Sep 18, 2014

April 26, 1972: Jahrhunderthalle, Frankfurt


The "Grateful Dead" in the Jahrhunderthalle

This concert of the "Grateful Dead" should be an experiment of total communication. This group, their first European tour completed, endeavors to be affected as little as possible by commercial wear and tear and instead operates by the realization and internalization of the postulates of the adolescent underground movement, in private life as on stage. So they live in an approximately 50-member commune, which took the trip across the Atlantic together to make the performances of the six musical communards a common group experience. Taking this background into account, it becomes clear that what is probably best described as "Folk Rock" in classifying the music of the Grateful Dead carries a mainly programmatic character. It is part of privacy, the everyday life of the community, and at the same time, letting the public participate in this life style.
The Grateful Dead dispensed with an opening act. For them the concert hall is substituted for the domestic hearth, where the music is part of a common experience and any artificial stylizations renounced. Here the music transmits certain content not by its own means, but essentially by the context in which it takes place. So their resources are limited and restricted to a stereotyped, formal structure leaving little scope. Simple, catchy melodies, a country & western impact in the voicing of the three guitars, plus a Leon Russell sound on the piano - this physiognomy could, depending, support the new "folk songs." Phrased bluntly, this music, which excels by nothing original nor by technical complexity, must be described simply as bad, as there is absolutely nothing in it to describe or explain, if you are not absorbing the communicative effect an intrinsic value attaches to.
The overflowing Jahrhunderthalle at any rate was attuned from the beginning, thunderous applause everywhere, but it is well to remember that by far the largest percentage of visitors were Americans, for whom it’s been well-known for many years living in large communes has become a matter of course. One European lacked understanding and empathy with the commune-style, hence discomfort arose when after several hours there was still the same house music on stage in front of him. The advantages of the Grateful Dead are without doubt on non-musical territory, their music is for only one medium among many.

(unknown newspaper, May 5, 1972) 

Thanks to Uli Teute.

* * * 

This has been translated from German. Here is the original German article. 

Die "Grateful Dead" in der Jahrhunderthalle

FRANKFURT-HOCHST. Ein Experiment der totalen Kommunikation sollte dieses Konzert der "Grateful Dead" sein. Diese Gruppe, die ihre erste Europatournee absolviert, bemueht sich, vom kommerziellen Verschleiss so wenig wie moeglich betroffen zu werden und statt dessen die Verwirklichung und Verinnerlichung der Postulate der jugendlichen Untergrunt-Bewegung im Privatleben wie auf der Buehne zu betreiben. So lebt sie in einer etwa 50 Mitglieder [??] Kommune, die geschlossen die Reise ueber den Atlantik antrat, um die Auftritte der sechs musikalischen Kommunarden ein gemeinsames Gruppenerlebnis werden zu lassen. Beruecksichtigt man diesen Hintergrund, wird es einsichtig, dass die wohl am besten als "Folk Rock" zu klassifizierende Musik der Grateful Dead ueberwiegend programmatischen Charakter traegt. Sie ist ein Bestandteil der Privatsphaere, des alltaeglichen Lebens der Kommune, und zugleich dazu da, die Allgemeinheit an diesem Leben stil teilhaben zu lassen.
Grateful Dead verzichtet auf eine Vorgruppe. Die Konzerthalle wird fuer sie zum Stellvertreter des heimischen Herdes, an dem das Musizieren Teil einer Gemeinsamkeitserfahrung ist und jeglichen artifiziellen Stilisierungen entsagt. Hier uebermittelt die Musik bestimmte Inhalte nicht durch eigene Mittel, sondern im wesentlichen durch den Rahmen, in dem sie stattfindet. Also sind ihre Mittel begrenzt und beschraenken sich auf ein stereotypes, wenig Spielraum lassendes Formalgeruest. Einfache, eingaengige Melodien, Country & Western Einschlag in der Stimmfuehrung der drei Gitarren, dazu einheimelnder Leon Russell-Sound am Klavier - diese Physiognomie koennte, sollte es je welche geben, die neuen "Volkslieder" tragen. Ueberspitzt formuliert, musste diese Musik, die sich durch nichts Originelles noch durch technische Kompliziertheit hervortut, schlichtweg als schlecht bezeichnet werden, es gibt an ihr auch gar nichts zu beschreiben oder zu erklaeren, wenn man nicht dem absorbierenden kommunikativen Effekt einen Eigenwert beimisst.
Die uebervolle Jahrhunderthalle jedenfalls war von Anfang an eingestimmt, tosender Applaus allenthalben, nur gilt es wohl zu bedenken, dass weitaus der groesste Prozentsatz der Besucher Amerikaner waren, fuer die bekanntlich bereits seit Jahren das Leben in Grosskommunen zu einer gewissen Selbstverstaendlichkeit geworden ist. Einem Europaer fehlt auch das Verstaendnis und das Sich Einfuehlen in den Kommune-Stil, daher entstand auch Unbehaglichkeit, als nach mehreren Stunden immer noch dieselbe Hausmusik auf der Buehne vor sich ging. Die Vorteile der Grateful Dead liegen ohne Zweifel auf aussermusikalischem Gebiet, ihre Musik ist fuer sie nur ein Medium unter vielen.

Sep 16, 2014

Spring 1972: Weir & Kreutzmann Interview


Although the Grateful Dead are a rock band, they've almost been turned into an institution, a way of life over the years since they came together in the mid sixties.
The Dead's drummer is a young man named Bill Kreutzman, who's been Gratefully dead now for six years. "The Dead is just some kind of contact that we try to make with an audience of people," he began explaining before he stopped to think. "When you're inside it's a hard thing to say."
I'd been hearing the legend of The Dead for a few years before meeting them. At first it'd been a name which was lumped together with Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, Seeds, Moby Grape, Buffalo Springfield and Love and sent to England in a package marked Flower Power. Then Tom Wolfe immortalised them in his fine report on the birth of acid culture The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. The Kool Aid was a soft drink to which the acid was added at a giant rock ball where the Dead provided the Electric. Garcia's current 'old lady' is one of the book's heroines — Mountain Girl.
The rest of the Dead's importance had been revealed and explained to me by young Californians to whom they've been father figures of some sort. The Airplane and The Dead seemed to form two-thirds of an earthly trinity who'd come along to replace the Holy Trinity. It's never really been what they've said that's made them so important to many young Americans, know's like...The Dead! The medium becomes the message!

For this reason it's very hard to talk to the band about what 'they're saying'. "We're not preachers" they kept telling me. Then on the other hand they'd emphasise, "we just play rock 'n' roll." Both Bob Weir and Jerry explained that as musicians they really had no qualifications to expound theories on spiritual and moral issues. They would have agreed that a factory-hand has just as much right to express his views to the world as has a labourer who happens to work with a machine called a guitar. "Apparently for some reason, people think that musicians have some authority," said Bob. "It's just the way it's come about. They must think that as his playing makes me feel good then his talking must make me feel good too. I think that if I was left to my wits as a politician, I'd fail drastically — we all would. All we really do is play."
When they actually take to the boards the last statement begins to show its truth. The only words that seem to matter are those which are projected on the screen behind them — Welcome To The Grateful Dead. Then the music begins to pound out. Garcia's guitar soars high and the legend becomes life. When they played at Wembley recently, it seemed as though people were applauding the mythology rather than the reality. The music never seemed to get off the ground, and the crowd reacted mostly to the pure fast rock numbers which were few and far between. It was an evening of anticlimaxes, but the crowd seemed to be enjoying a collective orgasm. Again, it was the fact that the Dead were more than a group. They were the message without words.

Bill explained the beginnings of the band: "I've been in the Dead for around six years now. Me and Jerry were both teaching in a music store in Palo Alto and we just got together as a group. Our first gigs were in small pizza bars in the area. We were playing rock 'n' roll mostly I suppose." Although they've 'come a long way' since those days, both Jerry and Bill still frequent the small bars and play their music there. "I like the small bars where you get no response at all," said Jerry chuckling. "It frees you tremendously when no-one cares what you're playing. I go there to satisfy a kind of perverse curiosity. I like those bar scenes!"
As the band grew up and entered the publicised era of their lives, they all moved into the same house in San Francisco — 710 Ashbury. It became one of the most famous homes on the West Coast, but now things are different. "It didn't fall apart, it just grew apart," explained Bill. "A lot of us got small ranches and things. Instead of going out and feeling the concrete under our feet, we wanted to be able to take a gun and shoot tin cans from our back doors. A lot of us had learned a lot and had grown up."

One subject that seems to go hand in hand with any mention of Grateful Dead Culture is acid. When in England the hotel room was buzzing with the mention of the magic chemical, and an official-looking hash pipe was passed around constantly. The Dead's lyricist, Bob Hunter, was one of the first people to experiment with LSD during a hospital experiment before it was registered as a dangerous drug. Around the same time the whole of the band took part in some of the original West Coast 'happenings', where acid was the latest thing to hit the avant-garde.
Bob Weir was careful to explain that they never tried to play or record while tripping out. "One thing acid may do for a musician," he explained, "is that he may drop his inhibitions and it will help stimulate his creativity. I don't know whether it has anything to do with the music, but I think it does enhance the player's enjoyment of what he's doing." Although Bob felt that someone on a trip may well feel he's reaching great heights of musical creativity, a recording of the event when played back to the player would only prove that the feeling was totally subjective. Similar experiments with artists have come up with the same result.
Later on in our conversation Bob happened to make mention of what he termed 'psychedelic derelicts' — people who'd been permanently damaged by acid. As he and the Dead appear to encourage the use of a drug that has damaged so many, and are idolised by the same people, I asked him what he felt when he came across these 'derelicts'. "I'm sorry to see it," he said. "I try to set an example of some sort of temperance. I believe that as a group we exhibit a certain amount of temperance." I suggested that one man's temperance might be another man's damage, and he agreed. Fortunately the members of the Grateful Dead are a strong set of personalities and have been able to control their use of psychedelics. There's no room in the record business for a derelict.
At one time it seemed as though acid was looked upon as the new Messiah — coming to us in an age of spiritual emptiness to 'feed our heads' and thereby change the world. John Lennon, who now openly supports the I.R.A. was singing All You Need Is Love. Something went wrong in between though. "Yes, something did go wrong," admitted Bob. "I think it can be partly attributed to the U.S. clampdown on marijuana. When this happened people began dealing meths and smack. It took up less space, anyway, and was much harder to police." As to the Grateful Dead's position in all this: "The only thing worth doing is playing music — not preaching drugs. I would caution anyone who was considering dope to be careful in any case."

Playing music: "If there's such a thing as religion in my life it's playing," said Bob. "We try to have the most diverse range of music possible. The soft rock era is not over for us, nor did it really begin. It's always been there." The Dead began getting into softer sounds around the same time that Crosby, Stills and Nash put out their superb first album. Garcia and Stills and Nash and Weir and Crosby are interchangeable members of the L.A. music scene and play regularly on each other's albums. "It more or less boils down to physical proximity," said Bob. The fact that the Dead softened up after C,S&N's first album was through direct influence. "What happened there," explained Bob, "is that Crosby and Stills were hanging in and around San Francisco and we were amazed how they sung together.
"Because of that we realised we'd been neglecting one side of our music and that was singing in harmony together. So we decided to develop our vocal harmonies and that whole side of our presentation." These developments became two albums: Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. On these ventures, Garcia was often to forsake his familiar lead guitar sound for the unique countrified sound of his ZB custom pedal steel guitar. However, for the Dead this was just one gear that their music had to be driven in for a while. There's no real direction but just a progression through the many moods that music is able to express. Bill put it this way: "We want to try and drive this car with 10,000 gears and so far we've only used about twenty. That's twenty different styles of music."
Every concert that they perform is recorded so that the band can all listen to and criticise their own music. "This is not done on 16-track but on 2-track stereo." Bill told me. "Then we listen to the tapes and scrutinise what we've been playing. Sometimes we surprise ourselves at what we've played!" Bill drew a parallel with what they're doing to American football teams who watch instant replays so that they can improve their performances. "We listen to see how we can correct ourselves. Maybe we listen and the whole feeling of our performance has been wrong. It never hurts us to play it back. Not only do we learn about playing, but also about recording techniques."
The Grateful Dead's criterion for a performance? "If it gets you off when you play it back — that's good," said Bill. "That's really what the Dead are about — good old ‘getting it off.’" Plenty of people got off on their music at the Empire Pool, Wembley and the scenes they created were not far removed from those a few weeks earlier when T. Rex was the attraction.

(by Steve Turner, from Beat Instrumental, June 1972)

Thanks to 

Sep 14, 2014

May 1972: Lyceum, London


. . . The month of May [1970] saw the Grateful Dead play an historic set at the Hollywood Festival, held at Finney Green near Newcastle-under-Lyme, and the British press were unanimous in their appraisal of the band's performance. Good old Mac Garry (in ZigZag 13) said that they were "totally magnificent", and Dick Lawson in Frendz No.8 went completely bonkers over it all, describing their set as "the most ecstatic exploratory music ever witnessed in England".

Even the pop weeklies, most of whom had previously dismissed the Dead as an over-rated hype, had to admit that here was a band who literally commanded respect simply through their style, their approach and the nature of their music. What they gave in return on that day at Hollywood was three hours of non-stop quality music that apparently left a large proportion of the audience in a state of speechless wonder. After countless rumours of impending visits (notably a projected free 'West Coast' concert in Hyde Park), they'd finally made it, and for the lucky people who saw them the myth became reality. I'm quite sure, though, that on that occasion they frustrated many more people than they satisfied, mainly because they went straight back to America without playing any other dates, but also because the general consensus of opinion within the band was that they didn't feel they'd played well at all! How difficult it must be for those present at Hollywood to imagine them playing any better is a thought that I don't care to burden my brain with! . . . 

. . . The band consider themselves to be unclassifiable and without limitations insofar as they're not a blues band or a country band or an experimental band or even a rock'n'roll band, but "a group of musicians with lots of possibilities". In live performance they'll assume all of these styles and many more besides, so the fact that they might start off with 'Me and My Uncle', flow straight into 'Dark Star', and then come down to finish off with 'Johnny B.Goode', should really come as no surprise. Those of you who saw them on their last visit here will know exactly what I mean. . . . 

. . . [In 1972] I was fortunate enough to be able to see them four times, twice at Wembley Pool and twice at the Lyceum, London, and it's quite possible that I haven't been the same since.

Most of the great West Coast bands to emerge during the late sixties have, over the years, received the dubious pleasures of a vast overblown reputation almost entirely created by the news media that puts them in a situation where they've got totally unrealistic expectations to live up to whenever they visit this country to play. The Doors and the Airplane were both superb on their initial appearances over here, but as their reputations spiralled, they were obviously past their peak and are now no longer the important bands they once were. The Doors are excused for obvious reasons, but the sort of rut that the Airplane are currently in saddens me greatly.

The Steve Miller Band, too, impressed me very much when they finally made it here, and Spirit, Love, Country Joe, and even Janis Joplin all managed to justify to some degree the publicity that preceded them. The most enigmatic band of all, however, the one and only Quicksilver Messenger Service, we of course never got a chance to see, and almost definitely never will. But the Grateful Dead…well they had a staggering aura and mystique about them. Their brief visit to the Hollywood Festival gave us a substantial appetiser, but now it was time for the real thing, the "acid test". To be quite honest, I was profoundly affected by everything I heard and saw. Not only did they surpass the enormous hopes I had of them, but they proceeded to set completely new standards of excellence right there before our very eyes, and to see and feel it happening was just bloody magic.

It was hard enough on that first night at Wembley coming to terms with the fact that there they were, less than fifty yards away, but by the time they were halfway into an unforgettable version of 'Uncle John's Band' on the last night I saw them at the Lyceum, I had this strange feeling that I'd known them all my life. Perhaps the most satisfying concert however was the previous night when I swear that very few bands could have possibly achieved in their entire careers what the Dead did in five hours. A list of the songs they played would be irrelevant, and anyway it's far too long, but every concert was structured and paced to include every conceivable musical form within their scope, and when it was all over it made me feel really good right down inside.

Furthermore, I was given irrevocable proof to support my theory that Phil Lesh is a genius beyond all shadow of a doubt. He was pushing out endless boulder-like notes that formed the base and cornerstone of the whole sound…beautiful imaginative riffs during tightly-arranged numbers, and when they stretched out, veering off the road to God knows where, it was pure counterpoint at its very best. I'll never forget one particular instance where the band had worked themselves into a piece that trained students of the game would probably describe as "electric chamber music", and Lesh was completely and utterly in control of the whole thing, crouched next to his amp and playing his bass high up on the neck gradually stabilising all the many different melodies and rhythms flying around him, and then leading them off somewhere else completely. Phil Lesh at the height of his creativity — that's not an experience you treat lightly. But there was so much more to marvel at and enjoy as well. Keith Godchaux, for one, his piano work adding yet another intricate layer to an already rich texture of sound, and it was a nice surprise, too, to see Bob Weir fronting the band, taking most of the lead vocals and leaving Jerry Garcia half-way in the background but with his guiding hand ever present.

Now if there are any of you out there who are not confirmed Dead-heads (and may the ghost of 'St Stephen' have mercy on you), you're probably thinking that everything I've just said is a load of euphoric bullshit written under the influence of an extract from some exotic species of flora. I must admit that that's what I would probably think as well, but you've got to believe me. Everything you've read is the absolute clear-headed truth, and there's no hype or exaggeration there at all, because I know they wouldn't want or need it. They're the only band to have ever provoked such a reaction in me before, and I confidently expect no other band ever will. . . . 

. . . Every concert on the tour was recorded by Alembic Sound and the best performances were released on a triple album Europe '72 (3WX 2668) that came out here in December last year. Commercially it was a great success, becoming their second gold album, but critically it received very mixed reviews. A lot of so-called critics both here and in the States took to playing that stupid and vicious little game that most of them seem to take great delight in from time to time, i.e. build up a band's reputation to a peak with a series of condescending reviews and articles and then proceed to mercilessly slag them whenever the opportunity arrives.

Andrew Weiner in Cream magazine for instance asks the soul-searching question – "Is this some kind of joke?" – and then in the space of a few columns takes it upon himself to display his complete ignorance and lack of understanding of what the Dead are all about. And he wasn't the only one either. Several smart-arse yanks, one of whom claims to fall asleep every time he goes to one of their concerts, found the whole thing insufferable. Well, what a shame! All I can say is that it's their loss on all counts, and if it means they wouldn't want review copies of all future Dead LPs then bloody good job too. They don't deserve 'em. On the other hand there were people like the guy from Melody Maker and many others who saw the album as the next natural step in the band's development – a live LP structured in the same way as their concerts, perfectly balanced and containing a suitable mixture of songs old and new. It truthfully represents the Grateful Dead at that time they were over here — nothing more, nothing less — and as such I treasure it. To be completely fair, though, I think that anybody not totally immersed in the band and their music could probably find reasonable grounds for criticism, but nothing I read was anywhere near being constructive or even objective. Regardless though, it of course remains an essential buy for all Dead-heads. Enough said. . . .

(by Andy Childs, from ZigZag, December 1973)

Thanks to

May 23, 1972: Lyceum, London

I saw the first night of the Dead's four concerts at the London Lyceum last Thursday, where they were ever so good for ever so long. What we got and wot a lot we got (almost four hours of nonstop performance) was virtually a musical history of the group's progress from Garcia's humble jug band origins to his band's more countrified approach today.
It has been becoming increasingly obvious that the old format whereby a band played a fifty-minute spot of their best-known numbers was becoming tiresome and uninspired but the Dead have taken things to the other extreme.
Somehow it seems that there is no beginning or end to their programme and their approach is relaxed to the point of becoming languid.
What they do is often impeccable and their musicians – like bass player Phil Lesh and Garcia himself - play with a refinement in which there is more discretion than valour.
It is a good band which has knit together with the kind of intuitive playing which one would expect from six years on the road but on Thursday they seldom smacked me between the ears even with their more ebullient Chuck Berry-inspired rock and rollers.
It seems pointless to refer to any particular song because they played almost everything which has ever been associated with them and they played it well. Bob Weir is a far better vocalist live than I had expected.
Their reception was excellent from an audience who appreciated every move and cheered all the better-known songs. I can imagine that there are occasions and atmosphere which really 'charge' the Dead with some kind of special magic but it was not conjured on Thursday – perhaps one other night – perhaps you can have too much of a good thing?
The New Riders of the Purple Sage were the support band and they did their job well – easy listening, good time and right down the middle country band in which Buddy Cage excels on pedal guitar and John Dawson handles his own songs with care. Their new album title Powerglide sums them up well.

(by Keith Altham, from the New Musical Express, June 3, 1972)

See also other Lyceum reviews: 

Sep 13, 2014

May 1972: Bob Weir Interview


Perhaps more than anything else the recent appearances of the Grateful Dead in this country at Wembley and Bickershaw and more currently the Lyceum, have served to illustrate just how significant and underrated is this powerful West Coast musical commune.
They are one of the few bands who are truly and brilliantly reflective of the times and experience through which they have passed since their emergence in San Francisco in 1966 at the height of flower-power-love and acid syndrome through to the more recent relaxed country style which has stemmed from Garcia's return to his jug band roots.
The Dead were the first really definitive acid-rock band in the days when the stuff was still legal and their first album "Anthem of The Sun" was considered to be [the] "Tripper's Bedside Companion"... [The] freak attraction they might have had was underlined by the solid blues roots of their musicians and their intuitive feel.
You could tell just by listening to Garcia's guitar work that he had never had a lesson in his life but he knew how to listen to and relate what he heard into his own style which spawned little classics like 'Viola Lee Blues.'
If this tour has done nothing else, it must have spurred a few people to go out and seek the Dead's albums both past, present and future. Some of their most recent and finest material has come from their live albums of course, and talking to guitarist Bob Weir shortly after the run across Europe on Monday he revealed why.
"I think we've all begun to feel that the group was becoming a little too clinical in the studio," he said. "There are certain obvious benefits to be derived from live recording once you can afford the cost of undertaking to tote the equipment around. (The Dead [ . . . ] equipment with them to cope with that problem).
"You get a little spark or inspiration on playing before the right audience at the right time which you might never achieve in a studio. This is the reason we have recorded all our concerts on this trip.
"I'd say the Wembley concert was probably the best we had done in this country - almost 80 per cent - up until the Lyceum. Bickershaw was something of a disappointment simply because of the frustration of playing in those conditions.
"The people were great - they were even determined to get off, wading around knee deep in mud and frozen in three days of rain, but it was all a bit forced.
"We had those huge calor gas heaters on stage and they were not doing us any good either - the smell was getting to us and the heat was actually altering the molecular structure of the strings causing us to go out of tune. I was pleased when they broke down and we were able to play in a naturally frozen condition.
"Perhaps one of the most satisfying things from our point of view on this trip had been the addition of our pianist Keith Godchaux - he has filled a gap in the band which always needed filling and we had almost given up hope of being able to.
"It might seem that he has a very natural and rhythmic feel which comes easy but in fact it is the result of a lot of work and intuitive play on his part.
"We auditioned scores of pianists before we found Keith and the fact that we finally managed to turn up someone who has fitted so well [into] the band is nothing short of miraculous to me. He was previously a session musician in San Francisco and before that he did a lot of session work in bars!"
With the Dead you can pick your style, Country-Blues or what they call "Spaced Music" of which "Dark Star" is a good example, and get off on your own particular style - they do them all well and their stage presentation is a good cross section of all those influences. My own choice is "Ripple" off American Beauty Rose and the Working Man's Dead album. You pays your money and you takes your choice with the People's band.
Coming shortly at this theatre for your future enjoyment is Bob Weir's solo album "Ace" (an old nickname) on which he has written all the material himself with the assistance of lyricist John Barlow and Dave Torbert of the New Riders. String and brass arrangements an added attraction.

(by Keith Altham, from the New Musical Express, May 27, 1972)

Thanks to Uli Teute.

Sep 11, 2014

May 5-7, 1972: Bickershaw Festival


Bickershaw, a sleepy little Northern town, had certainly never seen anything like it before. Coronation St. had been invaded by the day glow kids and what fun they all had. Despite promises by the promoters of a flat, well drained site, too little sun and too much rain reduced the ground to one large mud pack – and it stayed that way for the entire festival.
On all sides one was treated to the sight of muddied stoned hippies negotiating their way across the site. Needless to say there were many casualties.
This was in fact, the worst aspect of an enjoyable festival. The Bickershaw Festival, financed by three Manchester business men, and run by Jeremy Beadle, local whizz kid, was the usual mixture of good and bad. The local farmer went to milk his cows and found they were all dry, some one had got there before him
On the credit side there were plenty of facilities for the freaks – large dormitory tents dotted around the site, some firewood and polythene, plus a range of entertainment aside from the music, which included the Electric Cinema tent, theatre groups, an aerial display with six bi-planes, fireworks plus assorted high divers, fire eaters, acrobats and high wire bikers. So on that level it was possible to have a fairly comfortable time despite the rain.

Whatever happened to Dion?

Biggest bummer of the weekend was the security force, yes, those deformed thugs who managed to turn Weeley into a scenario for a gangland movie were out in force and generally making their presence felt. If you're going to have a paying festival you need security but is it really necessary to hire a bunch of illiterate gangsters whose only answer to any question is "do you want a smack in the head mate?" One guy even admitted that he couldn't tell whether a pass was valid or not as he couldn't read... There were numerous incidents, especially around the stage, of people being beaten up and harassed, which is something you don't need.
The organisers were greedy, a fact made obvious when it came to concessions. There were at least two cases of concessionaires being overcharged by at least 100 pounds. The exclusive hamburger concession was sold to at least three people: one guy was forced to raise his prices from 20p to 30p when a gang of heavies from another hamburger consortium threatened him. In addition to that there were at least twenty food tents on the site, a trifle unnecessary for 30,000 people.
Despite many rumours the local police were cool. According to Release there were about 30 drug busts, a few drunk and disorderlys, and unknown charges against 18 Hells Angels who were busted on the way there. There were hundreds of uniformed police out to deal with traffic and any emergencies and probably half a dozen drug squad officers wandering around the site. The only good thing about the busts was that the police had set up an instant legal aid and analysis system, which meant that all those arrested were dealt with immediately and did not have to come back to court at a later date to have their case heard. The average fine was about 20 pounds although three people were remanded for psychiatric reports. The only large police operation came when 100 uniformed guys went through the site looking for a lost three year old child. No doubt they caused a few cases of acute paranoia but there were no busts. Unfortunately Release's relationship with the police was better than with the promoters, whose cheque for their fee for their services bounced. Add to that the fact that they had no electricity provided, and food vouchers for their staff of volunteers and doctors failed to materialize, and all this despite the fact that Release had offered some of the festival promoters the use of a bad trip tent to get their heads together. However, the White Panthers liberated a number of crates of beer, juice and other useful items to keep the wheels oiled. Thanks lads.
Aside from these hassles was the music which was generally of very high quality despite a somewhat ineffective PA. The stage, designed by Ian Knight of Roundhouse fame, cost 9000 pounds to build and was probably one of the most effective yet, reducing band changeover time to a minimum. On either side of the stage there were large platforms backed by screens so most people who wanted could get a fairly close look at the bands. On the screens there were light shows and close-ups of the bands in action, an advantage if you were sitting a fair way back. The local people flocked on the site to see the hippies at play and were by most accounts very friendly; the Frendz staff even had a drunken knees-up with a bunch of them during the last few numbers of The Dead's first set, and it was a toss up as to who was screaming for more louder when they'd finished playing. Power to the jam butty!
Bickershaw was not the bummer it might have been. Jeremy Beadle has announced that they lost 60,000 pounds. Underground press hacks wandered the crowd in a suitably damaged condition. Many were to be seen looking for earthworms in the ground – at least I presume that's what they were doing.
But the people got it on. Hippies have a remarkable talent for surviving in all weathers, under all conditions and still enjoying themselves, which is the only reason that things stayed together. Video freaks got good tape of the Dead and others – more of that in future issues.

The Music

Friday's musical entertainment was pretty tepid apart from our old mates Hawkwind (Dikmik gets the Frendz nomination for spaced oddity of the festival) while Nik "Thunder Rider" Turner ties with Dr John and Zoot Horn Rollo for the best dressed freak who blew a cosmic note or two. Otherwise the poor sods in the audience had to content themselves with anything from miserable folkies like Jonathon Kelly to the equally feeble Wishbone Ash. However, if you could stay awake during all this mediocrity, it was worth it all just for a glimpse of the immaculate Dr Jon Creaux and his nine piece band. Here is a real showman, dressed in white top hat and tails, his beard studded with silver pins, throwing Gris Gris glitter everywhere. He made Leon Russell look like Edmundo Ross. The Doctor took his band, complete with horn section, hotshite drummer and two little yummy gospel wailers – through the tightest changes imaginable, playing lead guitar on the stuff like 'Walk on Guilded Splinters' and unbelievable piano on the rest including 'Twilight Zone', 'Glowing' and a great selection of R&B killers like 'Let the Good Times Roll' and 'Iko Iko'. It was all good show biz voodoo, but don't think he isn't capable of the real thing.
Saturday saw a morning of jazz which Frendz' intrepid rock and roll reporter slept through. I awoke to hear Maynard Ferguson blowing his paunch out on 'MacArthur Park' and promptly fell asleep. An afternoon of folk failed to inspire me – Linda Lewis did her usual cutesy act, the Incredibles were a trifle too precious for my liking, whilst Donovan did a "Greatest Hits" act which was nice. He might also be very precious but at least he's professional about it. Rock appeared in the form of boogie beast Captain Beyond, a new American band who play the same old licks over and over and go nowhere fast. Tell ya, these guys are so hip they even do a 25 minute drum solo. Sam Apple Pie were a surprisingly good rock and roll band, while Cheech and Chong gave the kids some light comedy relief. Family played their usual set – a few hot licks and broken mike-stands, while the Kinks disappointed. Ray Davies – more effeminate and camp than ever (camp in the Noel Coward rather than the Alice Cooper sense) as well as being pissed as a newt – led what was essentially a mediocre live rock band through a boring set. Doing numbers like the 'Banana Boat Song' and 'Baby Face' didn't help matters much either and an encore of 'Hootchie Cootchie Man' was nothing short of farcical.
But never fear, The Flaming Groovies were on next laying out some cool assed jive. These boys are real gone – they sat around the stage before their performance drinking whisky, clicking their fingers, talkin' jive. When they hit the stage, the magical connection was lit. Young girls wept, policemen handed in their badges and joined the church, and some evil bikers staged a mini Altamont down the front of the stage while the Groovies bopped through 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', 'Nervous Breakdown', Lou Reed's 'Sweet Jane', 'Teenage Head', a couple of newies like 'Slow Death' and 'Shake The Joint' just like a juke box with balls.
After the gig, the bass player fell the full length of the steps to the stage, watched by the entire Frendz staff who were busy getting reacquainted with Captain Beefheart. Our fave rave got us all on the stage and played his usual total bizarro mind-fuck of a set. Superlatives defied us all so we promptly crashed out after the set, snarfing N.P. and dropping pork pies.
Sunday saw us up and raring to go. A fine set by the Brinsleys didn't stop the rain pouring down, but still sent out them good vibes we hippies are prone to talk about in elitist circles.
Country Joe was good, no more, no less and he left the stage for the New Riders of the Purple Sage who played a two hour set packed with goodies. Buddy Cage on pedal steel and Spencer Dryden on drums really stood out but this is a unit, now totally independent of the Grateful Dead's assistance. Nice harmonies, nice music, nice songs, what more could you ask for?
The Dead, that's what.
When Garcia and chums took the stage, the whole thing became a real festival. Everything was together and the Dead played for five hours, maybe more. Fireworks exploded, freaks danced and the band went through every change conceivable. A beautiful 'Dark Star' and a sizzling Pigpen work out on 'Good Lovin'' might be considered stand outs but really it was all music flowing like river. At 1am the Frendz collective slid off the planks, fell into the truck and hit the road south whistling 'Casey Jones' and snorting boiled sweets.

(by Nick Kent, from Frendz, June 1972) 

* * *

A preshow interview with Jerry Garcia:

Q: Jerry Garcia - pouring with rain up here - what does the site look toward tonight?
Garcia: Well, muddy, of course, cold.
Q: You still going to play?
Garcia: Oh yeah, I think we're gonna play, yeah.
Q: Now, thousands of these people are streaming into tents and things, and a lot of people want to put restrictions on festivals in this country, as to the size and magnitude of mass festivals. Do you think festivals like this should have rules?
Garcia: Umm.... Well, that presupposes that I think that there should be festivals.
Q: This is the second festival you've played in this country, the first one being the Hollywood Festival two years ago.
Garcia: That's right.
Q: Now, that was quite a good festival.
Garcia: Compared to this one, yeah. (laughter) What you can do for a thing like rain or cold is like questionable, you know, what can you really do, not really much.
Q: And also the facilities for several thousand people out there, I mean the toilets are terrible, the size of the sea of mud, and also they've made complaints about the garbage out there.
Garcia: Of course, right, right. Well, that has to do with being able to -- the promoters should see that they have a responsibility to try to keep the site as reasonable as possible and so provide lots of opportunities for people to throw things away and clean up and that --
Q: Do you think they've failed abysmally?
Garcia: Well, I haven't been here enough to really determine. In my mind, most of the people I think are, you know, sort of accepting what's going on; I mean, it doesn't seem to me that anybody is really super uptight; but like I say, I'm not really 100 percent in touch with the whole thing, you know, so I can only give you my own fleeting impressions.
Q: Now, you're going onstage later on this evening, now you're apparently going to play for several hours, or you're planning to.
Garcia: We're hoping to, yeah
Q:  Even despite the rain?
Garcia: Well, yeah.
Q: It still feels good?
Garcia: Yeah. I mean, we would not not play under any circumstances, because we've already agreed that we would play.

* * *

Muther Grumble also did a short article on the Bickershaw Festival in their June 1972 issue, "The Great Western Rip Off":

The site, near Wigan, can only be described as a mud bath. OK so the organisers couldn't control the rain, but what about the pond in the middle of the site which they said would be fenced off and never was? Still, mud and rain soon dries and washes off and I think that's the way most other people thought about it.
Anyway, the music was good all weekend - and so were Joe's lights, notably during Hawkwind's set on Friday. There were good performances from 'Captain Beefheart', 'Dr John', and 'Country Joe' who put life back into the crowd with nice music and a long 'fuck Nixon' chant. He was followed by a nice set from 'New Riders of Purple Sage', and then along came 'The Grateful Dead' who played really excellent sounds for 5½ hours that I can only describe as Far Out!
A good firework display was put on as the 'Dead' played. Other big commercial attractions were the giant video screens each side of the stage, circus acts and an aerial display no less. The screens were certainly welcome as they meant that people could at least see the stage without getting squashed at the front. It's a shame they don't work during the day.... The circus acts, although good, were obviously an extravagant extra. I would like to add that 'Time Out' did a good job with their information points...
The organisers have since complained that they lost money due to the large amount of people who got in for nothing. Shucks! 

* * *

Melody Maker ran a long, detailed multi-page article on the Bickershaw Festival in their 5/13/72 issue, "The Day The Music Drowned." Here is an excerpt, the festival's conclusion with the Dead:

...As Sunday progressed, many people finally cracked, and made for home. But a core of some 15,000 took everything Mother Nature offered, and stayed for Grateful Dead, and got what they'd been waiting for - because the Dead blew a bigger storm...
...[During Country Joe's set] the Dead's equipment was set up. Despite his attempts, there was still a delay before the New Riders of the Purple Sage began playing. . . . While the stage area pulsated with attempts at organisation . . . the Jesus people took over the singing.
For a few moments the New Riders stood bemused and bewildered, uncertain how best to gain the initiative. Eventually they jerked into a few jagged guitar chords, and finally they gained enough ground to launch into operation without alienating the masses.
They began with attractive country flavoured numbers, clean instrumentals and Budd Cage effectively damping down the pedal steel and then breaking out with long metallic phrases. Unfortunately, there just wasn't enough variation in their music. The set became a fog of similar songs, distorted vocals and introspective jams. Although their opening numbers were refreshing, it was a relief when they got off the stage.

With America not being on, there was only one group left. It was obvious which one. The Grateful Dead's American road crew had virtually taken over the stage.
For a full half hour or more, the Dead played up to their name. They were dead. The festival seemed to be about to end on a marathon anti-climax. Changes began to happen around sunset.
The Grateful Dead slowly took a hold on themselves and their audience responded. They were playing a succession of short sharp numbers, very much the rock side of the group. Garcia picked out a whiplash lead and stared around the stage with owlish blankness.
Dusk approached and the light show behind the group flickered with subtle distortions of a fairground. It switched onto scenes of a steam train for "Casey Jones," and the music was really getting strong.
Just time for a quick half time and the Dead were back into the music. They were hardly recognisable as the same group that opened the show. Somehow their longer numbers like "Dark Star" and "Turn On Your Love Light" gave the impression that they were playing in competition with each other, but listen carefully to each instrument in turn.
The deep rumblings of Phil Lesh's bass chords and Bill Kreutzmann's drumming, the cutting guitar rhythms of Bob Weir, and most dramatically of all, Garcia's superb lead. The weird little phrases he played, with their bell tone and uncertain symmetry. The vital flames of feedback, beautifully controlled. 
The purple spotlights focused on Garcia, "Dark Star" rebounded from atmospherics into its culminating rhythm, making the recording on the "Live Dead" album sound feeble in comparison.
Incredibly, at one point the security web around the Dead folded. A figure rushed across the stage, evading roadies. He threw his arms around Kreutzmann, forcing the drummer to stop playing. In his few seconds of struggle he apparently got across to Kreutzmann that he meant to die that night. Kreutzmann nodded and smiled sympathetically and returned to his stool. The frantic saboteur disappeared behind security.
Around midnight the Dead had been playing for about four hours, give or take one or two breaks. Rock returned as they began the final hour. A female friend came on occasionally to reinforce the vocals, and Pig Pen crept forward from his organ to belt out a few songs.
Eventually they came to "Not Fade Away" and Weir all but threw his voice away on it. An encore, and one final fling with "Johnny B. Goode."
It had been a sensational set, a worthy antidote to a weekend of mud.
The Grateful Dead Archive Online has a scan of the full article: "Melody Maker (May 13, 1972): "The Day the Music Drowned", report on the Bickershaw Festival by Roy Hollingworth, Andrew Means, Chris Welch."

* * * 

This site has a number of links about the Bickershaw festival: 

From the Grateful Dead section in the festival programme:

"You are part of the Grateful Dead and so is that guy next to you straining to get a look at your programme because he couldn't afford to buy one. Share it because you need each other as much as the Dead need each other and need your participation. "That's the ideal situation, everybody should be in the band."  . . .
They grew in the days of legal and pure acid when the west coast was rubbing out signs and dividing lines and walking on the high waters of altruism and love. They played the Trips Festival, the Acid Tests and the Golden Gate Park Be-In and became actively involved in most of the things that were going down, taking them up and away. In 1968 they helped run the Carousel with the Airplane and some friends until the pressures of fuzz and finance forced a close down. Later Bill Graham moved in and renamed it the Fillmore West.
The Dead have been through busts, debts, and beatific bummers and have come out trucking when others have slipped back into old habits, been co-opted or just plain lost faith. Intangible and mysterious lines consorted to once again limit the boundaries, to divert that free consciousness back into seats with numbers watched over by a hierarchy of men with greedy wallets and uniforms who never really felt what was happening.
What's that sound? "Paranoia strikes deep," sung the Buffalo Springfield, and bombs, bad vibes and smoke screens have filled the air, but the Dead, sometimes distant, sometimes near, are still there with a good trip flying from their speakers, showing that the typical daydream can be its own creator and can channel its energy in positive directions.

Setting up the evening before their two night stint at London's Wembley Pool, someone called up to the stage, "Jerry, would you be happier if this barrier was nearer the stage?" To which that famed string picker replied, "We don't need no barriers man, nobody's going to attack us."
At the sound checks they eased through "Hully Gully," "You Win Again," and foolishly I thought that I was getting a sneak preview of the following night's concert. No way, the three and a half hour set on Friday took you through so many delightful changes that you had no idea where it would come from next. My head dropped off altogether when they slipped Marty Robbins' El Paso somewhere into The Other One. Wait til they do Not Fade Away, someone confided to a friend on Saturday night, as the Dead inched their way in little rushes through the disparate house lights and the formality of a slightly straitjacketed environment. Well that friend could still be waiting cos they never faded away but took you to see and hear other sights beyond the Dark Star... They often work within frameworks and call upon references but the number of directions they can take are infinite..."

Audience members generally remember how cold and wet they were, but there are a few memories of the Dead playing:

"I saw the Dead the first night at Wembley and don’t remember thinking then I’d be seeing them again so soon afterwards. Maybe, like the Lyceum gigs, it was announced whilst the tour was in progress. The papers were full of the Dead playing for up to nine hours, doing a run through their entire back catalogue, and the organisers confirmed they’d leave it open-ended to let the Dead play as long as they wanted...
I was disappointed when we reached the festival site. Probably the rain didn’t help but the whole atmosphere was bad – it felt like (and probably was) an industrial wasteland. From somewhere we commandeered a huge plastic sheet which, when it rained, we could sit on and pull up, over, and around ourselves, leaving a small hole at the front to look through... Apart from when the Dead were on, it just seemed to rain most of the time...
And then the Dead. At least the rain had stopped, and I think for once we stood up to watch. The whole festival area by now looked like a disaster area, with silhouettes moving through the mud against a backdrop of flickering fires. It was getting cold once the sun went down and, even from a distance, you could see the vapours being spewed out by the heater cannon on stage...
It was a far more mellow show than at Wembley and they took their time, easing into it gently. I was astonished and delighted to get both Dark Star and The Other One in the same show. Am I imagining it or were the words of Casey Jones flashed up on a screen with a bouncing ball tracking them?"

"A large yellow backcloth with a giant Stealie in the middle was unfurled and billowed in the wind... I remember the band playing Dark Star as the sun sank into the murky haze..."

"By this time most of the fences were down, the security was non existent and the villagers were in the festival grounds watching the good old Grateful Dead and seemingly liking a lot of it too. The first set finished with a rollicking Casey Jones, and the assembled multitude erupted in a spasm of chorus singing and dancing, villagers and all. The weak evening sun highlighted the whole weird mix. Frizzy haired freaks in the crowd playing soaking wet, tuneless hand drums next to flat capped miners, women in the traditional northern housewife's headgear of curlers and headscarves and their kids in prams all singing and leaping and becoming one in a flat out good old bacchanalian romp that would have done the ancient Greeks proud.
There was the inevitable break and then the Dead came back and launched into the stellar stuff, first a warm up with a few rockers like Jack Straw and Greatest Story and then into the REAL pudding - DARK STAR, followed by The Other One - both seriously out there versions and as the fireworks and the video screens got worked up nicely in the gloom, it finally cleared enough so the entire second set was free of rain."

"There were fireworks set off during Dark Star and everyone on the aud tape can be heard going "whooooo," a truly magic moment... I have the vision of the fireworks going off above the stage, for once the sky was clear and crisp (although it was still cold) and the band onstage were framed beautifully by the exploding starshells."

* * *

From Nick Kent's 2010 autobiography, Apathy for the Devil: 

"...Another  'magic band' from America's West Coast who'd adopted LSD as a means to break down existing musical barriers and create a more wide-open sonic sensibility were San Francisco's Grateful Dead. Ever since 1967 they'd been fondly recognised as psychedelic-rock pioneers and all-purpose community-minded righteous hippie dudes by John Peel's lank-haired listeners throughout the British Isles, but they'd only ever managed to play one concert in England to date, at a festival in Staffordshire in the early summer of 1970. In early '72, though, the group and their record company Warner Bros. bankrolled an extended gig-playing trek through Europe that included a short tour of England. In late March, they and their extremely large 'extended family' moved into a swank Kensington hotel in anticipation of the shows and duly became my third interviewees.
In stark contrast to their reputation as championship-level LSD-gobblers, they seemed a pretty down-to-earth bunch when confronted one-on-one. They dressed like rodeo cowboys and talked like mature overseas students checking out foreign culture. The drugs had yet to bend their brains into some inexplicable agenda like Beefheart's bunch. Their music may have been further fuelled by a healthy desire to embrace utter weirdness, but none of them was weird per se. Jerry Garcia in particular was totally exasperated by their image and reputation and the way it constantly impinged on his privacy. Every acid casualty in Christendom wanted to corral him into some 'deeply meaningful' conversation and he'd simply had enough of indulging all these damaged people. Hippies the world over looked up to him as though he were some deity or oracle, but Garcia was really just an intelligent, well-read druggie with a deeply cynical streak who felt increasingly ill at ease with the role he'd been straitjacketed into by late-sixties bohemian culture. In time it would get so intolerable that he would withdraw from society in general by compulsively smoking high-grade Persian heroin. This in turn would prove fatal: after twenty years of addiction, the drug would end up hastening his death in 1995.
At the same time, he was one of the most singularly gifted musicians of the latter half of the twentieth century. The Grateful Dead were an odd bunch in that they were always being called a rock band but they couldn't play straight-ahead rock 'n' roll to save their lives. They'd started out instead as a jug band before branching out into folk and electric blues and playing long jazz-influenced jams whenever the mood struck. By the end of the sixties they'd even morphed into a credible country-and-western outfit. By 1972 they meandered between these various musical genres, performing sets that rarely ran for less than three hours in length; there were - inevitably - valleys and peaks. You'd sit there for what seemed like an eternity watching them noodle away on stage silently praying that they'd actually finish the song and put it out of its misery. But then - all of a sudden - the group would take off into the psychedelic stratosphere and Garcia would step forward to the lip of the stage and begin navigating his way to that enchanted region where the sagebrush meets the stars. Cosmic American music: Gram Parsons coined the phrase but it was the Grateful Dead who best embodied the concept even though - after 1972 - they began slipping into a long befuddling decline...
The Dead turned up to play at a three-day festival held in the Northern town of Bickershaw during the first weekend in May '72. The event's shady promoters had envisaged it as a grand unveiling of the whole West Coast live rock experience to the John Peel demographic, but it soon degenerated into a sort of mud-caked psychedelic concentration camp filled with miserable-looking young people on dodgy hallucinogenics being lashed by torrential wind and rain and being sold inedible food. The Dead performed splendidly  [. . . .] but there was no getting around the fact that the whole ugly debacle was destined to be acid rock's last hurrah here in the British Isles. A relentless downpouring of bad weather, bad facilities, bad drugs and (mostly) bad music; it had worked like a charm three years ago at Woodstock but it wasn't working anymore.
Mind you, I had a great time. A bunch of Frendz collaborators had hired a large van we could all sleep in and had succeeded in getting VIP passes, so we were always close to the action and safe from the inclement storms raging over the bedraggled spectators..."

Sep 10, 2014

April 1972: Weir & Pigpen Interview


Members of Grateful Dead describe themselves as "The Grateful Dead Ensemble," probably the most accurate way of explaining their vast entourage of people and equipment.
They have arrived, finally, in Britain with seven and a half tons of equipment, 42 people and 65 suitcases.
Previous hopes of their coming were disappointed as the Dead felt they couldn't travel without the accompanying friends to make their visit a spiritual as well as a commercial success.
This time, they've made it. Mind you, the trip wasn't free of its hassles. The planning has only come to fruition after a year, and then in the autumn, Ron McKernan - universally known as "Pigpen" - was seriously ill in the hospital and it was thought that he wouldn't make it.
"I was in the hospital for three weeks, and out of the band for two and a half months. I had ulcers caused by drinking too much booze. I'm better now though, and passed the milk-only stage. I just don't drink at all now, though I can eat what I like."
The Dead worked on without Pigpen, and when he returned they did a short tour in the States over December. They seem unaware of their popularity in Britain, as they don't consider themselves to be that big at home.
"It baffles me, the superhero reputation. We keep hearing reports of this, but we've only been here once before and I don't think we sold so many records. We ain't Superstars over in the States. We're just another medium-to-well-known band. We're no Three Dog Night or Creedence. We just consider ourselves general folks."
This is also the first time that the Dead have made a trip away from home without their brainchild group, the New Riders of the Purple Sage. It was formed by the Dead's Jerry Garcia, David Nelson and John Dawson late of the New Dehli River Band, and put together by the Dead's lyricist Bob Hunter. 
Since then, their fates and fortunes have been inextricably bound - mainly because Garcia was working as their pedal steel guitarist, so the Dead and the New Riders had to go everywhere together.
However, they have now found a steel player of their own, Buddy Cage, who was playing with Ian and Sylvia. The Dead's Phil Lesh was also playing bass for a while, but is now totally back to the Dead.
The New Riders will be coming to join the Dead for the festival at Bickershaw, outside Manchester in May. To sort out what will probably be chaos and confusion, the personnel of the Dead is Jerry Garcia, lead guitar and vocals; Bob Hunter, songwriter; Keith Godchaux, new drummer who has been with the Dead since November; Bob Weir, rhythm guitar and vocals; Bill Kreutzmann, drums (the Dead work with two drummers); Phil Lesh, bass and vocals; and Pigpen, organ and vocals.
The New Riders comprise John Dawson, David Nelson, Dave Torbert (bass), Buddy Cage and Spencer Dryden (former Jefferson Airplane drummer).
"It feels funny not having the New Riders with us," said Dead/Riders' secretary Dale Franklin, "sorta like the kids growing up and going out on their own."
The Dead were one of the first big groups to rise on the wave of the San Francisco sound, and despite their modest claims to the contrary, they have remained one of the most influential.
They began in 1964 as Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions in Palo Alto, with Garcia, Weir and Pigpen.
"Jerry and I both grew up with rhythm and blues really. We've been brothers for about 10 years now. We were hoodlum lads, greaser types. We used to run around in gangs. We liked good-time music, country/rhythm and straight blues."
Pigpen is the son of an early white rhythm and blues DJ, so the music came easy to him. It was Pigpen who encouraged the Jug Champions to turn to electric music in the mid-sixties. The Dead found their name at the end of '65, and their first album under that name was released in '66.
Since then they have made more albums, a big reputation and probably a fair bit of bread. However insidious the thoughts might be of the Dead being bread-orientated, they all deny having mercenary interests.
"Coming to Britain is just an opportunity for us to see Europe," said Pigpen. "I don't personally care if I come home with no money, as long as we cover what we put out. We've been trying to have the ticket prices put down for the concerts here because we don't like to burn people. I don't mind having more dollars in my pocket but that's not primarily our reason for being here."
On the floor in front of us, a young lady was counting out fat bundles of fivers and travellers' cheques. Other cheques were left lying around the hotel room as people trotted in and out by the dozen.
Co-manager Rock Scully mingled through the multitude spreading goodwill and information as he went. Garcia held court in the star chamber next door, surrounded by young ladies. Astounding-but-true department, apart from Garcia, the rest of the Dead have little or no experience at being interviewed.
"Garcia generally speaks for all of us because he's the most articulate guy in the group, so what he says goes."
It would seem to the outsider that Garcia is spokesman/leader of the Dead, but although he generally speaks to the Press, it's not to say that he has any more control over the band than anyone else. He was, however, credited as "spiritual adviser" to the Jefferson Airplane on a recent album, and supplies much of the colour and enthusiasm for the Dead.
Bob Weir was distinctly uneasy, talking about a single and an album which he is bringing out "independently." That's in the sense that Sandy Denny works solo. For the album is aided and abetted by the Dead and the New Riders.
"I had written a bunch of songs that could be used on the Dead albums, then I figured I could do an album of my own. The single "One More Saturday Night" was made about a month ago."
The B side for this country is a Dead song "Bertha" from the double live album, but in the States, both sides are by Bob.
"I've used the Grateful Dead ensemble for the single, plus brass and strings which the Dead don't feature most. It is under my own direction though. I don't know if it is that different from the Dead, but I would say that I've matured now.
"I hope it sells well and exposes us to those who might not have heard the albums. It's a classic rock-n-roll song. The Dead are not altogether famous for rock-n-roll, although I originally wrote it for the Dead. The album won't be released in the States until we get back and I hope it is simultaneously released here - that should be around June. I wrote the music for all my songs and a friend called John Barlow wrote the words. The single should be out here this week."
The Dead will be recording while they are here. Despite the fact that most people think that the recording facilities are better in the States, the Dead's permanent engineer Bob Matthews has done recording here before and he rates it pretty highly. The concerts at the Wembley Pool are being recorded. Their equipment has been specially balanced, so they are sure that they will sound the way they are supposed to.
"We won't be using all of the equipment we've brought as some of the places will be too small," explained Weir. "We won't need to be that loud. We stand in front of the PA so we know how loud it sounds, but I have been tested for hearing, and it's almost perfect for someone of my age, so I've sustained little or no hearing loss.
"Anyway we are concerned with presenting our music in the best possible light, so that it won't suffer and will expose us best - we'll make sure our PA works properly. That's why we brought all our own with us."

(by Rosalind Russell, from Disc magazine, April 15, 1972)

Thanks to Uli Teute.

April 7, 1972: Wembley Empire Pool, London


"The trouble with a lot of kids who come to our concerts is that they can't see beyond the drugs. They get so ripped that the music doesn't really matter." – Pigpen

For six years, the legend of the acid-test band has lingered. The Dead, the band to take drugs to. And, true to form, the British Dead freaks all but filled the great cavern of Wembley Pool, with the joints a-going and the whisky passing round, and, with the billboard for the National Country Music Festival still on the front of the building and associations of recent T.Rextacy strong in mind, the concert they saw was probably a unique event.

"Just folks, that's all we can relate to. The songs we play are our history. The American West." – Pigpen
"Until some new divine inspiration, some flash, comes, that is all we can do, play our music and seek a oneness with the people who are listening." – Bob Weir

And that was exactly what they did: they played music for almost three hours, standing, nodding in time, without theatre or histrionics, almost waist-deep in monitor speakers. A group of men doing the job that they really enjoy, and ranging across a spectrum of music that anyone in the audience must have grown up with; with Pigpen standing quietly putting 'Big Boss Man' through a version both loyal to – and at the same time a long way from – either Jimmy Reed or the gold jacket boys who borrowed it from him.

"Three of us have given up drugs. It became worrying – we were burning out our brain cells and so were the people in the audience, strung out thirteen year olds outside the Fillmore East " – Bob Weir

Despite that, the pipe went round in the hotel room and the big cigarettes were produced on stage, and the triumphal first half ending with 'Casey Jones' was treated as an anthem rather than a warning, repeating the chorus over and over with Joe's Lights projecting the lyrics on to the back stage screen, and lacking only a bouncing spot to give it the full seaside-concert party, pier pavilion atmosphere.

"The main thing is getting off behind the music." – Pigpen

It is hard to talk about a band that one moment is being led by Garcia to sounds that are a part of pink padded tunnels that spiral down through the back byways of consciousness, and, moments later, follows Bob Weir, breaking into the John Wayne jukebox reality of Marty Robbins' 'El Paso' – "One day a wild young cowboy came in, wild as the wild Texas wind." You suddenly get a flash on shared history: as Bob Weir leads on 'Down the Line', you know that at fifteen he stood in front of a mirror and tried to look like Elvis, the same as the rest of you did, or listening to Garcia you see a kid who practiced copying the Mid-West nasal whine of the young Bob Dylan. The shared flash a oneness through their music that is instantly earthy and spiritually high.

"California is, at one time, paradise and a battleground." – Phil Lesh

The sadness of seeing the Dead for the first time is that the logistics of bringing them to England prevented the Wembley audience from sharing totally the seven-year evolution that produced the music they were hearing, as the band grinned happily as a pocket of freaks lit sparklers, or, between songs, asked anyone who couldn't hear well to shout "NO". The charisma is still there, so evident in the gang of freeloaders trying to get a piece of Grateful Dead energy at the after-show reception. It would have been nice to have grown up with the acid test band, particularly as there is the sneaking suspicion that if the first London acid had been dropped watching them rather than cerebrally isolating the Pink Floyd, we might be a stronger community.

(by Mick Farren, from International Times, April 20, 1972)

Sep 7, 2014

April 1972: Bob Weir Interview


It's taken a long time for the Dead to get themselves back over here. They probably made it more by good luck than good judgment. Their camp is as diverse and unpredictable as any under the sun – but there must be some sort of magical karma guarding them for they always seem to pull through.
The Dead have brought a large family of 43 friends with them on this visit.
And so it was hard to find a private comer at their hotel to speak to guitarist Bob Weir, writes Danny Holloway. But after settling down, we talked of Keith Godchaux, the new member, as well as the music and life of the Grateful Dead.
Reports of their London Wembley concerts have been very favourable. It would be a good
idea, feels Holloway, if you could catch a performance while they're here.

HOLLOWAY: What was the reason for Keith coming in on keyboards?

WEIR: I think it happened like this. Pigpen got sick and we were about to do a tour, so we needed somebody. And just about that time, Garcia had met, and I think worked, with Keith in San Francisco.
We've always been looking for somebody, really. Pigpen's not really a virtuoso keyboard player – that's not exactly what he does with us. So Garcia suggested we give Keith a listen, and he sounded good to everybody, so we just worked him in.
It was a short notice, but he was incredibly adept. He picked up on everything fast. That was one indication of how it worked good, and another was how well he could pick up on feelings that we played.
I mean, he picked up on really minute subtle differences. Every one of us was mind blown by how well he fitted into the whole musical scene we've conglomerated over the years.

When you first started you seemed to have a hard time putting down on record what you were all about. Are you more satisfied now?

It's getting better. As we learn what we can do in a studio, we start working with the studios in mind – rather than simply playing our music. And we're finding that we play different kinds of music for different situations. At first, we didn't know that you can gear to a studio. We're learning to do that a lot more now.

Looking back, do you consider yourself involved with the San Francisco scene any more?

Well, I more or less consider myself involved with the world, musically. There's a lot of cross-fertilisation among musicians in Marin County where we live. And I guess you could call it the San Francisco scene, because the nearest big city is San Francisco and we do most of our recording there. But there's no specifically localised thing that I consider myself a part of. Just music in general, really.

How do you feel about your name being mentioned synonymously with the 1967 San Francisco scene? That's what I meant really.

Well, it's history, it's blown over. It's not a reality to me. It used to be fun. I used to feel like a part of it. It was a flash – a good scene – but it went away. We're all a lot more mature now. We're all the same people and we're still all great friends, but we were kids having a party back then. Now, we're older kids doing something that older kids do. It's different.

There's a feeling among some people that the Grateful Dead are a social phenomenon. Do you think this detracts from your music?

If they start overlooking the music and delve into the social phenomenon we seem to be, then they're off on the wrong trip. As far as our social situation is concerned, we live in a straightforward way.
We like to get a lot of people involved in what we're doing and it seems to work out. So we have a lot of people working with us who we're responsible for feeding. But at the same time, they're responsible for helping us to push forward.
As far as any philosophy is concerned, any one of us can rap for hours about the way we feel. (Garcia's particularly apt at it.). But apparently, the more you talk, the more people consider you philosophic. Then you start getting into being a social phenomenon more than a musical one. It's just that people listen to whatever they hear, and if Garcia doesn't have a guitar in his hands, he'll rap. Any one of us does that.

Do you think music's going to remain the prime factor in so many people's lives? There is so much intensity and competition.

It's getting competitive. That means you must be either original or really good to survive. It's sure Darwinism I guess. Throughout history, there has never been an excess of really top musicians at any one time. But people have got to have music. Most everybody has to have it, and here we are to give it to them.
Rather than asking: is there life after death? I think a real good question is: Is there music after death? I think a lot of people feel that way. Music represents a whole side of the human manifestation that we just can't live without. Nobody can live without it. Not even the Chinese.

Do you play many dates in a year?

Well, I'll tell you somethin'. When we got here, all the people in that big country show (the C and W festival at Wembley) were here at the hotel. And I was talking to a lot of those guys and we were talking about how many nights a year they work. I was telling them we work 50 nights a year, and they were amazed because they work 150 to 200 nights a year and more. I got the hint that they thought we were really lazy and just laying back and making money off a big name.
Then it occurred to me to ask them how long they play every night... 45 minutes. Well, we play about three hours a night, so it works out to about the same. You can't carry on to 150 or 200 nights a year while playing three or four hours a night and expect to survive.

(by Danny Holloway, from the New Musical Express, April 15, 1972)

Sep 6, 2014

April 11, 1972: Jerry Garcia Interview


On Tuesday 11 April, an American rock n' roll band, the Grateful Dead, played to a packed house at Newcastle City Hall. Two hours before the gig their lead guitarist Jerry Garcia talked to Muther Grumble about some of the things that have made the Dead and Garcia in particular such influential figureheads for the hippy music and social scene. 
Muther Grumble: Jerry, in your interview with Rolling Stone magazine, you compared music to the Void. Could we start out by talking about that?
Jerry Garcia: Ah haa ... well, I can't really ... See I don't really have my thoughts organised on any of this, and really any interview I do is, is ... er ... I approach it the same way I approach music basically, you know what I mean, it's improvisational. And I depend on what kind of feed I get, so ... for example, if someone asks me a question that has the potential for being very depthy then I have that room to move around in, so to speak. If the question is lame or shallow I'll try to make it a good question and then answer it.
It depends ... it depends on the situation but basically ... myself, I mean in my own personal head I try not to think too much about anything I'm doing because it's ... really, I'm geared towards doing things rather than towards thinking about them or talking about them, and that's kinda like the tradition that we work in ... it's basically ... get it on.
MG: And the same with the whole band?
Garcia: Right ... Exactly ... that's what sort of the Grateful Dead energy is. It's not really intellectual particularly.
MG: How much do you feel you should be involved with the society you're living in, that is, contributing to it?
Garcia: Well ... I don't ... there are certain kinds of social obligations which we observe at home, for example, if there's somebody who needs a benefit you know ... we've done benefits for the Black Panthers at various times ... we try not to approach things on that level if we can avoid it, because really the one thing we've really got to offer - it's not money, it's definitely not money, it's not even the capacity to earn money - it's the capacity to create good energy. And that's what our real value is ... if any. Socially it'd be groovy to tie that in on a level, well ... for example, let me give you the example that to me was most perfect. That was about two years ago we played in Cincinnati, Ohio and with us there helping out were the Hog Farm. Do you know about the Hog Farm? ... right ... What happened was we played the gig and it was incredibly high and everybody had a real good time ... the following day the Hog Farm people with the help of the local radio station, the FM station ... underground radio ... organised a lot cleaning thing. What they did was they went to a very poor part of town, found an empty lot that people had been dumping garbage in for years and in the space of one day they cleaned out all the garbage in there, still on the basis of that initial energy from the concert, you know ... the good thing ... they used the radio to describe to people what was going on, and say we need all the help we can get, we need a couple of trucks, you know and people came right through with it. At the end of the day they left a playground for the kids in the neighbourhood ...
MG: The Hog Farm do that a lot.
Garcia: Right ... so that's the thing of following through with that energy.
MG: There's a lot of spin off energy following the Dead?
Garcia: Right ... and that's the fix ... like our energy is not topical. It doesn't make a political statement, it doesn't make a statement concerning morals or anything like that, it's just good energy ... and good clean energy. And if after that energy has been, you know, flowing then it's a matter of somebody stepping in saying, look we've got this good energy, let's move with it, let's go ahead and do something.
MG: And you see that as your involvement in society?
Garcia: Exactly ... and that would be the best way we can relate, but as it is we do benefits etc.
MG: You mentioned the Panthers ... I was wondering how much of young people's involvement and affinity to black causes, how much of it do you think relates to their music?
Garcia: I think that if they were to ... unfortunately the black community isn't at all together in the United States, so there's millions of diverse opinions as to what should happen, how it should happen, so forth and so on. So there isn't anything there - for example the middle class white kid who has a social conscience to be able to really grab on to and help out ... really there isn't nothing really that solid. Now, the black scene is going away from the whole violent revolutionary trip and they're concentrating on basically accomplishing one or two things in the community, thus gaining community support. Which is really where it's all at anyway ... and away from the ego trip type of ... you know what I mean, where the leaders get to be the focus of the thing. That whole Eldridge Cleaver shakedown and all the rest of that stuff was very unfortunate, because it took away the focus from the causes and from the real difficulties and put it into a personality cult situation which is really not good. But since then the blacks, the people I know who have been Black Panthers, black revolutionaries, Marxists and so forth, have changed their viewpoint toward a more basic, humanistic accomplishment trip. That's like basically ... it looks to me like it's much healthier, because it has to do with really doing things you know, really feeding people and so forth, rather than talking and proselytising and that sort of thing.
MG: It's an obvious question, but how much do you think acid has influenced this sort of thing?
Garcia: I think it's influenced a lot, just because it's given people an opportunity to see greater ... to have a greater conception of the earth as a whole, for one ... and expanded consciousness is always good. More consciousness is just what everything needs. And the more consciousness there is, whether it's by reading or by talking or by hearing music, or by taking dope, or whatever it is, it's good. There can't be too much consciousness.
MG: Do you meditate or anything like that?
Garcia: I need to ... well, you know, for me, my basic, my Yoga is music and basically I relate to my physical centre and so on through music. What I do is basically a Yoga. It's a discipline. I think everybody should have a discipline, it can be inward, it can be outward, it doesn't matter. Whatever your constitution likes. It's just a matter of having something which you can relate to and say 'this is for me', 'this is me without anything else. This is as far as I have gone along this particular line.' If it's doing pushups or breathing or meditating. It's something you know. It's something there's no bullshitting about. It's basically real and it's ... like, having something to relate to that's basically real is always a good thing. Every person should have something like that.
MG: Could you tell us something about the hype that often precedes American bands coming over here. Beefheart says that ninety per cent of what we hear about him over here is untrue ...
Garcia: Well ... nobody puts anything out about us but us. So in terms of ... the only way I can relate to that is on the basis of what kind of feedback we get back. In other words, when people are talking to me as a member of the Grateful Dead, who do they think they are talking to? That's it. So if somebody says something to me I would say that we're about 85-90% pretty correct in terms of what goes out about us ... it's really a lot like the way we are, because what comes back to us from people relates to us very much like the way we are. People who relate to us are very much the way we are, so I think it's pretty straight, we've never had any kind of hype. We've never had any kind of public relations people or any of that bullshit. It's like what press we do get is on the basis of somebody being genuinely interested. And that usually is pretty clear.
MG: Do you use the I Ching?
Garcia: Oh sure.
MG: You use it a lot?
Garcia: Oh yeah, we depend upon the Ching.
MG: You depend upon it?
Garcia: Well, we don't depend upon it 100% but there are times when it's nice to know an older and more reliable kind of wisdom to draw from. And the I Ching is certainly that ... we use it pretty frequently.
MG: Do you do group things?
Garcia: Yeah. Just throw the I Ching - a different one of us will throw the coins for each line. That sort of thing.
MG: Could we talk about the music a bit?
Garcia: Sure.
MG: How do you feel you fit in with NRPS and the Dead? How does it compare? Does it give you greater freedom?
Garcia: Well, I'm not in the New Riders anymore. The New Riders now have a new pedal steel player so they're completely independent.
MG: That's good.
Garcia: Right ... that's the way I feel about it. I feel that way because I don't feel I'm that good a pedal steel player a), and b) it's just impossible for me to divide my attention consistently and expect to be really good at it.
MG: What about the solo album? How much did the sameness of your rhythms etc come through? What did you do to counteract this?
Garcia: Well, the solo album is just me being a band really. I played all the instruments and so forth and it's ... I can't really say what it is ... You'd have to tell me what it was like because for me it was fun. It was fun and really easy. I didn't go through a lot of changes about it and I spent maybe three weeks at it. And it was very easy and fun ... I wouldn't describe it as being serious, for example.
MG: What do you think of the result?
Garcia: I think the result is pretty good for how much time and work I put into it, which wasn't really a great deal. It flowed very nicely. I thought that being able to approach it on that level of me being the only performer made it really really easy in terms of getting a good sound on each instrument and getting the kind of flow I like to hear happening on various levels. And also it was interesting because I wasn't relating to it on the basis of being a guitarist, so I wasn't like ego involved with certain parts of the music since the whole thing was me. It made it possible for me to sort of have a central view and I learned a lot from making that record which was part of my intention. I'm not going to follow it up with a career or anything like that. Also one of the prime reasons for doing that was that I borrowed a lot of money from the record company in order to buy a house out in California, and I had no way of course to pay it back except to make a record. That's why the record is wheel and deal.
MG: What do you think of the house then?
Garcia: The house is beautiful you know. I've got an old lady and kids and all that and where we're from, out Marin County there's not many places to rent. I've been living out there for 4 years maybe, been renting places, then somebody would buy it and kick us out. That's been going on more or less continuously, so I thought if I could come up with a down payment on a house, then I could just keep on paying rent essentially, only eventually I'll own the house, or nobody'll be able to kick me out at any rate.
MG: Mountain Girl, your wife ... how much of the Tom Wolfe book (The Kool Aid Acid Test) was like real for you?
Garcia: Oh, very little of it. I think the Tom Wolfe book was way off centre. I think it was way off centre and also just incorrect.
MG: It was bound to lose a lot with him not actually being there.
Garcia: Right. He wasn't actually there while it was happening for one thing, and for another thing he's not a guy that gets high so he couldn't really understand what it was like. He could only sort of do his journalistic thing, and also the fact he was writing it from the viewpoint of a writer meant he was writing it about a writer, cause Kesey was a writer. That was his focus. But really in the scene itself, the real focus if it was any one person was certainly Neal Cassady. A most amazing person. And the most extroverted person was Ken Babbs who was like really the sort of leader. And Kesey was just the guy with the money.
I mean Kesey's a good guy ... he's very perceptive and has got a lot of stuff happening. I'm not putting Kesey down by any means, but in that scene I think really you had to be there you know. I don't think it translates to a book.
MG: Like acid?
Garcia: Right, exactly, that's what it was.
MG: How close were you to Kesey at the time?
Garcia: Pretty close. We were all pretty close ... I mean we're all still friends. Those of us who are still here. Neal of course is dead but everybody else ... we all see each other pretty regularly and we all do things together pretty regularly too. So that was the other thing - the book came to an end ... you close the book and that's the end but in reality that thing is still going on. Before the book too, I was sorry that book wasn't written by somebody who was there.
MG: Maybe somebody'll do it - like it's like reading a translation of a translation.
Garcia: Exactly ... it's just a few stages further removed ... although I think in some places it's a good book in its own.
MG: It had a very profound effect in terms of feedback.
Garcia: Right, it does because it had to, I think ... but really I think the fact that there was LSD around and there's other things around is the thing that makes it so the book does communicate some. You can feel the inner spaces with your own mind.
MG: Do the band still use LSD?
Garcia: Now and again. I mean we have it pretty continually but we don't use it in the same way that we did it in the old days ... I mean at the Acid Tests everybody got really high on acid. Now when we have LSD and we have it all the time ... I mean it's with us, we don't take enough to get superstoned but enough to just to sort of give you an edge. Really you don't play that well when you're really high ... but you learn a lot. So it's like there are times when it's groovy to get a real high and play because you learn a lot, but it's not necessarily groovy to perform that way or to play really well together.
MG: What about when all the audience is high?
Garcia: Right ... then it's like an equal thing happening, so now when we get high for a gig we get a little high, enough to get an edge. We smoke hash, of course, and pot.
MG: How do you get on with guys who aren't stoned when you play? Can you sit down and jam with someone who isn't high?
Garcia: Well ... some of the guys in the band don't get high. Pigpen doesn't get high and Bobby doesn't get high anymore either.
MG: And you still do it ...
Garcia: Sure, because the thing we do we've been doin' together for 6 or 7 years and it's definitely there ... it's there whether we're into it or not really.
MG: I read somewhere you'd like to play with the Band. Tell me something about that. The Band are really good in my estimation.
Garcia: Right ... really good. I love their music. I've hung out a little with Robbie Robertson, but I don't know whether anything'll come of all that except that we're friendly and we respect each other. That's the thing.
MG: Is there anything you can pinpoint that you like about them?
Garcia: Yeah, I like everything about them. I love their songs. Their songs are fantastic. Really well written and really together and their playing is so incredibly complementary towards each other. They're just a very good band, I think.
MG: What about England?
Garcia: I like England.
MG: English audiences?
Garcia: English audiences so far have been fantastic. It's just like home, really. It's a Grateful Dead audience rather than an English audience. And that's where we're most comfortable. It was surprising, because we heard so much about English audiences being incredibly reserved and not at all demonstrative and so forth ... all these things, but you know as soon as we played, as soon as things started warming up it was just like home.
MG: I guess you'll get that tonight. The whole place'll shake.
Garcia: Ah ... too much.
MG: How do you keep going for so long man, playing guitar, I mean. I know it's good and everything?
Garcia: That's it ... I'm a music junkie.

(from Muther Grumble, issue 5, May 1972)