Nov 28, 2013

November 28, 1970: Underground News TV Interview, Chicago

[The audio quality of this tape is very bad and it's hard to make out all the dialogue, so there are a lot of gaps in this transcript.]


Ryan: This is John Ryan, and we’re speaking with Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, of a thing called the Grateful Dead. They appeared in town last evening with a thing called the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Jerry, for those people [...] who were not there last evening, would you get into who the New Riders of the Purple Sage are, how it came about, and the kinds of music that you’re doing. The concert was split in two last night.
Garcia: Well...guhh...New Riders – Marmaduke, he’s the guy who kind of fronts the band, he’s like the lead singer and writes the songs, and there’s Dave Torbert who plays the bass, and Dave Nelson who plays the guitar, and Mickey plays drums – that’s Mickey, Grateful Dead Mickey – and I play the pedal steel, or play at it, actually. And, you know, we just, well, we do some old country tunes and mostly tunes that Marmaduke writes. He writes songs that are just real simple and straightforward – yeah, right, no surprises.
Ryan: Is this something that you developed out of your own interest in the pedal steel, or how did this thing happen?
Garcia: Well I got the pedal steel, I don’t know about almost two years ago, I guess two years ago, maybe more than that, and didn’t really know anything about it at all – you know, I mean, I didn’t know anything, I didn’t even know how to tune it or anything. Luckily, when I got – when I went into a music store, and there it was… [Oh, gotta get it, fall into a big number.] And you know, it came to my house, and I opened it up and luckily it was in tune, you know? Otherwise, [grumbling] how do you do this thing? And I just started messing around with it a little, and I began to see how if I could play with some music, you know, I could probably learn how to play it, you know. And Marmaduke, who’s like a real old friend of ours from Palo Alto days, long time ago, was down the peninsula, South San Francisco, and playing in a place, you know, on Wednesdays or something, you know, couple of nights a week. I just started going down there with my pedal steel and playing with him...more or less. I already knew [...] I’d just sit there and play, and after a while, you know, it started to get – you know, like it would be nice to have a few more pieces, a little more to the music, fatten it up and stuff like that, and we just – Nelson was like an old friend of ours too, from way back, and Torbert, Nelson used to play together in a band around San Francisco called the New Delhi River Band, which was a good band.
Ryan: And you also were the pedal steel player on the Crosby Stills Nash & Young “Déjà Vu” album –
Garcia: Yeah.
Ryan: [See how you’re stretching] your tones on the instrument.
Garcia: Well, you know, they liked me, you know – “give the kid a break.” [laughter]
Ryan: Bob Weir, how did it happen that you became involved with the Grateful Dead originally?
Weir: Oh, that was a long time ago, but it happened one fateful New Year’s Eve, when I was hanging around with nothing to do, so I thought I’d [dip] by the music store window and look in the window, with a friend of mine, and –
Garcia?: Window shopping.
Weir: And there was Garcia in the back of the shop, going around in the back of the shop, [...] but anyway, he was in back of the shop waiting for his banjo students, who of course, none of whom were showing up on New Year’s Eve –
Garcia: On New Year’s Eve.
Weir: "Can’t figure out why none of my banjo students are coming." [laughter] He was standing to the wall. And so, we went down and hung out and rapped with him, and we thought that we had enough [halfway] talent at hand to start a jug band, and so me and him and [...] and Pigpen and a couple others started the jug band. And then the jug band started drifting into being an electric band, [...] but anyway, that’s how I got involved with the group.
Ryan: Phil, at what point did you join the group?
Lesh: Uh – after it got started. [pause]
Ryan: Very brief answer, that’s why he’s sitting on the other end. [laughter] What about the music of the Grateful Dead right now? People are probably familiar with the Grateful Dead as the –
Garcia: Got a match?
Ryan: I don’t think so, but maybe they have a [...] right here. The music of the Dead is a hard rock sound, that’s something we can say, and getting off on that the live Dead’s probably being one of the finer rock bands ever to [...]. You have an outlet for your interests, you know in the country kind of thing, in the New Riders, but do you see – the Dead has definitely gone in the direction on its own albums, the “New Morning” album – pass the ashtray, please.
Garcia: New Morning?
Ryan: American Beauty, that was American Beauty, and the Workingman’s Dead. Is this the direction that band is going to continue to go, or are you gonna jump back into hard rock music, or do you just gradually move from one stage to another?
Weir: We knew how to play it by ear.
Garcia: [...]
Lesh?: We’d better read the signs in this ashtray...
Garcia: Right! He’s gotta work out. You gotta have one oracle per group, otherwise you never know where you’re at.
Ryan: But there is no one leader of the Grateful Dead.
Garcia: Sure there is, but it’s somebody different each time.
??: He says we gotta quit.
Garcia: Ah well, that’s it, see you later.
Ryan: Before you leave, we were talking on the way over in the car about the kinds of things that are going on politically on the west coast. Are you very interested in politics?
Garcia: [mutters]
Ryan: Could you tell me about what’s going on with a) the Hell’s Angels, b) the Black Panthers – what kinds of things are happening on the west coast? People laying back, or are things actually happening? People in Chicago, I think would have some interest in that.
Garcia: Well...that figures. It’s hard, it’s really – it’s not really that simple, quite, you know there’s a whole lot to it; I’m not the guy that can really tell you about –
Ryan: What about the Angels, let’s say, since Altamont. You made a comment that they’ve been laying back a little bit. Is this –
Garcia: It seems like it, but see, that might be just because I’m laying back. You know, I mean I can’t – it’s kind of hard to tell, you know, because like just in the normal changes we don’t always find ourselves around the Hell’s Angels, you know. Here and there, there’s like one or two, you know, who are like people that we see more or less frequently. But like the one cat that we used to see a lot, he’s got a bullet in his head. I mean, so like our information about the Hell’s Angels mostly has to do with that one cat. Anyhow I mean you know, it’s like the rest of it is I would be hearing the same way you’d be hearing it from me, and it would be just rumors, you know. I mean I haven’t got any really good personal information.
Ryan: OK, let’s talk then about the involvement of your band, if that is possible, in a political kind of thing. I’ve read some bad raps of the Grateful Dead in the New York press, their being a mythical band with a movement or this kind of thing – how do you react as a musician first to something like that? Is it that you would like to stay out of that realm of discussion entirely, do politics and rock & roll come together for you, or do you concern yourself with these kinds of things?
Garcia: Not for me, no; for a lot of people, they seem to, but not for me. I don’t know about these guys here.
Weir: As far as politics is concerned I just lay back [and make comments] every now and again on something that [...] my eyes or ears. As for involvement, never, it just doesn’t interest me. I think that actually, speaking for the group as a whole in general, there are a couple guys that every now and again get politically involved [...].
Garcia: [...]
Ryan: Is free music a political thing, or doing a benefit for a certain kind of – somebody said that you had done a thing in New York for the Hell’s Angels [...].
Garcia: We did a thing WITH the Hell’s Angels. See, that’s like much different, you know, than doing something for somebody; where’s that at, you know. Didn’t do anything FOR anybody. Yeah, the Hell’s Angels put on a thing that would’ve under any circumstances been a groovy context for us to do our thing – it’s just what, you know, we worked together on, you know, that’s what it really came down to, and that’s like completely different than...raising money and all that. See, we went through all them scenes in San Francisco, and there was – everybody initially was trying to do that thing of, you know, "let’s have a benefit for this and a benefit for that," and a lot of them you know went down, like there was legal benefits and [...] that we played for because it was like all happening right where we lived [...]. We don’t live there anymore, we went someplace completely different, you know in a lot of ways. [But another,] it’s too good of a trip to be trying to raise money for something –
Ryan: What about the concept of free music, that’s something that’s had a lot of debate in Chicago. Musicians and their agents on one hand are saying "we’ve gotta survive," and people are saying "not at $6.50 a seat, you don’t," you know. How do you feel about that?
Garcia: Well I don’t think anybody has to pay $6.50 a seat, I don’t think anybody should. I think if somebody really objects to it, man, to not pay it. If nobody comes to a concert, you know, the promoter isn’t gonna put on one again, that’s all; it’s as simple as that, they don’t make any money. Now if people want to put an end to that, that’s the way to end it.
Ryan: Isn’t there also a process though, when that kind of thing starts, that a few select stars will get away with charging maybe 20, 30, 40,000 dollars a night, and a lot of the smaller bands will kind of be driven under. We were talking on the way over about the fact that the San Francisco area is very different from Chicago in terms of the fact of there are a lot of small clubs there that can sustain talent, can help people develop musically, stay in groups and eat.
Garcia: Yeah they can to some extent, but see basically, the thing about being a musician is basically, you gotta want to do it, and it don’t matter whether or not you’re surviving at it. You know what I mean – that stuff’s just jive, as far as I’m concerned, you know whether you survive at it – that might come way after [you’ve been at the point you know] what music is about. I mean, you know – you want to survive, you get a job or something, if you want bread, you know, do something like that. If you want to play music, play music. But don’t expect to make bread at it. That ain’t what music is about and fine, if that’s the thing you’re going after, that’s maybe what you’ll end up with, but that ain’t what it is, you know.
[indecipherable mutterings]
Ryan: Bob, what about the question of some of the different political organizations, that these questions have been raised in Chicago. The questions of OK, these musicians are ostensibly supporting a youth culture revolution, dot dot dot, therefore they should come out here in [the] park and play for us for nothing or for next to nothing –
Lesh?: But is Chicago the youth culture revolution?
??: [...]
Lesh: What is the youth culture revolution? Is it real, or are those people just [...]?
Garcia: Yeah; right.
Weir: When I’m playing free in the park, I’m not playing for a cause, I’m playing music, and nothing else, and any cause or anybody that is concerned that – [I don’t follow that].
Garcia: [We’re not] supporting youth culture revolution and similar phrases, you know. I mean all that stuff is –
Ryan: I used that phrase on purpose because I wanted to see how you’d react to it.
Garcia: You know, it’s a lie.
Weir: [...] youth culture revolution.
Ryan?: [...] break for a commercial, but we’ll be back sometime, OK?
Ryan: Phil, we’ve been avoiding you in the discussion so far, so why don’t you pick a topic of conversation and you and I will sit here and talk about it and ignore these two other people sitting between us.
Weir: You’ll find it hard to ignore us.
Ryan: Who is Phil Lesh, where are you from and where did you get into music, if you fill us in a little bit about it.
Lesh: I’ve been into music all along... [...]
Ryan: And did you want to join all the rock & roll bands [...] the Grateful Dead?
Lesh: It was much more oblique than that. Like I was into music through classical music for about twenty years or so, and then [I was nearly completely] [...]. And I was just a free person doing not much of anything except enjoying myself. And then that whole scene came along.
Ryan: What whole scene?
Lesh: Uhh... LSD, rock & roll, and change the world.
Ryan: [...] LSD, rock & roll, change the world?
Lesh: Well, not visibly. [laughter]
Ryan: More comments from our audience on that particular remark?
Garcia: Changed my world. [laughter]
Ryan: OK. We were talking before we split about the concept of free music, the concept of rock & roll bands involving themselves in politics, either by doing benefits, doing free concerts for one cause or another. But I think a lot of people are interested in how the Grateful Dead as individual people relate to some of the things that are going down in our society today, so I hope that we could talk about. Some things that other people everywhere talk about, I guess, and one of them is how you feel about things like the war and things that are going on in this society [that affect you]. You said you’d rather be [...], in a way, you know, change your head in terms of [acid], [...] and things like that. Is that something – perhaps that’s something we should get into – is that something that’s going on a lot on the west coast, people moving out of the cities? You’ve said that it was never necessary [for] people to live in [a] situation which was so intense, if I can paraphrase you.
Garcia: Sure. Lot of young people are moving out of the cities.
Ryan: So do you see these kinds of things developing, like colonies of people?
Garcia: [...] I don’t know about colonies. The stuff that I gotta talk about is like just what I know, which isn’t really a whole lot, I mean I don’t really relate to that many people just in my own life, you know. But the people that I know mostly are moving out of the city, even the city people. You know, I mean, like [there’s] city people, street people even moving out of the city.
Ryan: So you’re now with [...], is that what you said?
Garcia: [...]
Ryan: Bob, what kinds of things do you see the Grateful Dead doing [...]?
??: [...] ballet... [laughter]
Ryan: Purple Sage, one thing that’s – let me actually ask Garcia this while he’s still with us – Purple Sage going to be recording, are you going to go in that direction with them?
Garcia: Uhh... Yeah, Marmaduke wants to make a record. [mutters]
Ryan: Will that create like a split in your head that maybe the Grateful Dead remain a rock & roll band as the Purple Sage become more into the country thing?
Garcia: No, I don’t –
Ryan: Or do people in the Dead –
Garcia: - anything like that. See, I don’t even think about like what New Riders music is, country music and Grateful Dead music and hard rock or something, I mean I just think of it all as music, you know; it’s all music as far as I’m concerned; I approach one exactly as I approach the other. You know, I just try –
Ryan: Your band has gone through such changes, and that’s, I guess –
Garcia: I don’t see that myself –
Ryan: - to someone on the outside –
Weir: [...] Somebody told me, “Jesus you guys are going through such changes!”
Garcia: Well what changes?
Ryan: OK, let’s say –
Lesh: Changes in labels, maybe.
Garcia: Yeah, right, new labels... [crosstalking]
Ryan: Let’s say someone buys an album, they buy Live/Dead, and they buy Workingman’s Dead, do you think they’re going to see any relation, in terms of –
Garcia: Sure. There’s obvious similarities.
Ryan: [...] for example, there’s so little vocal work on the live thing, and so much more emphasis on like your improvisation, [...], and the songs on Workingman’s Dead are so tight and there’s a lot of singing, a lot of harmony. Don’t you think these are two different schools, aren’t they, or what ties them together?
Lesh: Music.
Garcia: The fact that it’s all us, and that it’s all music. [chortles]
Ryan: What I’m saying is that a person who does not know you would not recognize that you were indeed the same people.
Garcia: Well, I can’t see how it could possibly matter, you know what I mean? You know, it’s like, cause the people aren’t the thing, I mean the personality thing is just weirdness, it’s a marketing trip, you know, the fact that we’re here on television as the Grateful Dead is a marketing trip, you know? It doesn’t have anything to do with the music. The music is the music, and if we wanted to do the music, we would be here set up and playing...and that’s like, that’s the whole, that’s what we do, you know?
Weir: [...]
Lesh: Would’ve been nice for you guys to bring some acoustic guitars.
Ryan: We’re hoping to work out on the Underground News where people can come in and play.
Garcia: Sure, that’d be great.
Lesh: What difficulty have you had in doing that?
Ryan: Uh, there are legal things –
Lesh: You’re kidding.
Ryan: - presenting live talent on TV in Chicago.
Lesh: Really.
??: [...] [crosstalking]
Ryan: Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir, we thank you for joining us on the Underground News, and hopefully we’ll have a thing set up by the time they come back to town. Maybe they can play for us, or maybe not.
Garcia: We’re always willing to rap, of course.
Ryan: It was very nice having you, thank you for joining us.

[Words in brackets] are my best guess. [...] is usually a word or phrase that I couldn't understand. Corrections are welcome.

Nov 21, 2013

November 11, 1971: Municipal Auditorium, Atlanta


I guess it isn't easy to be a living legend. I mean, what do you do for an encore? Since the early days of the movement then - and it was a movement then - the Grateful Dead has been known as a people's band. The free concert given by the Dead here in Piedmont Park in 1969 is something that nearly everyone who was there remembers fondly. I just finished listening to the first three Grateful Dead albums in an attempt to gain inspiration for this article. "Anthem of the Sun" - the second album - is probably the high water mark of psychedelic music. It is also the finest example of improvisation by a rock band available on record. Unfortunately, Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist and spiritual symbol of The Grateful Dead, would probably dismiss all that I have said as a lot of pseudo-nostalgic clap trap. In answer to the numerous requests for old Grateful Dead numbers, Jerry was heard to say, "That was two years ago, man. If you can't pick up on what we're doing now, I guess we'll have to leave you behind." Allow me to add that soon after saying this, the band played "Johnny B. Goode," a Chuck Berry song that is fully ten years old. Just who is living in the past, Jerry?
But I digress. Let me give you a blow by blow description of the concert.
The Grateful Dead was preceded by the New Riders of the Purple Sage, who are a country rock derivative of the Dead. If you've never gotten into the Byrds, the New Riders are a real knock-out with a clear almost piercing guitar sound and a fine, down home, country beat. Somehow, they lack the dynamics and simple beauty that makes the Byrds one of the all time great bands in popular music.
On the positive side, Spencer Dryden, formerly of the Jefferson Airplane, performed brilliantly on drums with the New Riders and gave the best individual performance of any of the fine musicians on the stage that night. It was only then that I realized what a great loss his departure was to the Airplane. In all, though, most of the New Rider’s material had an all-too-similar sound, and they had to rely on oldies like “Willie and the Hand Jive,” “Down in the Boondocks,” and the Everly Brothers’ “Mary Lou” to really excite the audience. This was a trend to be followed, much to my disappointment, by the Grateful Dead.
Pigpen, the mysterious organ player of the group and the first person in the world to play that weird, was not with the group on this tour. This was also the Dead's first appearance in Atlanta with only one drummer. Mickey Hart has left the group. Keith Goshow substituted for Pigpen and played some excellent piano though it was barely audible to most of the audience. Even for a band noted for their extremely informal stage presence, the Grateful Dead seemed to be very indifferent to this job. I found this to be truly the case when I met the band on their way out of the auditorium. Even their refusal to play with police present on the stage in the aftermath of the usual Municipal Auditorium crowd control hassle seemed to be a superficial matter of routine. The action looked as if it had been rehearsed.
Relying mostly on material from their new live album, "Workingman's Dead," and "American Beauty," the group moved listlessly through a repertoire of songs of pretty much the same tempo, structure, and of the same instrumental arrangement. Improvisation was at a premium, and the diehard Grateful Dead fans kept hoping for the band to take off on one of those legendary hour long numbers that used to leave them numb for hours after the show was over, but that kind of Grateful Dead music never came.
The only member of the band who played with anything resembling the brilliance and intensity of past performances was Phil Lesh, who is unquestionably one of the finest bass players in rock music. His intricate, flowing bass patterns are pure, sonic poetry.
If someone was going to write a book on how to be a hot shot band, he would have to recommend closing out the set with a Chuck Berry song because it is a sure fire crowd pleaser. By now, though, it's also an A-1 cop out. The Grateful Dead finished the show with "Johnny B. Goode." Draw your own conclusions.
It was good to see the Dead just for old time's sake, but I think I'll just be content to listen to their old albums from now on. On the way to his limousine, Jerry Garcia muttered, "Total Bummer." It wasn't that bad. But it wasn't any too good.

(by Joe Roman, from the Great Speckled Bird (Atlanta), November 22 1971)
See also: 

Nov 18, 2013

November 6-7, 1971: Harding Theatre, SF


"...come one, come all, we're gonna have a ball
Down at the function at the junction."
F. "Shorty" Long/E. Holland

San Francisco's Harding Theatre, at 616 Divisadero St., hasn't been noted for staging any notable musical performances, rock, soul, or otherwise. Oh yes, Curtis Mayfield and Hugh Masakela both made appearances on the small stage there, but that's kinda what you'd expect from a tiny, community-oriented theatre in the primarily black Fillmore district.
It's an absolutely wonderful little place. There are old, wood-paneled doors; a big, weathered marquee outside; an airy lobby with a nice rug; very passable acoustics in a fairly unadorned theater proper; and maybe 500 roomy seats on the ground floor. Upstairs, in the balcony, are perhaps 300 huge, plush seats cum sofas sporting such niceties as double legroom, padded armrests and seatbacks (to rest one's head), and a perfect view of the stage from every angle.
You can feel pleasantly comfortable, and intimate, with whomever is on the stage at the Harding. The worst seat in the house is no more than a hundred feet away.
A lot of us, you see, still can't quite believe that the Grateful Dead (Lord-A-Mercy!) played the Harding this past Saturday and Sunday nights. Essentially it's like bopping down to the local Bijou to catch the Stones. But the Dead simply called it "a little party for our friends." And for the friends who couldn't make it, the exceedingly wonderful KSFX (103.7 on the FM dial) broadcast the Sunday night gig live.

Admittedly the regularly scheduled gatherings at Winterland are attended by the devoted, but it was the truly faithful who made it to the Harding last weekend. It was a gathering right out of the old Haight, five years before. Older faces, gentled faces. Faithful friends.
"It's like walking into a huge party," exclaimed Uncle Bob. And so it was. Why, there was Big Mac, Erwin Clair, Funk and Tomaso (not to mention Mr. Mellow, C. Mel Chewey and Robbie Sue) and Stony Ralph Brown and the Boys. It was so good to be back together!
One still tends, you see, to associate the Dead with the great assemblings of the masses at the Fillmore, and Winterland. And quite rightly, for they synthesized more of the memorable nights there than any other group, with the possible exception of the Airplane.
Unfortunately, one could never feel entirely comfortable, in a physical sense, at the latter two; once everybody pressed forward you could always find room to sit on the floor, but that's exactly what it was - sitting on the floor.
For the first time in living memory, San Franciscans and their friends who had been weaned on rock concerts without seats could sit back in pure physical comfort and absorb their Dead. This is not to say that the folks couldn't get up and "truck," for there was plenty of space for that down front or in front of your seat, or even on top of your seat, but there is something to be said for the pleasure of lounging back.

It would have been enough (as the old Jewish Passover song goes) that the Dead re-affirmed that they are the Great American Band, the greatest and most powerful rock-and-roll band alive today. It would have been enough that the Dead played for four-and-one-half hours on both nights (and absolutely nobody plays four-and-one-half hours anymore) and only charged Three Dollars ($3.00). It would have been enough that technically and musically they were tight, drivin', cookin' as always, and played most of the favorite tunes superbly well. It would have been enough to know that some friend was probably making a tape off KSFX of the whole thing. It would have been enough that the crowd was typically warm and friendly and well-stoked.
But the Dead at the little Harding? That combination was almost too much to take.

The Dead had been, for several months, on a long road tour through Texas and the Southwest. Probably the last time they played in the Bay Area was the closing of the Fillmore West, when they were tired and feeling hassled. Pigpen had not accompanied them; he is still recuperating from liver maladies. But Keith Godcheaux (formerly with Dave Mason) filled in superbly at the concert on keyboards.
Although it was assumed that they wouldn't be back in town till Thanksgiving, the Dead family decided to rent out the Harding for a two-night "party." It was cheaply acquired, small, and it gave them the chance to do a live broadcast, without the hassles of Winterland, KSAN, and Bill Graham. Rock Scully, the Dead's manager, contacted Eric Christensen of KSFX, the ABC-affiliated station that, along with WPLJ in New York, has been returning a measure of the old-time greatness to rock radio.
They had only two days to set up the equipment, and although the monitors cut out several times and the signal was sometimes weak, the quality of the broadcast and the music was sensational. (KSFX, by the way, intends to air a live B.B. King broadcast recorded in New York, on Thanksgiving eve.)

Just as their memorable four-night gig at the Fillmore West two summers ago ushered in the era of "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty," hallmarked by intricate harmony and a mellow country influence, this two-day gig at the Harding marked their transition into good ol' rock n' roll. They're a band you not only come to see and hear, but also to dance and jump and smile to. A band; not just a group.
But why don't people go to concerts to dance anymore?
Dead freaks, for instance, go to concerts fully expecting to shake a leg. "Getting up to truck" is the way it's usually put. But today that's something unique in the rock world. For one thing, the closing of the two Fillmores dealt a severe blow to the small rock concert scene. Now there's only Winterland, or the S.F. Civic, or, God forbid, the Oakland Coliseum. In New York, there are only overpriced clubs, over-sold Howard Stein rip-offs, and Madison Square Garden.
But there hasn't been an emphasis on dancing since the early days of rock 'n roll. Probably it goes back even further, back to the great dance bands of the '40's and '50's. Just read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, wherein you'll find colorful descriptions of the emotional frenzy and excitement generated by the Kings of "Swing" in the East coast ballrooms. Much of that excitement was translated into the early boppin' rock of Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Elvis, which in turn became Chubby Checker and the British Invasion.

The Dead hearken back to a time when it was fun to throw the old hips around and work out new dance steps on the living room floor.
For more than a year now the Dead have been putting on huge dance concerts, or so they've seemed. Recall the "Airwaves" benefit at the Fillmore, when we danced until 4:00 a.m., or the great Memorial Day concerts. It might be described as constant rushing for five hours.
Or maybe you were at the Gaelic Park outdoor concert this summer in New York, where the music went on from 6:30 till 11:45.
Or maybe you were at the Harding.
But even if you weren't, you've probably heard their newest release, the double live LP, recorded at Winterland, the Fillmore East, and the Manhattan Centre in New York.

Most critics have been down on this release, although it's been anxiously awaited for more than a year now. So impatient were the local freaks that they even started unearthing old tapes of great concerts, swapping them, and lending them to radio stations.
It is a legitimately great album. If nothing else, it's the only honest-to-God dance music album we have from the Dead, and if you're not privileged to own an underground Dead tape, here are a whole mess of 'em on an album.
Unfortunately the album doesn't convey the incredible power that the Dead unleash in concert. But the fault lies not with the Dead, but with the inherent difficulty of pressing into vinyl the whole emotional frenzy and continuous body rush these fellows create live. With the exception of "St. Stephen" from "Live Dead," they've never been able to capture on record the ethereal qualities that so move their following. Yes, "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty" are classic albums; but they don't even give an inkling of what can be done with those songs live in concert.

Dead concerts are traditionally pretty stony/trippy affairs. But the real high is the emotional ecstasy that builds up internally for their music.
This aspect is most difficult to write on. How can I really descibe why I felt like passing out at the 5/29 concert simply because the Dead were "so beautiful." Perhaps it's sufficient to say that these musicians have the power to transport you away from yourself, away from the concert hall, away from the buddies, from the girl or boyfriend, and into the realm of pure, unadulterated bliss.
It's very hard, for instance, to hold onto someone during a Dead concert; both of you want to feel this psychic force full blast. And you see it externally expressed in almost every face; in joyful eyes, constantly moving bodies, and tears streaming down cheeks.

It was the most incredible four-hour rush you could ever hope to experience. And those of you who don't know what on earth I'm babbling about probably never will.
Backed by one of the finer light shows produced this year, courtesy of heavy water, the Dead opened with "Truckin';" not the high-powered version they've been grinding out during the past year, but a very personal rendition right out of "American Beauty" bespoke their return to their stomping grounds.
Highlights of their first set included a fine, hard-rock version of "Cumberland Blues" (off "Workingman's Dead"), the famous Bob Weir rendition of Jay and the American's classic "El Paso," Garcia's "Big Railroad Blues" off the new release, and "Sugarbee," [sic] a song they've often played in concert but never recorded - featuring a happy, lilting melody with a bass-rhythm interplay that carries the tune right into the rafters.

"Saturday Night," probably an old Chuck Berry hit but which sounded more like the Dave Clark Five, ended the first set, and everybody sat back, talked, and resumed breathing for awhile.
"Me and Bobby McGee," their version of the Janis/Kristofferson hit that sounds so fine on the new album, got the second set moving, and without wasting any energy soared into a rendition of "Sugar Magnolia" that was nothing less than a cosmic orgasm.
The first of the traditional flares was lit sometime in the middle, and everyone let out a collective groan of pleasure.
"Dark Star," the great acidic triumph off "Live-Dead," featuring free-form guitar work from Garcia, Weir, and Lesh followed. Flowing into "The Other One," (another acid-based floater from "Anthem of the Sun" and the new album), the Dead 'tripped-out' many in the crowd, zonked or not. This journey lasted an hour, but before it was done they launched into a madcap version of "Me and My Uncle" (off the new release), only to return again to "The Other One."
A superb "Brokedown Palace" followed, capped by "Playing in the Band," an old favorite of past concerts which is included on the new album. An unimpressive "Casey Jones" was offered up, but was more than compensated for by "Not Fade Away" into "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad," proving once again that the album version may be fine indeed, but when they cook it for you on stage you may be sure that it's well-done.
Following a 20 minute standing ovation that seemed more desperate than excited, they returned with the traditional closing piece "Johnny B. Goode," and followed that with "Uncle John's Band."
KSFX is hoping that the Dead will renounce their traditional New Year's Eve concert at Bill Graham's Winterland for the intimacy of the Harding. That could be a little hard to take; you'd almost have to go into training for it. I mean, twelve hours of the Grateful Dead at the Harding? Could you believe it? Huh?

(by Paul Grushkin & Kate Rosenbloom, from the Stanford Daily, November 11 1971)

Thanks to

For a recent memory of the show, see:

Nov 14, 2013

1971: Live Album Reviews


I approached this album with mixed feelings; one side of me saying "Well, you love the Dead don't you?" and the other half repeating "They went commercial, and this ain't no different."
Well, I'm right on both counts, I think. Sure they do hummable c&w-type tunes now, but they mix in such fine rhythms and Garcia's talking guitar on this live album so it's hard not to like it.
Side one is very catchy, with ‘Bertha’ (known to some as ‘Had to Move’ from their bootlegs), Merle Haggard's ‘Mama Tried’ (pure spiff), ‘Big Railroad Blues’ (gosh, so great) and ‘Playing in the Band’ (Bob Weir can sing so well when he wants; he and Garcia are a perfect match).
Side two, an eighteen-minute version of ‘The Other One’ opens with a solo by Bill the Drummer that's too long (if he had Mickey Hart to jam with, then it might be something to groove-on-out-to; unfortunately, this is shades of ‘Toad’ boredom), and finally goes into ‘That's It For the Other One’ (if you remember Anthem of the Sun, the greatest Dead album ever). Well, after taking so long to get into it, it isn't all that astounding, mind-boggling, or whatever. Don't get me wrong, it ain't bad, but Mickey Hart – wherever you are – please return to the Dead 'cause they can't do the old stuff anymore.
Side three has its high points and low ones, and starts off with the latter, a pointless song entitled ‘Me & My Uncle’. ‘Big Boss Man’ is the only Pig Pen song on the entire album (a real shame; they could have at least whet our whistle with ‘Good Lovin'’ and/or ‘Smokestack Lightning’), which makes it a necessary track but unless Jerry & the boys start featuring McKernan more on albums, he better start recording with another band cuz his talent is too strong to discard. ‘Me & Bobby McGee’ is nice, but this kind of stuff is better suited for the New Riders. The Dead do a wonderful version of ‘The Weight’; why is it not here? ‘Johnny B. Goode’ is, by its very nature, one of the better tracks on the album and rocks like the Dead should do more often.
Side four is the one where you expect the big thing to happen, right? Well, it starts off with a quite unspectacular song ‘Wharf Rat’, which lasts for eight minutes and goes literally nowhere. But there is a saving cut on this album, a piece de resistance, as they say...
I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna be –
You're gonna give your love to me.
I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna stay –
Where love is not love not fade away.
‘Not Fade Away’, with that Bo Diddley beat and fine harmonies, this is the cut on the album. The typical genius guitar solo of Mr. Garcia, wailing away into ‘Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad’. A very nice cut, and if it wasn't on the album [then] the Dead fans of old might just as well not buy this album. This is an album for followers of the new Dead, the Grateful Dead quartet that plays pretty songs and sometimes has a grungy-looking singer making guest appearances, but never plays like the two-drummer, two-guitar, keyboards Dead of the past.

(by Jon Tiven, from Phonograph Record, November 1971)

* * *


To avoid any possible disappointments for those who once had visions of saving the world through the music on Anthem of the Sun and any number of live performances, it might be nice to think of this album as an interlude for the Grateful Dead, a resting place where they’ve stopped over to brace themselves for the next series of atmospheric excursions.
Despite some heartening knew-they-could-do-it-all-along moments, it has all the earmarks of such a betwixt and between record – produced live, mostly other people’s songs, filtered through with a kind of relaxed air that relies on renditions of old familiars and any number of debt-paying tributes.
But if nothing else, Grateful Dead does make me a bit nostalgic for them golden days of yore, when not much of anything could be predicted from the group except that they would inevitably try through the course of each performance to take you some place you’d never been before. They would likely miss a good percentage of the time, and you’d perhaps spend a lot of time twiddling your thumbs while they’d try out and discard all combinations of musical paths, but the chances were good that they would leave you with enough massively memorable moments during the night to make the whole thing worthwhile.
The trouble is, however, that I don’t hear many of those memorable moments here. Except for some extended beauty that falls at the end of ‘The Other One’ on side two, what we get is another version of your local Dead bootleg that just happens to be recorded from the stage rather than vice-versa. This isn’t entirely bad – I’d much rather listen to the Dead light into ‘Johnny B. Goode’ than virtually anyone else – except when you happen to remember that the Dead used to be in the forefront of the rock avant-garde, using the basics of the earlier forms to flesh out the structures (or non-structures) of a music that might provide a stunning entrance into the cosmos of the third millennium A.D. Free jazz folks have been aware of this relatively untapped dimension for years (you know the usual names, I’m sure), but ever since the pyrotechnics of Live Dead, our boys seem to have backed away from such experimentation and confrontation, and the result is a mixture of pleasant good-time music and solid solos, brought up and made even more attractive by the Dead’s uniquely rich and majestic sound. It can’t quite be called bad, since it’s pretty clear that the Dead have progressed so far beyond your average garage band that there’s no danger of them ever slipping back, but it still can provide a bit of a letdown for those who have come to expect only great things from the grate.
‘Bertha’ opens the album, faded up at the beginning so that you are literally pulled into the "live" experience, and it’s a good way to start, with an irresistible rolling beat and a drive which might make Creedence sit up and take notice, superb Hunter lyrics and all. The rest of the side varies, with a nice Bob Weir rendition of ‘Mama Tried’, a sonofabitchin’ ‘Big Railroad Blues,’ and a Weir-Hunter composition called ‘Playing In The Band’ that is noteworthy for its great series of chord progressions and little else.
The programming, which up to now has taken a wait-and-see attitude, breaks down when you hit side two and are greeted by an extended Bill Kreutzmann drum solo. It pains me to say this about a drummer who blissfully shines throughout the rest of the album, playing what amounts to perfect supportive percussion despite any quick changes that are going down in the rest of the group, but given his solo group of minutes, he don’t cut it here at all. While his individual ideas are good, he never manages to give them internal coherence, any sort of organic connection, and the result is almost as if he had a list of tricks in front of him, and as he does each one he mentally crosses it off and jumps to the next.
But when Kreutzmann finally catches the beam at the end, the rest of the Dead are there to greet him with one of those supremely beautiful chord bursts that have given ample reason for their fans to become some of the truest fanatics in rock and roll, and from there until they stumble off the end of the side, there’s no holding them back. On a good night, the Dead can construct a masterful weave where everything seems to swirl around the next, and they’re at their finest here, spurred by the loving bite of Garcia’s guitar, Weir’s slap-dash rhythm, driven along by some of the finest bass playing on four planets, Mars and the asteroid belt included. Which only then makes the rest of the album so hard to explain. If they’re going to take you that high on side two, why do they give up the good fight and go back to "arranged" songs and cover versions for the remaining half of the record? With the exception of ‘Wharf Rat’ over on side four, of which I might say that it is assuredly one of the finest examples of Garcia-Hunter’s combined talents we’ve yet been privileged to see, there’s nothing here that doesn’t really amount to filler at an average Dead performance. The problem, of course, is that you don’t develop a ‘St. Stephen’ or a ‘Turn On Your Lovelight’ overnight; but why settle for second best? And if you argue that even second-best Dead is better than just about anything else on the market, I’d tend to agree. But again, why settle for second best?
Well, maybe they’ll clear that up for us on the next outing. In the meantime, think of this album as an interlude for the Grateful Dead, a resting place where they’ve stopped over to brace themselves for the next series of atmospheric excursions...

(by Lenny Kaye, from Rolling Stone, November 11 1971)

For Lenny Kaye's review of Live/Dead, see:

For other reviews of the 1971 live album, see:   

Nov 12, 2013

August 26, 1971: The Bootleg Battle


"We want you guys to go outside and liberate those bootlegs." Those were direct orders to Sam Cutler, the Dead's road manager, from Jerry Garcia. Cutler rounds up the biggest beer-bellied Al Hirt stand-ins from among the 85 assorted straights and out-and-out muscle freaks that make up the Howard Stein Gaelic Park goon squad (remember the Fillmore uniforms?) and marches them out, indignantly, into the exuberant crowd that is waiting to hear the oh-so-righteous Grateful Dead.

They spot Johnny Lee, one hundred and ten pounds of bootleg selling might. About half a dozen of these New Age entrepreneurs surround the guy; except for Cutler, they weigh an average of two hundred pounds a-piece. Cutler announces the liberation of the Dead bootleg Johnny is selling, grabs them from out of his hands, and gives them out...twenty-seven of them.

They're ahead of the game: The Grateful Dead, the Altamont friends of Pigpen, Howard Stein and his millions earned through his well-known ruthlessness, and his beer-bellied bouncers: one; Johnny Lee, 110 lbs., earning less than fifty a week (this was his first time out selling albums this season) with no friends with more than a spare hundred at a time, with no friends accustomed to violence or willing to engage in it over money, the loss: $52.00.

The pigs intent on picking up on the Rock Empire Game, where Graham left off, stop at nothing. They go over to Hawkman and tell him, "You're either going to jail immediately or you're gonna give out all of the Dead bootlegs you've got on you." Not a chance...Hawkman has seen colder-eyed muscle on Sixth Street. He rages about until the goons are convinced they're going to have stomp this guy in sight of all before he's going to part with his records. They agree to let him go if he agrees to sell no more Dead at the concert. To get out of their sweaty clutches, he agrees and splits in a rage. Meanwhile, two other hawkers are surrounded and have 120 albums confiscated.

It rages and sputters; the bootleggers gather forces and go in to see Cutler and Stein. The ones remaining outside the concert hassle the assorted bouncers, now no longer running with their Tons-of-Fun pack sic-ing cops on their tail, accusing them of assaulting Johnny Lee -- I'm not following up though, just doing whatever can be done to tear down their fascist spirits a bit.

The conference ends behind the concert gates; before the confiscated records are returned, Stein and the Dead insist the hawkers who own the records rat on the "bootleg kingpin." Dig that shit man! This is the funky, beautiful voice of the Grateful Dead! "YOU GET YOUR RECORDS BACK YOU RAT ON YOUR BROTHER." What is that crap?!

(Last year, people would approach Hawkman and offer to sell him good Dead tapes. His answer was that, no, they wouldn't bootleg the Dead because they needed the money so badly. That was last year that they needed the bread -- and most of the years preceding as well.)

The biggest piece of shit spewing from Cutler's mouth is about the reasons the Dead have for being so pissed off: they don't like the quality (remember Garcia's line in "I Got No Chance of Losin"? He says, "I'm only in it for the gold." Yeah, music has a way of being more honest than the artist intends it to be at times...) The "quality"? Anyone who has bought a bootleg recently will know and agree that the bootleg stereo album called "Grateful Dead" is one of the best underground products yet. The tape was taken from a concert the group did at Winterland, on the coast a few months back. Yeah, Garcia fucks up a bit on "Casey Jones," and Pigpen's ego may have been deflated a bit by his voice coming over poorly on "Good Loving" but that was a concert. You do a concert and you stand by your performance, good or bad. That's show business.

This effete artistic bullshit doesn't matter anyway. Bootlegs [are] structured around the selling of the sounds of big name groups. A big name group is one in which each musician earns over five figures. The best-selling bootleg on this coast at this time is this new Dead. Bootleggers push about 500 a month in the city. Whenever a new Dead System-Sponsored album hits the stores to good publicity [ -- ] they didn't even get ripped-off for the work they put into the bootlegger's product -- [then] it sells 10,000 in the same area at the same time. Simultaneously, more people become Dead freaks as they hear more and more of the group, be it on bootleg or straight production. It amounts [to] big money for the Winterland concert. When you're out to get all the money you can out of your gigs, like the Dead seem to be (like all the groups seem to be) you might be accused of being a bit piggish; when you use strong-arm shit to insure that you get every last penny that you deserve -- by making Amerikan standards -- you are a Pig. Jerry Garcia, is that you?

Nobody buys that anti-bootleg shit about the artistic integrity of the artist in saying what goes out. One, you stand by your performance; two, even if you don't want to, Jerry, somewhat, and say "all your private property is fair game for your brothers (especially when they sell records of concerts that don't compete with coming releases) and your brother (who's gonna continue to dig you as we live off your comets we're gonna keep ripping you off because it is possible. As simple as that. We'd like to paraphrase the Airplane tail) is me." If you and Cutler and Stein continue your shit, though, we'll just have to sing the song the same old way, you guys being put in the position of being the same old reactionary establishment that we're all ripping off. It's all around. You break your back playing gigs for ten years and suddenly success is staring you in the face. Bread: lots and lots of bread. You turn your back on your poor, ripping 'em off roots and start to tighten up. You're in the biggest rip-off industry around, but no one cares as long as they're having fun. Bootleggers pay a lot to produce and package but are rip-off people, too. They give the eager little music freak what he wants and charge him what the stores charge; it's the same rip-off on a smaller scale. The biggest winners on your side of the rip-off, Jerry, are people like Stein and the late Grajonka, people who run the gamut from General Sarnoff to Mike Curb. These are the Pop Power Politicians; the dudes who are going to control us all some day. The people who get rich (if you consider an average take of $100 a week "rich") on our side of the rip-off is mostly small-time peddlers like Johnny Lee, who'll never get back on his boot legs again.

Money. That's the whole story, isn't it? If these were other times, in another land under a different set of rules maybe you could justifiably complain about the people who want to give your recorded performances out free because you didn't screen them and pick out the sections you didn't like and do them over for the cat, 'cause no one charges for their music, and because the means of production belong to the people, and they can turn out all the good sounds they can, and you have a natural right to screen all releases. But we're here. Now. You guys are making millions -- or soon will be. Money is power, especially as the concept of money is crumbling nation-wide and power freaks like Stein are cornering the market on it. The channels that the green-power the Dead bring in travel aren't the healthiest for the generations of revolution to come. Stein is one of these hopeful images of a freak with a chance to change things positively gone sour, who uses all his power to consolidate his power; who'll go to any extremes to insure the natural expansion of that power. Fuck him. Fuck you, if you even consider using brown-shirt tactics to perpetuate this raking-in operation.

Maybe I should give some note to a rumor: that the Dead have been looking for bootleg manufacturers for some time now with the object in mind of collaborating to produce one or more bootlegs. That would be nice. Then they could have some of their artistic integrity back, and maybe even a cut out of the take, not that that is important. Maybe that'll still happen. But you cocksuckers still owe Johnny Lee $52.00.

(by Basho Katzenjammer, from the East Village Other, 6 October 1971)

August 26, 1971: Gaelic Park, NYC


Last week's Grateful Dead concert up at Gaelic Park was a usual Dead session, meaning that the band-to-fan-to-band electro-chemical process for which rock music is famed was on like high mass at Easter. Although I think I know most of the time what they are doing musically (Christgau will like this notion); I don't quite understand them electro-chemically. Like the New York Knicks of two seasons ago, they can do excellent things together though they are not a group of deathless superstars. Garcia gets his songs across, but he can't sing, and Bob Weir's voice rises to about average...maybe better when he gets to screaming and the music sweeps him along. I still find it difficult to recognize the Dead songs that aren't "Truckin'" or "St. Stephen" one from the other. I am not one of their fans, but seem to be one of their admirers. Their music speaks in a special language to their live listeners, and that language has the vocabulary of everybody else, but a convoluted syntax all its own. The note sequences are not completely dependent upon musical factors but are also dictated by how involved the band feels and also upon what kind of heat the audience is giving off. I'm trying to get to some essences of this thing.
The drama of a Dead concert revolves around the fact that wherever the band plays they know that a certain number (several tons) of their partisans will be there and that their crowd knows the Dead potential to excite them, but they also know that the Dead may not get into gear until the crowd begins to apply some heat, and so forth. Both parties also know that the concert will be long enough and informal enough for anything to happen on either side of the footlights, and so audiences improvise (smoke, go to the hot dog stand, kiss and snuggle, cheer, dance, listen like star-struck fools) just like their musician friends on stage (who play light and funny for awhile, retire backstage awhile, stand around, or get lost in a piece and turn on the heavy jets). Like good lovers, the Grateful Dead know the secrets of good foreplay, taking your time, surprising the partner for awhile, and then just reacting for a spell.
Last Thursday it happened in the drab little Riverdale soccer field Howard Stein has managed to turn into a summer rock mini-festival. It reminded me of a high school stadium I used to know - low stands, unfulfilled infield grass, mud holes here and there, beer sold at one end in some quantity. The formal shape of the concert was a general crescendo, light at the beginning and heavy-groovy at the end - not a shooting-star, call-the-law finale, just a heightened physical-emotional climate...the goods delivered as promised...sort of like good preaching in a church known to be a happy place. I did not enjoy their country-westernish opening tunes; maybe they didn't either, because the pieces were awfully short. But by the three-quarter mark they had involved themselves, the crowd, and me too.
First they got the rhythm engaged and finally, courtesy of Jerry Garcia's lead and interplays with Lesh and Weir, they went into the soloing and jamming which are the real magic music territory of this band. Much is made of the Dead soloists, but it became clear to me by last Thursday that bassist Phil Lesh plus those two drummers create the atmosphere that makes the Dead thing possible. The drummers were exceptionally understated, but Lesh kept bopping and thrumming away, heavily at all times, until his patterns were consistently getting the other players off. In the middle of "St. Stephen" there was a special coming together: Lesh had found a nice ambiguous but compelling set of licks; Garcia eased into a solo; Weir strummed a cross-time lick over all of it; it built; it quieted; Garcia started to play strange classical kind of lines; the drums dropped out; the audience got quiet; nothing at all could be predicted for a minute or so; then Lesh began to grope his way out with two chords and rhythms which began to regularize; audience began to jump and then to clap; guitars began to straighten out; the band came home to the cheers of the fans.
Good music-making. The listener goes home without a little tune to whistle, but he hears music. As if they were finishing off some personal solos based over the last riffs heard, the fans went out of Gaelic Park without a thousand encores and without a lot of fuss on the streets outside.
It's all very interesting, surprising, and I guess mystifying as before. All I know is that the Dead, or their fans, or the combination of both lure you into planning to return when they're all assembled and back in town again.

(by Carman Moore, from the "New Time" column, Village Voice, September 2 1971)

Nov 10, 2013

April 26, 1971: Fillmore East


At the Woodstock Festival, the Great White Hope of the 1960's, the audience was the whole show. This has not been the case since. Audiences have been generally morose. But the Grateful Dead has a way of bringing out the fancy in a rock audience and is doing so, magnificently, this week at the Fillmore East.
The San Francisco band is playing at the East Village theater through tonight, ending a five-day series. In that time the group has drawn the most colorful collection of people seen at a New York concert in a while. They come in war paint, they dance and play ring-around-a-rosie in the lobby, and generally create one of the most bizarre youth spectacles since all those people wallowed in the Catskill mud two years ago.
The Dead are one of the few remaining original San Francisco bands. They were featured in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and somehow it has fallen to them (and Jefferson Airplane) to maintain the geriatric strands of hippiedom. They do it well, in image (surrounded by a coterie of Hell's Angels and other types) and in music (they still play the extended, impressionistic rock of years ago, led by Jerry Garcia's rather brilliant guitar solos).
The set I saw, Monday night, was rather disappointing musically. The group seemed a bit tired compared with previous New York appearances. But the audience didn't appear to mind, carrying on as though the Summer of Love wasn't four years gone. And, as at all Dead performances, the audience is the whole show.

(by Mike Jahn, from the New York Times, April 29 1971)

* * *

[APRIL 27]

"I want you to meet another famous California group," said Jerry Garcia, late in a Grateful Dead set at the Fillmore East one recent mid-week night. And who appeared but the Beach Boys. They did four numbers, including, appropriately enough, "I Get Around," then jammed with the Dead for a good 45 minutes, doing numbers like "Johnny B. Goode," "Searchin'," and "Okie from Muskogee." Bob Dylan watched from the sound booth commenting, "Fuck, they're damned good." Then the light show flashed the word "Dylan" for an instant, and Bob, his privacy jeopardized again, split out the door.

(from "Random Notes," Rolling Stone, May 27 1971)

The Beach Boys are now in discussions with the Grateful Dead for a possible joint tour, having gotten along so famously on stage at the Fillmore East a few weeks back.

(from "Random Notes," Rolling Stone, July 8 1971)

Nov 8, 2013

March 21, 1971: Expo Center, Milwaukee WI


Rock was the name of the music Sunday in the Expo Milwaukee Convention Center during an appearance by the Grateful Dead. The San Francisco rock group drew at least 5,000 fans to the performance. Also on the program were the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a group touring with the Grateful Dead, and the Ox, a Milwaukee rock group.


Milwaukee young people celebrated the first wintry day of spring Sunday by jamming a South Side hall to hear the Grateful Dead and two other rock groups.
The size of the crowd at the Expo Convention Center of the Red Carpet Inn, 4805 S. 2nd St., left little room for movement, but that didn't seem to matter much.
By the time the five hour concert ended early Sunday evening, more than 5,000 people were clapping or waving their hands above their heads asking for more.
The fact that the hall was packed to its limits was significant, for two reasons.
The first reason is that the concert's three young promoters won the initial mark of success they needed to bring other well known rock musicians into Milwaukee.
They gambled on their observation that young people in Milwaukee were virtually starving for entertainment and for a place to spend time with people their own age, and their success gives credibility to that observation.
The crush at the Expo Convention Center on the first day of spring brought the mind the second point of significance - warm weather is coming soon and young people will be looking for a place to congregate.
When people filed into the hall Sunday, they were handed a sheet of paper reminding them that meetings were being held on the East Side to work out a proposal for a young people's park there.
That same message is being broadcast regularly on WZMF, an FM radio station with a wide audience in the under 30 age group.
The park would be considered an alternate site to Water Tower Park, where the enforcement of a 10 p.m. curfew led to four nights of clashes between police and young people last July.
Two alternate site proposals were rejected last summer by the County Park Commission and by the Common Council's Public Utilities Committee.
Young people then began to congregate on the lawn in front of the Lakeside Children's Center at Farwell and North Aves. and at the East Kane Food Co-op, 1158 E. Kane Pl.
The lawn at the children's center was fenced off after the sumer. Officials at the center said the noise was disturbing the mentally handicapped children there.
The co-op was closed after city officials said it was in a residential neighborhood and violated Milwaukee's zoning ordinance. [ . . . . ]
[The rest of the article is about political discussions for an alternate park site.]

(by John Carman, from the Milwaukee Journal, probably March 22 1971)

* * *


The atmosphere was more bacchanalian than funereal Sunday as a crowd of rock fans estimated at more than 5,000 crammed into the Expo Milwaukee Convention Center to hear the Grateful Dead.
Gaily colored balloons bounced lightly over the heads of the young persons in the cavernous hall at 4805 S. 2nd St., as the San Francisco rock group's image-laden music filled the air.
Some fans spread blankets or sleeping bags on the floor, then swigged from jugs of wine and got high on marijuana during the indoor rock picnic.
Because of the stifling heat generated by the crowd that was at least double the 2,500-person advertised capacity of the hall, some young men stripped to the waist.

Two physicians, two registered nurses, and about 15 volunteers manned a combination first-aid station and children's nursery set up in the hall by the Underground Switchboard.
A spokesman for the Switchboard said about a dozen persons were given first aid for heat exhaustion, minor injuries and illnesses.
Contrary to rumors circulating through the crowd, the spokesman said, no persons were treated for bad drug trips.
Another volunteer in the first aid station attributed the lack of a serious drug problem to the youthfulness of the crowd.

The Grateful Dead were among the earliest groups to create a big wave of popularity for the so-called San Francisco acid rock "sound" five years ago, and are the musical heroes of many persons who are now in their twenties.
But most of the fans at Sunday's concert appeared to be of high school age.
There was some tension in the crowd when a uniformed fire inspector and several plainclothesmen entered the hall. Authorities said the inspector ordered that all fire exits be opened and that there be no smoking in the building because of the jam.
Police said there were no arrests.
Some young persons left disgruntled when Allan Prober, 24, one of three young men who promoted the concert, told them that there was no more room and that he could not admit any more fans into the hall.
The Dead provided only a sampling of acid or psychedelic colored music and instead mostly performed the kind of gritty and sometimes polite rock blues they were playing in Haight-Ashbury district when pilgrims with flowers in their hair were invading the Bay area en masse.

The most valuable assets of the seven piece group are Jerry Garcia, a bluesy singer and a very inventive blues guitarist, and rhythm guitarist and singer Bob Weir.
But all hands in the group are first rate musicians and performed together beautifully in a variety of rock motifs, whether zonked out acid music, country or straightforward blues.
Unlike many rock groups, the Dead's music, although it has an insistent beat, is sometimes lushly lyrical and restrained, as on "We Bid You Goodnight."
The Dead, also unlike many of the top rock groups, frequently play material that is not their own, such [as] Sunday's offering of Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee."
Also appearing in the four hour concert were the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a group with an urbane country sound touring with the Dead, and the Ox, a band popular with Milwaukee's subculture.

(by Dean Jensen, from the Milwaukee Sentinel, March 22 1971)

* * *


The Grateful Dead concert was the kind of affair the subculture can show to the rest of the world and be proud of.
It was the kind of concert where the closer you pressed into the overstuffed Expo Center, the better it felt, air or no air.
The kind of concert where all the plainclothesmen in the audience could do was stand around getting high on the atmosphere.
The kind of concert where the emcee ended up playing with building blocks with the kids in the Underground Switchboard's babysitting room.
The kind of concert where a lot of people gate-crashed and no one really hassled them.
The kind of concert that proved that somewhere amidst the political overtones and undercurrents weighting down our culture, that ol' Haight-Ashbury '67 spirit is still very much alive.
(by Mark Goff)

The Dead concert last Sunday was all but billed as the first gathering of the new year. Even the Journal carried the news in Monday's paper. But then, the Journal has been known to lack perspective. Any real gathering of what could loosely be called a community took place with a minimum of publicity at the Fritz Bluebottom event a week earlier. The Dead may well have been bomb #2 (after Black Sabbath).
What was wrong? First, there was the Expo Center. It was either too hot or too cold, acoustically inferior, and just plain ugly. The Center is definitely not a pleasant environment.
Then there was the Dead. They are not Milwaukee's favorite band. Singing of clean country air and easy living on a slushy Sunday afternoon in an industrial town lacks a lot of sincerity and relevance.
But most of all, the crowd was very down. A good two-thirds of the crowd spent most of six hours huddled on the floor smoking dope and dodging oncoming boots. Five thousand people blew their opportunity to move around and see their friends.
(author not listed)

(Both reviews from the Bugle American "Second Section," March 18-24 1971)

* * *

The Dead still have it.
I don't know what it is, but it's there. Maybe it's the ghost of Haight Ashbury or of early Acid Tests. Who knows?
The Dead certainly don't produce as many distinctive songs as CSNY. They certainly don't have exceptional talent like the Airplane ('cept for Jerry Garcia). And their stage performance is rather nondescript. But there is something special about them. And it probably won't be found in either history or musicianship.
So what more can I say about their portion of the concert Sunday at the Milkwaukee Expo Center? The Dead were the Dead. The music they presented straddled both their early acid-rock period and their recent Country & Western efforts, with good results. And there's no question in my mind that they're even better live than on vinyl. The best thing they did Sunday, after solving some tuning-electronic hassles, was a long medley-jam of their stuff beginning with "Truckin'" (off the American Beauty album).

The New Riders of the Purple Sage, a group of make-believe cowboys featuring Jerry Garcia on pedal steel, were not nearly as impressive. In fact, if it weren't for Jerry I would have been asleep. The other group members could easily be outplayed and outsung by any average C&W group. Country-rock is cool because it doesn't pretend to be the real thing, but the New Riders pretend to be authentic country (non-rock) pickers. I'd rather listen to Buck Owens or Tammy Wynette.

Aside from comments about the music, there are several that should be made about the situation it was played in. A particularly nasty comment about the clown who decided not to let people in until 15 minutes before the concert was supposed to begin. Why? Why a 15 minute stampede rather than a steady trickle beginning two hours early? Even a door was busted up in the crush to get in. Is it really necessary to do things this way? I mean, a customer's a customer, not a cow.
The second hassle was the overcrowding. Tickets were sold beyond the Expo Center's capacity. Add to that the people who either crashed or were let in free, and you have a huge mass of people. Which isn't necessarily a problem--unless you have too few rest rooms and practically no ventilation. At least one person fainted, perhaps due to the combined effects of heat, CO2, and smoke. Maybe we were provided with a valuable lesson in ecology Sunday. At any rate, promoters, how 'bout some air conditioning next time?
A less important problem was the lights which were never turned down far enough to let the light show shine through. And some baboon insisted on putting a spot, a BIG spot, on the groups while they played, thus cancelling the light show's center. Are they afraid of lustful teenagers necking in the dark?
The final problem was caused by some audience members. The Expo Center has a flat floor (unlike a theater), so the promoters were good enough to elevate the stage so all could see from a seated position on the floor. What happens? A few morons in the front (who had the best seats anyway) decide to stand for the whole concert, and blocked the view of many who wanted to sit (including those too stoned to stand). It's cool to stand when the music makes you stand, but in Milwaukee I've noticed that people stand for anything. Clap your hands, they stand. Beat out simple 4/4, they stand. Maybe Milwaukee is trying to prove itself a worthy audience. But groups will begin to wonder when Milwaukee stands for a rotten performance as quickly as for an excellent one.
Aside from such hassles, the concert was unusually good. The sound system was balanced perfectly. The dope was everywhere. Psilocybin and coke up front, acid to the rear. And grass must've been growin' from the floor, I swear it. Wuntcha' know dat da grassiest concert in Milwaukee's history occurred on da Sout' Side!
Thanx are expressed to promoters Neil, Al, and special-good-buddy Marv. I hope these guys are encouraged by this concert to get it together many more times in our area. We're starvin' for music here, an' we're tired of truckin' down to the Sydrome or wherever to hear good stuff!

By now you know Quicksilver and Brewer & Shipley will be in Milwaukee at the Oriental Theatre on the 4th of April. [sic - actually the 6th] Following that, Jethro Tull will appear at the Performing Arts Center (Milwaukee) for two shows on the 14th.

(by Gerry, from the Bugle-American "Music Cricket," March 25-31 1971)

* * *


So you really want to promote a rock concert. Well, forget it.
Forget it unless you've got about 18 hours a day to spare, a glib tongue, lots of patience, helpful friends and a life's savings you're willing to risk.
Then you'd be like Neil Sherman, Al Prober and Marv Cohen. They're three genial young men who saw a rock concert here half a year ago and said hey, we can do that.

Now, not much worse for wear, they're setting the stage for a Milwaukee appearance by the Grateful Dead Sunday afternoon.
It won't be like most concerts, where young people are expected to stay somewhere in the general vicinity of their seats.
Sunday, there'll be no seats - just a hall almost the size of a football field for people to wander around in. The hall is the Expo Center, part of the Red Carpet Inn at 4747 S. Howell Ave.
Getting the Grateful Dead, the hall and the expected several thousand people together at one time has been the objective of the young men for the last six months.

Without the benefit of promotional experience, Sherman and Cohen, both 21, and Prober, 24, named themselves Primo Productions and set about doing it.
Among their first realizations was that drawing up contracts and making other complicated arrangements got rough without legal help.
Prober, who left the University of Wisconsin during his junior year to promote the concert, obtained the services of Attorney James Wood.
The three credit Wood for much of the work on another big problem - finding a hall. The Expo Center was among many places that were considered.
Then came the problem of selecting and signing a group. Cohen had friends in California who knew the Grateful Dead, one of the earliest acid rock groups. Lately it has mellowed its music.

Cohen went to San Francisco in December and talked with members of the group. He learned that the Grateful Dead was planning a Midwestern tour.
Back in Milwaukee, Cohen and his two partners engaged in more than a month of daily telephoning to San Francisco. Finally, the group was signed. Half of its fee was sent, and it'll be given the other half Sunday.
Two other bands were signed for the lengthy concert Sunday - Ox, of Milwaukee, and Riders of the Purple Sage, a group formed from dropouts of other California bands.

Other problems:
Insurance, heightened when local firms took a look at the promoters' age, inexperience and musical taste. They were told to come back later, when they had a record of success. But Prober had relatives in New York who found a firm willing to gamble on insuring the concert.
Security, solved when it was decided to ring uniformed private guards around the hall and leave the floor itself to be patrolled by young people, friends of the promoters.
The Milwaukee Police Department granted a permit for the concert and has been "very good about the whole thing," Sherman said.
Bogus concert tickets, being printed at some schools in the Milwaukee area. The promoters said this week they didn't know who was printing the phony tickets.
Money, solved only when Sherman, Prober and Cohen sank all they had into the concert.
"The money we're using is our life savings," said Sherman, an Army veteran from Milwaukee. "Every penny we've saved, we're using."
Transactions had to be made in cash - the three promoters couldn't find credit because they weren't previously established.

Time had to be spent, too, on advertising, dealing with labor unions to construct the stage and prepare electrical equipment, and even arranging for medical treatment if it's needed by anyone during the concert.
It was decided to stage the concert on a Sunday afternoon so young people under 18 wouldn't have to worry about Milwaukee's night curfew.
The three described themselves as old friends whose work together during the last half year has strengthened their friendship and become "kind of like a brother thing."

(by John Carman, from the Milwaukee Journal, March 19 1971)

Thanks to

I've also posted another good review of this show:   

March 14, 1971: University of Wisconsin, Madison


The Grateful Dead are a pleasant and competent band from San Francisco who for some reason have come to stand for all that is admirable and wholesome in hip culture.
Part of this mystique originates from the Dead's legendary alliance with Ken Kesey in the early days of the Haight-Ashbury culture, and their presence through the Hashbury "Summer of Love" in 1967. It was the Dead who played for free in Golden Gate Park, it was the Dead who cheerfully provided a backdrop of lovely sound for Kesey's Acid Tests and Sunday picnics.
The Grateful Dead used to be the Warlocks, but somebody thought that didn't roll off the tongue quite right and they became the Grateful Dead through some strange word associations. The Dead began with a highly electric sound; lots of distortion, feedback, and wah-wah pedals.
As rock music became Big Time Business, hordes of label makers and small-minded thrill seekers attached themselves to the world of electric music. Some came in search of a buck, others just wanted a good lay, but they brought with them a horrifying vocabulary of meaningless tag-ends, and with the easy alliance of the Dead and Kesey, "acid-rock" as a term was coined.
Acid-rock means nothing, of course, but people do get an image when they hear this crass appellation of commercial America. They envision highly electric music, fuzz-tones, feedback, any ponderous or strident stretching of guitar tones. The Dead were the original acid-rockers. Then the Dead got fairly sick of their brand of music, which was limited although at times very compelling, and they mellowed out to everyone's surprise with a country twinge which they have retained to date.
This is all uneasy preparation for a difficult and fruitless task; evaluating the Grateful Dead Concert in Madison on March 14. That concert was no musical event--it was a social event. Why should thousands of people pay three dollars to be admitted into a huge, uncomfortable cave of a building, staffed by a small army of cretinous bullies, for the privilege of sitting in a cramped position on the floor or on one of the awful benches while a dimly-defined band played competent country and western music for three hours?
Consider that until about a year ago, country and western as a musical genre was anathema to the average freak on the street. Country and western is the music of Merle Haggard and Dick Nixon. C&W stands for the extra-straight life, down Texas way, and nossir we don't smoke no marijuana. The reason that the mighty public can flock to enjoy an eminently unenjoyable situation is a sense of mystique that surrounds such social events in this country in the wake of Woodstock.
Every concert by a "groovy" band is now an excuse to recreate the spirit of Woodstock. It is a gathering of the tribes, a place to smoke reefers in open defiance of the security guards, to flash the frisbees and prove that the Fieldhouse belongs to the people. The thousands come not so much in hopes that the spirit of Woodstock will reoccur, they come with the subconscious intent to force the spirit of Woodstock to emerge. "We'll boogie till dawn--or else!!"
The millions of American youngsters who didn't make it to the great mud field in New York will not be cheated by time and circumstance; they will have their Woodstock whenever and wherever they can. Necessary ingredients for one cosmic rock festival: any groovy band, Credence won't do, nor will Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Their vibes aren't groovy enough. But the Dead are probably the most desirable mystique band of all. It's all there if you want it, the legendary San Francisco nights, the promise of non-stop music.
And we come to another interesting selling point. The Dead promised (so rumors went) to play non-stop for four hours. This undoubtedly contributed to the astonishing turnout in the Fieldhouse.
Why would people be interested in four hours of non-stop music? No one, no one can fully enjoy four hours of the very best music in the cosmic world straight through. Aha, my friends, the reason the people came is because nobody planned to listen to the music that much.
The groupies came to group and the hippies came to hip (and the greasers came to grease)--which is just an insulting and facile way to say again that the whole thing was a social event and the promise of four hours non-stop music was merely a guarantee that the magic moment would be prolonged as long as possible. "Maybe we'll force them to stay open past curfew!"
If anyone is interested in the music which the Dead played, they were competent and pleasant. Garcia now devotes his time to the pedal-steel guitar, on which he is very proficient, spinning off some lovely twangy loops in accompaniment to Bob Weir's bland acoustic amplified guitar and pleasing singing. Bill Kreutzmann is a good drummer. All members of the band are effective and they sincerely wish to provide a groovy time. Because their sincerity is evident and their music is pleasant, a good time was had by all. But musically speaking, the Grateful Dead concert was an event of passing significance.

* * *

Rumor has it that some "counterfeit" tickets to the Dead concert in Milwaukee Sunday are being sold in the city. Promoters of the concert say they will not honor these tickets. They say the "real" tickets can only be purchased at outlets listed in their ads and at the door.

(by Mike Baron, from the Bugle-American, March 11-17 1971)

Thanks to

Nov 5, 2013

February 1971: Jerry Garcia Interview


David: Why weren't the Grateful Dead in the Woodstock movie?

Jerry: Well, we played such a bad set at Woodstock. The weekend was great, but our set was terrible. We were all pretty smashed, and it was at night. Like we knew there were a half million people out there, but we couldn't see one of them. There were about a hundred people on stage with us, and everyone was scared that it was gonna collapse. On top of that, it was raining or wet, so that every time we touched our guitars, we'd get these electrical shocks. Blue sparks were flying out of our guitars.

David: Your own light show.

Jerry: Yeah, right. [Laughter]

David: Why was there such a difference between Woodstock and Altamont?

Jerry: Oh God. Altamont was such a bummer, man. You could just feel the tension in the air.

David: Woodstock was spontaneous and Altamont was planned, forced.

Jerry: Right, man. It was a combination of a lot of things. You know, the Hell's Angels got a bum rap from it, but it wasn't their fault.

David: Couldn't the Stones have stopped it from the stage?

Jerry: Hell no. They were fucking scared. They were playing for their lives.

David: That sort of hysteria seems to have always been a part of the Stones.

Jerry: Well, see, the Rolling Stones never did have a cool audience. When they started playing, people were screaming. Then they knocked off for two or three years and now they come back, and it's back to screaming. But the one opportunity they had to go a different direction was on their regular tour, because the regular gigs, they had to get the audience to get up...

David: They always did.

Jerry: Yeah, but it was a trick. You know, Mick Jagger would make his little speech about turn on the lights so we can see you, and the lights would go on, and everybody would scream and run up to the stage. It was so predictable. They knew it would work.

David: But everybody got caught up in it.

Jerry: Sure, sure, but that's the thing that's going for it. It's like the magicians, like Cagliostro, man, you know what I mean? One of those trips. If you get to the point where you're playing music and you can't get off unless the crowd tears itself to pieces and attacks the stage, it's kind of like sinking your teeth way in. It's taking more than you need. You know, the Stones had the opportunity to come on as musicians during their tour, because people were sitting and listening carefully and digging the music. It's a whole other thing. It's something they'd never experienced before, they'd always had that hysteria.

David: But when you really got to listening, they were playing good.

Jerry: Hell yeah, man. They're good, they don't need any tricks. To my mind, they don't need any tricks. They put on a good show, they play fucking good, and they don't need any of the rest of the bullshit.

David: But they don't want to be musicians, they want to be stars.

Jerry: Well, I don't know if it's a question of wanting to be stars, but they definitely want to have that excitement goin' on, they want to have that hysteria. For what reason, who knows?

David: But unfortunately, they'll never be able to get rid of it.

Jerry: Yeah, probably. So it's doing weird things to them, I'm sure.

David: What was the Trans-Canadian train trip like?

Jerry: Oh, it was great. That was the best time I've had in rock and roll. It was our train, it was the musicians' train. There were no straight people. There wasn't any show biz bullshit. There weren't any fans, there were nothing but musicians on the train. So immediately we started pulling furniture out of the two club cars and putting amplifiers and drums in. Jam sessions all the way across Canada, man. Played music all the way across Canada, and we juiced. Everybody juiced because nobody brought dope into Canada, everybody was chickenshit.

David: How long did it last?

Jerry: About five days, six days maybe, but it was really fucking fun. Everybody got to be such good friends in that little world. It was like a musicians' convention with no public allowed.

David: What kind of music did you play?

Jerry: Everything. You name it, we did it. We had every conceivable kind of configuration that you could imagine, man. We had singers, lots of singers on the train, all kinds of trips. The most incredible combination of voices, like Delaney and Bonnie and Janis with Buddy Guy singing together, or Bonnie and Buddy Guy, or...

David: These are real dreams here.

Jerry: Oh, hey, man, there was one jam session with Ian and Sylvia and the Great Speckled Bird, me and Weir from our band, Rick Danko, Delaney and Bonnie and Eric Andersen.

David: Did anyone get it on film?

Jerry: Yeah, they got it all down on film. It'll really be far out.

David: When did you start including the New Riders of the Purple Sage in your sets?

Jerry: About a year ago, I think.

David: Does it make any difference in the Grateful Dead sets?

Jerry: Sure, sure. I mean it makes it so that none of us work all that hard...

David: Well, you do. You're on stage the whole time with three different instruments.

Jerry: Yeah, and that becomes the limit.

David: The amazing thing is that you're on stage for five or six hours, and when you finish, the people still yell for more.

Jerry: I know. That's the part that drives me up a wall. I mean, if they really wanted me to be out front and go out and slice my jugular vein and die on the stage, I'll do it -- for a price! But I ain't gonna do it every night. [Laughter]

David: They'll stand there and cheer until their lungs break.

Jerry: I know, it's crazy.

David: It seems as if they're not satisfied until you collapse on stage, because as long as you're still standing they feel they're entitled to more. They demand exhaustion.

Jerry: Well, I don't mind that. The thing that I mind is that after doing six hours somebody comes up to us and says, "What a burn, you didn't play Alligator," or something like that. That's the shit that makes me really crazy. That's when I want to kill. [Laughter]

David: What's the difference between the audiences now and of a few years ago?

Jerry: Well, they're more frantic now. I don't know, man. It used to be we didn't have audiences. We used to play at parties where we were the incidental music. We would be playing, and everybody would be jumping and screaming and raving. Everywhere you looked, you saw somebody you knew. We didn't start getting audiences until we started going out of town. Then we started getting audiences, and we didn't know what to make of audiences the first year we toured. We lost money for everybody the first year or so.

David: Nobody went to see you?

Jerry: Well, people would come to see us and then leave after ten minutes because we weren't a show or anything like that. We were just out there fucking around and playing music, crazy music.

David: You didn't wear all the same jackets and ties and...

Jerry: [Laughter] No, no, man. We never ever did that.

David: I'd like to see Pigpen in a jacket doing a whole dance routine, like in the soul revues.

Jerry: I'd love to do that. I'd love for us to get fucking suits and wear them on stage. Hey, man, that's really a flash! The Beatles used to do it.

David: The Grateful Dead, the moptop six. Getting back to the audiences, what do you think of the whole concept of free music, people's music?

Jerry: Well, we've always done free concerts, you know, even before we were the Grateful Dead, back around 1964 or 1965. The big difference now is that there's so many people, and it's getting real hard to accommodate all of them. There has to be some kind of organization involved in presenting rock music.

David: Then you think someone like Bill Graham is necessary?

Jerry: Hey, man when our band was first starting out along with the Airplane and Big Brother, Graham organized all those dances. He was down in Alioto's office [Mayor Joseph Alioto of S.F. -- Ed.] all the time getting the permits and all that shit. Hell, he worked hard. Someone has to do it.

David: What's your relationship with Graham now?

Jerry: I like Graham, he's funny. [Laughter] But I don't know. Like I always used to think that there had to be some kind of organization in presenting rock music, even if that meant that people like Graham were making profits. You know, because he worked for it, he worked real fucking hard for it. And then Janis said something to me about that it should all be free music, people's music. She came out very straight with it, and it blew my mind because I'd never really thought of it in those terms before.

David: On the one hand, you want everyone to be hip to this music, but when everyone gets into it all at once, it becomes chaos.

Jerry: Yeah, well, the function that musicians have and the discipline required to become a good musician are things that people who aren't into some kind of discipline don't understand.

David: The same discipline you need to have on stage when you perform.

Jerry: Fucking right, man! You have to have a certain kind of discipline to get around to learn how to play an instrument anyway. It's not a question of where it comes from. With most musicians it comes from loving music, and so you develop a kind of discipline out of that without even knowing what it is. But the point is that you've devoted your life to something, and you do it mostly as an experience that you alone can understand. Later on, your music is something you can share with other people because of the effort you've made. But it's that early effort that counts. Nobody supports that effort. It's the effort where someone says, "Hey man, how'd you like to go partying?" "No, I think I'll stay home and play." And anyone who's a good musician has spent a certain amount of his life in that world.

David: You've got to learn scales before you can play.

Jerry: Right. It's a yoga. The guy that's good in anything...

David: He's got to have it up on a platform. It's got to be the most important thing in his life.

Jerry: Right, and that's the thing that mentioned least in a musician's relationship to his music. Take someone like Janis. Now I knew Janis eight years ago, and she was singing her heart out in the funkiest places you could imagine with abscesses on her arms, dumpy and strung out, head all fucked up, wearing the plainest, most nondescript clothes you've ever seen. She was really singing, and nobody was even listening. She put in some really hard times on the street, and nobody supported that early effort.

David: Did she put more into her singing then than she did later on?

Jerry: She always put everything into her singing; always, she never let up. I mean, that's who she was.

David: What made her go into drugs like that then, the whole stardom trip?

Jerry: No, she was into drugs a long time ago, hard-ass ones. You gotta understand what it's like to someone whose music is their scene. It's strong, man. You have to consider her situation. The situation is you're making a record, and you're putting out a lot of effort, long hours in the studio. You get pretty weird. You come out afterwards, go to a bar, get a few drinks to level out. Everything's going pretty good, but you have to relax `cause tomorrow you have to go back to the studio. So it's back to the hotel, you have a little smack, you know, it's like a tranquilizer, or a downer when you're not strung out. Janis was not strung out. She had been, she kicked, she was clean. She took a hit, went down to get some cigarettes, back to her room, and two minutes later she's dead. You know, it was just a little too much, she had a few drinks, maybe she wasn't thinking too straight when she did herself, and that's how easy it is. Just a mistake, a little too much, a fucking accident. It could've happened to anybody. I don't think she killed herself or anything like that. In fact, I know she didn't. It was just an accident, a dumb fucking accident.

David: But is that acceptable, the fact that accidents may happen?

Jerry: Sure, well why not? They happen to everybody, driving a car or walking down a flight of stairs. You see, the payoff for life is death. You die at the end of your life, no matter how, and it's always appropriate in the sense that no matter how you die, that's it, you're dead. So it doesn't really matter how or when, that's not part of the statement. The statement was the life, the death was the close. I'd describe Janis's life as a good one because she went out when she was happy. She was happy with her new band, she was happy with her material, she was happy with what she was doing. She was singing better than ever.

David: But doesn't it make you feel sad that she won't be able to do it anymore?

Jerry: Sure, because I'm gonna miss her.

David: Well, not only personally, but for her too because she's not around anymore.

Jerry: Yeah, well I feel sorry for that, but it doesn't do me any good to feel that way, and Janis would've preferred for people to be partying rather than for it to be a downer. I can dig that.

David: The Dead do more singing now as opposed to a few years ago when you performed mostly instrumental compositions. When did this start?

Jerry: Oh, about a year and a half ago. We started singing a lot because we were hanging out with Steve Stills and David Crosby on the coast, and it was such a gas. It looked so easy. You just sit down with a guitar and sing. So we decided to try it, and it's been so much fun.

David: You guys have weird harmonies. Like the harmony on Uncle John's Band, they're not regular three-part harmonies...

Jerry: You mean parallel harmonies, triads, where you're always stacking a 1-3-5 inversion? We don't think of it in those terms. We just do whatever sounds right. We do a lot of suspensions where we hold a note over from one chord into another and sometimes through one over into the next one after that. You'll hear further expositions of it on our new album, American Beauty.

David: What kind of stuff is on it?

Jerry: Oh, acoustic, electric, acoustic with electric, electric with acoustic. All kinds of endless permutations. It's mostly a songs album, real tasty songs.

David: What's your relationship with Warner Brothers now?

Jerry: Oh, Warner Brothers loves us now.

David: Sure, all this sudden popularity.

Jerry: Yeah, right.

David: They didn't use to love you.

Jerry: Well, I don't know if they used to hate us, but they always looked upon us with a sort of patronizing indifference. You know, we never brought in much money, but we were a prestige band. It was good public relations.

David: What do you think has caused your sudden popularity?

Jerry: I don't know, man. I go through a million changes behind it, man. It's a mystery to me because, God knows, we've been around long enough, and we haven't really changed our scene materially. I guess the big thing is Workingman's Dead, because there it is, man. You know, it's got songs on it that anybody can hear.

David: You can hum the tunes.

Jerry: Anybody can. You can remember the words a lot of times. It's all pretty easy.

David: I think what's happening is that Woodstock has made rock acceptable to the masses. So that now everyone is into rock. Everyone buys albums and goes to concerts. And your band has been around so long that naturally people want to listen to your music.

Jerry: Yeah, that may be true. I just think that music, if it's halfway decent at all, will make it no matter what the time or situation. Like 500 years ago, we would've been making it on a different level. We would've been a little band of touring jugglers, pickpockets, fiddlers, card readers, and we would've been successful in those terms like we're successful now. The only thing now is that there are so many fucking people.
There's also yet another possibility, and that is that the whole history trip has been reduced. Say, for example, that Phil Lesh is the reincarnation of Beethoven. Now when he was Beethoven, it wasn't until a hundred years after his death that a lot of people knew who he was. In this lifetime, he doesn't even have to get to his best work before lots of people know who he is. Maybe he's even caught up with his Beethoven reincarnation. News travels fast. It used to be to send a letter to some cat in Europe, you had to send it by ship. It took months. Today, the news is so accessible. It's just how fast the news travels.

David: You're the children of the media, as Marshall McLuhan said. How does it feel to be an idol of millions? [Laughter]

Jerry: I'm not an idol of millions. [Pause] I may be an idol of hundreds of thousands. [Laughter]

(by David Bromberg, from Jazz & Pop magazine, February 1971)