Feb 9, 2014

June 21, 1971: Herouville, France


[This article was translated from the French original. It is incomplete, missing the end. It reads a little strangely due to the imperfect translation; see the comments for more details. Corrections are welcome.] 


THE DANCE OF THE DEAD

Nobody could believe it. They even claimed that everyone would be there, except the Dead. Think about it! Eighteen people, four and a half tons of material, all have to come and return to San Francisco, curiously fitted for a festival!... No they are not crazy, the Americans. Not crazy, the people of the Grateful Dead. They do not travel for nothing. Next to thousands of dollars from the Fillmore, the free enthusiasm of Jean Bouquin would only make them smile gently... This is the kind of talk that circulated for a good week in the generally well-informed media.
I was happily inspired to take a ride in this fashionable car on Friday evening, at the time that a few thousand of you were sadly floundering in the mud of Auvers-sur-Oise. Very inspiring, too, thank you, to let my ears dangle and thus hear someone say that he had seen the Grateful Dead with his own eyes in the chateau of Michel Magne, the same afternoon. Curious, however, to see that the people he spoke to reacted so feebly, barely willing to express their interest by a raised eyebrow or comment. When we know that in this case these were French musicians, it is astonishing to see that not one made ​​any effort, not one (except Magic Heart and Tribe) went the forty kilometers that separated them from the Grateful Dead and the good and profitable lesson. Maybe they do not know the Dead, anyway? We are often surprised by the ignorance shown by pop musicians in matters of pop music... I must be a little naive cursing that anyone, knowing WHAT THE GRATEFUL DEAD IS, would hesitate one second to put down his scotch or hastily put on his pants to see this group, listen, try to understand why these quiet-looking characters became uncommon musicians. Try to understand why it is often said that, on stage, the Grateful Dead is the best band in the world.
People are curious...

Near the pool

It was the very first time we ran into a closed door in Michel Magne’s chateau. The first time, too, that the gendarmes were showing their credentials to visitors. I was amply welcomed, even so, having notified the master of the house of my arrival. The day before, it was raining; on that day, of course it was a great time. The sun played amusingly with the braids of their caps, perhaps this is why I did not recognize in these gendarmes the brothers of the cops who, by the tens of hundreds, crowd the sidewalks of the Saint Germain and Saint-Michel boulevards, every night, carabiners on the shoulders […] (imagine for a moment the Dead giving a concert in this area). All this has of course nothing to do in a review of pop music, and moreover, it is written daily in Le Figaro which, like us, told you: you have to see it to believe it, and you do not believe us, out there, who're reading these lines, who only come twice per year to the splendid Kapitale! End of parenthesis.
The gate closed, I had the impression a huge crowd was swarming the property; in fact, the few dozen longhairs were moving around in all directions so much they multiplied tenfold. The members of the Dead troupe, they were spotted from afar, but as for recognizing the musicians themselves, who have been seen very little in photographs in pop magazines around the world, the task proved difficult. And yet, he whose shirt collar goes over that of his sweater, watching you (with blue-gray-ice-steel eyes) through gold-rimmed glasses, that’s Phil Lesh, the bassist of the Dead. His hair is as short as in the army, and nobody bothers him, he is thought to be a student, or an inhabitant of the chateau... But there is no question that this is really HIM, sitting on this bench near the pool!
Patrice Blanc-Francard, between two tennis matches, assures me that this skinny type, skull slightly balding, watching everything without saying a word, is actually and absolutely Jerry Garcia. Pause. I saw "Woodstock," I, sir, and I can assure you that this guy is not Jerry Garcia. Re-pause. But as I am very conscious of the superiority of Blanc-Francard, I am convinced that this gentleman is actually Garcia, the man with magic fingers and golden words... And turning around, how to approach him, because I came for that, largely, and I thought it more welcoming... "Uh!... I'll point out that the REAL Jerry Garcia is in the kitchen, eating a sandwich," the no.1 gawker of Pop 2 admitted to me a few minutes later (I learn here that this character confused with Garcia was none other than Robert Hunter, responsible for 90% of the lyrics of the Dead?).
No doubt this time. Beard, round glasses, eighty-seven kilos, bushy hair, and those extraordinarily bright eyes, it’s all there, including the wide welcoming smile. This man is a real magnet. He speaks, says exciting things, or makes them exciting. He seems to understand everything, can talk about everything, explain everything. A brilliant mind, but more importantly, a clear mind. I serve myself a dried sausage and butter and a glass of red wine, and I listen, unable to tear myself away in this kitchen. He discusses with an Englishman from Kinney, about his record company, and they both leave (probably saying things that I would not have had the right to write?). Besides, the other musicians arrive, just awakened, and I have the satisfaction of recognizing them. Pig Pen (whose real name is Ron McKernan), whom I've always seen with this incredible pointy hat, Bob Weir (who knows very well he is handsome, looks like Dister), Bill Kreutzman, the drummer, who lacks a straw hat to become a successful gardener.

Come on, kid!

Merely seeing them, we feel, we see that the Dead is the class above. This calm and relaxation does not deceive, this is the lot of the great lords, and it would have been very disappointing if the Dead resembled that other English group, housed in the chateau during the presumed duration of the festival. The people of the Grateful Dead have nothing in common with those "promotional tour" musicians who smile to everyone, impatiently waiting the opportunity to give an interview. They do not like being hooked, either, not by a stranger who comes with the sole purpose of making a paper or photo. You have to be with them, if you feel that this does not bother them, to ensure that contact occurs naturally. It seemed good to me to see Garcia - the most approachable of all respond rather curtly to several people who were breaking his feet during the intermission of the concert on Monday.
At dinner (50 people), the Blanc-Francard Brothers (Patrice and Dominique, sound engineer at Herouville) grimaced, cast spells on me; Garcia, not far away, ate, laughed; Lesh tasted the leg of each table. The English themselves, noses on their plates, spoke of amps, music, choruses, songs, England, bad groups (others), the jam session they wanted at all costs to do with the Dead, just now, up there in the studio. They are called in English Busbastis and they were grouped by Geoff Nicholson, former guitarist of East of Eden. They had barely swallowed their last cherry when they rushed to their equipment and set it up, got it running, got themselves together. They were finally ready, yet the Dead’s equipment still had not left the truck and the people concerned were dispersed in fragrant nature.
A little later, Nicholson barely left Garcia time to get ready or adjust his tiny Fender Special Studio amp. Cascades of clarion notes came out of his huge Marshall submerging everything, except the “free-jazz” saxophonist of Busbastis, very eager to be heard at all costs. He succeeded, alas. Bob Weir, the rhythm guitarist of the Dead, managed somehow to put a few chords here and there; Garcia tried several times to play. Alas! As soon as his solo sprang out, as soon as he emerged from this rickety rhythm (Bill Kreutzman, entering the studio and addressing the drummer: "Come on kid, go on, one-two, one-two. Perfect. IN RHYTHM NOW!"), the other came in with his racket, and Garcia stopped, thinking that his amp had suddenly failed. This little game lasted an hour, an hour that the road managers took advantage of to set up little by little almost all of the Dead’s equipment. Garcia put down his guitar, doubtlessly defeated by the noise: our eyes met at that time and his expression left no doubt about the reasons for this abandonment. And do not tell me that a good musician should be able to play with anyone! Downstairs, Kreutzman set up his cymbals and tended his drumskins. Outside, it was mild...
When a little later, back at the studio, I met Nicholson on the stairs, I thought the music we could vaguely hear had a completely different sound from that of the hour before. Seeing the head of two Busbastis, I told myself that for them, the rejoicings seemed finished, that sound, I knew it well... Garcia was no longer in the same place. He was there, in the middle of the studio, sitting, just like Lesh and Weir...and Kreutzman, right next to them...and Pig Pen, on the left, behind the organ. Another glance to check that none of the Busbastis soiled the place ... what I heard, saw ... FINALLY THE DEAD! FINALLY THEY PLAYED AND SANG, FINALLY!!!

Serene Blues

Formerly, they were called the Warlocks, a feeble name next to Jefferson Airplane or Quicksilver, for example, which symbolized in a word the magic of San Francisco. Garcia then played guitar for a few years, an instrument he had nonetheless given up for two years in favor of the banjo. A music student, Jerry Garcia has in fact worked as much in country music as rock'n'roll, leaving acoustic guitar quite late in favor of the electric. For a long time he had known Pig Pen, and all those who were to become the Grateful Dead.
He had a great admiration for Lesh, who was not playing bass at the time, but taught young people the art of using a trumpet, tuba or saxophone. Wishing to play with the Dead, Lesh decided to learn the bass; two months later, it happened for the first time in public. There are people like that. If one day someone does a paper on bassists, I hope Lesh will not be forgotten in favor of a weak English player who’d swing like a clothes-iron. Lesh swings like nobody, except Casady (JA), perhaps. Both were influenced by Tamla Motown bassists: they play well “deep down” with the tempos, thus raising the rhythm, giving it a new momentum, like wave crests that rise, rise, and widen the rolling water and take off. Lesh and Casady though are proof of the superiority of using abundant harmonics; whence the name "bass soloists," now employed in a pejorative sense, because of some abuse by instrumentalists who should no doubt have been content with a discreet thump-thump.
Lesh, like Garcia, like the Dead, has found his style very quickly; as evidenced by the first disc of the group, "San Francisco's Grateful Dead" (will it be published some day in France?). Their music today is very close to the music they did four years ago. The "Morning Dew" they interpreted on Monday, on the lawn, is an incontestable proof. Especially because, numerically, the formation returned to its starting point, after Tom Constanten left, and Pig Pen has a less and less important role: the blues has become calmer, more country, after the esoteric period of "Anthem of the Sun" and "Aoxomoxoa," respectively the second and third LPs of the group.
For those who do not know, who did not have the opportunity to discover it through records, the Dead was, at that period (68-69), virtually inaccessible. The ears accustomed to Cream at the time had to do violence to understand "What's Become of the Baby" ("Aoxomoxoa"), or music and voices skidding into fiery slides. Alchemical music, which is largely due to Tom Constanten who has a passion for magnetic tapes and altered sounds, space music that has a large pop audience will never happen. Especially since the French pressings of these discs are barely worth a listen. On these two albums, however, we can guess the main features of the “live” Grateful Dead, without pre-recorded tapes, especially focused on making the freaks happy and helping them get high. When it plays, the rhythm section is exuberant and the solos of Garcia rise gently, very high, very clear ("Alligator"). Moreover, "Live Dead" was soon released, which confirms that the group, in public, bears little resemblance to the group that makes records. The songs readily exceed ten minutes, the sound is much clearer, Garcia’s guitar is more pure. "Live Dead" is the turning point in the career of the Dead, who, after appearing in all possible places, most often for free, making themselves known and esteemed, had the satisfaction of seeing their music sell well. And then came "Workingman's Dead". If we had done a little "71 Questions", at Rock & Folk, at least two people would have cited "WD" in the top three discs of the past year.

The villagers dance

Even better! Few albums released since then are as good, as exciting as this one. Not one, in any case, is as important. Wonderful Grateful Dead, marvelous group that offers for thirty-five minutes a series of musical miracles. Because balancing such an assortment of blues, country, rockand acid really takes a miracle. With "Workingman's Dead", the Dead has become a major group of the United States. It is the only one that can play the blues, rock and Country & Western so well, which are typically American genres. The Dead is not a rock band (it can be) plus a blues band, nor a Jug Band. It is all this at once, and the music of "W.D." is also all of this. Listen to the perfection of the harmony of these three or four voices (Garcia, Lesh, Weir and Pig Pen), a little choked, almost childlike at times, so together ("Uncle John's Band"), in accord with the accompaniment, that the music is a modulated vibe. Listen, too, to the rhythmic ease and spontaneity of this masterpiece called "New Speedway Boogie"... In fact, all the songs on this disc are authentic masterpieces, and if you do not have it, you can never understand what happened at Herouville during this free concert given in front of and for two hundred people. Two hundred people of whom 7/8 had never heard of the Grateful Dead ... A hundred seventy-five inhabitants of a village that has at the most numbered in thousands.
From the first note, everyone stood up, and danced. They danced for about two hours, laughing with pleasure, shouting their joy, without the slightest effort. If they had known the words, they would have sung! I saw the parents of these children astonished to enjoy listening, to experience this music, they who, at first, perhaps had only come to see the hippies, to please the kid, excited at the thought of seeing the people of the chateau, lured by the promise of eating and drinking to satiety. Because Michel Magne does things. We probably could have filled a large part of the pool with the champagne drunk that night, and made a few pounds of paste with the bones of the chickens. For a moment, he had to have a little heartache, Michel Magne, to see that people rushed into the pool without taking the time to undress. But he did not intervene, basically happy and satisfied with the feast which merrily extended the aborted festival.
The Dead played. I remember "Morning Dew", a fabulous "Casey Jones", with the final chorus repeated to infinity, "High Time", "Black Peter", "That's it for the other one", and others, of which I forget the titles, or especially a lot of songs that I did not know. The Dead has about two hundred titles in its repertoire (Lesh said), they who played all night hardly ever stopping. The songs are lengthened, thanks to the collective improvisation directed by Garcia, who only rarely looks where his fingers are going. He smiled at the crowd, his eyes followed the dancers. But he was so deep in the heart of the music that perhaps he did not really see. He chose the sounds, on the neck of his instrument, which is no longer noticed, he himself seems to worry about it so little, an object whose handling no longer poses him any problem. Fluency, once again, and a breathtaking imagination. Garcia never bores, and yet, he plays a long time, a very long time, very often. Others would make us hiss, but he captures the listener and never lets him go. He remains, no matter what happens, a model of taste, elegance and freshness...
Lesh grins, laughs nervously, concerned at the sound of his bass whose frequencies draw a green curve on a screen placed on the amp (I forget the name of the device). Weir places his chords within the space suggested by Lesh and Kreutzman; Pigpen taps at the piano, disappears, blows his harmonica. Or else, suddenly, the voice you hear is no longer that of Garcia, but his, there, to the left. And the people still dance, always dancing, untiring, impatient when the musicians stop and take a few seconds to choose the next song.
Pop 2 and Claude Ventura are filming without stopping, the sound engineers of Alembic studios, who always follow the Dead, recording, together with Dominique Blanc Francard, who inaugurated the 16-track equipment of the chateau’s mobile studio. "This time," his brother said to me, "we will have a good sound for Pop 2: we have 16 tracks plugged up the ass!" (and he went frolicking in the grass, carried by Garcia’s guitar).
My favorite garden party is ending with another San Francisco group, which plays an "abstract" music (and I mean to say abstract) based on the movements of colors that a light show invents before them. At least, that is what they are claiming, that their light show is indispensable to create this strident music, excessively electronic, a passage of piercing shrieks. Some of these tones almost damaged the sound columns of the Dead, whose equipment they were using; I have rarely seen low frequencies make the grass vibrate so much.

We will return

At two o'clock in the morning, some desperately seek a chicken leg or a glass of something. The air cools treacherously, and, through the steam emerging from the heated pool water, bathers can be seen squeezing around a fire and trying to dry their soaked clothing. Firemen, guests, thrilled to be here, stop dancing, stop trampling their caps (it happened...in the heat of the action). On the inside, longhairs in tunics and open-collar gendarmes are discussing, glasses in hand.
Outside, I found that Garcia was conversing with his soundman. Chatting in the dark, the light of the light show was losing its intensity.
- How do you feel you played tonight? It is very difficult, for us, to realize. I know that everyone found it great, me first, but I saw you just now, you did not look completely satisfied.
- No, actually, I am very happy. I had some worries because we did not play on a real stage and I was not very aware of the sound that we had. But they told me that everything was OK. Really, I am very happy, and the others too; I think we made good music. But I absolutely did not expect such an enthusiastic reaction from people who do not know us, who do not even know rock music. To see them dancing like that, it gave us immense pleasure. I think we've made them happy, we surprised them, I could not think of getting such a result. Really. What makes me very happy is to see the reaction of people is the same everywhere, in the States and in France. What makes me happy, is to see the Grateful Dead can please both here and over there. For this, we will return.
- How is it that you have agreed to come play for free at this festival?
- Well, there was a very long time that we wanted to come and play in France, a very long time. It is a country that seems fascinating, seen from America (no, he was not joking), and what's more, it’s seeing that it’s true, Paris, France, here (grand sweeping gesture in the air), it is really fantastic... So they contacted us; they paid for our trip; we came. Especially since it was a free festival, which we prefer. In fact I prefer to give free concerts. When you have to pay, this still poses problems, and it often ends very badly. The Grateful Dead is at the moment becoming extremely popular in the United States, it's true, eh, I don’t want to seem... Every time we play, in a club, in any place, there are always thousands of people coming, and many cant enter, either because the seats are all rented, or because they have no money to pay. So they’re denied entry, the cops of the place repel them, very often causing a fight and bad vibes...and we play badly, because we are very sensitive to the prevailing climate where we have to play.

The family

- When you stayed for whole weeks at the Fillmore, you were paid?
- Of course. But not so much. It is we ourselves who asked to play for whole weeks, every night, just to avoid too many people coming at the same time. You understand what I'm saying? The Fillmore was full every night, but it has never been stuffed to bursting and there were no incidents. Besides, we’ve only done that at the Fillmore.
- If you return to France, can you tell me how you would consider your concerts?
- You know, we want to return. Perhaps accompanied by New Riders (of the Purple Sage) and the Jefferson Airplane, I don’t know. I think anyway, we would in this case do a tour in France. Small concerts, free if possible, everywhere. No big stuff with big - (Continued on page 73)

[The rest is missing - I don’t have page 73.]

(by Jacques Chabiron: “La Danse du Dead,” Rock & Folk no. 55, August 1971) 

See also: 

* * *   

BONUS INTERVIEW

[A Pop 2 TV interviewer spoke briefly to Garcia on the lawn on the afternoon of 6/21/71, the Dead's amps stacked behind him. Here is the transcript. It is incomplete: most of the interviewer's questions are obliterated either by edits or by the French voiceover, and many pieces of Garcia's answers are also inaudible because of the voiceover. But the general sense is clear.] 
 
-- Late '63, early '64. 
-- Well, we were - we actually started a little south of San Francisco, in Palo Alo, Stanford University... 
-- No, we were beatniks. I was a folk guitarist, and played five-string banjo [ ... ]. We started as a jug band - Bobby Weir, myself, and Pigpen, and it sort of gradually developed into a rock & roll band. 
-- Well, yeah, it took us about six months to make the transition. 
-- Right, different small [communities], but there was really no "community"... Then there was the first benefit for the Mime Troupe in San Francisco, which was the first time that many bands played together, and the musicians were exposed to artists of different sorts - the Mime Troupe people, the light show, like Bill Hamm [pointing], multimedia...and that was like the beginning of that sort of idea, which later, we had what they call a Trips Festival, did you ever hear about that? In San Francisco, and that was all the new forms, all slideshows, movies... 
-- Well, it's hard to say, at that time, the underground was [ ... ] only a handful of people, but the Trips Festival [ ... ] many people, more than anybody thought [ ... ]. 
-- Yeah, it was the first thing that we could really call a festival. 
-- At that time, we thought in terms of growing out, but we never thought that - I don't think - we sort of hoped that it would expand in this way, but we never really thought that it would, it never seemed as though it would. But then next week it was in Time magazine and all this national [ ... ], the light was focused on us, that and the whole "hippie scene," what the media called [ ... ], which was in reality just a small community of artists and musicians and so forth, more or less working together for their own survival. And because of the focus on the hippie scene, you know, all sorts of people came to the west coast, and San Francisco, and there was more than could be assimilated, you know, so it just blew it apart, blew it to pieces, there was just too much. 
-- There's a saying around where we're from, around California and the Bay Area [ ... ], and the saying is, the revolution is over - and we won - and what's left is a cleanup action. 
-- Yeah, because those are like the dinosaurs [ ... ]. It has its own destruction as part of it, you know. 
-- He has the power to kill and bomb, but he doesn't have the power to build [ ... ] and that's the power that's necessary for life. He has all the negative power, but the negative power is like absence of power, you know what I mean, it's an illusion. It's the ability to kill, but killing isn't building [ ... ], killing is not a constructive thing. 
-- I think that it's a thing that you can be tricked into believing: I think that you can be tricked into believing [what the president has] is all-powerful, but I think really, it's a futile, small thing, and that it's disappearing, it's going away; that's all I can say. If you're [asking about it], if you read the paper, if you watch television, if you listen to news, what you get is negative. What you get is death, war, riots, unpleasantness. I think that if you tune yourself away from that, that it's possible for you to rediscover what it is that's positive about being alive, and I think that positive is a thing that's essential for survival. It's like the more that we believe in the negative reality, [we'll make it real]. [ ... ] Don't play the game. The game is nonexistent, it's only as strong as the people who are willing to let themselves be slaves to it. Dig?

* * * 

[Here is the original French text of the article. Unfortunately I had to transcribe it without the accent marks, so this will look odd to French readers, as well as leaving the meaning unclear in spots. There are probably typos as well.] 

LA DANSE DU DEAD 

Personne n'y croyait. On pretendait meme que tous seraient la, excepte le Dead. Pensez-donc! Dix-huit personnes, quatre tonnes et demi de materiel, le tout a faire venir et a faire retourner a San Francisco, pour un festival curieusement emmanche!... Ils no sont pas fous, les Americains. Pas fous, les gens du Grateful Dead. Ils ne se deplacent pas pour rien. A cote des milliers de dollars du Fillmore, l'enthousiasme gratuit de Jean Bouquin ne devait que les faire doucement sourire... Tel est le genre de propos qui circulerent, pendant une bonne semaine, dans les milieux generalement bien informes.
J'ai encore ete heureusement inspire de faire un tour dans cette boite a la mode, le vendredi soir, a l'heure ou quelques milliers d'entre vous pataugeaient tristement dans la boue d'Auvers-sur-Oise. Tres inspire, aussi, merci, de laisser trainer mes oreilles et entendre ainsi l'autre dire qu'il avait vu de ses yeux vu le Grateful Dead au chateau de Michel Magne, l'apres-midi meme. Curieux, cependant, de constater que les gens auxquels il s'adressait reagissaient si mollement, consentant a peine a manifester leur interet par un haussement de sourcils ou un commentaire. Quand on sait qu'il s'agissait en l'occurence de musiciens francais, on reste confondu de voir que pas un ne fit le moindre effort, pas un (sauf Coeur Magique et Tribu) ne fit les quarante kilometres qui le separait du Grateful Dead et de la bonne et profitable lecon. Peut-etre ne connaissaient-ils pas le Dead, d'ailleurs? On est bien souvent surpris par l'ignorance dont font preuve les musiciens pop en matiere de musique pop... Je dois etre un peu naif en pestant que quiconque, sachant CE QU'EST LE GRATEFUL DEAD, n'hesitera pas une seconde a poser son scotch ou remettre a la hate son pantalon pour aller voir ce groupe, l'ecouter, tenter de comprendre pourquoi ces personnages aux allures tranquilles sont devenus des musiciens hors du common.
Tenter de comprendre pourquoi on dit souvent que, sur scene, le Grateful Dead est le meilleur groupe du monde.
Les gens sont curieux...

Pres de la piscine

C'etait bien la première fois que l'on se heurtait à une porte close au château de Michel Magne. Le premiere fois, aussi, que des gendarmes faisaient montrer patte blanche aux visiteurs. Je me suis alors amplement felicite, encore oui, d'avoir averti de mon arrivee le maitre de ceans. Le veille, il pleuvait: ce jour-la, il faisait bien entendu un temps splendide. Le soleil jouait drolement avec les galons des kepis, peut-etre est-ce pour cela que je n'ai pas reconnu en ces gendarmes les freres des flics qui, par dizaines de centaines, encombrent les trottoirs des boulevards Saint-Germain et Saint-Michel, tous les soirs, mousqueton a l'epaule, vous flanquent tellement les moules que vous grillez un ou deux feux rouges (imaginons, un instant, le Dead donnant un concert dans ce quartier). Tout ca n'a bien entendu rien a faire dans une revue de pop music, et d'ailleurs, c'est ecrit tous les matins dans le Figaro qui, comme nous, vous dit: il faut le voir pour le croire, et vous ne nous croyez pas, la-bas, qui etes en train de lire ces lignes, qui ne venez que deux dois par an dans la spendide Kapitale! Fin de parenthese. Le portail referme, j'ai eu l'impression qu'une foule enorme grouillait dans la propriete; en fait, les quelques dizaines de chevelus s'agitaient tellement en tous sens qu'ils se multipliaient par dix. Les membres de la troupe du Dead, on les reperait de loin, mais pour ce qui etait de reconnaitre les musiciens euxmemes, que l'on a bien peu vu photographies dans les revues pop du monde entier, la tache s'averait ardue. Pourtant, celui qui fait passer le col de sa chemise par-dessus celui de son pull-over, vous regarde (yeux bleu-gris-acier-glace) au travers de lunettes cerclees d'or, c'est Phil Lesh, le bassist du Dead. Ses cheveux sont aussi courts qu'a l'armee, et personne ne l'embete, on pense qu'il est etudiant, ou habitant du chateau... Mais il est hors de question que ce soit vraiment LUI, assis sur ce banc, pres de la piscine! Patrice Blanc-Francard, entre deux parties de tennis, m'assure que ce type maigre, au crane un peu degarni, qui regarde tout, sans dire un mot, est effectivement et absolument Jerry Garcia. Pause. J'ai vu "Woodstock," moi, monsieur, et je puis vous assurer que ce mec n'est pas Jerry Garcia. Re-pause. Mais comme je suis tres conscient de la superiorite de Blanc-Francard, je me convainc que ce monsieur est effectivement Garcia, l'homme aux doigts de fee et a la parole d'or... Et de tourner autour, comment l'aborder, car je suis venu pour ca, en grande partie, et je le croyais plus accueillant... "Euh! ... je te signale que le VRAI Jerry Garcia est dans la cuisine, en train de manger un sandwich," m'avouera quelques minutes plus tard l'escogriffe no.1 de Pop 2 (lui apprendrai-je ici que ce personnage confondu avec Garcia n'etait autre que Robert Hunter, le responsable de 90% des paroles des chansons du Dead?).
Pas de doute cette fois-ci. La barbe, les lunettes rondes, les quatre-vingt-sept kilos, les cheveux en broussaille, et ces yeux extraordinairement vifs, tout est la, y compris le large sourire accueillant. Cet homme est un veritable aimant. Il parle, ne dit que des choses passionnantes, ou qu'il rend passionnantes. Il semble tout comprendre, peut parler de tout, tout expliquer. Une intelligence brillante, mais, surtout, un esprit clair. Je me suis servi un saucisson sec-beurre et un verre de rouge, et j'ai ecoute, incapable de m'arracher a cette cuisine. Il discute avec un Anglais de chez Kinney, sa maison de disques, et tous deux sortent (sans doute dire des choses que je n'aurais pas eu le droit d'ecrire?). D'ailleurs, les autres musiciens arrivent, tout juste eveilles, et j'ai la satisfaction de les reconnaitre. Pig Pen (de son vrai nom, Ron McKernan), que j'ai toujours vu avec cet incroyable chapeau pointu, Bob Weir (qui sait tres bien qu'il est beau, comme dirait Dister), Bill Kreutzman, le batteur, auquel ne manque qu'un chapeau de paille pour devenir un jardinier a succes.

Vas-y, petit!

Rien qu'a les voir, l'on sent, l'on voit que les Dead, c'est la classe au-dessus. Ce calme et cette decontraction ne trompent pas, c'est le lot des grands seigneurs; et il aurait ete bien decevant que le Dead ressemblat a cet autre groupe, anglais, heberge au chateau pendant la duree presumee du festival. Les gens du Grateful Dead n'ont rien de commun avec ces musiciens en "tournee promotionnelle" qui font des sourires a tout un chacun, attendant impatiemment l'occasion de donner une interview. Ils n'aiment pas etre accroches, non plus, par un inconnu qui viendrait dans le seul et unique but de faire un papier ou une photo. Il faut etre avec eux, si l'on sent que cela ne les gene pas, faire en sorte que le contact s'effectue naturellement. Il m'a bien semble voir Garcia - le plus abordable de tous - repondre un peu sechement a plusiers personnes qui lui cassaient les pieds pendant l'entracte du concert, le lundi.
Au diner (50 personnes), les Blanc-Francard Brothers (Patrice et Dominique, ingenieur du son a Herouville) grimacerent, me jeterent des sorts; Garcia, pas loin, mangea, rit; Lesh gouta le gigot de chaque table. Les Anglais, eux, le nez dans leur assiette, parlaient amplis, musique, chorus, morceaux, de l'Angleterre, des mauvais groupes (les autres), du boeuf qu'ils voulaient a tout prix faire avec le Dead, tout a l'heure, la-haut dans le studio. Ces Anglais-la se nomment Busbastis et ils ont ete regroupes pas Geoff Nicholson, ex-guitariste d'East of Eden. Ils avaient a peine avale leur derniere cerise qu'ils se precipitaient sur leur materiel et le montaient, l'installaient, s'accordaient. Ils etaient fin prets, alors que l'equipement du Dead n'avait toujours pas quitte le camion et que les interesses se dispersaient dans la nature parfumee. Un peu plus tard, c'est tout juste si Nicholson laissait a Garcia le temps de s'accorder ou de regler son miniscule ampli Fender Special Studio. Il sortait de son enorme Marshall des cascades de notes claironnantes qui submergeaient tout, sauf le saxophoniste "a tendance free" de Busbastis, tres desireux de se faire entendre coute que coute. Il y parvint, helas. Bob Weir, le guitarist rhythmique du Dead, reussit tant bien que mal a placer ca et la quelques accords; Garcia tenta plusieurs fois de jouer. Las! Des que son solo s'elancait, des qu'il se degageait de cette rhythmique brinquebalante (Bill Kreutzman, entrant dans le studio et s'adressant au batteur: "Vas-y petit, continue, une-deux, une-deux. Parfait. EN RHYTHME MAINTENANT!"), l'autre arrivait, avec son boucan, et Garcia s'arretait, pensant que son ampli etait subitement tombe en panne. Ce petit jeu dura une heure, une heure que les road managers mirent a profit pour installer petit a petit la quasi-totalite du materiel du Dead. Garcia posa sa guitare, sans doute vaincu par le bruit: nos regards se croiserent a ce moment et sa mimique ne laissait aucune equivoque quant aux motifs de cet abandon. Et qu'on ne vienne pas me dire qu'un bon musicien doit pouvoir jouer avec n'importe qui! En bas, Kreutzman dressait ses cymbales et tendait ses peaux. Dehors, il faisait doux... Lorsqu'un peu plus tard, remontant au studio, je croisai Nicholson dans l'escalier, je pensai que cette musique que l'on entendait vaguement avait un son completement different de celle de l'heure d'avant. A voir la tete des deux Busbastis, je me dis que, pour eux, les rejouissances semblaient terminees, que ce son, je le connaissais bien... Garcia ne se trouvait plus a la meme place. Il etait la, au milieu du studio, assis, tout comme Lesh et Weir...et Kreutzman, tout a cote...et Pig Pen, sur la gauche, derriere l'orgue. Un autre coup d'oeil, pour verifier qu'aucun Busbastis ne souillait la place...ce que j'entendais, voyais... ENFIN LE DEAD! ENFIN IL JOUAIT ET CHANTAIT, ENFIN!!!

Blues serein

Jadis, ils se nommaient les Warlocks; nom bien faible en regard de Jefferson Airplane ou de Quicksilver, par exemple, qui, eux, symbolisaient en un mot la magie de San Francisco. Garcia jouait alors de la guitare depuis quelques annees, un instrument qu'il avait pourtant abandonne pendant deux ans au profit au banjo. Etudiant en musique, Jerry Garcia a en effet travaille autant la musique country que le rock'n'roll, delaissant assez tard la guitare acoustique au profit de l'electrique. Depuis longtemps il connaissait Pig Pen, et tous ceux qui allaient devenir le Grateful Dead. Il avait une grande admiration envers Lesh, lequel ne jouait pas de la basse a l'epoque, mais enseignait a de jeunes gens l'art de se servir d'une trompette, d'un tuba ou d'un saxophone. Desirant jouer avec le Dead, Lesh decida d'apprendre la basse; deux mois plus tard, il se produisait pour la premiere fois en public. Il y a des gens comme ca. Si un jour quelqu'un fait un papier sur les bassistes, j'espere que Lesh ne sera pas oublie au profit d'un Anglais falot qui swinguerait comme un fer a repasser.  Lesh swingue comme personne, excepte Casady (J.A.), peutetre. Tous deux ont ete influences par les bassistes de Tamla Motown: ils jouent bien "a fond" sur les temps, relevant ainsi le rythme, lui donnant un nouvel elan, comme les cretes des vagues qui montent, montent, et font se creuser l'eau qui roule et prend son essor. Lesh et Casady font cependant preuve de superiorite en utilisant abondamment les harmoniques; d'ou cette appellation de "bassistes solistes", employee maintenant dans un sens pejoratif, du fait de certains abus de la part d'instrumentistes qui auraient sans doute du se contenter d'un sage toumtoum. Lesh, comme Garcia, comme le Dead, a trouve son style tres rapidement; comme en temoigne le premier disque du groupe, "San Francisco's Grateful Dead" (sera-t-il edite un jour en France?). Leur musique d'aujourd'hui est tres proche de celle qu'ils faisaient voice quatre ans. Le "Morning Dew" qu'ils interpreterent le lundi, sur la pelouse, en est une preuve incontestable. Surtout que, numeriquement, la formation est revenue a son point de depart, apres que Tom Constanten soit parti, et que Pig Pen ait un role de moins en moins important: le blues est devenu plus serein, plus country, apres l'epoque esoterique de "Anthem of the Sun" et "Aoxomoxoa", respectivement les second et troisieme LP du groupe. Pour qui ne le connaissait pas, pour que n'avait la possibilite de le decouvrir que par la voie des disques, le Dead etait, a cette epoque (68-69), pratiquement inaccesible. Les oreilles habituees aux Cream du moment devaient se faire violence pour comprendre "What's become of the baby" ("Aoxomoxoa"), ou la musique et les voix derapent dans des glissades feulantes. Musique alchimique, dont est en grande partie responsable Tom Constanten qui a la passion des bandes magnetiques et des sons trafiques, musique spatiale a laquelle le grand public pop ne se fera jamais. D'autant plus que les pressages francais de ces disques n'avantagent guere l'ecoute. Sur ces deux albums, cependant, on devine les principales caracteristiques du Grateful Dead "live", sans bandes pre-enrigistrees, surtout preoccupe par le fait de faire plaisir aux freaks et de favoriser leur defonce. Quand elle joue, la section rythmique est exuberante, et les solos de Garcia montent doucement, tres haut, tres clair ("Alligator"). D'ailleurs, "Live Dead" sort bientot, qui confirme que le groupe, en public, ressemble pue a celui qui fabrique des disques. Les morceaux depassent volontiers les dix minutes, le son est nettement plus clair, plus pure est la guitare de Garcia. "Live Dead" est le tournant dans la carriere du Dead, qui, apres s'etre produit dans tous les endroits possibles, le plus souvent gratuitement, se faisant connaitre et estimer, a la satisfaction de voir que sa musique se vend bien. Et puis, vient "Workingman's Dead". Si l'on avait fait un petit "Questions 71", a Rock & Folk, au moins deux personnes auraient cite "WD" parmi les trois meilleurs disques de l'an passe.

Les villageois dansent

Mieux! Bien peu de disques sortis depuis lors sont aussi bons, aussi passionnants que celui-ci. Pas un, de toute facon, n'est aussi important. Merveilleux Grateful Dead, merveilleux groupe celui que propose pendant trente-cinq minutes une succession de miracles musicaux. Car equilibrer un tel dosage de blues, de country, de rock...et d'acid tient rellement du miracle. Avec "Workingman's Dead", le Dead est devenu un groupe capital pour les Estats-Unis. Il est le seul a pouvoir jouer aussi bien le blues, le rock et le Country & Western, qui sont des genres typiquement americains. Le Dead n'est pas un groupe de rock (il peut l'etre) plus un groupe de blues, pas plus qu'un Jug Band. Il est tout cela a la fois, et la musique de "W.D." est egaiement tout cela. Ecoutez la perfection de l'harmonie de ces trois ou quatre voix (Garcia, Lesh, Weir et Pig Pen), un peu etranglees, presque enfantines parfois, tellement ensemble ("Uncle John's Band"), en accord avec l'accompagnement, que la musique n'est qu'une vibration modulee. Ecoutez, aussi, l'aisance rythmique et la spontaneite de ce chef-d'oeuvre qu'est "New Speedway Boogie"... En fait, toutes les chansons de ce disque sont d'authentiques chefs-d'oeuvre, et si vous ne le possedez pas, vous ne pourrez jamais comprendre ce qui s'est passe a Herouville, au cours de ce concert gratuit donne devant et pour deux cents personnes. Deux cents personnes dont les 7/8 n'avaient jamais entendu parler du Grateful Dead... Cent soixante-quinze habitants d'un village qui doit tout au plus en compter mille. Des le premiere note, tous se sont dresses, et ont danse. Ils danserent pendant environ deux heures, riant de plaisir, criant leur joie, sans le forcer le moins du monde. S'ils avaient su les paroles, ils les auraient chantees! J'ai vu les parents de ces enfants s'etonner de prendre du plaisir a ecouter, a vivre cette musique, eux qui, au depart, n'etaient peur-etre venus que pour voir les hippies, faire plaisir au mome, excites a la pensee de voir les gens du chateau, alleches par la promesse de boire et manger a satiete. Car Michel Magne fait bien les choses. On aurait sans doute pu remplir un bonne partie de la piscine avec la champagne bu ce soir la, et faire quelques kilos de colle avec les os des poulets. L'espace d'un instant, il dut avoir un peu mal au coeur, Michel Magne, de voir que les gens se precipitaient dans la piscine sans prendre le temps de se deshabiller. Mais il n'intervint pas, foncierement heureux et satisfait de la fete qui prolongeait gaiement un festival avorte. Le Dead jouait. Je me souviens de "Morning Dew", d'un fabuleux "Casey Jones", avec le chorus final repete a l'infini, de "High Time", de "Black Peter", de "That's it for the other one", et d'autres, dont j'ai oublie les titres, ou surtout beaucoup de chansons que ne connaissais pas. Le Dead a environ deux cents titres a son repertoire (Lesh dixit), lui qui joue des nuits entieres sans presque jamais s'arreter. Les morceaux sont allonges, grace a l'improvisation collective dirigee par Garcia, lequel ne regarde que rarement ou ses doigts se posent. Il sourit a la foule, et ses yeux suivent les danseurs. Mais il est si profondement au coeur de la musique qu'il ne les voit peut-etre pas vraiment. Il choisit les sons, sur le manche de son instrument, que l'on ne remarque plus, lui-meme semble si peu s'en soucier, objet dont le maniement ne lui pose plus aucun probleme. L'aisance, encore une fois, et une imagination ahurissante. Jamais Garcia n'ennuie, et pourtant, il joue longtemps, tres longtemps, tres souvent. D'autres se feraient siffler, lui captive l'auditeur et ne le lasse jamais. Il demeure quoiqu'il arrive un modele de gout, d'elegance et de fraicheur... Lesh grimace, rit nerveusement, preoccupe par le son de sa basse dont les frequences dessinent une courbe verdatre sur un ecran pose sur l'ampli (j'ai oublie le nom de cet engin). Weir place ses accords dans l'espace que lui suggerent Lesh et Kreutzman, Pigpen pianote, disparait, souffle dans son harmonica. Ou bien, tout a coup, la voix que l'on entend n'est plus celle de Garcia, mais la sienne, la, a gauche. Et les gens dansent toujours, dansent toujours, infatigables, impatients lorsque les musiciens s'arretent et prennent quelques secondes pour choisir le prochain morceau. Pop 2 et Claude Ventura filment sans arret, les ingenieurs du son des studios Alembic, qui suivent toujours de Dead, enrigistrent, ainsi que Dominique Blanc Francard qui inaugure l'equipement 16 pistes du studio mobile du chateau. "Cette fois," me dit son frere "nous aurons un bon son pour Pop 2: nous nous sommes branches au cul du 16 pistes!" (et il repart gambader dans l'herbe, porte par la guitare de Garcia). Ma garden party preferee s'acheve avec un autre groupe de San Francisco, lequel joue une musique "abstraite" (et si je veux dire abstraite, moi) a partir des mouvements de couleurs qu'un light-show invente devant lui. Du moins, c'est ce qu'ils pretendent, que le light-show leur est indispensable pour creer cette musique stridents, electronique a outrance, traversee de cris percants. Certaines de ces sonorites ont failli endommager les colonnes de la sono du Dead, dont ils utilisaient l'equipement; j'ai rarement vu des basses frequences faire a ce point vibrer le gazon.

Nous reviendrons

A deux heures du matin, certains cherchent desesperement une cuisse de poulet ou un verre de quelque chose. L'air se rafraichit traitreusement, et, a travers la vapeur que degage l'eau chaufee de la piscine, on apercoit les baigneurs se serrer autour d'un feu et tenter de secher leurs vetements trempes. Les pompiers, invites, et ravis de l'etre, cessent de danser, cessent de pietiner leur kepi (c'est arrive...dans le feu de l'action). A l'interieur, chevelus en tunique et gendarmes col ouvert discutent, verre en main.
Dehors, j'ai retrouve Garcia qui conversait avec son sonorisateur. Causerie dans la nuit noire, la lumiere du light-show perdait de son intensite.
Comment estimez-vous avoir joue, ce soir? Il est tres difficile, pour nous, de nous en rendre compte. Je sais que tout le monde a trouve cela formidable, moi le premier, mais je vous ai vu, tout a l'heure, vous n'aviez pas l'air entierement satisfait.
Non, en fait, je suis tres heureux. J'avais quelques inquietudes parce que nous ne jouions pas sur une vraie scene et je ne me rendais pas tres bien compte du son que nous avions. Mais on m'a dit que tout etait OK. Vraiment, je suis tres heureux, et les autres aussi; je crois que nous avons fait de la bonne musique. Mais je n'attendais absolument pas une reaction aussi enthousiaste de la part de gens qui ne nous connaissaient pas, qui ne connaissent meme pas la rock music. Les voir danser ainsi, cela nous a fait un immense plaisir. Je crois que nous les avons rendus heureux, nous les avons surpris, je ne pouvais penser obtenir un tel resultat. Vraiment. Ce qui me fait tres plaisir, c'est de voir que la reaction des gens est partout la meme, aux States comme en France. Ce qui me fait plaisir, c'est de voir que le Grateful Dead peut plaire autant ici que la-bas. Pour cela, nous reviendrons.
Comment se fait-il que vous ayez ainsi accepte de venir jouer gratuitement a ce festival?
Eh bien, il y a tres longtemps que nous avions envie de venir jouer en France, tres longtemps. C'est un pays qui semble fascinant, vu de l'Amerique (non non, il ne plaisantait pas), et ce qui l'est plus, c'est de voir que c'est vrai, que Paris, la France, ici (grand geste ample en l'air), c'est reellement fantastique... On nous a donc contactes; on nous payait le voyage, nous sommes venus. D'autant plus qu'il s'agissait d'un festival gratuit, ce que nous preferons. Je prefere en effet donner des concerts gratuits. Lorsqu'il faut payer, ca pose toujours des problemes, et ca se termina souvent tres mal. Le Grateful Dead est en ce moment en train de devenir extraordinairement populaire, aux Etats-Unis, c'est vrai, hein, je ne voudrais pas avoir l'air de... A chaque fois que nous jouons, dans un club, dans un endroit quelconque, il y a toujours des milliers de gens qui viennent, et beaucoup ne peuvent entrer, soit parce que les places sont toutes louees, soit parce qu'ils n'ont pas d'argent pour payer. On leur refuse donc l'entree, les flics de l'endroit les repoussent, ce qui provoque bien souvent une bagarre et des mauvaises vibrations...et nous jouons mal, car nous sommes tres sensibles au climat qui regne la ou nous devons jouer.

La famille

Lorsque vous etes restes des semaines entieres au Fillmore, vous etiez payes?
Bien sur. Mais pas tellement. C'est nous memes qui avons demande a jouer pendant des semaines entieres, tous les soirs, justement pour eviter que trop de personnes se deplacent en une seule fois. Vous comprenez ce que je dis? Le Fillmore etait plein tous les soirs, mais il n'a jamais ete bourre a craquer et il n'y a eu aucun incident. D'ailleurs, il n'y a pas qu'au Fillmore que nous avons ainsi procede.
Si vous revenez en France, pouvez-vous me dire comment vous envisageriez vos concerts?
Vous savez, nous voulons revenir. Peut-etre en compagnie des New Riders (of the Purple Sage) et du Jefferson Airplane, je ne sais pas. Je pense que de toute facon, nous ferions dans ce cas une tournee en France. Des petits concerts, gratuits si possible, un peu partout. Pas de gros trucs, avec grosse - (suite page 73)

(Jacques Chabiron) 

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com 

2 comments:

  1. If anyone has the missing end of the article, please let me know!

    I don't know a word of French. The English text here is my attempt to make sense of a computer translation of the original. Any of you who've worked with auto-translations will know that even the simplest language is usually turned into gibberish. For the most part I tried to stay as literal and close to what the author wrote as I could, so the English is pretty stiff and awkward. You can easily compare it to the original here.
    Anyone who wants to try their hand at improving this is welcome to contribute!

    I found one short additional interview on video. (Garcia likely did other interviews during his stay at the chateau as well.) It starts haltingly as the reporter asks about the Dead's beginnings, with Garcia trying to speak in simple English for him, but as Garcia warms up he gets quite philosophical and we get an eloquent little summary of his beliefs.

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  2. Having spent weeks with this article, I'll be brief in my comments.

    For more background on the Dead's show and their short stay at the chateau, see the other article linked in this post.

    Chabiron's article is especially valuable since it gives a detailed look at the Dead's visit from the French point of view. He was an intense Dead fan, his enthusiasm almost comic at times - his description of their earlier music and album history is a very interesting non-American perspective. (Strangely, though he knows the American albums, he seems to be unaware of "American Beauty," though that had been released seven months earlier in the US!)
    There's a lengthy description of the show, with a glowing account of Garcia that any fan will recognize: "He smiled at the crowd, his eyes followed the dancers. But he was so deep in the heart of the music that perhaps he did not really see."
    Most of the songs the Dead played were new and the writer wouldn't have known them. But among the titles he knows, oddly, he includes "High Time," which is not on our tape of the show - in fact, they didn't play it at all in 1971. Maybe he mistook another song for it, like "Sing Me Back Home."

    The account of the failed jam session is priceless. I wasn't able to find out much about the English band Bubastis [not "Busbastis" as the French writer had it], but they were an English jazz-rock group, whose saxophonist had played with Manfred Mann. One source says, "The group existed in 1970-1971... They never release any recordings although they play many gigs... Geoff Nicholson recalls one of their French gigs: 'One of these was supporting The Grateful Dead at a festival in France. Unfortunately it was cancelled because of bad weather and we were stranded for a couple of days with the Grateful Dead in a large house outside Paris (we got to Jam with them anyway!).'"
    There were other, happier jam sessions in the chateau studio as well, as Lesh recounts in his book: "I did spend some happy hours jamming in the studio with musicians such as Jerry Granelli, the great jazz drummer...and members of a French band called Magma, who really stretched me out musically." (p.197)

    The band that played after the Dead was the Light Sound Dimension, a "multimedia group" with drummer Granelli, guitarist Fred Marshall, and light-show artist Bill Ham. The group had been San Francisco regulars in the '60s, but relocated to France in 1970, so this must have been something of a reunion for the Dead. See: http://www.billhamlights.com/history.html

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