GRATEFUL DEAD PIG BACKLASH
"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, September 5 1971)