Sep 16, 2013

April 1967: Garcia & Lesh on KMPX


(Beginning of show missing.)

DJ: OK, that’s by the Swan Silvertones, it’s a VeeJay LP. Some of the first music I really got with was gospel music, and as a matter of fact, the first record I ever made was with a gospel group in Charleston, West Virginia – it’s a super bad record, man, I’ll have to play it for you… [Garcia laughs]
Lesh: …[??] first record.
Garcia: Yeah, …[??] first record?
DJ: Yeah, I knew about some of the first records, I was trying to get clearance on playing some of the other stuff on the air, but we’ll get around to that some other night because [you’ll be up here]. I know the immediate reaction of most groups, you say look, man, I like to play [the early stuff] – don’t do that…
Garcia: It’s interesting.
DJ: Yeah, some of it’s interesting because you can see the differences. I was talking about writing album liner notes last night, and I said that I finally figured out the way to do it was to sign a different name to them all, so that years later my name wouldn’t be on it for I know how ridiculous it’s gonna look [Garcia laughs] not much further on. I noticed you didn’t have any liner notes on your album.
Garcia: No, it’s because none of us can read very well.
Lesh: None of us can write either.
Garcia: Yeah. Right.
DJ: And you know, what would you want to say in liner notes?
Lesh: Well, the only person who could have particularly written any liner notes would have been Kesey, and by the time that the album came out, it just didn’t seem right…[??]…so we decided not to do it.
Garcia: After all, it is a record, not a magazine.
DJ: That’s right, it’s not a magazine. [Garcia laughs]
Garcia: Right. However though, if anybody wants to peel back the label, there’s hieroglyphics engraved in the wax.
DJ: …You may be tearing LPs apart all over the city. Have you had any talk about bookings in, let’s say faraway places as a result of the LP?
Garcia: Yeah, we’re going to New York…
Lesh: We are?
Garcia: Yeah.
Lesh: Huh. [excited] We’re going to New York!
Garcia: We’re going to New York the first of June.
DJ: First of June – where are you gonna work there?
Garcia: I’m not sure, I think the CafĂ© au Go Go.
DJ: Yeah. I’ve heard that – I like the sound system there to the extent that I dig some of the things that’ve been recorded there, because they recorded things live and they seem to work pretty well.
Garcia: Yeah, they recorded like the Blues Project, but they have a lot quieter scene going than we do. I don’t know, I hope to just go there and turn up real loud and play real loud and just, you know…lethal doses.
Lesh: Did you hear about the sound gun?
DJ: No, tell me – oh yeah, sound guns that they’re doing things with, there’s a whole article –
Lesh: Seven cycles a second.
DJ: There’s an article in Playboy magazine –
Lesh: This is different, that’s high frequencies; this is low frequencies, they use a police whistle eighteen feet across.
Garcia: Right, and a common air compressor, whatever the heck it is, and it puts out this seven cycle per second thing which starts your insides vibrating and you eventually die.
Lesh: Kill a man five miles away with the sound.
Garcia: Imagine it.
DJ: Well, how about if they only had it on you for a little while now, does that make any –
Garcia: Make you sick. In fact, when they were testing it out – when they were trying whatever they were doing with it to see what would happen, everybody got sick for miles around, they all got sick, they had headaches you know – and everybody was very unhappy with the [whole thing of course] – nobody as unhappy as us musicians.
DJ: OK, let’s get back to your top forty.
Lesh: Here’s number two. This is another gospel thing which is a little more crazy than the first one – less discipline, you might say. It’s by Charlie Mingus, and…
Garcia: And it’s called?
Lesh: Oh, that’s right.
Garcia: Out with it.
Lesh: ‘Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.’
Garcia: That’s it.


DJ: That’s Charlie Mingus, ‘Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting;’ this is Tom Donahue at KMPX, 107 on your FM dial, we’re playing records until midnight. Our guests tonight are Jerry Garcia & Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, who have the number one bestseller in San Francisco with their current Warner Brothers LP. They’re shaking hands, but they don’t have the money yet – it’s that kind of thing, right? And the album’s done unbelievably well outside of town. I haven’t checked your list completely, are you gonna play anything from it?
Garcia & Lesh: No, no…
DJ: We don’t get a chance to tear it apart or anything like that and say –
Lesh: Well we can talk about it, sure.
DJ: ‘Why’d you blow that note there.’ [laughter] How do you feel about the album yourselves, personally?
Lesh: I feel like it’s a turd.
DJ: Not where you wanted to be.
Lesh: Well no, it was where we were at the time.
Garcia: Yeah, right; it was something we did, it’s all over with, and –
Lesh: The next one certainly won’t be anything like that –
Garcia: No.
Lesh: In any way.
Garcia: The way we sort of – It’s like that one is sort of an attempt to try and sound like the way, the stuff that we do live, with the same instrumentation and everything. There’s not really anything unconventional for us in there.
Lesh: But that’s impossible to do in a recording studio.
Garcia: Right. So we’re not going to try - we’re not going to bother doing that anymore, we’re just gonna like, from now on when we go and record, since the first album is doing so nicely, we hope they’ll let us have a lot of time in the studio, and next time we’ll do a lot more studio stuff, and try and get it [??] which is a whole other thing.
DJ: Because the whole problem of trying to take what live sounds like and put it on tape or disc –
Garcia: You can’t do it in the studio. You might be able to do it if you could record a rock & roll band live, you know with the volumes that we play at like at the Fillmore or something like that, and maybe after two or three months of every night at the Fillmore, we’d start to get, you know, good cuts, good enough for an album I mean, in terms of how clean they were, and how much we like the performance on ‘em, and then we’d have something, but it would be such an expensive undertaking, and long and everything; and the studio facilities are so incredible that we should do something with them. So we’re gonna go in there, you know, and try something different.
DJ: Approaching from a different angle.
Garcia: Right, right.
Lesh: Well, there are people who practice the art of recording, being Phil Spector, who practice the art of recording. When we went in to do the album, we didn’t know anything about the art of recording; we knew a little bit about music.
DJ: Well I think there is a potential of this though, and that is the art of interpretation –
Lesh: Interpretation of what, the recording?
DJ: Of which nobody has been done – no, the art of interpretation of the sound of the group. I think in time it’s conceivable that engineers will come along who actually hear what groups are doing and know how to transplant that sound.
Lesh: Wouldn’t it be more likely to assume that the groups would be able to take over the function of engineer?
DJ: Oh yes, that’s very possible. But I think –
Garcia: [??] would hate it
DJ: I think that’s what every group hopes to do, to get to that point where they can do it, because, you know, he, in the main is another brain between you and what you want to do, and so it’s a jump you have to make into his head and then out onto whatever’s recorded, and I don’t think it’s ever been done successfully, really.
Garcia: I’d say the Beatles –
DJ: Except with the [??] – well, once again, with the Beatles doing their thing though, they’re not doing it through a producer’s head or an engineer – well, the engineer obviously [??] [Garcia: Right, yeah.] But who knows, man, after the Beatles walk out of the studio, they may be saying to themselves, ‘Didn’t get it again.’
Garcia: Right, who knows.
DJ: Because you don’t know what they want, right?
Garcia: Sounds mighty good to us, of course.
DJ: How about Blind Willie Johnson?
Garcia: Blind Willie Johnson, yeah. This is Blind Willie Johnson and his wife Angelina, and Blind Willie Johnson is a particularly interesting slide-style guitarist. He played nothing but sacred music during, I guess the ‘20s and ‘30s and so forth like that, you know, on the streets and all, and his records are valued by old-time record collectors; and this particular song the Blues Project also does; anybody who’s heard the Blues Project record that has ‘Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometime’ on it, it’s the same song, and this is I guess where they got it, Blind Willie Johnson.


DJ: OK, that’s by Blind Willie Johnson, ‘Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying;’ our guests tonight are Jerry Garcia & Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead. Ray Charles is next on your schedule, is this early or late?
Lesh: Late. Very recent, it was the last single.
DJ: Last single –
Lesh: Or the latest.
DJ: You think the stuff he’s cut with ABC has been as good as some of the things he cut with ABKCO? I think he was in a much heavier blues bag, I think, earlier.
Garcia: Yeah, I always liked the seven-piece stuff with the Raelettes and all like that, it was a real nice sound.
Lesh: Well his big band is one of the tightest bands.
DJ: Yeah, there’s some good big bands. I like the sound that Bobby Bland Group gets.
Lesh: Theirs is a lot more funky, I think, than Ray Charles.
DJ: Yeah.
Lesh: James Brown I think actually has the best big band. The tightest. [beats]
Garcia: They’re real snappy.
DJ: Super-disciplined.
Lesh: They use two drums, too.
DJ: Smoke on stage during rehearsal, ten bucks; late for rehearsal, twenty-five bucks. James keeps them in line.
Lesh: Oh I bet he does.
DJ: Have you thought about that, Jerry?
Garcia: Uhh… [laughter] Keeping the boys in line, you mean?
DJ: This is by Ray Charles, ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor.’


DJ: ‘I Don’t Need Your Doctor,’ we’re going along with selections tonight from Jerry Garcia & Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, and James Brown, who we were talking about a moment ago, is on the list at the moment. You’re picking some fairly recent stuff of James’s too.
Lesh: Yeah, the ‘Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ is the one that seemed to me to use the strings first in the new way. Like, lots of people made records with strings, even jazz musicians, Charlie Parker, [??] Brown, and there’s all mostly like [??], and records [in the background] – but James Brown’s –
Garcia: The harder stuff.
Lesh: And this is a recording that uses the strings in a kind of percussive way.
Garcia: Yeah, very groovy.
Lesh: It sort of seems to me that after that, then the Beatles came out and started using that stuff too, only it wasn’t with the instruments playing, it was with manipulation of the tape, like on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ its violins: it’s tape manipulation, loops, spirals.
DJ: OK, let’s do ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.’


DJ: That’s James Brown, ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s World’ – let’s skip right to the next one, OK? James in ‘Ain’t That a Groove.’
Lesh: This one’ll speak for itself.
Garcia: It’s a groove.
DJ: All the way. This is Tom Donahue with KMPX, it’s 107 on your FM dial in San Francisco, playing records 8 until midnight; our guests tonight, Phil Lesh & Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, and here’s James Brown.


DJ: ‘Ain’t That A Groove,’ that’s James Brown, and that’s from a very recent LP of his, let’s see if we can give the exact title. ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,’ amazing sensational thrilling soul brother number one, whew, doesn’t really have a title, just James Brown. Working out on stage, doing his entire thing. He’s a fantastic showman; lay another one on you. The act hasn’t changed much.
Lesh: Everybody has the same act…
DJ: Right. I saw the basic act [in] ’56 at the Apollo, you know… But I think that’s one of the things people dig about it, because they know they’re going to get that, and that’s what they want to see. And he’s had a lot of imagination, because in his particular area of R&B singing, there are very few who would depart to sing the kind of songs he has on occasion. He’s picked up some strange ballads and done them and, you know.
Garcia: Well, ‘It’s a Man’s World’ is a really far-out thing.
DJ: Well, James is thinking in his own area.
Garcia: But is he really happy?
DJ: Is he really happy? [laughter] Smiles a lot, man… [mumbles]
Garcia: Seems happy.
DJ: You done any Dylan tunes?
Garcia: Yeah, we do Baby Blue, ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.’ We also used to do ‘She Belongs To Me’ too. Bob used to croon it.
DJ: This one was –
Garcia: Oh this is Bob’s request incidentally too, he said that we should play it.
DJ: Yeah this particular record had an R&B recording as a matter of fact, ‘Maggie’s Farm’…
Garcia: I heard, I heard –
DJ: Yeah, Solomon Burke, that’s right. Far out.
Garcia: I heard, let’s see, what – James Cotton’s Blues Band do it, Sam Lay sang it, the drummer sang it. It was very interesting.
DJ: OK, let’s get with Maggie’s Blues, as recorded by Bob Dylan.


DJ: That’s Bob Dylan, ‘Maggie’s Farm,’ on KMPX, this is Tom Donahue, with you until 12 midnight. KMPX is at 107 on the FM dial, we play records 8 until 12, and if you have an opportunity to listen to the station in stereo here in San Francisco, it’s a good way to hear it. Stereo is not necessarily a faithful reproduction, but it’s a small thing of its own.
Garcia: Right, right. [mumbles]
DJ: Do you – have you listened to – I guess you’ve listened to your LP in both mono and stereo and –
Garcia: Yeah.
DJ: Probably heard it a lot of times.
Garcia: Right, well, we [were] the ones that mixed it, the mono mix and the stereo –
Lesh: And we had a rider on it.
DJ: Where? Western, with the exception of –
Lesh: No, RCA; RCA with the exception of the single which was cut at Coast. And the single, I think sounds more like us than the album does. It sounds dirtier.
Garcia: And fuller.
Lesh: And more stuff going on.
DJ: Maybe because you cut in San Francisco, maybe it did something to your mind.
Lesh: I don’t know, they did something.
Garcia: Well we did a lot more stuff on the single too, like we put a lot more, you know, we overlaid a lot of stuff.
Lesh: It’s a recording rather than a transcription.
Garcia: Right, right, and somehow it comes out sounding more like the way we sound live, just because of the enormous amount of confusion involved. And maybe, you know, it’s like we’re used to playing in a big –
DJ: And there were more people jammed in the studio at Coast that night.
Garcia: Oh that’s true –
DJ: ‘Cause I came in and there were a lot of people.
Garcia: Right, a lot of people.
DJ: Because there’s only two ways you can record, one is no people, or the other one is everybody. There’s no in between, it just doesn’t work.
Garcia: That’s true, that’s true, it doesn’t work.
DJ: And I guess you would rather have a lot –
Garcia: Well, when we were in LA, we tried to, you know, we were going to have a big closed session, absolutely no admittance and so forth, big sign and everything, but, you know –
Lesh: Everybody showed up anyway.
Garcia: Yeah, everybody came, so –
DJ: ...brings your old lady and she’s getting in and I’m getting in and before you know it, man, you’ve got a studio full of people.
Garcia: It’s OK, it turns out it doesn’t really seem to make too much difference, you know. The difference that it seems to make is that like, the better you feel, the better you do. And if there’s a lot of people around and it’s kind of a nice, you know, everybody’s kind of in a good thing – [DJ: ??] - or at least moves a little faster.
DJ: This was recorded in –
Garcia: It was recorded in France, as a matter of fact, and it’s the Bulgarian folklore scene, you know, something like the Folklorica de Mejico thing, only Bulgarian. And it’s all these people who are just, like, people of Bulgaria, you know, farmers and what have you, workers and so forth, who also are into music, like I guess everybody is, in some way or another; this is the music of their own country, like –
DJ: The women who sing on this, some of them are quite old you know, sixties and seventies; they’ve been singing this stuff for years.
Garcia: Right, it sounds like it.
DJ: I have a – there’s a weird thing that happens when I listen to this album. There was a a group around many years ago called the Devore Sisters. [I don’t know if you remember] – they had a record called Teach Me The Night [??], successful 45; and their voice quality is such that they sound very much like a lot of the women on this record…
Garcia: …strange vibrato.
DJ: Yeah, right. Albert Grossman picked this album up originally.
Garcia: The thing that I like about this particular cut is the singing is unaccompanied two-part singing, and it’s like semitones –
Lesh: Microtones.
Garcia: Microtones, and it’s just the weirdest intervals that you ever heard.
DJ: This is from an RCA Victor album that I don’t think is available anymore. The album is entitled Music of Bulgaria and the cut is ‘The Moon Shines.’


DJ: And that particular cut is entitled ‘The Moon Shines.’ We played some of this on the air here, because a lot of people reacted very favorably to it. It’s a great sound to listen to, we’ll get some other cuts on eventually. You worked with Charles Lloyd at any of the gigs you’ve done?
Lesh & Garcia: Yeah, Rock Garden…
Garcia: We had a really good time with him too; in fact, we’ve been, there's been a little bit of, there’s been some communication between us and Charles Lloyd just recently, he's been talking to our managers and we're gonna maybe work something out where we're working together in some other situations, cause we had a good time together.
DJ: He’s great to listen to and he’s building a tremendous audience among a group of people he might never have reached if he hadn’t played those dances, because that has exposed him to people who ordinarily would never have come across Charles Lloyd in their experience. And they listen to what he’s doing.
Lesh: They dance to it too.
DJ: And they dance to it, yeah, and they like him. OK, this is Charles and ‘Dream Weaver.’


DJ: OK, we’re listening to Charles Lloyd and ‘Dream Weaver.’ Tom Donahue at KMPX in San Francisco.
[Ad: “This weekend, at the Avalon Ballroom, Sutter & Van Ness in San Francisco, the Family Dog presents the Chambers Brothers – also at the Avalon this weekend, the Iron Butterfly. It’s the place, baby!” The ad uses a clip from the Beatles’ ‘Day in the Life;’ the shows were on April 28-29.]
DJ: That’s a thing for the Avalon that Bob McClay produced; our guests tonight are Jerry Garcia & Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, and Charles Lloyd’s someone they’ve worked with, they’ve also worked with Junior Wells. Where was that?
Garcia: Yeah, we worked with Junior Wells at the Fillmore Auditorium
Lesh: When he was there though, he wouldn’t do his blues stuff at the Fillmore.
Garcia: Right, and the band wasn’t, you know – the band that he uses with Buddy Guy, he just – Like on this particular record, he’s just got a little three-piece band backing him up, and it’s just so tasty. This particular cut is – I think it’s one of the finest single blues-band recordings, you know, I mean just musically, the way the stuff happens is so nice.
DJ: OK, this is Junior Wells, ‘Ships on the Ocean.’


DJ: Junior Wells and ‘Ships on the Ocean.’ And then – I know you played with Charles Lloyd and I know you played with Junior Wells. [laughter] But where’d you play with Leopold Stokowski?
Garcia: Don’t laugh, man.
DJ: Someday…
Lesh: We’re gonna do a thing [??] with a guy named Luciano Berio at the Lincoln Center in September, and be an opera.
DJ: Yeah, somebody else told me about that.
Lesh: …Berio was also my teacher when I was studying classical –
DJ: Tell us a little bit about Berio and some of the things he’s done.
Lesh: Well, Berio is Italian, and he’s composed a lot of music and he’s been played a lot, and I can’t tell you anything about his music except it’s all beautiful.
Garcia: Mostly Italian marches.
Lesh: Italian marches? [laughter]
DJ: OK, well this particular is not Berio, it’s a composition of Charles Ives, Symphony Number Four, and we’re gonna play the second movement from it.
Lesh: If you expect it to sound like a symphony –
Garcia: Forget it.
Lesh: - you’ll be disappointed.


DJ: And somebody just called to make a comment. Phil, come over here and tell me what he was saying; he was saying it was like the Beatles’ new record?
Lesh: Well, what he thought was that it sounded like the Beatles’ new records, and I was saying that I thought that…you know, we could say whether or not the Beatles had heard this stuff from Ives or any of the people who did it before or not, I kind of think that they thought of it for themselves, ‘cause it’s possible for you to discover stuff that other people have done, for yourself.
Garcia: Right, like a lot of people discovered, you know –
Lesh: Radio…
Garcia: Yeah, something like that…
Lesh: All at the same time, right… [Everyone talks at once.] Those things are in the air, and the Beatles have taken the lead in bringing it to popular music, and I for one am glad.
Garcia: Right, and they do it in their own way, it’s pure Beatles. You know, it’s still the Beatles and –
Lesh: And so, so tasty.
DJ: And [constantly] changing and never hung up in one particular thing.
Garcia: Oh, yeah.
DJ: You know, we’re in no hurry, we aren’t going anywhere or anything, but just in case anyone panics, man, you know. We would [??] we both hung up on him and turn off his radio. [laughs] “Sorry about that thing!”
Garcia: Pigpen, we’re sorry.
DJ: Public apology. I would call Ian & Sylvia a little variety from what we’ve had up to now. Anything you care to say about ‘em or why you like ‘em or why you picked ‘em?
Lesh: [There’s a singer,] mostly, and these particular songs, Sylvia sings the one, ‘Jealous Lover,’ by herself, and it’s enough to chill your bones, and the next one is a fine desperado ballad, in a great tradition, with some nice guitar playing on it.
DJ: OK, let’s try Ian & Sylvia and the ‘Jealous Lover.’

DJ: All right, another one by Ian & Sylvia, ‘Four Rode By,’ Phil said it’s a desperado song.

DJ: Ian & Sylvia and ‘Four Rode By.’ Skip James is the next thing you got, tell me about Skip James.
Garcia: Oh, he’s a famous Delta blues singer, as it says right here on the cover. [Lesh: ??] But, and everybody thought he was dead for the longest time, and everybody said, ‘Skip James, yeah, he’s dead,’ but his old 78s were around, and people would listen to them and all. You know, it’s really good, is what it’s all about.
DJ: Then they found out he was alive.
Garcia: Right, they found out he was alive –
DJ: Glenn Miller will turn up the same way. [Laughter, everyone talks at once.]
DJ: OK, this is Skip James and ‘Hard Times Killin’ Floor Blues.’


DJ: That’s Aretha Franklin from her new Atlantic LP, ‘I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You.’ We were talking about Phil Spector a little while ago and the kind of record producing he does, which is a totally creative thing from the beginning as a producer. This is one of the great examples of that thing, this Righteous Brothers thing we’re about to play. Someday I’m gonna get Phil on the show and there’s one thing I’m gonna get him to play, and that is a tape of the track for this record.
Lesh: The instrumental track?
DJ: Yeah. With him singing the parts.
Lesh: Does it exist?
DJ: Oh yeah. I’ve heard the record, he played it for me one night at his house…that strange baronial mansion he lives in in LA. And I’d heard about the record from Bobby Dale and Tommy [Lapuno], the producer down there, about the tape, and it’s, you know, a strange, strange sound. Spector’s voice is a really peculiar voice, in singing. It has not been heard on record since ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ – last appearance.
Garcia: Was he singing parts in that?
DJ: Yeah.
Lesh: [???] But Mojo Navigator has a thing about him, all his records.
DJ: Yeah, they do a nice discography on him. He was – Phil had a record out that was probably the first S&M record anybody ever came along with called ‘She Hit Me And It Felt Like A Kiss,’ or ‘He Hit Me And It Felt Like A Kiss,’ remember that?
Lesh: Oh, right.
DJ: And they finally had to pull it off the market because [there were so many protests] – and on and on. Here’s the Righteous Brothers, ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.’


DJ: ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,’ record [sly disguise because] you’ve been playing it in the middle of the night again. Spector has not done anything for a long time. He keeps saying, “I’m old-fashioned, I’m old-fashioned, I’m totally out of it now, I’m not gonna make any more records.”
Lesh: I hear he’s making some strange movie in Mexico.
DJ: He wants to; he never got down there, the whole project blew up just as everybody was getting ready to get on the boat. But he has been in the studio with Ike & Tina Turner again.
Garcia: Oh, far out, good.
Lesh: If the results of that one are as good as the last one –
Garcia: This one, the one coming up, ha ha ha.
DJ: [We have] the one record that was a complete success in England – ‘River Deep, Mountain High,’ which I think got to number four on the English charts.
Garcia: Too much.
DJ: And Phil took an ad in Billboard at the time, you remember? With the British flag, and the line was something about “King George was right.” [laughter] ‘Cause none of the radio stations in this country would play it at that time. Ike & Tina Turner – Ike Turner’s one of the great minds of all time. You ever talk to Ike in any period of time?
Garcia: No.
DJ: I’d love to get him on the show some night. Let him tell the world how he got started – he’s got a great success story. This is the very record we were just discussing, Ike & Tina Turner in the Phil Spector production, ‘River Deep, Mountain High.’


DJ: And that’s by Ike & Tina Turner, ‘River Deep, Mountain High,’ I don’t think that record has ever been played in this town before.
Lesh: Really?
DJ: I know it’s never played in any radio stations –
Lesh: That is a crime!
DJ: I think we should start playing it every now and then.
Garcia: I think so.
Lesh: I will give you the record if you’ll play it every night!
DJ: Fine, good, I’ll play it every night.
Garcia: Too much, please do.
DJ: And maybe people will go out and buy it and we’ll put Phil back in business and get him up here and [whistles].
Garcia: That’ll be nice.
DJ: One interview with Phil Spector and it might be all over for the radio station. [Laughter.] You know? Lou Rawls, he’s one of the younger blues singers around, does a thing that’s, I think very peculiarly his own.
Lesh: This is the only record of his that I ever heard, except for ‘Blues for Four-String Guitar’ which seemed a little ostentatious.
Garcia: Lame, you might even say. But he had – he did –
Lesh: This is really tasty with [??] –
Garcia: - that other famous song – what was that -
Lesh: ‘Tobacco Road.’
DJ: I saw him working one night, opened with Bobby Bland and Jimmy Witherspoon.
Lesh & Garcia: Oh, wow.
DJ: Which was a fine, fine trio for an evening. This is Lou Rawls and ‘Trouble Down Here Below. ‘

DJ: Tom Donahue at KMPX, 107 on your dial in San Francisco, we’re playing records 8 until 12 midnight, our guests tonight are Phil Lesh & Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead.

DJ: ‘Gotta Get Away,’ that’s by the Rolling Stones. Tom Donahue here with Phil and Jerry. Let’s see you talk a little bit about Otis Redding.
Lesh: Oh, we worked with Otis.
Garcia: Yeah.
Lesh: And it was kind of scary to work with Otis.
Garcia: Yeah, Otis is really heavy.
DJ: I thought he would do better here than he did.
Lesh: He tore it up!
Garcia: He tore the place apart.
DJ: I mean, as far as people were concerned, I don’t think he had the number of people that he could’ve had.
Lesh: Well maybe nobody knew Otis –
Garcia: Yeah, maybe not too many people knew about it, that could’ve been it. But boy, he had one of those standard [shots] where the band would get up and play some numbers and a girl singer would come up and, [mumbling] you know, some group and stuff like that, whole show, you know.
Lesh: The standard show.
Garcia: Yeah, like, when he came on stage, it was like the whole place got about six times as big, and the band just got real snappy, you know; it was so fine and the music was really good. And like, when you go to those shows, most the time, like the James Brown show, the music is like not really where it’s at with the James Brown show, the circus part is what it’s all about, kinda – and with Otis Redding, the music is still what’s happening, you know, and it’s just so good, really, wow.
DJ: This is from the LP entitled “Complete and Unbelievable, the Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul,” and it’s ‘Day Tripper.’

DJ: That’s Otis and ‘Day Tripper’ and this is Tom Donahue with Jerry Garcia & Phil Lesh and we’re gonna play something from the Grateful Dead album, I figure it’s about time.
Garcia: Til the police get here.
DJ: Right. And the one that Jerry picked out is ‘Cold Rain and Snow.’

DJ: [Vince,] if you turn that over, I’m gonna play my selection from the LP as we get outta here. I wanna thank you fellows for coming around to talk to us, [it was very interesting.]
Garcia [emphatic]: Oh sure, Tom, that’s all right, anytime!
DJ: Anytime, right? [Laughter.] And we can have Pigpen back and –
Lesh: That’ll be fun.
Garcia: That’ll be good. If you can get him out of the house it’ll be – [long pause, laughter] […] revolutionary, at the least.
DJ: […] that you guys take care of that part of it.
Lesh: Well, if we can [get him up earlier] –
Garcia: Get him [buy shoes are] big enough.
DJ: You get him down here and I’ll find a way to hold him in the studio.
Lesh: I think you can do it!
DJ: OK, we’re going out of here with something by the Grateful Dead called the ‘New, New Minglewood Blues.’


Sep 10, 2013

January 17, 1968: Carousel Ballroom, SF


Saturday night's show at the Berkeley Community Theater [1/20/68] is a fine start in the direction of the bands taking over their own productions. Country Joe & the Fish did the whole thing and they came through well. The Congress of Wonders did a marvelous set, appearing on the rising stage and doing their "O Feel This Unchained" satire on the Haight-Ashbury and the generation gap to the audience's delight.
The band was good but not the best I have heard it, and the light show was not by Jerry Abrams' Headlights as advertised. I don't know who did it, but it was restricted considerably by only one screen to work on, and the use of the dancer in silhouette behind the screen was good but overdone.
The dance earlier in the week at the Carousel with the Grateful Dead, The Quicksilver, and the Abrams Headlights was a great success and one of the grooviest evenings in some time. The Dead are in excellent form and the Quick are at their best now, having just finished their Capitol album. Jerry Abrams' light show was first rate. For the opening set of the Dead, he ran a long sequence of film loops concentrating on eyeballs that was in perfect synchronization to the music and one of the most effective devices I've seen. Robert Nelson's award-winning film on the Dead was shown in the intermission and is intriguing, a montage, impressionistic visual extension of the sound track.
The Carousel is a great ballroom (it's the old El Patio at Market & Van Ness) and the bands will return there in mid-February again. Meanwhile, they are now touring the Pacific Northwest (they played to 2,000 people at Eureka Saturday night).

(by Ralph Gleason, January 24 1968)

(The rest of the article was about a poorly attended Aretha Franklin show at the Oakland Auditorium on Sunday 1/21.)

Thanks to

1967: Garcia & Django


Early this month a long-haired young man named Jerry Garcia went to all the record stores in San Francisco and bought all the albums he could find by the French gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt. This would not be at all remarkable except for the fact that Jerry Garcia is the lead guitar player and featured soloist with The Grateful Dead, and rock groups are supposed to be something other than jazz.
But like so many other things in our world, what seems to be turns out not to really be at all.
Jerry Garcia, like a number of the very best of the young rock musicians, is a fan of all music that's good and that, of course, includes jazz.
"I've been listening to a lot of jazz lately," he says. "I've been listening to a lot of Django Reinhardt. Mostly for the guitar, but I've learned as much from the violin player in terms of those really lovely, graceful ideas. And that's the kind of stuff I like. Anything that is beautiful. Indian music. Soul music, rhythm & blues, old time blues, jug band music. Anything."
That catholicism of taste is one of the reasons why the young rock musicians are so important and are already making a deep imprint on contemporary music. It is a curious thing that jazz began by accusing the symphony and conservatory players of refusing to listen to them. Now the jazz musicians, or at least a regrettable majority of them, are not opening their ears to the worthwhile music coming from the new generation.
John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet is an exception. He has been digging the groups in England as they have appeared and spent some time in a New York studio working on a record of "Misty Roses," the Tim Hardin tune, for Atlantic because "I wanted to find out how it is done."
Lewis has a healthy respect for the rock musicians. Of the British youth, he says, "they are living the history of jazz all over again," pointing to their interest in blues and traditional jazz and now rock.
But Lewis is an exception in the ranks of jazz, whereas Garcia is not an exception in the ranks of rock. Almost all the good rock musicians with whom I've talked, British or American, have dug jazz and many of them came from it to rock.
The point, of course, is that good music is good music regardless of labels. The music that Garcia's group, The Grateful Dead, plays is really jazz even though the sound of the electric guitars at first inhibits you from saying that. The Dead have a deep, driving swing that is irresistible, and the solos played by Garcia are pure jazz solos. The vocals are folk-rock-blues, of course, but the solo lines by the bassist, Phil Lesh, a former jazz trumpet player, and the over-all feeling of the group is precisely the same kind of feeling that emanates from the best jazz groups and always has.
We're in for some interesting new sounds in the future. The more the rock players listen to jazz, the more complex and inventive they will become. And the jazz players, for all of their complexity and invention, have things to learn from rock. I won't be surprised to see the day that John Lewis records with Jerry Garcia. I would like to hear them.

(by Ralph Gleason, from the "Lively Arts" column, Datebook, April 9 1967)

Thanks to

Sep 9, 2013

1967: The San Francisco Music Scene


...In the day of the North Beach beatnik, music was jazz and folk singing with soft guitar accompaniment, to be enjoyed with poetry reading, wine, and beer in coffee houses or with a pipeful of marijuana while supine in somebody's pad. Dancing was not the "in" thing to do, especially in public. Like the most sophisticated members of the bygone Edwardian set, who looked upon it as an attempt at something best accomplished in a boudoir, the North Beach beatniks eschewed dancing because they considered it "dry fucking."
With the advent of the Beatles - a second, third, and fourth coming of Christ to the young generation - the "in" music even for most beatniks became electrified, amplified, bouncy rock-and-roll that was definitely meant for motion. This was the kind of music that acid heads like Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were digging the most, and it was dance music. That meant a significant change for the beatnik scene that was becoming reincarnated in the Hashberry.
In communal houses and pads around the Hashberry, combinations of folk, pop, jazz, and blues musicians gathered to talk, smoke pot, and experiment with the basic patterns produced by the Beatles and Rolling Stones rock-and-roll bands. Somewhere along their rock-on-drug trips, they created a form of electric music that became known as "folk rock," or more esoterically, "San Francisco rock" and "Western rock." It was amplified as loudly as the human ear could tolerate - louder than some human ears could tolerate. It blasted, it socked you in the head, and it mimicked, poked fun, antagonized. The names of the folk rock bands were adapted from the mood: the Great Society, Big Brother & the Holding Company, the Grateful Dead.
Few music or social critics would deny that the hippie bands created a new sound. It is an amalgam of other musical forms, but the totality of it is different from the rock-and-roll that Elvis Presley, Fabian, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones used to play. In fact, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had to alter their old styles and imitate it in order to keep up with the change.
The primordial quality of the hippies' folk rock music, like their intellectuals' vision of the new society, is primitive. Melodies are simple, harmony consists of a few basic chords, drum beats are narrow throbs, and everything together is repetitious and hypnotic. Around the primitive quality, however, the amplifers, loudspeakers, tape recorders, electronic machines, and electrified musical instruments from guitars to oboes - yes, oboes, electric oboes - have woven a variety of effects.
The music is an outgrowth of Negro blues, rock-and-roll, country-western, and finally, ragas from India. Ragas are thematic note groupings with seventy-two parent scales, known as melas. Each raga is supposed to have its own character, color, and mood, according to the time of day, the season, or the occasion. It is then up to the musicians to improvise within these given forms. The main instruments used are: for melody, the sitar - a guitar-like instrument with twenty strings; the tamboura - a four- or five-stringed instrument that is used to maintain a continuous hypnotic drone; and the tabla - a pair of drums serving as tenor and bass. Sometime in 1966, the folk rock bands began using ragas and these three Indian instruments in their amalgated music forms or else imitated them with guitars, oboes, and other Western instruments. This development has led to the suggestion that hippie music be identified as raga rock.
Despite the primitive quality in most of the rock music, it is wrong to use the term "simple" as a generalization for all of the compositions and all of the hippie musicians. Several of the numbers that the Jefferson Airplane recorded on the RCA Victor album, Surrealistic Pillow, require close listening for an appreciation of all their effect. For example, take "Coming Back to Me," a sweet, lolling song somewhat in the style of seventeenth-century English folk music. After getting that much out of it, a repetition may produce the sensation of drifting into a dreamy meadowland. A third repetition, paying attention to the Baroque touch added by Grace Slick on recorder, can produce the image of a shepherd grazing his flocks.
You can also pick up the delineation of the hippie life style in the words of the songs, if you can hear them. For example, take "The Golden Road," on Warner Brothers' Grateful Dead album, celebrating the girls on Haight Street in the following paeon:
See that girl, barefoot (doeeyoumoo) / Whistlin' and a singin' /
She's a-carryin' on / Laughin' in her eyes, dancin' in her feet, /
She's a (neonwhirrwhirrmoo) / And she can live on the street.

The strange words in parentheses are the nearest approximation I can make to what I hear coming from the Dead, even with my ear smack against the phonograph speaker. For the other way they delineate the hippie style is to blast everything at top volume with amplifiers so that all other sounds of the world are wiped out.
The next generalization about the hippie music that's safe to make is that it depicts the philosophy of the New Community. Most of the philosophizing is taken up with odes to love, a reflection of alienated youth's desperate desire to gain affection from parents and tenderness from a dog-eat-dog, violent society. When Grace Slick of the Airplane sings "don't you need somebody to love," she also means: I need somebody to love; we need somebody to love.
Of course, the love gives way in the rock groups' songs, even as it does in their lives, to blatant sex - e.g., the Fugs' "Wet Dream Over You." But this again is part of the philosophy, to challenge the old order's moral structure in a loud, aggressive, blunt manner. No subjects, no words must be banned. Drugs, death, violence, war, race prejudice, sex, religion, and the President of the United States must all be discussed, challenged, pranked, and satirized with complete openness. Hence, Country Joe and the Fish use the word "fuck" on television and describe President Johnson as "a man insane" in the song "Superbird." The Fugs sing "kill, kill for peace" as part of what their leader, Ed Sanders, calls their "total assault on the culture."
Any critic who calls this a put-on does not know the hippie musicians, only their imitators. The members of the hippie folk-rock groups not only sing and play their philosophy, but they also live it.
In the first place, they all take drugs, as announced in some of their names - the Mind Benders, the Loading Zone, the Induction Center, the Weeds. In the second place, the musicians, like all other hippies, are dropouts. Almost every one of them has given up school or profession to become a folk-rock musician and live the life of a hippie.

The Grateful Dead, the original associates of Ken Kesey in producing the Acid Tests, are all high school and college dropouts living in a tribal setup like the Merry Pranksters. At the time that I met them, their house on Ashbury Street was shared with them by their girl friends, managers Danny Rifkin and Rock Scully, and several teen-age school dropouts using the place as a crash pad. The earth mother was Mountain Girl, now Jerry Garcia's mistress, but still bearing testimony to her former relationship with Ken Kesey with a blond-haired baby that he sired.
The Dead's music, when all other analyses are thrown in as qualifications, is primarily an imitation of Negro blues. The style of singing is guttural, down, and dirty; and the diction is that of Negro slang: "Ah luhv you, babuh." That, plus the fact that the music drowns out the words, is why middle-class white people have such a difficult time understanding what the Dead are singing. You have to be a Negro, hippie, or drug addict. And even that is no guarantee that you can pick up the words. The Dead's music is the very heart of acid rock - guitar, organ, and bass intertwined in a whirling, blurring, mind-shattering mass of Negro, hillbilly, and Indian music. Its basic purposes are to blow the mind and provide action sound for dancing, although sometimes Jerry Garcia's rapid runs on the guitar can be interesting as music.
"Captain Trips" he is called, a play on both his guitar runs and mind journeys on LSD. Dressed in a white-and-red striped hat, he reminds you of Ken Kesey, "Mr. Stars and Stripes." Both are pranksters. Both like to live in a tribal setup. Both have given funny nicknames to their people - bassist Phil Lesh is "Reddy Kilowatt," organist Ron McKernan "Pig Pen," and drummer Bill Sommers "Bill the Drummer." Both are basically scholarly men who have deliberately adopted the loose Negro style of life and slang. Both have taken their minds apart with drugs.
"I didn't need Timothy Leary or LSD to do it, either," Garcia told me. "Back in high school I was high on bennies, things like that. I never heard of Leary. Nobody in the Haight-Ashbury follows Leary. The people here would have done this thing without acid, without Leary. I would have been a member of some weird society wherever I went. Don't ask why. Don't try to analyze it, man. It just is, that's all. This is where we're at. This is our trip. We just don't dig that other way."
Garcia is one of the impossible people in the New Community for a writer to talk to, even one who is living with it. Because of his massive mop of curly black hair, he has been described in print as a "troll" and "a cross between Wanda Landowska and the Three Stooges." He and the Dead have been ridden by critics as musical illiterates and drug addicts leading flower children down the path of sin. So, he has taken to pure pranking when a journalist questions him. No writer is closer to the folk-rock bands than Ralph Gleason of the Chronicle. Yet, this is how Garcia described his music to Ralph:
"We're working with dynamics now. We've spent two years with loud, and we've spent six months with deafening." And so on.
It gets no better in the hippie press. Here is the way the Grateful Dead summed up their philosophy for the Underground Press:
Garcia: "I wake up automatically at 9 EVERY morning (except for sometimes when I wake up later or earlier), and gaze out the window at the flocks of geese flying north/south for the winter/summer and ask myself what does it all mean? I drink as much orange juice as I can get my dirty hands on because I know that it's gonna taste good. My boots don't fit me perfectly, so my little toe hurts. Sometimes I see someone that I think I recognize, and I say hello or smile or something like that. It's fun to shoot at strangers, while they're innocently passing the house, with the sonic blaster. Especially if they're pretty, heh. Philosophically, I have nothing to say... I like to play loud... If I had a rocket ship or some extraterrestrial friends, you'd never see me. I hope that humanity survives the incredibly stupid hassles that we've gotten ourselves into."
Last I saw of the Dead, officially, they were on television explaining their philosophy to dazed newsmen. Unofficially, they were going about their usual business of planning free benefits in which the toilets would be stopped up with money. For further analysis, await the new philosophical tome in the music sections of the national magazines.

The most well-remembered communal pad where the new sound was created was at 1090 Page Street in the Hashberry. Oftentimes, the New Community's budding musicians would find food and shelter there when they were broke, and they would join a gathering clan playing and taking drugs in the garage below the house. Friends and neighbors began dropping in to listen to the sound - might as well, couldn't concentrate on anything else if you lived anywhere within a block of it - and the Hashberry had its first free rock concerts.
One of the familiar figures on the Page Street garage scene was Chet Helms, a twenty-two-year-old dropout from Baptist theological school. Like many of the musicians' and beatniks' connections in the Haight-Ashbury, Helms lived the beat life style. Long before most of them let their hair grow out, he had long blond Jesus tresses flowing down his shoulders and a scraggly beard and moustache.
But Helms was not so doggedly noncommercial as the new breed of beat, making music and fun. He suggested that the folk-rock bands charge admission to the garage. (His version of the story is that he [wanted] it to discourage more people from coming because the place was getting too crowded.) When even larger crowds came to the garage, Helms organized a folk-rock concert and dance at the Longshoremen's Hall in October of 1965. Several hundred youngsters came to the hall, some with long hair and dressed in beatnik garb, others straight. Obviously, money was to be made from the new folk-rock scene. All that Helms needed was an organization with some capital and a dance hall.
With an engineer from New York, Bob Cohen, Helms put together the Family Dog, named after a tiny spaniel pooch that lived with him and his friends in one of the communal pads. Then, he approached another New Yorker, Bill Graham, owner of the Fillmore Auditorium and producer-director of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, about working together to make folk-rock dance concerts a big happening on the neobeatnik scene. Graham had already put on his own folk-rock concerts in November and December of 1965, using the Fugs, the Great Society, and the Jefferson Airplane to do several benefit performances for the Mime Troupe. Its actors and actresses had been busted for "obscene performances in public places" under a recently enacted California antipornography law. Around four thousand people showed up for the second benefit performance in the Fillmore Auditorium, waiting in a long line around the block outside or finally being turned away because the capacity of the place is only fifteen hundred at a time. Then, in the first month of 1966, Graham collaborated with Kesey for the Trips Festival in creating a "total environment" performance. This meant that movie projectors, strobes, tape recorders, and amplifiers were used to bombard every creaky floorboard and every cobwebbed corner of the old Fillmore Auditorium with music, electronic blips and bleeps, flashing lights, and moving pictures of amoebas, holy men, Indians, and other symbols of the acid head's world.
When Helms told Graham about the success of the Family Dog and suggested a sort of merger of these New World business ventures, Graham was indifferent. He was on the verge of resigning from the Mime Troupe over "political differences," and he was not sold on the future of folk rock (it killed him at first to admit it after he made a million dollars from it, but then he started taking a Socratic irony in recalling his original mood). So, Helms asked if the Family Dog could rent the hall, and Graham agreed.
Later, Helms and Graham parted company, and Helms opened up his own business in the Avalon Ballroom at Sutter and Van Ness streets, staffed entirely by people with long hair and beards.
"The Family Dog is the largest brain trust in the world," Helms likes to say in interviews. "We are roughly arranged around a sort of organic tribal structure in the sense that people who are natural organizers are generally the leaders," and since he and Bob Cohen did the organizing, there is no doubt left about who he means.
"Helms is definitely an organizer," I was told by Grace Slick, who knew him in the formative rock days when he was peddling dope. "Instead of running a bank, he runs the Avalon and the Family Dog, that's all."
Helms drifted into the Hashberry from Texas when he was twenty-one, leaving behind him a broken future that was supposed to have led to the Baptist ministry. He wound up on drugs instead of religion, but he kept on wearing a deacon's frock coat. Neither that nor his long blond Jesus tresses had anything to do with hippies; there was no such thing as hippies then. Helms, like so many hippie men, was obsessed with a Jesus self-image. When he picked the motto for the Family Dog, it was the following graffito that he took from the wall of a men's room:
May the Baby Jesus Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Mind
Later, he became enraged over Ramparts' cover story on the hippies, in which the motto was deliberately reversed to: open your mouth and shut your mind.
Evening at the Avalon provides plenty of the ear-splitting sound characteristic of the hippie band. Continuously changing light projections of liquid colors and protoplastic forms bathe the dancers. Their luminiscent, striped, and dotted clothes glow eerily amid the flashing lights. Symbols, concentric circles, and pictures of Indians and Oriental priests are beamed onto the walls.
Suddenly, the fast, screaming music dies down to a soft love song and then gives way to a mournful Indian dirge. The light show changes. On one wall there is a picture of Buddha and on another a picture of Christ on the cross. Several hundred of the youngsters on the dance floor join hands. They sway back and forth in a trancelike state. They keep it up until the musicians come on again with another fast, loud set and the lights begin blipping all over the cavernous dance hall. Once more, the Avalon is a sea of maddening motion and deafening sound.
Bill Graham at the Fillmore kept on with the Jefferson Airplane and other folk rock groups and made his million with them. The Fillmore remained the same place and Graham remained the same man: blunt, unpretentious, obsessed with man's need for hard work and honesty. The Fillmore is as dingy as it has always been. The floor is still dirty and creaky, and the plaster on the walls is still cracking. One of the cracks is covered with a blown-up photo of Ronald Reagan dressed in a cowboy suit, looking tough as he points a gun in his left hand; under the photo is the caption: "Thanks for the votes, suckers." There are also anti-Vietnam posters, an anti-LBJ cartoon, and a picture of Graham, wearing a suit and tie, in a cage held by a female labeled "S.F. Society," with the serpent of Eden for her headband and dollar-signs for her earrings; the caption is: "So, I sold out, so what?"
At the Fillmore's nighttime rock-dance concerts, where Graham still insists on supervising everything personally, the confrontations between him and the hippies who come into the place have become legend. Knowing that he is wealthy, some of the school dropouts ask him: "Hey, man, got a dime? Got a quarter? I wanna get into the dance."
Graham turns on them: "Do you have a penny?"
"Well, I asked you first."
"I know you asked me first, but do you have a penny?"
"Well, hell, man..."
But Graham is gone to raise hell with four young hippies breaking up the line formation at the window. "Get in line!" he yells at them. "All these other people are in line. You think you're any better? Get in the line. You like to touch people. Here's your chance. Stay in line, like good flower children."
"Hey, Mr. Graham," they say. "Come on now, where's your love?"
"Fuck love," Graham says. "Get in line!"
I interviewed Graham in his cubbyhole office amid the usual chaos - secretary beside him clacking away on her typewriter, messages strewn all over his desk, telephone ringing continuously with calls from Time, Newsweek, and promoters from New York to Brazil. Posters announcing various folk-rock dance concerts covered almost every inch of the wall. His skinny legs bounced nervously, and his lips worked up and down as he tried to answer phones, direct his staff, make new appointments, read messages, and talk to me all at once.
"The first folk-rock dances were held right here, before Kesey or Helms came in this place," he said. "I mean, you want to talk about Acid Tests, Trips Festivals, hippies, dates, purposes - it's all a crock of shit. The dance concerts were put on as benefits, and then they were put on for people to have fun. What is Trips Festivals? People dancing and having fun, that's all. These things were never exclusively for people with long hair or beards freaking out on the floor. They were for anybody. A guy with a tuxedo could come in here with a half-naked blonde bitch, and they could wiggle their butts all over the floor and do their thing, and nobody would give a damn. Let 'em groove.
"Now, of course, there are certain laws we have to abide by or we're out of business. I mean, I had this thing going with the cops: you let us be loose, don't be uptight about the way people dress or act, let 'em do their thing, and I'll make sure nothing happens here to make trouble for you."
Out of the Fillmore and the Avalon came vibrations shooting across the country, drawing school and job dropouts to San Francisco. Hitchhiking or driving in imitations of Ken Kesey's psychedelic bus, they headed for where the action was - the Avalon and Fillmore like two giant magnets, with LSD and folk rock their energy fields....

(by Burton Wolfe, from The Hippies, 1968, as excerpted in The Age of Rock, ed. Jonathan Eisen, 1969)

Sep 8, 2013

May 18, 1968: Santa Clara Fairgrounds


Saturday at Santa Clara Fairgrounds. Hot weather and a good sound system. About eight thousand people came to hear the rock bands.
There were a lot of long-haired people there, but the major part of the audience was made up of fifteen-to-seventeen-year-old white kids. Lots of short sleeves, some Bermuda shorts. Kids with straight faces held in anticipation, waiting for themselves, waiting for Stars, waiting to be turned on, waiting to be sent into combat, intent on what was happening but not used to bursting out. Kids who were used to being told, "Sit up straight and don't make faces." They had become the nice children their parents raised them to be, and now they were looking for something beyond that.
Last year they could have eased their changes with a transitional music like Herman's Hermits, the Monkees, or even the early Beatles: boys who didn't look like they'd push a girl too far, boys who were willing to come in and meet the parents before a date. Now that kind of act is out, perhaps a victim of the general polarization of attitudes that is going on in America. Now there is a vacuum, a lack of in-betweens. These kids came from the Scouts, from Sunday School, mowing the lawn for chores and maybe getting a pony for Christmas. And they're going straight out of that world toward the world of Pigpen and Janis.
It's a big jump, and they were slow in getting involved in the music that day. They weren't dumb, they just hadn't been anyplace yet, and they rather shyly waited to be shown around. They were like the farmers who gathered in Ottawa, Illinois, in 1858 to hear the first Lincoln-Douglas debate. It was after that first debate that the New York Post reported: "All prairiedom has broken loose. It is astonishing how deep an interest in politics these people take."
The bands went through a slow and roundabout courtship with the audience, trying to turn them on. Here were all these hairy gang-bang bands all ready to whoop it up like they'd just driven the herd into Dodge City all the way from the Mexican border, and the crowd was like the schoolmarm who wonders if kissing with the tongue is ladylike. took time.
Finally the Youngbloods started to get to them with' Let's Get Together.' They're a trio now. Jerry Corbett has quit to do some record producing. Jesse said, "He got tired of running around playing rock band gigs." Then Crome Syrcus, a developing band, still not there. Some parts work, some don't. They ended with their ballet score from 'Astarte' from just didn't have anything to say in an outdoor rock concert. Then the Steve Miller Band, the first really hard band of the day, all tight and together, like watching a good middle-weight contender. They set the crowd up.

Next came the Grateful Dead. Tom Donahue announced that their new album is out this week and suggested that the Dead might play some numbers from it during their set. Jerry Garcia smiled benignly to himself. He said they'd do 'Alligator' and they did, for about forty minutes. That was their set and it blew the place wide open.
Most bands hit a song fast, then stretch out for a while, ending up with a bang. The Dead go into a song slowly, tentatively, and build up an atmosphere until everyone is inside the music. Then they take off, exploring the figures over and over again with that super rhythm section. If you're outside it, it can be boring. But when they get to you, it's incredible and hypnotic, as if the music was happening inside you. At Santa Clara it blew everybody's mind. It was as though we were hearing for the first time in our lives, and we stood in a kind of trance, scarcely knowing that we were listening. The ending was very drawn-out, on purpose. From that incredible middle section they trailed off slowly into percussion sounds, then down to just cymbal noise, and from there to silence. When it was over we didn't clap much, we just stood there open-mouthed: Who was that Masked Man?

Then Big Brother and the Holding Company came on, completely out front, pouring everything into just that moment, as if there were no tomorrow, only right now. Raw power and excitement, the most intense band around. Yet they're all so gentle. They look like they'd scare hell out of a waitress in a drive-in. ("What'll you boys have?" she asked. "Raw meat," they answered.) And yet they'd be great with children.
And they're all so tasteful. They make their choices like old-time country musicians. Janis looks like a gramma and like a little girl, burning up in a white flame. While she was singing, the wind was blowing the cottonwood trees behind her, and the leaves were turning over, from green to grey-green and back, as though in time with the music. They're presently recording an LP for Columbia in L.A. They're good people and I hope they get home all right.

And there on top of the bill, the Jefferson Airplane. What a complicated bunch! Cassady, Dryden and Jorma laying down their music, and Paul, Grace, and Marty Balin out in front doing some weird version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, making little remarks, gestures, giggles and faces at each other like they were passing notes in a schoolroom. Their last number was 'Do You Want Somebody to Love.' They led up to it with an air of mixed boredom and relief, like, "Oh not this again," but when they got into it, they really got with it all, cheering up and smiling and bopping around.
The crowd reaction began with, "Oh wow! The Hit!" and then warmed up into, "Yes, I do want somebody to love actually..." Then the festival promoters and monitors started shooing away the fans who were standing on the stage: "All right, kids, maybe you want somebody to love, but right now, run along home." That all happened behind the Airplane, who were having a really good time by then. They finished, and we all ran along.

(by Sandy Darlington, from the San Francisco Express-Times, 23 May 1968 - reprinted in Rock & Roll Will Stand, ed. Greil Marcus, 1969)

40 minutes of Alligator: