Jul 26, 2013

January 30, 1968: EMU Ballroom, University of Oregon, Eugene

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)

* * *

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)

* * *

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!

3 comments:

  1. I wish there had been an actual review of the show in the Emerald too, but there are some interesting points in these interviews.

    Rock Scully evidently did the promotional work for this tour - he also gave a little interview to the Portland Vanguard for the 1/29/68 show at Portland State. It has some resemblances to this Mickey Hart interview - Scully says, "The Dead never played psychedelic music... We don't take drugs anymore..." and praises the Maharishi.
    See http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/02/january-1968-tour-announcements.html

    McNally writes that the Dead had met the Maharishi in Los Angeles in November '67 to hear him speak of transcendental meditation (p.231) - apparently they came away unimpressed, but you'd never know it from Scully's comments.

    Here it's surprising to see that already in early 1968, Scully was lamenting that "at places like the Fillmore and the Avalon...much of the creativity has been lost because there is a separation between performers and audiences." He misses the old days when "there was no division between the bands and the dancers," and feels that now a dance-concert is too much of "a show."

    We can see what an impact Mickey Hart was making on the Dead's music just a few months after joining - Scully mentions that they're "adding an Indian touch," and Hart goes into a lot more detail.

    Hart was a student of the tabla player Alla Rakha, and immediately set to work getting the Dead to play complicated time divisions in things like their new tune the Eleven, where different bandmembers would play in different meters. Hart seems to be describing that here.

    Hart sounds quite boastful that his new band is doing what "no other band is doing" in using Indian rhythms. He was fortunate in finding a band that was interesting in doing this; as far back as March '67 Garcia was telling Ralph Gleason that the band was trying to play rhythms in different, less obvious ways.

    The "tihai" Hart refers to is, I've read, "a rhythmic cadence that repeats three times and ends on the first beat of the cycle," or as wikipedia puts it, "3 equal repetitions of a rhythmic pattern...that marks the end of a melody or [section], creating a transition to another section of the music."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tihai

    This page amply illustrates why Hart says Western drummers "are playing on the kindergarten level" -
    http://www.ragaculture.com/tihai.html
    Note: "A well-fashioned Tihai can involve the audience to the point of nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat tension, and its final resolution can bring the recital to a point of tremendous climax, heightening the musical experience for performer and listener alike."

    It is startling to see Hart say that the Dead are using a "wall of sound" in 1968, though it means something different here than in 1974 - the concept was similar, but the technology changed!

    As for the 1/30/68 show, we don't know much about it. Only a solitary New Potato Caboose seems to have survived on tape (released on the 2/14/68 Road Trips bonus disc), but they supposedly played a rare Gloria that night. McNally reports that "a good crowd somehow plowed its way through a major snowstorm to get to the EMU Ballroom."

    These articles, by the way, I found quite by accident. Who knows how many other old Dead college-paper articles are lurking on the web?

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  2. It's odd that the band would let Scully speak on their behalf on musical and philosophical matters.Especially since he was blathering on about activism,the Maharishi and blatantly lying about the bands drug usage.They seemed to purposefully steer clear of that hippie horse shit.

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  3. I think Scully was free to blather on the band's behalf on any subject; they probably found it amusing.

    I suspect they may have been trying to downplay their image as a "drug band" in the media at that point (a few months after the bust) - Mickey Hart says the Dead aren't "psychedelic" or "drug-oriented," Scully claimed that they "don't take drugs anymore" and recommended people study the Maharishi ("healthier than acid") - they even played a Meher Baba benefit in February (Baba was against the use of drugs and LSD in particular).

    It's possible that the band may have been in an Indian-guru phase around that time (this was right when the Beatles were flying to India to meditate with the Maharishi), which they may have forgotten or dismissed later on as a passing fancy.

    Also, this kind of anti-drug talk would have been very practical for them, considering their recent drug-arrest case in the courts, and police dogging them on the tour. (The Eureka show was called a "pot orgy" by the press, and police stopped the equipment truck outside Ashland to search for drugs.)

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