, is curved so as to disperse sound cylindrically; there is not much vertical dispersion, and horizontal dispersion is ideally between 140 and 180 degrees. The vocal low range speakers are arranged in a column. Each type of speaker is designed to have the same horizontal and vertical angle of dispersion so that all frequencies are heard equally well.

The speaker cones are arranged together as close as possible so that the whole surface of the cluster acts as one working surface. In this way a large mass of air is moved at once which doesn't require very high pressures from any individual speaker.

A major improvement in the quality of the vocal sound is due to the use of differential microphones. Each singer has a perfectly matched pair of Bruel and Kjaer microphones hooked up out of phase, only one of which he sings into. Any sound which goes equally into both microphones is cancelled out when the two signals are added together. Therefore leakage of instruments and background noise into the vocal channel is minimized.

THE PIANO SYSTEM - This is a small version of the vocal system. In this case a crossover divides the frequency range into three parts. The Highs and Mids go through a cluster of 5 inch and 12 inch speakers built in the same fashion as the vocal's center cluster. The Lows go through a column of 15 inch speakers. There is a separate volume control for each of the five Countryman custom pickups (one for each division of the frame) so that Godchaux can balance the sound. Garcia and Kreutzmann both have piano monitors or fills in their areas of the stage, which can be independently adjusted by them.

THE DRUM SYSTEM - The drum system has two independent parts. The bass drum uses one amplification channel and sixteen 15 inch speakers in a column. The other drums and cymbals are miked through a three-way crossover which separates the signal into Highs, Upper Mids and Lower Mids and feeds them to Tweeters, 5 inch and 12 inch speakers. This second part of the drum system uses two channels as it is stereo with identical speaker columns on both sides.

THE GUITARS - Both guitars use columns of twenty 12 inch speakers. Jerry's guitar has extensions beside Keith and behind Bill.

Jerry is using a Doug Irwin/Alembic custom guitar. It has a Gibson/Les Paul type body with a Fender Stratocaster pickup.

Bob currently plays a Gibson 335 guitar. He uses such special instruments as an Eventide Clockwork Digital Delay unit for repeating notes and creating an echo-like delay of different sound colorations and textures. Another accessory is an Alembic Parametric Equalizer (a flexible tone circuit) which gives him complete control of frequency response by enabling boost or cut adjustments at any or all of three band-widths. The sharpness of the boost or cut can also be controlled.

THE ELECTRIC BASS - Phil is using a new quadrophonic bass, the electronics of which were designed and built by George Mundy and the body and pickups by Rick Turner. The new bass has the same versatile qualities as the old bass: three pickups (bass and treble low-impedance pickups covering all the srings, and a quad pickup which has a separate signal for each sring); on each of the bass and treble pickups there are controls which enable him to select 1) the band width of the filter, 2) the center frequency of the filter, 3) the kind of filter being used, and 4) mix unequalized unfiltered direct sound with the filtered sound. The variety of sounds which can be achieved on the bass is the result of the many different combinations of these variables which can be used. The new bass has a frequency response with a crisper tone, and two quad pickups instead of one, the new one being a frequency-detector pickup. The main addition to the new bass is a Digital Decoding Circuit such that ten push buttons on the bass allow Phil to select any one of sixteen quad spatial arrangements of his speakers, and eight in the stereo mode.

DESIGNERS AND WORKSHOPS - The Grateful Dead's sound system has evolved over the last eight years as a technical and group enterprise, a sort of logical accumulation of speakers and people. Changes have been made continuously in all directions which aid in improving the quality of the sound, both which the audience hears and which the band has to work with on stage. The concept and design of the current system/level was worked out by Bear, Dan Healy and Mark Raizene of the Dead's sound and equipment crew, and by Ron Wickersham and Rick Turner of the Alembic sound company. The construction and regular maintenance is done at the Dead's technical workshops by the people responsible for managing and transporting the system on the road. The design and construction of some special electronic components was done at Alembic, where John Curl is a consultant to the project.

The number of people going on the road to handle all the sound equipment, lights, scaffolding and staging varies, but a typical configuration is: band - 6, sound - 10, lights - 4, staging and trucking - 7, road management - 3. The sound system travels in a 40 foot semi, and staging and scaffolding on two flatbed semis and the lights in a 24 foot van. All of this weighs about 75 tons.

We have been trying something new at some concerts on recent tours. Ned Lagin and Phil have been playing electronic cybernetic biomusic, "music as metaphor for thought." Phil's instrument includes a console which contains all the classical electronic-music studio techniques for processing the signals from his quadrophonic bass. It gives Phil the advantages of electronic processing of each string individually. Ned plays a digital-polyphonic keyboard instrument built by Scott Wedge and EM Systems, incorporating the same processing techniques, but he controls his own processing through an "organic artificial musical intelligence" - a digital computer (Interdata 7/16). This enables Ned to "change any or all of the parameters of sound or form in the music at microscopic, atomic musical levels as well as macroscopic formal levels with almost relativistic speeds."

* 'Gandharvas,' world of, wherein sound, as in song and music, is the prevailing quality of existence. (Tibetan.)




(from Dead Heads Newsletter #19, December 1974)

[Numerical table & vocal-system diagram omitted.]

June 8, 1974: Oakland Coliseum Stadium

THE DEAD RAISE THE SOUND

26,000 amps and 400 speakers bring Dead gig alive

The home of the World Champion Oakland A's provided an ample setting for this show, soaked in the California sun and built around solidly California bands. Upwards of 30,000 people parted with $8.50 each ($10 at the gate), and there was room for all. Not much room near the stage once the music started, to be sure, but there were plenty of seats with unobstructed views and unimpaired sound. Not a corner of the open, 55,000-seat stadium wanted for loud, clear sound, primarily due to the Dead's incredible sound system.

Unveiled recently at San Francisco's Cow Palace, the system consists of 480 speakers arranged on scaffolding 30 feet high and at least as wide, and powered by 26,400 amps. The clarity is amazing, and in combination with the volume could probably fill Death Valley with sound.

"A Day on the Green" started a little before 10 AM with a jumping set by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Fifty minutes of music done in their usual near-parodic style included Billy C. Farlow and his rockabilly Elvis routine, some fine pedal-steel, saxophone and fiddle work, and of course the inimitable, growly Commander himself with "Hot Rod Lincoln."

The New Riders of the Purple Sage followed an enthusiastic reception, and turned in their standard set, light country with a strong rock beat. As usual, the dope songs got their big roars, in particular Peter Rowan's "Panama Red" and the epic of "Henry" from their first album.

It was an hour and a half of frisbees, streakers, getting high one way or another and sun before the Beach Boys appeared, three of them ostensibly delayed in traffic. The band numbered nine, with Dennis Wilson contributing on keyboards. As soon as they launched into "Wouldn't It Be Nice," the crowd was theirs, a sea of bobbing heads and waving arms stretching across the entire field. They moved through many of their standard hits not mechanically at all but con brio, and the tunes appear to have aged magnificently considering the mileage they've received. "Surfer Girl" and "Surfin' U.S.A." maintained their respective moods, the former dreamlike and the latter nailed solidly to a Chuck Berry foundation. A "sociologically significant" tune about "the wheel...in fact, a particular set of wheels," as the introduction went, turned into "Little Deuce Coupe;" also included were "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "California Girls." Their final encore, "Good Vibrations," really tore the place up and struck the keynote for the afternoon.

Finally came the local favorites (and some folks' world champions). The Grateful Dead played as long as the other three bands combined and in so doing reaffirmed their reputation. Some of the interplay between Keith Godchaux's piano and Jerry Garcia's guitar was sublime. The first 90-minute set was given mostly to set tunes, with little exploratory instrumental work. That was saved principally for the second half. Most notable were "China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider" and a version of Bob Weir's "Playing in the Band" that completely encompassed "Wharf Rat" as well as much improvisation. They closed with a churning "Casey Jones" and a wild "One More Saturday Night," Weir proving again that he is one of the best screamers around.

It was a day remarkable for its music and not for any pseudo-event happening around the music. Security was gentle, and aside from the delay preceding the Beach Boys, everything moved apace. Ticket prices were high, but in this instance justified by the high level of quality in the production and music.

(by Phil Sherwood, from Rolling Stone, August 1 1974)

http://archive.org/details/gd1974-06-08.sbd.miller.97268.sbeok.flac16

See also this description of the day's events:
http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/05/june-8-1974-oakland-coliseum-stadium.html

This article used to be on this website:
http://obie1.homesite.net/deadcd/articlesrs.htm
However, the page has now disappeared. This is EXACTLY why I'm duplicating articles from other websites on this site!

May 1974: Mars Hotel Letter & Business

May 20, 1974

Fellow Dead Head,

The new Grateful Dead album, From The Mars Hotel, is done and is on its way to the pressing plants for manufacture. We know you'll dig it.
Last year when we started this great adventure we tried mightily to deliver a top quality pressing by rigorously monitoring production. Sorry as we are to say it, absolute quality in this environment of scarcity and crises is almost impossible. So, we've made arrangements for processing that consistently yields discs of above average quality and we are using packaging design to protect that quality.
Experience has taught us that records are more likely to be messed up after they leave the pressing plants than during their manufacture and storage there. On the trucks and in people's homes, excessive friction between the disc and its paper sleeve causes wear and also a dust-attracting build up of static electricity. We feel we've corrected this in our new packaging (having borrowed some licks from Deutsche Grammophon).
You've probably heard rumors that the Dead are coming. The fact is, the band is on the road right now and is planning gigs everywhere for the rest of this year.
We know you'll enjoy our album, and if you get real enthused call a radio station or tell a record store. We need all the help we can get.

Gratefully yours,
Grateful Dead Records


* * * * *


GRATEFUL DEAD - FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF BOSTON IN JOINT DISTRIBUTION VENTURE

The Grateful Dead recording group, with the aid and financial blessing of the First National Bank of Boston, has formed a network of eighteen independent distributors throughout the United States to handle its product. The decision to circumvent the traditional pattern of a record company was arrived at March, 1972, when Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia, and manager John Macintyre asked Ron Rakow to investigate the financial aspect of self-distribution.
Rakow applied his ten-year background on Wall Street with on-the-job training as the operator of a small finance company in surveying the distribution pattern. "Essentially, I determined what the cost factor would be if we were wrong. In college, I studied the First National Bank of Boston's Serge Semenko's involvement in the motion-picture industry and decided that, if we were to be successful, a solid banking affilation was a prerequisite. It was a natural for me to contact a bank that had previously demonstrated a willingness to work in the entertainment area."
James Dollard, assistant vice president of the First National Bank of Boston, explains the financial institution's viewpoint: "Record distribution is a new area for us; however, the Grateful Dead put together a solid presentation of cost and market projections. In addition, the independent distributors that committed themselves to handle the Grateful Dead's product are all solid businessmen. Of course, we were completely unfamiliar with the returns problem and are watching this area closely."
Rakow, who is president of Grateful Dead Records, first discussed the project with Alpha Distributors' Harry Apostoleris. "He listened patiently to all my questions and, when I was finished, answered them and then told me what further questions I should have also asked." [. . .]*
The group's first album under its own distribution was Wake of the Flood, released October, 1973. Sales were 420,000 pieces, with a nine per cent return, well under the industry average. "The returns are built into our cost factor, and because the Grateful Dead has developed a cult of its own, we enjoy a steady catalog sales. The returns afford us a cushion. We don't mind having a fifteen- to twenty-four-month inventory at hand, which is warehoused at the pressing plant."
From the bank's point of view, Jim Dollard reports its collection experience has been extremely favorable. "We establish a credit limit for each distributor and guarantee payment to the Grateful Dead. We have modified our agreement with the group three times because this is a new industry for us, but the overall outlook is pleasing." In addition to furnishing the credit, the First National Bank of Boston also performs all the bookkeeping and collection duties for the Grateful Dead. Each account is listed on the bank's computer and, within seconds, a financial profile of the distributor can be obtained.
Rakow reports that the last Grateful Dead album had a 15 per cent sales gain and "we made 240 per cent more profit."** The group is currently recording a new album which is scheduled for release on June 15.

(from Music Retailer, May 1974)

* [Omitted a list of distributors.]
** [Meaning, 240 percent more profit than they made with Warner Brothers. I've read that the Dead made 31 cents per record on WB, versus $1.22 on their own label. Not sure whether Rakow measured Wake of the Flood's sales gain from Europe '72 or from Bear's Choice, but probably the latter.]