Feb 3, 2022

July 1967: Danny Rifkin in London

Britain's flower people had better get their orders in to Interflora. It looks as though there may be an invasion of real, genuine, 18-carat-gold hippies from San Francisco bringing beads for the natives. 
The advance party arrives in London this week in the person of Danny Rifkin, co-manager of one of San Francisco's major underground groups, The Grateful Dead. 
"I'm here just to look around," Danny told the MM. "We'd like to bring about 150 people from San Francisco, bands, light shows and everything, and do it for free in the parks and things. This is the way it's happening now - do your own thing rather than have some promoter do it. The bands in San Francisco now put on their own dances, and instead of taking the proceeds, they put all the money in a fund. We hope to raise enough to get over here and that people will house and feed us when we get over. We still work for money, but more and more we, and other bands, are playing in the parks for nothing. We haven't worked for money in San Francisco for four or five months - all the paying work is outside." 
The Grateful Dead comprise Bob Weir (rhythm gtr), Jerry Garcia (lead gtr), Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (organ), Phil Lesh (bass gtr), and Bill Kreutzmann (drs), and their album, just released in Britain, has already done over 100,000 in the States. 
The group, their two managers, equipment managers and fan-club organisers all live together in a house in San Francisco's hippy district. "We are leaving for New Mexico for a while," said Danny. "We will live on a mountain for a couple of months and straighten our heads out. Then we hope to come to England. In San Francisco the boys are kind of local heroes. The doors are always open and there is always a million people in the house. You can't kick them out, but it's a tremendous strain. We feel it's just about time to split for a while and be with ourselves. Anyway, a change is nice. We went to New York about a month ago. It's much rougher there - a harsh place to live. 
"San Francisco is a beautiful city - the climate is fine and the people are friendly. And the kids are getting together now - they are tired of all the old bull. They've found out you can be in the lower-income bracket and still have a good time. Being financially secure has nothing to do with being a good artist or having a good time. 
"The hippies now have their own free housing, food, medical aid, and legal services. A few months ago, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver, and Big Brother did a dance. We took 8,000 dollars and all the money went to the legal fund. So we now have a full-time lawyer if any of the kids run into trouble with the city officials. It's a real community thing and it could be the most beautiful scene in the world." 
Parks apart, The Grateful Dead would also like to play more conventional dates in Britain - particularly in ballrooms. "For one thing, in ballrooms the sound is always better than clubs - in the States anyway," said Danny. "The PA systems in the clubs are usually horrible and then everybody is jammed in tight and probably juiced." 
The Grateful Dead have been together for two years and three of them - Bob, Jerry, and Pigpen - were together in a jug band before that. Their only single to date was, according to Danny, "a real bomb." But, he agrees, "a hit single would be great." 
"When we play the album now we are not too happy with it, although it sold so well," he says. "It was recorded in four days. We did all the recording, the artwork and everything ourselves. Now we'd like to record in the open air. Playing outside, the sound is so different." 
Whether or not you will see The Grateful Dead in your local park, you will have a chance to see them on BBC TV in September. "The BBC sent a camera crew to do a Whicker's World documentary on the hippies," explained Danny. "They were a real hip team. It should be a very good programme."
 (by Bob Dawbarn, from Melody Maker, July 29, 1967) 

Thanks to Dave Davis.
Whicker's World, 9/9/67: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZFln2ByNAk  
(the Dead appear at 12:30; Golden Road at 15:30)

1 comment:

  1. This was taken from a "History of Rock" magazine anthology, so it's likely to be edited from the original article.
    Rifkin's summer '67 visit to England was the first of several unsuccessful attempts by the Dead to play there over the next couple of years. (Plans for shows in December '67, March '68, October '68, and September '69 were scuttled.) It's interesting to see that the Dead already hoped to bring "about 150 people" to tour in England; on the 1972 tour this was whittled down to about 50 people.

    But even though Rifkin's initial visit didn't bear fruit, he still got to spread the San Francisco gospel, telling everyone about "the most beautiful scene in the world." (He & Scully had been similarly rhapsodic when visiting New York City the previous month, telling the press that New York was "two years behind the Haight.")

    He's full of hopes and plans for the San Francisco community, and building an independent self-supporting financial scene. He mentions the 5/30/67 HALO benefit show, and points out that the Dead haven't been playing for promoters in San Francisco. This is basically true - other than some benefits, and shows at the Straight Theater, after May '67 the Dead pretty much stopped playing shows for the regular SF ballroom promoters until summer '68, in a quest for independence. Rifkin outlines the plan that would lead to the Carousel Ballroom experiment: "The bands in San Francisco now put on their own dances, and instead of taking the proceeds, they put all the money in a fund."

    Record-wise, the Dead are already "not too happy" with their first album and are already thinking of a live "open-air" recording for their next album. The hit single Rifkin hoped for would take a few more years to arrive, though.

    The trip to New Mexico was a real plan. Garcia told the Seattle Helix in July, "We’re moving to the Southwest...you know, we’re concerned about our productivity. And what we’re going to do is like...get away from a lot of people and a lot of action and a lot of energy, and just go out and do our own thing for a while."