Mar 31, 2015

February 1968: Jefferson Airplane

Group Follows Beatles Lead: Run Own Show

The Jefferson Airplane have "divorced" themselves from the personal management of Fillmore Auditorium manager Bill Graham on February 6, following the lead of the Beatles, Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Each of these groups has taken its business affairs into its own hands on a strictly cooperative basis.
Bill Thompson, long the Airplane's road manager and now their spokesman (like Rock Scully and Danny Rifkin of the Dead, he is an integral part of the group and not an autonomous individual with his own, possibly conflicting, interests) was reticent about discussing the break with Graham but definite about the band's independence. "We might get other management," he said, "then again, the Earth might split open."
Like the other two San Francisco outfits, the first venture to interest Jefferson Airplane has been, naturally, a rock and roll show. The Great Northwest Tour undertaken by the Dead, Quicksilver, and Jerry Abram's Headlights - it was actually organized and promoted by Rifkin, Scully, Ron Rakow, and attorney Brian Rohan - was a huge success, not so much financially, although it did end up in the black, as in showing that an independent group-based operation could do everything the show business professionals could do, do it (musically) better, and have a good time doing it.
Even Rock Scully, who blithely remarked, "We knew along along we could do it...only before we were too busy scuffling and recording," was amazed at the way the tour, with the aid of a few well-placed posters and a phone call to the editor of a local and/or college newspaper, could create as much excitement in a Washington or Oregon college town as they would have caused by riding through its streets in the back of a circus wagon, plugged into a mobile generator and playing at full amplification.
"We walk into an empty hall," he said, "at 3:30 - the show's at 8 - by the time it starts we've transformed that place into a scene that would rival the Fillmore or the Avalon at their very best. They (the audience) were running into the place."
What struck everyone connected with the tour was the fact that the shows came off better - music, lights, communication between performers and audience - than similar productions with the identical musicians produced by outsiders. "There were 30 of us making a creative effort. After all, it was our thing," Rock said.
This is the atmosphere that Jefferson Airplane also hopes to capture in its future efforts. "The Airplane wants to change the concept of the rock and roll show," Thompson stated. "The San Francisco groups got into the business to have a good time and give a good show. But because of the conditions we ran into on our tour, we weren't able to give a lot of audiences the shows they should have been receiving."
The conditions he referred to are familiar to all traveling salesmen, professional athletes, high fashion models, and musicians, especially musicians: get off the plane, spend an hour or three in an uncomfortable motel room, go somewhere you've never seen before and do whatever it is you do for people who've never seen you before and get on the plane again to do it over again.
Jefferson Airplane is a big-time act (in fact it gets more money - up to $7500 a performance - than any other American band) and its members do not have to put up with the changes that many less successful performers do, but a grind is a grind, dull is dull, and tired is tired.
It was not specified whether the continuous live performances were a factor in the parting-of-the-ways with Graham, who not only arranged them, but expected the group to come up with fresh material on the road. However, the Airplane has resolved never again to undertake such a punishing schedule of appearances.
Among the new ideas the Airplane is considering is the possibility of traveling with the Doors, hardly unknowns themselves, with the bands exchanging material. This would give the audiences a chance to hear Jim Morrison soar into "Somebody to Love," followed by Marty Balin and Grace Slick singing "Light My Fire." The Airplane is also seriously considering a tour of Europe, accompanied by Headlights. If they make the trip they plan to set up some joint performances with the Grateful Dead, already booked for Continental appearances in April and May thanks to the efforts of the Dead's managers.
Setting its sights still further Eastward, Jefferson Airplane also hopes to become the first American band to play behind the Iron Curtain and is especially interested in performing in Russia. Thompson admits that he is still waiting to hear from Kosygin.
The Airplane's business ambitions do not stop at tours and concerts. They have set up a publishing company called Ice Bag Corp. Already in the works are two songbooks - for Surrealistic Pillow and After Bathing at Baxter's, the group's two latest albums - which are being compiled and produced by Gary Blackman, an Airplane associate and erstwhile publicity man.
Then there are what Bill Thompson calls "visuals." Conrad Rooks, the young movie producer-director, held a private, Airplane-only screening of his Chappaqua, then met with the group and found them quite interested in his plans for a feature-length film featuring them. (He didn't mention that when he first announced plans for a rock-and-roll-oriented movie it was supposed to have starred the Beatles and been shot in Nepal.) John Urea, a Los Angeles film maker who has already produced several shorts on musical subjects, has also broached plans for a film, and no decision has been reached on which (or both or neither) project the Airplane will engage in. But some sort of film definitely is in the works.
In another, more familiar medium, recorded music, the band finds itself anxious to record some new songs but is at loggerheads with its label, RCA Victor. The issue is again freedom and the hassle is centered in two areas: promotion and the actual conditions of cutting tapes.
After Bathing at Baxter's was terribly mishandled and underpromoted by RCA, according to Thompson, who suggests that the apparent incompetence may have been purposive on the part of the company, which wanted another Surrealistic Pillow and was further put out by the Ron Cobb cover design which the Airplane insisted on using., "Every record cover, every advertisement is going to be associated with the Jefferson Airplane and we have a right to the final say" is the group's position on the matter. They also want the record company to guarantee that a definite amount of money will be spent for promoting each album and single - said money to be turned over to the Airplane and its public relations firm to be used as they think most effective. RCA, it hardly need be said, is not rushing forward with wheelbarrows full of greenback dollar bills to meet this demand, but insists that the records are its products to be sold as it sees fit.
As for the actual recording, the Airplane musicians, especially Jorma Kaukonen, are notoriously unhappy with the RCA Los Angeles studios. They want to be able to name their own engineers and production people, choose their own studios to record in - in San Francisco, if they like, which, according to Thompson, RCA now forbids - and even start their own studios.
In essence, the Airplane wants to present the label with the finished tapes for a record and say, "Here." Thompson says that several members of the group refuse to set foot in a studio until these conditions are met. The group's contract is in fact being renegotiated following the departure of Graham, but if RCA gives away promotion money or allows the total control the Airplane wants, it will be a first in the history of the relationships between recording companies and artists.
A rock group going into business for itself may not be as simple as it seems. However, on the local scene, Ron Polte and the Quicksilver Messenger Service have just finished presenting a series of shows at the New Committee Theater in North Beach that featured performers as diverse as Charles Lloyd and the Ace of Cups, an all-lady rock band. The Grateful Dead/Country Joe and the Fish St. Valentine's Dance at the Carousel Ballroom on Market Street (which will be broadcast live by KMPX-FM just like Symphony Sid used to broadcast live from Birdland twenty years ago - "that was in another city") was immensely successful, as was the dance they held a month earlier at the same location.
While the Dead have no use for the "rock Establishment" here - such Establishment as it may be - and say, "The promoters have just been putting out pap. That's why we haven't played the (Avalon and Fillmore) ballrooms in the last 8 months," the Airplane thinks it will appear at the Fillmore again, perhaps soon, and Bill Graham, playing to the hilt the amicable ex-husband of his own metaphor, agrees. "Unless," he adds, "they become too big - like the Beatles." 
And the Beatles, it will be remembered, formed their own cooperative business agency, Apple Ltd., soon after the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, and so started, like so many other things, all this.

(from Rolling Stone, 9 March 1968)

See also: (from the same issue) and (some Rohan/Scully publicity for the Great Northwest Tour) (Airplane interview excerpts)

Mar 30, 2015

July 1971: Joe Smith Interview


RS: You signed the Grateful Dead. What's the history of that?
SMITH: At the time I was in any number of jobs. I think I was a singles A&R man, national promotion man. I came up and saw the Grateful Dead one night at an unforgettable evening at the Avalon. I'd never seen anything like that, never seen a light show, people sitting around on the floor and immediately...
RS: Who took you by to see the Dead?
SMITH: Tom Donahue arranged it. I was having dinner with somebody at Ernie's in San Francisco, and I was wearing my blue Bank of America suit. My wife looks pretty nice in her basic black with pearls. Tom told me, "No one will notice over at the Avalon." When I got there I realized it was so - I looked like I was in costume, I guess, like everybody else. Heard the Dead, was really excited, because they were a rock and roll band like those I remembered in my years as a disc jockey, the period that everybody turns to now, Chuck Berry and Fats and Richard, those are the years, I was there when they brought around Elvis Presley and tried to explain that name to me. The Grateful Dead to me was that kind of band, one of the real rock and roll bands, and I loved it.
RS: When was this?
SMITH: It was 1966 - early '66. That night, that was my first meeting with Danny Rifkin and Rock Scully, who were the first of many management teams that have been with the Dead, and I met Jerry and Bob and Phil... After that, I didn't see very much of the band because it was Danny and Rock that I would see, and they were telling me what they could do in San Francisco alone with their records. The band was not known outside San Francisco; they had not played anywhere else.
RS: What did you think of Rock and Danny when you first met - this was your first sort of contact with the new culture?
SMITH: Yeah, it was really my first. I can't tell you what I owe the Grateful Dead personally - professionally and personally - I never tell them what I owe them - and I've said it before: I grew up a lot with them, I grew up learning there was another way to live, there was another way to make records, there was another way to sell records, there was another kind of music, and my real first exposure, after my proper, middle class background in Boston. It was rather a jolt, but never unpleasant - difficult sometimes because Rock and Danny and the guys really were different than anything I'd ever known, and I spent time at the house on Ashbury Street and we discussed producers and so on...they came down and they made their first album, and I never really had that much to do for the band themselves. They were, I think, highly suspicious of me.
RS: You told me once that Rock and Danny always - on negotiating sessions - would say, "You got to come take some LSD with us."
SMITH: They always felt that I should turn on to acid and they always told Tom Donahue that they were gonna get me, in the best way possible. I don't think there was any animosity about them getting me, but they felt I should really turn on with them, and I didn't see the necessity for it myself. I dug their music. Maybe I would've dug it more with acid. I never did do it, anyhow. I don't know if that colored the relationship or not, I think that's incidental.
It was extremely difficult because they made their judgments based on emotion without any sense of pragmatism. There was very little reality and much fantasy involved with the Dead during that period. I kinda get a little disturbed and so does Jerry Garcia at the point an interviewer starts, "How are you getting along with your record company?" They got along pretty fine with their record company; really, there was no trouble until after we did that first album, which was not a good album. Then there was a beef and we recorded all over the United States and mixed and mastered all over the United States, and put out an album that was...and then junked it all and started again.
RS: At a cost of what?
SMITH: At that point around $50-60,000. And then we finally got an album which was again not a good was always my own feeling - I'm not an A&R man and I don't involve myself creatively, certainly with guys like the Dead who are so musical and know what they're doing - but I always felt that they squeezed all the vitality out of those performances by involving themselves with mixing and trying to fill up 16 tracks or 24 tracks or whatever, rather than playing their music and letting people hear it.
So then we got into the next album, and that was really a flash point, because by this time you must understand there had come Ron Racow into the picture, Danny Rifkin had moved out, and then Lenny Hart was involved, and before Lenny Hart, Bill Graham and Brian Rohan were in and out of the picture in management; so that seeing all these managers come about, and the boys themselves getting so screwed up with their own finances and always this SOS call to the record company, "The instruments are gonna be repossessed, we need tax money, we gotta have money," and so forth. We came through with the money every time because I really believed in this group. And then they proceeded to make an album everywhere in the United States of America. And then came the historic day that Brian Rohan and Bill Graham came to my office - they were managing the group at the time, that was before Lenny Hart - and we had spent over $93,000 and did not have an album yet.
I had just received a bill for $22,000 or more from a recording studio here. I really blew at that point and offered to sell them back their tapes and let them go anywhere they wanted to. Let's get out. And Bill Graham - it was the first dealing I had with Bill Graham in business - said, "What will satisfy you to pay this $22,000 bill at the studio?" I said I got to have - 'cause that's now about $120,000 and we're not through yet - I've got to have three albums out of all these tapes. My God, they had 20 miles of tape! They had recorded live, studio, everywhere!
I said if I can get the tapes for three finished LPs, it'll cost me $50,000 apiece but at least I have a chance, and I don't have a chance with one album to earn back $120,000. He went and talked to the boys, he talked to the band, and they did it, by god they did it, they gave me Live Dead, and they gave me one just before that too. Anthem of the Sun, Aoxomoxoa.
From the point of Live Dead we really took off because that was somewhat indicative of the kind of music they played and it was by far the most successful album. Then Lenny Hart got on the scene, Mickey's dad, and he represented the group. Now in the interim you've got to understand all the things that went down: we had kept our plan that the boys - Danny, Rock, Ron, the band - were doing to do a promotion tour with an album, it was gonna cost us $35,000, they were gonna do free concerts across the United States, they were gonna map out the cities, we were gonna provide the funds, the promotional help and so forth, loud speaker systems in parks, all set up, I had allocated that money, I had bought my company on it, I had taken $35,000 on it, and then they never did it. It all fell apart.
Then subsequently with the next album, the plan was the band, the family, everybody involved with the family was going out to promote this themselves. I think there were 12 people supposed to leave. The first day eight did not show. We were waiting at the plane, promotion people were waiting, and that kinda petered out and fizzled. Well, then there was the difficulty with Lenny Hart in which there is some claim that some money disappeared. And in the interim we had to face the decision whether to re-sign the Dead or not re-sign the Dead.
RS: What did the balance sheet on the Dead look like?
SMITH: The Dead - we had made money on the Dead, we had in fact come out, not very much, not very much, the Dead themselves were in a terrible hole, because of recording costs, and those indulgences over a period of time, they were in a negative position. We had not lost money because the Live Dead bailed it all out, the Live Dead was the last album in that first contract.
I had lived through these three years through these changes, I had watched what had happened with this band, I had seen a new certain maturity about their careers, about their lives and things they wanted out of life and about their music - which was always mature, it seemed to me - I'd seen that happen and I knew the Dead may never ever be super sellers, but they represent something in this rock music world and they have from me respect, really that...they have stayed together under circumstances that some of these other groups would have pulled the plug and run for the hills immediately. Always up tight for money, and even now we're in a hassle about renegotiating. They're with us for two more years, but last year we had to re-sign or not re-sign and come up with a good deal of money, and I forced that contract through.
I was not at that point one of the two principals of the company, I still worked for somebody, and I got a great deal of static about re-signing them, 'cause the deal was stiff, I gave them a fair deal, but I knew that our record company, if we do represent something in today's music, could not afford to let the Grateful Dead go, they are too much a part of the...and too much a fact of it, regardless of whether they meant a lot of profit for our company or a minor profit, they're too important for us to let them go somewhere else.
RS: You say you broke even on the Dead. What is the financial structure of making a record?
SMITH: I figure, a record company signs a new group, that they're on the hook $50,000 for openers. The group usually needs some money, you give them $20,000 advance or $25,000, whatever they need for equipment, to live, to get it together, to pay old bills, to be able to allow themselves the luxury of rehearsing without pressures on them and playing gigs...anywhere, new bands you can pay anywhere up to $50,000 if their reputation is sound. And then you've got to make records with them, and nobody makes records for less than $25-30,000. An album by the time you're into it, you've got a cover, you've mastered and mixed it, it's very difficult to count on doing it for less. Occasionally you can but...
RS: A modern five, six piece band...
SMITH: The studio time is so expensive, 16-track, over $100 an hour for the time in the studio, and then you must promote them, you must do some kind of job in presenting them, properly merchandising them and offering them to the public. If you're going to sign a new act, you're in $50,000, and consider that low.
RS: Let's say the retail price of a record is...
SMITH: The listed retail price is $4.98 for a record. We sell it to our distributors - that's the only part we're involved in - the landed price comes down when it's all over to about $2.10 an album. That's what we get, what we sell it to distributors for.
He then sells it to his retail stores, his racks for $2.47, $2.74, the different price structures, whatever the market takes.
[ . . . ]
RS: How much do the royalties account for?
SMITH: Well, the way it breaks down - it's kind of a complicated system. We base the royalties on a retail price, the $4.98 minus what is called a "packaging deduction" in the record business, for the raw record, the pressing of it and the cover, so we pay a royalty percentage on the basis of $4.44.
RS: $4.98 less what is actually costs to manufacture?
SMITH: 50 cents is more than it costs. It doesn't cost 50 cents to manufacture, it costs maybe 30 to 38 cents, but then again $4.98 is not a realistic price...but there had to be some kind of ground rules. I had hoped that we would all get together and make some more realistic appraisal of what royalties we pay...each percentage from our company is 4.4 cents, so if you have a 5 percent royalty deal, you'd be getting about 22 cents per record as an artist. For publishing royalties, you usually pay anywhere from 18 to 24 cents a record, an album, usually 2 cents a selection. That's got to change now too, because you're getting 8 minute selections instead of 12, 6 on a side, so that you're really cheating somebody to pay them 2 cents for an 8 minute selection and 2 cents for a 3. So we are paying royalties, and then we have to pay the manufacturer of the record, and we have to pay American Federation of Musicians 1 1/2 percent. They get 6.6 cents for every record produced in the country . . . On top of that we have to amortize all of our costs. That's not bullshit, we really have to do that, and our profit margin, the profit margin on a record, depending on royalties, is anywhere from 75 cents to $1.00. Well, you don't make profit until such point that you cover that money you put up in the first place.
RS: If you gave an act $25,000 in advance and $25,000 to record the album, how many albums do you have to sell before you start making money?
SMITH: We start making money after we've sold 75-80,000 albums. That gets us off the hook because we're recovering - at 75-80,000 albums we've made, at 75 or 80 cents an album, we've made our $50 or $60,000. Now we're off the hook, but promotional costs are not recoverable, they are out of pocket expenses, the tour, ads in Rolling Stone and Billboard are non-recoverable, non-chargeable, they are the cost of doing business. You would have to sell on an act about 75,000 albums to be even. That's pretty staggering.
RS: And that pays the group back all their advance money?
SMITH: No, the group does not have their advance money back because they are recovering it at a much lesser rate than we are. You see, they are only recovering at 5 or 7 or 8 percent, but they are also recovering in terms of publishing, so a normal act is making no less than 5 percent. Figure they are making 7 percent, which is about 30 cents, 50 cents an album - at 100,000 albums they've paid back all their advance and their recording costs, and from then on they're earning, they're ahead of the game. They're making it at that point.
It used to be, in the old days, making record albums in four days, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, that you didn't charge the artist studio time because the studio time was four days, and now studio time is so prohibitive and you're subject to such indulgences of artists, in addition to those who sincerely need all that time, that the record company would have to be able to recover that or we couldn't exist. When I say at 75,000 you get even, you know how few albums sell 75,000 - 10-15 percent of the albums. 
[ . . . ]
RS: The standard royalty these days with a rock group starts somewhere around 7 percent.
SMITH: 5-7 percent and they go up to 10 percent. You see, you have to pay a producer who shares a couple of percent too, depending on who the producer is. Those are standard deals. And artists now are asking less for advances than for good royalties. I think the tolerable limit for any new act is around 10 percent. If you're dealing with the renewal of a contract like for Simon & Garfunkel at this point you may be talking 12 or 13 percent, but what does that matter? You're taking a little bit less profit but there's no risk any more. 
[ . . . ]
We're going to have to protect those artists we have in terms of their own investments and future because they are going to drop out by the wayside, they are not going to be as popular. I told Jerry Garcia that he and Delaney Bramlett had worked on every album last year except The Humpbacked Whale.
RS: Do you see a process whereby the talents of an artist are just mined beyond where they can go?
SMITH: It's possible that Delaney and Bonnie spread themselves out over so many projects - God, producing records for people, playing on dates, making their own albums, getting together a road show, playing at benefits, popping up on other people's concerts to play - they became the yentas of the rock world, they were everywhere. Maybe they just didn't take care of enough business to make something for themselves.
[ . . . ]
RS: One can see how the record business has changed with the Grateful Dead coming along, with this sophisticated rock and roll audience. That accounts for sales of the Grateful Dead or the Rolling Stones, say, between 300-600,000, and that's been dominant for the last three years, but now it seems to be slipping. Sales seem to have peaked, unless you can get an AM hit. . . .
SMITH: Yes and no. [ . . . ] That sophisticated audience - we have another artist who's in that bag of the Dead, that I wish would explode more, he's even had AM hits; I'm talking about Van Morrison, a particular favorite of this paper.
RS: What are his sales?
SMITH: Van's in the 250,000 class, 275-300,000 at best. This album is around 280,000, something like that, it continues to sell but there have been two major hit records from it, two AM single records. We're still searching around, that's a big problem.
RS: Would you say it comes down to the fact that he is without sex appeal?
SMITH: It could be. Van doesn't throw off star quality, he's a silent, very private little guy who is an absolute musical masterpiece. I think the sheer weight of his brilliance as a writer - I don't use that word loosely - I'm talking to so many major artists who are looking for Van's songs, and looking to his next album to find things. I think he has an influence, that will do it, he'll go in the back door. He himself will not a star. What he'll represent will be a star, the fact that he is a silent, brooding genius, sitting there throwing off great hits and making great music. He'll explode, he'll explode before the Dead will explode, unless the Dead catch a single record.
But this super-sophisticate audience is growing in numbers, I think it is growing in numbers, I think they will continue to be a very important influence. . . .

(by Jann Wenner, from Rolling Stone, 8 July 1971)

Mar 27, 2015

April 1967: Album Review


Warner Bros. 
This album is different from what you might expect from looking at the psychedelic record jacket.
There are no electronic or weird noises (except for the conventional electric guitars) and no psychedelic lyrics. Rather, the group is similar in many ways to the blues-oriented Animals and Rolling Stones.
The Grateful Dead consists of Jerry Garcia, lead guitar; Bob Weir, rhythm guitar; Phil Lesh, bass; Bill Sommers, drums; and Ron ("Pig Pen") McKernan, organ and harmonica.
The lyrics of the songs have been accurately described by Lesh and Garcia, who do most of the writing, as "nonsensical and banal."
However, it is difficult to ascertain this from the record, as the instruments drown out the voices most of the time. The songs are for the most part rock-blues. There is only one slow song, "Morning Dew."
One mostly instrumental tune, "Viola Lee Blues," lasts ten minutes, in which the tempo gradually speeds up, the music slowly gets louder, and the pitch gets higher and higher, until a climax is reached and the beginning tempo is returned to.
"Cream Puff War" will probably become a hit. It is catchy, and the rhythm changes from 4/4 to 3/4 and to 1 several times, similar to the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" time changes.
Besides the instrumental work being better than average, especially the organ, there is really nothing special about this album. The Grateful Dead are supposed to be one of the best groups in the San Francisco area. According to several reviewers and hippies, they are supposed to be fantastic in person.
To let the San Francisco sound go unspoiled, Warner Bros. gave the Grateful Dead a unique deal, allowing them complete control over material and production. It isn't that great.

(by Jackie Harper, from the "Record Reviews" column, Daily Aztec, 11 April 1967) (page 5)

Mar 25, 2015

July 2, 1971: Fillmore West, San Francisco


Fillmore West finally closed last night, but the San Francisco Sound - that mystical product which includes geography, chronology, and life-style as well as music - had its Fillmore closing on Friday and Saturday nights when the Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Yogi Phlegm (the original Sons of Champlin) played their final sets for Bill Graham at the venerable Market and Van Ness ballroom.
Only Jefferson Airplane was missing (Marty Balin has left the group he founded and Grace Slick has been bedeviled by minor ailments of late) but the musical guts of the band - lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and the surpassing bassist Jack Casady - were present as the leaders of Hot Tuna.
The Dead played Friday and, needless to say, dominated the evening. The house had been sold out for a week and people started lining up seven hours before the doors were opened...not for tickets but to assure a close proximity to their beloveds.
The Rowan Brothers opened the program, augmented by the ubiquitous Jerry Garcia (Garcia was to play guitar and pedal steel guitar from 8:30 p.m. to nearly 3 a.m. with only three breaks along the way). The New Riders - with Garcia on pedal steel, Bill Kreutzman on drums, and Marmaduke offering up some gentle vocals for your dancing and listening pleasure - followed with silky smooth country rock and their large contingent of admiring howlers in full disarray, shouting and hooting, an embarrassment of wretches, love and affection and dope measured by decibels and stripped throats.

Then at 11:15 p.m., Bill Graham took the microphone, as he is wont to do. "After all the (bleep) that's gone down over the years," he intoned, "I'm very grateful to them and consider them friends...The Grateful Dead."
The crowd erupted, the Dead's psychedelic amplifiers began spitting, one of the Heavy Water light shows girls started moving in a Westernized version of Tai Chi Chuen, a mini-flame thrower behind the musicians split the darkness. Garcia, now on conventional electric guitar, embraced the room with a molten solo and the band - the group that many think is the world's greatest rock and roll band - began a three-hour set interrupted only by one intermission.
They did "Me and Bobby McGee" and a smashing "Good Lovin'," did not do "Midnight Hour" or "Dancing in the Streets," and generally played with a mutual rapport, inventiveness, and musicianship attained by few groups in the short history of rock
And one more thing...they played with pleasure and joy and made the audience feel good. There aren't very many major groups that have that effect anymore; there aren't that many groups left that want to play music quite so much.

Saturday opened with a good set by Yogi Phlehm ("Who picked your name?" "We got it from a horoscope.") and closed with Dino Valenti's agonized vocals and guitar leading a Quicksilver which, without John Cippolina, isn't really the original Quicksilver.
But the evening, for me, belonged to Hot Tuna, which had graciously consented to take second billing to Quicksilver.
Kaukonen, Casady, Papa John Creach (the nonpareil fiddler), and drummer Sammy Piazza played a two-hour set which ranged from the pure, tingling blues of "Rock Me Baby" to the old folkie "Know You Rider" to the hoe-down of "Never Happen No More" to the wildly exciting "Three Weeks on the Road," a tune on the upcoming new Airplane album which evolved from the written song to a 15-minute jam session among Kaukonen, Casady, and Papa John.
The Tuna vibes were similar to the Dead's...bodies in the crowd bobbing as if each were undergoing individual and personalized earthquakes, a phenomenal blonde dancer named Renea on stage - a fifth member of the group - the smiles and joy, the carillon bells sound of Jorma, the soaring violin of Papa John, and the earth-rending bass of the unflappable Casady, a separate amplifier-speaker system for each string: notes as powerful and assertive as their author is quiet and slim.
It was our music at its very best...

(by John Wasserman, from the "On the Town" column, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 July 1971)

* * *


"This is going to be the greatest motherbleeper evening of our lives," Bill Graham delicately announced Sunday night at Fillmore West, and in many ways it was.
The crowd - which had stretched four and five deep down Market to South Van Ness, and then nearly to Mission Street by 7 p.m. - was suffused in an extraordinary eight-hour orgy of rock, nostalgia, sentiment, balloons, beer, champagne, and a gathering of musicians rarely equalled at one time in one place. They were joined by tens of thousands of homes which picked up the live broadcast on KSAN and KSFX.
Creedence Clearwater Revival (making its first public appearance since 1970), Santana, Tower of Power, and jam session participants Michael Bloomfield, John Cipollina, Sam Andrew, Van Morrison, Jack Casady, George Hunter, Luis Gasca, Lydia Pense, Linda Tillery, and Sammy Piazza - among others - provided the music, Graham provided the potables, and the ghost of nearly six years of the best rock and roll music in the world took care of everything else.

It is neither inaccurate nor maudlin to say that there will never be another night quite like it. It was a magnificent wake - in the old Irish sense of joy-sadness - for Bill Graham, for San Francisco, and for rock. All will continue, of course, but the whole will no longer be greater than the sum of its parts.
The ballrooms - which combined the informal intimacy of small clubs with the financial advantages of the big auditoriums - are dead. In one month of the summer of 1967, the old Fillmore Auditorium (which was smaller than Fillmore West) booked 18 bands, including Cream, the Doors, the Yardbirds, Chuck Berry, the Rascals, Muddy Waters, the Electric Flag, and Count Basie. That will never happen again.

The evening opened with a cooking hour and a half set by Tower of Power, the East Bay blasters, and the other bands spent the rest of the evening trying to equal - much less surpass - the 10-piece band's drive and energy. By and large, they succeeded.
Shortly after 11, Graham's jealously guarded surprise - the world premiere of Creedence as a trio, minus Tom Fogerty - was revealed to the 2000 ecstatic listeners. Totally professional as always, lead singer and guitarist John Fogerty (attired, incidentally, in an electruc turquoise '50s rock 'n' roll star cowboy suit and boots), bassist Stu Cook, and drummer Doug Clifford rocked happily through 14 numbers in an hour or so - opening with "Born on a Bayou," closing with "Keep On Choogling," and playing the new single, "Door to Door," "Sweet Hitchhiker," and a half-dozen million-selling singles in between.
The most touching part of the evening followed Creedence's set - first when Allen Ginsberg showed up, shades of the first Fillmore concert in November, 1965, now short of hair and bereft of beard, and produced an "ohm" chant for a minute or so; then when Graham paid tribute to his staff...taking care to repeat several times that "these are the people who made Fillmore what it is" and, wryly, that "sometimes I am not a particularly easy person to work for." He brought them all on stage - cops, cloakroom girls, short-order cooks, stage managers, house manager Gary Jackson, girl Friday Vicky Cunningham, accepted their earnest compliments with glowing discomfort, and introduced his wife Bonnie and their son David, a blue-eyed blond who is, Graham said with the timeless optimism of a proud daddy, "almost 3."

At five minutes to one, Santana arrived. Now featuring teenage-prodigy guitarist Neil Schon and Latin percussionist Coke Escovedo in addition to the regular sextet, Santana ploughed into the likes of "Black Magic Woman," "Oye Como Va," and "Soul Sacrifice," and spent their 90 minutes seething like an ant hill receiving electric shock treatments.
At 2:45 a.m., Schon was replaced by Bloomfield, a few minutes later Carlos Santana was replaced by Cipollina, a few minutes after that the Tower of Power horn section appeared, and the jam was on. My last indelible memory is Miss Tillery rendering "Angel Baby" at 4:12 a.m. and the music stopped completely at 4:25. It was over and the crowd - almost intact from 8 p.m. - moved reluctantly for the exit. The last champagne bottles were emptied, Graham quit banging on his beloved cowbell, Fillmore West ceased to exist.

(by John Wasserman, from the San Francisco Chronicle, 7 July 1971)

* * *


"We've had some good times here," Bill Graham said matter-of-factly on Sunday night at the Fillmore West wake. So we have. A few memories, both old and new:
Back at the old Fillmore Auditorium when the Black Panthers took over for a couple of benefits and one gun-toting bodyguard informed Graham that he could not go upstairs because "nobody goes upstairs." Bill looked at the man. "You do not seem to understand the situation," he said evenly. "This is MY place." He went upstairs.
The surprises...Ray Charles joining Aretha Franklin for a smashing "Spirit in the Dark" only weeks ago...Creedence Clearwater Revival appearing from nowhere on Sunday, taking second billing to Santana and not even worrying about it...and, going back to 1967, Joan Baez and Mimi Farina joining Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead for 30 minutes of "Midnight Hour" singing and dancing, then, by themselves, doing "Little Boy Blue" and turning the scruffy ballroom into a cathedral.
The early experiments in creative booking - Soviet poet Andrew Voznesensky, "The Beard," Manitas de Plata (the second-rate but showy flamenco guitarist), Charles Lloyd and avant-garde jazz, Count Basie replying with the tried-and-true, Monga Santamaria promoting Afro-Cuban (musically, if not politically), Jimmy Reed, B.B. King, and Otis Redding before anyone knew he was immortal, the earliest (and greatest) light shows (Tony Martin, Bill Hamm, and the Glen McKay-Jerry Abrams Head Lights), and the all night New Year's Eve parties, with the Airplane, the Dead, and Quicksilver for the soul, breakfast for the body, and Jim Haynie and Willie B. Hart in diapers for the spirit.

Those were the days when Graham managed to get, on occasion, something like 3000 people into the Fillmore Auditorium (cap. 989). "I'd say we had, at the most, about 1200," he says now with a perfectly straight face. "They INSISTED on coming in." Especially on New Year's Eve, you could stand in the light booth and see nothing but the tops of heads. Not bodies; not even necks...
The roses and special preparations for Martha and the Vandellas ("Come here, white boy," she crooned to Graham, extending her arms), the Mynah bird door-prize at the Batman festival (April, 1966) which went deaf from the music and was later cooked by the happy winner. The Who and Cream redefining the word excitement.
And other relics...the basketball games, starring the Fillmore Fingers, where Bill played only dirty enough to win, and the apples and Wes Wilson's historic posters, and Graham's dramatic little introductions - "Four gentlemen and one GREAT broad...Big Brother and the Holding Company," or "If you're going to fly, fly first class...Jefferson Airplane."

And the final weekend - the forged tickets (unsuccessful) and the shakedowns (all liquids attempt to comply with Chief Nelder's unworkable "crackdown"). The humor and simple pleasure in the playing of Creedence, Hot Tuna, and the New Riders of the Purple Sage - commodities in short supply among rock groups - the plentiful obscenities which went out over the air during the live broadcast on KSFX and KSAN, and the discreet but definitive filming by Medion films...
Spencer Dryden drumming away with the New Riders, weary of being listed as Bill Kreutzman, who he isn't; the phenomenal dancer Renee, who can touch her left hand to her right foot over her head, like pincers (try it sometime if you wish to use up accumulated sick leave); the unseeing, beatific, slack-jawed, ecstatic, smiling, awed, earnest, and tired faces staring up at the musicians from the front row. And the heat.
The girl who went topless Sunday night revealing a gold cross around her neck and a superstructure that Graham muttered was not really up to Fillmore standards; the dozens who stood outside all night, Friday through Sunday, unable to hear anything, but at least they were THERE...
The gold-spangled fabric drooping wearily from the ceiling, the bespectacled girl from the Heavy Water show, mixing oils like a mad chemist; Graham receiving a standing ovation Sunday night and playing with his son David ("About three and a half years ago," he said wryly, "I had a night off") - looking not at all like a capitalist-pig-mother-bleeper-rip-off-artist.
And John Fogerty's flowery eloquence in greeting the audience - "Long time no see." And, finally, the girl who freaked, wanting to dance on the stage with Creedence. Virtually hysterical, she was forceably removed by stagehands. Moments later she reappeared and was grabbed, as gently as possible under the circumstances, and shoved to the side. Suddenly Graham appeared, shouted the men off, and took the flailing girl in his arms. "I know her," he said, "she'll be ok." And he led her, now quiet, gently away.

(by John Wasserman, from the San Francisco Chronicle, 9 July 1971)

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Mar 24, 2015

November 17, 1971: Albuquerque Civic Auditorium, NM


Country music came to New Mexico, and the natives loved it.
That statement, while an accurate comment on Wednesday night's Grateful Dead/New Riders of the Purple Sage concert, is a contradiction on several levels. Of course, New Mexico has been country music territory for decades; once you set foot outside Albuquerque, it's Cowboy Country. But country and western music has never been much more popular with the "urbane" youth of Albuquerque than with those of Jersey City, Cleveland, or Seattle. Especially not since the Beatles opened up everyone's consciousness to rock.
But the best of the rock artists, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, have always recognized the validity of country tunes and lyrics (remember "Act Naturally" and "What Goes On," "Honky Tonk Women" and "Love In Vain"?), though they usually disguised them behind rock fixtures. Now, however, groups like the Grateful Dead, and especially the New Riders, throw in steel guitars, riffs straight from the Grand Ol' Opry stage, and songs by Merle Haggard - C&W has become respectable in the rock world.
But is what they played Wednesday really country music? I would say yes, while admitting the point is debatable. But why debate it? Just admit it's about as countryfied as rock is going to get, and that the capacity crowd at the Civic Auditorium went wild over it.
The New Riders were great and well-received, but it was the Grateful Dead who made the evening what it was. While the New Riders stuck to their country habits, the Dead threw in more of their "harder" stuff, even a bit of the old "psychedelic jam." They got it on at times - really got it on - but only in brief spurts. That was okay with me. Their first number was around 6:30 p.m., the last one around 12:15 a.m.; five and a half hours of the Dead's getting-it-on would have been exhausting, but as it was I left feeling very refreshed and content, renewed rather than drained.
The Dead are such masters of the rock idiom. They had perfect control the entire time. They would often take what seemed like an interminable time to build up even a small well of tension, mostly just gliding along smoothly until suddenly the bottom dropped out of the world and they started to really wail, evoking a spontanteous, delirious, united manic reaction from the crowd. I've never seen anything quite like it here.
The mood of the concert, however, was one of mellowness, largely generated by the music, but helped along by the smoothness of the event as a whole. There was no trouble at all, inside or out. Good. Let's keep it mellow. We need many more concerts like this great one.

(by Charles Andrews, from Lobo, 19 November 1971)

* * *

(The same writer wrote a followup review in the "Spare Change" Arts & Media column a few days later.)

Two great concerts in one week - I enjoyed Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic only slightly less than I did the Grateful Dead and the New Riders.
Sometimes when you "wrestle with the Muse," you lose. I think that happened with my review of the Grateful Dead concert. I meant to rave about it, but it came out sounding "noncommittal," as one person put it. I have to agree, and apologize for not doing it justice.
The concert so wiped me out, I had trouble coming down the next day - not that I wanted to. I'm convinced now that everything I've heard or read about Grateful Dead concerts is no exaggeration. I doubt if we got a full dose of the best they can do, but it was enough to make me a "True Believer." Jerry Garcia once said, "I've been into music so long I'm dripping with it"; I think that's true of the group as a whole. They've been together about eight years now, and it shows. They became well-known with the emergence of the San Francisco sound of the mid-'60s, then faded somewhat (except for their small band of long-loyal fanatics), now are justly taking their place as one of the best bands in the country. May they stay together and play forever.
I can understand now why people think of long concerts when they think of Grateful Dead concerts; their music is the kind you could literally listen to all night. When Crystal Leif promoters were negotiating with the band, they initially insisted on playing for at least five and a half hours, later gave in when convinced the city was serious about its midnight curfew for Civic Auditorium events. But they wound up doing a show about that long anyway - the Dead did a few numbers, starting off with Merle Haggard's and the New Riders' "Mama Tried," beginning about 6:30 "to test the equipment," and didn't finish till a quarter past midnight. The concert's starting time was moved up from the usual 8 7:30, then to 7, and still the Dead had to get out there and start playing earlier than that. It's a welcome switch from the groups who have to be coaxed to do more than 40 minutes. (Anyone remember Creedence Clearwater?...listen quick.)
The broadcast of the concert over KRST may have had something to do with the peace that was kept, for a change. At least no rock-throwing punk could use the excuse that "they're keeping The People from their music." (Another advantage was that there are now some good tapes of the concert around; and you might even see a bootleg album appear.) Too bad, though, that the Nov. 17 concert couldn't have sold out sooner - the Dead had an open date the next day, and would've done another show if there had been the demand. Instead they took a trip to Taos.
Crystal Leif arranged to have a voter registration table set up at the Civic that night (as has been the practice lately at many Dead concerts), and they did a pretty good business, I understand.
One last comment: that fantastic piano player the Dead had sitting in for the ailing Pigpen was Keith Godcheaux, formerly with Dave Mason. (But nobody in town, including Crystal Leif, knew his name; I finally had to consult a recent issue of Rolling Stone.) . . .

[The rest of the article complains about latecomers and "rude applause" at the LA Philharmonic concert.]

(by Charles Andrews, from Lobo, 23 November 1971) 

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Mar 23, 2015

October 27, 1971: Onondoga War Memorial, Syracuse, NY


The Grateful Dead and the New Riders of the Purple Sage provided a most memorable evening of rock 'n roll and Country and Western music for 6,500 concertgoers last night at the War Memorial.
The New Riders, with Jerry Garcia of the Dead on pedal steel guitar, have long prefaced the Dead's live performances. Last night, with a combination of excellent Country and Western instrumentation and brilliant vocal harmonies, the New Riders were simply suberb.
In addition to their uptempo brand of Country and Western music, the New Riders exhibited a flare [sic] for rock 'n roll midway in their performance with an outstanding rendition of "Hello, Mary Lou," first popularized more than 10 years ago by Ricky Nelson.
Following a 20-minute intermission after the New Riders' one-and-a-half-hour set, the Grateful Dead took the stage, setting the scene for a fire marshal's nightmare.
There was no way the War Memorial's security staff and the two dozen or so Syracuse University volunteers (each wearing a T-shirt proclaiming he or she a "Space Ranger"), could prevent the concert hall's aisles from being carpeted with bodies.
Nearly everyone was on his (or somebody else's) feet, as the Dead played an intensely rhythmic set of some of the finest rock 'n roll heard today.
Garcia's lead guitar playing was highly tasteful and every bit as masterful as his pedal steel work. It was wonderful to see and hear him reach back into the '50s for, once in a while, a resounding "What'd I Say?" lick or the like.
Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir's vocals were very pleasant, and the backing he received from Phil Lesh on bass, Bill Kruetzmann on drums, and Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan on piano [sic] was outstanding.
The Dead proved an important thing. The sound and excitement they generate will never be captured satisfactorily on records.
Listening to the Dead and seeing them in concert are two completely different experiences. You'll never fully appreciate the band until you've seen it on stage.

(by John Wisniewski, from the Syracuse Post-Standard, 28 October 1971)

* * *


City police undercover agents and uniformed policemen last night at the War Memorial made 16 arrests, several on drug-related charges, during the Grateful Dead concert, police said.
One teen-ager was arrested while injecting heroin in a men's room, police said.
Another teen was arrested when he grabbed a quantity of what police said were narcotics, and threw the drugs into the crowd while a suspect escaped from custody. Police said they did not catch the suspect or find the narcotics.  . . .
[Omitted a partial list of those arrested, including ages, addresses, and drug-possession charges.]
Those arrested on drug-related charges were held overnight without bail at the Public Safety Building jail for arraignment today in Police Court.
The other nine arrests, police said, were on various charges, including three on criminal possession of stolen property counts.
Trained dogs were used outside the War Memorial in an attempt to prevent persons from "crashing the gate" by climbing through windows. The dogs have been used during other recent concerts.

(by Peter Volmes, from the Syracuse Post-Standard, 28 October 1971)

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Mar 22, 2015

April 10, 1971: Mayser Gym, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA


Ashok Sikand, president of the SUB [Student Union Board], has announced that the contract has been signed which will bring the Grateful Dead to F&M on April 10.
Ticket prices will be $4.50 for students and $5.50 general admission, and will be limited to two per student.
"The Dead, in their contract, have asked for a gross potential of $19,000," Sikand explained. "This means that if the concert sells out, we have to guarantee them $19,000."
To avoid the ticket shortages that occurred during the James Taylor concert, Sikand reported that the ticket outlets off-campus will not be receiving nearly as many tickets as they got for the December concert. "The concerts at F&M are put on for the benefit of the students first and the public second," Sikand emphasized.
The Dead have promised at least a 3 hour show. No other acts will appear that night. "A number of students have approached me with the idea of having the Grateful Dead here for a dance concert," Sikand reported. "We've looked into this situation but found that it is impossible." The Dead will hold a Dance Marathon, incidentally, at the Grand Ballroom, Manhattan Center, on April 4, 5, and 6.
Sikand went on to mention that "the rumors that were being spread around concert shortly before the Taylor concert were too much. We'd appreciate it if the students didn't pick up every piece of gossip that we predict will go around concerning the Dead."
Sikand is reasonably sure that the concert will be sold out, and the SUB is anticipating the problems associated with a sell-out performance. Several members of the Board are working with the security officers and considerable thought is being given to the setting up of procedures that would prevent a repeat of the situation that occurred at the Taylor concert.
"In all likelihood, we will be using only one entrance; the one closest to the parking lot. There also will not be staggered admittance, like there was at the December concert," he noted.
"One of the major problems we had at the James Taylor concert was that we couldn't open the doors on time, due to delays in the performers' sound test," Sikand related. "This produced the potentially dangerous situation that we experienced then." The SUB intends to prevent the occurrence of such a situation by opening the doors at the scheduled time regardless of whether or not the Dead have finished their sound tests.
The Dead performance will be the last concert that Sikand will handle before a new SUB president is chosen. Some of the possibilities which "look good" for the end of this semester include Procol Harum and Cat Stevens.
A short while ago, Sikand attended the National Entertainment Convention in Philadelphia. Representatives of the entire rock industry as well as other fields of entertainment were present. "One thing that I found out there, which has reaffirmed what I've felt during the time I've been president of the SUB, is that the problems of putting on rock shows are getting just overwhelming," Sikand explained. "Many schools have had to do away with rock concerts completely. Fortunately, we have not reached that stage here at F&M."
Even big schools seem to be getting priced out. "The only places that can handle top name rock shows are the big-name theatres that specialize in rock: the Fillmore, Spectrum, Capitol, etc.," he said.
The prices are rising for concerts simply because the kids are willing to pay more to see groups. "In this respect, I think that the rock groups today are exploiting the very kids who made them famous. They don't realize that if the kids ever get fed up with the whole scene, they'll be nowhere," Sikand emphasized.
"All the performers we've had - Taylor, Santana, Cocker - were groups which the SUB signed when they were on the way up. In less than a year, these performers have gotten completely out of our reach financially, The only way F&M will be able to get quality entertainment will be to sign new groups that are trying to make it."
[ . . . ]  [Two paragraphs omitted.]
"We're not running a Fillmore, Lancaster," Sikand advised. "But I've really enjoyed bringing these concerts here at a price that the kids can afford." After all, the business of getting rock groups is "a funky one."

(by Jimi Weiner, from the F&M College Reporter, 12 March 1971) 

* * * 


There definitely was something in the air, beginning about two [nights] before the Dead concert. I [can't] remember how many off-campus people to whom I gave directions to East Hall. And with each [ ] bunch, I was more sure that it was going to be a real special night.
Of course, I wasn't wrong. I don't think we've ever had as many people in the gym as we had on Saturday night. But it was [ ] - everyone knew that it was going to be a good crowd and everyone knew that the Dead were going to be here.
A lot of people contributed to [bring] everyone's head together [in a] nice way for the concert. The [ ]c, unfortunately, would've [been] better if the weather had [been] nicer, but everyone enjoyed [it] and afterwards, people were more eager than ever to see the [Dead].
[ ] Cutler, however, brought back a lot of bad memories and thoughts. Altamont...Meredith Hunter...the Stones...[now] he's a roady for the Dead.

The New Riders came on and [every]one was ready for them, with Garcia on pedal-steel guitar. Good country music. The voices were [not] what many people would call [fanta]stic, but oh, that pedal-steel!
The Dead came on, after a 90-minute show by the New Riders. [Every]one ran up to the stage, [want]ing to touch the music, wanting to be buried alive under Rhythm and Blues. Not cool; just sit [down] and don't try so hard. I was [in the] tenth row. After a while, I [got up] on my seat and jumped up [ ] times, hoping to see over the [ ]. I got back down and sighed [to my] friend, "Well, they're still [ ]." Just relax, and they can be [ ]od.
The Dead had just been back [ ] three days at the Grand Ballroom, Manhattan Center, where they had played for a Dance Marathon. They brought some of it back [ ] with "Good Lovin'" and "Midnight Hour."
Jerry Garcia didn't keep the pedal-steel with him when the Dead came on. Shame. I was hoping for "Dire Wolf" and "High Time." But I really wasn't disappointed for long. They came on with "Casey Jones," Phil Lesh pounding away on rhythm guitar, playing with a fury that was unbelievable. Garcia and Lesh working together, building each other, guiding the group. Good Old Grateful Dead!
Bill Kreutzman handled drums by himself, without his other half, Mickey Hart. During one bit, when Pigpen's mike blew, Kreutzman did a solo while the stagehands went to work on the mike. One of those little treats that can happen.
Did anyone watch Bob Weir? His fingers, light as air, flew over the strings of his bass. It was a beautiful thing to see, a beautiful thing to hear. There they were, Garcia, Weir, and Lesh, voices made to sing together; with McKernan and Kreutzman, a band that has to be together. Lesh, coming in on harmony on "I Gotta Move," Pigpen, brawling, splashing, like Canned Heat's Bob Hite, giving everyone the word: "Turn to your neighbor and say 'Howdy!'" Great.
The Dead ended with "Uncle John's Band," something I think everyone was waiting for. Garcia, on stage for five hours, still going strong - thin, trebly notes coming from his guitar, sounding terrific, looking great. They left, and behind them was a gym-full of people, wanting more, but satisfied anyway. What really remained was a group of kids who saw the magic of the Dead once more, and who won't forget it.

(by Jimi Weiner, from the F&M College Reporter, 13 April 1971)

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Mar 20, 2015

October 1971: Jerry Garcia Interview

This interview was broadcast on a Swedish radio program about Jerry Garcia on October 12, 1971. Most of the interviewer's questions were not included in the broadcast.

The DJ mentions the Keystone Korner.
GARCIA: Well, it’s a whole different pace; see, the whole thing about a little club is it’s just a different space, you know what I mean, it’s like you can be more… (pause) You can make mistakes, and nobody’s gonna care too much, you know what I mean; whereas like in a concert situation or something like that, it’s 10,000 people or something like that, it’s like way more pressure; and in a club it’s like just a mellow groove, you know, is the only way I can describe it, just smooth and easy and no big hassle or nothing, you know...
Right, right, well that’s what I do, I mean, you know, if I had the space to do it, I would be playing a club like this every night, all the time, you know; this is like the best way to keep – to play a lot, you know, to keep your chops together – and you know, it has its advantages, in some respects: like when you get out into playing big concerts, a lot of times you really don’t get to play that much, you know what I mean; and like with the Grateful Dead, it’s such a production, you know; like when the Grateful Dead play someplace, it’s a celebration, all kinds of people are there, it’s not the sort of thing you can do every night, you know what I mean; and you know, we couldn’t play like in a small club like this – now, assuming we were, we’d have to play anonymously or something like that... 

The DJ mentions Garcia recording with Crosby Stills Nash & Young. 
…that I played on, and also Bill played on, and John Kahn, a bay area bass player, real nice too. Some of the same guys played on Brewer & Shipley’s record too.
Q: Yeah, you’ve played on a lot of records; someone said that recently you’ve played on every record except Songs of the Humpback Whales.
GARCIA: [laughs] Well, I mean you know it’s like – the way I feel about it, it doesn’t matter that it’s me, you know what I mean – I don’t care if they put my name on the records or anything like that, I just like to play, and I would be doing that no matter what the situation was, you know what I mean – playing’s what I do.
Q: Are you sure you wouldn’t rather be in a castle in England with a stable and racehorses and all that -  
GARCIA: [laughs] No, it’s not my scene. It’s not my scene, I can’t even ride horses. Steven’s got all that.
Q: Do you do anything except playing music?
GARCIA: Well, quite frankly no; I play music and get high, that’s about all I do – eat, sleep – but music is my life, I mean, it’s what I do, you know. I love it, that’s the thing, I mean I’m strung out on it.
Q: Do you feel you have to practice a lot too?
GARCIA: Yeah, I should practice more than I do; unfortunately, like in the last few months I’ve sort of let my practicing slip, and my chops are hurting behind it; and so sometime within the next few weeks I might have to start, you know, really practicing hard again. Yeah, but here’s the thing man, is if you don’t practice, you know, you lose the ability to play; you have to keep practicing, otherwise you’re not able to execute stuff, at least I’m not – I get stiff real fast. It’s mechanics, you know, it’s like muscular exercise, it’s like if you go in and do weight-lifting every day and stuff like that, you know, and then don’t do it for a week and go and try to lift something, you end up with all kind of strained muscles and shit like that, you know, it’s like a physiological thing; so it’s like having muscle tone and having all your muscles developed for the purpose of playing music, and having all the connections from your mind to your fingers, you know – there’s a sort of a neural connection between your ears and your fingers in music by playing guitar, or something like that – it’s something you have to maintain, it’s like a tool, it’s like keeping it sharp.

The DJ mentions "flower power." 
GARCIA: Well, it’s just different now, it’s not that it’s worse, you know, because like in the – socially, like, the world that I live in has still got all the same people as back in ’66 and ’67, and everybody’s doing pretty much, you know, productive, pretty groovy things, and so the thing is that now that there isn’t any Haight-Ashbury, you know, and there isn’t anything that can be centrally focused on by the media or anybody else, but there still is, you know, that sort of community thing happening – that’s still happening and now it’s like much stronger and more together and more mature and more consistent than it used to be, and it also isn’t quite so, you know, so… (pause) It isn’t focusing so much attention on itself, you know what I mean?
Q: There’s more facilities around here, like studios and all that.
GARCIA: Right, right, and all that represents progress, you know what I mean?
Q: Do you have to leave the bay area to record?
GARCIA: Not anymore; we do all our recording around here.
Q: What about the new Grateful Dead album, is that a studio album?
GARCIA: No, it’s – well, no, it’s mostly a live album, there are some – we did a certain amount of overdubbing onto live tracks, but basically it’s a live album.

* * * 

This excerpt is from an earlier interview broadcast on another Swedish radio program about the "summer of love." The date is unknown. 

[Question about the acid tests.] 
GARCIA: They were sort of chaotic scenes, there was lots of light shows and lots of color, lots of sound, and we were like the featured band there. We played our music as well as we were able to, under the circumstances, but we learned to be able to play when things were chaotic, and in almost every kind of situation you could imagine: in terrible rooms, and huge auditoriums, and all sorts of places, we learned how to play together under extremely difficult circumstances; and we discovered that our music is dance music at these scenes as well; these were the first dances going on around the bay area.
Q: This was an underground movement, wasn’t it?
GARCIA: Completely, completely – at the time it was going on, there was no conventional publicity involved; there was no radio spots, there was no posters, there was only word of mouth. It was totally underground, completely.
Q: But nowadays you play at more conventional places like the Fillmore Auditorium.
GARCIA: Right – the Fillmore Auditorium is a conventional place now only by virtue of the fact that there were acid tests. The Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom both have their ideas, or liberalizations of the acid test ideas, and they have the same sort of atmosphere: they have light shows, they have music. They don’t have the confusion; they’re much more orderly. And they’re also very successful; people go knowing that it’s a more or less free, uninhibited atmosphere, and they feel that they can relax and move about and do whatever they want – sing and play tambourines and clap and roll around on the floor if they want – and that it’s perfectly okay with everybody there. We like playing in these situations because there is more of a chance to be able to get some communication from the people who are hearing the music, and the musicians. And also, the fact that we can look down from the stage and see people dancing – it’s a good thing to do, it makes it easier to play for some reason. You see an effect immediately; you know exactly what’s happening with your music – it’s going somewhere, it’s producing an effect, and you’re seeing the effect instantaneously; and in this way, you’re in present time – the people who are dancing and the musicians – there’s a sort of unity involved, because we’re all working together.

The interviewer in both cases is thought to be Lennart Wretland, a Swedish radio DJ who lived in the Bay Area at the time.

* * * 

For readers' benefit, here is a smoother edit of the 1971 broadcast interview that omits "like," "you know," "I mean," and sentence fragments.

GARCIA: Well, it’s a whole different pace; see, the whole thing about a little club is it’s just a different space. You can make mistakes, and nobody’s gonna care too much; whereas in a concert situation, 10,000 people or something like that, it’s way more pressure; and in a club it’s just a mellow groove, the only way I can describe it, just smooth and easy and no big hassle or nothing...
Right, well that’s what I do - if I had the space to do it, I would be playing a club like this every night, all the time. This is the best way – to play a lot, to keep your chops together – and it has its advantages, in some respects. When you get out into playing big concerts, a lot of times you really don’t get to play that much. And with the Grateful Dead, it’s such a production: when the Grateful Dead play someplace, it’s a celebration, all kinds of people are there, it’s not the sort of thing you can do every night. And we couldn’t play in a small club like this – assuming we were, we’d have to play anonymously or something like that... 

…that I played on, and also Bill played on, and John Kahn, a bay area bass player, real nice too. Some of the same guys played on Brewer & Shipley’s record too.
Q: Yeah, you’ve played on a lot of records; someone said that recently you’ve played on every record except Songs of the Humpback Whales.
GARCIA: [laughs] Well – the way I feel about it, it doesn’t matter that it’s me – I don’t care if they put my name on the records or anything like that, I just like to play, and I would be doing that no matter what the situation was. Playing’s what I do.
Q: Are you sure you wouldn’t rather be in a castle in England with a stable and racehorses and all that -   
GARCIA: [laughs] No, it’s not my scene. I can’t even ride horses. Steven [Stills]’s got all that.
Q: Do you do anything except playing music?
GARCIA: Well, quite frankly no; I play music and get high, that’s about all I do. Eat, sleep... But music is my life, it’s what I do. I love it, that’s the thing; I’m strung out on it.
Q: Do you feel you have to practice a lot too?
GARCIA: Yeah, I should practice more than I do; unfortunately, in the last few months I’ve sort of let my practicing slip, and my chops are hurting behind it; and so sometime within the next few weeks I might have to start really practicing hard again. Here’s the thing, man: if you don’t practice, you lose the ability to play; you have to keep practicing, otherwise you’re not able to execute stuff; at least I’m not – I get stiff real fast. It’s mechanics, it’s like muscular exercise; it’s like if you go in and do weight-lifting every day and stuff like that, and then don’t do it for a week and go and try to lift something, you end up with all kinds of strained muscles and shit like that; it’s like a physiological thing; it’s like having muscle tone and having all your muscles developed for the purpose of playing music, and having all the connections from your mind to your fingers. There’s a sort of a neural connection between your ears and your fingers in music by playing guitar, or something like that. It’s something you have to maintain, it’s like a tool, it's keeping it sharp.

GARCIA: Well, it’s just different now, it’s not that it’s worse. Socially, the world that I live in has still got all the same people as back in ’66 and ’67, and everybody’s doing pretty much productive, pretty groovy things, and so the thing is that now that there isn’t any Haight-Ashbury, and there isn’t anything that can be centrally focused on by the media or anybody else, but there still is that sort of community thing happening. That’s still happening and now it’s much stronger and more together and more mature and more consistent than it used to be; and it also isn’t focusing so much attention on itself.
Q: There’s more facilities around here, like studios and all that.
GARCIA: Right, and all that represents progress.
Q: Do you have to leave the bay area to record?
GARCIA: Not anymore; we do all our recording around here.
Q: What about the new Grateful Dead album, is that a studio album?
GARCIA: No, it’s mostly a live album; we did a certain amount of overdubbing onto live tracks, but basically it’s a live album.

Mar 19, 2015

June 24, 1968: The Dead in Court


Members of The Grateful Dead hard-rock band appeared for sentencing on marijuana charges yesterday - and quickly converted the occasion to a sort of corridor commercial for their latest record.
"It's beautiful. Wow, it's great," they assured newsmen, friends, followers, and the curious outside the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Harry J. Neubarth at the Hall of Justice.
The new record - "Anthem of the Sun" - will be released July 18, they said.

Rock Skully, the long-haired group's long-haired business manager, also disclosed that The Dead hope to take over the Carousel Ballroom on the Fourth of July.
The Dead hope to unite with other "heavy bands" such as The Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Steve Miller's Blues Band to form an "aesthetic, artistic operation...something different," Scully added.
After the commercial, the four appeared before Judge Neubarth and were sentenced on marijuana charges which arose from the police raid on their 13-room communal house at 710 Ashbury Street last October 2.

Scully, 26, and Robert (Knobs) Matthews, 19, The Dead's Audio engineer, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of maintaining a residence where marijuana was used, and were fined $200.
Ron (Pig Pen) McKernan, a Dead singer and organist, and guitarist Robert Weir, 20, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of being in a place where marijuana was used. They were fined $100.
All were also placed on probation for one year.
Three girls and two other men who were at The Dead's pad when it was busted, received similar sentences.

(from the San Francisco Chronicle, 25 June 1968)

Mar 10, 2015

May 11, 1969: Aztec Bowl, San Diego State University


Five prominent rock acts - booked by Hedgecock-Piering Ltd. of San Francisco and co-sponsored by the Cultural Arts Board - and a crowd of sun- and music-lovers that probably reached 10,000 at its peak did their assorted things Sunday in Aztec Bowl.
The scene was loose. As publicized beforehand, it turned out to be a giant picnic with rock accompaniment. The casual atmosphere allowed good communication between performers and audience - a very deep empathy, though several of the performers misused the opportunity and in effect cheapened the relationship.
At any rate, Hedgecock-Piering's obvious concern for the comfort of artist and audience alike is a welcome change from the policies of San Diego's leading rock entrepreneur, James C. Pagni.
Nevertheless, the Hedgecock-Piering approach has its own very serious defects. The practice of bringing several big-name groups together and letting them all use their own equipment makes for tediously long waits between performances. This wasn't as bad in the sun, though, as it had been during the Butterfield concert in Peterson Gym the night of March 8.
In addition to the music, the sponsors offered the wares and services of between 40 and 50 local artists and craftsmen. Beads, earrings, footwear, painting, engravings and pottery were sold in colorful booths. The flower people seemed to dig it, and the middle-class suburban freaks (resplendent in our bermudas and Gallenkamp sandals) managed to stay cool.

I must first voice my protest that Hedgecock-Piering did not release to the press the names of the musicians in Tarantula, the first group on the bill. The fact that it's a new group may have something to do with that.
It definitely has something to do with the unevenness, the alternating excellence and blandness of its performance. Tarantula's instrumental work was generally good and varied. (The lead singer plays tenor sax, flute and drums; the guitarist and organist sing; the bassist doubles on drums; and the regular drummer is solid.)
The organist is by far the best soloist; his lines were consistently fresh and inventive. The guitarist is only adequate, and the bassist is weak.
The tenorman can't seem to decide whether he wants the screaming abrasion Tim Cains uses with the Sons of Champlain, or the pinched, oboe-like tone John Coltrane got on soprano sax.
Vocally, Tarantula is derivative. The ternorman uses the soap-opera eroticism and forced erotic excitement of Jim Morrison. The guitarist, however, has a fresher, country sound.

Lee Michaels, up next, put on half of a two-man display of pretentiousness and playing to the gallery.
Michaels plays organ, very loud, somewhere in between Jimmy Smith (single-note lines) and Earl Grant (the chord voicings). His periodic requests that the voice mike be turned up suggested that he takes his singing seriously. It's a mistake, since it's as calculated in phrasing as his organ breaks.
Michaels had hardly finished the first chorus of his first tune when he turned the set over to his drummer. The drummer played a show-biz solo in a Buddy Rich mood without Buddy Rich technique - sticked cadences built up in speed and loudness; powerful, almost ominous bass drum throbs with solo lines built on them; the same thing with the hands on the skins, after very dramatically throwing the sticks away. It was a big finish, bringing the crowd to its feet clapping in time with a roll on the bass pedal.
It had nothing to do with music, of course, but neither did Michaels. I must admit that the duo builds nicely to overwhelming climaxes. However, it's much too obviously designed to turn on the crowd the quickest way possible.

The Santana Blues Band was in an interesting predicament on this program. It's not really a rock group - and certainly not a blues band - despite the obligatory distorted, self-consciously "psychedelic" guitar of Carlos Santana. It's really a heavily amplified Latin-jazz group. They even played Willie Bobo's "Fried Neckbones and Some Home Fried." (I was waiting for "Watermelon Man." But they didn't come through.)
All the singing (by Santana and Rolie) was feeble. So it was up to the percussion. Drummer Bob Livingstone wisely met the conga players' challenge for audience attention by playing his solo on rims, hi-hat, and cymbal bells. This is obviously a drummers' band, and it's going to take a heavier soloist than Santana (and maybe on a different instrument) to successfully compete with them.

The Grateful Dead came on next, and Canned Heat closed the show. For this review, however, I'm going to reverse that order, because I like to close with good things.
I don't like people who play the blues condescendingly. Maybe Canned Heat doesn't play them that way, but Bob Hite sure sings them (and talks, dances, and sweats them) that way.
It's very difficult to describe Hite's antics on stage except by suggesting the reader try to imagine Al Hirt coming on like James Brown. Hite took off his shirt, rapped with the audience (who after six hours, ate it up), and kissed babies brought to the stage.
Perhaps it's irrelevant that he's incoherent as a blues singer. His harmonica is fairly good, but he only played it once, contenting himself the rest of the time to being chief soul-man and Gospel social director.
Al Wilson's harmonica was good, although he went badly out of tune on a long, slow blues. His rhythm guitar almost saved the set a couple of times, but psychedelian Henry Vestine was adept at preventing it from happening.
Vestine played ultra-distorted rock guitar, seething with lashing storms of feedback almost to the point of mindlessness. He seemed to find it impossible not to play double time on every slow tune. If Vestine has any idea that he's still playing the blues, he better get on back to B.B. King, listen harder this time, and learn some things - like use of space, use of silences, and the fact that blues guitar releases pain, rather than causing it.
Drummer Adolfo de la Parra played a good, long solo (he's an excellent technician) on the group's 40-minute-plus "Refried Boogie" routine, but its relevance to the tune was obscured by the excursions of Vestine and bassist Larry Taylor into willful ugliness which preceded it.

Put me down, jazz refugee that I am, for rock with rhythmic freshness, with melodic imagination, with sensitive group interplay, and with joyful spontaneity. Coming on before Canned Heat, the Grateful Dead displayed just these things. The Dead took the place apart. Canned Heat shouldn't have been allowed on stage. (Personal opinion, of course.)
Starting soft and subtle, Garcia singing a folkish lyric; cymbals, quiet organ. Builds intensity, good Garcia fills behind his vocal.
Drummers Micky Hart and Bill Kreutzman - eight limbs, one mind. One plays the pulse, the other accents. Into duet; cuts Garcia loose and wailing on guitar. Bass (Phil Lesh) is FLYING! Lesh, Weir and Garcia into collective improvisation.
Eases to delicate guitar duet...builds...builds...
BUILDS to psychedelic barrage in which you can HEAR EVERY INSTRUMENT CONTRIBUTING instead of a mish-mash of sound. Garcia playing sitar licks above bridge of guitar.
Back into the blues. Pig-Pen, who has been playing badly-miked congas and looking out of it, gets into it. Dirty harmonica, and into "Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl." Garcia and Lesh leaping and burning, Pig-Pen low-down and moaning. Get them blues.
Garcia announces Santana's drummers want to sit in. Percussion ensemble - two drummers, congas, tambourines, maracas, the stage jumps, the Dead are raising the dead!
Hart and Kreutzman really into it - a stageful of drummers stops playing and DIGS! Pig-Pen rides the pulse, comes in, just voice and drums, with "Turn On Your Love-Light!" Garcia dancing; organist Tom Constanten laying in that good stuff. Pig-Pen preaching to that good woman! Prayer meetin' in Aztec Bowl!
Long live the Grateful Dead. Also Hedgecock-Piering, Ltd!
A suggestion: take it back to the roots. Next time you come to San Diego, bring back the Dead. Also bring B.B. King, and let him head the bill. Show the people where all that good stuff comes from!

(by Bob Melton, from the Daily Aztec, 13 May 1969)  (page 5) (radio broadcast) (Morning Dew)


Thanks to Volkmar Rupp.

Mar 8, 2015

May 1969: Three Days with the Dead


But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilise me and I can't stand it. I been there before. 
Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

The Dead didn't get it going Wednesday night at Winterland, and that was too bad. The gig was a bail fund benefit for the People's Park in Berkeley, and the giant ice-skating cavern was packed with heads. The whole park hassle – the benefit was for the 450 busted a few days before – had been a Berkeley political trip all the way down, but the issue was a good-timey park, so the crowd, though older and more radical than most San Francisco rock crowds, was a fine one in a good dancing mood, watery mouths waiting for the groove to come. The Airplane were on the bill too, so were Santana, the Act of Cups, Aum, and a righteous range of others; a San Francisco all-star night, the bands making home-grown music for home-grown folks gathered for a home-grown cause.
But the Dead stumbled that night. They led off with a warm-up tune that they did neatly enough, and the crowd, swarmed in luminescent darkness, sent up "good old Grateful Dead, we're so glad you're here" vibrations. The band didn't catch them. Maybe they were a bit tired of being taken for granted as surefire deliverers of good vibes – drained by constant expectations. Or they might have been cynical – a benefit for those Berkeley dudes who finally learned what a park is but are still hung up on confrontation and cops and bricks and spokesmen giving TV interviews and all that bullshit. The Dead were glad to do it, but it was one more benefit to bail out the politicos.
Maybe they were too stoned on one of the Bear's custom-brewed elixirs, or the long meeting that afternoon with the usual fights about salaries and debt priorities and travel plans for the upcoming tour that they'd be making without a road manager, and all the work of being, in the end, a rock and roll band, may have left them pissed off. After abortive stabs at "Doing That Rag" and "St. Stephen," they fell into "Lovelight" as a last resort, putting Pigpen out in front to lay on his special brand of oily rag pig-ism while they funked around behind. It usually works, but not that night. Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman, the drummers, couldn't find anything to settle on, and the others kept trying ways out of the mess, only to create new tangles of bumpy rhythms and dislocated melodies. For the briefest of seconds a nice phrase would pop out, and the crowd would cheer, thinking maybe this was it, but before the cheer died, the moment had also perished. After about twenty minutes they decided to call it quits, ended with a long building crescendo, topping that with a belching cannon blast (which fell right on the beat, the only luck they found that night), and split the stage.
"But, y'know, I dug it, man," said Jerry Garcia the next night, "I can get behind falling to pieces before an audience sometimes. We're not performers; we are who we are for those moments we're before the public, and that's not always at the peak." He was backstage at the Robertson Gymnasium at the University of California at Santa Barbara, backstage being a curtained-off quarter of the gym, the other three quarters being stage and crowd. His red solid body Gibson with its "Red, White, and Blue Power" sticker was in place across his belly and he caressed-played it without stopping. Rock the manager was scrunched in a corner dispensing Tequila complete with salt and lemon to the band and all comers, particularly bassist Phil Lesh who left his Eurasian groupie alone and forlorn every time he dashed back to the bottle.
"Sure, I'll fuck up for an audience," said Mickey from behind his sardonic beard, bowing. "My pleasure, we'll take you as low and mean as you want to go."
"See, it's like good and evil," Jerry went on, his yellow glasses glinting above his eager smile. "They exist together in their little game, each with its special place and special humors. I dig 'em both. What is life but being conscious? And good and evil are manifestations of consciousness. If you reject one, you're not getting the whole thing that's there to be had. So I had a good time last night. Getting in trouble can be a trip too."
His good humor was enormous, even though it had been a bitch of a day. The travel agent had given them the wrong flight time and, being the day before the Memorial Day weekend, there was no space on any other flight for all fourteen of them. So they had hustled over to National Rent-a-Car, gotten two matched Pontiacs and driven the 350 miles down the coast. Phil drove one, and since he didn't have his license and had six stoned back seat drivers for company, he had gotten pretty paranoid. The promoter, a slick Hollywood type, had told them at five in the afternoon that he wouldn't let them set up their own PA. "It's good enough for Lee Michaels, it's good enough for you," he said, and they were too tired to fight it.
The Bear, who handles the sound system as well as the chemicals, was out of it anyway. When the band got to the gym, he was flat on his back, curled up among the drum cases. Phil shook him to his feet and asked if there was anything he could do, but Bear's pale eyes were as sightless as fog. By that time the MC was announcing them. With a final "oh, fuck it, man," they trouped up to the stage through the massed groupies.
Robertson Gym stank like every gym in history. The light show, the big-name band, and the hippie ambience faded before that smell, unchanged since the days when the student council hung a few million paper snowflakes from the ceiling and tried to pass it off as Winter Wonderland. Now it was Psychedelic Wonderland, but the potent spirits of long departed sweatsocks still owned the place. That was okay, another rock and roll dance in the old school gym. They brought out "Lovelight" again; this time the groove was there, and for forty minutes they laid it down, working hard and getting that bob and weave interplay of seven man improvisation that can take you right out of your head. But Jerry kept looking more and more pained, then suddenly signaled to bring it to a close. They did, abruptly, and Jerry stepped to a mike.
"Sorry," he shouted, "but we're gonna split for a while and set up our own PA so we can hear what the fuck is happening." He ripped his cord out of his amp and walked off. Rock took charge.
"The Dead will be back, folks, so everybody go outside, take off your clothes, cool down, and come back. This was just an introduction."
Backstage was a brawl. "We should give the money back if we don't do it righteous." Jerry was shouting. "Where's Bear?"
Bear wandered over, still lost in some inter-cerebral space.
"Listen, man, are you in this group, are you one of us?" Jerry screamed, "are you gonna set up that PA? Their monitors suck. I can't hear a goddam thing out there. How can I play if I can't hear the drums?"
Bear mumbled something about taking two hours to set up the PA, then wandered off. Rock was explaining to the knot of curious on-lookers.
"This is the Grateful Dead, man, we play with twice the intensity of anybody else, we gotta have our own system. The promoter screwed us. and we tried to make it, but we just can't. It's gotta be our way, man."
Ramrod and the other 'quippies were already dismantling the original PA.
"Let's just go ahead," said Pigpen. "I can fake it."
"I can't," said Jerry.
"It's your decision," said Pig.
"Yeah," said Phil, "if you and nobody else gives a good goddam."
But it was all over. Bear had disappeared, the original PA was gone, someone had turned up the houselights, and the audience was melting away. A good night, a potentially great night, had been shot by a combination of promoter burn and Dead incompetence, and at one AM it didn't matter who was to blame or where it had started to go wrong. It was too far gone to save that night.
"We're really sorry," Phil kept saying to the few who still lingered by the gym's back door. "We burned you of a night of music, and we'll come back and make it up."
"If we dare show our faces in this town again." said rhythm guitarist Bob Weir as they walked to the cars. The others laughed, but it wasn't really funny.
They rode back to the Ocean Palms Motel in near silence.
"When we missed that plane we should have known," said Bill Kreutzman. "An ill-advised trip."
Jerry said it was more than that. They took the date because their new manager, Lenny Hart, Mickey's father, while new at the job, had accepted it from Bill Graham. The group had already decided to leave Millard, Graham's booking agency, and didn't want any more of his jobs, but took it rather than making Hart go back on his word. "That's the lesson: take a gig to save face, and you end up with a shitty PA and a well-burned audience."
"Show biz, that's what it was tonight," Mickey Hart said softly, "and show biz is the shits."
The others nodded and the car fell silent. Road markers flicked by the car in solemn procession as the mist rolled in off the muffled ocean.
* * *
It's now almost four years since the Acid Tests, the first Family Dog dances, the Mime troupe benefits, and the Trips Festival; almost the same since Donovan sang about flying Jefferson Airplane and a London discotheque called Sibylla's became the in-club because it had the first light show in Europe; two and a half since the Human Be-In, since Newsweek and then the nation discovered the Haight-Ashbury, hippies, and "the San Francisco Sound." The Monterey Pop Festival, which confirmed and culminated that insanely explosive spring of 1967, is now two years gone by. The biggest rock and roll event of its time, that three-day weekend marked the beginning of a new era. The Beatles (who sent their regards), the Stones, Dylan, even the Beach Boys – the giants who had opened things up from 1963 to '67 – were all absent, and the stage was open for the first generation of the still continuing rock profusion. Monterey was a watershed and the one to follow it has not yet come. Though it was, significantly, conceived in and directed from Los Angeles, its inspiration, style, and much of its substance was San Francisco's. The quantum of energy that pushed rock and roll to the level on which it now resides came from San Francisco.
Since then what San Francisco started has become so diffuse, copied, extended, exploited, rebelled against, and simply accepted that it has become nearly invisible. One can't say "acid rock" now without embarrassed quotations. The city, once absurdly over-rated, is now under-rated. The process of absorption has been so smoothly quick that it is hard to remember when it was all new, when Wes Wilson posters were appearing fresh every week, when Owsley acid was not just a legend or mythical standard, when only real freaks had hair down past their shoulders, when forty minute songs were revolutionary, and when a dance was not a concert but a stoned-out bacchanal. But it was real; had it not been so vital, it would not have been so quickly universalized. Since 1966 rock and roll has come to San Francisco like the mountain to Mohammed.
Its only two rivals in attractive power have been Memphis and Nashville – like San Francisco, small cities with local musicians who, relatively isolated (by choice), are creating distinctive music that expresses their own and their cities' life styles. Musicians everywhere have been drawn to both the music and ambience of the three cities, just as jazz men were once drawn to New Orleans, St. Louis, and Kansas City. Rock and roll has always been regional music on the lower levels, but success, as much for the Beatles and Dylan as for Elvis or James Brown, always meant going to the big city, to the music industry machine. That machine, whether in London, New York, or Los Angeles, dictated that the rock and roll life was a remote one of stardom which, with a complex structure of fan mags and fan clubs, personal aides, publicity men, limited tours and carefully spaced singles, controlled the stars' availability to the public for maximum titillation and maximum profit. The fan identified with his stars (idols), but across an uncrossable void. The machine also tended either to downplay the regional characteristics of a style or exaggerate them into a gimmick. A lucky or tough artist might keep his musical roots intact, but few were able to transfer the closeness they had with their first audience to their mass audience. To be a rock and roll star, went the unwritten law, you had to go downtown.
San Francisco's major contribution to rock was the flaunting of that rule. The Beatles had really started it; on one hand the most isolated and revered group, they were also the most personal: you knew the image, of course, not the real them, but the image was lively and changing. The same is true for Dylan, but San Francisco made it real. The early days at the Fillmore and Avalon were not unlike the months that the Rolling Stones played the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, but for the first time there was the hope, if not assumption, that those days would never have to end. The one-to-one performer-audience relationship was what the music was about. San Francisco's secret was not the dancing, the light-shows, the posters, the long sets, or the complete lack of stage act, but the idea that all of them together were the creation and recreation of a community. Everybody did their thing and all things were equal. The city had a hip community, one of bizarrely various people who all on their own had decided that they'd have to find their own way through the universe and that the old ways wouldn't do no more. In that community everybody looked like a rock star, and rock stars began to look and act and live like people, not gods on the make. The way to go big time was to encourage more people to join the community or to make their own; not to enlarge oneself out of it into the machine's big time. San Francisco said that rock and roll could be making your own music for your friends – folk music in a special sense.
Sort of; because it didn't really work. Dances did become concerts, groups eagerly signed with big record companies from LA to New York, did do long tours, did get promo men, secluded retreats, Top-40 singles, and did become stars. Thousands took up the trappings of community with none of its spirit; the community itself lost hope and direction, fought bitterly within itself, and fragmented. San Francisco was not deserted for the machine as Liverpool had been, but the machine managed to make San Francisco an outpost, however funky, of itself. Janis Joplin is still the city's one superstar, but the unity of the musical-social community has effectively been broken; musicians play for pay, audiences pay to listen. There is now a rock musician's community which is international, and it is closer to the audience community than ever before in rock's history, but the San Francisco vision has died (or at least hibernated) unfulfilled. There are many reasons: bad and/or greedy management, the swamping effect of sudden success, desperation, lack of viable alternatives, and the combined flatteries of fame, money, and ridiculous adulation on young egos.
But the central reason is that rock is not folk music in that special sense. The machine, with all its flashy fraudulences, is not a foreign growth on rock, but its very essence. One can not be a good rock musician and, either psychically or in fact, be an amateur, because professionalism is part of the term's definition. Rock and roll, rather some other art, became the prime expression of that community because it was rock, machine and all, the miracle beauty of American mass production, a mythic past, a global fantasy, an instantaneous communications network, and a maker of super-heroes. There's no way to combine wanting that and wanting "just folks" too. The excitement of San Francisco was the attempt to synthesize these two contradictory positions. To pull it off would have been a revolution; at best San Francisco made a reform. In the long haul its creators, tired of fighting the paradox, chose modified rock over folk music.
All except the Grateful Dead, who've been battling it out with that mother of a paradox for years. Sometimes they lose, sometimes they win.
* * * 
True fellowship among men must be based upon a concern that is universal. It is not the private interests of the individual that create lasting fellowship among men, but rather the goals of humanity... If unity of this kind prevails, even difficult and dangerous tasks, such as crossing the great water, can be accomplished. 
The I Ching, 13th hexagram: "Fellowship with Men"

The Grateful Dead are not the original San Francisco band – the Charlatans, the Great Society, and the Airplane all predate them, even in their Warlock stage  – and whether they are the best, whatever that would mean, is irrelevant. Probably they are the loudest; someone once described them as "living thunder." Certainly they are the weirdest, black satanic weird and white archangel weird. As weird as anything you can imagine, like some horror comic monster who, besides being green and slimy, happens also to have seven different heads, a 190 IQ, countless decibels of liquid fire noise communication, and is coming right down to where you are to gobble you up. But if you can dig the monster, bammo, he's a giant puppy to play with. Grateful Dead weird, ultimately, and what an image that name is. John Lennon joked about the flaming hand that made them Beatles, but Jerry Garcia is serious:
"Back in the late days of the Acid Tests, we were looking for a name. We'd abandoned the Warlocks, it didn't fit anymore. One day we were all over at Phil's house smoking DMT. He had a big Oxford dictionary, opened it, and there was 'grateful dead,' those words juxtaposed. It was one of those moments, y'know, like everything else on the page went blank, diffuse, just sorta oozed away, and there was Grateful Dead, big black letters edged all around in gold, man, blasting out at me, such a stunning combination. So I said, 'How about Grateful Dead?' and that was it."
The image still resonates for the Dead: they are, or desire to become, the grateful dead. Grateful Dead may mean whatever you like it to mean: life-in-death, ego death, reincarnation, the joy of the mystic vision. Maybe it is Rick Griffin's grinning skull balancing on the axis of an organic universe that is the cover of Aoxomoxoa, their latest record. It doesn't matter how you read it, for the Dead, as people, musicians, and a group, are in that place where the meanings of a name or event can be as infinite as the imagination, and yet mean precisely what they are and no more.
In their first beginning they were nothing spectacular, just another rock and roll band made up of suburban ex-folkies who, in '64 and '65, with Kennedy dead, the civil rights movement split into black and white, Vietnam taking over from ban-the-bomb, with the Beatles, Stones, and Dylan, were finding out that the sit-and-pluck number had run its course. Jerry had gone the whole route: digging rock in the mid-Fifties, dropping into folk by 1959, getting deep into traditional country music as a purist scholar, re-emerging as a brilliant bluegrass banjo player, and then, in 1964, starting Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions with Pigpen and Bob Weir. Weir, who had skipped from boarding school to boarding school before quitting entirely, got his real education doing folk gigs and lying about his age. "I was 17," he says, "looked fifteen, and said I was 21." Pigpen, ne Ron McKernan, is the son of an early white rhythm and blues DJ, and from his early teens had made the spade scene, playing harp and piano at parties, digging Lightning Hopkins, and nursing a remarkable talent for spinning out juiced blues raps. All three were misfits; Jerry had dropped out of high school too to join the army which kicked him out after a few months as unfit for service. "How true, how true," he says now.
But the Jug Champions couldn't get any gigs, and when a Palo Alto music store owner offered to front them with equipment to start a rock band, they said yes. Bill Kreutzman, then Bill Sommers to fit his fake ID, became the drummer. A fan of R&B stylists, he was the only one with rock experience. At first the music store cat was the bass player, but concurrently Phil Lesh, an old friend of Jerry's, was coming to a similar dead end in formal electronic music, finding less and less to say and fewer people to say it to. A child violinist, then Kenton-style jazz trumpeter and arranger, he went to a Warlock gig on impulse and the group knocked him out. "Jerry came over to where I was sitting and said, 'Guess what, you're gonna be our bass player.' I had never played bass, but I learned sort of, and in July, 1965, the five of us played our first gig, some club in Fremont."
For about six months the Warlocks were a straight rock and roll band. No longer. "The only scene then was the Hollywood hype scene, booking agents in flashy suits, gigs in booze clubs, six nights a week, five sets a night, doing all the R&B-rock standards. We did it all," Jerry recalls. "Then we got a regular job at a Belmont club, and developed a whole malicious thing, playing songs longer and weirder, and louder, man. For those days it was loud, and for a bar it was ridiculous. People had to scream at each other to talk, and pretty soon we had driven out all the regular clientele. They'd run out clutching their ears. We isolated them, put 'em through a real number, yeah."
The only people who dug it were the heads around Ken Kesey up at his place in La Honda. All the Warlocks had taken acid ("We were already on the crazy-eyed fanatic trip," says Bob Weir), and, given dozens of mutual friends, it was inevitable that the Warlocks would play at La Honda. There they began again.
"One day the idea was there: 'Why don't we have a big party, and you guys bring your instruments and play, and us Pranksters will set up all our tape recorders and bullshit, and we'll all get stoned.' That was the first Acid Test. The idea was of its essence formless. There was nothin' going on. We'd just go up there and make something of it. Right away we dropped completely out of the straight music scene and just played the Tests. Six months; San Francisco, Muir Beach, Trips Festival, then LA."
Jerry strained to describe what those days were like, because, just like it says in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, the Dead got on the bus, made that irrevocable decision that the only place to go is further into the land of infinite recession that acid opened up. They were not to be psychedelic dabblers, painting pretty pictures, but true explorers. "And just how far would you like to go in?" Frank asks the three kings on the back of John Wesley Harding. "Not too far but just far enough so's we can say that we've been there," answer the kings. Far enough for most, but not for the Dead; they decided to try and cross the great water and bring back the good news from the other side. Jerry continued.
"What the Kesey thing was depended on who you were when you were there. It was open, a tapestry,a mandala – it was whatever you made it. Okay, so you take LSD and suddenly you are aware of another plane, or several other planes, and the quest is to extend that limit, to go as far as you can go. In the Acid Tests that meant to do away with old forms, with old ideas, try something new. Nobody was doing something, y'know, it was everybody doing bits and pieces of something, the result of which was something else.
"When it was moving right, you could dig that there was something that it was getting toward, something like ordered chaos, or some region of chaos. The Test would start off and then there would be chaos. Everybody would be high and flashing and going through insane changes during which everything would be demolished, man, and spilled and broken and affected, and after that, another thing would happen, maybe smoothing out the chaos, then another, and it'd go all night til morning.
"Just people being there, and being responsive. Like, there were microphones all over. If you were wandering around there would be a mike you could talk into. And there would be somebody somewhere else in the building at the end of some wire with a tape recorder and a mixing board and earphone listening in on the mikes and all of a sudden something would come in and he'd turn it up because it seemed appropriate at that moment.
"What you said might come out a minute later on a tape loop in some other part of the place. So there would be this odd interchange going on, electroneural connections of weird sorts. And it was people, just people, doing it all. Kesey would be writing messages about what he was seeing on an opaque projector and they'd be projected up on the wall, and someone would comment about it on a mike somewhere and that would be singing out of a speaker somewhere else.
"And we'd be playing, or, when we were playing we were playing. When we weren't, we'd be doing other stuff. There were no sets, sometimes we'd get up and play for two hours, three hours, sometimes we'd play for ten minutes and all freak out and split. We'd just do it however it would happen. It wasn't a gig, it was the Acid Tests where anything was ok. Thousands of people, man, all helplessly stoned, all finding themselves in a roomful of other thousands of people, none of whom any of them were afraid of. It was magic, far out, beautiful magic."
Since then the search for that magic has been as important for the Dead as music, or rather, music for the Dead has to capture that magic. All of them share the vision to one degree or another, but its source is essentially Jerry Garcia. "Fellowship with man" stresses the need of "a persevering and enlightened leader...a man with clear, convincing and inspired aims, and the strength to carry them out." Some call Jerry a guru, but that doesn't mean much: he is just one of those extraordinary human beings who looks you right in the eyes, smiles encouragement, and waits for you to become yourself. However complex, he is entirely open and unenigmatic. He can be vain, self-assertive, and even pompous, but he doesn't fool around with false apology. More than anything else he is cheery – mordant and ironic at times, but undauntedly optimistic. He's been through thinking life is but a joke, but it's still a game to be played with relish and passionately enjoyed. Probably really ugly as a kid – lumpy, fat-faced, and frizzy haired – he is now beautiful, his trimmed hair and beard a dense black aureole around his beaming eyes. His body has an even grace, his face a restless eagerness, and a gentleness not to be confused with "niceness" is his manner. His intelligence is quick and precise, and he can be devastatingly articulate, his dancing hands playing perfect accompaniment to his words.
Phil Lesh, Jerry's more explosive and dogmatic other half, comes right out and says that the Grateful Dead "are trying to save the world," but Jerry is more cautious. "We are trying to make things groovier for everybody so more people can feel better more often, to advance the trip, to get higher, however you want to say it, but we're musicians, and there's just no way to put that idea, 'save the world,' into music; you can only be that idea, or at least make manifest that idea as it appears to you, and hope maybe others follow. And that idea comes to you only moment by moment, so what we're going after is no farther away than the end of our noses. We're just trying to be right behind our noses.
"My way is music. Music is me being me and trying to get higher. I've been into music so long that I'm dripping with it; it's all I ever expect to do. I can't do anything else. Music is a yoga, something you really do when you're doing it. Thinking about what it means comes after the fact and isn't very interesting. Truth is something you stumble into when you think you're going some place else, like those moments when you're playing and the whole room becomes one being, precious moments, man. But you can't look for them and they can't be repeated. Being alive means to continue to change, never to be where I was before. Music is the timeless experience of constant change."
Musical idioms and styles are important to Jerry as suggestive modes and historical and personal fact, but they are not music, and he sees no need for them to be limiting to the modern musician or listener. "You have to get past the idea that music has to be one thing. To be alive in America is to hear all kinds of music constantly – radio, records, churches, cats on the street, everywhere music, man. And with records, the whole history of music is open to everyone who wants to hear it. Maybe Chuck Berry was the first rock musician because he was one of the first blues cats to listen to records, so he wasn't locked into the blues idiom. Nobody has to fool around with musty old scores, weird notation, and scholarship bullshit: you can just go into a record store and pick a century, pick a country, pick anything, and dig it, make it a part of you, add it to the stuff you carry around, and see that it's all music."
The Dead, like many modern groups, live that synthesis, but the breadth of idioms encompassed by the members' previous experience is probably unmatched by any other comparable band. Electronic music of all sorts, accidental music, classical music, Indian music, jazz, folk, country and western, blues, and rock itself – one or all of the Dead have worked in all those forms. In mixing them all they make Grateful Dead music, which, being their own creation, is their own greatest influence. It is music beyond idiom, which makes it difficult for some whose criteria for musical greatness allow only individual expression developed through disciplined understanding of a single accepted idiom. But a Dead song is likely to include Jerry's country and western guitar licks over Bill and Mickey's 11/4 time, with the others making more muted solo statements – the whole thing subtly orchestrated by an extended, almost symphonic, blending of themes. Whatever it is. Jerry doesn't like to call it rock and roll – "a label," he says – but it is rock, free, daring music that makes the good times roll, that can, if you listen, deliver you from the days of old.
It works because the Dead are, like few bands, a group tried and true. Five have been performing together for four years; Tom, though he only joined the group full time last year because of an Air Force hitch, has been with them from the beginning. Mickey, a jazz drummer leading the straight life until two years ago, joined because Dead music was his music. After meeting Bill and jamming with him twice, he asked to join a set at the Straight Theatre. "We played 'Alligator' for two hours, man, and my mind was blown. When we finished and the crowd went wild, Jerry came over and embraced me, and I embraced him, and it's been like that ever since."
The Dead have had endless personal crises; Pigpen and Bob Weir have particularly resisted the others. Pig because he is not primarily a musician, and Bob because of an oddly stubborn pride. Yet they have always been a fellowship; "our crises come and go in ways that seem more governed by the stars than by personalities," says Bob. A year ago Bob and Pigpen were on the verge of leaving. Now the Dead, says Phil, "have passed the point where breaking up exists as a possible solution to any problem. The Dead, we all know, is bigger than all of us." Subsets of the seven, with names like "Bobby Ace and the Cards from the Bottom" and "Mickey Hart and the Heartbeats," have done a few gigs and several of the Dead are inveterate jammers, but these separate experiences always loosen and enrich the larger group, and the Dead continue.
In life as well as music; as with the magic, life for the Dead has to be music, and vice versa. When the Acid Tests stopped in the spring of 1966 and Kesey went to Mexico, the Dead got off the bus and started their own (metaphorical) bus. For three months they lived with Augustus Owsley Stanley III, the media's and legend's "Acid King," on the northern edge of Watts in LA, as he built them a huge and complex sound system. The system was no good, say some, adding that Owsley did the group nothing but harm. Owsley was weird all right, "insistent about his trip," says Bob, keeping nothing but meat and milk to eat, forbidding all vegetables as poisons, talking like a TV set you couldn't turn off, and wired into a logic that was always bizarre and often perversely paranoid if not downright evil. But what others thought or think of Owsley has never affected the Dead; he is Owsley, and they follow their own changes with him, everything from hatred to awe to laughing at him as absurd. If you're going further, your wagon is hitched to a star; other people's opinions on the trip's validity are like flies to be brushed aside.
Their life too is without any idiom but their own. They returned to San Francisco in June, 1966 and after a few stops moved into 710 Ashbury, in the middle of the Haight. It was the first time they actually lived in the city as a group, and they became an institution. "Happy families are all alike," Tolstoy said, but the happy family at 710 was different from most, a sliding assortment of madmen who came and went in mysterious tidal patterns, staying for days or weeks or just mellow afternoons on the steps bordered with nasturtiums. A strange black wing decorated an upper window, and occasional passersby would be jolted by sonic blasts from deep in the house's entralia. Like the Psychedelic Shop, the Panhandle, the Oracle office, or 1090 Pine St. in the early Family Dog days, it was another bus, an energy center as well as a model, a Brook Farm for new transcendentalists.
With all the other groups in the city, they did become a band, an economic entity in an expanding market. They did well; since the demise of Big Brother, they are second only to the Airplane of the San Francisco groups and are one of the biggest draws in the business. But the Dead were always different. Their managers, Rock Scully and Danny Rifkin, were of the family, stoned ten-thumbed inefficiency. While other groups were fighting for recognition, more and bigger gigs, the Dead played mostly for free. Monterey was a godsend of exposure to most groups, but the Dead bitched about it, arguing that it should be free or, if not, the profits should go to the Diggers; refusing to sign releases for the film that became Monterey Pop! and finally organizing a free festival on a nearby campus and stealing banks of amps and speakers for an all night jam (they were, eventually, returned).
But of course they did go; maybe Monterey was an "LA pseudo-hip fraud," but the Dead were a rock band as well as a psychedelic musical commune, and they knew it. The problem was combining the two. The spirit that had energized the early days was changing and becoming harder to sustain. The formlessness was becoming formalized; artifacts; whether posters, clothes, drugs, or even the entire life-style, became more important than the art of their creation.
"The Acid Tests have come down to playing in a hall and having a light show," Jerry says, "You sit down and watch and of course the lights are behind the band so you can see the band and the lights. It's watching television, loud, large television. That form, so rigid, started as a misapprehension anyway. Like Bill Graham, he was at the Trips Festival, and all he saw was a light show and a band. Take the two and you got a formula. It is stuck, man, hasn't blown a new mind in years. What was happening at the Trips Festival was not a rock and roll show and lights, but that other thing, but if you were hustling tickets and trying to get a production on, to put some of the old order to the chaos, you couldn't feel it. It was a sensitive trip, and it's been lost."
Yet in trying to combine their own music-life style with the rock and roll business, they have missed living the best of either. Their dealings with the business world have been disastrous. Money slips through their fingers, bills pile up, instruments are repossessed, and salaries aren't paid. The group is $60,000 in debt, and those debts have meant harm to dozens of innocent people. "I remember times we've said, 'that cat's straight, let's burn him for a bill,'" says Phil Lesh.
They have never gotten along with Warner Brothers, reacting distrustfully to all attempts at guidance. The first record, The Grateful Dead, was a largely unsuccessful attempt to get a live sound in the studio. The second, Anthem of the Sun, was recorded in four studios and at 18 live performances; halfway through they got rid of producer Dave Hassinger and finished it themselves months behind schedule. Aoxomoxoa was delivered as a finished product to Warner's, cover and all; the company did little more than press and distribute it. All the records have fine moments, snatches of lyric Garcia melodies and driving ensemble passages. Aoxomoxoa (more a mystic palindrome than a word, by the way) is in many ways brilliant; precisely mixed by Jerry and Phil, it is a record composition, not a recording of anything, and its flow is obliquely powerful. But none of them are as open and vital as the Dead live, even accounting for the change in medium. "The man in the street isn't ready for our records," says Jerry; but that also means that, fearful of being commercial, the Dead have discarded the value of immediate musical communication in making records; the baby, unfortunately, has gone out with the bath water. A double record album of live performances, though, is planned.
It is not that they can't be commercially successful. Their basic sound is hard rock/white R&B slightly freaked – not very different from Steppenwolf's, Creedence Clearwater's, or the Sir Douglas Quintet's. "Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion," their 1967 single, could quite easily be a hit single today. They would have been happy had success come to them; unsought success, a gift of self-amplification, is a logical extension of electrifying instruments. But they just won't and can't accept even the machine's most permissive limits. Their basic sound is just that, something to build from, and they know intuitively if to their own frustration, that to accept the system, however easy a panacea it might seem, would to them be fatal. "Rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's is groovy," says Phil, "as long as you render to God what is God's. But now Caesar demands it all, and we gotta be straight with God first."
They see themselves, with more than a touch of self-dramatization, as keepers of the flame. Smoking grass on stage, bringing acid to concerts, purposely ignoring time limits for sets, telling audiences to screw the rules and ushers and dance – those are just tokens. In late 1967 they set up the Great Northwestern Tour with the Quicksilver Messenger Service and Jerry Abrams' Headlights, completely handling a series of dates in Oregon and Washington. "No middlemen, no bullshit," said Rock Scully, "we did it all, posters, tickets, promo, setting up the halls. All the things promoters say you can't do, we did, man, and 'cause we weren't dependent, we felt free and everybody did. That told us that however hard it gets, it can be done, you don't have to go along."
Out of that energy came the Carousel Ballroom. The Dead, helped by the Airplane, leased a huge Irish dance hall in downtown San Francisco and started a series of dances that were a throwback to the good old days. But running a good dance hall means taking care of business and keeping a straight head. The Carousel's managers did neither. They made absurdly bad deals, beginning with an outlandish rent, and succumbed to a destructive fear of Bill Graham. The spring of 1968, with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, was hard on show business everywhere. Graham, in the smaller Fillmore smack in the center of an increasingly unfriendly ghetto, was vulnerable and ready to be cooperative. But to the Dead and their friends he was big bad Bill Graham, the villain who had destroyed the San Francisco scene. So as the Carousel sank further into debt, they refused the help he offered. Inevitably they had to close; Graham moved swiftly, took up the lease, and renamed the place the Fillmore West. The Dead were on the street again, licking their wounds, self-inflicted and otherwise.
A year later they are still in the street; they are not quite failures by accepted business terms but certainly have been stagnated by their own stubborn yearning. A bust in the fall of 1967 and the increasing deterioration of the Haight finally drove them from 710 in 1968; similar hassles may drive the remnants of the family from their ranch in Novato. And the band members now all live in separate houses scattered over San Francisco and Marin County. Financial necessity forced them to sign with Graham's agency in early '69, though they will soon leave it. They are still talking of making a music caravan, travelling from town to town in buses like a circus. They know a new form has to be found: the "psychedelic dance-concert" is washed up, but what is next? Maybe a rock and roll rodeo, maybe something else that will just happen when the time comes. They don't know, but they are determined to find it. It is hard to get your thing together if your thing is paradise on earth. "We're tired of jerking off," says Jerry, "we want to start fucking again."
* * * 
Seven o'clock Friday morning, Santa Barbara was deep in pearly mist and Jerry Garcia was pacing back and forth in an alley behind the motel, quietly turning on. One by one, yawning and grunting, the others appeared and clambered into the Pontiacs. It was the start of a long day: 8 AM flight to San Francisco, change planes for Portland, crash in the motel until the gig, play, then get to bed and on to Eugene the next day. There was neither time nor energy for postmortems; the thing to do was to get on with it.
At 7:30 Lenny Hart was fuming. The Bear was late again. Where was he? No one knew. Lenny, square faced and serious, drummed on the steering wheel. "We gotta go, can't wait for him. What's so special about Bear that he can't get here like everyone else?" Phil started back to the motel to find him, but then out he came. Sleepy but dapper in a black leather shirt and vest, pale blue pants, and blue suede boots. Lenny's eyes caught Bear's for an instant, then he peeled out.
No one missed the confrontation: Lenny and the Bear, like two selves of the Dead at war, with the Dead themselves sitting as judges. Lenny, a minister who has chosen the Dead as his mission, is the latest person they've trusted to get them out of the financial pit. The Bear, says Jerry, is "Satan in our midst," friend, chemist, psychedelic legend, and electronic genius; not a leader, but a moon with gravitational pull. He is the prince of inefficiency, the essence at its most perverse of what the Dead refuse to give up. They are natural enemies, but somehow they have to coexist for the Dead to survive. Their skirmishing has just begun.
The day is all like that, suddenly focused images that fade one into another.
At the airport the Air West jet rests before the little stucco terminal. It is ten minutes after take-off time, and the passengers wait in two clumps. Clump one, the big one, is ordinary Santa Barbara human beings: clean tanned businessmen, housewives, college girls going away for the holiday, an elderly couple or two, a few ten year olds in shorts. They are quiet and a bit strained. Clump two is the Dead, manic, dirty, hairy, noisy, a bunch of drunken Visigoths in cowboy hats and greasy suede. Pigpen has just lit Bob Weir's paper on fire, and the cinders blow around their feet. Phil is at his twitchiest, his face stroboscopically switching grotesque leers. The Bear putters in his mysterious belted bags, Jerry discards cigarette butts as if the world was his ashtray, and Tom, one sock bright green, the other vile orange, gazes beatifically (he's a Grade Four Release in Scientology) over it all and puns under his breath.
Over on the left in the cargo area, a huge rented truck pulls up with the Dead's equipment, 90 pieces of extra luggage. Like clowns from a car, amp after amp after drum case is loaded onto dollies and wheeled to the jet's belly. It dawns on Clump One all at once that it is those arrogant heathens with all their outrageous gear that are making the plane late and keeping them, good American citizens, shivering out in the morning mist. It dawns on the heathens too, but they dig it, shouting to the 'quippies to tote that amp, lift that organ. Just about that time Phil, reading what's left of the paper, sees a story about People's Park in Berkeley and how the police treated the demonstrators "like the Viet Cong." "But that's just what we are, man, the American National Liberation Front," he shouts, baring his teeth at Clump One.
Ticket takers talk politely of "Mr. Ramrod" and "Mr. Bear"; in San Francisco Airport a pudgy waitress, "Marla" stamped on the plastic nameplate pinned to her right udder, leaves her station starry-eyed and says she's so glad to see them because she came to work stoned on acid and it's been a freak-out until she saw them like angel horsemen galloping through her plastic hell; Tom, his mustachioed face effortlessly sincere, gives a beginning lecture on the joys of Scientology, explaining that he hopes someday to be an Operating Thetan (O.T.) and thus be able to levitate the group while they're playing – and of course they won't ever have to plug in.
Pig glowers beneath his corduroy hat, grunting, "Ahhh, fork!" whenever the spirit moves, and the Bear starts a long involved rap about how the Hell's Angels really have it down, man, like this cat who can use a whip like a stiletto, could slice open your nostrils, first the right, then the left, neat as you please, and everyone agrees that the Angels are righteously ugly.
They miss their San Francisco connection and have to hang around the airport for a couple of hours, but that somehow means that they arrive first class, free drinks and all. With lunch polished off, Mickey Hart needs some refreshment, so he calls across the aisle to Ramrod, then holds his fingers to his nose significantly. Ramrod tosses over a small vial of cocaine and a jack knife, and Mickey, all the while carrying on an intense discussion about drumming, sniffs up like he was lighting an after dinner cigar: "Earth music is what I'm after" – sniff – "the rhythm of the earth, like I get riding a horse" sniff sniff "and Bill feeds that to me, I play off of it, and he responds. When we're into it, it's like a drummer with two minds, eight arms, and one soul" – final snort, and then the vial and jack knife go the rounds. Multiple felonies in the first class compartment, but the stewardesses are without eyes to see. The Dead, in the very grossness of their visibility, are invisible.
The plane lands in Portland. "Maybe it'll happen today," says Jerry waiting to get off, "the first rock and roll assassination. Favorite fantasy. Sometime we'll land, and when we're all on the stairs, a fleet of black cars will rush the plane like killer beetles. Machine guns will pop from the roofs and mow us down. Paranoid, huh? But, fuck, in a way I wouldn't blame 'em." No black cars though, that day anyway.
Lenny has done some figuring on the plane. "Things are looking up," he says. "We ought to have the prepaid tickets for this trip paid by the end of next week." Jerry says that's boss, and the Bear makes a point of showing off the alarm clock he got in San Francisco. Lenny takes it as a joke and says just be ready next time or he'll be left behind. Danny Rifkin brings the good news that they have a tank of nitrous oxide for the gig. Everybody goes to sleep.
The dance is at Springer's Inn, about ten miles out of town, and they start out about 9:30. A mile from the place there is a huge traffic jam on the narrow country road, and they stick the cars in a ditch and walk, a few fragments in the flow to Springer's under a full yellow moon. The last time they played Portland they were at a ballroom with a sprung floor that made dancing inevitable, but Springer's is just as nice. It's a country and western place, walls all knotty pine, and beside the stage the Nashville stars of the past thirty years grin glossily from autographed photos – "Yours sincerely, Marty Robbins." "Love to Y'all, Norma Jean," "Warmest regards, Jim Reeves." "You got a bigger crowd than even Buck Owens," says the promoter and Jerry grins. It is sardine, ass-to-ass packed and drippingly hot inside.
The band stands around the equipment truck waiting for the Bear to finish his preparations. Someone donates some Cokes and they make the rounds. "Anyone for a lube job," Bill calls to the hangers-on. "Dosed to a turn," says Phil. Jerry, already speechlessly spaced on gas, drinks deep. They are all ready.
It seems preordained to be a great night. But preordination is not fate; it comes to the elect and the elect have to work to be ready for it. So the Dead start out working; elation will come later. "Morning Dew" opens the set, an old tune done slow and steady. It is the evening's foundation stone and they carefully mortise it into place, no smiles, no frills. Phil's bass is sure and steady, Bill and Mickey play almost in unison. Then Bob sang "Me and My Uncle," a John Phillips tune with a country rocking beat. They all like the song and Bob sings it well, friendly and ingenuous. Back to the groove with "Everybody's Doing that Rag," but a little looser this time. Jerry's guitar begins to sing, and over the steady drumming of Bill, Mickey lays scattered runs, little kicks, and sudden attacks. Phil begins to thunder, then pulls back. Patience, he seems to be saying, and he's right: Jerry broke a string in his haste, so they pull back to unison and end the song. But Jerry wants it bad and is a little angry.
"I broke a string," he shouts at the crowd, "so why don't you wait a minute and talk to each other. Or maybe talk to yourself, to your various selves" – he cocks his head with a glint of malice in his eyes – "can you talk to your self? Do you even know you have selves to talk to?"
The questions, involute and unanswerable, push the crowd back – who is this guy asking us riddles, what does he want from us anyway? But the band is into "King Bee" by that time. They hadn't played that for a while, but it works, another building block, and a good way to work Pig into the center, to seduce him into giving his all instead of just waiting around for "Lovelight." It is like the Stones but muddier – Pigpen isn't Mick Jagger after all. Jerry buzzes a while right on schedule, and the crowd eases up, thinking they were going to get some nice blues. The preceding band had been good imitation B.B. King, so maybe it would be a blues night, Wrong again.
"Play the blues!" shouts someone in a phony half-swoon.
"Fuck you, man," Mickey shouts back, "go hear a blues band if you want that, go dig Mike Bloomfield."
Another punch in the mouth, but the moment is there, and the audience's stunned silence just makes the opening gong of "Dark Star" more ominous. In that silence music begins, steady and pulsing. Jerry as always, takes the lead, feeling his way for melodies like paths up the mountain. Jerry, says Phil, is the heart of the Dead, its central sun; while they all connect to each other, the strongest bonds are to him. Standing there, eyes closed, chin bobbing forward, his guitar in close under his arm, he seems pure energy, a quality like but distinct from sexuality, which, while radiating itself outward unceasingly and unselfishly, is as unceasingly and unselfishly replenished by those whose strengths have been awakened by his.
He finds a way, a few high twinging notes that are in themselves a song, and then the others are there too, and suddenly the music is not notes or a tune, but what those seven people are exactly: the music is an aural holograph of the Grateful Dead. All their fibres, nuances, histories, desires, beings are clear. Jerry and his questing, Phil the loyal comrade, Tom drifting beside them both on a cloud, Pig staying stubbornly down to earth; Mickey working out furious complexities trying to understand how Bill is so simple, and Bob succumbing inevitably to Jerry and Phil and joining them. And that is just the beginning, because at each note, at each phrase the balances change, each testing, feeding, mocking, and finally driving each other on, further and further on.
Some balances last longer than others, moments of realization that seem to sum up many moments, and then a solid groove of "yes, that is the way it is" flows out, and the crowd begins to move. Each time it is Jerry who leads them out, his guitar singing and dancing joy. And his joy finds new levels and the work of exploration begins again.
Jerry often talks of music as coming from a place and creating a place, a place where strife is gone, where the struggle to understand ends, and knowledge is as evident as light. That is the place they are in at Springer's. However hard it is to get there, once there, you want to cry tears of ease and never leave. It is not a new place; those who seek it hard enough can find it, like the poet Lucretius who found it about 2500 years ago:
...all terrors of the mind
Vanish, are gone; the barriers on the world
Dissolve before me, and I see things happen
All through the void in empty space...
I feel a more than mortal pleasure in all this.
The music goes fast and slow, driving and serene, loud and soft. Mickey switches from gong to drums to claves to handclapping to xylophone to a tin slide whistle. Then Bob grabs that away and steps to to mike and blows the whistle as hard as he can, flicking away insanely high and screeching notes. The band digs it, and lays down a building rhythm. The crowd begins to pant, shake, and then suddenly right on the exact moment with the band, the crowd, the band, everything in the whole goddam place begins to scream. Not scream like at the Beatles, but scream like beasts, twisting their faces, trying out every possible animal yowl that lies deep in their hearts.
And Jerry, melodies flowing from him in endless arabesques, leads it away again, the crowd and himself ecstatic rats to some Pied Piper. The tune changes from "Dark Star" to "St. Stephen," the song with a beat like bouncing boulders, and out of the din comes Jerry's wavering voice, "[One] man gathers what another man spills," and everyone knows that means that there's nothing to fear, brothers will help each other with their loads, and suddenly there is peace in the hall. Phil, Bob, and Bill form a trio and play a new and quiet song before Mickey's sudden roll opens it out to the group, and "St. Stephen" crashes to an end with the cannon shot and clouds of sulphurous smoke.
Out of the fire and brimstone emerges the Pig singing "Lovelight," and everyone is through the mind and down into the body. Pigpen doesn't sing; Pigpen never sings. He is just Pig being Pig doing "Lovelight," spitting out of the side of his mouth between phrases, starting the clapping, telling everybody to get their hands out of their pockets and into somebody else's pocket, and like laughter, the band comes in with rock-it-to-'em choruses. The crowd is jumping up and down in witness by this time, and one couple falls on stage, their bodies and tongues entwined in mad ritual embrace. They don't make love, but in acting it out, they perform for and with the crowd, and so everyone is acting out sexual unison with Pigpen as the master of ceremonies. The place, one body, built in music, fucks until it comes, the cannon goes off one final time, and Mickey leaps to the gong bashing it with a mallet set afire by the cannon, and it makes a trail of flame and then sparks when it hits the gong, the gong itself radiating waves of sonic energy. Bill flails at the drums, Phil keeps playing the same figure over and over, faster and faster, and Jerry and Bob build up to one note just below the tonic, hold it until, with one ultimate chord, it all comes home. The crowd erupts in cheers, as the band, sodden with sweat, stumble off the stage.
"We'll be back, folks," says Jerry, "we'll be back after a break."
Bob laughs as he hears Jerry's announcement. "It's really something when you have to lie to get off the stage."
Because it's over, gone, wiped out. They gather by the equipment van, and all but Tom, still cool and unruffled, are steaming in the chill night air. The moon has gone down, the stars are out, and there is nothing more to be done that night at all.

(by Michael Lydon, from Rolling Stone, August 23, 1969)

See also Lydon's interview with Garcia for this article: