Jun 28, 2013

October 4-5, 1970: Winterland, SF

THE NEWS REACHES SAN FRANCISCO (excerpt)

The night Janis Joplin died, the three remaining bands from the first days of the San Francisco scene - Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service - were rocking on at Winterland. As a magnesium flare made an arc over the audience and died during the Dead's "Cold Rain and Snow," backstage the rumor was spreading: Janis is dead.
A phone call to UPI confirmed the rumor. There was little overt reaction. A straight celebrity-follower ... sat in a corner weeping, until he was told he was laying his bad trip on everybody. He left.
No announcement was made from the stage. Concert producer Paul Baratta tried to keep the story from reaching members of Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service, who had not yet gone on. All the musicians had apparently heard the story as rumor, but most did not learn that it had been confirmed until after the show.
Out front, the Winterland, which has a legal capacity of 7,500, had sold out at 8:40 and during the evening another 3,000 people were turned away. It was whooping and hollering night, and despite the crowd on the floor and the hindrance of theater seats, there was a fair amount of dancing. About every third time you passed a strong scent of grass, you caught a strong whiff of wine on somebody's breath. There were a few people calling for reds, but for a San Francisco audience it was a happy, physical crowd, jumping with enthusiasm for the city's favorite bands. Reunions were blossoming everywhere.
Coincidentally, the show was being broadcast live and in color on KQED, the local Public Broadcasting TV station with quadrophonic sound arrangements with FM stereo radio stations KQED and KSAN.
Whether Janis' death was too unexpected or too hard an idea to grasp, or whether it seemed too remote from the celebratory spirit of the concert, or just because the radio and TV announcers hadn't the class to react to the news (or not mention it at all) - whatever the reason, the KSAN announcers and the hopelessly unprepared man with a mike who led a hand-held TV camera around for KQED handled the news in the worst of taste. . . .

[Examples of clueless comments from the KSAN and KQED backstage announcers telling people the news on the air.]

Monday night, the second night of the Airplane-Dead-Quicksilver engagement, is not a big night for rock and roll shows, but the hall seemed to be filled again. By now everyone knew about Janis, but the crowd was not in a mournful mood. Said Jerry Garcia after the Dead's set:
"The crowd seemed a little crazier last night than tonight, I don't know. You have to understand I have no memory, that's the price I pay. The difference in vibes? It makes a big difference in vibes if you tell somebody, Janis died. That's like heavy news. But listen, man, these are all people who've been on lots of trips, and they're sensitive, far-out, weird people, probably the weirdest people on earth in this place, and they've all looked at death a million times in lots of different ways. Nobody's really uptight about death. Death is something that really happens.
"Like everybody does it, the way they do it. Death only matters to the person who's dying. The rest of us are going to live without that voice. For those of us for whom she was a person, we'll have to do without the person.
"Janis was like a real person, man. She went through all the changes we did. She went on all the same trips. She was just like the rest of us - fucked up, strung out, in weird places. Back in the old days, the pre-success days, she was using all kinds of things, just like anybody, man.
"When she went out after something, she went out after it really hard, harder than most people ever think to do, ever conceive of doing.
"She was on a real hard path. She picked it, she chose it, it's OK. She was doing what she was doing as hard as she could, which is as much as any of us can do. She did what she had to do and closed her books. I don't know whether it's the thing to do, but it's what she had to do.
"It was the best possible time for her death. If you know any people who passed that point into decline, you know, really getting messed up, old, senile, done in. But going up, it's like a skyrocket, and Janis was a skyrocket chick.
"She had a sense of all that, including the sense that if somebody was making a movie of it, it'd make a great movie. If you had a chance to write your life...I would describe that as a good score in life writing, with an appropriate ending."
Bob Weir: "She went the way she wanted to, man, and I can't bring myself to be in abject misery about it, because, like I say, she drank herself to death, she lived up to her image. If you knew Janis personally, you knew the direction she was going.
"You know about the irony of her getting Bessie Smith a tombstone. I think we, the bands, should put together a collection and get her a tombstone, kind of a cheap, gaudy tombstone, the way she'd have wanted. I know she doesn't like want her ashes scattered to the wind, man, she'll want to go six feet under like all her songs."
Pigpen had a personal kind of tribute in mind: "When I get a few days I'm gonna set back and get ripped on Southern Comfort.
"I turned her on to Southern Comfort, man. I knew her when she came up in '63 and I was with the jugband. Then she came back to Texas, and when she came back up I told her one day, 'Tex, try some of this.' She said [rolling his eyes, reeling] 'Oh man, that's good!'
"We used to get drunk and play pool together. She beat me 80 per cent of the time." . . .

[More comments from random bystanders, including "saxophonist Martin Fierro, who had played with Quicksilver both nights."]

Marty Balin of the Airplane didn't appear on Monday night. "He's feeling really down," said Paul Baratta, "and he thinks this is going to be a funeral thing for Janis. But Bob Weir told him, 'Hey, man. Janis went the way she wanted to, come on.' But he isn't coming."
Neither Baratta nor any of the groups spoke of Janis from the stage. But there seemed to be a special edge in the way the Airplane - a trio, as Grace had not yet come on stage and Marty wasn't there at all - announced, "What do you want to bet by the end of the evening you're all gonna be dancing?"

(by Charles Perry, from Rolling Stone, October 29 1970)

http://archive.org/details/gd1970-12-17.sbd.unk.87356.sbeok.flac16 (a compilation from the October 4-5 shows)

Jun 27, 2013

December 7, 1971: Felt Forum, NYC

I am a lover of the Grateful Dead. Since that first night in 1967 when they did for me what acid was to do some time later, I have considered them the best rock band in existence and much else besides - the guardian angels or spirits of the Grail - so it was not without a certain circumspect caution that I approached this concert, the reason being various reports of mediocre performances, and their last three albums, which had forced me (and others) unwillingly to the conclusion that like many of us, the Dead had begun to settle for tasteful dabbling with traditional musical forms at the expense of more risky, but potentially much more rewarding excursions into a higher level of consciousness. I was prepared to hear an impeccable set of beautifully played short numbers, with little of the kind of incredible sonic sunburst explosions for which the Dead are rightly valued above all others as the ultimate musical guides to the vast, joyful potential of (why not say it?) acid rock, of which only they are truly capable. That is why Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist, is called "Captain Trips," why the band has the most devoted following of any rock band in the world, why a Dead concert is a special event in the freak calendar, and why everyone braved the rent-a-cops with bullhorns and barricades outside to get into the Felt Forum a week ago Tuesday night. We were stoned and ready to go.
After their traditional half-assed country numbers, the New Riders of the Purple Sage wound up their set as usual with two superfine rock numbers ("Willie and the Hand Jive" and "Honkey Tonk Women") which, as usual, made me wonder why they bother with their standard routine of country doodles, since their rock is so superior. But that's all the Flow, I suppose - the build-up for the moment when the first Dead chord comes jumping out of [the] superb sound system, and convinces you that these dudes just bear no comparisons with anybody.
Bill Graham, doing his first concert since he closed the Fillmore, had set the scene to perfection. The sound was clear and loud and pure, the lighting tasteful and brilliantly timed, the stage a carefully composed visual treat, with huge banks of multi-colored tie-dye-covered speakers and a single red rose sitting on Pigpen's organ, stage left. All it needed was the music, and on Tuesday night the Dead proved themselves as magnificent as ever. It was the kind of concert that leaves you stunned and happy, ready and willing to dance all night, and then do your best to find pleasure in the smallest things of everyday as long as the feeling lasts. In short, it was inspiring, and it was even consistent, for there were none of the usual aborted attempts to take-off, no uneasy fumblings for a riff to fly on. It all came together on the first note, and stayed that way to the last. If anything, the Dead have improved.
"Ladies and Gentlemen - the Grateful Dead!" Bill Graham in cloth cap. Tradition. The first note resounds deeply with that special familiar beautiful deep crystal bell sound which cannot possibly be recorded properly, and the spotlights blind on simultaneously. Tradition. "Rain and Snow," fast and jumping and so full of life, a good hard opener with long brilliant meshing of guitars and drums and organ and piano (a new member) in mid-stream, and then back down into liquid steam-train rock again. Tradition. Hot-damn, they're on the old ball tonight, yessir. Every number is long and perfect. Jerry sings, then Bob Weir, then Pigpen, and tonight they all sound good. The audience is ecstatic, jumping and clapping and stomping and dancing in the aisles and singing along when they know the words. (Time has gone on; this audience only sings along with the numbers from "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty," their mass-market albums. There were five before them, and "Rain and Snow" is from the first, some say the best. So is their second number, "Beat It On Down the Line").
They do "Mister Charlie," Hank Williams's "You Win Again," "Cumberland Mine," "Laredo" (Marty Robbins's biggest hit), "Casey Jones" (drivin' that train, high on cocaine...), "Brokendown Palace," and then they leave with a mumbled word about technical problems, which Weir admits later is a lie, 'cause Bill Kreutzman had to take a piss (and you can bet your life that Bill Graham told him to own up. Technical problems are in his department.) By this time, a mood of spaced tranquility holds sway, and the refreshments line is curiously civilized.
"No more whistling from the cheap seats," says Weir, and then they roll into "Sugar Magnolia"; after that, my notes were forgotten and they carried me away to all kinds of wondrous places - but I do remember that they closed it all out with "Not Fade Away" and "Goin' Down the Road, Feeling Bad," and that for the first time in my memory they did an encore, "Saturday Night." So good, just absolutely deelicious. They done it again.
"Is the world ending? Oh, there's the world" - a grateful Dead fan, blitzed on acid.

(by Patrick Carr, from the "Riffs" column, Village Voice, December 16 1971)

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=KEtq3P1Vf8oC&dat=19711216&printsec=frontpage&hl=en (p.58)

http://archive.org/details/gd71-12-07.sbd.miller.3375.sbeok.shnf

See also Robert Christgau's more distanced, sociological report on a Dec '71 Felt Forum show here - it ran in the same issue of the Village Voice:
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/09/december-1971-felt-forum-nyc.html

June 22, 1969: Central Park, NYC

RIFFS: NO FAVORS

I awoke this morning to a startling realization. Today does not exist. Well, maybe it does...but only by the good graces of yesterday. Get that straight. The free concert in Central Park created this Monday for me, lock-stock-and-barrel, for it is filled with images of all that was yesterday, and central to each image is the musical and physical beauty of the Grateful Dead. They came, they played for free, and they did so with a spirit that can only be liked to missionary or religous zeal.
I would imagine that the Dead have long felt a kindred spirit with the hip community in this city. Their previous visits, heavy with free concerts and the kind of good vibrations that characterized yesterday, bear me out. You might say that the Dead have a way of bringing out all that is good in a scene that sometimes appears to be overrun with bad. Yesterday they worked it, and they worked it with a quiet effectiveness that is born only of experience. They've been around a long time - something which critics often fail to take into consideration when examining their work. They consistently ignore a basic truth about the Dead which is perhaps beyond criticism. The Dead are masters of control and order in a scene which thrives on a freedom rooted in anarchy and chaos.
Yes, (shudder, gasp) the Grateful Dead are organization men. Inherent in the organizational aspects of the Dead, however, is their subtle approach to things. Realizing that a measure of order is necessary in even the freest of scenes - and being able to inject it without the slightest trace of rigidity - is an accomplishment of understanding and rationality that by its very nature must go unnoticed - but not, I hope, unappreciated. The forces of "law and order" in this city and elsewhere might do well to take note of the Dead's approach to and solution of the problem that plagues every large gathering of people.
It's a low-key approach with a sure-fire solution. Ask no favors of the crowd; rather, let the musical, physical, and spiritual presence of the Dead themselves fill the atmosphere with vibrations as directional as they are all-pervasive. Make good music, and make it move. These the Dead accomplish as no other group is able to. Kick out the jams, they sing in effect if not in so many words with their opening number, "Dancing in the Streets." (Please note that they see no need to announce the spirit behind the music.) Get together and stay together. Love your neighbor, read the country lyrics and happy musical style. Jerry Garcia's steel guitar fairly hums with the thought in the thickest of the Dead's excellent country playing. Look inside yourself; listen to yourself. Such were the vibrations that came from the stage at yesterday's concert. And at the end, with a politeness that was as much a part of the Dead's afternoon as anything else was, Rock Scully thanked the crowd. "You were beautiful," he yelled into the nearest mike. "The Grateful Dead thank YOU!"

(by Lucian Truscott, from the "Riffs" column, Village Voice, June 26 1969)

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=KEtq3P1Vf8oC&dat=19690626&printsec=frontpage&hl=en (p.34)

http://archive.org/details/gd69-06-22.aud.hanno.8836.sbefail.shnf

April 1967: Album Review

ALBUMIN

A good album, like those long lasting cold remedies, is filled with tiny time capsules which burst open at their own speed. Cuts that astound at first fade as subtle ballads emerge. Great blasts of noise vanish as haunting melodies appear. A line suddenly hits home...a phrase...a shade of meaning, and the whole album becomes something else again.
The shape of a good album changes constantly. A review can never be anything more than a synthesis of moments. When technical trickery wears thin, and novelty loses its appeal is the time to evaluate a piece of work. The test of time doesn't mean very much; repetition is all. The good albums stick; the great ones transmigrate.
The Grateful Dead, San Francisco's most highly touted tock band, have released an album which is a perfect illustration of this time-gap principle. It is straight, decent rhythm and blues - some of it so civil it passes for dull. Certainly, this is no "psychedelic" music. It doesn't fuzz, except in spots. It doesn't squeal inside your head like a dentist's drill. It isn't even in a minor key.
In fact, on first hearing the Grateful Dead is the Butterfield Blues Band in Merry Prankster drag. "The Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion" turns out to be plain old rock with vocal harmonies that remind you of the Mamas and the Papas, of all things. "Beat It on Down the Line" is the kind of putty R and B Barry Goldberg stretches into a 20-minute magnum opus. "Good Morning Little School Girl" has a raunchy, funky sound. Lines like "I wanna put a tiger, baby, in your sweet little tank" fulfill all criteria for blue eyed soul, a la Eric Burdon. Further on, there is "Sitting on Top of the World," a snazzy touch of bluegrass, "Cream Puff War," with a modified Young Rascals vocal, "Morning Dew," with instrumental lines right off the Jefferson Airplane album (listen to "Today" alongside this cut) and a 10-minute blues excursion which breaks no rules, stretches no boundaries, and won't even rankle your middle ear. Ten minutes that don't deafen is just not psychedelic, man. And a lust-song with implications - baby, what ever happened to acid passivity?
I don't think this album has much of a future with the underground. It dispels utterly the treasured myth that the psychedelic experience automatically turns a musician to specific forms of expression - like atonality, baroque harmonics, or raga. The Grateful Dead give the lie to most technical embellishments which have become psychedelic symbols in our music. The people who first decided that any musician worth his head has to wreak electronic havoc were businessmen. Straight or stone, a rock band is a rock band.
The Grateful Dead play music with an optimistic simplicity that is the San Francisco sound. All the prototechnics of the recording studio are forsaken for a straight, "live" effect. It feels spontaneous; it sounds honest. The Dead are in utter interaction on this album. Theirs is the kind of leaderless co-operation you seldom find in rock 'n' roll, and the tightness in their music shows it. The Grateful Dead are a musical community.
Listen to this album a third and fourth time. You will begin to sense some of the subtle restraint with which this group approaches a song. In "The Golden Road" for instance, a single note of dissonance at the end provides a brilliant cap to the song. "Good Morning" contains a barely notable change in rhythm on the final word of the refrain "Can't yuh hear me crying?" But it is poignant in its sparcity. "Cold Rain" has a fine contrapuntal bridge thoroughly integrated in the body of the song. "Cream Puff War" juxtaposes the discontinuity of two distinct rhythms, and is therefore hard to take. Finally, there is "Viola Lee Blues," the extended popsong. It opens with a dissonant chord - short and disciplined - but then it settles into the basic blues pattern. There are some dull stretches in this cut. The musical bridge is so long it becomes a separate composition. But the intensity builds up very gradually to an impressive peak. This is no rave-up, where the decibels start high and end in a barrage of white noise. There is concise improvisation here, which stops before it bores (it takes an artist to know where to stop a bridge these days). "Viola Lee Blues" never really ends; it just fades away in an irrelevant drumroll.
The Grateful Dead will let you down if you're expecting some of the unbearable auditory torture that goes by the name of revelation these days. But, at the first sign of hi-fi headache, cabaret intestinal distress, or malaise-of-the-scene, I intend to slip this disc on my meagre phonograph and relax while the time capsules flower.

(by Richard Goldstein, from the "Pop Eye" column, Village Voice, April 13 1967)

(See also a later Goldstein column here: http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/05/june-1967-new-york-city.html?showComment=1372387011993#c1440862511594759602 )

Early 1967: the San Francisco Scene

THE FLOURISHING UNDERGROUND

SAN FRANCISCO - Forget the cable cars; skip Chinatown and the Golden Gate; don't bother about the topless mother of eight.
The Bay Shore area is the Liverpool of the West. Newsweek says so. Ramparts says so. Crawdaddy says so. And thousands of scenieboppers all over the nation are craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the newest pop acropolis. 
The most fragile thing to maintain in our culture is an underground. No sooner does a new tribe of rebels skip out, flip out, trip out, and take its stand, than photographers from Life magazine are on the scene doing cover layout. No sooner is a low-rent, low-harassment quarter discovered than it appears in eight-color spreads on America's breakfast table. The need for the farther-out permeates our artistic involvement. American culture is a store window which must be periodically spruced and re-dressed. The new bohemians needn't worry about opposition these days: just exploitation. The handwriting on the wall says: preserve your thing.
The new music from San Francisco, most of it unrecorded at this writing, is the most potentially vital in the pop world. It shoots a cleansing wave over the rigid studiousness of folk-rock. It brings driving spontaneity to a music that is becoming increasingly conscious of form and influence rather than effect. It is a resurgence which could smother the Monkees, drown the castrati who make easy listening, and devour all those one‐shot wonders that float above stagnant water.
Most important, if the sound succeeds, it will establish a new brand of culture hero with a new message: pop mysticism. 
Talent scouts from a dozen major record companies are now perusing the scene, and grooving with the tribes at the Fillmore and the Avalon. Hip San Francisco is being carved into bits of business territory. The Jefferson Airplane belong to RCA. The Sopwith Camel did so well for Kama Sutra the label has invested in a second group, the Charlatans. The Grateful Dead has signed with Warner Brothers in an extraordinary deal which gives them complete control over material and production. Moby Grape is tinkering with Columbia and Elektra. And a bulging fistful of local talent is being wined and dined like the last available shikse in the promised land.
All because San Francisco is the Liverpool of the West. Not many bread-men understand the electronic rumblings from beneath the Golden Gate, but they are aware of two crucial factors: the demise of Merseybeat created a doldrums which resulted in the rise of rhythm-and-blues and milquetoast music, but left the white teenage audience swooning over an acknowledged fraud: the Monkees. Youth power still makes the pop industry move, and record executives know a fad sometimes needs no justification for success except its presence in a sympathetic time. There is the feeling now, as pop shepherds watch the stars over their grazing flock, that if the San Francisco sound isn't the next Messiah, it will at least give the profits a run for their money.

"The important thing about San Francisco rock 'n' roll," says Ralph Gleason, "is that the bands here all sing and play live, and not for recordings. You get a different sound at a dance, it's harder and more direct."
Gleason, jazz and pop critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, writes with all the excitement of a participant. But he maintains the detachment of 20 years' experience. It is as though Bosley Crowther had set up headquarters at The Factory. Gleason's thorough comprehension of the new sound is no small factor in its growth and acceptance by the hip establishment. He is a virtual tastemaker in the Haight, and even when the hippies put him down they talk to him, and he listens. 
That Ralph Gleason writes from San Francisco is no coincidence. This city's rapport with the source of its ferment is unique. Traveling up the coast from the ruins of the Sunset Strip to the Haight is a Dantesque ascent. It is no accident that 400 miles makes the difference between a neon wasteland and the most important underground in the nation. San Francisco has the vanguard because it works hard to keep it. Native culture is cherished as though the city's consuming passion were to produce a statement that could not possibly be duplicated in New York. Chauvinism in Southern California runs to rhetoric about the grandeur of nature, but up north it is all have-you-seen-the-Mime-Troupe? and Haight-Street-makes-the-Village-look-like-a-city-dump.
Ten years ago, San Franciscans frowned on North Beach, but let it happen. Now, the city is prepared to support the rock underground by ignoring it. The theory of tacit neglect means a de facto tolerance of psychedelic drugs. San Francisco is far and away the most turned‐on city in the Western world. "The cops are aware of the number of heads here," says Bill Graham who owns the Fillmore and manages the Jefferson Airplane. "The law thinks it will fade out, like North Beach: What can they do? To see a cop in the Haight...it's like the English invading China. Once they own it, how are they going to police it?"
With safety in numbers, the drug and rock undergrounds swim up the same stream. The psychedelic ethic - still germinating and still unspoken - runs through the musical mainstream like a current. When Bob Weir, rhythm guitarist of the Grateful Dead, says "the whole scene is like a contact high," he is not talking in fanciful metaphor. Musical ideas are passed from group to group like a joint. There is an almost visible cohesion about San Francisco rock. With a scene that is small enough to navigate and big enough to make waves, with an establishment that all but provides the electric current, no wonder San Francisco is Athens. This acropolis has been carefully, sturdily built, and it is not going to crumble because nobody wants to see ruins messing up the skyline.

"I didn't have any musical revelation when I took acid. I'm a musician first. My drug experiences are separate." The speaker is a member of the Jefferson Airplane, the oldest and most established group in the Bay Area. With a cohesive, vibrant sound, they are the hip community's first product. Their initial album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off was weak enough to make you wonder about all the noise, but the new release, Surrealistic Pillow, is a fine collection of original songs with a tight and powerful delivery. The hit single, 'My Best Friend,' is a pleasant enough ballad, but much better [is] 'White Rabbit,' which is Alice in Wonderland with a twist of psychedelic lemon. Grace Slick's vocal wobbles deliciously and the lyrics are concise and funny. Especially worth repeating is the song's advice: "Remember what the dormouse said: feed your head."
The mouse is sometimes employed to symbolize psychedelic "enlightenment." In Los Angeles, the same realization is expressed by the Flower. A concern with and an expression of turning on is an aspect of Bay Area rock, but it is by no means central to the music. The secretive reserve that characterizes every other hip community is unnecessary baggage here. There is open talk of drug experience. When references appear in the music, they are direct and specific. While some groups seem impaled on a psychedelic spear ("How do we talk about drugs without getting banned from the radio?" is a key question of every Byrds album), San Francisco music says "pot" and goes on to other things.
Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead insists: "We're not singing psychedelic drugs, we're singing music. We're musicians, not dope fiends." He sits in the dining‐room of the three‐story house he shares with the group, their women, and their community. The house is one of those masterpieces of creaking, curving spaciousness the Haight is filled with. Partially because of limited funds, but mostly because of the common consciousness which almost every group here adapts as its ethos, the Grateful Dead live and work together. They are acknowledged as the best group in the Bay Area. Leader Jerry Garcia is a patron saint of the scene. Ken Kesey calls him "Captain Trips." There is also Pigpen, the organist, and Reddy Kilowatt on bass.
Together, the Grateful Dead sound like live thunder. There are no recordings of their music yet, which is probably just as well because no album could produce the feeling they generate in a dancehall. I have never seen them live, but I spent an evening at the Fillmore listening to tapes. The music hits hard and stays hard, like early Rolling Stones, but distilled and concentrated. When their new album comes out, I will whip it on to my meagre record player, and if they have left that boulder sound at some palatial LA studio and come out with a polished pebble, I will know they don't live together in the Haight anymore.
But, right now a group called the Grateful Dead is playing live and living for an audience of anybody's kids in San Francisco. Theirs is the Bay Area sound. Nothing convoluted in the lyrics, just rock 'n' roll lingua franca. Not a trace of preciousness in the music; just raunchy, funky chords. The big surprise about the San Francisco sound has nothing to do with electronics or some zany new camp. Musicians in this city have knocked all that civility away. They are back in dark, grainy sounds that are roots.
"San Francisco is live," says Janis Joplin, singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company. "Recording in a studio is a completely different trip. No one makes a record like they sound live. Hard rock is the real nitty-gritty."
Ask an aspiring musician from New York who his idols are and he'll begin a long list with the Beatles or Bob Dylan, then branch off into Paul Simon literacy or the Butterfield Blues bag (which means sounding like you've got a Ph.D in spade music) or a dozen variations in harmonics and composition.
Not so in San Francisco. Bob Dylan is like Christianity here: they worship but they don't touch. The sound of the Grateful Dead, or Moby Grape, or Country Joe and the Fish, is jug band music scraping against jazz. This evolution excludes most of the names in modern pop music. A good band is a "heavy" band, a "hard" band.
Marty Balin, who writes for the Jefferson Airplane, declares: "The Beatles are too complex to influence anyone around here. They're a studio sound." Which is as close as a San Francisco musician comes to describing his thing. Their music, they insist, is a virgin forest, unchanneled and filled with wildlife. There is a fear, a dread, of the A&R man's ax. This refusal to add technological effect is close to the spirit of folk music before Dylan electrified it. "A rock song still has to have drive and soul," Balin maintains. "Jazz started out as dance music, and ended up dead as something to listen to. If you can't get your effects live, the music's not alive."
Gary Duncan, lead guitarist for the Quicksilver Messenger Service, adds: "Playing something in a studio means playing for two months. Playing live, a song changes in performance. In a studio, you attack things intellectually; onstage it's all emotion."
San Francisco musicians associate Los Angeles with the evils of studio music. This is probably because almost every group has made the trek south to record. And the music available on record is anything but hard rock (the Sopwith Camel, for instance, earned everyone's disfavor with a lilting good-timey rendition of 'Hello, Hello'. "They give us a bad name," says one musician. "They're a diversion," says another. "They smile nice.").
But resentment of Los Angeles goes much deeper than the recording studio. The rivalry between Northern and Southern California makes a cold war in pop inevitable. While musicians in Los Angeles deride the sound from up north as "pretentious and self-conscious" and shudder at the way "people live like animals up there," the northern attitude is best summed up by a member of the Quicksilver Messenger Service who quipped, "L.A. hurts our eyes."
Part of the Holding Company puts down the Byrds because: "They had to learn to perform after they recorded. Here, the aim is to get the crowd moving."
A Jefferson Airplane [member] says of the Beach Boys: "What Brian Wilson is doing is fine but in person there's no balls. Everything is prefabricated like the rest of that town. Bring them into the Fillmore, and it just wouldn't work."
The technology involved in putting on a lightshow doesn't seem to bother San Franciscans, however, because what they're really uptight about is not artificiality but Southern California. There is a sneaky suspicion in this city that the South rules and The Bay is determined to keep at least its cultural supremacy untarnished. Even Ralph Gleason has little sympathy for Los Angeles music. "The freaks are fostered and nurtured by L.A. music hype," he says. "The hippies are different. What's going on here is natural and real."
The question of who is commercial and who is authentic is rhetorical. What really matters about San Francisco is what mattered about Liverpool three years ago. The underground occupies a pivotal place in the city's life. The Fillmore and the Avalon are jammed every weekend with beaded, painted faces and flowered shirts. The kids don't come from any mere bohemian quarter. Hip has passed the point where it signifies a commitment to rebellion. It has become the style of youth in the Bay Area, just as long hair and beat music were the Liverpool Look.
San Francisco is a lot like the grimy English seaport these days. In 1964, Liverpool rang with a sound that was authentically expressive and the city never tried to bury it. This is what is happening in San Francisco today. The establishment has achieved a much greater victory here than on the Strip: integration. The underground is open, unencumbered and radiating. The rest of the country will get the vibrations, and they will pay for them.
Which everyone thinks is groovy. The Grateful Dead are willing to sing their twenty-minute extravaganza, 'Midnight Hour,' for anyone who will listen, and if people pay, so much the better. But Bob Weir insists: "If the Industry is gonna want us, they're gonna take us the way we are. If the money comes in, it'll be a stone gas."
It will be interesting to visit the Bay Area when the breadmen have glutted every artery. It will be fascinating to watch the Fillmore become the Radio City Music Hall of pop music. It will be a stone gas to take a Greyhound sightseeing tour through the Haight.
But that's another story about San Francisco. Right now, give or take a little corruption, it is new ideas, new faces and new music.
Which is what undergrounds are all about.

(by Richard Goldstein, from the "Pop Eye" column, Village Voice, 3 March 1967)

Goldstein's review of the first Dead album:
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/06/april-1967-album-review.html 

December 9, 1966: Fillmore Auditorium, SF

BIG WEEKEND FOR THE BLUES (excerpt)

. . . At the Fillmore Auditorium, Big Mama Willie Mae Thornton, who is of the great line of women blues singers going all the way back to Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, is featured along with the contemporary rock band, the Grateful Dead, a good deal of whose music is blues based.
Big Mama is unique in her time and an extraordinary singer, as has been pointed out here before.
The Grateful Dead are a group of young Caucasian musicians who have evolved a magnificent playing style that features some of the most exciting instrumental rock music anywhere. Included in their group is Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan (whose father, Phil McKernan, used to have that morning blues program on KRE in Berkeley), who plays organ and harmonica and sings.
Many young white performers in folk and rock music seem to be little but imitations of Negro singers. John Hammond Jr., who was at the Jabberwock last weekend, sounded as if he was trying to be an 80 year old Delta Negro. Pig Pen, on the other hand, does not do this and he is tremendously effective. He sings like himself; the music and the style is the blues, but he is not imitation.

[The rest of the article is about the blues package at the Civic Auditorium, including Wilson Pickett, Junior Walker, & co.]

(by Ralph Gleason, from the "On the Town" column, SF Chronicle, December 9 1966)


Thanks to Lost Live Dead

Along with the December 9-11, 1966 run at the Fillmore, Big Mama was billed with the Dead on a couple other dates.
She was advertised as one of the artists at the 9/11/66 Both/And benefit at the Fillmore:
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/02/september-11-1966-jazzrock-show.html (although, in both reviews I've seen of the event, she is not mentioned...)
She was also paired with the Dead on 1/6/67:
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/07/january-6-1967-freeborn-hall-davis-ca.html
And, memorably, came after them on 9/2/68 at the Sky River Rock Festival, where Pigpen joined in a blues jam session:
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/06/september-2-1968-sky-river-rock-festival.html

Jun 19, 2013

June 22, 1970: Garcia Interview

JERRY GARCIA

An exclusive interview with Jerry Garcia, lead and pedal steel guitarist with the Grateful Dead.

We drove up to the house in the early evening. A beautiful girl, with long flowing hair, met us at the door. We entered Jerry Garcia's comfortable, Marin County home, nestled in the woods of Larkspur. Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia's old lady, Jerry Garcia and an unidentified individual were sitting around a Victorian room, when we entered.
We talked about our magazine and then the interview began.

Q. When did you join and what was the original name?
JG. You know all that stuff, it's all over the place.
Q. How about a one sentence resume.
JG. Okay, well originally we were the Warlocks and we started in about late '64, winter of '64, that's when we started our first playing in the music store, with electric instruments.
Q. And you were with the band since it started?
JG. Yes I was.
Q. What was your original influence?
JG. You mean with this particular group?
Q. Yes.
JG. The Beatles; not musical influence but that was the influence that, essentially, they got us into the idea of playing music being an electric band. I mean we were all musicians before that.
Q. What do you think of the new album?
JG. Which new album? Ours? I like it. It was fun to make.
Q. How long did it take you to record it?
JG. Ten days.
Q. How would you compare it to your other albums?
JG. I like it. It was satisfying. It's still satisfying. I like it. I could dig to do it again. I think we could do it a little better.
Q. Do you think it's the best of the albums you've recorded?
JG. In some ways.
Q. How did you like Live Dead?
JG. Well, it was an accurate picture of what we were doing at that time, which was about two years ago.
Q. The new one is pretty much acoustical, isn't it?
JG. Well it's in and out. It's both really. There's a lot of stuff with acoustical guitars, but there's hardly anything that's purely. There's nothing in fact that's purely acoustical, nothing with just acoustic instruments.
Q. What prompted your change in style?
JG. The Change came with writing songs. See, like I've been more into writing songs in the last two-three years, two and a half years.
Q. Did you write most of the songs on the new album?
JG. Yea, me and Hunter did.
Q. Are you working on a new album right now?
JG. Yea, uh well the material is pretty well gotten together.
Q. You haven't recorded anything yet?
JG. No, not yet.
Q. What kind of stuff will it be?
JG. It'll be another album.
Q. I mean basically in the same bag as the last one?
JG. It'll be more like it than not like it, but it won't be, you know, exactly the same. But it'll have songs on it.
Q. What kind of relationship does the Dead have with Warner Bros.?
JG. It's pretty good, our relationship with them, it's pretty good, now.
Q. How much freedom do you have when you do an album?
JG. We have complete, absolute, total freedom.
Q. Does the company censor in any way?
JG. No, no.
Q. Where have you played in America and Europe?
JG. Wait, let me make a correction on that. Uncle Tom's Band [sic] is going to come out as a single and they're going to blur the 'God Damn' in it. There's 'God Damn' in it. They're going to blur it for AM radio play, right. Otherwise it won't get played anywhere, and I would rather have it played even if it's a little bit mutilated than have it not played.
Q. What ever came of that thing that happened with you and the, uh, Philadelphia radio station?
JG. The radio show that that happened on probably got kicked off the air, but you know the whole thing is completely... It was completely unnecessary. It was just a...it was a...a mistake, you know, I mean it's not even like I had anything to say in that particular interview, and it was like...it all happened in my hotel room you know, and uh...it was just a rap, just a rap.
CONLAN: Like you were just kind of rambling on and that's your language...
JG. Exactly... I was just talking, I was just simply rapping man, like anybody you know, and...their normal procedure would have been to go thru the tape and cut out everything that would be objectionable to the FCC and uh, but uh, in this particular case the guy felt...he didn't want to do it or something...for some reason he felt that like he didn't want to destroy the continuity or something for some reason and so he didn't do it, and he played it raw over the radio, which you know...it's not like there was something really important happening in that tape, so in that sense it's kind of foolish.
Q. Is the Riders of the Purple Sage just sort of an offshoot of the Dead?
JG. Well it's a band in its own right. I mean it's a band that, it's a good band you know, I like it, I really enjoy the music. I think Marmaduke writes really good songs.
Q. Why did you form the New Riders of the Purple Sage?
JG. I didn't form it. I got my pedal steel and the best place for me to learn to play anything is to start playing with somebody, and Marmaduke was singing down in a little club in the Peninsula, and I'd take my pedal steel down and play with them on Wednesday nights, and we did that for a month or so. Couple of months, and then you know, like a couple of more months later we started, it just started working out, it started working out so it was easy.
Q: Is that sort of the same thing as Micky Heart and the Heartbeats? [sic]
JG. No, Micky Heart and the Heartbeats is me and Micky and Phil.
Q. Is there going to be an album by the Riders of the Purple Sage?
JG. Eventually they'll get a contract, yea from somebody.
Q. Do you think it will be someone else besides Warner Bros.?
JG. Maybe. See, it's not for me to decide. I'm not the leader of the band, I'm only the pedal steel player.
Q. Who is the leader?
JG. Marmaduke.
Q. But like it seems to me that it's always billed as you and the New Riders of the Purple Sage.
JG. That's because everybody knows my name, but you know it doesn't have anything to do with it.
Q How long have you been playing the pedal steel guitar?
JG. Um, about a year, a little over a year, a year and 2 or 3 months.
Q. What made you decide to learn how to play it?
JG. I like it, I like the way it sounds.
Q. Who had you heard playing it?
JG. Um, you know I've been hearing it on country and western records for years.
Q. Where have you played in Europe and England?
JG. We've only played in England, and that was in Newcastle.
Q. Is it different playing there than playing in the U.S.?
JG. Yea, all foreigners. It was very similar. It was hard to see them, the stage which was a mile high.
Q. What's Sam Cutler's position now?
JG. Sam Cutler's our road manager.
Q. Has Tom Constantine left the group?
JG. Con-stan-tin, Con-stan-tin, Con...stan...tin.
Q. Con-stan-tin?
JG. Yea.
Q. Well however you pronounce, he has left the group?
JG. Well, we still see him. He isn't playing with us or anything.
Q. The scene in the San Francisco hip community has changed considerably since you made it as a group, I wondered, how does it feel to play the Fillmore now as it did to play in say 1966 when you were just beginning to make it?
JG. Well, remember last night? You know how last night was? Were you guys at that show last night?
Q. No.
JG. Over in Berkeley. You weren't? Well, that was a pretty good example of how it was three or four years ago. And any weekend at the Fillmore is how it is now. But I couldn't possibly tell you, I couldn't explain it.
Q. What were the people like then?
JG. Crazier, it used to be crazier, it used to be a lot more fun. It used to be less crowded.
Q. Are you planning any more of those Speedway Meadows things?
JG. If a good opportunity comes up, yea, we're always game for something like that. If a good opportunity comes up and [line missing]
Q. Did you play at Monterey?
JG. Yes.
Q. How would you compare that to Woodstock?
JG. Oh, completely different... Monterey was like the transition where the old time jazz festival and stuff like that started to become like something new. There was a lot less people and it was a lot more organized.
TOBY: Woodstock was really unorganized?
JG. Well there was no way, there's no way you can organize 300,000 people.
Q. Why didn't the Dead play at Altamont, I know you were influential in planning that.
JG. Well we got there late. We got there in bits and pieces.
Q. I thought it was because of all the violence?
JG. Well that too. You know, I mean we didn't really enjoy the idea of playing once we got there and saw what an incredible melee it was.
Q. Are there any possible free concerts with you or with you and the Airplane?
JG. Uh, coming up on this coast you mean?
Q. Yea.
JG. No, but maybe the east coast.
Q. In Central Park?
JG. Uh, not Central Park. See, we don't plan on those things. Like in advance or anything like that. I mean, if a thing comes up and all of us in the band, it's there to do and we have the resources right on hand to do it and everybody feels like it, I mean everybody, the guy who's going to get the truck is going to get the truck, and everything holds together like that, then we do it see, but like to plan it, except in some cases, is not too groovy.
Q. Do you enjoy playing when it's a free thing or at regular concerts?
JG. I like to play, pretty much, yea.
Q. Is there any particular place that you really like to play most?
JG. No, I don't have any preference.
Q. About two years ago I read, Ralph Gleason wrote, that you were working on a set of songs with a certain unnamed poet. What ever happened to that?
JG. Well we are still working on it.
Q. Who's the poet?
JG. Hunter.
Q. You know Ken Kesey, don't you?
JG. Yea, I met him.
Q. I was wondering if you knew him very well, or what your relationship with him has been, what you think of him.
JG. I like him, he comes around.
Q. Have you had any good experiences with him!
JG. Sure, lots of them.
Q. Would you want to tell us about any of them?
JG. No, I can't remember any of them. I mean it's not like that you know, I mean I'm not into, I don't have any memoirs or anything like that, or even particularly funny anecdotes, or at least I'd rather not use that for my remaining two minutes with anecdotes.
Q. How long have you been playing regular guitar?
JG. Regular guitar? Acoustical guitar? What kind of guitar?
Q. Well, acoustical and electric guitar?
JG. I started with electric guitar and when I was 15 I started with electric guitar, and then uh, a few years later I got into acoustic guitar and went into finger picking, and then I played five string banjo for a whole long time and, that was bluegrass music, country music.
Q. What basically was your musical experiences before you formed this band?
JG. Well, as I said I started with electric rock and roll guitar, went into folk music, and blues, old time blues.
Q. Who have you been influenced by in your guitar playing?
JG. Oh, a lot of people, really a lot, old records, records from the twenties and thirties.
Q. What kinds of records do you listen to now?
JG. Anything, pretty nearly.
Q. How long have you known the other members of the band?
JG. Years, it's been years, I've known Phil now for I guess about, nearly ten years, I've known them all for a pretty long time.
Q. Who is your current manager?
JG. John Macentier. [sic]
Q. How long have you had him as manager?
JG. Well, he's been working with us for about two or three years now, ever since we had the Carousel Ballroom.
Q. What did you think of the so called "revolutionary movement?"
JG. I don't know, I'm in the middle of it, I feel all of it, all the different aspects of it. I just see it as a real slow revolution. Real fuckin' slow, man.
Q. Are you very political?
JG. No.
Q. Do you agree with some of the people that rock music is a manifestation of revolution?
JG. Um. It isn't that to me, but I could see that someone could think it is, yea. I agree that there are people that say that, yea. Well I think that the whole thing about what revolutions are is all completely different. I mean the unfortunate thing about the revolution that's going on now is that there's a lot of people that are still stickin' to like an old line revolutionary tack. Which has been shown to be a miserable failure, and it's like, I think that the revolution that's going to make some sort of dent or some change, is already over, it's already happened in principle and the waves of it are now moving away from ground zero at the rate of about, you know, a mile every four years (chuckled) or something like that. You know it's going real slow but eventually the whole world will be a different place. As a result of things that have already happened. It's already gone, it's already past, and the rest of it is like telling everybody who missed it that it's already happened. A friend of mine says that it's a cleanup action. Mop up action. And I'm inclined to agree with that.

(from the first issue of Hard Road magazine, July 20 1970)

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com

See also http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/06/june-21-1970-pauley-ballroom-uc.html for a look at the 6/21/70 show.

July 8, 1970: Mississippi River Festival, Edwardsville IL

LIVELY 8,500 VISIT GRATEFUL DEAD

EDWARDSVILLE - The Grateful Dead, a California-based "Acid-Rock" group, drew a crowd of 8,500 young persons Wednesday night to the Mississippi River Festival - the largest attendance thus far for the current season.
Backstage, young girls and long-haired men crowded around the group's equipment and moved spasmodically to the music. A very young, brown-haired girl in white bell-bottoms danced alone while patterns from the light-show played across her and the screen behind her.
The crowd, most of whom purchased the $2 lawn tickets, rushed into the Festival tent and occupied all available seats. Their progress was not blocked by any Festival ushers.
After a low-key start with folk songs and country based tunes, the Grateful Dead livened the concert with a 23-minute rendition of "Good Lovin" that included drum solos by two drummers playing simultaneously.
The show was late starting because of a delayed arrival by the music group, but the fans did not seem disappointed.
They cheered, applauded, whistled and used all other orderly means to show their enthusiasm for the show.
A light show complimented the music, throwing jerking, ballooning, unusual patterns along the walls and resembling, as one observer put it, an amoeba in ecstasy.
Backstage remained crowded throughout the show as members of the show mingled with SIU officials and various other young persons who crashed the gates.
In a trailer behind the Festival tent, a nurse treated various injuries of spectators who found their way back to the show.
"Nothing serious," she told a Telegraph reporter. "Mostly bruises from falling down or falling over things. Just things like that."
The crowd was almost exclusively young. Long-hair and bears, mini-and-micro skirts, bell-bottomed slacks and denim shorts, and the "braless look" were the most evident fashions.
A blond-haired girl in white formal dress walked barefooted through the crowd. An occasional firecracker interrupted the sounds of the show.
Before the show, several young girls came to the stage area and asked for autographs. They were told to wait until after the show.
The Grateful Dead, formed in California in 1965, first became famous through "underground" music and the hip colonies of the West Coast. Even today, their music is played mostly on "progressive rock" stations. They limit their recording mostly to albums and prefer playing live concerts.
The "Dead" are considered somewhat of an oddity among musical groups because they have managed to stay together for six years. They describe their music as an effort to find "a new musical form." They don't know what it is, but they say they are determined to find it.
The Wednesday night concert was the first true rock concert this year at the Festival. The next non-symphony concert will feature jazz attraction Cannonball Adderly at 8:30 p.m. Friday night.
Henry Mancini, noted composer and orchestra leader, will appear Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. Lawn tickets are still available, although tent seats are sold out.

(by Doug Thompson, from the Alton Evening Telegraph, July 9 1970)

Thanks to Lost Live Dead


Alas, no tape!

See also:
https://deadsources.blogspot.com/2017/10/july-8-1970-mississippi-river-festival.html 

Jun 17, 2013

May 1970: Phil Lesh Interview

DEAD ON ARRIVAL
THE GRATEFUL DEAD FLY INTO BRITAIN

In Britain at any rate, the Grateful Dead almost became the victims of their own legend.
They were part of the paraphernalia of acidology, which included the Pranksters, the Family Dog, 1967, Owsley, Acid Tests, and Haight Street, and it was difficult to forget it.
Many thousands of miles away from their context, the first three Dead albums (Grateful Dead, Anthem Of The Sun and Aoxomoxoa) sounded lifeless. Was it all a myth? Were they really cardboard heroes, important only for their part in the extra-musical aspects of rock and roll history?
For me, the answer came with a track called 'Dark Star', which takes up the whole of a side of Live Dead, the fourth and most recently released of their albums in Britain.
This opened it all up, and explained every superlative ever heaped on the band's collective head. A masterpiece of electronic improvisational music, it was followed closely in quality by the rest of the album.
Phil Lesh, the Dead's bassist, arrived in London last week ahead of the rest of the band, for their gig at the Hollywood Festival. He agreed with my assessment of their recordings, and explained why it had happened.
"We simply haven't known how to make records," he told me, "and we figured the only way to make them was to learn ourselves, because we tried recording with a producer at the beginning and it was really hopeless. It all sounded completely flat.
"Anthem Of The Sun is the most satisfying of the first three to me, because we had the almost impossible task of making an album from very little material.
"The way it went very tight from the compositional standpoint was pleasing, and it's very coherent – I can still follow it all the way through. But still we all knew that it was 100 per cent noncommercial, and I certainly don't like the way it was mixed.
"I know we could have done it better, but we simply didn't know how. It was strange because we took stuff from three studio sessions and eight or nine gigs and put it all together without thinking of levels or equalising. We just did it from a musical standpoint, which is not enough.
"Anyway, it took us four albums and untold thousands of dollars to learn how to record ourselves. The music though was really good, and deserved a better fate.
"Even the live album, which I like, was put out six months after it was recorded, and even longer in Britain, and we do all the numbers completely differently now.
"The music is constantly evolving, progressing and regressing on many different levels.
"We have a new one out in the States, called Working Man's Dead, which I'm very pleased with... it has four pretty songs on one side which are most commercial. It's certainly the best of any of our studio work, and I hope it's a success because we want to stop touring.
"We've been on the road every weekend since October, and we really need a rest...if only to think up some new music."
Moving the Dead around the country is a massive operation, because they carry probably more equipment than any other band in the world. The fact that they use 17 microphones, and that their excess freight bill on the flight to London was 1,500 dollars, should demonstrate this slightly.
"When you're playing out of doors you really have to be super-loud, so I guess it came partly out of that. Nobody could do it at first, then as the bands got louder it became a question of actually hearing yourself on stage while you're playing.
"So monitors are our problem, and we've yet to solve the problem of monitoring the acoustic part of our performance, which is a fairly recent innovation. It's not set up to do that.
"But the sound is so much better out of doors. Everything is better...the air, the wind, the trees."
The acoustic music came about because most of the members of the band played acoustic instruments before the Dead began, and it's fun to play traditional acoustic numbers. On this part of the show they're joined by two people called Marmaduke and Dave Nelson, who are members of The New Riders of the Purple Sage, a band who have the same relationship to the Dead as Hot Tuna have to the Airplane. Guitarist Jerry Garcia and drummer Mickey Hart are in both bands, and The New Riders travel all over the States with the Dead, playing on their gigs.
They're old friends, and although they didn't come to Britain on this trip, Phil promises that they will accompany them next time round.
"We've really got a show now – all we need is Pigpen with three black chicks backing him up and we're there!" There has been a departure from the band recently. Organist Tom Constanten left, and no keyboards are now used, with the exception of Pigpen. Phil says: "He plays a little organ now and then, but we're trying to discourage him."
Such alterations in personnel are rare for the group, whose only other change since their inception five years ago has been the addition of a second drummer, Bill Kreutzmann. [sic]
"It really began for us in the summer of 1966, a year before the big Haight-Ashbury thing. It was like a home-town then...you could walk down the street and know everybody.
"Nobody believed it would ever go sour, because we gave it to the media everybody would go wild. I guess we didn't think far enough ahead – we thought it would just filter through and whoever wanted to know would come along.
"But in fact everybody who wanted to get themselves straight came to San Francisco, because the drugs were there, and the city government turned very uptight, whereas before the publicity they were pretty liberal.
"So everybody went back to their home towns until it got quiet again. Now it's happening everywhere...all the campuses are really beautiful, and they're turning on to the new life-style.
"The shootings at Kent State are what happens when the pigs get on the campuses, because the kids just aren't going to allow them in there.
"Rock and roll is what the kids think about absolute authority – get out of my life! Woodstock showed how people who think alike can live together, but it got ripped off. It was an expression of faith by everybody, those people were there to dig each other and themselves."

(by Richard Williams, from Melody Maker, May 30 1970)

May 24, 1970: Hollywood Festival, Britain

THE GRATEFUL DEAD: HOLLYWOOD FESTIVAL
DISGRACING THE GRATEFUL DEAD

You will have read the newspaper reports purporting to describe last weekend's musical activities. By and large, they've settled into a rut reminiscent of the old Aldermaston march reports. "OPEN-AIR POP FESTIVAL: NOT MANY DRUGGED": that's the tenor. Fringe entertainment, at these concerts, can be had by watching the activities of the popular press reporters. In between glum boozing in the press tent, they make forays into the crowd, looking to rustle up a naked fornication, an infuriated local inhabitant, or evidence of violence.
The real story from the festival last weekend at Finney Green, near Newcastle-under-Lyme, was: "BOTCHED PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEM RUINS GRATEFUL DEAD CONCERT".
The Grateful Dead was the only great West Coast rock band who had not previously visited Britain. They, above all other bands, depend on the musical dynamic generated in live performance. There is no such thing as a perfect or finished Grateful Dead number. The three guitarists – who all also sing – the two drummers, and the two keyboard men, produce such a permutation of sounds and are so keyed up with each other that they are bound to elaborate and enrich their themes, as if by centrifugal force. Compare their live version of 'St Stephen' on Live-Dead (Warners WS 1830) with that on Aoxomoxoa (Warners WS 1790). Tracks recorded in a studio inevitably sound like attempts to give a song a finished, definitive form. All three studio albums made by the Dead demonstrate their talent, but little of their electricity. 'Dark Star', a 23-minute track on Live-Dead, is their one recorded track which, I am assured, represents them well.
At Finney Lane the sound system they were given was cheapskate and amateur. The result was like giving a painter treacle and blotting paper instead of paint and canvas. Jerry Garcia, the leader and lead guitarist of the Dead, works by reaction. He depends musically on seizing the moment offered him by the rest of the band. At Finney Lane he couldn't hear them properly, and so was often helpless.
The result was a disgrace, both for the band and for the audience.

This month, for the weekend of June 27-28, a music festival is scheduled at Bath, on a 212-acre site at Shepton Mallet, which promises to be the best organised promotion yet set up in the open in Britain. The CBS package which recently toured Europe is booked: Johnny Winter, It's a Beautiful Day, Flock and Santana. Three of the British bands linked with John Mayall will appear: Mayall's own new band; Colisseum; and Keef Hartley. The only British band who can match the Grateful Dead, The Pink Floyd, will be there; and Fairport Convention, now a band of great, delicate talent. Those who like The Moody Blues and Led Zeppelin can see them too. Steppenwolf, notorious for the two tracks 'The Pusher' and 'Born to be Wild', are appearing; also Dr John (The Night Tripper).
Finally, five great West Coast groups are appearing at Bath: Canned Heat, the Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe, Frank Zappa with the (reconstituted) Mothers of Invention, and the Byrds (in their tenth reincarnation). One of the very few great West Coast bands not appearing are the Dead, who were prevented by the Musicians' Union.
You can get tickets from The Bath Festival, Linley House, 1 Pierrepoint Street, Bath. Travel and information sheets will be sent with the tickets, which will cost 50s. There will be no press enclosure, which will be a blessing, except for me. Two hundred and fifty thousand people are expected, more may well come. There will be a round-the-clock catering service; lavatories are promised. And the sound system had better be good.

(by Geoffrey Cannon, from the Guardian, May 29 1970)

See also http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/07/may-24-1970-hollywood-festival-england.html for other reviews.

Jun 13, 2013

May 10, 1970: Atlanta Sports Arena

If you were one of the few people who wasn't at the Sports Arena Sunday afternoon for the Grateful Dead concert, you've probably heard by now just what went down. Frankly, this was one of the greatest musical/sensual experiences the Atlanta hip community has ever had, rivalled only by another Dead offering in Piedmont Park after last year's Atlanta pop festival. Except that this year's big blow-out had more to do with where we are at now.
Imagine it: THE HAMPTON GREASE BAND, forever associated with Atlanta/Piedmont Park/Twelfth Gate/Sports Arena/everywhere we have needed their weird, hilarious brand of heavy rock: THE GRATEFUL DEAD, the West Coast Rock band most closely associated with the spirit of COMMUNITY, a band that has most consistently served the needs of the people and helped to raise their political and sensual consciousness, evoker of high-powered acid and swirling colors and hair, good times and free music in the streets and parks from the old days of the Haight (before HARD DRUGS and media-induced EGO TRIPPING), come like Pied Pipers to our own Piedmont Park to spread the word of what community can mean, back again but this time with another Rock group to tie together the experiences of West and South - THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, the folks who took a lot of the hype and bullshit out of "white blues" and put a lot of their own grace and dignity and soul into the music, more in love with Atlanta than ever after successful excursions into Fillmore territory, East and West, after a beautiful album of some of their best of last year (a new one waits around the corner and it'll be better, just you watch), back in Atlanta for an unannounced jam with the Dead...
And who here in Atlanta will ever be the same? What we felt (and what other sense could you invoke to turn people on to the event?), inside and out, head and body, was the power and beauty of the many strains of our own community coming together, after another year of paying dues and fucking up, coming together in a few precious, explosive hours of what, for want of a better term, we will call Ecstasy!
SOME OF THE NICEST THINGS OF ALL:
*A big crowd - most of us back together again after a series of bummers
*No chairs on the dance floor
*No reserved seats
*Pigs that you could count on the fingers of one hand and still have some fingers left
*Total absence of uptightness and Atlanta paranoia
*Down home, sweaty, funky, sleazy, good ole Atlanta Sports Arena where nobody gets busted
*Announcement by Ed Shane that the Allman Brothers were present and would jam with the Grateful Dead
*Outasight stage built by community people for the Community Benefit
*Community staffed stage crew
*New material by the Hampton Grease Band, including more trumpet than usual, and probably the strangest setting for "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey" we can imagine
*"Evans," as usual, bringing down the house - Jerry and Holbrook (drums and bass guitar) leading the group in a building Spanish progression while Hampton shouts "Evans! Evans! Evans!"
*Jerry Fields doing some fine singing
*The Allman Brothers lending their equipment to replace the Dead equipment left behind in Boston by the airline
*Dope and more dope and very good dope, too
*Sam Cutler, former stage manager for the Rolling Stones (he is one of the individuals that the Stones and everybody else involved in the Altamont disaster, including you and me, are singling out to put the blame on instead of recognizing what Capitalism and Ego-tripping can do to crush the world we are trying to build), serving as stage manager for the Dead
*Murray Silver, turned on to Kent State, and hinting that this "may be my last concert," shouting "Power to the People!"
*ACLU lawyers and freaks playing pickupsticks on the floor during breaks
*Instant replay of the Atlanta International Frisbee Contest
*Red fists on strike T-shirts worn by Sam Cutler and Dead stage crew
*The music of the Grateful Dead
*Vibrations that kept building and building until we moved on up to a whole other level
*Jerry Garcia's twanging, singing guitar, and the look on his face, and on the faces of the rest of the Dead as total communication between music and people was established
*"Mama Tried" by Merle Haggard, one of the first straight C&W songs to be picked up on by Rocklovers
*The first appearances on stage of Duane, Greg, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks
*The first soaring blue notes played by Duane Allman - and what it did to the crowd; the duo riffs he played with Garcia and how the jam turned on the musicians participating in it
*Murray Silver in the crowd, wearing on his head a wreath of green, looking like a Bacchus figure from the Satyricon
*An incredible, unbelievable, destroying Southern hymn played by The Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band: "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" Most accurate theme of what was happening
*Brief burst of terror at the very end of the music as a firecracker exploded with an incredibly loud BAM!, a bright flash, and a cloud of smoke - a perfect audile exclamation mark for this most profound musical/community statement at the Sports Arena

(by Miller Francis Jr, from the Great Speckled Bird, May 18 1970)

See http://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/GSB/id/1878/rec/98 courtesy of Georgia State University Library

Thanks to http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2011/03/gd19700510-sunday-may-10-1970-atlanta.html - see for more scans & info

* * *

David Powell: "I don't know if it was recorded, but my favorite version of "Dark Star" was one I saw the Dead perform live in Atlanta on Sunday, May 10, 1970 at the small Sports Arena. It was memorable because Duane Allman sat in & played second lead with Jerry. The Allman Brothers had driven up from Macon to lend the Dead some equipment that day and later sat in to play an encore set with the Dead. The opening act was Atlanta's Hampton Grease Band. As I recall, the Allman Brothers did not play a set by themselves, but sat in & played with the Dead as an encore set. That $3.00 ticket price was one of the best concert bargains I've ever enjoyed! ...Glenn Phillips, one of the guitarists in the Hampton Grease Band, the opening act for that memorable Dead concert, later recorded a version of "Dark Star" with Henry Kaiser."
http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/favorite-dark-star.132532/page-5

Alas, no tape!

Jun 10, 2013

August 20, 1969: Band Interview

A FEW WORDS WITH THE GRATEFUL DEAD

The Grateful Dead dropped into Seattle for a gig at the Aquatheatre last week. There's not a lot to be said about the gig. Conditions were terrible, the Dead weren't at their best, and the audience was largely responsive but uncomprehending.
The Dead's lack of interest in commercial hype, their rare appearances here, and the failure of their recordings to transmit their special qualities all have contributed to a lack of understanding of their music.
This is unfortunate, because, in my opinion anyway, the Dead are one of the most important bands in the US. From the beginning they have refused to recognize any limitations in their lives, their relationship with the audience, their music; they are exploring uncharted territory and bringing back maps. We can ignore the messages, and God knows the Dead don't make it easy to understand: but if we do ignore them, it will be our loss.
The last issue of Rolling Stone contains the best article yet about the Dead. I strongly urge anyone interested in music and how music is made to read it. The fragments of an interview that follow can only be supplementary to the Stone's fine article. We hope to publish in the near future an article which goes into the most neglected and most important aspect of the Dead: how their music works, how it differs from the current norm, and the new directions in which it points.
In the following transcription, the initials B and R refer to Burl Barer and Roger Downey, "interviewers"; G for Jerry Garcia, L for Phil Lesh, W for Bob Weir. D denotes contributions from an ever-shifting assembly of "Dead".

INTRODUCTION

B: Say, if you were going to die sometime during your performance at the Aquatheatre this evening, you know, what would be...
G: The reason? ...your last recorded statements before you went over to the other side?
W: See you later.
G: Well, it's been fun.
L: Is this a threat?
G: What do you know that we don't know? You're playing on our paranoia, which is the most sensitive...
B: I'm sorry...
G: ...since our recent assassination attempt.
B: Some try to assassinate you? Or is that merely...
W: You should have been there.
G: It's in jest, of course...but it was in jest, too...chew on this a while, bub...drink hot lead...
L: Happens all the time...
B: Oh?
L: Yeh, you walk out of your door and there's some guy ready to throw down on you.
D: Right...
L: It's all in good fun, Wild West and all...
G: Besides, it ALWAYS seems like "this is it"...
D: Yeh, that boiling oil's the thing that gets to me though...
L: Well, I mean, if you're going to lay siege to somebody, then you got to expect to get boiled...
D: That's right.
L: ...in oil...
D: Right...
L: ...at least...
D: yeh...
L: ...conservatively...
B: well...
L: ...and be delighted it wasn't lead. Boiling lead's very stiff...right...difficult to explain...
B: That'd be pretty heavy.
G: What is it about dying?
B: Without having personally experienced the phenomenon, I can't exactly give you an objective viewpoint.
G: Far out.
L: I've heard a lot about it though.

WILD WEST

B: What happened to the Wild West thing?
D: It fell into the sea.
G: I really don't know...the whole Wild West thing...it seems like somebody started it, thinking that just by starting it would automatically create enough interest to do it; but they started it a long time ago, like in April they started thinking about it I guess, and the first thing they started doing was organizing it...seemingly...but they didn't really have any support from anybody, and they were expecting everybody to do it for nothing...which is all well and good, but everybody who does stuff for nothing in San Francisco is used to just going and doing it and not making a big production of it. And then they were going to have one paid event, the Kezar Stadium stuff, and like the Third World people and all that got uptight because all of a sudden there was rip off rumors like the Monterey Festival..."yeah, they always say they're going to raise money for the community, but it always goes into somebody's pocket"...and the Musician's Union was up tight about it, because there was getting to be so much controversy and bullshit...
D: Threats of violence...
G: ...and finally they just fell apart because there wasn't any real support for it, you know, in any particular camp. It was like organizers got together to organize something, but they did it without any of the people who would actually have been doing it... Well, the people who were into that, a lot of the people had good intentions, and others of the people just didn't know where it was at, like...Barry Olivier is a guy who doesn't even live in San Francisco, has never really had anything to do with the San Francisco scene, and his whole trip has been putting on HIGHLY ORGANIZED folk music festivals over in Berkeley, which in any case was nothing like what the Wild West could have been.
B: Who was responsible for the choice of Barry Olivier as the organizer?
G: I really don't know, I don't know what responsibility there was because they never really let much word out about who it was that was doing it.
* * *
...but out of the ashes of that there seem to be a couple of things rising...none of which I want to talk about...because they're all in that stage of maybe something'll happen and maybe something won't...at this point it's hard to tell...and besides, anybody in San Francisco who's into music, or any of the arts, is pretty paranoid about business and organization trips, just because everybody has been so thoroughly fucked.

WOODSTOCK

G: Woodstock was no disaster.
W: Well, Woodstock was absolutely no disaster. Everybody was going through a little bit of...
G: Heavy changes...
W: ...hardships, like it was...some people were thirsty, but you could get water, like it was raining all the time...
L: Well, how does it feel to be a blood cell, that's the way each one of those people must have felt.
W: And anybody that was going through any sort of deprivation was doing it because he wanted to, because he wanted to hear the music, and as soon as the music was over they just packed up and split. And there was no disaster.
G: Anybody who was there that could do anything had to do it sometime during the week-end, even if they were spectators, everybody at least pulled something out of the ditch, or gave something to somebody else, you just had to.
B: They were selling water at ten cents a glass...
ALL: No, bullshit, they weren't, etc.
G: The papers were talking about things like that because they were chickenshit to go in, so they talked about the outside of it. The regular news media didn't even get in.
Mostly people were really turned on because everybody was so cool...like flying over it in a helicopter you could see these huge camping areas right next to some farmer's cornfield, and you wouldn't see all the corn trampled or anything.
W: The parting words I heard at Woodstock were, "See you in Tokyo in 1970, sir...see you in Japan."
G: It's not Tokyo, it's Osaka. Osaka's having the World's Fair, and San Francisco's Osaka's Sister City, and it's going to be the only city in the world that's going to be represented there...
L: And they're going to have a whole Pavilion there that's going to be a rock'n'roll scene at night.
W: They're trying to expand that into another enormous Pop festival.
R: One thing, they're used to handling large crowds of people...
G: I mean that's what Japan is...
W: The pressure point of civilization.

INTERLUDE

B: Have you guys been to court recently?
G: No, not lately...
D: We avoid it if possible.
L: Some of our people go to court now and then...just to keep their hand in.
G: You can do it when you finally run out of stuff to do...let the warrants catch up.
D: Oh yes, warrants...
L: You carry 'em in your pocket.
D: So when the man stops you, you can show him my warrant...I'm official.

MONEY

R: When people ask you the standard question about money, do you have a standard answer, like we're deeply in debt and trying to get out?
G: Yeh, that's essentially it.
W: Essentially.
L: Right.
G: That's the truth.
L: That's the truth, that's not the answer we give.
R: How do you think it happened?
W: You tell us?
G: Well, a variety of things, first of all, we've never made much money, period. Second of all, we spend money outrageously, you know, on equipment and one thing and another...
D: We support lots of people...
D: Right, right.
R: That last album was kind of frightening...
W: Oh, that wasn't HALF...
G: Yeh, that's only a few, that's only who was there...
W: ...Whoever didn't have something else important to do...
G: If we had a true collection of all the people who are in one way or another involved with us in one way or another, man, forget it...
W: We'd have another Woodstock.
G: Damn near.
R: Do record companies use the fact that musicians need an awful lot of money, for equipment and so forth, to tie the groups down?
L: AH-HAH!
G: Record companies aren't usually that devious, and since they're in kind of an open slave market, they don't have to indenture anybody, because any musician is indentured to the music business any fucking way, if he expects to make a living at it.
D: The basic contract that the record company hands you before you start haggling over all the terms and words and stuff does just that, "we'll give you all sorts of bread to buy equipment with, fellas, course...we're not really giving it to you..."
L: "You're giving it to us..."
G: "...it's really coming out of your royalties." You see, that's not made public, a lot of times advances and recording costs are coming right out of your royalties, and that's one of the facts that you never see publicized...little music business fact. So the reality of it is that musicians just don't make no fucking money. Unless they're in the category of being extremely big in the business.
The thing about it is, man, that if you're a musician...put yourself in this position: say you're in a band, music is the thing you like to do. All of a sudden you're in the music business, and you discover that, in addition to music, if you want it to go out as a total trip, you have to start thinking about publicity, about packaging, all that shit, and all of a sudden you're not playing for music, you don't have much time for it.
B: You're being an ad man.
G: Yeh, so like with us, we just stopped fucking with it, because we're not better at it than anybody else. And really all of it's bullshit anyway, so why bother?
It's a weird situation. But I was talking to John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers, who travels around the country a lot and talks to a lot of different musicians in a lot of different scenes, like country and western, all the folk musicians, and he says that he's heard, like in the last three or four months, lots and lots of musicians talking up getting together some kind of recording company that would be fair to musicians, that would be musician-owned.

UNION

D: It seems like the Union would...
G: The Union doesn't have anything to do with musicians.
D: The Union's run by the Union guys.
R: But if the Union has bagged out on what it originally started to do, why not start a new one?
G: Somebody tried it about ten years ago, a jazz musicians' union, but it just petered out after a while because it didn't have any real support, and the AFM is a colossally powerful organization. In a lot of the parts of the country it's like...
D: Goons.
G: Mafia, goons, it's a goon trip.
L: In Chicago for sure.
D: They'll come and commandeer your axe right on the gig.
L: ...break your arms...
D: ...take you in the alley and break your knuckles, too.
G: They dig that kind of shit.
D: That's 1969.
R: But, look, that's ten years ago and that's a jazz...
G: But it needs an enormous output of energy to get that kind of shit together, see what I mean, and like, I myself would rather play music.
W: If anybody [who] has a lot of energy and a lot of capabilities is interested in doing that...
D: Please do.
L: Fly to San Francisco, that's a good place to start.
D: We beg of you.
R: It would have to be somebody who was really into the organizational shit, but who...
G: Who has nothing to gain, man. It's weird for musicians, and it's getting weirder, because, if you play for money, the revolutionary side of things will bad-rap you for that. But nobody's ever willing to support the musicians, or the arts, ever, even so.

MUSIC

R: Has anybody ever said, to the revolutionaries, when they say "The music belongs to the people"...
G: What are you going to do for instruments?
R: ...that it doesn't, the music belongs to me, I'm the one who's playing it. And if I want to give it away...well, I DO give it away...
G: Well, there ought to be some sort of exchange, it seems to me worthwhile to support a cat who's doing something that's a trip, because trips are the things that keep you going, really, it's one of the necessities of life, and if people aren't willing to make some sort of energy exchange, in a symbolic form like money, or some other way, then they're not willing to have music, they're deciding to relinquish music as one of the necessities.
W: The musicians are putting out an enormous amount of energy just in order to get it out, and in order to keep it up they need energy coming in.
R: So this "music belongs to the people" trip...
G: The question is, who do the musicians belong to?
R: ...it's not so much the audience being exploited.
G: They're both being exploited, the audience and the musicians.
R: ...but one of them is the origin of all the energy the others are feeding on.
W: He's a transformer.
G: And to become a transformer, there's things you require, like discipline. It's work; there's dues you have to pay to become a musician. So it becomes an expense of the people who dig music. I don't think that costs very much, because musicians aren't really asking for a fuck of a lot.
R: When you think about the people musicians ARE supporting, like Columbia Records, when you think of how much of your energy has turned into like buildings and secretaries and PR men; it seems like you're dragging an awful lot of people along behind you.
G: We'd be dragging them along on another level anyway, that seems to be one of the things that goes along with it.
R: Well, if you've got the fire, a lot of people are going to come and sit around it, there's nothing you can do about that.
G: But everybody can learn how to feed it. I think that's what everybody should learn. The whole level of music should go up some, so that people can give it more...
W: But trying to talk the president of Columbia Records...
L: Or the leader of the Motherfuckers...
G: Yeh...
R: But if the Motherfuckers were to go after the president of Columbia...it isn't the musicians who're exploiting the audience...
G: Musicians don't care that much. It's work to fleece the masses, man.
L: An art in itself.

(from Helix magazine, August 28 1969)

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com

For an overview of the planned Wild West Festival, see:
http://rockprosopography101.blogspot.com/2010/02/august-22-23-24-1969-fillmore.html

August 20, 1969: Aqua Theater, Seattle

NO SHOW: UNGRATEFUL CLAMOR DIDN'T RAISE THE DEAD

Those who paid $3.50 to see the Grateful Dead rock group at the Green Lake Aqua Theater last night got as much satisfaction for their money as the old-timers who bought snake oil to cure cancer.
It's not that the Dead didn't play well, it's just that they didn't play. Nor did the other two groups booked, Sanpaku and The New Riders of the Purple Sage.
Two hours after the 6 p.m. opening time, a youth told the weary, drizzle-soaked crowd the gig was off. He gave no explanation. Today Craig Porter of Jasmine Productions in Portland said the show was canceled because of rain.
Porter said on the phone, "Like, it didn't come off last night, and like, it will tonight. You don't need any explanation."
He said something about the musicians' equipment missing two flights out of San Francisco. That may be. But planning is all it takes. Somebody just didn't care.
From 6 to 7 p.m. last night, musicians assembled their amplification equipment on stage, sawed wood to place under the many huge speakers, fooled with the p.a. system, and tore down a sagging, ripped sheet that apparently had been intended as a backdrop.
The near-capacity crowd milled about, trying to amuse itself. Someone was blowing bubbles. Another played a harmonica. At 7 p.m. someone yelled, "Are ya gonna play, or not?" The cry was taken up by the audience. Some cherry bombs exploded in the water.
Finally some rain fell - a few drops proved the highlight of the evening. Then the rain increased toward 8 p.m.
At last people were told to come back the next night (tonight). They could get rain checks at the gate or have their $3.50 refunded. So after they had waited two hours for the show, they had to wait in line up to another half hour to get out.
The concert tonight is set for seven. If there is a concert.

(by Carole Beers, from the Seattle Times, August 21 1969)

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com

After the canceled show on August 20, the Dead went to play at the El Roach biker bar:
http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2009/12/august-20-1969-unnnamed-bar-west-15th.html
http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/01/august-20-1969-roach-seattle-wa-updated.html

The Dead did play on August 21:
http://archive.org/details/gd69-08-21.sbd.cotsman.13850.sbeok.shnf
http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/01/august-21-1969-aqua-theatre-seattle-wa.html

Jun 9, 2013

May 2, 1969: Winterland

A REUNION AT WINTERLAND

Eric Burdon may talk about these "warm San Francisco nights," I thought as I drove in the high wind across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, but it sure ain't warm very often.
In the city, the wind blew scraps of paper along the Geary Street curb as we drove past the old Fillmore Auditorium at Fillmore and Geary where so much of it happened, and the Geary Temple alongside it, where Janis had rehearsed her band.
Here we are four years after it all began and it was still the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, and the prospect of both of them on the same bill had the kind of special edge to it that it always had. It was tradition now that the Dead and the Airplane inevitably played well together, and you knew when those two bands came out that all the original people, Haight Street refugees bedded down now in campers and in communes in Marin and Mt. Shasta and Santa Cruz and Sonoma, would, somehow, show up.
No parking alongside Winterland, natch. Just a line of cars we got caught in. A sedan stopped in front of us and out of it jumped Grace Slick, hair flying, to snatch the CLOSED sign from the entrance to the underground Winterland garage. Before she got back into the car, another sedan cut across traffic lanes to follow her. I blew my horn and then saw Jack Casady, gnome-like, bending over the steering wheel oblivious to me or anybody else, intent on making that turn, man! Grace got back into her car, drove down the ramp and Casady followed.
Too much! I though. Superstars in San Francisco just like anybody else. They're not superstars, though, I thought again. They're the Airplane and all the Airplane is is part of San Francisco, and even in other cities they say they don't get torn apart by the crowds and hassled like the superstars do.
I drove on past the ramp and onto the parking lot next door. As I was leaving Marty Balin drove up in a VW bus looking happy and wearing what will become a full beard if he lets it alone. It's halfway there now, at the place that gives him that two-weeks-vacation-in-Yosemite look.
We walked down the street to the front of Winterland past the usual panhandlers chanting the sacred chants of the street people - "Gotanysparechange!" "Sparechange!" "Sparechange!" "Gotadime?" and the rest. A tall man dripping buckskin fringe and tingling all over from bells was cavorting in the middle of the sidewalk, his beard bristling like some old color print of a devil's disciple as he hit on everybody who came along.
At the door the usual wrangle between a hippie and a rent-a-cop was going on. Nobody pays any attention any more. Big John was taking tickets, his solid black face immobile as he stared straight ahead and stuck out his big hands for the tickets. Inside the lobby was jammed and the rent-a-cops were busy trying to keep the kids moving. "Can't stand here! All right, move on!" It sounded like the Saturday night street scene downtown.

Winterland is an old building, a big three-story shell that occupies half a block and is made of concrete and steel and used to be the home of the Ice Follies. Hundreds of prize fights have been held there, and it was the place where Ken Kesey was going to have a dance on Halloween, and then mine the place with a lot of acid depth charges and delayed action bombs so that the following night, when Governor Pat Brown, Sammy Davis, Jr., and the rest of the big political show came in, they would get blasted out of their minds. Turn on the world! It didn't happen, of course, but that's another story.
Entering the ramp to go to the regular floor of the Winterland arena you have to pass through a concrete chute from the lobby to the arena. You emerge at the back of the arena, a series of rows of theater type seats on your level leading down to the dance floor (basketball court or whatever it is) with the actual stage way down on the right hand side near the end of the hall. Above the stage is a huge screen in sections which run for almost 100 feet hanging from the balcony behind the bandstand. At the far end the two-story curtains block off the dressing room area. The light show uses all the screen and the curtains sometimes, too.
The bandstand looks like an airplane carrier with huge theater type speakers at each end, like a pilot's house and some kind of a command post. It's very war-like in silhouette. The hall is dark. There are no lights except in the lobby and from the light show and over the exit doors.
On the floor in front of the bandstand - a floor bigger than a basketball court, really; a floor big enough for an indoor track almost - the audience was sitting, jammed so tight together that if one of them left to make the run to the head he might never be able to get back. Every seat downstairs was taken, except those directly behind the bandstand where you could hear but not see. The aisles were packed with people and a handful of rent-a-cops were struggling to keep a lane open in a kind of ritual recognition of the natural laws of fire hazard.
There were semi-comic aspects to it. The rent-a-cops in the lobby were sending the incoming patrons through the chute to the main floor of the arena where the other rent-a-cops were sending them back out. Finally, the crowd began to sift slowly up the narrow stairs to the balcony. Winterland's balcony is like the cliffs at Acapulco, the Palisades or the down-grade on a roller coaster. You gotta be able to stand heights. I mean straight life heights. If you are already high, well, that's another story, too. But stone sober, you are high in the air and the view is almost straight down.
In the front rows opposite the bandstand and the screen, Glenn McKay and the light show people were zipping back and forth behind their battery of equipment like a group of mad scientists wiring up the manufactured man to the stroboscopic device that would make him a living, breathing thing. I couldn't take it, so we went back down the stairs. "Man, one cat sends me in and that other pig sends me out!" one bearded longhaired youth was saying to another as they climbed up the stairs. "It's a bummer."
We tried downstairs again and I pulled rank and spoke magic words like "CBS," "NBC," Rolling Stone, San Francisco Chronicle. Nobody paid any attention. Finally one of the rent-a-cops who has been there a long time recognized me and let us through and we slowly made our way to the area behind the band where we could sit down.

All this while the Grateful Dead were playing one of those groovy kinds of things they do which, if you walk in on it, it is hard to tell just which one is being played. They have a tendency to get into an extended thing in the middle and, if it is the right tempo, to go on with it a long, long time - sometimes too long a time - and it all sounds the same. Groovy and all that. But the same.
Two young cats sat behind us as the tune ended. They were short haired, wearing telon zip windbreakers, and one of them said, "I just got the new Youngbloods album, White Elephant." "You mean Elephant Mountain," the one said, and then they discussed how good it was. Up and down the aisles guys walked zapping fluorescent yo-yos up and down. The Dead went into "Cold Rain and Snow."
The Dead ended their set; Jerry Garcia stalked through the crowd carrying his guitar and looking taller than he looks on stage, his thick, short black beard glowing in the light from the light-show projectors for a moment and more light seeping through his bushy hair.
The Airplane came on slowly. Grace, Marty, Paul, Jorma. Spencer got on stage and I never even saw him. Two guys stopped in front of us. "Got a joint?" One of them said, "I come here straight, man." A girl on crutches was picked up and carried to a seat by a thin guy in blue jeans. The Airplane did "It's No Secret" and "Other Side of This Life" and then Paul stepped forward and sang "Fat Angel" and somebody said "that's nostalgia now. Isn't it great?" And they ended the set. The audience gave them a lot of applause but there was no encore. There hadn't been one for the Dead either.

Then Mongo came on and the insinuating rhythms of his Afro-Latin music filled the hall. When he strikes the skin heads he gets a sharp sound that cuts through anything ("skin on skin" he calls it). His piano player sits high on the stool and kicks the foot pedal and the bass player sways with the beat and the timbales player keeps breaking sticks. They went through their repertoire and the dancers on the side were really wailing, a number of Mongo freaks having come in specially for his Winterland debut.
Winterland is about three times the size of Fillmore West, and when Bill Graham has attractions like the Airplane and the Dead he moves over to Winterland to accommodate the crowd.
Some of the dancers were really wild, the kind you don't see at rock dances ordinarily. They do that Latin thing which goes back to New York and Havana and which is wild but more formal, certainly, than the free-form hippie dance that is the standard for the rock bands.
The crowd really loved Mongo. Whap! Whap! he went on the conga drum and the band burst into "Watermelon Man" which is now his theme, the horns wailing a riff against the lead. Then he ended the set and they screamed for more. They kept shouting and clapping and he went back on and did a long encore variation on "Watermelon Man" and then left the stage. It was a huge success for him and it was his debut to that audience.

The Dead came back on, their tribal community flowing with them until, like some huge horde of lemmings, they covered the stage. There are more people on stage when the Dead play than ever got there to embrace Mick Jagger. Bill Graham, who had been dancing while Mongo played, was back on stage grooving to the Dead. Marty Balin and Grace Slick came out from behind the curtains and sat down in back of the band in the empty row of chairs. The rent-a-cop looked at them and didn't shine his ever-lovin' light on them at all! Several people climbed through the rope and over the chairs and at least two got on stage. A stage hand rousted them and the rent-a-cop frog-marched one of them on out of the hall. As soon as he split, the crowd filled the backstage area, some getting on stage or on the stage steps, and dozens of others camping down on the stairs. When he came back he was ten minutes clearing them all away.
Sunshine and several other little tow-headed kids were on stage, and the Dead’s chicks were dancing like hippie go-go girls. They did a long set, “Anthem of the Sun” and “Alligator” and “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” (the old Gary Davis classic) and the drum solos and cherry bomb explosions made it wild. A guy walked along the aisle selling the fluorescent yo-yo’s for a dollar. Sinking into the chair behind me a long-haired buckskin type sighed out “Ahhhhhhhhm so stoned!!” and a man in long white robes walked slowly through the strobe light raising his hands as it flickered over him. Some of the dancers stood in one place moving up and down and raising their arms. Rock Scully, the Dead’s manager, went zooming off into the crowd dancing. You could see his eyes shining twenty feet away.
The Dead ended the set but the crowd wouldn't let them leave and they had to play an encore. If there's a fault with this great band it's that they have not really expanded their repertoire for concerts. They keep changing the structure of the things they do, but they come up with relatively few new numbers. Pig Pen no longer plays the organ. Tom Constanten does that while Pig stands behind a conga drum, an incongruous Western dude who wandered down to Havana still togged out from the rodeo. Humphrey Bogart late show flicks have characters like that sitting around in the background in Caribbean saloons.
Jerry Garcia is really a remarkable musician. No one I can think of, with the possible exception in recent years of Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessel, has had such an individual sound in his guitar playing. Garcia is paradoxical. His sound is butter-soft and mellow but it cuts through. It is a question, I think, of where he pitches it. But you can always hear him. Phil Lesh's bass reminds me of Paul Desmond in one of those long dialogues with Brubeck or maybe Miles Davis in musical conversation with Tony Williams. Lesh and Garcia weave over, under, upside down through the blanket of bubbling feeling that the rest of the band creates, and Jerry's voice dominates the vocal sound of the band. It's getting better too, and when he does "Death Don't Have No Mercy" sometimes it becomes a truly impressive instrument.
The Dead did their encore and it was already two o’clock. Closing time. In California, night clubs, bars and dance halls close early. City laws and county laws and state laws form a network of restrictions, and the dance hall laws in Frisco say two A.M. and that's it. So Bill Graham went to the microphone and said, “It’s two A.M. and the law says we must close. You are all now at a private party!” And he locked the doors. There were several thousand people waiting and they screamed their approval just as willingly as they would have put him down for being a money grubber in another situation.

So the Airplane came on after the Dead’s set and their encore. And they did it. They really did it up! Got it on or whatever you want to say. I mean they played!
As they straggled to the stand (informality and a non-structured image has always been the Airplane's thing) I had the premonition they would have a good set. They started with "Other Side of This Life" and then went on and on, the crowd screaming and applauding and the pool of dancers on the side waving their arms in the strobe light like the bacchanale at the end of the world. Bill Thompson stood on stage - he's been with them from the beginning as a friend, road manager and now manager - transfixed. David Freiberg of the Quicksilver Messenger Service sat on a folding chair behind the speakers leaning forward watching the band.
Marty and Grace's voices went soaring out into the huge hall, coiling around one another, swelling and retreating, sliding up and down the scale, ringing out the notes and the sounds like they were two electric guitars soloing in a mad exchange. The night before I had seen Make Love in London, that pseudo-psychedelic flick with Pink Floyd which is only important for the interview with Mick, and I thought how ridiculous to try to put on film 6,000 miles away what it is like here. And then I saw the film cameramen again, from KQED-TV and Jerry Slick, Grace's husband, who is making a flick on the Airplane. They were crouching and creeping all over switching lights on and off to shoot the audience, their faces packed up to the lip of the stage, the arms reaching over it and waving.
Paul and Grace and Marty sang a song. I never did get the name, and they didn't remember the next day. But at one point the voices went into a long string of eighth notes, syllable by syllable, as they hammered out the words. "We could be together and tear down the walls...walk down the street and what do you hear? A revolution!" Marty sang. (It was "Paul's Revolution Song" I learned later. Words by Marty and tune by Paul.) Jorma's guitar snapped and snarled and then buzzed and rang out. Paul sang "In Time" and I thought how mellow and full his voice sounded, and the lines from "Pooneil" echoed through the hall. "Will the moon still shine in the sky, when I die...?" Grace and Paul did a country-ish song, "The Farm," written by Gary Blackman, like Thompson with them from the beginning, and Jorma did an incredible solo, with the wah-wah pedal and Jack Casady's bass working together like giant pistons in some science fiction flick pumping in perfect synch. Grace did "White Rabbit" and the crowd screamed and Grace's voice went out over them like a bird flying.
The crowd wouldn't stop when the band did. A guy walked down the aisle snapping his fingers and swaying. "The music's over" somebody said to him and he smiled and said "It'll start again." He was right, it did. They had to go back on, there was no other choice. Jorma started it, Spencer cracking behind him and both of them riding on Jack's bass like two surf boards on the crest. A voice from the balcony screamed "ooooooooooh!" in one of the split second silences.
Then suddenly it was over. Everybody stood there. I looked at my watch and it was four A.M. I couldn't believe it. Four A.M. and thousands still on the floor and wanting to stay. Casady came off stage smiling. "Sure was weird up there tonight," he said and added, "It's better'n playing in the basement!" Marty smiled and said, "It felt better up there tonight than it has in six months."

Three days later the FM radios began announcing that the Airplane and the Dead would play in the park in the afternoon free, and they did, sending out their sounds from giant speakers over the polo field where the great Be-In was held in January 1967 (not ten years ago as everybody seems to think!). Out in the sunlight the people looked happy and wild and strangely beautiful as they always do, and even though the wind blew the sound in puffs away from the speakers and made it hard to hear the bands unless you were right up close, it was a beautiful day and I decided that more than anything else what these bands have is a feeling in a truly spiritual way. They make you feel good.
As we left the park that evening and the bands were still playing, I thought of what a young man had said to me at four o'clock in the morning at Winterland three days before when it was all over. “Why can’t it be like this everywhere?” he said with tears – literally – in his eyes. I looked at him and said I wished I knew the answer.
Why not? Why not? Why not, indeed.

(by Ralph Gleason, from Rolling Stone, July 12 1969)