GROUP LEADS PSYCHEDELICS
The ship of sun is drawn through the heavens by the Grateful Dead.
From this excerpt from an Egyptian book of the Dead came the name of one of the nation's top psychedelic bands - the Grateful Dead.
According to Rocky Sculley, leader of the Dead (as the group refers to itself), since the time the band was formed and the name selected, other possible interpretations of the title have been found.
But Sculley says the group still likes the idea of a "divine wind."
In a recent telephone interview, Sculley talked at length about the group and its brand of music which he says grew up largely in the San Francisco area.
He said the music grew out of experiments by Ken Kesey, who was working with lights and light shows and groups of people in the Bay area who were experimenting with tribal dances.
Out of these things, said Sculley, a combination has emerged.
Originally there was no division between the bands and the dancers. People who knew each other would get together for small parties and dance all night long. Sculley started participating in such parties as a result of his association with the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee in San Francisco.
In the winter time, he said, people would enjoy the parties as a means of escaping the dreary atmosphere of San Francisco's damp, foggy climate.
In the summer, the parties went out-of-doors and the be-in was born.
Sculley says the environment was the most important thing. People would bring things, "like apples and incense." The groups performing made no money.
As the band leader puts it, the be-ins were for "feeling good being with your brothers."
"It's the spirit," he said, "and people should be able to get together."
"Activism means nothing without a goal - an alternative. The alternative was digging each other. The word was "love", but since that time the word has been prostituted."
"We got together and we found out we all have the same fears, that we're all brothers."
"Freedom is where it's at," said Sculley. He stresses freedom over power, adding, "We don't say it in words very much, we say it in our music and in our environment."
The environment tonight when the Dead performs at 8 in the EMU Ballroom will include the Quicksilver Messenger Service, PH Phactor Jug Band and Headlights by Jerry Abrams.
Sculley said that by experimenting the Dead found that two bands on stage together "can really do a nice thing, a real experience."
He also said the Dead have really come to like road shows because it's new and often times people don't even know what to do.
Originally the small parties were comprised of bands and their friends. "It was groovier, not so much of a show."
Now in San Francisco at places like the Fillmore and the Avalon, Sculley feels much of the creativity has been lost because there is a separation between performers and audiences. For this reason he hopes the University crowd will participate.
Sculley said that musically both the Dead and the Messenger Service have been "developing fantastically" over the past three or four months. The Dead, he said, are adding an Indian touch of gongs, bells, and chimes. This is because one of the group's two drummers, Mickey Hart, is a student of the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Other members of the Dead are Bill Kreutzman, Jerry Garcia, Pig Pen, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.
Speaking on the Dead's entire philosophy, Sculley said, "we're all working for ourselves. It isn't going to make or break us, but it is going to teach us."
(by Mike Fancher, from the U of Oregon Daily Emerald, January 30 1968)
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GRATEFUL DEAD DRUMMER TRIPS THROUGH WALL OF SOUND
"My music gets me higher than any kind of drug you take," says Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead.
He doesn't like the label of "psychedelic," often applied to groups like the Dead, "since it implies that they are drug oriented."
Hart is the protégé of Allarakka, the drummer for sitarist Ravi Shankar. He says, "we are the Grateful Dead and we play the Grateful Dead. Our music is our music."
The drummer says the San Francisco group has created a phenomena they call the "wall of sound." With this effect they attempt to fill every inch of space in the hall with sound. "We work within the wall. We can work with fantastic volumes, but we can also bring it down, lately, and still keep the wall."
Hart comments that it is not necessarily the volume, but the fact that they must be together, which creates the "wall." He points out that this is along the idea of Indian music. "We are playing only using their (the Indian) example, the way they form their rhythm structure, which no other band is doing." Hart emphasizes that the Dead are not trying to play Indian music, as other bands have done, but their own music using the Indian concept of rhythm.
They use the "tahai," an Indian rhythmical expression, to signal while they are playing. Hart analogizes the "tahai" to the capitalization of the opening word in a sentence. "When we hear this we know where it ends and we're coming to something new."
The Dead, says Hart, have "bowls of fixed composition" that serve as points of departure from which they improvise.
There are two drummers in the group and often one will "split" off in one direction with half of the band while the other half, with the other drummer, goes into a separate theme. From these separate improvisations, the two halves will meet again in another "bowl." Here they solidify themselves and then "take off" again.
Hart claims that the Indian "rhythmic structure is thousands of years ahead of ours." He says that after first hearing Indian music he told himself that he would learn to play Indian music or he was not going to play the drums again. He realized, "I don't know a thing...and I've been playing for 15 years."
Hart says, after talking to "the finest jazz drummers of our day," that "they feel like they are playing on the kindergarten level compared to Indian drummers." He says Allarakka "will play...things the most advanced jazz drummers...cannot even attempt."
(by Ron Baylor, from the U of Oregon Daily Emerald, January 31 1968)
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LIGHT SHOW TRANSFORMS STAID EMU BALLROOM
"In a light show, the audience becomes part creator of what's happening. It's like an impressionistic painting...it's only half there unless somebody's looking at it, reacting to it."
Jerry Abrams, of "Jerry Abrams Head Lights," stopped to talk a few minutes about the mechanics of a light show and his philosophy of this art medium.
Abrams was in Eugene with the "Grateful Dead," the "Quicksilver Messenger Service" and the "PH Phactor Jug Band." Along with four other crew members, he performed a light show in the EMU Ballroom last night.
Jerry Abrams Head Lights is a San Francisco based group. They do a show at the Avalon in San Francisco about once every three weeks and spend the rest of the time traveling with various bands.
How do you transform a staid, respectable ballroom into a viable entity conducive to a light show?
Abrams brings along his own screens on which to project the images. According to Abrams, "white is the best surface on which to project light. Most walls are dull colored and uninteresting."
For the effects, Jerry Abrams Head Lights uses strobe lights, slide projectors, overhead or liquid lights and original films.
Abrams is primarily a film maker and almost all of the films he uses are his own creation.
Abrams is trying, by putting the lights and the music together, "to create a total environment which stimulates not only aural but visual responses."
"We almost create a third organ which is neither the ear nor the eye but a combination of both, " explained Abrams.
Abrams described the effect as a "strictly sensual thing," which eludes definition and is not susceptible to a thinking, analytical reaction. You feel it.
(by Barb Fields, from the U of Oregon Daily Emerald, January 31 1968)
These articles, some newspaper ads for Oregon shows from 1968-69, and more, can be found in the Archives section at http://home.earthlink.net/~deadtraders/or_archi.htm
Alas, no tape circulates!