DEAD WEEKEND IN PARIS
Paris, on a mid-summers day June 1971, and the Dead are in town. Or, to be more precise, just out of town.
For the last three days, we've been staying in the 16th century chateau d'Herouville, once the home of Chopin, and which now houses a 16 track studio called 'Strawberry' and a heated swimming pool in the back yard. The 16 people who comprised the Dead entourage on this occasion arrived 'peu a peu' during the few days preceding the date of their proposed performance at a free festival on the Rodeo Ranch at Auvers-sur-Oise, and Bob Weir, myself, and 3 1/2 tons of equipment comprising 106 pieces, brought up the rear on the Saturday afternoon.
We were greeted with the news that due to the heavy rain which fell on Friday night, the festival organiser, Jean Bouquin, had cancelled the remainder of the event, and the newspapers were full of pictures of rain-soaked French freaks wending their weary way home through the mud.
Six thousand miles is a long way to come for nothing, and although various attempts were made to arrange a concert at a suitable venue in Paris (and there was talk of taking the entire entourage and 3 1/2 tons of equipment to the Glastonbury Fair), what finally happened must have been one of the most amazing events at which the Grateful Dead - or any other band for that matter - have ever played.
The chateau is now owned by noted film music composer Michael Magne who, despite an unexpectedly high influx of guests due to the cancellation of the festival, managed to accommodate everyone in high style, producing food and wine as if by magic. I hadn't seen the Dead since the Hollywood festival in England last year, but somehow they are so much a part of my life these days that there didn't seem to have been that much of a gap.
I came across Jerry Garcia taking a leisurely stroll in the grounds, and within minutes became engrossed in a conversation that, rather like his guitar work, developed from a simple opening statement into the conversational equivalent of an improvised fugue. Impossible to relate to you in detail a discussion that simultaneously embraced the mechanics of the record industry, the sociological aspects of high finance, and what Chopin might have done, had the heated swimming pool been installed while he lived there.
By the time you read this, the Dead will have completed mixing their new double LP, and Jerry will probably have finished work on his solo album. Pigpen too is planning an album of his own, and is thinking of using brass accompaniment on some tracks; he really is far out you know - slept for almost 48 hours, in spite of the constant comings and goings of the household and, having surfaced, played and sung up a storm, then went back to bed.
Oh yes, of course they did play. On the Monday evening in the grounds of the chateau, by the side of the heated swimming pool to an audience which consisted of the entire population of the village, including the mayor, the local fire brigade (in uniform and with appliance), and 200 French farmers, with wives and children.
For four hours they played - old songs, new songs, getting off as only they can; and the audience loved it. Grandmothers bounced babies in time to the music, and the young ones indulged in the ancient French custom of throwing each other, fully clothed, into the pool. Our host laid out food and wine on tables surrounding the pool, and even supplied one thousand and one candles to light the scene.
A young lady journalist was busily trying to list the titles of the songs, and was getting more and more flustered until she realised at last that when the Dead play, it doesn't really matter much what the titles are. As for me, I know that they started with 'Truckin' and kept on that way until the sun started to brighten on the horizon.
I came back to London on the following afternoon and was quite surprised to find that it was still there.
(by Ian Samwell, from Zigzag no. 22)