Jun 22, 2018

The Dead in the Daily Utah Chronicle, 1967-1970

HIPPIES ARE REAL PEOPLE

A Sunday stroll through the park to hear the local band concert can be quite a different thing if the park is between Fell and Oak in San Francisco. You are liable to be surrounded by hippies grooving it to the sound of the "Grateful Dead."
The park is known as the panhandle and extends down from Golden Gate Park just below Haight and Ashburry. It is filled with wandering paths, basketball courts, swings, sandpiles, restrooms, lots of greenery, and last Sunday it was filled with hippies.
The word had spread that the "heat is on" up on Haight. Most of the group did not want to hike off to the "Berkeley Barb's" advertised [April] 9th happening on Telegraph Street in Berkeley. It was a tourist filled Sunday with Grayline Tours dragging little old ladies and balding executives through the "city's" prime attraction of late, the Haight Ashburry district.
The hippies left Haight to the tourists and wandered to find something more real. They found it in the park.
It was a real "happening." The "Grateful Dead," best known for their bizarre dress and the posters of the "pig pen," one of the group's way out guitarists, got a lorry, a flat bed Ford truck, and ran an electric line across a nearby street for juice.
The beat was loud and strong, the streets poured into the park, and we were surrounded by long hair, beads and weird, dirty attire. What had started as a walk to reminisce with a Salt Lake chick trying to make good in S.F. turned into a fascinating and thought-[motivating] "thing."
Hippies are real people, They have desires and a warm need. Contrary to popular hope they don't appear to be a bunch of raving kids trying to escape the consequences of life, rejecting and rioting. Sure, they have built their own life in a different approach to society's, but because they are different, are they wrong?
I don't know. I only saw people acting and reacting, living and not trying to harm the whole world through subversion.
The basketball games went on. No one objected. The swings were filled with children. If the bigots of life could only see a hippie pushing his kid in a swing, instead of marching in protest.
Children were everywhere. Many a mother would have shrieked horror. No need. The children were loved and accepted. Their wants were catered to. The love of person to person was not feigned because it was the thing to do. The hippies felt it. Where was the [hypocrisy] of our daily existence? I could not find it.
Over in the corner a rhythm concert beat on. Cats had gathered from Aquatic Park, the usual scene of the drums, to this forgotten corner. No one minded. Many wandered over to sway and feel the primitive beat of the drums. The drummers had escaped the tourists too. They beat their drums because they felt like it. We listened because we felt like it.
Everybody is dancing. Some only subtly with occasional foot movements, others gyrate with careless abandon. We gather to watch them feel it, because we felt it too.
Of course, many of the hippies are high, but so what. It was much more orderly than many a bar. It was pleasant contrast to the Broadway scene of bare breasts for commercialism. Anything on the park scene was there because it was real.
When it was all over the park drifted empty except for the Hell's Angels who were pouring beer over one another. As we left psychedelic artists held up banner paintings that we ran through. The Salt Lake girl reached over and hugged the fellow with whom she had been dancing. No one cared that he was a Negro. I felt relieved because neither did I.
The morning S.F. papers carried a story buried inside about a quiet day in Haight. If a march or demonstration had taken place it would have made front page banner.
These people are being involved with many groups pushing for their own convictions. I believe in free agency and expression. I also believe that man is a rational animal, when not pushed in a corner to fight for his existence. Blown up news coverage and mass rejection of ideas without examining them leads to this very corner. Would it not be better to allow the freedoms of thought and expression without rigid social [morals]? I thought so Sunday.
As I left someone pushed a copy of the hippie underground paper into my hand. Ginsberg and group were discussing the scene. One thought struck me from the printed page. What better purpose than no purpose. I wonder.

(by Harris Vincent, from the Daily Utah Chronicle, 12 April 1967)

* * *

LAST STOMP SET

The most recent sound out of San Francisco will pulsate to the flashing colors of a "light show" at this summer's final stomp Saturday, at 8:30 p.m., in the Union Ballroom.
Featured group, "The War of Armegheddon," will play "The Grateful Dead" and other current sounds.
Admission is 25 cents with University identification.
Chairman of the stomp, Val Ness, said that an average of 300-400 people have attended the stomps this summer.

(from the Daily Utah Chronicle, 11 August 1967)

* * *

GRATEFUL DEAD AT SDS BALL

San Francisco acid rock group the Grateful Dead is finally making it to the University.
The "Dead" was once scheduled for a concert in the Union Ballroom earlier this year, but were forced to cancel the appearance.
However they will play at the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) Ball in the Union Ballroom Saturday from 8 to 10 p.m.
The Spirit of Creation share the stage with the Grateful Dead for the Saturday dance, and lights will be provided by Five Fingers.
Students can attend the dance for $2 and the general public can for $3.

(from the Daily Utah Chronicle, 11 April 1969)

(Ads for the show announced two shows at 8 & 10 p.m., the actual schedule.) 

* * *

RECORD REVIEW
TWO NEW 'DEAD' ALBUMS

Last Saturday night between sets, we interviewed The Grateful Dead, and got advance notice of the impending release of their new recordings. They have two new albums already completed, one is a studio job and the other is a double record thing recorded live in concert at the Fillmore East. [sic] It is all work that they have done themselves and the two albums are supposed to be totally different from each other as well as from anything the "Dead" have done before. The release schedule is 30 days for the studio job and 60 days for the live.
In addition, Bob Weir told us how they got the name Grateful Dead. They were flipping through the dictionary one rainy November afternoon four years ago and came across the "ethnomusicological" term The Grateful Dead. It refers to a series of English folk songs collected by a man named Childe and subsequently called Childe Ballads. (If you're interested, Joan Baez has a number of these ballads recorded for Vanguard Records.) Anyway, nobody objected to the name, so it stuck.

(by Richard Thomas, from the Daily Utah Chronicle, 18 April 1969) 

* * *

The Dead played at the Terrace in Salt Lake City on 9/26/70, show at 9 p.m., advertised as "An Evening with the Grateful Dead...a solid 3 hrs. with the 'Dead.'" No reviews were found, but there were a couple followup articles on the Terrace:


THE NEW MUSIC
GETTING READY FOR THE FIRE

Those of us who made it to the Santana at the Salt Palace and Grateful Dead at the Terrace - aside from experiencing two of the best concerts this city has ever seen - may have planted our bums on the "floor" for the last time. Looks like it may be reserved seats everywhere from now on. It's the age-old problem of impractical fire ordinances, i.e. gotta have seven square feet per person, "adequate" aisles, etc. Like many of our older laws (I'm told a chick can still get jailed for smoking cigarettes in SLC) they may be ignored by the police and fire departments. On the other hand, the Fire Marshall can be a real heavyweight if he wants to.
Also, Saturday night at the Dead concert, the narcs decided to pull off their first in-concert bust, and hauled out a few unsuspecting heads. It's all part of the latest federal crackdown on smokers of the "killer" drug. Gotta have law an' order, ya know.

(by Steve Poulson, from the Daily Utah Chronicle, 29 September 1970) 

* * *

UNCOOPERATIVE AUDIENCE CLOSES ROCK SHOWS [edited]

The recent Pink Floyd concert may well be one of the last rock shows to be held in the Terrace. The management has given a number of reasons for taking this stand. They include damage and violation of the fire and building codes. The main problem, however, is the lack of cooperation by the audience.
The problem has been growing for some time. It started a year ago after the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert at the newly completed Salt Palace. So many people were so disgusted with the poor acoustic, reserved seating, and the distance to the stage that a cry was raised for a return to the "good shows" at the Terrace.
At this point some local people got together a few small bands and put on their own Terrace concert. Their groups weren't famous, but turnout was still good. Tickets sold for $1.50 as compared to $4.50 or $5.50 at the Salt Palace. There were no chairs out on the main floor, so it was easy to walk around, dance or just sit close to friends. In addition, police and ushers didn't walk through the crowd telling people to move or stop smoking. Overall, the Terrace was a pleasant place to listen to music.
There are problems with the Terrace, though. These are mainly a problem of its small size. It takes a lot of capital to sponsor a rock concert. For a good group, artist's fees can run to $10,000 or more. To this must be added the cost of renting the hall, printing posters and tickets, and assigning advertising. The Terrace isn't near the size of the Salt Palace so a promoter can't sell as many tickets and make as much profit for his trouble. [ . . . ] The people putting on the show have to enforce the fire regulations, drug laws, and local conduct ordinances.
There were people in town that were willing to accept the job however, and the Terrace once again became the home of Salt Lake's great rock concerts.
Meanwhile, the Salt Palace was being rented to out-of-state promoters like Barry Fahey from Denver. These people have a great deal of capital and can put on huge shows. The last one at the Salt Palace, sponsored by Fahey's partner Barry Imhoff, featured three top groups. This was the first show after summer vacation and the Salt Palace was packed.
The concert was presented in what is called "festival seating." This means no chairs out on the main floor. This is what the audience wanted so Barry Imhoff wanted to do it. The problem was that more people attended the concert than there was room for on the floor alone.
Fire Marshal Leon R. DeKorver said the floor was severely overcrowded. Aisles that once existed disintegrated as the crowd moved in. This is common at the Terrace, but the Salt Palace is a much larger building. The building code requires an exit every 100 feet and an aisle to each exit.
At a meeting after the concert with Salt Palace officials, the Fire Department outlined the violations that took place. They charged the Salt Palace with failing to adequately enforce the fire regulations. Chief DeKorver said [ . . . ] there must be "adequate egress."
The other complaint raised by the Fire Department was the flagrant violation in both the Terrace and the Salt Palace of the no smoking regulation. [ . . . ] The audience wouldn't cooperate with the promoters on this regulation. At the Santana-Country Joe concert last month, more cigarettes (and other smokeables) were lit after Barry Imhoff asked the audience to stop than before. This apparent lack of concern promoted the Fire Department's action against the manager of the Salt Palace, Earl L. Duryea.
When asked about the incident, Duryea said he didn't want the Salt Palace to be the only hall in town where the fire code is strictly followed. Two weeks later his concern took him to the Terrace the evening of the Grateful Dead concert. Duryea said he went to the concert to see for himself how the Terrace ran its shows.
The Fire Department also inspected that show and noted many of the same violations that were present at the Salt Palace's Santana concert.[ . . . ]
Following the unpleasant Grateful Dead show, the operators of the Terrace decided to discontinue all rock attractions. Terrace manager L. Jay Monk said, "the (fire) regulations are justified," it is only that "the kids are being lax."
The Terrace officially announced its intentions at the Pink Floyd concert in a printed handout. This read in part, "The Terrace is part of the Establishment (without any apologies)...and it is essential to conform."
The statement stressed conformity in three areas. They are: No smoking on the dance floor, compliance with all legal ordinances, and cooperation with law enforcement officers.
There is still time to reverse the Terrace's decision. Two concerts remain on the books and are scheduled for later this fall... [Steppenwolf & Alice Cooper] If the audiences for these shows can cooperate, perhaps there will be future concerts at the Terrace.

(by Rick Thomas, from the Daily Utah Chronicle, 29 October 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

Jun 21, 2018

1969: Live/Dead Reviews

'SAN FRANCISCO SOUND' VERY MUCH ALIVE, THANK YOU

Whatever happened to the San Francisco sound? Don't look now, but three of the biggest groups are still intact and as good as, or better, than ever, judging from their new releases.
"The Grateful Dead" must come first because "live/dead" (W7) is the biggest surprise. In live performance, once the Dead start a set, no one knows when it will end. Jerry Garcia gathers energy from the stars and becomes superhuman, his fingers turning into fiery spokes across the guitar strings, his dynamism suffusing the rest of the group as it goes from one song to the next, seldom stopping even for a breath. When it's over, you realize you've been high, you've been on Jerry Garcia's trip. Although there are no drugs involved, I still wouldn't call it a natural high.
"The Grateful Dead," you see, are the original psychedelic, acid-rock group. They played for Ken Kesey's acid tests and trips festivals and they still list Owsley, the recently convicted "acid king," as a consulting engineer on "live-dead." But while the acid culture is a strong part of them, they are musicians first and their acid rock is not the freak-out, cop-out variety. It is instead amazingly powerful and visionary and listenable.
Their first album, largely blues-rock, was a disaster. "Anthem of the Sun" (W7), their second, was one of the most beautiful recordings I've ever heard, but it still failed to capture the essence of "The Dead." A few months ago, "Aoxomoxoa" (W7) came out and it took them a step backward with its indulgence in studio gimmickry. But now comes "Live/Dead," a two-record set and by far the best thing yet by the Dead. And it almost brings you the dead live.
Side 1 is devoted, all 23 minutes of it, to "Dark Star," a typical Dead vehicle, starting and ending softly, featuring incantations written by Robert Hunter spaced between long instrumental stretches that build you up, suspend you, build you up, etc. It's beautiful and the best thing on the album.
The whole album was recorded in live performance and sides 2 and 3 at least are just one tape of the same concert, with the Dead going nonstop for 31 minutes. "Saint Stephen" starts it off with a big-beat sound. It's an expanded and enlivened version of that on "Aoxomoxoa," where it was more lyric and lucid, but less dead.
The last side features another blues, "Death Don't Have No Mercy," a beautiful song by the Rev. Gary Davis, but again I think "The Dead" can find material more suitable to them. For instance, the following number, "Feedback." The title tells it, but it's not the wild, ear-shattering feedback of Chicago's "free form guitar." It is the Dead's own kind of lyric feedback and after the first shudder, there's a lot to enjoy. It ends on a verse of the beautiful folksong "We Bid You Goodnight." On record, it is the Grateful Dead's finest hour.

(by Al Rudis, Chicago Sun-Times Special, from the Cincinnati Enquirer, 21 December 1969)

* * *

PERSONALITIES TRANSLATED INTO MUSIC: THE GRATEFUL DEAD

The Grateful Dead is essentially a performing group, one which warms to the audience's vibes - we've been waiting for a "live" album from them for quite some time, one which would help us recapture memories of the evenings when they've been inspired in ballrooms or concert halls.
Live Dead (Warner Bros. 1830) isn't quite the most persuasive or engulfing that this group can be but it is, overall, the most satisfying lp they've released, and should give everyone a better idea of why this is regarded as one of San Francisco's very best groups.
There's something about The Grateful Dead which forces you to overlook their limitations. They're so tight and together that they make their every move seem just like the essential one. They're more like a functioning organism than a collection of musicians.
They're also utterly original. They more than any group in rock have made a virtuoso trip not out of accomplished playing or even startlingly innovative ideas, but out of translating their own personalities and feelings directly into musical form.
This is summed up in Jerry Garcia's guitar-work, which is the cornerstone of The Dead. Bright-sounding lyricism and very personal phrasing are evocative of a sensibility expressing itself musically with something like the ease with which most of us converse.
Special attention has to be paid to Phil Lesh, who is one of the very best bassists yet to appear on the rock scene. His beautifully full-bodied sound is subtly propulsive and adds subliminal colors.
"Dark Star" is perhaps the most indicative example on this record of the high-level improvisational brilliance The Dead have achieved. You can listen to it over and over again and still find new highlights and nuances within the coolly driving framework which is effortlessly set up and moved along on the tracks of inner-generated dynamics. As rock music becomes more complex and sophisticated, you'll hear an increasing number of groups turning toward the joys of improvisational exploration which jazz musicians have long been living on and by. I hope these groups manage to be as satisfying as The Grateful Dead.
"The Eleven" contains some of the most exciting jamming on the record and gives you at least some idea of the kind of rush The Dead can generate when they get ready to play all night. "Feedback" is competent enough electronic music to rank with the efforts of contemporary classical composers. "Turn on Your Love Light" is their show-stopping exciter and anything is likely to go down when they launch into it. I don't think it's as effective as The Quicksilver Messenger Service's Bo Diddley-love montage from Happy Trails, but it's in the same class anyway.
Pigpen, whether singing or playing organ, is another potential driving wheel of The Dead. Though he lately seems to be taking a vacation from active playing, he comes out to dominate "Death Don't Have No Mercy," and if you want to hear a group get down, this cut is worth perhaps the entire purchase of the double album. Pigpen's no-shuck type of blue-eyed soul is sorely missed, on a fulltime basis, and we're hoping he can fit himself back into the action real soon.
The lyrics (written by lyricist Bob Hunter) are significant mystical touchstones; the vocal style in which they're delivered requires a little conditioning to appreciate. At the outset, The Dead appear to be poor vocalists. While they are not outstanding, the relevance of their shouting delivery to the ongoing action is one of textual implementation rather than upfront featuring.
Two drummers play simultaneously, and while this adds rhythmic drive and diversity, I feel that a more careful listening to jazz drummers like Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, or Beaver Harris might indicate just how one ace drummer could do the same things and be more coherent, at that.
A special bonus is the manner in which The Dead make breakless transitions from tune to tune. You seem to get from place to place as though floating on air.

(by Rich Mangelsdorff, "Sound Opinions" column, from the Waukesha Daily Freeman (WI), 14 February 1970) 

* * *

'THE MASKED MARAUDERS' AS SUPER AS RUMORED  [excerpt

[ . . . ] For more feeling good, you can dig the new Grateful Dead two-record effort on Warner Brothers, "Live Dead."
In the time-honored San Francisco, psychedelic tradition, the Dead, as much a social institution as a band, wind their way through six long and complicated cuts.
The Dead is more of a concert group than a record-cutting group, but when they do go into a studio, they give it their all.
"Live Dead" is right in the old tradition.
Freaky music, cryptic lyrics and weird effects all go together in an effort to reproduce a good trip.
They succeed. The Dead produce not only a good trip, but a beautiful trip.
For all those people who hear about the Dead but don't know much about them, for all those adoring fans the nation over and for all good "weirds" and "semi-weirds," "Live Dead" is an event that can't go unnoticed.
The Dead are beautiful people.

Also beautiful, but somewhat straighter, is Pentangle, whose new one, "Basket of Light," is now available on Reprise.
Pentangle is an English group, a branch of the folk idiom, musically literate and criminally underrated. 
There's only one amplified instrument, a casual, easy-to-live-with style, some complexities that occasionally dazzle the ear, and a large helping of integrity (unwillingness to sell out to the big sound) which warms the old heart.
Pentangle is like no other group I know. Their sitar, varied time signatures, unique instrumentation and wildly original arrangements set them off in a big way.
I recommend them as a brilliant mixture of pre-Beatles folk and post-Beatle ultra sophistication - complexity made beautiful by what appears to be simplicity.
Pentangle is more than a basket of light - the group is a cargo-full.

(by Jim Knippenberg, "New Records" column, from the Cincinnati Enquirer, 21 December 1969)

* * *

WHEN GARCIA IS GOOD, HE'S VERY, VERY GOOD

"Live-Dead" (Grateful Dead, Warner Bros. 1830; two records).
In a recent interview with Soup, Doug Yankus told us one of his favorite guitarists was Jerry Garcia of the Dead "when he's good...he's not always good, though." In this double set, which I like despite a general critical opinion of disfavor, Garcia shows both sides of his talent. He is extremely good on the 23:15 "Dark Star" but tediously redundant on the 15:30 "Turn on Your Love Light." "Dark Star," which is side one, somehow seems shorter than "Love Light," which either speaks well for it or doesn't say much for "Love Light."
Actually, "Dark Star" was the big surprise of the four sides. You could count on one hand the genuinely good super-long rock tracks (those over 15 minutes) and probably wouldn't even need that to keep track of outstanding 20-plus minute ordeals. "Dark Star" flows smoothly, develops logically, and deserves more than an assumption it is bad because it is long. Perhaps if I had to make the decision, I might have trimmed a few minutes, but it certainly justifies its existence by Garcia's jazz-like guitar work on this nearly all-instrumental piece.
"Love Light," on the other hand, is a basic and boring attempt at left-over r&b which helps prove Yankus' point about Garcia. Perhaps the key is Garcia is all right when he stays closer to jazz and out-of-place in blues.
For the rest of it, some is dull ("Saint Stephen"), some innocuous ("The Eleven"), some too long ("Death Don't Have No Mercy"), and some bad ("Feedback"), but each has its moments of inspiration and all combines for what must have been a pretty good concert.

(by David Wagner, from the Appleton Post-Crescent (WI), 26 April 1970 - also reprinted in other midwest papers, such as the Green Bay Press-Gazette (WI), "Grateful Dead Guitarist Shows Moments of Life," 10 May 1970)

* * *

REVIEW OF THE NOW SOUND

The Grateful Dead, one of the leading exponents of the San Francisco sound, have released a double album, recorded live in concert.
LIVE DEAD (Reprise) suffers from typical illness of the double album: the package would be a great deal more musical had it been reedited and reduced to a single album. The Dead, who specialize in extended improvisations, overdid their thing this time, and on some of the long cuts, appear to be grasping about in the dark for new themes to continue the show.
For instance, side one of the album is all one song, "Dark Star." Some of the jamming on this cut could easily have been tossed out and the number would have been tighter musically. The instrumentation is simply too repetitious and evidences an over-indulgence on the part of the performers. I wouldn't like to see any of the lyrics cut, however, for they are catalysts for an interesting trip through the human mind. 
Side two has the same trouble as side one, and the cure is the same: leave the lyrics, but spare us some of the jamming. Side three is an exciting 15-minute presentation of "Turn On Your Love Light."
It contains plenty of real fine improvisation. Side four would be a whole lot better if the nine minutes of "Feedback" (a pet peeve of mine) was removed, for "Death Don't Have No Mercy," the side's other cut, is an excellent blues-rock number.
A principal problem with Live Dead is the recording and mixing techniques used. The instruments appear to be constantly out of balance. They could be the result of poor recording conditions at the concert.
Even through the album's slow sections, however, the talents of the Dead's great leader, Jerry Garcia, shine. Garcia's guitar work is unique - he handles his instrument as a poet handles his verse. He's one of the now sound's best.

(by Charles Burns, from the Troy Record (NY), "Masked Marauders Hoax Carried One Step Too Far," 17 January 1970) 

* * *

And some shorter reviews...


SOUND -- FROM THE UNDERGROUND
When someone mentions acid rock or the San Francisco sound, one of the first names to come to mind is The Grateful Dead. But the group has yet to attain the mass popular following enjoyed by the likes of The Jefferson Airplane. They keep right on pushing anyway, their latest recording project being a live album set called "Live Dead" (Warner Bros. 2WS 1830).
It's a double album, although it contains only six tracks due to their length. Side one is a 23-minute cut called "Dark Star," and side three is given over to 15-1/2 minutes of "Turn On Your Lovelight." Other songs include "Saint Stephen," "The Eleven," and "Death Don't Have No Mercy."
There's also a senseless nine-minute thing on the last side titled "Feed-back" - and that's just what it is, which seems like a rather lame excuse to get through the extra time at the end of three and a half sides. 
(by Scott Campbell, from the Arizona Republic, 21 December 1969) 

RECORDS/NEW GROOVE
Buy the Grateful Dead's new two-disc album, "Live Dead" (Warner Bros. 1830), just to listen to the 23-minute version of "Dark Star." Consider it just an added plus if you like anything else on the records.
The Dead has always been a live-performance band, and its records have sometimes failed to capture what the group was all about. This one does better. 
[tracklist]
"Dark Star" is rock and roll the way the Taj Mahal is a tombstone - just about the finest of its kind you can get. The music rises and falls and leads you into itself like you were hypnotized and without a will of your own. 
(by David DeJean, from the Louisville Courier-Journal (KY), 22 March 1970)

NEW RECORDS 
LIVE DEAD, Grateful Dead, (Warner Bros. 2WS 1830) : After three albums that showed little of the Dead's ability, this album, recorded live, shows the zest and power and excitement that the group can generate. Jerry Garcia's guitar work is the highlight of this two-record set, which includes a full side of their version of "Turn on Your Lovelight."
(by Marshall Fine, from the Minneapolis Star, 22 December 1969)

SOUNDINGS
LIVE DEAD, The Grateful Dead (Warner Bros.-Seven Arts 1830) - There's little doubt that you have to be a fan of the Grateful Dead, one of the pioneer groups of the San Francisco underground rock scene, to enjoy them. There are no melodies here to hum, just driving, consuming rock. And this is a double record album, which will be good news to the fans.
(by Tom Green, from the San Bernardino Sun, 30 December 1969)

Thanks to Dave Davis.
 
More reviews:
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/02/1969-livedead-review.html 
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/03/1969-livedead-review-2.html 
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2015/07/1969-livedead-reviews.html
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2018/03/1969-livedead-review.html  

Jun 20, 2018

1968: Anthem of the Sun review

HUNDREDS DIE; ONLY FIVE DEAD

The road between spring 1967 and autumn 1968 has not been an easy one for your above average, generally talented, usually creative, rock 'em sock 'em lay-it-on-the-kids rock group.
It has been a difficult road for them because all of a sudden that spring, people started taking rock a little more seriously, for better or worse, leaving rock musicians without the focal points or the heavy doses of tradition that earlier contemporary music had fed upon almost exclusively.
The earthquake that the West Coast explosion and Sergeant Pepper brought about left most groups groveling in the dark, attempting to re-define their musical boundaries and carve out some sort of valid identity for themselves in the rock world.
Many of the groups could not or would not make any worthwhile transition and subsequently have fallen by the wayside, either by issuing incredibly sterile albums, disbanding, or sticking to the tried (tired) and true formula they had previously laid on the citizens.
Some of the groups, however, have come through unscathed, notably Buffalo Springfield, the Beatles (after a long, long period of doubt that wasn't helped much by Magical Mystery Tour), and the Grateful Dead.
Let's get at the Dead.
The Grateful Dead contributed a large section of the fuse that ignited the West Coast explosion I mentioned earlier, with their first album, Grateful Dead (WS 1689). They crashed into the rock scene a year and a half ago exuding enough pure kinetic energy to light and heat Wheeling, West Virginia for six months.
In reality, their initial album was one long song, the song of creative men digging what they were doing and rolling, no, hurtling through their musical lives. It was plainly an album to jump around with.
But now, after a year of recording and contract hassles, the Dead have stopped some of the jumping with the release of Anthem of the Sun (WS 1749).
I think there are three basic concepts relevant to Anthem of the Sun, so let's hang anything else we want to say about it around them.
The concepts are: 1) musical talent and proficiency, 2) maturity, and 3) accessibility (or lack of it).
In order now. The musical proficiency of the Grateful Dead is almost unrivaled in contemporary music. Individually, Jerry Garcia on lead and Phil Lesh on bass stand far above most of their so-called competition in the field. Lesh has gone farther than anyone except possibly the early McCartney in liberating the full potential of the electric bass.
Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann have developed into a superlative rhythm section and even Ron "Pigpen" McKernan is getting into his vocals and organ work on a higher level than before. Musical proficiency is valuable, however, only because it broadens the scope of what a group can accomplish and visualize for itself. And vision depends on maturity.
The Dead albums surpass so many of the others released during the same period of time because the group has learned to follow the shortest possible route to their destination. They say everything they have to say quickly, generally as simply as possible, and get off your turntable.
For instance, it is interesting to look at what Jefferson Airplane did with electronic effects on After Bathing at Baxter's and compare it to the studio effects on Anthem of the Sun. The former group never knew when to stop turning dials and hence created a hodge-podge of meaningless gimmicks, while the latter used electronic sounds to subtly enhance the album's total effect. Maturity does that for groups.
Accessibility. The Grateful Dead are one of a dwindling number of musical aggregations that refuses to give their audience something for nothing. They don't sugar-coat their sound, their album covers, or their image. They are saying to their audience, "If you honestly come along, you'll love it and we'll be good to you. But if you want it free, go to hell."
The Dead have learned all of the rules, melodically and structurally, and now they are taking no small pleasure in breaking them one by one. It makes for a difficult music and a difficult concept. But if you take some time, they will let you in on where they are headed, and it's a nice place to go.

(by Little Sherri Funn, from the Michigan Daily, University of Michigan, 14 September 1968)


Thanks to Dave Davis.

Other Anthem reviews:
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/02/1968-anthem-of-sun-review.html
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/01/1968-anthem-of-sun-review-2.html  

* * *

Bonus review!

FINE-POINT LANDING FOR THE AIRPLANE

Obviously the latest Jefferson Airplane album, Crown of Creation (RCA Victor LSP-4058), is the best they've ever done.
But that just isn't saying very much.
I always thought that somewhere beneath all the crap JA released there must have been some mature musicians and an occasional decent songwriter. And although it's taken three poor albums for them to find themselves, the group seems finally ready to grow up musically.
The first Airplane effort, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, is nice to look back on as the one that helped give birth to the whole San Francisco scene. Although it sounded like it was recorded in a garbage can and engineered by moles, there was the unmistakable sound in it of a very real facet of American life (i.e., hippy-commie-creeps) trying to express itself musically. And, after all, they were the first to go nation wide.
Then they hit with Surrealistic Pillow and the psychedelic-freak-out-do-your-own-thing business became contemporary. The album was blessed with a classic of The Summer of Love in "White Rabbit" and, unfortunately, little else.
The problem with Pillow was that it had a tremendous lack of unity. The songs simply did not hang together. It hurt them to be played together. Also, the arrangements were very slick, almost the Al Hirt version of acid-rock. But it sold a million, the first of its genre to do so, which, I suppose, means something.
The members of Jefferson Airplane themselves realized that their first two albums weren't much, and they pressed RCA hard to be able to do their next one completely on their own.
Result: The Jefferson Airplane Party, or After Bathing at Baxter's.
Baxter's was the result of seven months of off and on recording, and it will stand forever, along with Their Satanic Majesties Request, of course, as one of the classically overdone albums. Far, far too much over-dubbing, re-recording, plain noise, etc. to make it anything more than a dull, sterile, gimmicky offering. It was, with the exception of one beautiful track, "rejoyce," an incredible immature recording. It sounds as if they had a good time recording it, but that's about all that is noteworthy about it.
As the group later said, "Baxter's was our first real album. We had a lot to learn."
The eight months between Baxter's and Crown of Creation featured a de-escalation of the Airplane attack, not totally unlike Dylan's de-escalation in John Wesley [Harding]. There seems to have been a general discarding of some of the myths surrounding JA's musical sorties and they began to get down to songs with direction, consciousness, and clarity, just as Dylan did. (Not that any of these qualities are absolute virtues in and of themselves, but they are noticeably lacking and necessary as components of any revitalization of today's generally rancid rock scene.)
Hence, Crown of Creation, and Grace Slick firmly establishes herself as a first-rate writer by virtue of the album's first cut, "Lather." I think Grace Slick is probably a pretty wicked woman in real life, which allows me to excuse her slightly affected wicked singing. Her voice is warm but her phrasing and emphasis are ice-cold, giving birth to an extremely interesting and unique sound. But you already know that from "Somebody to Love."
The best cuts on the album are "Triad," written by David Crosby, and "Crown of Creation," the title song. "Triad" is interesting because it shows a perfect wedding between artist, in this case Grace, and material. It's a very effective work. "Crown of Creation" is more along traditional Airplane lines, but somehow it seems more unobtrusive and less obnoxious than stuff like "You and Me and Pooneil." It, more than any other cut on the album, shows how the group has come to work with taste. They've simply desisted with a lot of irrelevant guitar and feedback and the effect is one of a refreshing breeze in a stuffy room. 
A lyric sheet is enclosed in the album, which is sort of a help in befriending it, and Crown of Creation is definitely the kind of an album that you should get to know, even though slowly and carefully. After being deluged with Buddah records and the slightly higher class Cream, "Crown of Creation" hopefully gives promise to an emergence once again of reason in rock.
Maybe the kind of atmosphere that permits Wheels of Fire to be the number one album in the country is disappearing.

(by Little Sherri Funn, from the Michigan Daily, 4 September 1968)

https://digital.bentley.umich.edu/midaily

Jun 15, 2018

Spring 1975: Jerry Garcia Interview

This interview was broadcast in several parts in 1975 on WVOI 95.9 FM, Tisbury, Massachusetts.

PETER SIMON INTRO: We're gonna be playing a lot of Grateful Dead music, some of the underground tapes that aren't available on record at all; but the main thing that we're gonna do tonight is listen to Jerry Garcia talk about himself and his music. I did an interview with him about three weeks ago, the tape of which I will now play to you all because it's very informative and I'm sure you'll dig it. So here's the first part of the interview.

SIMON: I'm honored to be in the presence of my musical guru, Jerry Garcia, and we're taping this interview in sort of a movie laboratory where they're working on a film. So why don't you talk about it for a second, the Dead film?
GARCIA: Well, what would you like to hear about it?
SIMON: Well, I'd like to know first of all when you think it might be done, 'cause there are a lot of people who are interested in seeing it as well as yourself.
GARCIA: Well, we hope to have it done and maybe out by around October, but it could go longer than that, it's comparatively difficult to deal with it, it's a lot of film and...y'know...it's just gonna take a long time. The big thing is it's gonna take a long time making it be anything besides a ten-hour movie. That's gonna be the hard part.
SIMON: Well, let's see, it consists of three consecutive Dead concerts, the last Dead concerts of the current series, right?
GARCIA: Well, actually, what it is, is that the last gig we played at Winterland, we played for five nights - so it's all five nights. Plus documentary stuff all surrounding it, concerned with the setting up of the equipment and all that sort of thing. The whole thing is [covered], really.
SIMON: So it's not gonna be just straight music?
GARCIA: Well, no, because...it'll include more of the rest of the scene, mostly the people. If you could describe the characters, the characters in it are basically the audience, the band, and our whole technical staff. That's really who's moving in the movie.
SIMON: Are you gonna try and like put the songs together like a typical Dead set?
GARCIA: Well yeah, it'll be something like that - it can't be a typical Dead set because we don't have - because the idea of having just four hours of concert is gonna be hopeless in a movie. So we have to make some concessions about that, but we might end up not doing that. It really has a lot to do with what we decide to do in terms of exhibiting it and the whole - right now we're finding out about distribution and all the rest of that kind of stuff, which turns out to be, just like in records, turns out to be the main bummer in film.
SIMON: Really?
GARCIA: Yeah, distribution, because it represents that large middle structure in everything that goes on in America, which is the middleman, the famous middleman; and the distributors in movies are much more, I think, in that position than almost anything else in terms of their piece of whatever, you know, profit or whatever, however they're structured, and so we're - Part of this is to develop a way to distribute it that makes us feel that we haven't been just building another brick in the wall, y'know - that's always part of it, but this particularly since it's the new field, really, for us to be involved in, and we're into sort of approaching it with whatever purity we can muster initially, rather than having to do it later like we do with records.
SIMON: Do you think you'd put out a soundtrack?
GARCIA: For sure. Yeah, probably a triple set, something like that.
SIMON: Wow, far out. When you were playing and filming, did you put more juice into this particular five days than you did in like a normal concert in Nassau Coliseum?
GARCIA: Well, I would say it definitely had more juice for a variety of reasons - first of all, because it was our last concert - and so emotionally, it had a certain pitch to it, just on the basis of it being the last Dead concert for a while - had a sort of nostalgia thing to it. But as for the energy, you know, it goes both ways, I mean - some of the nights are the kind of nights I like, the kind that are sort of effortless and flowing, and some of 'em are ones with incredible jagged intensity that, y'know, is like another aspect of what we do. What we do and the way we do it is pretty much covered - so it's mostly a matter of constructing it into something that moves along smoothly and has the same effect as a concert. Hopefully it'll be able to get you off the way a concert does. Part of the idea of doing this film in the first place was - we've been trying to develop alternatives to performing live because it's the logistical difficulty and the economic difficulty involved in touring nowadays, the way we do it, y'know, it's really a trip. So this represents one possibility, y'know, the idea of filming a concert and seeing if really, authentically, y'know, whether any of the feeling or the good moments or the highness or whatever is able to be translated to this medium, that's really what it has to do with.
SIMON: It would be a great exploration and, if it's successful, it would be some breakthrough because, like, the movie Woodstock and stuff like that kind of just sort of skimmed the surface of what that event was. But going to a Dead concert from the paying customer's point of view can be a drag at times because of the way they tend to push a lot of people into one space, and they bum you out at the gate 'cause they check you to make sure you don't have any alcohol - it's kind of like these peripheral problems, but just to sit in a nice theater where it's all controlled - I mean, you can really get off on it.
GARCIA: Right, exactly. Plus it wouldn't have to be very expensive, it wouldn't be in the range that concert prices are these days, so it wouldn't have that level going for it, and - yeah, that's part of what we're trying to deal with too, because just where we've been having to play because of audience demand has been these intense control situations, big stadiums and stuff like that where there's millions of cops and all that, you know - it's the same problem that everybody has to deal with. So this is one of our tries on that level, y'know, on the level of idea, y'know - and just in terms of something to do, you know, as an artist or whatever, for me it represents a new level of interest and development that - it's gettin' me off, y'know, that's what it's doing - that's the way I feel about it, I enjoy films, I've been a film buff for a long time and all that. It's neat to be sort of forced into making a movie. (laughs)
SIMON: A lot of artists kind of branch out into moviemaking after exploring other media but just don't quite get to it - it seems like movies kind of, sort of have all things going for them, in a way.
GARCIA: Yeah, in a way, I mean in a way it represents, in terms of the amount of impact - emotional content that you can communicate to an audience, on that level, it's the ideal situation; people are receptive when they're watching movies; and the movies, I mean for me, movies have been incredible experiences, good ones, bad ones, y'know, moving, emotional - all different kinds. Not too often ones that just get you off and make you feel real good - that's like a rare movie. 
SIMON: What movie comes to mind that did that to you?
GARCIA: None. (laughter) Maybe some Walt Disney movies, y'know, that's about as - I mean, I don't know, it's kind of hard to relate to - well, Children of Paradise is a good movie, it makes you feel good... I don't want to go into that. 
SIMON: That's a tangent!
GARCIA: Right, for sure. 

SIMON: Okay. So the movie is a [current] project and you're also doing an album now, another Dead album. How's that going at this point?
GARCIA: Well, it's going pretty well, it's - I would say that it's the most...musically adventurous album we've done in a pretty long time.
SIMON: In what sense?
GARCIA: Well, it's just that we're doing things that are really unconventional for us. Musically we're approaching ideas - we're evolving our own development, is what we're doing, we're consciously guiding it through a certain stream of possibilities, mostly having to do with new and unusual harmonic relationships that may - well, I don't know, quite frankly, some people might not like what we're doing. But it's another thing, you know. In a way, our development has been to synthesize various kinds of forms - like playing jazz, playing country & western, rhythm & blues and all that sort of thing, and then forming combinations of all these various genres and styles within what we're doing, within our instrumentation; and now we're sort of working on creating styles, you know what I mean?, rather than just being eclectic or just synthesizing other styles, so it's a little more difficult, and it's also considerably more experimental, I mean it's really questionable as to whether the things that work will be successful musically, but we're sort of into defining new spaces for ourselves, musically, to go to.
SIMON: Are you talking, like as opposed to the last two albums in the studio, which have been sort of like precise songs [Garcia: Yeah.] and this is more like the jam trip that you do?
GARCIA: Something like that, and even - yeah, and also incorporating songs but not in song sense, not in that kind of framework, but that's part of what we're trying to adjust, you know, is what are those relationships, what are those definitions; and for us, all those things represent, on some level at least, cliches in our own material, in our own musical habits, y'know; there are things that we've done and we've done 'em a lot, we've done 'em lots of different ways and - so, you know, it's a question of sort of restructuring, I mean, suppose none of the forms that we've been playing existed, what would we be playing instead? It's that kind of a question, you know. So it's experimental, I mean, that's really the right word for what we're doing, it's experimental.
SIMON: So do you like have songs written?
GARCIA: No. We're developing those ideas en masse - you know, I'm not, for example, doing like I normally do, which is run off for a week or so and Hunter and I, you know, knock out nine or ten songs a year, you know - wham, there they are, and those are songs and we learn them, and the arrangement grows depending on everybody's contribution - we're not doing that, what we're doing instead is just developing ideas, musical ideas, everyone more or less participating, you know, on the actual ideas, you know, no one person is responsible for it.
SIMON: Is this kind of an outgrowth of the fact that you aren't touring together, therefore you haven't been together in such a long time, so you might as well do something completely different?
GARCIA: Well, we've been together - we haven't been touring, certainly, but we've been, y'know, certainly dealing with each other on other levels, and doing other things. But yeah. It's also what we hope to be able to accomplish by not performing a lot, which is get away from our habits, get away from our old repertoire, and just, you know, cut ourselves loose from the past basically, shocking as that might sound, and develop, you know, new levels to go off of, really, to depart from. And this is the start of that; I could see this kind of developmental thing lasting for a long time, going on for a long time, and we would continue to work on things this way. And it'll be interesting, it's the first time we've ever done things that purely [ ? ] in the studio, rather than trying out - rather than learning a tune and then developing it a little live or in an onstage situation and then recording it, (that's not really what we do).
SIMON: What about the very early albums, like maybe the third album you did or the second, it had the long sides [...] - anything like that?
GARCIA: Uh - in a way, I don't think it'll be... I think we have enough knowledge and experience now to pull off some of the things we tried to do on those albums and didn't make. But it won't be...it won't have that - it won't be like that, it'll be different, it'll be its own - it'll be something now, you know, something that's happening now, rather than what was going on then - it's a little difficult to relate to it, because at that time our music was based on certain conceptions in the world and everything else that was going on around us, and our experimental tries at that time were of a certain nature, in other words, they were intended to have a certain effect, say, that was what we were hoping for - those things turned out to be delusions later, because everybody hears what they want to hear, really - and so our purposes in what we're doing are usually only interesting to us, you know, I mean, in terms of how greatly it affects the music and how well you notice, for example, some obscure little idea that we were trying to communicate. In those days we would spend a lot of time working on an idea that might not even be successful, just to try to do it, but we were also learning how to record. So, you know, we were into being - we were unconventional just because we were inexperienced, in terms of our approach to it. So now we have all this experience, but now we're trying to determine unconventionality, you know what I mean? It's a little tricky, it is - it's a little tricky, we've covered a lot of ground, so we've used up a lot of things, in terms of freshness, you know.
SIMON: Right, right. Wow, you're also doing a solo album and doing all - you just amaze me that you have so many projects at once.
GARCIA: Yeah, I know, it's incredible.
SIMON: I understand you're doing a solo album, you're also touring with Merl Saunders - how do you -
GARCIA: How do I find the time?
SIMON: - channel your energy in such productive ways?
GARCIA: Well, things tend to work - tend to overlap, generally speaking, like, the way I'm working - I wouldn't be able really to concentrate on sitting in front of a movie editing device for - I couldn't do that for eight hours a day, I can do it pretty easily for six, though, it's pretty interesting for that long, and I feel my attention is on it and I can do a good job keeping up with it. Then I would, y'know, like to play music, it would be nice to play music in a studio situation, like recording is something that also can hold your attention, if you're cooking, up to eight hours, maybe. But on the average it's more like six - just, I mean, if you're being honest, since we're working in a situation in which the pressure isn't on us particularly to stay there a specific number of hours, cause we've booked it in advance and so forth, it's more relaxed, so really it looks like it's more than it really is; and then if I'm on the road, I'm not doing anything during the day, I'm playing evenings; so during the day is a time when it's convenient to compose. I might sit around an hour a day, just play the guitar and practice, and maybe learn some things, and maybe some ideas will come out that are like songs, and that represents maybe two or three hours a day on the road, where nothing else is happening but television and a gig that night - usually a gig will take maybe four hours or five hours, in total time - actually playing maybe only two of those, or two and a half - really it looks like more, you know, it isn't really that much.
SIMON: But just viewing you from afar, you just seem to be one of the most productive musicians around.
GARCIA: Just because I'm crazed, I'm obsessed, you know.
SIMON: People have said that you're a musical junkie. 
GARCIA: Yeah, that's as good a description as any, that's a good description.

SIMON: [With the] Grateful Dead, it seems that live Dead is the essence of what you did, and that recorded Dead kind of is a different thing, and most people thought, well, they're so different, how can they be the same group and yet be so different in the studio as live. Do you have any preference - whether you dig your music live better than - whatever it is? 
GARCIA: Oh, I prefer playing live to playing in the studio, for sure - just as an experience it's definitely richer, y'know, because it's continuous - I mean, you play a note and you can see where it goes, you can see what the response is, what the reaction is, there's - y'know, it's reciprocated. In a studio, you can also do that, but you're doing it with the other musicians, and musicians are like - When you have a group of musicians in a studio, it's not unlike having a roomful of plumbers. I mean, what we might be interested in as musicians and what we're doing might not relate to anybody else, y'know. That's the difference - if there's a real big difference, that's the difference. And also, generally speaking, the studio, in terms of just energy, is a more relaxed, quiet sort of scene, it's not like a concert, and we're not into being artificially energetic - y'know, we're not into just getting ourselves excited in the studio and trying to be - trying to perform live in the studio, essentially - we have never tried to do that, so it's been appropriate in our case to do a lot of live records, just because that's what we do - even though the records I don't believe are successful - I don't think the records are a successful form to record our live performances because of the time thing alone, makes it sort of ridiculous.
SIMON: You mean the lack of enough time?
GARCIA: Yeah, the fact that a record really can only hold about 28 - no, no, closer to 23 minutes a side, at the outside, and that's not really appropriate, our records would have to be - for our records to be reflections of our live thing they would have to be four records, four-album sets, and that's impractical as can be. So we really are - the definition of what we do is we're a live band, for sure we're not anything but that, and recording has been sort of gratuitous - just because we play music, one of the forms that music can go out on is the record. But it's a distinct form, it's not a reflection of what we do, so we just treat it as though it is what it is - it's as though, if you're an artist, you might work in - you might prefer to work in lithographs, you know, but sometimes you do gouaches, y'know - and lithographs might be what get you off the most - but, y'know, if you have to do a gouache, you do a gouache, y'know, watercolor, whatever - it's that sort of thing.
SIMON: So then - what was the reason you decided not to play live anymore? 
GARCIA: There's really a lot of reasons for it. There are kind of two levels, or maybe three levels of reasons. One of them has to do with just the economics of moving around the amount of stuff we have - that the amount of money that we would make at the gigs basically wasn't able to pay for moving us around and being able to develop everything and also to pay everybody - we had a huge organization with a colossal overhead on a weekly basis. And so past a certain point, we were really working to keep the thing going, rather than working to improve it or working because it was joyful.
And that brings up the next level, is that we're interested in doing stuff that's joyful or that's fun, you know, but then how do we reconcile that with economic survival? You know, how can we work and have a good time and also pay the bills? Y'know, so we don't have that together, we don't understand how to do that so far - and what we were doing was not it.
And also the thing of always playing large, y'know, venues and feeling that remoteness, and feeling as though we're creating an unpleasant situation for the audience to come into, which is not what we want to do, and we don't want people to be busted at our concerts, we don't want them to be, y'know, uncomfortable or any of those things, and that's been more the standard way they've been.
And plus, it's basically sort of dehumanizing to travel the way you have to travel in a rock & roll band. The quality of life on the road and everything is pretty slim.
But mostly, it has to do with economics - it also has to do with the thing of we've been doing it for ten years, we haven't spent any time away from it, y'know. That's a long time to do anything without really getting away from it for a while. So we just decided to stop it before it, y'know, just overwhelmed us, before it got to be really ridiculous, and try to consciously see what the next step is for us, what the thing for us to do is. We don't want to go into the success cul-de-sac, you know, we don't like that place, we don't want to - And it's not possible for us to really do something that would be totally altruistic like going and playing free everywhere, y'know - if it were possible for us to do that. Really, we need a subsidy is what we need, the government should subsidize us, y'know - we should be like a national resource.
SIMON: Better than the Pentagon.
GARCIA: Yeah, right. We can have a lot more fun besides. But that's - those are the kind of things - and just the thing of being - trying to fit in responsible consciousnesses with what's happening in the world, and trying to - feeling that it's really as much our responsibility as anything to create the right situation for what we're doing to be in, just on any level - that all is what it has to do with.
SIMON: Was it a hard decision to come to, like did you not want to admit it, or was it so painfully obvious that it was like a relief?
GARCIA: It wasn't painfully obvious, no, because there was a lot of different factions - there's always factions that want to keep on doing it because - well, because y'know, how am I going to make a living, you know, or whatever, y'know - there's always different, everybody has different reasons for wanting to do it or wanting to not do it or whatever. But it was time, that's all, it was just the time to stop.

SIMON: Well, you reunited recently at the Kezar thing, had a quick flash of sound for about thirty minutes, which was beautiful. Do you see getting back on the stage again eventually, and if so, in a different format?
GARCIA: Well, I can see getting back on the stage eventually - format is part of what we're trying to determine. And one - well, one possible fantasy that we've thought of, thinking about ourselves as a more or less permanent musical association, is the idea of eventually building a place that would be like a permanent performance place, that's designed around us and designed around our, y'know, specific ideas.
SIMON: People would have to come to you.
GARCIA: Yeah, right - well you know, at least for like two months of the year. Because in terms of our music getting finer and finer, it gets finer and finer if we play in the same room - if we keep playing in the same room we really understand it, and so the music gets really articulate, which is one of the directions it needs to go in, to be more clearly stated and more - greater subtlety and greater nuance, y'know, all that - and that has to do with understanding a room really well, and you can do that if you're playing it really often. So that's one possibility, and that would also be a facility for recording, and videotaping, or filming, or whatever, in the event that the idea of a canned concert works - if that works. But that would be one possible approach; it would also let us live, y'know, comparatively normal lives - we wouldn't have to tour. And then if we were going to tour, we could do it, y'know, selectively, certain times of the year or whatever. That all has to be defined, but that's one possible fantasy.
SIMON: That's a nice idea.
GARCIA: Yeah, it would work - it would be good for the music - that one is one that really would - that's what makes it the most valuable in terms of - you know, it's a good idea because it allows the music to develop.
SIMON: Next question relates to the vast cult-like following that you've amassed through the years and how you relate to deadheads. Do you feel like you're responsible to supply them with music or that their feelings affect you? And the second part of the question's about the incredible underground tape library that is traveling the country - whether you find that you get ripped off - do you feel ripped off by that, or is it groovy?
GARCIA: Not particularly, I don't feel ripped off by it, I think it's OK, if people like it, they can certainly keep doing it, y'know. I don't have any desire to control people's, y'know, what they're doing.
SIMON: Some artists get freaked that people would bother to tape their concerts, and they actually stop people from doing it all the time.
GARCIA: Yeah, we've - our guys have done that too, y'know, guys have freaked out, "Whoa, we can't have that going on," but I don't know, it doesn't really matter to me that much, too awfully much - and there's something to be said for being able to record an experience that you liked, you know, or being able to obtain a recording of it. Really, we have all that stuff - our own collection of tapes of just many, many performances. I would love to see all that stuff somehow put into a form that we could put it out and have it be real inexpensive so people could get at it if they want it - it's another thing. My responsibility toward the notes is over after I've played them - at that point I don't care where they go (laughs), they've left home, y'know.
SIMON: Well I for one, I have my own collection which is maybe 50 hours' worth of music -
GARCIA: God, amazing.
SIMON: And you know, I hook up with people in New York and people out here who have tapes and we share them, and so many people get off on you guys -
GARCIA: Well that's the thing, you know, if people get off, that's what's good - you know, it doesn't matter whether we make a profit on other people's getting off, that's not why we do it in the first place. That's the way I feel about it, pretty much. But it would be great if there were some way we could work it out, y'know, so we could survive and do what we want to do and not have to scuffle - basically we scuffle, we've been scuffling ever since we started, y'know, we get into a larger and larger scale of a scuffle, in terms of now we have this movie thing, record company, and so forth and so on - but they're all just large scuffles, y'know, rather than small scuffles.
SIMON: Do you pattern your music at all according to what you think the audience wants to hear? 
GARCIA: No, we never do that. More - it has to come from us, y'know, it has to be genuine on that level - and that's one of the things that makes it difficult because, like I say, we've really used up a lot of ideas, y'know, we've gotten ourselves off on an idea and then murdered it, y'know, used it until it's gone, it's kind of like that. In a sense, we've just bankrupted our own material by using it so much, and so our idea is to, y'know, create new levels of places to get off. And the audience - I think our audience is more helpful than - they're not a hindrance on that level. I think that - when we do a show and it's like 40% new material - when that happens, which it rarely does, but when it happens, people welcome it, I think they welcome the changes, and I don't feel as though there are certain things I must do for the audience.
SIMON: Like Dark Star.
GARCIA: Yeah, I mean - you know, it's just, I don't think that - I think the audience is ready for whatever, rather than insist on hearing Casey Jones or - there's always people that are into that kind of stuff and, that's neat, you know, I'm glad that they are, on certain levels, some levels I'm not. Also, the whole thing is pretty mutable, I mean there's some songs you can keep doing over and over again, they still live, they still have something - you can really feel as though the song means something to you, you can do it and feel honest about it - some material just really lasts that way, some doesn't, so it's all those things. Nothing is real solid but the thing of being able to progress or kind of work on ideas, we always have felt free to do that - in fact, compelled.
SIMON: Well, one way that you do, I think, is the way you plan - if you plan the sets, that's another question, or whether - just the way that one song segues into another, like, it seems so spur-of-the-moment - is it?
GARCIA: Usually it is. Sometimes we - somebody will have an idea before, like during the break, and have an idea for a possible sequence of things that can relate, we might talk it over real fast, or sometimes there's little huddles onstage - so it's "hey, I've got a great idea, why don't we blah blah blah, you know, take this and go from that to that and unfold this and that." Sometimes we'll do it and sometimes we'll go along with the program and sometimes we'll depart from it entirely, sometimes we won't have any program at all, we'll just be spur-of-the-moment. It works every different way - God, we've been doing this so long, that you know, every conceivable possible permutation has been - 
SIMON: Do you have like signals, so that people know, "well let's stop this and go into that," you know?
GARCIA: No, but we all are so well-acquainted with each other's playing and also with the ideas contained in the tunes, that I can play the most, the barest minimum of an idea from another tune that we do, and the band will understand and pick it up - even if I don't intend it, even if it's just accidental - that kind of thing happens a lot. And then a lot of it is miracles, y'know - and that's part of what creating new forms has to do with, it has to do with creating a situation in which miracles can happen, in which amazing coincidences can happen, that all of sudden you're into a new musical space. And that's the challenging part about coming up with structures that are loose and tight, they have an element of looseness to them which means they can expand in any direction and go anywhere from anywhere, or come from anywhere, but they also have enough form so that we can lock into something. So it really has to do with the element of what's knowable and known and what isn't known and what isn't knowable, and what can be invented on the spot, and there's a delicate balance in there, and since we're dealing with, y'know, several consciousnesses at the same time, everybody going through their individual changes, that there's times when everybody's up for it and everybody feels right about it, and the form provides openings, then y'know, miracles can happen, amazing miracles. And that's what we're in it for, that's one of the reasons we do it, you know, is for those moments of ah, unexpected joy, the most amazing stuff - and that's, y'know, that's something that you definitely have to think about how it works mechanically, just how does it work, we have to sort of explore that thing. And we've been exploring it for a long time, we don't really know anything about it.
SIMON: Simple twists of fate.
GARCIA: Yeah right, that's what it is - orchestrated twists of fate.

SIMON: I've noticed through the years your music changing a lot - you know, it started off as the San Francisco psychedelic sound and Pigpen was a big part of it, and then after he kind of left his body, you sort of went into an acoustical phase like with American Beauty - well, he was around for that, but you were obviously changing. And the last couple albums have been sort of a slicker studio sound, which I have enjoyed, but other people have kind of - some people are edgy about it. (Garcia laughs) When Pigpen departed, was that a big break in your sort of history as a group?
GARCIA: Well, yeah, sure, it's like - yeah, all of a sudden it's not the same group, y'know, it's a different group. And Pigpen had influenced a lot of what we were doing just by - because of who he was, and that - the music had to be able to include him. In a way, Pigpen - technically at any rate - Pigpen represented sort of like the low water mark, you know what I mean? (laughter) We couldn't go past that, because if we came up with anything that was too complicated for him, he couldn't play it, and so everything was structured to be able to at least [include] Pigpen, or else he wouldn't play, he'd lay out or stuff, and then y'know, there were the tunes that he sang and the rest of us got to just goof around, you know, and he could - he had that thing of being able to really carry an audience too, y'know, he was like really more of a showman and more out there than the rest of us - and so that element, y'know, we don't have that any more, what we have is a more group-like identity, probably. And, you know, it's definitely different, it's hard to say, it's not a question of better or worse, it's just different.
SIMON: Were you aware that he was like on the way out?
GARCIA: Oh yeah - well see, we were all prepared emotionally for it a full year and a half before, because that was when he first went into serious illness, and we all - there was a week or so where everybody gave blood for him and everything like that, and he was in real bad shape, and that was when it looked like he was gonna die, so we were all emotionally prepared for it during that two or three-week total emergency bummer, and then he recovered and slowly got himself back together, and was back in the band and we were working and everything, and then he just snuck away, y'know. It was really sort of - it was typical of him, typical of the kind of person he was.
SIMON: Did you try and influence him to a more like healthy existence?
GARCIA: Oh sure, but we failed. We failed just, y'know, because - he was an incompleted person, in a way, and we all knew it and he knew it and that was just the way it was, it wasn't the kind of thing where - you know, you can only do that so long and so hard and have effect. Actually, the thing of him getting that ill straightened him out way more than any talk from us, and he was in fact really working at getting himself together, he hadn't been drinking for a year and a half, at all, y'know, zero - but his body was just gone, it was just shot, it was beyond the point where it could repair itself, and that was the thing that finally did it - it wasn't as though he was on some kind of final bender and then killed himself, he was actually on the road to, y'know, a new persona, a new self.
SIMON: A new incarnation. 
GARCIA: Yeah, it turned out, yes.

SIMON: What particular album that you've done like seems the most satisfying work, or song - anything that comes to mind?
GARCIA: Um... Well, it's kind of hard to say, you know - they don't - usually aren't like that - most of the time when we're working on an album, there's stuff going on in life, y'know, that more has your attention than working on the album, and working on the album is just like going to work, it's like having your job and you go in and you work on it, and you don't really know what's on it until much later, and sometimes you never know, sometimes you don't know until somebody says to you one day, "That album, y'know, says this and that and whatever, y'know" - sometimes you just don't know. So like for example, Workingman's Dead, which has turned out to be our most significant album on that level, on a certain level, y'know, was the album that we worked the least on - we spent, y'know, I think we spent 19 or 20 days or something like that, we finished the whole album - and while that was going on, that whole being busted in New Orleans was hanging over our heads, we were in the middle of this Lenny Hart weird hassle going on internally, all this other stuff was going on, and it was like - the record was like an afterthought, I mean it was really beside the point compared to what we were going through at the time; and with American Beauty, there was this rash of parent deaths where everybody's parents kacked in the space of about three or four weeks, or maybe two or three months, you know, [when] we were working on that record, it was really incredible, it was just like tragedy city, you know, everybody was getting - it was bad news every day, y'know - really, it was incredible, and we were working on this record, but y'know, the work gets - you're so distracted by what's going on in life that the work gets to be something - it has a mysterious life of its own, and you don't even notice until way later.
SIMON: I had no idea.
GARCIA: Yeah, it's odd, you know, it's - it seems like it's always something like that, y'know, something like that is happening in the middle of it.
SIMON: How do you feel about the last two records?
GARCIA: They were near-misses. Y'know, the first one [Wake of the Flood] we were extremely rushed to make - pull it in under the wire because of our whole deadline setup and the pressure of putting out our first record on our own label. We were rushed, we didn't really get to do the job on it I wanted - plus we were in a studio that was not really - it didn't really make it as a studio. [Record Plant, Sausalito] And then that's also true of the second one, of Mars Hotel, because there we were working at Columbia which is so straight it might as well be General Hospital, you know, it really is straight, and the vibes there were abominable, y'know, they were appalling, we were working with a real straight engineer, and he was - y'know, it was wrong for us, really. We had some good ideas and some nice music and stuff like that, but I think the execution and the spirit suffered because of the place we had to work. [CBS Studios, San Francisco]
SIMON: You couldn't have changed that in midstream?
GARCIA: Ohh, we could've, but we're not really that bright, y'know. And besides, the way - financially, the way those things are structured when you make a deal for the studio time, it doesn't - we don't have that kind of power, y'know, to make snap decisions, because, like if we're getting a cut rate, it's because we bought a month's worth of time, y'know what I mean, that kind of stuff. It's all part of the scuffle.
SIMON: Money.
GARCIA: Yeah, right - and it's amazing how much it's limited what we do and how we do it, and still does. It represents - in the real world, it's the main limit. And y'know, sometimes we have it together to work around it or something, sometimes - most the time we don't. And we don't want to work with the big record company, the kind of people who have that kind of power, because we don't like those people.

SIMON: I noticed on your albums that any song that comes from you is also associated with Robert Hunter. How does that work? And have you ever tried to actually write words yourself?
GARCIA: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I've tried. (laughter)
SIMON: Nothing that you would say would stand the test of time?
GARCIA: No, I don't - I have never developed the necessary discipline to really write gracefully. I'm a better editor than I am a writer, for sure. I do some writing, but I'm not at all serious about it, and I usually find that if I have an idea that wants to be expressed in words, that Hunter can express it better than I can - and also, he and I have such a good working relationship that if I have a suggestion of any sort, y'know, it works just very smoothly, we don't clash in terms of our egos, we both tend to focus on the work and neither of us focuses on ourselves, so it works out to be very comfortable. And y'know, I mean, my capacity as a person who chooses a lyric to sing is really about as much as I would want to have toward the responsibility [for] the content. I mean, the fact that those are the things - of Hunter's output, which is really pretty enormous, only a small part of it ever gets to be he & I songs, and those get to be - those are usually edited quite a lot from what they originally were, and we work together to make - to form something that's satisfying to both of us and that works out right, but y'know, we overlap - it's like the tip-of-the-iceberg kind of thing.
SIMON: Do you usually think of the melody and he adapts the lyrics, or - ?
GARCIA: It works both ways - sometimes I think of the changes, the melody, the phrasing, y'know, where there should be vowels and where there should be consonants, y'know - I can get down to as much musical detail without actually having words - and then he can, y'know, he has enough technique to be able to actually fill out those requirements. And sometimes he has a lyric and I'll read it and it'll just knock me out, I'll say, "This is amazing, I want to set it," and I'll take it and work on it - and sometimes we'll take bits and pieces of things, y'know, different ideas, stick 'em together, polish them - I mean, we work every different way. That also is not limited by some particular stylistic approach, it's just whatever works.
SIMON: His lyrics do have a certain feel to them, they're very unusual, they're kind of very surreal, and you can't always like grab them and say, "Oh yeah, I understand this song," it's like very amorphous in a way.
GARCIA: Well see, that's part of my editorial finger in there, that's the editorial hand of Garcia in there, and my feelings about it are that - well, personally, I have this hangup about songs, I'm fascinated by fragments - I'm fascinated by fragments because of my involvement in traditional music, there's a lot of things around that are fragments of songs, old traditional songs, and there'll be like this tantalizing glimpse of two or three verses of what was originally a thirty-verse extravaganza, y'know, and there'll be two or three remaining stanzas left in the tradition, that you read them or hear them and they're just utterly mysterious and evocative, for odd reasons, different times; so I have a tendency to want to not have a song be topical in the sense of an idea surrounding an idea, I like for a song to be speaking to the mysterious, y'know, just because that tends to make it so that you can - your own images can happen, your own images - it's a little like radio plays, your own images, you fill in what you want, y'know, on the basis of what you're hearing. I like songs that are more evocative than, say, thought-provoking or obvious.
SIMON: Protest songs.
GARCIA: Right, topical songs. We've written a few topical songs but they were just that [or "just bad"], that's the way they work out, is they end up being, y'know, topical because they're frozen to a certain time.
SIMON: Like which one?
GARCIA: Well like Speedway Boogie, for example, I think that's probably the most topical song we've ever written.

SIMON: What musicians have stood out in your mind as ones who definitely influenced you or that you look up to and think you have stuff to learn from them?
GARCIA: Oh, everyone, everybody, all music, I don't have - I'm not, y'know, particularly attached to any one idea or format or anything, I just appreciate whatever's good - and it's just whatever I hear, like endless numbers of anonymous musicians who I don't know on the radio and stuff like that have influenced me, you know - not to mention all the people that are well-known and whose names I do know and they've influenced me too, millions of 'em - I listen to everything.
SIMON: Well, your guitar playing is kind of unto its own, you know, there's nobody that I can think of who plays like you, but you - how did you learn that kind of whatever it is?
GARCIA: I can't really say, it hasn't been the product of - y'know, I haven't - I don't know, the only thing I can really relate to you in terms of the roots of my own playing has to do with a sound that I wish I would hear, y'know - something that I wanted to hear, or maybe a little snatch or moment of a guitar player, y'know, on some record, or y'know - just a little moment, and there's something about it that says, "That is a door to something." I can't really explain it, it's emotional, and it goes back to my earliest years, it really is that deep and it just is me really selecting out of the universe stuff that's part of that sound. It's a thing which, sometimes I hear it very clearly, sometimes I don't hear it at all, but it's produced my whole development.
SIMON: Did you pick up a guitar at an early age and start learning basic chords?
GARCIA: No, I didn't, unfortunately; I wish I had. I got my first guitar when I was 15, and it was an electric guitar, and I played it for six months, almost a year, without knowing how to tune it at all, I had it in some silly open tuning, something that sounded good to my ear, and I figured out all kinds of chords and things in it; I didn't know anybody that played guitar and I wasn't - I was too arrogant to take lessons. And finally somebody showed me the right way to tune it and I - but I blundered all along, you know, I didn't really get - I didn't really start playing or start working at the guitar until I was about 23.
SIMON: Oh, wow.
GARCIA: Y'know, all the rest of the time I just screwed around. And I worked on the banjo for a while, that's the thing that taught me about working, or about learning. I got serious about the banjo. And then after that, getting serious about the guitar, I'd already been through the step of getting serious, y'know, so that means that I knew how to learn, so I started learning how to play the guitar and working at it - but I'm still working at it, I'm still learning - I mean, it definitely - it's not a process that just finally you're through learning and you know how to play - it's never that way. And I feel I'm a person who doesn't have a great amount of talent, in a sense, I don't feel like I'm a gifted musician - I feel like what I've learned, I've had to really work at learning - it's been a hassle, basically. That's one of the reasons I play a lot, because it - I need to play a lot just to keep myself together, just to keep my chops together. But - I mean, I'm always trying to develop myself, I haven't arrived anyplace yet.
SIMON: Well, one thing that I get from your playing and your presence onstage and you as a person is the sense that what you play isn't you playing it as much as coming through you from a higher place, in a way. Can you relate to that?
GARCIA: Oh sure - yeah, I can definitely relate to that, and when I'm talking about playing, I'm talking about being ready for that - just like all those other things, when I talk about miracles and stuff like that, that's what I'm talking about, is being ready for that; and for me, it has to do with being technically ready, to be able to let it flow, if that's what it's gonna do; and when it's work is when it's me doing it, y'know, when I have to do it, if I don't feel like - if there isn't a flow, either I'm hanging it up, or it's just not happening, or whatever, then I have to work at it, which is a level of competence I like to have, y'know, I like to be able to at least rely on my own resources if that's what it comes down to; but I prefer to be ready to be able to play what, y'know, whatever's there, and it's not really - I can't say that there's a certain sense that I am transformed, y'know, and then all of a sudden, y'know, God is speaking through my strings - it isn't really like that. It's more like - if you're real lucky, you know, and practice a lot and play a lot and try to feel right, you know, and you're lucky, and everybody wants for it to happen, then there's the possibility that things - special things will happen. And when those things happen, everybody gets off on it, not just me. I can get off on it, on an evening that is like, for an audience, mediocre, because I'll get off on it because it feels good or the groove is nice or my hands are working well, y'know, I can get off on a lot of different levels, but really getting off, y'know, really - 
CUTS OFF

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Peter Simon also published the interview in the New Age Journal, May 1975.  Here is the published version: 


MAKING MUSICAL MIRACLES 
AN INTERVIEW WITH JERRY GARCIA

Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist extraordinaire of "The Grateful Dead," is a man I've wanted to interview for quite a while now. Following the Dead closely for years (I'm a self-admitted Dead-Head for life), often times I've been totally transfixed by Garcia's soaring guitar and saint-like vibration on stage. I've often felt a musical purity coming from him that sets him apart from many of the rock superstars of the day.
The New Age Journal (and my radio program, "Good Vibrations" on Cape Cod) proved the perfect excuse to ask him all the questions that have persisted in my mind for so long. The interview took about two weeks to set-up (mostly due to time and space discrepancies), and we finally met at a film lab in Marin County that the group has rented to edit and produce a feature-length movie of their last five concerts. We conducted it in a friendly and good-natured atmosphere over the period of about an hour.
Garcia is an unusually open person, not caught in the superstar syndrome of feeling antagonized by "the press" or remaining somewhat aloof. When I told him where this interview would be published, he was quite pleased. He thought the New Age Journal was a "fine, right-on" publication, and was glad to be a part of it.

NAJ: To begin this interview, Jerry, I'd like to ask you about your current projects, You're at work on a Grateful Dead concert film, when might it be finished?
GARCIA: We hope to have it done and maybe out by around October, but it could go longer than that - there's a lot of film - and the big thing is it's going to take a long time making it into anything besides a ten-hour movie. That'll be the hard part.
NAJ: It consists of five consecutive Dead concerts, the last Dead concerts of the current series, right?
GARCIA: Yes, the last gig that we played at Winterland we played for five nights, so it's all five nights, plus documentary stuff all surrounding it and concerned with the setting-up-of-equipment and that sort of thing, the whole thing was covered, in fact. The characters in it are basically the audience, the band, and our whole technical staff; that's really who's moving in the movie.
We're finding out right now about distribution and all the rest of that stuff, which turns out to be, just like in records, the main bummer in film - because it represents that large middle structure in everything that goes on in America, which is the "middleman," the famous middleman. We want to develop a way to distribute it that makes us feel that we haven't been just building another brick in the wall; that's always part of it, but with this particularly, since it's a new field for us to be involved in, we're trying to approach it with whatever purity we can muster initially rather than having to do it later like with records.
NAJ: When you were playing and filming, did you put more juice into these particular five days than you would in a normal concert?
GARCIA: I would say it definitely had more juice for a variety of reasons, first of all because it was the last concert that [we] will be doing for awhile, it had a certain pitch to it, emotionally. As for the energy, it goes both ways - I mean some of the nights are the kind of nights I like, nights that are kind of effortless and flowing, and some of them are ones with incredible jagged intensity. Part of the idea of doing this film in the first place was we've been trying to develop alternatives to performing live because of the logistic and economic difficulty involved in touring nowadays. The way we do it is really a trip. This film represents one possible alternative - the idea of filming a concert and seeing, authentically whether any of the feeling or the good moments or the highness is able to be transmitted to this medium - that's really what it is all about. Hopefully, the film will be able to get you off the way a concert does.
NAJ: Well, it sounds like a great exploration into alternative concert media. Going to a Dead concert can be a drag for the paying customer because they check at the gate for alcohol or tape machines, and jam you into a little space. But just to sit in a theater where it's all controlled, you could really get off on it.
GARCIA: Right, plus it wouldn't have to be very expensive; it wouldn't be in the range that concert prices are these days, so it wouldn't have that level going against it. The inherent concert hassles are what we're trying to deal with too, because where we perform is a result of large demand resulting in intense control situations - big stadiums where there are millions of cops. It's the same problem that everybody has to deal with, so this is one of our tries on that level. On the level of ideas, and just in terms of something to do as an artist, it represents a new level of interest and development for me. I enjoy films. I've been a film buff for a long time and all that - it's neat to be kind of forced into making a movie.
NAJ: So besides this movie, your other current project is the making of another Dead album, how is that going?
GARCIA: It's going pretty well; I would say that it's the most musically adventurous album we've done in a pretty long time. We're working with new and unusual harmonic relationships that may, well, I don't know, quite frankly, some people may not like what we're doing right now. Our development has been to synthesize various forms, like playing jazz, playing country and western, playing rhythm and blues, and forming combinations of these genres and styles within what we're doing, within our instrumentation. Now, we're working on creating styles rather than just being eclectic or synthesizing other styles. Thus, it's a little bit more difficult, and considerably more experimental. It's still questionable as to whether the things will be successful musically, but we're sort of into defining new spaces for ourselves musically to go to.
NAJ: So do you have songs written?
GARCIA: No, we're developing those ideas en-masse. I'm not, for example, doing what I normally do which is run off for a week or so and Hunter and I knock out nine or ten songs a year, and blam, there they are, and those are the songs and we learn them, and the arrangement grows depending on everybody's contribution. We're not doing that now; we're just developing ideas, musical ideas, with everyone, more or less, participating on the actual ideas, no one person is responsible for them.
NAJ: What about the very early albums, maybe the third or second albums with long sides and no cuts, is this anything like that?
GARCIA: In a way. I think we have enough knowledge and experience now to pull off some of the things that we tried to do on those albums, that didn't make it, but it won't be like that, it will be something new. At that time, our music was based on certain conceptions of the world and our experimental tries were intended to have a certain "effect." Those things turn out to be delusions later, because everyone hears what they want to hear, really. We were also learning how to record, so we were unconventional just because we were inexperienced - now we have all this experience but we're trying to determine unconventionality. We've covered a lot of ground so we've used up a lot of fresh ideas.
NAJ: You're also doing a solo album and touring with Merl Saunders - in that you have so many projects at once, how do you channel your energy so productively?
GARCIA: Well, things tend to work and overlap, generally speaking. I wouldn't really be able to concentrate on sitting in front of a movie-editing device for eight hours a day; I can do it pretty easily for six though, I feel my attention is on it and I can do a good job keeping up with it. I like to play music in a studio situation - that can also hold attention for six or eight hours. If I'm on the road, I'm not doing anything during the day; I'm playing evenings. So during the day is a time which is convenient to compose. I might sit around an hour a day just playing the guitar and practicing and maybe learn something and maybe some ideas would come out that are like songs. That represents maybe two or three hours a day on the road where nothing else is happening but television and a gig that night, usually a gig will take maybe four or five hours, total time actually playing maybe two of those or two-and-a-half. It may look like more, but it isn't really that much.
NAJ: You seem to be one of the most productive musicians around, viewing you from afar.
GARCIA: That's just because I'm crazed. I'm obsessed.
NAJ: People see you as a musical junkie...
GARCIA: Yes, that's as good a description as any.
NAJ: As a performing band, the Grateful Dead sound much different live than on a studio disk. Do you have any preference?
GARCIA: I prefer playing live for sure, just as an experience, it's definitely richer, mainly because it's continuous. I mean, you play a note and you can see where it goes, you can see what the response is, what the reaction is. It's reciprocal. In a studio, you can also do that, but you're doing it with the other musicians. When you have a group of musicians in a studio, it's not unlike having a room full of plumbers. I mean, what we might be interested in as musicians and what we're doing might not relate to anybody else. That's the difference.
We're a live band, for sure; we're not anything but that, and recording has been sort of gratuitous. Because we play music, one of the forms that music can go out in is the record, but it's a distinct form and not necessarily a reflection of what we do, so we just treat it for what it is. If you're an artist, you might prefer to work in lithographs, even though sometimes you do a water color even though lithographs still might be what you get off on the most. But if you have to do a water color, you do it. It's that sort of thing.
NAJ: With that distinction in mind, what was the reason you decided not to play live anymore?
GARCIA: Well, there's really a lot of reasons for it. The amount of money that we make at the gigs basically hasn't been able to pay for moving us around and being able to develop everything and also to pay everybody; we had a huge organization with a colossal overhead on a weekly basis. So past a certain point, we were really working to keep the thing going, rather than working to improve it or working because it was joyful, which brings up the next level. We were interested in doing stuff that's joyful or fun, y'know, then how could we reconcile that with economic survival, how could we work and have a good time and also pay the bills. We didn't have that together.
Also, the thing of always playing large venues, and feeling the remoteness and feeling as though we're creating an unpleasant situation for the audience to come into, which is not what we want to do. We don't want people to be busted at our concerts, we don't want them to be uncomfortable or any of those things, and that's more or less the standard way they've been. Also, it's basically sort of de-humanizing to travel the way you have to travel in a rock-and-roll band, and the quality of life on the road is pretty slim. Mainly, however, it has to do with economics and the fact that we've been doing it for ten years, and we haven't spent any time away from it. That's a long time to do anything. So we've just decided to stop it before it overwhelms us.
Now we're trying to consciously see what the next step is for us. We don't want to go into the success cul-de-sac you know, we don't like that place. Yet, it's not possible for us to really do something that would be totally altruistic, like going and playing free everywhere. What we really need is a subsidy, the government should subsidize us and we should be like a national resource.
NAJ: It's better than putting green energy into making war... You reunited recently at the Kezar S.F. school program BENEFIT concert, and we all had a quick flash of sound for thirty minutes which was beautiful. Do you see getting back on the stage eventually and if so, in a different format?
GARCIA: I can see getting back on the stage eventually, format is part of what we're trying to determine. One possible fantasy that we've thought of is moving toward playing at a more or less permanent musical fixture with the possibility of eventually building a place that would be a like a permanent performance center that could be designed around us and our specific ideas.
NAJ: Ah yes, people would have to come to you...
GARCIA: Yeh, right. Well, at least for like two months of the year. Because our music gets finer and finer if we can keep playing in the same room, we can really get to understand it. Thus, the music gets really articulate, which is one of the directions in which it needs to go to be more clearly stated with greater subtlety and nuance. That has to do with understanding a room really well and you can only do that if you play in a room quite often. It's also conceivable that the room could be equipped with a facility for recording, video-taping and filming or whatever in the event that the idea of a "canned concert" could work. That would be one possible approach; it would also let us live comparatively normal lives; we wouldn't have to tour, but if we wanted to, we could do it with more selectivity, like certain times and places, or whatever. It sure would be good for the music.
NAJ: You must know by now that there's an incredible library of Dead tapes circulating the country through underground tape recorders. Do you feel ripped off by this phenomenon?
GARCIA: Not particularly. I think it's OK, if people like it, they can certainly keep doing it. I don't have any desire to control people as to what they are doing, or what they have...
There's something to be said for being able to record an experience that you've liked, or being able to obtain a recording of it. Actually, we have all that stuff too in our own collection of tapes. My responsibility to the notes is over after I've played them, at that point, I don't care where they go (laugh) they've left home, you know.
NAJ: Do you pattern your music at all upon what you think the audience wants to hear?
GARCIA: No, we never do that. It has to come from us, it has to be genuine on that level, and that's one of the things that makes it difficult because we've really used up a lot of ideas. In a sense, we've just bankrupted a lot of our own material by using it so much. When we do a show and it's 40% new material (when that rarely happens), people welcome the changes, and I don't feel as though there are certain things we must do for the audience. The whole thing is pretty mutable. There are some songs that you can keep doing over and over again and they still live. Some material just really lasts that way; some doesn't.
NAJ: Do you have signals on stage so that people know: "let's stop this riff and go into that now?"
GARCIA: No, but we all are so well acquainted with each other's playing and also with what the ideas contain and the tunes that I can play the barest minimum of an idea from another tune that we do and the band will understand it immediately, even if I don't intend it, and if it's even accidental. That kind of thing happens a lot. A lot of it is miracles and that's part of what creating new forms has to do with; it has to do with creating a situation where miracles can happen, in which amazing coincidences can happen, so that all of a sudden you're in a new musical space. That's the challenging part about coming up with structures that are loose-tight, you know what I mean? They have an element of looseness to them which means they can expand in any direction or go anywhere from anywhere, or come from anywhere, but they also have enough form so that we can lock back into something. It really has to do with the element of what's knowable and known and what isn't known and what isn't knowable and what can be invented on the spot. There's a delicate balance in there and since we're dealing with several consciousnesses at the same time, everybody going through their individual changes, that those times when everybody is up for it and everybody feels right about it and the form provides openings, then miracles can happen, amazing miracles. That's what we're in it for, that's one of the reasons that we do it is for those moments of ah...unexpected joy, just amazing stuff. We definitely think about how it works mechanically, we have to sort of explore that thing, and we've been exploring it for a long time and we don't really know anything about it. Orchestrated twists of fate.
NAJ: What particular album that you've done seems the most satisfying complete work or song?
GARCIA: It's kind of hard to say, because most of the time that we're working on an album, we're so distracted by what's going in life that the work has a mysterious life of its own, that we don't even notice until later. Sometimes you don't know 'till somebody says to you, "that album says this and that and whatever." For example, "Workingman's Dead" which has turned out to be our most "significant" album, was the album that we worked the least on - I think we spent about nineteen or twenty days and finished the whole album. And while that was going on, that whole "being-busted" scene in New Orleans was hanging over our heads. It was like the record was an afterthought. With "American Beauty," there was this rash of parent deaths where everybody's parents croaked in the space of about two or three months. We were working on that album and it was just incredible. It was just like tragedy-city - bad news every day, really.
NAJ: I noticed on your albums that any song that comes from you is also associated with Robert Hunter - have you ever tried to actually write words yourself?
GARCIA: Oh, yeh, I've tried (laugh), but I have never developed the necessary tools to really write gracefully. I'm a better editor than I am a writer, for sure. I usually find that if I have an idea that wants to be expressed in words, then Hunter can express it better than me. Also, he and I have such a good working relationship that if I have a suggestion of any sort, it works very smoothly. We don't clash in terms of our egos and we both tend to focus on our work rather than ourselves so it works out to be very comfortable. My capacity as a person who chooses a lyric to sing is really about as much as I would want to have toward the responsibility of the content. Only a small part of Hunter's output gets to be he-and-I songs and those are usually edited quite a lot from what they originally were.
NAJ: His lyrics do have a certain feel to them; they're rather amorphous and you can't always grab them and say "oh yeh, I understand this song..."
GARCIA: Well, see, that's part of my editorial finger in there, that's the editorial hand of Garcia in there. I have this hangup about songs; I'm fascinated by fragments because of my involvement in traditional music - there's lots of things around that are fragments of songs, and they'll be this tantalizing glimpse of two or three verses of what was originally a thirty-verse extravaganza, and there will be two or three remaining stanzas in the tradition and you read them or hear them and they're just utterly mysterious and evocative for odd reasons at different times. I have a tendency to not have a song be topical in the sense of an idea surrounding an idea. I like a song to be speaking to the mysterious, because that makes it possible for your own images to happen. It's a little like radio plays; you fill in what you want on the basis of what you're hearing.
NAJ: What musicians stand out in your mind as having influenced you?
GARCIA: Oh, every one, everything, all music. I'm not particularly attached to any one idea or format, or anything, I just appreciate whatever is good. It's whatever I hear, like endless numbers of anonymous musicians whom I don't know on the radio and stuff have influenced me, not to mention all the people that are well known whose names I do know. They've influenced me, too; I listen to everything.
NAJ: Your guitar playing is kind of unto its own, there's nobody that I can think of that plays like you - how did you learn that kind of whatever it is?
GARCIA: I can't really say. The only thing I can really relate it to in terms of the roots of my own playing has to do with a sound that I wish I would hear, maybe a little snatch of a guitar player on some record or just a moment...and there's something about it that says, "that is a door to something" - I can't really explain it, it's emotional and it goes back to my earliest years, it's that deep. It just is me really selecting out of the Universe stuff that's part of that sound. It's a thing that sometimes I hear very clearly and sometimes I don't hear at all, but it has produced my whole development.
NAJ: Did you pick up the guitar at an early age and start learning basic chords?
GARCIA: No, I didn't. Unfortunately I wish I had. I got my first guitar when I was fifteen. It was an electric guitar, and I played it for six months, almost a year without knowing how to tune it at all, I had it in some silly open tuning, so that it sounded good to my ear. I didn't really start playing or start working at the guitar until I was about twenty-three. All the rest of the time I just screwed around. I'm still working at it, I'm still learning. It's not a process where you're finally through learning and you know how to play. I feel that I'm a person that doesn't have a great amount of talent. What I've learned, I've had to really work at learning; it's been a hassle, basically. That's one of the reasons I play a lot: I need to play a lot just to keep myself together, just to keep my chops together.
NAJ: One thing that I get from your playing is the sense that what you play is coming through you from a higher place, can you relate to that?
GARCIA: Oh, sure, I can definitely relate to that, and when I'm talking about playing, I'm talking about being ready for that, just like when I talk about miracles and stuff. I'm talking about being ready for that and for me, it has to do with being technically ready, to be able to let it flow if that's what it's going to do. And when it's work, is when it's me doing it, when I have to do it. If there isn't a flow, either I'm hanging it up or it's just not happening, or whatever, then I have to work at it, which is a level of confidence I like to have. I like to be able to at least rely on my own resources if that's what it comes down to, but I prefer to be ready to be able to play whatever is there at the moment. I can't say that there's a certain sense when I am transformed, you know, in that all of a sudden God is speaking through my strings; it isn't really like that. It's more like if you're real lucky, and practice a lot and play a lot and try to feel right and everybody wants for it to happen, then there's a possibility that special things will happen and when those things happen, everybody gets off on it, not just me. I can get off on an evening that is, for an audience, mediocre. I'll get off on it because it feels good, or the group is nice or my hands are working well. I can get off on a lot of different levels, but really getting off is something that is inescapable - if the whole band gets off, then the audience gets off, if the audience gets off, the band gets off, and it becomes one continuous thing. I don't know any more about it than anybody in terms of what "it" is, how "it" happens, or if "it" is controllable. You're tempted naturally in that position to try and control it, to say "let's see now, for sure now, is this me or is this it." Any number of stances that you can take emotionally doesn't affect it, whatever that is, it enjoys greater purity than I can muster, certainly. I can almost put my head in any kind of weird place or be confused, or be distracted, or suffering or have a toothache or just not feel right, or any of those things, and if it wants to happen, it will happen, no matter what I do. It doesn't really have anything to do with me, I feel sort of removed...I don't want to feel as though I were responsible because it's not that kind of a thing. I believe that what we do and the level that we get to is a product of the desire of consciousness to get to that level and we've just accepted that structure, and said OK, if it's going to happen, we'll do it. This is also relevant to all the other parts of this discussion just insofar as that's the thing that we would like to be able to work on developing, but how? You know, how do you do that on earth?
NAJ: Do you have much ego identification with Jerry Garcia as a rock star or is music your main form of meditation?
GARCIA: Music is my yoga, if there is a yoga, that's it. Practicing and keeping my muscles together, that is like what I would relate to a physical yoga, a certain amount of hours every day. Life is my yoga, too, but I've been a spiritual dilettante off and on through the years, trying various things at various times, and I firmly believe that every avenue that leads to higher consciousness does lead to higher consciousness. If you think it does, it does. If you put energy into it on a daily basis, no matter what it is, I believe it will work. I believe that it's within the power of the mind and consciousness to do that.
NAJ: Do you feel interviews are a part of that machine?
GARCIA: Well, about every year or so, I have a new rap, and there are a few new ideas that I have. It's great to have that kind of a forum to be able to say, "Well, listen to this, you fools out there;" but I've prefaced interviews in the past by saying that I can't do really anything but lie, all talking is lying, and I'm lying now, and that's true, too. I mean, you can go and hear me play, that's me, that's what I have to say, that's the form my thoughts have taken, so I haven't put that much energy into really communicating verbally. It's all open to misinterpretation, just like the songs are, it's that way, so I tend to pull the roots out of my own ideas, just conversationally, that's one of my bad habits at an interview.
NAJ: I think you're pretty eloquent, I wouldn't worry about it. Thank you very much, Jerry, for granting me this short slice of your life, and God Bless You.

 

(by Peter Simon, from the New Age Journal, May 1975)

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com