Aug 26, 2013

August 18, 1970: Fillmore West


The musical family that plays together stays together, and though the Fillmore West is billing its current show "An Evening with the Grateful Dead," it should be "Jerry Garcia and his Musical Family."
From 8:30 p.m. until 2 a.m., three "Grateful Dead" groups stretch out on the Fillmore stage with good long sets. First, a folkish, mostly acoustic hootenanny-style contingent, then the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a country-western flavored Dead offspring, and finally for two hours, the good ol' original everlovin' Grateful Dead.
In each group the axis around which the sounds revolve is steady, devoted Jerry Garcia. First on acoustic, then on pedal steel, finally on electric amplified, Garcia's phenomenal guitar prowess is amply demonstrated.
I have never enjoyed any of our San Francisco rock groups more than the Grateful Dead set I heard last night. Its pace was relaxed but not irresponsibly so. Each number was tight, fully musical, and unbelievably more competent and professional than used to be the case with the Dead.
In many bands I find one drummer too much, but the Dead's double-drum team, Micky Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, are so beautifully integrated with one another (and the group) that strange and wonderous things are constantly happening. Hart's exuberance is matched by Kreutzmann's solid percussion foundations.
Bob Weir has developed into an attractive vocalist with a remarkably clear and controlled voice. He's no slouch, either, as a guitarist, but his vocal stance deserves the highest commendation.
Throbbing away behind all this is bassist Phil Lesh, with higher audio standards and fuller control of his instrument than most musicians would believe possible.
So it goes. Pigpen's organ playing now blends into the Dead ensemble with assurance (it used to be like a sore thumb) and he's singing well, adding quite often to some of the wild background effects the Dead have developed.
The Dead are just great live.
The New Riders country band are a mixed bag. Besides Garcia, bassist Dave Torbert and guitarist Dave Nelson (who also sings second parts) were outstanding on the set I heard. Front singer John "Marmaduke" Dawson was having a rough night...perhaps too much singing, too strained.

(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, August 19 1970)

Thanks to

Aug 23, 2013

Garcia's First Guitar

Garcia often retold the story of how he got his first guitar. In compiling my post on Garcia's records & early musical history, I gathered a number of these quotes - but basically I couldn't decide which to include. So here are several retellings of how he got started on guitar...

“During this time…I want a guitar so bad it hurts. I go down to the pawn shops on Market Street and Third Street and wander around the record stores, the music stores, and look at the electric guitars and my mouth’s watering. God, I want that so bad! And on my 15th birthday my mother gave me an accordion. I looked at this accordion and I said, ‘God, I don’t want this accordion, I want an electric guitar!’ So we took it down to a pawn shop and I got this little Danelectro, an electric guitar with a tiny little amplifier, and man, I was just in heaven - I stopped everything I was doing at the time. I tuned it to an open tuning that sort of sounded right to me and I started picking at it and playing at it. I spent about six or eight months on it, just working things out. It was unknown at the time, there were no guitar players around. And I was getting pretty good and finally I ran into somebody at school that played guitar… Somebody showed me some chords on the guitar.” (Signpost to New Space, p.3-4; from 1971)

“When I first heard the electric guitar, that’s what I wanted to play. I petitioned my mom to get me one, so she finally did for my birthday. Actually, she got me an accordion, and I went nuts – ‘Aggghhh, no, no, no!’ I railed and raved, and she finally turned it in, and I got a pawnshop electric guitar and an amplifier. I was just beside myself with joy. I started banging away on it without having the slightest idea of anything. I didn’t know how to tune it up, I had no idea. My stepfather tuned it in some kind of weird way, like an open chord… I played it that way for about a year before I finally ran into some kid at school who actually could play a little. He showed me a few basic chords, and that was it. I never took any lessons; I don’t even think there was anybody teaching around the Bay Area.” (Rolling Stone, Garcia p.193; from 1993)

“I got a good old Danelectro guitar. I was so happy with it. It had a kind of coffin-shaped case. And I got a little teeny-weeny Fender amplifier… My stepfather tuned it to this weird bogus tuning, or maybe he tuned it right and I evolved the tuning wrong in some way, but I ended up tuning it to this open tuning and working out chords and stuff, and playing along with just what sounded good, with absolutely no directionality, for about a year. Then I met a guy in school who showed me the right way to tune it, and four chords, maybe five chords – the basic first-position chords and stuff. I had to unlearn somewhere between six months’ and a year’s worth of self-teaching, but I really was a slow learner, and basically I didn’t get into really learning the guitar with any kind of depth at all until the Grateful Dead started. Even then, it took a long time. I’m a slow learner. I didn’t work hard at it, and I didn’t have any lessons or…guidance. The banjo was the first instrument I got into seriously.” (Conversations with the Dead p.87; from 1981)

“When I was about fifteen, I developed this deep craving to play the electric guitar. I fell in love with rock & roll, I wanted to make that sound so badly. So I got a pawnshop electric guitar and a little amplifier and I started without the benefit of anybody else around me who played the guitar or any books. My stepfather put it in an open tuning of some kind, and I taught myself how to play by ear. I did that for about a year until I ran into a kid at school who knew three chords on the guitar and also the correct way to tune it. That’s when I started to play around at it, then I picked things up. I never took lessons or anything… No particular musician inspired me, apart from maybe Chuck Berry. But all of the music from the fifties inspired me.” ‘94

“My first guitar was an electric guitar, and my first love on the guitar was Chuck Berry. He was my guy. When I was a kid I got all his records, and I’d just try like crazy to learn how to play them. I got this electric guitar and I didn’t know anything about the guitar. I had the guitar for maybe six or eight months without ever knowing how to tune it, and I invented a tuning for it and invented a way to play it in this tuning, so it worked out pretty well until I got to certain points. I’d listen to a record and I’d try to figure out what the guy was doing, and it was virtually impossible to do because of the way I had my guitar tuned! Finally I ran into a guy who showed me how to tune it; he showed me a few of the basic chords and it was just a revelation! Here it was, the real way to do it!” (Grateful Dead Reader p.22-23; from 1967)

“I got my first guitar on my 15th birthday. I played around with it for a year before I learned how to tune it properly. I had invented my own tuning, and invented my own chords because there wasn’t anybody in San Francisco that played the guitar at that time the way I wanted to play. I had to grope. Finally, I met a guy in the high school that I was going to that knew a few chords and knew the right way to tune a guitar, and I picked it up. I was in this odd musical vacuum where I somehow wasn’t able to meet people who knew anything about the guitar, and I wanted to play it so badly. So for me it was this process of little discoveries… I’d learn these little things and it was definitely the hard way to do it. I wish that I could have taken lessons. I could have saved myself years of trouble. But it just didn’t work out that way.” (MTV 1983 interview)

Aug 7, 2013

November 23, 1970: Jerry Garcia Interview


The Grateful Dead have been making music for over five years now, but it hasn't been until this past year that they've really hit big on the East Coast. Wherever they play here now, they're met by fanatic groups of Dead freaks, ready to follow the band for miles to hear them play. It almost seems as though East Coast freaks are ready to pack up en masse, and follow the Pied Piper music of the Dead to the greener valleys of California. For the Dead represent, better than any travel poster, what the East Coast head sees as the magic of the West.
Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist for the Dead, seems the compleat quissentential California man. With his dark bushy hair and beard, with his calm deep set eyes framed by wire rims, with his vibrant virile gentleness, he seems to represent to Easterners what they or their old man could be if only they could get out of the rat race long enough.
Jerry has been busy lately, playing with the Dead who have been touring the East Coast on and off for the past few months, helping with the music for a play called "Tarot" being presented in Brooklyn, New York by the Rubber Duck in the Chelsea Theatre Center, and getting some new music ready for the band.
I spoke with him for a few hours on the day the Dead did a controversial benefit, produced by the N.Y. chapter of the Hells Angels. As we talked, other members of the band, family and friends, wandered in and out of the room, listening, joking and sometimes joining in our rap.

Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead, is a calm, highly intelligent man. He is not, as the Warner Brothers press release about the Dead says he is sometimes called, a guru. He is a man and a musician.
Recently Jerry has been playing music for a play called Tarot presented by the Chelsea Theatre Company in Brooklyn, New York, taking time out to play with the Dead who have been touring the East Coast on and off for the past few months.
The interview was in a hotel room in New York as other members of the band and family wandered in and out.

CIRCUS: What did you do before the Dead was born?
GARCIA: I don't remember ever doing anything except what we're doing now. I was just doing it before on different scales, different calibrations. When I first started playing I did Chuck Berry stuff. Then I went into the army and I saw people playing with their fingers, so I wanted to play with my fingers. I got into the blues, ragtime, folksy trip. I was doing a lot at once. Out of that period came Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Band with me, Weir (Bobby Weir, guitarist), and Pigpen (Ron McKuen, organist). [sic] Out of that came the Warlocks, the Dead before it became the Dead (minus Mickey Hart, drummer).
CIRCUS: You did a concert recently produced by the Hell's Angels. How did that come about?
GARCIA: Sam and John (members of the family) fell into an evening of raving with Sandy, president of the Angels in N.Y.C., and it just happened.
CIRCUS: Do you see a contradiction between what your music says and playing for the Angels?
GARCIA: I'm not into contradictions. I myself don't see a contradiction. The way I see it, everything is a contradiction if you want to look at it that way. Lots of things simultaneously exist but that doesn't mean they can't work together. When they can. Sometimes they can't but sometimes they can.
CIRCUS: Do you want to go into your opinions about politics today?
GARCIA: No. I'm not a politician so I can't give a political rap.
CIRCUS: But the impression you give here is political in a way.
GARCIA: That's only here on the East Coast. And it's only because here there are so many papers and radio stations. So people get into believing what they read or hear. I know it's different here because of the questions I'm asked.
CIRCUS: But you did the concert with the Angels and you did a benefit for the Panthers in December.
GARCIA: Yeah. We did the Panther thing. We met Huey Newton and he's a great guy, a far-out guy, really together. And the information we got about the Panthers we got from Huey. That's what we're responding to, that personal contact trip. Like, we might respond to Nixon, for example, but we've never had the opportunity to sit down and rap with him. The way we deal with stuff is like that, personal contact, not what it says in the papers.
CIRCUS: Are you concerned about the repression coming down?
GARCIA: I'm concerned with repression only when it comes to my door and represses me.
CIRCUS: In your music, do you construct the words to have a certain meaning?
GARCIA: The time to construct a theory of music is after it's all over. That way it's all cream. We can goof with it. Sometimes I set Hunter's (Bob Hunter, who writes most of the words to their music) words and sometimes he writes to the music. We're just doing it. It ain't dogma.
CIRCUS: A lot of people look at you as a very spiritual person.
GARCIA: We're just musicians, basically. We know lots of people into spiritualism and they tell us what's happening. That's one of the spheres we travel in but that's not to say that we're part of it. We're just traveling in it like we're traveling in New York. Because we're in a position where a lot of energy happens around us, anybody who's interested in energy and power and all of its attendant trips is just naturally drawn to our trip. So people who are into magic or the occult spot, in our music and its whole effect, something that is extraordinary, and also we're from California where everybody has an I Ching. It's just part of the way we live.
CIRCUS: How about drugs? You seem so much a part of that whole acid rock, San Francisco thing.
GARCIA: That whole acid rock trip is like some dumb fucking label that some newspaperman hit on in '65 or '66. The thing that you can't understand the music without drugs is ridiculous. I always get more turned on when some completely straight person gets into it cause that means that what we're doing is a little more inclusive. I'm not really interested in eliminating anybody or excluding anybody. Actually we've never been into dosing the stuff that gets into the audience. There's always somebody around who does but it's not us.
CIRCUS: There are so many myths around about the Dead. Is there any myth that you would like?
GARCIA: We would like a myth that we're all incredibly thorny and difficult people, and completely anti-social in every respect. It would make things a lot easier. So many people come up to talk with us. There's a lot of classic syndromes in rock. There's a lot of scenes. It's a groovy position to be in but you have to learn to discern one thing from another. When somebody comes to hit on you sometimes it's going to be good and sometimes it's going to be terrible. You have to pick up on it fast.
CIRCUS: It seems that lately you've been playing to bigger crowds and the vibes have been going down. Out in Brooklyn last week the crowd was almost violent. Is there anything you can do about that?
GARCIA: All we can do is not play and thus avoid presenting ourselves as an excuse for somebody having their little trip. We don't want to be background music for a riot. Otherwise all we can do is make adjustments, endless adjustments. It's getting trickier and trickier. Cause it's hard to tell who to like anymore. In a lot of those scenes I find myself liking the cops who are able to restrain themselves so admirably while some idiot is trying to break through them over music - but music is just the excuse for it. Making generalizations about people and their roles is just not the kind of thing you can do. Having a good concert has to do with everybody knowing how to deal with everybody in the crowd. It used to be a real high level where nobody would get hurt and you could let your kids run around. It can only get that way again if people start doing it that way. I think really the political thing has more energy now. The whole schism number.
CIRCUS: What would you like to do with your music, your records?
GARCIA: There is an infinite number of possibilities with records. There are lots of things I'd like to try that we haven't done yet. We're just slowly eliminating possibilities. We're doing a little bit in one idea and a little bit in another. We don't feel limited in what we can put on an album. We'd like our music to go all over everywhere and we'd like to just keep getting better. You get bored just playing the same way for a long time so you eventually change out of sheer boredom. Actually our music is very gig to gig. If we played bad last night, I'd feel really awful today.
CIRCUS: Are you still into that kind of super-hippie, California life-style that people picture you in?
GARCIA: Our life-style has changed from the hippie thing. People now consider us neo-rednecks. I don't think we ever were where people thought we were, but I don't know. The world we live in doesn't have any Grateful Dead in it. So I don't know what people think of the Grateful Dead. We've never seen the Grateful Dead. We've always been out of touch. That's one of the reasons we are where we are, because we were always getting somewhere weird of our own that wasn't necessarily right that anybody else should be going there. Whatever it is we're doing I wouldn't prescribe for anybody. It's not a thing for everybody to be doing or the world would go to ruins. There's a lot of things we're not doing and somebody else should be doing them. Whatever it is that we're doing is a special little thing and it's because of the faroutness of a place like California that things could get so specialized. It's just fortuitous circumstance and a long series of weird events that made it possible for us to come about at all.
CIRCUS: What about the rumors about you. Anything you'd like to say about them?
GARCIA: I would like to eliminate the rumor that we're all good guys. We're at least 50% bad guys at least 50% of the time.
CIRCUS: Finally, anything you'd like to say about the energy you create?
GARCIA: Yeah. We'd like for that energy to get higher. There's a more [words missing] level. A breakthrough thing into a kind of otherness. That's where we'd like it to be.

(by Marlese Ann James, from Circus, March 1971)

Thanks to

Aug 6, 2013

November 23, 1970: Anderson Theatre, NYC


Well it sounds so sweet
I had to take me a chance
Rose out of my seat......
I just had to dance!!!

I remember the first day the sign blared out all over Second Avenue from the Anderson Theatre marquee..."Hell's Angels Presents the Grateful Dead" to the positive dee light of all us second hand Second Avenue freaks. This was the one we'd all been waiting for, and it was too fucking much to believe. Hell, the tickets were completely sold out the first few days of sale. God, what a trip...walking up to the glass window and buying a ticket from a hairy Angel...and the sign that warned..."Only two tickets per person"...nobody argued.
Christ, it was cold! The mind had to adust to the cold, hard fact that it WAS November after all, in fact it was the 23rd...and as the Dead hit New York's lowuh East did the cold wind. But it was an easy wind.
Living only two blocks from the Anderson, I had no trouble finding the place, especially with a huge searchlight outside the theatre beamed all over the night sky. "What balls," I thought..."The Angels having a bash, and having the fucking balls to put a searchlight out!" I could see the crowd from the distance huddled around the light...what's happening...a fight maybe? I stumbled closer...god it's, a couple of cops standing around but nobody cares. Man, those Angels are really herding 'em in there... "OKAY, EVERYBODY WITH TICKETS IN THIS LINE!" Again nobody argues.
With strains of Casey Jones humming in my brain and visions of jolly Jerry dancing through my head, I joined the happy herd. My first flash at the sight of all the Angels was...yikes...well, you know. Anyway I realized I wasn't in control any more (if I ever was). I never saw a party with more horrifying hosts...yeah, right, a party! Right in the Hell's Angels' living room. And we were their privileged guests. Some guy is going up and down the line selling acid and one in my region wants any...he seems surprised and rushes off. must be good. I wonder, should I? Oh well, I never see him again. And then from behind I hear "Anybody want some free water? It's electric water!" Everyone turns to look and here's a guy sitting on the aisle with a bottle of water, AAH! and he's shaking it all around and it's sparkling. No one really grabs for it except for a couple of acid freaks who jump up: "Where? Where?"
Finding my seat was easy, with a little help from my friends. None of those (thank God) fucking Fillmore hot shot ushers with their flashlights. I didn't even see an usher...oh, wait a minute wasn't there a little guy with a flashlight standing at the head of the aisle telling people "Go over there...Center aisle...straight ahead"...and somehow you found the seat all right and what vibes! But it's a Hell's Angel party and it's their living room and you know you damn well BETTER be stoned kiddo. The seat next to me is still empty...I'm expecting my friend Ron...suddenly the aisle moves in and two people come in and say they have tickets for here and all the seats are taken except Ron's, but somehow it gets straightened out with no hassle...some sweet little Mama comes up with a flashlight (not on). "Is everything okay?" she asks worriedly, the perfect we're fine thanks.
A freak walks by and lays a tab of sunshine on the end man in my, free acid...but nobody wants any and it gets passed down to me. "Say it looks pretty potent, don't it... Well, let's split it up and we'll all have a piece...and WHAM the bulking orange pearl gently breaks apart in my fingers...I start handing out pieces...and magically, it keeps breaking in even portions...enough to feed about six of us...why not? A pleasant stone for the evening. And the joints keep going around. The guy in front of me has a fucking ounce of really dynamite smoke and he's rolling these fat things! The guy next to me blows a hit for me and the smoke goes all over the spasmic laughter of that beautiful FLOW that comes from godknowswhere...rippling up and down the aisles. Ron finally makes it and sits down in the empty seat. He's tired...starts rubbing his hair and begins some small-talk bitching about what a lousy day it was and yeah, how the cold weather seemed to piss everybody off...then someone hands him a joint and he hands me part of his "dinner"...a half-chewed apple. A chick in front of us comes in and hands her friend a tab of...what? Psyllocin? No, its not psyllocibin, she assures us, but it lasts real long. This time it breaks in Ron's fingers and we each take half after giving a piece to her friend.
It's been about a half hour now, and Ron asks me how long I've been here and I say about twenty minutes. Everybody's starting to get off and we can see the Angels sitting around with their chicks and their wine, melting in against the walls, making the Anderson Theatre seem like...well...if there's a Sistine Chapel in hell, this is it.
The MC finally comes up to the mike. He's wearing a brown suit with a British accent to match. He burbles something eloquent into the mike, but I'm so busy digging his British accent I don't even listen to what he's saying. The first act hits the stage and the announcer tells us this is going to be the "highest night New York ever had," or something like that. And the first act is...WhaaHaa!? a Pantomime artist...whitefaced and all...a veritable freaked out Marcel Marceau and forgive me friends, but I didn't catch his name...I think he was on one of the late night talk shows once...anyway he studied with Marceau and his movements are something to watch. The audience can't believe it! What class! A mime artist at a Hell's Angels party. That's class, baby! He gets into a thing about a guy who grows a marijuana plant and he finally has us with him, after a few heckles. (Ever wonder how a mime artist handles a heckler? He puts a cupped hand to his ear...listens...doesn't hear anything...shrugs his shoulders and keeps on walking.) I think he came on twice but after a while no one could hack what he was into. He just kept making all these movements, to the tune of Purple Sage on guitar, but we were all too stoned to appreciate it. Anyway, I remember he ended by rolling a huge imaginary joint which he could light only by placing the lighter on the floor while holding the joint up to his lips. He kept taking hits off that thing and really getting whacked out...his little white clown face going through contortions. Then he passes the joint (a real armful) to a guy in the front row, and with a sweeping gesture as if to say "Take it, smoke it and be happy." Everyone gets the message and another batch of joints begins making the rounds.
Someone throws a balloon down from the balcony and I'm starting to feel the "psyllocin" and the freak in front of me says he wishes he had some hash...and like magic a hash pipe is passed to him, complete with matches...seems like everyone is getting their wish fulfilled tonight...I run out of cigarettes and say "Where's a cigarette!" and I get handed a cigarette...too far out...and baby, we are SOOO stoned.
The next act is on and it's the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and there's what's his name...Sage? Sorry about the names agin, friends, but this is another act I've never seen although they usually accompany the Dead, I know. A voice from somewhere behind me yells, "Hey Sage, how come your guitar's so big?" And it's about half his size and Sage looks down at it and says, "Because it's a big one!" leaving us to grok what he really meant by "IT." Then I look to stage left and there is the center of all those good has to be...Jerry Garcia...the cherub hero with his big red smile glowing out from inside all that hair..the frizzy frizzed-out explosion of a beautiful soul. Where did he come from?? He's playing the pedal steel guitar now screeeeupeedoodleeoobooowm. Shucks Jerry, your maw must be proud! The Sage finishes their first number and lawd it's so fine. Some creep yells from the balcony, "The Grateful Dead are still the best!"
I began my slow climb on the frenzied psyllocin during the next few Sage ballads, so I didn't catch the titles much except I know they were about travelling on the road and girls and love and all that. The next thing I see is Weir from the Dead stepping up to the mike to do some duets with the Sage. He looks like a ghost, that boy. Tall lanky Weir with his sunken eyes and tied back hair and his face like stone, but those sparkling eyes keep flashing out from deep inside...what a face. He and the Sage begin singing "Mama Tried," one made famous by Cash. [sic] Weir looks like a freaked out Glen Campbell. He projects a real honest feeling when he sings...his eyes crossing as he sings to the microphone. My eyes begin to wander now and there's the bass player, neat with long black hair...sings too... The lead player sticks to mostly simple country riffs, perfect for Garcia to move around in on the pedal steel.
Next they break into "Cathy's Clown" and it is terrific. You ain't heard Cathy's Clown until you've heard it with steel guitar and all. They sing it down a lot lower than the Everly Brothers, though. After it's over, someone shouts out a request for "Wake Up Little Susie." But instead, they wind it off with "The Weight." (The man standin' next to me, his head was exploding.) "Oh, this is so fine," he moans. Then he starts rapping to me about how they did this number in Philadelphia or somewhere, and Garcia came on with electric fiddle and someone suffered a coronary.
Trying to relate the evening at the Anderson is about as insane as the experience itself. But by the time the Dead finally APPEARED, I realized that I was probably more stoned now than I'd ever been before. But what I didn't realize was that I was going to be even more stoned before the night was over. Well, that's what the man said, didn't he? The highest night you'll ever have in New York, or something like that...really, the nerve of some actually carry it off! People were standing in the aisles now...sitting on shoulders, passing bottles of water in beer bottles, spiked with God knows what...and I can't begin to tell you what a cosmic thing it was but if you like figures, I heard someone say there were two thousand people there. Ron took a trip to the john and said the urinals were flooded, there were so many people...glassy eyed, just waiting in line to piss...anywhere. There was a minor hassle, with someone freaking out and getting the flashlight treatment from an Angel, and Ron remarked that it seemed like an existential drug take the much as you want...but you better not start freaking out or you get disciplined by the Big Daddy... Oh well, what do you expect when you're cooking with the cosmos in Hell's kitchen?
I think the first three songs were new ones, because I hadn't heard them before. Everyone was yelling for Casey Jones and telling Garcia to turn up his amp, and someone yelled "Play whatever the fuck you want!" And OOHH the vibrations...(grok the groovy hippies and Hell's Angels, whose angels?) The stage is crowded with groupies, Angels, people in coats who look like they just dropped in. I'd never been this close to the Dead...about twelfth row or so...and I decided to get into Garcia. Hmm. Interesting way of looks like he holds the flat pick between index finger and thumb, but he also uses his middle finger to pick with too. Garcia's an Aquarius, right? I know another Aquarius who picks like that. Garcia lets his fingers slide all over his guitar in mellow twangy passages, and Weir plays those metallic country licks on "Bobby MacGee," a Gordon Lightfoot number. "Feelin' good was good enough for me...good enough for me and Bobby MacGee," sings Weir, occasionally giving the finger to the stoned out sound men in the balcony. They didn't have the monitor loud enough or something, and there was a feedback problem. And Garcia just kept on smiling.
Everybody really got their rocks off on "Midnight Hour," done by Phil Lesh. [sic] The perfect part for a Hell's Angel. He stands up there in his cowboy hat, dungaree jacket and boots, and tells us about love like he's the granddaddy of them all. "Sometimes I like a little somepin' to eat...and sometimes I like a little somepin' to drink... (smack - he wipes his mouth with his sleeve) And sometimes I gonna creeeem on you!" And oohh baby you know what I like and you should have seen those Angels lapping it up as Lesh continued with his lesson: "And what d'you do when a sweet little chick comes up behind you, and she's smilin'...What you DON'T do is yuh don't try to stand there and look cool, but yuh move in on her and yuh say, 'C'mon baby let's fuck!'" Too much.
I didn't realize how long I'd been dancing until the Dead launched into "Not Fade Away." I remember thinking how I've got to dance on THIS one and realizing that my body had been going for some time now.
When the Dead first came on, all these balloons appeared. Balloons and beach balls, and one long balloon that looked like the Zeppelin trade mark. Everyone kept them bouncing around for the longest time. Occasionally one would bounce up on the stage, and POW...get kicked right back by Hunter or Weir. The insanity of seeing those balloons and beach balls bouncing around is beyond description. But now they were passing around bags of confetti and it was like New Year's Eve. This was the ultimate bash of the year, friends, and boy, did it make Bill Graham look sick. It just goes to show how when all us freaks get together to do something, it comes out RIGHT! None of this phony bullshit plasticity of the hip capitalist regime that rules rock and roll. This was OUR party with OUR people and OUR music and thank you, Hell's Angels, for doin' it right!
By the time the Dead lumbered into Casey Jones I was beginning to feel emptied, when I first got there I was soaking up everything and taking everything and getting up...up...and now I felt emptied out again. I felt cleansed. God, it was beautiful. And now it was about three in the morning and it was like we were all sitting around a fire. Jerry sang a soft slow ballad...soft and sweet. You could just picture him on a freight car somewhere, with that high jubilant voice sifting through the darkness, taking us all with him on his trip.
Then finally it came. Their last song, "Uncle John's Band." And I hope none of you decided to leave early, because after all the preceding spiritual ejaculation, this was the song that made a lot of souls whole again. Just to see Garcia as he sang the most beautiful line the Dead have ever written - "How does the sun go?" [sic]
Then it was over. Over? Whuzzat...there's the British bloke again, telling everybody that's all for tonight. "After all, we want the neighbors to have a good idea of what we're about, don't we." Get serious! Rocking and doping with the Hell's Angels until three in the morning and somebody's worried about making an impression? Anyway, it was the nicest announcement we were to get, because after he went off, all the Angels began cleaning up and doing their number walking around on the stage. Ron says that now's the time to go up on stage, but the Angels are starting to shout "Go home! Get the hell out of here!" And we decide NOT to go on stage after all, but to make our way up the aisle past all the TOTally spaced out faces frozen in their chairs...and the trip outside is like emerging from hell into the Arctic...the walls are icy blue in the Anderson lobby, enough to give you a chill withOUT locusts. There's an Angel with something dangling from his nose...some kind of fishhook affair with a gold and green design hanging down above his lower lip, and even the Angels were touched by the gentleness of it all, and you know where they're at, but they're insane just like the rest of us. And after hearing the Dead sing about feeling good and about good, gentle things, you know, we could save the world...with our they only knew...
And so we bade farewell to the Anderson Theatre and walked off feeling grateful for the Dead...feeling grateful for having been able to experience the "highest night ever in New York"...and feeling that the Hell's Angels are really a bunch of all right guys, after all.

(by Chip Crossland, from the East Village Other, 1 December 1970)

Alas, no tape! (The tape circulating with this date is actually from the Fillmore East 11/16/70.)

Thanks to

October 30-31, 1970: SUNY, Stony Brook


There’s one more thing you must do before it all falls apart: spend the night with the Grateful Dead of San Francisco. It is an experience that compares with birth trauma or sky diving. You just have to be there at three in the morning when you find yourself totally overwhelmed by all the sound, your body resonating with Lesh’s every bass note, your eyes burning, closed… Then in the midst of it all, you somehow feel that something – you can’t be sure – but something would feel just right at that moment and yes…from within all that sound, Garcia comes through with a few notes from somewhere and you know that there’s somebody way up that’s paying attention.
When the Dead played SUSB three years ago, the lights came on at 3:10 a.m. Nobody applauded or yelled for more, because there just wasn’t anymore left. Folks were just too exhausted – some from dancing, and the rest from just listening. And the Dead had played the last drop of sound that was left in their instruments. Suddenly you realized that there were basketball hoops and incompletes and Stony Brook…and you’re out in the street again.
Come hear Uncle John’s Band, playing to the tide.

(by Hank Teich, from the Stony Brook Statesman, October 30 1970)

Another article, “Conflict Nearly Kills Friday ‘Dead’ Concert Before Polity and Univ. Officials Agree” notes:
“A Friday night edition of the Grateful Dead concert, originally set for Saturday only, was added about three weeks ago by the SAB in an attempt to accommodate the great numbers of people trying to get tickets.” The gym was already scheduled for an International Students Affair that evening, but the conflict was resolved after some negotiations.



The Grateful Dead concerts attracted thousands of people to Stony Brook this weekend. During the three-day period gate-crashers forced their way into the gym, several concert-goers were treated for bad trips, campus police helped to save two people from carbon monoxide poisoning, and 12 persons were arrested for possession of narcotics.

At a Student Activities Board (SAB) meeting last night, the students in charge of planning concerts discussed the problems surrounding the gate-crashing that preceded Saturday’s late concert. “The Grateful Dead were very uncooperative,” said one SAB member, explaining that the group insisted on continuing their first show until midnight, the time set for the start of the late concert. As a result, the second concert could not begin on time, and impatient ticket-holders waiting for the second show were joined by gate-crashers in the pushing and shoving that developed. In the chaos that followed, some members of the crowd allegedly threatened hired security guards (not connected with campus police) with broken bottles, and according to student reports the guards hit some members of the crowd with clubs. Attempts to check tickets were abandoned.
As a result of the problems of the Dead concert, the present process of ticket sales was once again criticized, discussed and defended. Alternative methods of checking tickets before concerts are being considered.

Despite the pushing and shoving that occurred late Saturday night, campus infirmary officials say that there were no reported injuries over the weekend, though several individuals were treated for bad trips.
“About 15 or 20 students were treated for bad trips” during the concert, said Elizabeth Palmieri, Director of Nursing Studies and program coordinator of a service set up by the health service to treat students for “ill-effects” from drugs. “It was fantastic,” she said, describing the support and cooperation which students, faculty and staff members showed in working with the health services throughout the weekend.
Volunteer workers were apparently very successful in “talking the kids out of bummers,” said a member of the health service. “We tried to limit the sensory input,” explains Mrs. Palmieri, who is also an assistant professor of psychiatry and mental heatlh. “At the infirmary,” she says, “we used sparsely furnished, darkened rooms, and allowed only one or two volunteers to speak to the person we were treating.”

According to a police report, early Saturday morning Joseph Modica, a guard at the gym, found two youths locked in a car with its motor running. He immediately called Security, saying that the two young men “appear to be dead.” When Patrolman Charles Cali and Sgt. Plog arrives, it was apparent that the two youths had been overcome by carbon monoxide fumes and revived them with oxygen. With the help of associate professor Edgar Anderson of the Health Center, who reportedly massaged one of the victim’s chest after his heart had momentarily stopped beating, they saved the lives of the two and took them to St. Charles Hospital. The two youths are reportedly in good condition.

Campus security officers were also involved in the arrests of twelve persons for possession of narcotics. Saturday night Patrolman Charles Cali was talking to a young man who was apparently “on a trip,” and he asked the youth “Are you holding?” In response, the young man produced eight joints of marijuana and gave them to the uniformed officer. Eleven of the arrested youth’s travelling companions were arrested the next morning as campus security stopped and searched their mattress-lined U-haul van to find marijuana, pills, needles, and $800 in cash.

(by Tom Murnane, from the Statesman, November 3 1970)

Another article, “Security Arrests 12 for Narcotics,” goes into more detail about the drug arrests.of the “twelve out-of-state non-students apparently visiting the campus for the Grateful Dead concert Saturday night.” The campus police are praised for their vigilance.

An editorial, “Rearrange SAB Priorities,” complains about the crowded conditions at the Dead shows. Excerpts:
“Going to a Stony Brook SAB concert used to be more of a good time than it has been lately. As recently as last year, it was still possible for a good concert in the gym, crowded as it was, to be an opportunity for Stony Brook students to get together and feel together, enjoying an evening of good music.
The good music is still there, but two disturbing trends that are emerging have changed the concert atmosphere for the worse. The first trend involves the evolution of many a Woodstock “Child of God” into an increasingly popular phenomenon, the “rip-off revolutionary,” who is determined to gain access to a rock show by any means necessary without paying, without pausing to consider the physical damage and high tension potential violence atmosphere he may leave in his wake. [ ... ]
[The second trend:] Since late last spring, SAB has created the impression that it is concerned to a great extent with turning Stony Brook into the rock capital of Long Island. Observers might readily conclude that SAB has been too willing to bring to the campus huge crowds of people that it cannot control and is less concerned with the old ideas of providing entertainment for the student body. [ ... ]
It makes no sense to continue the “open arms toward everybody on the Island” attitude that began with the outdoor Jefferson Airplane concert last May. We can’t do it yet because, simply, there is no room to put everyone and security arrangements, although improved, aren’t yet down pat. As long as people across the state believe “there’s room for everyone at Stony Brook,” repetitions of the Saturday Grateful Dead confusion will continue.
There is no way to justify insatiable drives to pack the rafters to the hilt for each concert. If SAB eliminated Village Voice-Newsday advertising and concentrated more on giving most tickets to students, there would be no reason to hire incredible policing forces and no danger of risking catastrophe at each show. What would have happened this weekend if someone had phoned a bomb threat and security had tried to end the concert and clear the gym? What would have happened if a fire started during Saturday’s late show when all aisles were hopelessly blocked after SAB, faced with a crowd bent on immediate entry and about to destroy itself, was forced to declare a free and open concert?”

From another editorial, “Polity and the Gym”:
“Close to four weeks ago, the Student Activities Board asked Mr. Leslie Thompson, the Athletic Director, for use of the gym on Friday, October 30 for two more Grateful Dead shows. The reason for the request was that several thousand ticket requests over and above a sell-out of two regular shows, were phoned into the ticket office. Remembering the damage incurred at the Ten Years After concert this summer, when there were more people than seats, the SAB wisely decided to accommodate these requests (and obviously open up another two shows for students also) by asking for Friday night’s use of the gym."
(Thompson initially denied the request, but after a dispute between the Athletic Dept. & the Student Council, the gym was made available for the Dead show.)

From “An Open Letter to the Student Body” by the SAB Chairman:
“The late show of Saturday night’s Grateful Dead concert was the latest demonstration of the student body’s indifference and apathy toward the facilities of this campus as well as to the feelings of each other. This was the concert you slept in the gym to get tickets for, but how many of you were able to sit in those seats that you fought to get? The other three concerts were orderly and calm, and people were able to find their seats. Those that needed first aid attention were able to get it because the aisles were clear. These three concerts were sold out mainly to guests of students and the general public.
This is not to say that all of the chaos, the fence trampling, pushing shoving, bottle throwing etc. was done by us. We are all aware of the many hangers on who were looking for any way into the gym. But we on line out there did nothing to prevent them and as they pushed and shoved we were right there behind them pushing and shoving away. Much of the delay and ensuing havoc could have been avoided if the students cared just a little about what was going on on their campus. The Student Activities Board and student security can do just so much without your cooperation. We want to enjoy the campus concerts as much as you do. Without your help there will be absolutely no reason to continue for the rest of the year.”
(Another letter in reply complained that the SAB didn’t handle the crowd very well: “How can you expect a skinny, roll-up fence to hold back a massive herd of people?”)


An article in the 11/6/70 issue pointed out that $22,000 was expected from the mostly sold-out Dead shows, but only $15,000 had been counted. The matter was cleared up in an 11/10/70 article, “'Dead' Receipts Not Lost.” This article summarizes:
“The aftermath of the four-concert series saw far less trouble than the concerts themselves. The Grateful Dead were originally contracted to play two shows Saturday night only, on October 31, but a heavy ticket demand led SAB to schedule two additional performances for Friday night. Three out of the four concerts were virtual sellouts.
At the Saturday midnight performance, thousands amassed in an impatient mob outside the Gym entrance ramps. At times campus police allegedly had to club the crowd back. The threat of riot by hundreds of angry non-ticket holders forced SAB to open the Saturday midnight concert to all.
Student leaders the following day accused SAB of mismanagement and gross irresponsibility, specifically citing inadequate planning and crowd control. SAB countered by pointing to the Dead’s refusal to end the early show at an hour which would have allowed the late show to begin on time.”

(In other news, articles in all these issues state that constant bomb threats are continuing to disrupt the campus, with dozens of buildings cleared & classes canceled each week as a result of the bomb threats. Despite grumblings, no one knows what to do about it, and it's become a routine part of university life.)

See also:  

Aug 1, 2013

October 11, 1970: Jerry Garcia Interview


I interviewed Jerry Garcia the day after they played Queens College (Saturday, October 10). Musically the concert was a bummer, but to many of the people there, it was a tremendous success. The reason for this is simple: the Grateful Dead are such a fantastic rock band that even when they are bad they outshine almost any group in the contemporary rock scene.

When the Dead are right they blend the most intricate musical craftsmanship with incredibly beautiful singing. As Bill Graham once said: "On any given night the Grateful Dead are the best fuck'n rock group in the world." If you haven't seen them yet, what are you waiting for?

J.I.: What happened last night at Queens?

J.G.: What happened last night? What do you mean by that?

Well, last night you didn't seem to be groovin'.

Right. That's right, it was shitty. I mean, we flew all day long and came here for that gig, and didn't get a chance to check out the sound very well or anything like that. The PA system wasn't too good, and the sound was muddy on stage, and ah, when it's muddy it just destroys any kind of hope for good interaction. You know, we can sort of play together instinctively, so it was together, but it wasn't really high because it wasn't enjoyable; and plus also when we went there we got a big hassle at the gate, man, all the way with people coming in and doing all this shit, laying weird trips on us and it's like, ah, it's not a groovy situation to play in when there's that kind of shit going on, you know.

Did the fact that people broke in…?

That stuff doesn't bother me, man, I don't care what the people do, but there's no reason why they should lay it on us, you know. I mean, it's like, ah, you know, we were just trying to get from the car to the gig and there's a whole crowd of people, man. Nobody was hurting anybody or anything like that, but it was just this pressure trip. It's weird. And, ah, it doesn't make it easy to do it good and feel good about doing it.

Did the fact that the audience, the people there, seemed to really groove affect you?

There were people who were there to be there, and then, there was our audience. And I think the people who were our audience could dig it that we weren't getting off that heavy. But to the people who were there just to be there, it wouldn't have mattered what we done - it could have been anybody. I mean, you know, it was like the exciting trip of breaking into a place and it's that thing, you know, which is an okay flash if that's what you like, but it isn't what the music is about.

The last time you were at the Fillmore there seemed to be a lot of hassling with Graham's people, who were running around shoving people who were smoking dope. Meanwhile, you made it clear to the audience that you were getting off, thereby encouraging the audience to light up.

Well, it's the famous dichotomy, man - us against them. Yeah, I mean, we don't give a fuck if everybody gets up and stands on their seats, or dances in the aisles, or dances on the stage, or anything like that. I mean, we've had it happen a million times and we've never been hurt or anything by it. But, like, then again, we don't have to run the place next week, and it's like there's some reasonable in-between place, you know, where everybody can get it on and feel right about what they're doing and the people who are there working don't have to feel so hassled that they can't enjoy the music. 'Cause that's like a thing that the people in the audience don't realize - that the people who work at the Fillmore work there because they like music.

Did, like, Graham hassle you at all?

I mean, you know, Graham used to be just a penniless hustler in San Francisco. You know, he's Bill Graham. He used to call up Kreitzman (one of the members of the Band) and ask him for advice when he first started to promote rock n' roll dances.

That was back when the Pranksters were still doing things. Do you ever see Ken Kesey anymore?


What's he into?

Nothing. He never was into much of anything. He just does what he does. He just fucks around and lives on the farm. He's been working on trying to get in the movies.

As an actor?

Well, just trying to get a bunch of people to give him money to make a movie.

Like when he went across the country in the Prankster Bus? Did you ever see that movie?

Yep. I mean, I saw pieces of it. It was about nine hundred hours of film or something. It's just the work of stoned freaks with cameras. It wasn't made by movie people. I mean, it wasn't a movie in the sense of you go see a movie, you know, it was just footage - endless footage. I can't see enough of it.

In the last year or so, you've been getting much bigger. Like, a lot more people.

Yeah, it's too weird, after all this time. Well, last night, if that's an example of what it's going to be like I'd just as soon fuck'n retire, man. I don't want to make any performances - appearances when there's that kind of shit goin' on. You know, I really don't. I'm not interested in it. Yeah, it's too weird. I mean, it's only music. That's the way I feel about; it's only music.

Music obviously exerts a tremendous force on this country ...

Oh, yeah, I guess it is; but that doesn't mean that I oughta carry around the responsibility of being that guy that dispenses our music, you know what I mean? It's like being the President. I don't want it. I don't want the fuck'n job. I mean, I liked it when you could just be a musician; it's like being an artist and a craftsman or something, you know: it's a craftsman trip. Nobody goes - nobody mobs a cat that makes nice leather clothes, man, or a guy that does woodwork. Why the fuck should they mob musicians? I mean, it's weird.

Has that been hassling you a lot lately?

Only when we play at colleges, man. That's the only place where it's going on like that. And our audience is mostly, like, older and cool, pretty cool about that kind of shit.

I've heard, and you tell me if this is true, that you generally adjust your price to what the people can afford?

Yeah, generally.

Do you find it getting harder to give free concerts?

Ah, the reason that it's harder to do free concerts in, say, the middle of a tour, is that first of all a free concert has to be set up by somebody; somebody has to do it, you know what I mean? That means that there has to be a certain amount of energy going out to make sure that there's a place to do it - generators and shit like that. But not too uncool about telling everybody that it's going to happen. That's one. That's a tough one. It has to be somebody local. The next one is that usually in our tours we don't usually have a free space. Where for example the equipment guys would wanna move a bunch of shit around. Like twice a day, for example, is what it boils down to - to do a free thing. But it's a lot of work. It's a lot of work for a lot of people, and nobody realizes it. And I'm not into making people work that much more. It would be groovy to do free things, but see, the thing is, it's not effortless anymore. It's not effortless and it's not particularly mellow anymore. And it used to be those things. See, like, I'm not interested in making a whole bunch of people work for a weird scene. You know, for a scene where there's -- every time you have a free thing outdoors, man, you, have to remember there's a whole bunch of people who are there and they're there being responsible for, like, the equipment. You know there's sound stuff, PA, and all that. They're there because they have to take care of that shit. That's their work. That's their work. That's where they die; that's their ass. They're trying to take care of it. Meanwhile, there's a whole bunch of other people who equate free with free, you know, with utter absolute freedom. And that means the possibility of fuck'n stuff up. What it does, is that it puts some people in the position of cops when they aren't cops. You know, the people whose equipment it is and stuff like that. Now, I don't like to see people go through that kind of shit. If it was possible to do it and have everybody be cool it would be groovy to do it. But it's not possible to do it that much anymore. It just isn't.

How many nights a week do you gig, generally, when you're on tour?

It depends on the kind of tour. A lot of times we do every night. Sometimes we have a space here and there.

It continually amazes me how you can do four nights in a row at the Fillmore playing six or seven hours each night.

Well, that's probably our longest gig, but see, it's easier than anyplace else because the sound in there is pretty groovy. You know, and it's mellow. It's pretty comfortable. We play there a lot and we're acquainted with the starting. You'll always play better if you have the same place. And see, there, it's a regular routine: we go there and do the work, go home and crash, get up, and go play and crash. It's a regular routine, I mean, it doesn't allow you time to do much of anything else. But we don't always do it that way. Like, last night, the format was typical of whole other kind of gig we do which is kinda like a "hit and run" gig. I mean, the thing is on that we spoil New York audiences by playing at the Fillmore East and doing their six-hour sets and shit like that. But you can't humanly keep that up all the time. So, like, when we do two-and-a-half hours everyone feels like it's a bum. Holy shit, only two-and-a-half hours.

Last night I got the feeling that you guys were really uptight?

No, we weren't really uptight but the sound wasn't good, it wasn't particularly pleasant, and all those, you know, militant vibes, man, shit, that kinda stuff. And the thing is, in New York, you can't get a moment's peace. I mean, not a moment's peace. You can't go and sit somewhere and get your head together and cool yourself out a little before you play. 'Cause, like, there's a million people going "Ahhhhh!" I mean, it's weird. You see, that don't happen to us anyplace but here. And it makes it so each time we come here it's a little weirder. And eventually we're gonna get to that point of diminishing returns where we would be leaving more fucked up than when we came. You know, I mean, that and that's like, "Who wants it?" 'Cause you can't play good music if your head is fucked up. Really. You can create excitement but you can't get into anything very deep. And that kinda stuff fucks your head up.

0n this tour are you doing a lot of hit and run gigs?

Well, most of our tours are those kinds of gigs. See, there's only two theaters, man, they are the only two places that are set up pretty groovy all around for music and for smooth stage changes, good lighting and all that - the Fillmore and the Capitol Theater. And those are the only two in the whole country. The rest of the places we play are sort of anonymous halls and auditoriums and gymnasiums and all those kinds of places. Well, the thing is that we do our best show, in that sense - show sense, here in New York, 'cause here it's the show world.

What kind of arrangement do you have with Joe's Lights where, like, the last time I saw you at the Fillmore, the film clips were often directly related to the content of the music?

Right on, yeah. Well, they're used to playing with us. Light shows generally like to do a gig with us because when we're on we have a flow - like a light show flow.

Do you have people who work for you doing that kind of stuff?

No. I mean, it's not a question of working for anybody, it's - we work with a lot of people. And we don't take anybody on the road with us or anything. We don't make that much bread. I mean, for example, if we were making enough bread to be able to afford to do that, we would have had our own PA last night, and we would have gone through a number of sound tests to do what we could to make it better. But we don't have any control over any of that shit, so we have to use whatever is there. It depends on there being at least a fairly decent one and that's hardly ever the case. There's maybe about three good, really good, PAs in the United States.

What's the scene with the New Riders of the Purple Sage? They weren't with you at Queens.

Again, it's a question of can we afford it, because it costs a lot of money to move a cat from the West Coast to the East Coast. And, like, at the Fillmore they pay us enough - where we can bring whatever we want, pretty much. But at other places, like, colleges and stuff like that where we're playing in a small hall and they're not going to have much in the way of gross capacity and everyone is going to bust in anyway, we can't afford to bring that many people and to do all that.

Are the New Riders going to be with you at the Capitol Theater in early November?

I think so, yeah. We take them with us when we can. We work it out in front but a lot of times people - whoever the promoter is - says, "No, we don't want the New Riders 'cause we don't know who the fuck they are."

They seem to be very much a part of "An Evening With The Grateful Dead."

They're old friends. They've been gigging for years. Marmaduke, shit, he's been here now for years.

The last time I saw you with the Riders they seemed to be into a very heavy scene. They played three songs in a row that were almost apocalyptic...

Well, that's Marmaduke; he writes the songs. He's a good songwriter, really excellent songwriter.

His songs seem to be very political.

They are, but they aren't - 'cause Marmaduke is not a political dude, not at all. He's a humanistic dude.

Is Owsley [reputed to be the finest maker of LSD] still traveling with you?

Owsley's in jail.

How long has he been in jail?

About six months.

Do you still hand out acid at concerts?

Well, we aren't quite that blatant. You know, I mean, we aren't dealers or anything like that. We don't have huge tons of LSD. We usually have enough to get ourselves high, as high as we want to get, usually. And usually enough to get a few other people high. But, see, everybody else brings it and it doesn't matter who brings it. You know, none of that stuff matters. In fact, it doesn't even matter whether or not you take it. It's a trip for those who like it. As far as I'm concerned, I mean, I don't consider it a necessity.

Do you trip a lot when you play?

A moderate amount, I mean, we don't get incredibly flashingly high at a gig except when we know it's going to be a good scene and there isn't any kind of pressure. What we do, man, is usually take, like, a small amount, just enough to keep us at a certain level which is, like, super groovy for music. And it's just, like, an optimum mechanical facilities level. But it's a thing, and you have to experiment with drugs for a while to know what's right for you. And nothing always makes it, you know, there's so many variables.

Are you going to be coming out with a new album in the near future?

Yep, we just finished one.

Is it a live album?

No, it's a studio album.

What songs do you have on it? Does it have "Candyman?"

Yeah, "Candyman" is on it.

Are the Riders coming out with an album with you?

Well, not with us, but the Riders are working here and there on an album - they're putting together an album, but the Riders aren't signed with any record company or anything.

Really? That's incredible because they're so good.

Oh yeah, right, the New Riders are a good band.

What about your bust in New Orleans? How's that working out?

Some of the guys are still going to court down there, back and forth.

What are the charges?


Grass or Acid?

Yeah, they also said barbiturates, but we didn't have any barbiturates.

Is there any chance that some of the group might wind up in jail?

There's always that chance.

But does it look like they're out to screw you?

No, it looks like it's gonna be okay.

You've been busted twice. When you come to New York, or gig anywhere for that matter, are you paranoid?

No. I just consider it sort of an occupational hazard, you know. I mean, it's like if you're working on a skyscraper and if you're paranoid about falling, you know, you shouldn't be working. And that's like if you're playing rock n' roll music and you're paranoid about getting busted, you shouldn't be in rock n' roll music. I mean, you know, it's one of those things that happens, man - there's nothing you can do. There's no profit in worrying about it.

Getting back to Bill Graham for a minute ...the last time I saw you at the Fillmore, a couple of people freaked out and the House manager got up there and said there was some spiked orange juice or something going around, and it wasn't too cool. Did they hassle you about that?

Well, considering it's us - how can you hassle somebody like that? I mean, it isn't always us. We get it as often as anybody else does, I mean, somebody lays it on us without us knowing it.

I don't ask that because I think you're uptight about it, but…

We're not uptight about it, hell no, because they all get high themselves. I mean, we get them high, you know, mostly when we go to play at a place we get the staff and crew high, 'cause those are the people who are going to be working with us.

I don't know how long it's been since you've started to get really big...

Well, we aren't really big, man, we're only really big here in New York. The rest of the United States - they don't know who we are, and around home [San Francisco] people know us just because we've been there for so fuck'n long. And other places, you know, they've never heard of us in the South.

You don't go there, though.

Well, we don't do that much traveling, man. We don't work all that much, because, like, mainly we're into staying high, and diggin' it - enjoying what we're doing. And to work all the time is to make yourself hate it. So we try and keep - balance out our schedule.

When I say big, I mean like the last gig you played at the Fillmore. I knew some people who went to the box-office at six in the morning four days in a row - just so that they could be the first ones to buy tickets when they went on sale, so that they could get seats right up front; and on the fourth morning, there were twenty-five people ahead of them when they got there.

Well, man, we can't be responsible for things like that.

Has that been happening a long time?

Ah, yeah, that's the way it's been all along. It's getting more that way. But there's always been - like at home there's always been a certain group of people that don't ever miss a show anyplace we go on the East Coast - I mean the West Coast. You know, like, every show. I mean, that's the kind of fans we have. We have fans in the sense - it's kind of like symphony fans; they go to see whether or not we get it on and shit like that, I mean, they know all our trips. And, ah, with us it's a sort of a thing, I mean, we have all the elements, but it's only in special situations where it all works, you know, it just works and everything is right. And that doesn't happen all that often. It happens more often at the Fillmore, here, and those kinds of places. Because the environment is groovy, in the sense that you can hear what you're doing. I don't really have anything to say, you know. I mean, that's why I play. You know, I like to avoid adding to that celebrity bullshit, too. I mean - I'm just not - it doesn't make it easy. I would rather be playing good music and getting off that way than having to go on all the celebrity trips.

Do you find it unavoidable at times?

Only here, man. This is the only place where you can't get away from it. You can try, but - you can't really get away from it. Because it's a trip here. I mean, New York has got that kind of, like, theater trip - a theater background and that thing of focusing on personalities, you know, that's a big trip in New York. Because there ain't jack shit else to do. Really, I mean, what else is there to do - man, walk the streets and buy things. And so it leaves, you know, it leaves a lot of human things just completely fucked up and that's one of the things that has never been successfully handled in this society and that is how - how people relate to artists. Ah, because all the roles - the roles of what artists are doing is all changing, and those relationships have always been awkward, and the whole star system which was, like, a merchandising invention in the twenties for movies, you know, it's not something that really happens - it's something that somebody invented and laid on the public, you know - personalities. It's responsible for all the evils in the music business, that whole trip, in terms of what it does, in terms of why people, ah, turn to down or drugs and stuff like that just to get away from the shit for awhile. I mean, Jimi Hendrix lived with it, you know. I mean, I never saw him without a half-dozen weird people hanging around him - vampires and shit. And, ah, it's just a bummer; a big fuck'n bummer.

Did you ever jam with Hendrix?

No, I never did. The opportunity just never came up.

Were you close friends with Janis Joplin?

I was pretty good friends with her, yeah. I'd known her for a long time.

Had she been shooting dope for a long time?

Well, she used to be a speed freak, years ago - in pre-rock n' roll days. She was a real heavy speed freak back in those days - had heavy abscesses and everything and she was a real down chick on a really down trip and then she decided to pull out of that whole scene and cleaned up for a couple of years and went back to Texas, and then came back to the Coast when the whole rock n' roll thing started. She was like a little girl. She came out and she was really together. She started singing the rock n' roll thing and enjoyed it immensely. And she was into juicing which was way better than speed, I mean, it's a bummer, but it's better than speed. And then from juicing she just got into smack, because again it's one of those things that are trying to turn down the volume. You know, when you're Janis Joplin, man, with all kinds of people hitting on you, day in and day out - superstar and all the rest of that bullshit, man, you go back to the motel, sit down, fix up with some smack - just to get a little sleep, you know, just to nod out, you know, come down. You know, and it's just so easy, so easy, man, 'cause you just, you know, say - consider the situation, man, you come back from a recording studio - ah, it's so real and easy when you've been into the rock n' roll scene, you can see just how it happens, man - you come back from the recording studio, you go to some bar or something late at night and get a few drinks, you know, just to come down from the excitement and all that shit, the excitement and tension and all that shit, unwind, take a few drinks, go back to the hotel, you got a little smack there, you fix it up, but you don't know how much you did, and you know maybe it's a little too much and you nod out and that's it - you're dead, you know, it's just that easy. And it's like, ah, it's because of all that weird pressure; if it was a human situation, man, if being a musician in this day and age was a humanistic situation, none of those people would have to do that - would have to go to those extremes - nobody would have to do that shit. It's just weirdness. Weirdness. And it's weirdness that's laid on musicians by fans, by music lovers, you know, who confuse what music is with what personalities are.

Isn't that also true of what is generally happening in the country?

Yeah, well, it's another example of one of the things that's wrong with the society. There are so many, you know, there are so many that it's appalling.

The last time I saw you at the Fillmore, I really got a sense - especially listening to the new Riders - that one song was almost a call for revolution; I forget the name...


Do you think that very soon it will become impossible...?

Well, on the West Coast it's already so crazy you can't believe it, I mean, with courtroom bombings and all that going on. It's been going on hot and heavy out there for years. But, see, everybody's had a chance to take a good look at it, man, step away from it, you know, that isn't it - fighting, and hassling, and bloodletting and killings and all that shit, that ain't it. Whatever life is about, that's not it. You know, I think everybody should take one step backwards and two steps sideways and let the whole thing collapse. You know, nobody vote, nobody work - let it collapse, man. You don't have to break things and fuck things up and kill people and make all those people uptight. They're all dying and they're all going away. You know, because it don't work - none of this stuff works, it just doesn't work. But it's obvious, you know, it has to be obvious to everybody because it's everywhere. The information about it is everywhere, every newspaper, TV, the straightest level of communications are saying that everything is fucked up. Go outside and take a look at the air. It's fucked up. I mean that's how clear it is.

The air's not like that where you're living now, is it?

Well, it's had a lot more chance to smooth out. But it's much weirder, it's weirder, in whole other ways than it could ever be here. I mean, New York is kinda locked into a weird game that has to do with the material universe on one hand, and the intellectual universe on the other hand, both of which are just fictions, man, of Western Civilization. They don't have anything to do with what life is about. And this is, like, the last real bastion of that whole ethos - the big city, the incredible marketplace scene, and it's just really weird. And the people in New York think that New York is the way everything is, and it's not that way. I mean, my advice to New Yorkers is for everybody to leave, just go away.

Go to the country?

Go anywhere, go to Canada, go anywhere.

Then they won't be able to see the Grateful Dead.

We would go; we would be there. We would be wherever it was comfortable and groovy. Because, I mean, playing is what we do and that's what we're into. We like to do it; we enjoy it. We'll always be playing, somewhere.

What about politics?

I mean, with us and politics, man, generally none of us are political thinkers or into political trips or activism or any of that kind of bullshit. Because for one thing, man, we're all from the West Coast and see, the West Coast, man, has the West Coast - it's the wild west and it's got that tradition. And the thing that we do out there, man, is we're into a situation where we're together as a family and we're concerned with that survival on every level. We're prepared to defend it - whatever it takes. But we ain't saying that anyone else has to do it. I mean, what we decide to do doesn't necessarily relate to what anybody else has to do because we're into making our own decisions. Because we can take into account our whole scene. But we're not into making decisions for everybody because we can't take that into account, so we don't go and say this is what we should do or that's what you should do or anything like that because that ain't what we do. And nobody can do that anyway. That's just - anybody who claims to be able to decide what's right for everybody is really a fool.

Are any political groups coming to you and making you do things for them?

Well, we are doing things for some of them. But not on the basis of political trips, but on the basis of - we were able to get it on with them. Like the Black Panthers.

How are you working with the Black Panthers?

Well, we got a couple of possible projects going on, but we're doing a thing here at Madison Square Garden with Huey Newton, and I think maybe the Jefferson Airplane wants to do it too. It would be like a fund raising trip for the Panthers 'cause the Panthers are righteous. I mean, you know, they're not into - they have a rhetoric trip going on - but what they're doing is actual, practical things. They got a free breakfast trip, and they're starting a free shoes thing, they're starting shoe factories and stuff like that. They're really doing things, man. They're into action and that's something we can understand 'cause we're from a place where talk is cheap. I mean, talk don't mean nothing, anybody can say stuff; the thing that counts is what you do.

When I heard you on Alex Bennet, you said you flew in with Newton from the West Coast. Was that the first time you met him?

Yeah, well, it was the first time we got a chance to really get into it with him.

And on the plane you came up with this idea?


When do you think it will come off?

There's a date, but I don't know when it is. We have a date. It's already together.

Are you working with any other political groups?

No. Well, we constitute a political group, in a sense, I mean, a rock n' roll group within the rock n' roll universe. And us and the Airplane and Quicksilver have sort of a loose organization which is, I mean, is strictly in our own interest, or in the interest of anything that we can all agree to do. And as far as specific organizations, like, we don't have any affiliations with any, but if there's a righteous thing, no matter who's doing it, if it's righteous, we'll do it, you know. If it avoids all the bureaucracy and bullshit and goes right to something, we'll do it. That's the sort of thing we're interested in.

Concerning "Feedback" (a put on Live Dead) and that kind of music, as I understand it from the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test - you were into that about three or four years ago ....

Well, we've been into every kind of music that we do now, all the music that we do now, we've been into all along. We've always been doing a lot of kinds of music.

Do you find your audiences calling for set numbers?

We try and discourage that, as much as possible. But we fall into patterns. We'll have a pattern a year.

And it slowly evolves?

Well, yeah, it slowly evolves and if it gets habitual - you know, we get into this habitual thing and finally everybody will get so colossally bored with it that in about a year, bam, it will all change - there will be a whole other thing. And that will be a whole new thing, and then we'll start building on that, and then in a year it will all change completely. It's like that - we go into long phases.

As your music evolves, do you find it as a result of the gigs you play - in other words, through improvising? or do you work it out in the studio?

I work on music a lot. I'm into music a lot. I play with a whole lot of different people, in a whole lot of different contexts, I do a lot of studio stuff, and I'm just into music a lot. With me it's, like, constantly adding experience and new ideas and new input, and everybody has their own way of doing it. Like, Phil Lesh (a guitar player in the band) buys billions of records, listens to music all the time, gets manuscripts, studies orchestral arrangements and things.

Is there ever friction in the group when you're trying to put together new material?

After all this time we've learned to be able to work very well together, generally speaking. I mean, you know, we're enough into each other's trips, man, that we can bust each other if somebody's being an asshole or something. We've all learned to leave room for each other in the development of an idea or playing. I mean, it has to be a cooperative trip or it ain't music. I mean, we're a band. That's where we are; it's evolved that way because we stuck it out. We never worked at it. What we used to do is rehearse a lot, you know, we would take weird ideas and rehearse a lot, every day, six hours a day and, ah, you know, you could keep that up for so long, and then everybody starts getting at each other's throats because you start getting more and more detailed, where finally you're defining musical feelings to such a razor's edge. 'Cause our trip is really analytical when we get into rehearsing. Well, like, take one figure, man, and play it over and over again for two hours, and stop it, and slow it down, and write it out, and invert it, and do every sort of variation with it, and look at it in every respect 'til we understand it perfectly, and then we'll go into the next level of it rhythmically, and then about three levels into an idea we'll start to have differences of opinion because of the differences of our nervous systems that perceive time subtly different and perceive pitch subtly different and so it gets into that extreme and tiny "subtly" where you start finding differences, but, like, around the big open center, man, which we're all a part of, you know, we can all agree perfectly well.

Do you do a lot of interviews?

Here in New York. I do a lot of everything in New York. It's just weird. I mean people recognize me on the streets here; that's how weird it is. I mean at home, man, I'm just another freak. I mean, at home I'm just being there - if you can put yourself in the situation of walking down the street and have people go, "Hey, what's doing," you know, call your name and ask you for your autograph - that's some weird trip. With something like that going on - well, you can appreciate how weird it is, 'cause I can appreciate how weird it is.

I'm surprised it doesn't happen on the West Coast.

Not at all, man. You know, so what, everybody is a fuck'n celebrity out there. I mean, you know, I don't know anybody who isn't a rock n' roll star. But there they're a dime a dozen. Everybody. I mean, that's like the whole scene; socially the people I go and see are other musicians, old friends and shit like that. I go to the studio, hang out in the studio, play music, rap, smoke dope. That's how everything gets done, man, just like that, absolutely no organization.

Like that thing on the last Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album. (Garcia played the pedal steel guitar on a number of cuts.) Are you doing anything like that now?

Well, me and Phil (Lesh) and Bill Kreitzman have been playing with David Crosby for his album, and I just did maybe three or four tracks for Graham Nash on his album. They got a good scene going. They're great.

Are they still together?

Well, what they're planning on doing is getting together and touring about a month out of every year. They got a record together and then doing everything they want to do in between. They're just leaving openings for themselves to do whatever they want to do.

Thanks a lot.

Sure, anytime.

(Interview by Jay Itkowitz, from Action World vol.2 no.5, November 1970 - reprinted in Good Times, November 1970)