HOWARD SMITH INTERVIEW, NEW YORK CITY - FEBRUARY 11, 1970
Garcia: …[San Francisco] is like situated right in the fog belt, you know. You go a mile south or a mile north, and there’s no fog.
Smith: Yeah, I couldn’t believe that. Everybody kept telling me that.
Smith: [to engineer] Going? OK. I saw Zabriskie Point the other day. Have you seen it yet?
Garcia: No. Only the part that I did.
Smith: Yeah, the part that you did – you saw that part.
Garcia: Oh, sure, I played to it.
Smith: That’s how you did it.
Garcia: Of course, right.
Smith: What did you think of that part?
Garcia: You mean my part of it or the way it was on screen?
Smith: …gotta describe what it is.
Garcia: Well, it’s a whole lot of people balling in Death Valley.
Smith: Yeah. Really a whole lot...
Garcia: Quite a few, yeah.
Smith: …up on the hillside.
Garcia: Right. Yeah. A friend of mine, in fact, is in that scene somewhere. The guy that painted the album cover for our second album. Nice tie-in, you know – that thing of we’re all doing the same thing, and it turns out to be making Antonioni movies.
Smith: How did that come about? Did he approach you?
Garcia: Yeah; right, right. Apparently he heard some – Well, what happened was that apparently he’d heard ‘Dark Star,’ and used a little piece of it somewhere, and was interested in having somebody – he wanted some sort of music behind that particular scene and hadn’t had anything successful after repeated tries with other bands, and other musicians and conventional scores and that sort of thing, and he just wasn’t successful. So they got in touch with me eventually. I went to LA, to the MGM place, you know, and spoke to him and he showed me the, you know, rough cut, and you know, immediately went down to the studio, brought my guitar and amplifier, and in about two hours, you know, it was like what he wanted. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was what he wanted.
Smith: What do you mean, it wasn’t what you wanted?
Garcia: Well, I would have preferred to have taken a week or so to really study it and really determine the time of events and certain, like, key cuts and that sort of thing, so as to comp to something a lot more specifically, but like, he liked the sort of randomness, you know. I mean, I would have gone about it in a more methodical way, had I more time.
Smith: It was just you playing, right?
Garcia: Yeah; right.
Smith: That’s what he wanted, rather than all the band.
Garcia: Yeah; right.
Smith: Have you been doing other solo work?
Garcia: No, I’ve been doing a lot of session work, but I haven’t been doing any solo work.
Smith: What do you mean, playing on other people’s albums?
Garcia: Yeah; right.
Smith: Like what?
Garcia: Well, the Airplane’s new album, the Volunteers album. Crosby Stills & Nash’s new album. Beautiful Day’s new album, which’ll be out pretty soon; all that stuff. I’ve been doing like mostly pedal steel guitar, not guitar, I haven’t been doing any guitar sessions. But this is all in San Francisco, which is what makes it unique. I mean, like in Nashville and in New York and LA, there’s a huge studio trip going on, you know, a lot of musicians, that’s their whole scene is just doing studio work; and San Francisco’s never even had a recording scene. But now, you know, like lots of groups are recording there, cause there’s suddenly like about four or five good studios run by heads who understand what it is that young musicians are trying to do. But it requires, you know, slightly different attitudes, you know, than the fixed unionized shop trip, you know.
Smith: Hmm. That whole Altamont thing, the Stones concert –
Smith: - seems like a lot of people are trying to dump on the Grateful Dead for that.
Garcia: Oh, I don’t think so, man. Well, what lot of people? I mean, if that’s happening, I’m not aware of it, you know.
Smith: They’re saying that the Grateful Dead are responsible for the Hell’s Angels –
Garcia: Well, in a sense we are, man, we’re responsible in that we’re the ones who started playing for free. You know, when we started playing for free in Golden Gate Parkways, walked down to the panhandle, you know like a block away, and play, just for the heck of it, not for a reason, not advertised, we just play, and whoever’s there like would pick up on it; and like, starting to play free eventually leads to Altamont, if you go about it a certain way, or you know, if there are errors involved. But like Altamont is like the other side of the coin, the other side of the Woodstock coin, you know; it’s another way for that whole thing to happen. And it’s like unfortunate but true, you know. I mean it really happened, it really happened just like they told you it did. And so it’s like, there’s a fact there, there’s a great big lesson for us all, you know, every head, every revolutionary, everybody who’s considering what social changes are about and considering the way it’s gonna be, you know; it’s like there’s something to be learned from all that.
Smith: Which is what?
Garcia: Well, I don’t know. Everybody has to look at it and find out. You know, I mean, I’m still – the results aren’t in, I’m still learning, you know. I’m still finding things out, I’m still talking to people, and getting various viewpoints, but, you know, it was a heavy thing, it was some kind of heavy thing, and nothing heavy goes down without it being some kind of lesson, you know, or some kind of instruction, or something like that. And like, it’s a big price to pay.
Smith: You played at both, Altamont and –
Garcia: No, we didn’t play at Altamont.
Smith: Oh, I thought you played there?
Smith: Involved in it in any way?
Garcia: Oh yeah, well, it was all – the planning was all going on at our place, and most of our friends, like the whole San Francisco scene, everybody who’s in San Francisco and does anything, was like there trying to put it together, you know. So we’re responsible on a couple of different levels, you know, in a certain way.
Smith: But the main thing that I’ve heard that’s been pinned on the Dead is the hiring of Hell’s Angels.
Garcia: No, no, man, we didn’t hire – nobody hires the Hell’s Angels for anything! The Hell’s Angels aren’t for hire, you know.
Smith: Well, they have hired themselves out for movies.
Garcia: Uhh… They’ve been taken for a ride about movies a lot of times, and they’ve been used for movies a lot of times, and in at least one or two situations they’ve finally been able to like make some bread from movies, you know, exploitation trips. But they’re not for hire; see like, there’s nothing like the Hell’s Angels on the east coast, you know. The Hell’s Angels are something that’s a west coast trip, and it has to do with the whole social structure of the west coast, it’s like much freer than it is out here, you know, it’s not so organized. And so there are Hell’s Angels out there. [The thing about] Hell’s Angels, man, is that at Altamont, it’s not a question of hiring or not hiring, it’s like a question of, who is it that’s gonna say to the Hell’s Angels, go away? You know, nobody’s gonna say that to the Hell’s Angels.
Smith: At Woodstock, at one point, a whole lot of Hell’s Angels showed up.
Garcia: Not California Hell’s Angels.
Smith: And everybody got very uptight and somehow, somebody did go and talk to them and they went away –
Garcia: Well, you know, that’s not – they’re not California Hell’s Angels there. And also, Woodstock wasn’t the Rolling Stones. You know, see those are a couple of big things that make a difference. For one thing, the Rolling Stones, man, are like one of the world’s two most famous groups. And what famous means, famous doesn’t mean good, famous means lots of people know about it. And when you take that thing there, and put it in the headlights and say ‘Rolling Stones are gonna play free somewhere in the bay area,’ you know, like around San Francisco, that means that everybody, everybody who listens to AM radio and who’s heard of the Rolling Stones, which is nearly everybody, is going to go that thing, man, not just heads; Woodstock was heads, largely. You know, there weren’t any top 40 commercial, you know, huge groups there, in that sense. You know, there were underground groups, I mean, by definition their audience is largely heads; all the bands that played at Woodstock, their audience were mostly heads. But the Rolling Stones, man, their audience is everybody, you know. So when you have "free," a commodity that everybody knows about, man, everybody goes, and the Hell’s Angels and the Rolling Stones, like, you know, I mean, they’re talking about the same thing, ‘Street Fighting Man’ and all that. So the Hell’s Angels like the Rolling Stones, man, they’re gonna go see the Rolling Stones no matter where they are, you know. When they played at Oakland, the first, you know, 15 rows were nothing but Hell’s Angels. And so it’s like there’s a thing going on there between the Stones and the Angels, which is like nothing that I know about, because I didn’t – I don’t really know who the Stones are; I do know some Angels, you know. But the whole thing, the whole point of it is, man, that you don’t tell Hell’s Angels to go away, you know. And not only that, but like, there’s a relationship that goes on between the head scene and the Hell’s Angels in San Francisco and around that area. It’s like we know each other because we’ve kind of been like outlaws, you know, for the past five years, we’ve all been on the other side, you know. Now, the people that went to see the Rolling Stones, man, they’re mostly not outlaws, they’re mostly just people, you know, so they don’t know who the hell the Hell’s Angels are, man, they don’t know that if you stand around in the middle of a bunch of Hell’s Angels, eventually you might get hit, you know. Heads know that, because of that experience.
Smith: Hmm. Can you see another rock festival in that area, for a long time?
Garcia: Uhh… Yeah, sure – if that’s what somebody – if somebody still needs to go through rock festivals, yeah, they’re gonna keep happening, you know. But it’s like, it’s not particularly what I wanna do.
Smith: You’ve played at a lot of them?
Garcia: Oh yeah, man, you know, we played at the first one, the Monterey Pops Festival, and all the major ones, pretty much. And you know, it’s really an old form already. But it’s like one of those things, it’s an institution that should be happening, there should be like some kind of huge festival going on with that kind of, like, more people than the ecology can stand density, happening like 24 hours a day all year long somewhere, you know, so that everybody who feels that that’s where it is can go there and do it, and split when they feel like it, and it would be like a perpetual trip, you know. I can see a need for that, because everybody’s talking about million-people festivals and stuff like that, you know.
Smith: Did you like playing a festival?
Garcia: Uh - When they’re out of hand, it’s more scary than it is enjoyable, you know, it’s not really – you don’t really have any sense of communication when you’re looking out on a sea of people, you know, on sort of an anonymous sea of just, you know, people. And also, like you can’t really, you know, you can’t really do a thing, the sound is never very good when it’s huge, you can’t really be heard well. It’s just, you know, it’s not what I’m interested in doing. I don’t think that that kind of thing gets high on the level of, like, where music is, you know what I mean? It gets high on a different level, it gets high on the people level there, the energy, social dynamics level, you know.
Smith: Hmm. A lot of people who are very into your kind of music and everything feel that it works best when it’s free. [bumps the mic] Ouch! Feel that it works best when you’re free and when you can dance.
Smith: Do you feel that way also?
Garcia: Um, sure – I would add outdoors, sunshine, and a few other things, like you know, if you want it to be really best, but also I would say not a huge crowd, you know. If you’re talking about like my best, I like to be able to relate to everybody as much as I possibly can. You know, like when you get a huge crowd, man, it’s just, you can’t do it, you can’t cover it, you can’t tell what’s going on. The feedback is like – it’s weird, it’s freaky for me, you know.
Smith: And is it definitely a difference in the audience, as to when somebody has paid or that they’re all in for free?
Garcia: Uhh, no. I don’t think that’s true. I have never found it to be true, let me put it that way.
Smith: Do you find the response is about the same?
Garcia: Pretty much, pretty much. Well – there’s free and free, you know. Um – the kind of free that I like is the kind of free where everybody’s there to get high, not to go to a rock & roll show, you know, or not to go to an outdoor free dance, you know, but to get high. You know, like, every kind of scene that I’ve ever been into that was like expressly set up for people to get high, that is on any level you choose to experience that, whatever it means to you, you know, like dope or spiritually, whatever it is that gets you high, if that’s the orientation rather than free, you know, it’s a better thing, it’s a bossier thing, regardless of whether there’s an exchange of money or not. That stuff doesn’t really matter. You know, like the old Trips Festival – long time ago, ’66 or something like that. It cost you a buck or so to get in, but everybody paid that buck or so to get in and be high, you know, so like that was extremely high, and it didn’t matter that everybody paid a buck; it was cool, that was all right, that was the right thing to do. I don’t think that any of that shit matters unless you’ve got it in your head that it does, you know what I mean?
Smith: Where is that whole Ken Kesey thing now?
Garcia: Um, all over, just like it always was, you know. I mean, first of all, there never was that scene to speak of, you know, there was only the book, you know. Well, you know how it is when you go through your life, how nothing quite does like a movie, it doesn’t come to a conclusion, you don’t find yourself at the end of an episode and stuff like that, there’s like a flow, you know, and as you’re bumping into other people and things are happening, there’s all these exchanges happening, and that’s still happening of course, cause nobody’s, except for – you know, we’re not all vanished somewhere, see like the book ended, and the book is like a retelling, you know. The book is fiction, man. It’s just – I mean, you can’t take a big experience out of somebody’s life and say this was it, you know. And that’s the way that it’s been looked at, because of being put into a book form, you know: Kesey, this and that, historical, whatever, blah blah. It just isn’t that way, all that stuff is still going on, it’s all still going on, only now you’re in it, you know, and they’re in it, you know, and everybody who’s listening to this tape is, you know, is in it.
Smith: Just I’ve heard that some of the people involved in those Acid Trip festival things all felt that that was like the golden point of their life, like the highpoint, and everything was anticlimactic after that.
Garcia: Oh, I don’t feel – that’s not true with me, certainly. I mean, I don’t feel that’s the case. You know, but I could see where some people would.
Smith: Do you people rehearse a lot, or do you go in pretty cold?
Garcia: Well, we rehearse a lot.
Smith: Like what’s a lot?
Garcia: Ohh, when we have uninterrupted periods of time, that is to say weeks, we go in every day to a rehearsal studio we have and put in about six hours a day. Six, seven hours a day. And like, I practice with my instrument about three hours a day, no matter what.
Smith: You mean, aside from the six hours that you –
Garcia: Yeah; right. Just me and my chops. That’s like one range of the whole musical experience, and then there’s the thing of playing together with the people that you’re playing with, which is like so we get into each other’s time sense and that sort of thing, able to anticipate the movement and that, you know. It’s mostly a matter of keeping the communications open, musically, like if we lay off for a week, we play badly. We just play badly.
Smith: You can tell it that fast?
Garcia: Oh, sure, sure.
Smith: Hmm. How about the difference between recording and playing live?
Garcia: Well, we’ve never been able to record, man, we’ve never recorded successfully yet.
Smith: Yeah, why is that? I mean that’s true, you just sound so different –
Garcia: Right, well we just don’t know how to do it, you know. I mean – first of all, we approach recording as though it were a performance, so we put everything on the tape that we think needs to go on, everything that might go on, you know like 16 tracks of stuff, and then we perform the mix. You know that is to say, usually it’s me and Phil are like hovering over the board, mixing with 16 tracks with four hands, crossing over each other and turning one thing up a little and one thing down a little, and you know. I mean, it’s just a different medium, you know; we’re not playing music, we’re playing a tape of ourselves, we’re performing a mix like you’d perform electronic music. And so like the mixes that we choose usually don’t have any bearing either to the material or to us, in terms of the way we sound, you know. It’s just a different form, man, it’s like the difference –
Smith: What are you gonna do? [indecipherable comment]
Garcia: No, cause the reason we play live is to be able to play live, you know. I mean, live playing, you know, that’s what we do. Recording is something we goof around at. And that’s only because there’s somebody who thinks they can sell our records. You know, I mean, like – it’d be foolish of us to go into a studio and try to sound live, you know what I mean? Because the technical problems to overcome in order to sound live are enormous. If we wanted to sound live, the thing we would do is record live all the time. But we do that anyway.
Smith: A lot of the groups I’ve interviewed, they talk about the terrific pressures of getting along with each other. Is that true of the Grateful Dead also?
Garcia: No, not with us, we’ve already been through all that shit. We’ve been together for five years and most of us were friends before that. And you know, after a while, all that – I mean, you get so everybody knows everything that everybody else is into so intimately, man, and that we’ve all been having more or less identical input, we’re in a unique position to be this high energy trip, week in and week out, man, all these years; it’s like put our heads in a very specific place. And so we relate to each other better than to anybody else, in fact, you know, cause there’s kind of like a group consciousness; there’s each of us as individuals, and then there’s a group consciousness, which is us all, you know. And that’s like, that’s our baby, you know. Cause none of us are really doing anything, we’re only doing something that’s kind of like an experiment we got into some years ago. We said, ‘Wow wouldn’t it be weird to play music together?’ ‘Sure, why not,’ you know, and bam, we started doing it, and it’s like, it’s a huge experiment, and it doesn’t really matter whether we make it or not, I mean it doesn’t matter – there’s nothing to gain or lose, you see what I mean, it’s not a gain situation. We’ve agreed to do this trip, and so that’s all that has to happen, you know.
Smith: So even when you’re on the road traveling and everything, you don’t get into big hassles –
Garcia: Oh, we’re always tighter on the road, even.
Smith: Even tighter?
Garcia: Oh, sure.
Smith: Lots of the groups complain the most about that, they just say they’re in each other’s hair constantly.
Garcia: Really? Well that’s, you know, I don’t know where that is, you know.
Smith: Well how about money? There’s always this rumor that the Dead have never made any money and they’re always broke and poor –
Garcia: Oh, we’ve made lots of money, we’ve made all kinds of money, but – I mean, you know, but like we’ve got a whole big scene that we support, as well as all that equipment, and –
Smith: How big a scene?
Garcia: Oh, I don’t know, at the outside getting up to about 50 people, 60 people probably.
Smith: Consisting of who?
Garcia: Everybody, man, everybody; all our friends.
Smith: And you support all of that with the money that you make?
Garcia: Uhh – indirectly, you know; I mean we don’t give everybody a certain amount of dollars every week, but everybody eats, you know, everybody has places to stay and stuff like that.
Smith: [baffled silence]
Garcia: What else is there to do with money, man?
Smith: Well, some people buy cars and boats and planes –
Garcia: Aw well, that’s cool too, you know.
Smith: Or put it away. You guys haven’t managed to save much –
Garcia: Oh man, what’s to save for, you know? I mean, who said there was gonna be a tomorrow, you know? I mean, like I say, this is all an experiment, man; like we started out with nothing, you know, and nothing to lose therefore, so everything has been gained since that point, and it’s like, you know, below ground zero where they take everything away from you and leave you standing naked somewhere, you still have your mind, man, and you’re still you, you know, whatever that is, you know; and it’s like, there’s nothing to lose. It’s just, that’s what this all is, man, it’s like some weird adventure, you know; and like we get to play as much as we want, and not only that, but they give us bread so that all our friends can eat, you know, so that they can all be loose for a good long time.
Smith: But what happens to the money, literally, I’m curious? It’s like it just comes to who –
Garcia: You know, what happens to your money, man? [laughs]
Smith: Well I personally am in control of it, but I’m saying that with a group and a big thing like that, what do you do?
Garcia: Well we got a guy that does money, you know. That’s his thing.
Smith: That’s his thing.
Garcia: Yeah. He does money, and this last year – it’s Lenny, Mickey’s father, man, and in this last year, like we finally got out of debt, man, or kind of, you know, like up to where we’re kind of moving along pretty evenly, and like he tells us when we haven’t got enough money, he tells us when, you know, things like that. That’s what you do with money. You know, who wants to bother with it, man? It’s no good, you can’t eat it, you know, can’t get high from it.
Smith: Did you always feel that way about money?
Smith: Even before you guys started making it?
Garcia: Oh sure, listen, we were all on the street for years, man; you know, we were musicians, we were going around from one dumpy – you know, like the whole San Francisco scene, man, is a whole bunch of people who’ve known each other for almost ten years now, been playing in weird places, been unsuccessful for most of those years, right? You know, starving and one thing or another, staying at each other’s houses, dealing back and forth, getting high and all that – it’s been going on for a long time, man, and all of a sudden like in the past four or five years here’s this whole big trip going down, you know. And it’s just – somebody must be taking it really seriously somewhere, you know. But you know, it’s all so patently crazy.
Smith: Hmm. I’ve noticed that the audiences at Dead concerts are not really kind of a typical rock audience; they tend to be a little older, for one thing –
Smith: The audience seems to look more like beatniks than hip kids.
Garcia: Right, oh yeah.
Smith: Why is that? Is that anything conscious that you do?
Garcia: Uh, well, we’re grownups, man, we play grownup music, you know; whatever that is, man, that’s just what we do, and so our audience is like other versions of us, you know. I mean if there was another – if there was a band called the Grateful Dead and I was one of the other side, you know, like, the audience is us, you know, it’s us, it’s the same people, you know. There isn’t any difference. Our audience is really groovy, it’s really super, it’s like brilliant, you know, it’s sharp, it’s smart, you know. It is, and it’s groovy to have a smart audience, it’s groovy to have an audience that knows when you’re getting on and when you’re not. It like keeps you on your toes, and it gives you that impetus in continuing to travel sort of an upward arc, you know, musically speaking. So like if we had a stupid audience, we’d be able to get by playing bad [tests] for a long time.
Smith: How about in different parts of the country, does it vary? They’re not smarter in any –
Garcia: It’s the same all over. The Grateful Dead audience is the Grateful Dead audience, everywhere in the country, no matter where you go, it all kind of looks about the same, it does about the same things, it gets high about the same.
Smith: Wow. Maybe the guy who does your money is paying all those people to follow you from concert to concert?
Garcia: Sure, whatever, you know. Lot of people do that, man, like do a whole big traveling thing.
Smith: Hmm. How about outside of this country, you been to perform in Europe?
Garcia: No, we haven’t been to Europe yet; we’re supposed to go pretty soon, but –
Smith: I wonder if the audience is gonna be the same there too?
Garcia: Probably. Because of the information that goes out about us, it’s always carried on a certain level; it’s not banner headlines, you know, it’s not AM radio stations, it’s not fan magazines, it’s none of that kind of bullshit, it’s not a showbiz trip. You know, like the people that know about us are the people that know about dope, generally, you know. Like, that’s the world that we’re in. And so our audience is almost always heads, and it’s almost always people who’ve dropped out in one thing or another, and it’s usually people who are making it in whatever scene they’re doing, man, it’s working for them, they got it working for ‘em. That’s pretty general, I must say, you know, because I mean, it’s not quite that typical –
Smith: The drug scene itself has changed quite a lot in the last five years, hasn’t it?
Garcia: It’s everywhere now, that’s what’s different. You know, everybody gets high now.
Smith: Do the Dead get as high as they used to?
Garcia: Oh, how do you mean? [laughs]
Smith: Like how often is what I mean.
Garcia: Oh, as often? Oh, sure, yeah.
Smith: Do you generally perform high?
Garcia: Um, well, yeah, sure man, that’s what playing is about, that’s what performing is about for us, that’s what music is, that’s what music should do; it should be high; you should get high, in any way you have to get high; and like some of the guys in the band are like, you know, like Weir is like on a diet, man, a whole special diet to get high, you know, and Pigpen’s got his way of getting high. You know, it’s not my way, it’s his way, man. We’ve all got our own ways of getting high, and we do what we do to get high because that’s what we’re doing, is getting high.
Garcia: See, music should be that sort of thing, music here should be the way it is in India, it should be holy; it shouldn’t be business. And here it’s business; and because music is business here, it’s awful, it’s mostly awful, most the music here is awful, it’s just plain bad. It’s shitty, you know. Cause it’s designed to make money, it’s not designed to do what music’s supposed to do.
Smith: Hmm. The thing of getting high, what I was driving at is I started to kind of notice on the music scene, people who make the music, sell the music, promote the music, whatever, all those people seem to be – more and more of them that I meet keep saying, ‘Oh, I don’t turn on hardly as much as I used to.’ It’s the audience out there that’s grown and the amount of heads.
Smith: But the people who started it seem to be turning on less.
Garcia: Well it all depends on which people you’re talking about. You know, I don’t know about the east coast, man; I only come here once in a while –
Smith: As far as you know on the west coast, it’s pretty much the same?
Garcia: On the west coast, sure man, yeah.
Smith: People still get high –
Garcia: It’s a stoned place there, it’s a way of life there, it’s been going on for a long time; it’s working there, it’s working; the revolution’s over on the west coast; it’s all working.
Smith: It’s over?
Garcia: Yeah, it’s all working. It’s after the revolution, this is post-revolutionary time.
Smith: Yeah, and yet you have an Altamont.
Garcia: Man, that’s a whole other problem.
Smith: Charles Manson.
Garcia: That’s after the revolution, those are after-the-revolution trips.
Smith: After the revolution?
Garcia: Sure, man. Because those guys are us too, all that stuff is us, you know. I mean, we only deal with it when it becomes manifest, when we suddenly realize it’s there. It becomes a reality, then we have to deal with it. So like Altamont comes up, OK, that may mean now we have a year before we decide to set up a situation in which that kind of thing can occur again, you know what I mean? It’s like there’s a responsibility involved in all these things, man, and when you turn somebody on, if you don’t turn ‘em on right, eventually they kill somebody. If you look at the most extreme direct sort of, you know – from this event to that event.
Smith: That’s sort of what Altamont was, you think –
Smith: - sort of like, there was a lot of people who weren’t turned on right.
Garcia: Right, right. Well, and to the wrong things, like Altamont, man, the drugs there were mostly reds and juice. You know, and those things aren’t conducive to getting high, really; they’re conducive to shutting things off. And shutting things off is the problem that the world is experiencing right now; see, Altamont was a microcosm of the world, which is us all, man; and it’s like one little scene, one little bit of violence which is really the minority, man, maybe 200 people were hassling out of those 300,000, but everybody in that whole crowd by the end of the day knew that there was violence going on, and they knew – it was like the deepest kind of, most basic psychic fear going through the whole crowd. That’s something really heavy, you know, and like, that model is the model that this world is operating on right now, man, there’s like little bits and pieces of things going on here and there, and it’s like bringing us all down a certain amount, and the only way it’s going to be dealt with is by each of us individually realizing what part they took in the murder, you know, or what part they have to do with the war, or you know, it’s like, ‘when did I do that?’ And like that’s the only way those things are going to work out, is by seeing –
Smith: I don’t know, somehow I feel that you’re being maybe too forgiving.
Garcia: I’m not – I mean, you know, what’s to forgive? There isn’t any blame.
Smith: There is no blame?
Garcia: No, man, there isn’t any blame, you can’t operate with blame. Because who are you going to blame? You have to blame everybody, and blaming everybody –
Smith: The guy who maybe is visible on that piece of film that did the stabbing.
Garcia: On the film, he looks like a hero, man! Here’s this guy running toward the stage with a big fucking gun? You know, and here comes this brave Hell’s Angel out of the crowd and drops him. You know, that’s a heroic act, man. You know, at any other time in history, that’s a heroic act. You know, that’s a samurai trip.
Smith: [long pause] So how come that Hell’s Angel guy is being depicted pretty much in the underground press and you know, by almost everybody as being not a hero?
Garcia: Because most of those people are lame, man, most of the people in the underground press are lame; that’s why they’re in the underground press. You know, I mean, let’s face it man, the underground thing, it’s like a hype too, you know. There isn’t any ‘us’ and ‘them,’ there isn’t any underground and overground, you know. We’re all human beings, we’re all on this planet together, and all the problems are all of ours, you know, not ‘some are mine and some are theirs.’ You know, if there’s a war going on, I’m as responsible as anybody is. If somebody’s murdered, I’m responsible for that too, you know. The question is, how to work it out, man? How can you have freedom and still work it out? How can the world be free so that Hell’s Angels can happen, see – Hell’s Angels have happened because of freedom. They’re free to happen, you know, and they’re a manifestation of what freedom is, in essence; and so at some point or another, somebody has to say, ‘There can be no Hell’s Angels,’ you know. And who’s gonna say that, man?
Smith: Mm. [to engineer] OK. Well, I think I got it. Peter. Yeah, good interview. It’s one of the shorter ones I’ve done, but it was very good.
Garcia: Well, I ain’t interested in selling records, you hip to it? You know, like none of that shit.
Smith: OK, I’ll say that on the [interview] – ‘Don’t buy the Grateful Dead’s records!’
Garcia: I mean, if there’s any like little part of the truth that I can help uncover, man, that’s what I’m supposed to do, not sell records – selling records is just bullshit.
Garcia: Take it or leave it, man.
Howard Smith wrote the "Scenes" column in the Village Voice and hosted a weekly radio show on WABC-FM. He died last year, but many of his taped interviews from '69-72 have been released recently on Amazon & itunes as "the Smith tapes."ReplyDelete
A book called The Smith Tapes: Lost Interviews With Rock Stars & Icons is due to be released this October, with a selection of interviews edited by Ezra Bookstein. It will probably contain part of the Garcia interview as well.
I did this transcription, which is as complete as can be, except for a few words here & there I didn't catch.
I think this interview took place in the WABC radio studio the first day of the Dead's Feb '70 Fillmore East run. I presume Smith would have used some clips in his radio show, but he might also have quoted Garcia in his "Scenes" column.
There's a lot of emphasis on Altamont, which had happened less than two months earlier. (They both mention the film of the stabbing - I wonder if that had been shown on TV?)
I don't know if Smith liked the Dead or not, though he'd seen them live - his questions tend to be impersonal, more "socially" oriented and non-musical. He sometimes seems baffled by Garcia's replies, particularly when trying to figure out the Dead's financial scene. (Note that Garcia still puts total faith in manager Lenny Hart.)
Garcia is quite talkative, not put off by any line of questioning.
The highpoint: Smith's startled silence after Garcia calls the Altamont killing "a heroic act."
The lowpoint: Garcia mentions that the Dead record themselves live all the time, and Smith immediately changes the subject.
Incredible. Thanks so much for transcribing this. It is a gold mine!ReplyDelete
the notes give a date of feb. 11, 1970 for this jerry garcia interview. that was the first day of their february, 1970 fillmore east residency, so that interview may very well have taken place before the concerts.ReplyDelete
p.s. thanks for the transcription!
howard smith was also on WPLJ FM in nycity.Delete