Nov 14, 2018

November 7, 1970: Marty Weinberg Interview

Marty Weinberg interviewed an usher during a set break in the Saturday show at the Capitol Theater, Port Chester.

MARTY: Hello, sir. Do you enjoy being usher here?
USHER: Uh, sometimes. Not when I have to hassle people. [...]
MARTY: Was there ever a concert where you never had to hassle people?
MARTY: When? Besides the Dead.
USHER: Uh, no, the Dead is the most - the worst one to hassle people.
USHER: 'Cause of the fire laws the way they are, when everybody smokes here - you know, like, it's a bummer.
MARTY: Well why do you have to keep people off the aisles?
USHER: 'Cause that's another fire law. [There's] people in Port Chester, particularly the fire commissioner, who want to close down this theater. [to audience] Don't smoke that joint! Pass it around.
MARTY: I see you're blackmailing with us.
USHER: No, man. [...]
MARTY: Yeah, but like, if there's a fire here, first of all man, don't matter if the aisles are cleared or not, they're gonna be filled up in two seconds anyway.
USHER: Oh, sure, but if there are people in the aisle...people sitting, not standing so much - lot of times, the people just come down and sit down in the aisles - and if they're sitting, like, you just run 'em over.
[Someone in the audience asks something.]
USHER: That's the fire marshals.
MARTY: What are they doing in here? How come there's only one -
USHER: [to audience] I suggest you put that out! 'Cause I don't wanna lose my job.
MARTY: There was only one last night. How come there's so many tonight?
USHER: Because the fire commissioner himself is here.
MARTY: Is that the guy who was around last night, that funny guy -
USHER: He wasn't here last night. First time he's ever been here.
MARTY: Oh, does he like it? Does he like the concert?
USHER: No, he wants to close the place down.
MARTY: Is he gonna be able to?
USHER: Yeah.
MARTY: Yeah? There's gonna be a concert tomorrow night, I hope.
USHER: I hope.
MARTY: Yeah, good. Sunday night concert's always the best.
USHER: Yeah, this one has been the best since Thursday.
MARTY: No, last night was pretty good, Thursday -
USHER: No, tonight's better. Well, it has a lot to do with the audience, tonight's audience is much better than last night.
MARTY: Well, last night they did some pretty good stuff - like, Thursday night [...]
USHER: It was a really good concert last night. But like, if they play the same tonight as they did last night, I think they're playing better.
MARTY: Well first of all, it's only like ten after 12 now, and last night - by the ten-minute break, it was 1:00 in the morning already.
USHER: Yeah, I know.
MARTY: They haven't been playing as much tonight. Maybe they'll play more tomorrow night. Usually the last night concerts are the best.
USHER: Well there are gonna be so few people here tomorrow, compared to the other ones, though.
MARTY: They'll sell out eventually, probably - sell all the $5.50s, at least. It looked like you almost sold out on Thursday night.
USHER: Well no, you see, that's [a fallacy]. When we sell out, it means there are at least 300 people standing.
MARTY: It means you're selling standing seats?
USHER: No. Free passes.
MARTY: Oh, I see.
Audience member: How many people are on the Dead guest list?
USHER: On the Dead guest list? Not very many, 14, 15 tonight.
[Audience member asks a question.]
USHER: Yeah, but it doesn't work that way. The people on the Dead list are backstage, those are the people we see in back of the equipment. [some discussion with audience member] For this show, they're not even letting ushers go backstage.
MARTY: They're not? Do they usually let ushers go backstage?
USHER: Oh, yeah. [It's] a big thrill standing on the side watching somebody.
MARTY: Huh, I'm really disappointed with the -
USHER: The easiest concert we ever had was James Taylor.
USHER: Everyone just sat here in total -
?: I just snorted some cocaine! And I feel good.
?: You did, great. Great!
MARTY: Is the fire commissioner - what about the police department, are there -
USHER: I believe there are two uniformed policemen in here and four non-uniformed.
MARTY: Is anyone busted in here?
USHER: Uh, one of my friends was busted earlier this evening.
MARTY: For possession or selling?
USHER: Possession.
MARTY: In the theater?
USHER: Yeah. He's smoking pot and the cop walked right up to him.
[A nearby audience member is surprised: "Really? You hear that?" Tells a friend that someone "got taken out by a cop."]
USHER: Good on Howard, ran after him.
MARTY: He did?
USHER: Yeah. He managed to talk the cop into letting the kid go.
MARTY: That's good - are they busting kids outside here at all?
USHER: A lot.
MARTY: Yeah?
[An audience member asks the usher who someone by the door is.]
MARTY: How'd you get a Grateful Dead t-shirt?
USHER: One of my friends made it. Two dollars.
MARTY: He made it? Two dollars? I'd like to buy one!
USHER: Go to Flushing, Union Street. Tell him -
MARTY: How would you like to buy some tapes of the Dead?
USHER: No chance.
MARTY: I have Dead tapes...

Nov 13, 2018

1973: Mr. Tapes


BROOKLYN -- Don't let anybody tell you differently. Brooklyn is the Grateful Dead center of the world. For one thing, Mickey Hart's grandparents live in Bayridge. Bill Kreutzman's niece goes to school on Coney Island. And on East 18th Street, cleverly disguised as a mild-mannered inspector for the New York City Housing Authority, lives the man Jerry Garcia calls "Mr. Tapes."
Les Kippel pointed to his collection. "Over 500 hours of Grateful Dead tapes," he beamed. "More than 100 concerts from early 1968 right up to Watkins Glen. The Dead by themselves, the Dead with the New Riders, with Duane Allman, with the Beach Boys, the Airplane - there's even a tape with Janis Joplin." Les closed his eyes for a beat. "Let's see...that one was from the Fillmore East, January 3rd, 1970.
"The first concert I personally recorded was on May 25th, 1971. I had a borrowed cassette machine and a 45-cent microphone - now I use a Sony TC1-10A and an Uhr mike. It's a real pain in the ass doing an audience tape. It takes a lot of preparation - you have to attach the mike to a long pole to get above the crowd noise. You also have to know the concert hall very well - in some places, for example, the best sound is in the first row balcony. You also need a partner to help with the equipment and a lot of dope to keep you mellow."
Les moved out of the apprentice class last year while he was waiting in a Ticketron line at Macy's. "There were some 200 people screaming to get tickets to see the Dead at Roosevelt Stadium," he said. "And three or four of them were screaming, 'We have tapes. We have tapes.' One of them was a cat named John Alberts - and we wound up exchanging collections. That brought me up to about 200 hours."
It wasn't until a Dead concert at Waterbury, Connecticut, last year that Les became a Grand Master. "John and I were hanging around the backstage area before the concert. We needed a super-good 'Box of Rain' for our collection." So they made up a little gift in a small box and attached one of their cards. "We managed to get it to Bill Kreutzman. Ten minutes later he comes running outside with Phil Lesh, looking for us... They gave us stage passes. We handed out over a hundred of our cards backstage, and the tapes really started coming in after that."
Approximately two-thirds of Les's tapes are audience tapes, the remainder being either radio-simulcasts or soundboard tapes which have been borrowed, copied, and (sometimes) returned. There are also a couple of tapes from Warner Bros. - but Les never involves himself in the shadier aspects of tape procurement. "All I want to know," he said, "is how good the sound is and what concert it's from."
With Les as source, free Grateful Dead tape exchanges have been set up in Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, California, Maryland, Massachusetts...there have even been inquiries from Australia.
"A lot of people want to set up exchanges. I tell them to get cards made up with their telephone numbers on it, but I also insist it says 'free' on them. Then they came over here. If they can make me like them, I'll start them out with 15-20 hours of tape - they can trade their own way from there. If they're assholes, I'll charge them outrageous prices for a couple of tapes and tell them not to come back."

John Orlando got his tapes for nothing. He lives in Brooklyn, of course, and he is a member of one of the nine Dead tape exchanges which Les has spawned in New York City.
"Mr. Tapes is a bitch," John said. "He set me up and two of my friends with tapes, right? Man, I was doing wall-to-wall taping 18 hours a day, four machines going at the same time. I had to quit my job - it was very intense. I had to stay high all day or I'd go nuts. After a week, my chick comes over and said, 'John, is it me or the Dead?" 'Take a walk,' I says. I'm a Grateful Dead hermit - but I have an understanding with them, so it's cool. But Mr. Tapes, man, he can fuck your head good."

Back on 18th Street, Les talked about the future. "I'd like to go legit," he said. "Sam Cutler told me we can make some money working with the Dead. It seems that they have a lot of holes in their archives - somebody ripped off some tapes while they were in Oregon. There's certainly a demand for old stuff, and the Dead are cut loose from Warner Bros. now, so the next move is theirs."
Les Kippel, however, is the Tape Master only because the old one is in addled retirement. Somewhere, walking the streets of Flatbush, is a man known only as "The Legendary Marty." Clasped in his hand is a suitcase - full of Dead tapes, the best and the most exotic. The leaders are split and tangled, and there are no labels on the tiny five-inch reels, but the very thought of them is enough to give Les cardiac arrest.
"I haven't seen the Legendary Marty in over a year," said Les. "Nobody knows where he is. What I would love to do is close my eyes, stick my hand into the suitcase, and record whatever I pull out. Who knows what goodies he has in there?"
As he talked, Les poured out three glasses of wine. He sipped at one and handed me another - the third he put on the table.
"What's that for?" I asked.
Les answered in a reverent tone, "It's for Marty. Just in case."

(by Charley Rosen, from Rolling Stone, 11 October 1973)

See also: 

Oct 31, 2018

October 4, 1970: Winterland Arena


The Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, plus their satellite groups, Hot Tuna and the New Riders of the Purple Sage, will appear as the first attractions in a new series of popular music concerts at Winterland, Oct. 4-5.
"Winterland Presents," co-ordinated and supervised by Harold Copeland and produced by Paul Baratta (one-time Fillmore staffer), plans to present regular shows throughout the winter and spring seasons.
[list of coming attractions]
With a new stage, lighting, and sound arrangements, tickets at $3.50, and substantial financial backing, the Winterland Presents series promises to provide full-scale competition to the Fillmore West offerings and to expand the San Francisco rock-entertainment scene considerably.

(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, 16 September 1970)


KQED deserves a big, big round of applause for last night’s 4-hour (10 p.m. to 2 a.m.) show and lively coverage of the Winterland Rock Show – with the Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. All kinds of kudos go to producer Larry Armstrong and director Duncan McKelvey. Their on-the-site sound-and-color mix was fittingly dove-tailed to the product.

(from Dwight Newton's TV column, the San Francisco Examiner, 5 October 1970)


The new rock-show operation at Winterland Arena couldn't have chosen a surer sellout program than the triumvirate of Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
And much to the delight of producer Paul Baratta, all expectations were realized both Sunday and last night. The place was jammed with about 6000 fans each evening - enthusiastic, happy, hot, tired, friendly fans of the three famous "old original" San Francisco bands.
Musically things went pretty much according to tradition. Grace Slick of the Airplane and Dino Valenti (who now dominates Quicksilver) were the only two strong and steady singers on stage. Bob Weir of the Dead is also a good one, when his colleagues don't clutter up the background.
The Airplane's vocalist Marty Balin was erratic and out of sorts Sunday and did not show last night. He is a distinctive singer and remarkably fine interpreter of lyrics. But Balin lately has had to shout more than sing.
Perhaps his closing lines Sunday night, "I need a new band," were, indeed, prophetic.
The Dead's instrumental ensemble is now at its all-time best, but their lack of memorable singing hurts their general presentation. Conversely it is the Airplane's sluggish ensemble, which takes half a set to really get going, that causes the group's problems.
But none of this is new -- these things have been true for a long time.
Quicksilver has lost its old thing by becoming essentially Valenti's accompanists. And their new big brass and reed section just compounds the difficulties of trying to keep some of the good old sounds.
Those who came to hear the last show by the old Quicksilver were disappointed at Winterland. What they got, instead, was the beginning of the new, not the last of the old.
A new giant stage has been built in the arena at the end opposite the entry, at the point where the Ice Follies annually mount their various acts. And a huge, superbly directed, sound system has been erected.
Rear-projected light shows splash their stuff on a big scrim which hangs above the stage.
Everything was working this weekend, no major problems in the whole operation.
But Baratta still had a worried look of concern on his tired face. Late yesterday he received word from England that his headliner on October 16-17, the immensely talented and popular singer Dave Mason, has had to cancel because of emigration problems.

(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, 6 October 1970)

* * *


Sardine-packed longhair music freaks jammed Winterland Sunday for the first revival of the three original San Francisco acid rock groups -- Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
Hundreds arrived hours early and pitched camp around the old ice-skating rink to be sure to get the $3.50 tickets. Funky trucks, psychedelic buses, and painted and decrepit cars filled every parking space for blocks around.
Sunday night Bill Graham's prodigal partner was turning them away from the door -- not out of humanitarian impulse so everyone inside could breathe, but because there was literally no more space to pack them in. Greed is limited only by necessity.
The music did its job. The Dead's Jerry Garcia plucked away our time, Jack Cassidy looked like he had a narrow lead over Grace Slick in their race towards decadence, Quicksilver put on quite a show. The stage was lighted like a crucible, and the shoulder-to-jaw crowd all faced towards it like sunflowers facing the sun.
And the whole thing was projected into your livingroom, Mr. & Mrs. America, through the marvels of modern electronics. Two radio stations (KQED-fm and KSAN) and a TV station (Channel 9) carried the show live Sunday in quadrisonic -- each radio station carrying two tracks. The first for head culture was sponsored by Pacific Stereo, who bought the time on KSAN who in turn paid the expenses of the broadcast for the "non-commercial" KQED TV and FM. All of this was to tell us that our stereos are obsolete and that we now have to buy quadriplex sound systems. (This is known as planned obsolescences. The record manufacturers are taking their cue from Detroit.)
It was kind of sad to see in one way. Here were the same musicians from in the beginning. Here were many of the same people as in the beginning, plus thousands who had joined along the way, having those same new/old experiences -- community, trusting everyone enough to pass joints openly as a matter of course, realizing membership.
And here was the same rooting pig, packing in as many as fire regulations allowed, hiring moonlighting San Francisco policemen to keep the crowd "under control." The only novelty was the American flag with the peace symbol instead of the field of stars they wore on breast pockets, goading people along with their flashlights. No standing around in the lobby; move along, cummon, keep movin.
It's actually lost ground. The pig has mastered the subculture. Crowd control, as in mace and beanbag shooters, has been replaced by culture control, as in Vortex One and KSAN. Reds are more popular now, same with wine and smack.
When the Dead started to wail on Good Lovin' and the rhythms got tighter and tighter like spiral watchsprings, people screamed, uncoiled. Grace Slick (a first for educational TV) says, "You want your fuckin' music? You'll get your fuckin' music."
Jimi Hendrix died in his own vomit and Janis Joplin died of a smack OD. You won't get their music anymore.

(by csm & snag, from the San Francisco Good Times, 9 October 1970)

* * *


The sounds and sights of Winterland in our very own bedroom. Far fucking out!
The Quick, the Dead, and the Airplane. Live and on stage, all playing long sets. Beautiful music in quadraphonic sound. Sound like you hear standing next to the amplifiers.
No $3.50 at the door. No lines. No packing in more people than the hall could handle. No muss. No fuss.
Now we can offer the excitement of a hippy/rock/be-in/concert/orgy/dance/happening in the privacy of your very own home. No salesman will call on you. If not absolutely delighted, return to straight society within 10 minutes and get a refund with no questions asked.

In 1966 the ballrooms were just starting. At Chet's Avalon Ballroom strange things were happening.
The Grateful Dead would play "Midnight Hour" for a half hour or more. Pigpen sang, really getting into it. And hundreds of people - practically everyone in the hall - would JOIN HANDS and dance to exhaustion.
It happened several times, I can't describe how it felt, what it did for our heads.
"One of these nights we're going to dance out of here, into the streets, and get the whole city of San Francisco to join us. We'll turn the whole city on," Buddha said one night.
But that was four years ago. If it happened, I missed it.

The Sunday TV/radio broadcast must have taken a lot of energy. Having to go through endless hassles with sponsors and network executives and all that shit. Probably months of hard work by people trying to create something beautiful.
But for many of us it was the wrong show at the wrong time. A couple of weeks after Jimi Hendrix died - in London (why London?). The SAME NIGHT Janis Joplin died - in Hollywood (why Hollywood?). A time when people are shaken by their deaths and wondering if maybe something's wrong with the rock music culture.
And then this show ("Instant Karma's gonna hit you in the face") that makes you wonder even more. Despite all the hard work, despite the music, it was a bummer for many.
Part of it was the medium. A painting, record, or newspaper only hits one of your senses. TV hits several, almost giving you the impression that you're THERE. But you aren't, you're detached from their reality. It's an illusion.
Another problem was that the cameras were backstage. And backstage is where all the groupies - male and female - hang out. The hangers-on.
A lot of it was the disc jockeys. Dusty Street being so trippy with all the Beautiful (Hip) People. Saying "man" every sentence. Saying nothing. Coming on about as liberated as the women's section of the Oakland Tribune.
The other disc jockey - some dude named Ginger Man - was even worse. He had the following conversation with a young WHITE woman:
G.M.: Are you a Black Panther?
G.M.: Do you believe in violent revolution?
G.M.: Outtasite!
When a Tribe brother broke the string of "farouts" and "outtasites" by rapping on Bobby Seale on the air, Ginger Man picked up his microphone and ran his racist ass off.
He and Dusty were constantly reminding us what a great time everyone was having. As if we couldn't see and hear the laughs, joints, beer, smiles, "fucks" and "shits," wine, and shouts liberating the airwaves. The constant hype of the announcers somehow made it all seem hollow.
But the worst thing for me - the unforgivable thing - was the way Janis was ignored. The announcers were talking up this new promoter who used to work for Bill Graham. They talked about how he was bringing back the great old days of the San Francisco Scene.
How the three bands - Dead, Quicksilver, and Airplane - were back at Winterland. How everyone was grooving just like they used to in the Summer of Love. But Jimi and Janis were playing Winterland back then too! AND THE PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE WEREN'T EVEN TOLD THAT JANIS WAS DEAD.
The rumor spread among some people backstage. Ginger Man on TV asked, "What's happening to our rock stars?", not really wanting an answer. But no one told the masses in the audience about it.
It would have just been BAD VIBES. And they'd hear about it the next day anyway. And why ruin their fun (and our show)? And they didn't really NEED to know, did they?

We should be together.
- Jefferson Airplane

Together doesn't JUST mean 5,000 people jammed into Winterland. Or 300,000 people watching rock murder and mayhem at Altamont. Or even 1,000,000 people digging the same TV show. That's just a step.
Dig it. The promoters (of all sorts) are, more or less, cynical. The audiences are passive, steeped in blind faith. The performers are, ultimately, all alone. That's not together.
I'd like to hold hands with my sisters and brothers, and dance all night. That's another step. Our life's too fine. And we should - must - be together.

(by Rick, from the Berkeley Tribe, 9 October 1970)

* * *

A couple excerpts on Janis:


... I heard about her death at the re-opening of Winterland, up in 'Frisco. For the first time in a long time the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and the Quicksilver Messenger Service were going to be on the same bill. KQED, the educational TV station, was telecasting the concert live and in color, and some of the radio stations were simulcasting the event in stereo. The Dead had just done an incredibly together set when the rumor started. I checked UPI, and found it was true. Four years I knew her. Until Sunday that seemed a long time.
Others had checked the story, and by the time I got backstage everyone knew. The reaction of Janis Joplin's fellow 'Frisco musicians was for some reason the same as if they had received a weather report. None of the groups at Winterland shed a tear for Janis that night. They just really didn't grasp its meaning. A publicist for one of them thought it was a great third act, funny, told me to forget about it.
I left the hall and went to a house to watch on TV the event I'd just left.
A friend's face flashed on the screen. He was asked by some do-gooder from NET about the prevalence of drugs and death in rock and roll. He couldn't have been talking about Janis Joplin. He was just talking about someone who OD'd at the Landmark -- but not Janis.
Janis Joplin died on a Sunday, alone, too high in an impersonal motel room. ...

(by John Carpenter, from the Los Angeles Free Press, 16 October 1970)

from JORMA KAUKONEN (interview)

JORMA: We did the thing at Winterland last weekend when Janis died and all these people were saying "gosh it's really shitty, why don't you say something about Janis dying and all that stuff?" I felt that was antithetical to the idea of what everybody playing there was trying to do; which essentially was to have a good time and to have the people that were there have a good time. It's really a great trip, you're all messed up on something or other, and someone says "so and so just died, what a drag." They lay a heavy rap on you. Who needs it? You can read the paper. Why lay it on people at a time when they are supposed to be feeling good? BB King says all that shit better than I do. I really like the way he talks - he's talking about the blues and he says you're playing blues to forget about feeling bad, not to feel bad. That's pretty much the way it is.

(from the Door, San Diego, 22 October 1970)

See also:

* * *

Bonus article on the 8/30/70 "Calebration" broadcast on KPIX:

7:30 K-101 (101.3); KCBS (740) - Calabration: Second four channel stereo broadcast with television featuring the Grateful Dead Quick Silver and Swamp Dogg.
("Sunday FM Highlights," SF Examiner 8/30/70)

The Grateful Dead will perform along with the Quicksilver Messenger Service and Swamp Dogg on "Calebration," tonight at 7:30 on Channel 5. To receive the full impact of the music, a viewer should have not only a television set but two FM-stereo receivers.

Television Broadcast Tonight!
Quicksilver Messenger Service - The Grateful Dead - The Swamp Dogg - tonight at 7:30 on Channel 5, with 4-channel stereo on K101 and KCBS-FM, brought to you by Lafayette stores and TEAC quadrasonic recorders. See the broadcast tonight, hear the 4-channel sound track recorded on the TEAC TCA-42 at any Lafayette Bay Area store all this coming week.
(two more notices from the 8/30/70 SF Examiner) 


Back in '66 when I started goin' to rock concerts, the greatest possible event was a "Quick and the Dead" concert. We'd load up on weed in the car, pay Chet or Bill some money, go in, and trip, sing, scream, and dance for five or six hours. It was the ultimate rock orgasm.
If you'd told me four years ago that the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service would someday star in a "special" on Channel five, I'd have thought you insane. After all, it was underground culture, too fuckin' wild for the TV creeps.
But there they were on the Tube Sunday night with Swamp Dogg and Jerry Abrams' Headlights. And it was outtasite! Pigpen on prime time TV!
Strange changes have come down. When the bands first started playin', it was music for dropouts. Now the businessmen are using it to convince us to drop back IN!
To enjoy the show in all the glory of its quadroponic sound, you needed a small arsenal of stereo equipment. Several radios and a color TV arranged in a circle around you, according to the demonstration. We made do with a black and white TV and a table radio -- and thought we were well off.
The program was "brought to you by" the maker of quadroponic tape machine. They explained the stereo would soon be obsolete, but for "only $695" we can prepare for the quadroponic future. And then we'll enjoy aural orgasms for ever more. At least until Pentagonic sound makes EVERYTHING obsolete.
Of course, some of us dropouts might not have $695. So there was a commercial urging us to check out our local schools for coursers in computer programming, etc. Then we could drop IN during the day to make our $695 and drop OUT at night with our Super Sound System. Sorta like schizoid behavior under the banner of psychedelic capitalism.
Seems like the businessmen are getting a bit nervous. Like they can see that "Rock 'n' Roll is here to stay." But I don't think they're so sure about their economic system -- what will all this living and lack of consumer-consciousness. [sic] So they're tryin' to get a piece of the hippy action. Like Hugh Hefner (of Playboy, Pepsi Generation, and Sexist Pig fame) trying to buy Rolling Stone Magazine.
But there are some problems "getting these kids back in the system." 'Cause the pied pipers are pipin' the wrong tunes. On the program Quicksilver did a very heavy song of the need for revolution. "Whatcha gonna do about me?", they screamed, running down all that's wrong with Amerika. The song was directed against the "sponsors" among others, but I think Mr. Tapedeck D. Jones had his earphones on.
There's nothing about the joyous, maddening, black magical music of Quicksilver that could induce you to drop back in. There's nothing about the lifestyle of the Grateful Dead that makes you yearn for the air-conditioned sterility of a computer office. There's nothing in Jerry Abrams' flashing acid tinged lights that could make the monotony of bourgeois life look brighter.
So thanks for the show, "sponsors." I really enjoyed it, tripped the whole way. The Dead were right on time; Quicksilver crazed our already unstable minds; and Headlights put on the best light show I've seen -- even in black and white. So keep those shows comin'. They're mighty nice and I like the price.
[ . . . ]

(by Otis, from the Berkeley Tribe, 5 September 1970)

Oct 4, 2018

1970: More Workingman's Dead Reviews


My favorite pop rock heart throb group of musicians is the Grateful Dead. I first saw the Dead at a pre-peace march dance in Longshoremans Hall on April 9, 1967. I was fresh from New Jersey and I had never seen a light show, much less the Dead. They came on right after the Sopwith Camel, and they blew my mind; and it's been uphill ever since.
I was sitting eating pizza some time ago when this fellow said that nothing important had come out of the rock explosion. I turned around in my chair and made myself heard as I told him of the virtues of the most holy Grateful Dead. I dragged him to my home and sat him down in front of some enormous speakers and played Anthem of the Sun for him at very high volume. He shouted that they broke all the rules and then he wept as he said, "but it works."
My list of converts is long. I especially like the look on the faces of the people who can't believe that the Live/Dead album was really recorded live. I lean back, light up my four foot marigewana ceegar and explain that if they were to encounter these types in person the rest of their brains would be suitably shattered.
I've followed the Dead's encounter with the forces of capitalism with great interest. Many's the time that some experienced rock hustler would call me aside and say, "how can they expect to make money when they spend over $100,000 on one album. They'll never last, never!"
Ahhhhh but they have lasted, and each succeeding album converts more and more people, not to mention the hamsters. The Dead are the embodiment of the revolution. They live ("I don't know but I been told it's hard to run with the weight of gold.") with a lot of people, and they feed a lot of people, and no one who's ever been with the Dead has ever told a bad story about my pop rock idols.
The Dead have been party to every different type of rock and roll shuck and they've managed to weather them all and feed their family and make every new album. This one's the Workingman's Dead, a mindblower.
In fact they're so good that their good old (and it is a good) record company wouldn't let the Dead loose even if they sold maybe no records. Remember the Dead are the guys who told Billy Graham to fuck off when they were broke. Talk about soul.
The Dead fulfill a most marvelous vision of mine. They are a band which is highly blues and country influenced, which makes music which is exciting and good in terms of anybody's vision. The new album is more down home than anything except "Lovelight" on the Live/Dead album. The songs are sort of short for the Dead, and the words courtesy of Robert Hunter are super good.
"driving that train/
high on cocaine
Casey Jones you better watch your speed
trouble ahead
trouble behind
and you know that notion just crossed my mind."
That's the opening of Casey Jones. Here's the opening of Uncle John's Band:
Well the first days are the hardest days
don't you worry anymore
when life looks like easy street
there is danger at your door
think this through with me
let me know your mind
what I want to know is all you'll find  [sic]
The combination of Garcia/Lesh and Hunter is working out and very well. The Workingman's Dead is the finest example of this work, and I hope it's a portent of things to come.
I need some energetic Dead freak to maybe do a service for all mankind. Like sit down with all your Dead albums, and gather the lyrics of all their original songs so that some other revolutionary can print them up and give them out free and thereby give the revolution some good songs. The Dead's songs make you think and are very educational.
This latest example leans heavily on the country roots of the Dead, and I'm sure, on the New Riders of the Purple Sage. That's a mystery for those of you who don't know what that is. The songs are real down to earth. They talk about whatever you like. I find a lot of revolution in the songs; other people may find other things. It'll be in your local ripoff record store in a few weeks, but first a message about local ripoff record stores. There are a few record stores that are run by the people and for the people, like Leopolds in the East Bay and the New Geology Rock Shop in the Haight. Like dig it when the White Front throws a sale the capitalists cry crocodile tears as they rip off the people's cash money. Like Leopolds et al is the best we got till the people own the entire means of production. Also if you know of other records stores that are in the interest of the people, drop a line.
"One way or another, this darkness has got to end." (New Speedway Boogie, by the Grateful Dead on the Workingman's Dead) Dig it.

[The rest of the article reviews Spider John Koerner's Running Jumping Standing Still album.]

(by Sam Silver, from the San Francisco Express Times, 29 May 1970)

* * *

WORKINGMAN'S DEAD, The Grateful Dead, Warner Bros. WS1869

The Dead only know how to get better. This new album captures perfectly the unique craftsmanship they exhibit so effortlessly in concert. They offer several exceptional cuts ("Uncle John's Band," "Dire Wolf," "Casey Jones"), and there isn't a disappointing note on the LP. Even the use of two or more drummers on several of the cuts doesn't intrude on the basic gentleness that is the core of all their recent work. It's music that should be lived with, rather than simply listened to. (And are those really old Sanford Clark licks on "New Speedway Boogie"?)

(from "Recent Releases," the Madison Kaleidoscope, 1 June 1970)

* * *

GROUP GROUP  (excerpt)

Speaking of live and free, the Grateful Dead have a new record out. Now, the Dead are a live band if there ever was one. And they used to play for free pretty often too.
The magical band. The Acid Test band. THE San Francisco band. And - on a good night - the highest of the high.
But they've never got it down on a record. Some tracks on "Live Dead" came close, particularly "Love Light." And "Viola Lee Blues" with that stratospheric jam on the first record. In fact, every album has good music on it. But they've never captured the magic.
Sadly, this one is no exception. "Workingman's Dead" is the most "country" of their albums. But it's constipated. Despite impeccable musicianship, it drags like a 300lb. bag of pure country cowshit.
The first cut is downright embarrassing. Thought it was Crosby, Stills, ad infinitum at first. But I soon realized that, despite the whining, the musicians were too good, too tight, and too together to be C.S.N.&Y. Inc.
But it still wasn't the Grateful Dead.

(from the Berkeley Tribe, 19 June 1970)

* * *


Ah, a new Grateful Dead album - Working Man's Dead. The Dead generally have had a hard time getting together in the recording studio. Their recording history has sort of paralleled the Airplane's - the bands are close. First albums were very tight and cramped, just hints of the freedom and life and beauty of the live performance. Successive albums - Bathing at Baxters, Crown of the Sun [sic] were mixtures of live and studio recordings, and Crown of Creation and AOXOMOXOA were back in the studios. Then came live albums - Bless Its Pointed Little Head and Live Dead which were finally definitive of the power and majesty of the band's potential. Then the Airplane with the help of a few friends made Volunteers, their best studio album. Quicksilver Messenger Service has gone the same route, only internal hassles in the band made their last studio album untogether - dominated by Nicky Hopkins and not enough Quicksilver. So where were the Dead going?
I couldn't imagine anything following Live Dead. The music there is free, easy, loud, soft, fast, slow, beautiful and terrifying - the Grateful Dead live.
What happened was the Dead got themselves together - having found out they could put their music on a record after all - and put down very easy and flowing in the best Dead style sketches of 8 songs.
Most are songs I remember from being freaked out in giant concerts waiting for the Dead and they come out and do magic and start playing and Christ there's the Dead man real fucking people up there playing so cool so easy flying high and it's no longer a freaked out pop concert as the Dead take us out of the giant cement arenas in 20th century Amerika and into the magical acid world of the Grateful Dead.
But these aren't live versions of the songs as each could be as a side of an album like the songs on Live Dead, but they are sketched skeleton metaphor of the songs live as just the bare essentials of the song are there, but are there so easily and you don't expect a live performance or Live Dead because it's Working Man's Dead - a record.

(from the Rag (Austin, TX), 22 June 1970)

* * *


The Grateful Dead album, Workingman's Dead, is a tribute to a generation. That generation is the Beat Generation, with its pot, its music, its drinking, singing, and most of all, its love of life. The Beats wanted to grasp life as one would a goblet of wine, and then drink it down lustily, so they lived fast, played hard, and never stopped searching for fresh horizons, fresh thrills, and fresh meanings in their world. Out of the storm of the Beat Generation came William Burroughs, Allan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Timothy Leary, and Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. And with Kesey came the Grateful Dead.
The Dead have been around for a long time - they put out the original underground album in 1965 - and yet each album reveals a different musical idea. "Workingman's Dead" is unlike anything else the Dead have ever done. Gone is the feedback, the loud, screeching guitar riffs, the shouted vocals and inexact harmonies of previous LPs. Instead, one finds a series of low-volume arrangements where the words themselves come across and capture the listener's attention. The lyrics are varied in subject matter, ranging from humorous to philosophical to frightening, but there is no variety in their quality. All the songs are outstanding in their ability to tell a tale without sacrificing the quality of the music itself.
It is an album of poetry put to music, true, but to the Dead, music has always been first in importance. Much of the guitar work is acoustical, so that the vocals, the highlight of the disc, stand out. "Uncle John's Band" gives a fine description of what music really is to the Dead. It is playing with the folks that mean something to you just for the sake of getting together for a good time.
I live in a silver mine / and I call it Beggars Tomb
I've got me a violin / and I beg you call the tune.
Anybody's choice / Let me hear your voice
Wo, ho and I want to know / How does the song go?
"Cumberland Blues", "Casey Jones," and "Easy Wind" deal with the kinds of jobs the Beats usually ended up holding - common labor that paid just enough so they could enjoy life in their own way. These jobs allowed them to work without the responsibilities of better paying positions, for when one of them decided to up and leave for a while, it was easy to quit such a job.
Been ballin' that shiny black steel jack hammer
Been breakin' up rocks for the great highway
I'll live five years if I take my time
Ballin' that jack and drinkin' my wine.
The heroes that the Dead give us are again the common laborers. "Casey Jones", which is almost certainly a tribute to the late wildman Neil Cassidy, presents a fine portrait of the workingman-become-hero.
"Workingman's Dead" is a musical documentary of a generation, a poetic portrait of a unique way of life. This album has beautifully captured the Beat Scene. The Dead also have reached a peak of musicianship on this LP, as they finally bring everything together. Instrumentally, vocally, lyrically and creatively, this is their finest effort.

(by Dan Cook, from the Observer (Case Western Reserve U), 13 October 1970)

See also:  

Sep 21, 2018

February 4, 1970: Family Dog


Wednesday night (last Wednesday - a week ago) there was a hot-shit, high-class, invitational only bash at the Family Dog. If you had gone down, you could have gotten in - like you walk up to the door and say, "Marty Balin invited me," and bop on through. I said, "Ralph Gleason invited me," (actually it had been Sandy Darlington). I invited a number of people myself, and they said, "Black Shadow invited me." Everybody got in. Hip high-society, rubbing elbows. Get in free.
KQED-TV was taping a live rock show with the Airplane, the Dead, Santana, and Kimberly. But it was really a party, a television party, and as a matter of fact it was pretty neat. I usually get places early ('cause I dig watching things get set up), and Lil and I arrived around 8:00. The Dog was mostly empty except for a bunch of people sitting around the stage, early-bird movie cameramen, and some technicians playing with their shiny TV cameras. It felt good, even with nothing happening; people were relaxed and expectant, rapping and watching the big color-TV monitor by the side of the stage. There were three cameras, two of them on high dollies and one (right in front of the stage) on a low, rolling platform. People drifted in in pairs and triplets, and strolled up and down the hall looking for their friends.
After a while, Kimberly started to play. We hadn't brought any dope, and I went looking for someone who had. No luck, so I complained to the management and wandered some more. The cameras were mostly taking pictures of the audience, and big, colored lights blinded us. That's the price you pay for fame and everything. The Dog was getting more crowded now, and I could feel the curve of excitement rising slowly. Something was building, but not yet built. Fuck, where was the dope?
The second (or third) wave of arrivals came bearing the sacrament, and an angelic chick who had come with Robert Altman led me to where it was being smoked. Five or ten minutes later I slipped back into the flow, as Kimberly finished their set and the Stones bootleg concert album started playing on the PA. Dope circulated freely. The curve was getting up there now, and I realized that it wasn't a concert, wasn't even an event, but merely a party. Santana started to play, and I found my way up to the front so I could watch the cameramen and the TV monitor.
TV is groovy stuff, man. Instant feedback, watching the image in the back of the camera while you take it. There wasn't much room to move around, but whenever the cameras had to change position the crowd obligingly melted, flowed, and crystallized again, understanding the reason for the disruption and perfectly cool. Altamont should have been like that. No one was uptight about anything. The earlier promise of good vibes had been fulfilled, and I was well and truly stoned. Helpless to do much more than sit there and take it all in, I let Santana fill me with energy, watched the cameras, and smoked more dope.
There had been rumors (the usual rumors - you know) that the man was arriving with a lot of acid. I went over to the snack bar and discovered two big barrels of kool-aid punch - a barrel of green kool-aid and a barrel of red kool-aid. I stood there trying to figure out the psychology of the kool-aid makers: if I were going to put acid in one of these barrels, which barrel would I put it in? Finally I drank some green and some red, filled cups, and brought them to Lil and Altman. But the acid turned out to be rumor-acid, and we never got off. No matter.
By now the Dead were setting up. Earlier in the evening I had gone over to ask Jerry Garcia something, and discovered him in the grip of an intense karmic involvement with this cat whose lady wanted to dance on-stage with the Dead. The cat was channeling a really heavy energy beam at Garcia, and Garcia was just doing the best he could, saying, "Sure, man, she can do whatever she wants, it's cool," but the cat couldn't dig it and kept right on beaming in, saying, "She couldn't get it together to ask you, and you're just her favorite band," and on and on. I remembered a Common meeting when someone had accused Garcia of being a rock star, and Garcia said, "We can't help it, man, if people need to make us rock stars we gotta play along."
So now she was up there with the Dead, living a dream and dancing North Beach go-go style. I watched her tits bounce for a while, but the best dancers were on the floor, dancing for themselves. I really don't dig watching go-go dancers - the ego-trip gets in the way. The Dead put out some pretty music, but they weren't up to the energy explosion that they usually pull off. They had just gotten busted in New Orleans a couple of days before, and under the circumstances I could dig that they might be a shade off the mark. But even on an off-night the Dead look out for your head, and it was good to dance, good to be there with them.
The dope was still going around, and it all began to flow even smoother than before. Somehow the Dead got off and the Airplane got on, and then Jorma's guitar was ripping through the smoke-filled hall, carrying an intensity that couldn't have hit me more intimately if his guitar strings had been attached to my teeth. A rush, heavy and fine, and then Marty and Grace were into "Another Side of This Life," just as sad/true as it was when Fred Neill sang it in the Gaslight on MacDougal Street, lo these many years ago. The Airplane did it up just right, and now the curve was peaking and I leaned into it, giving over to the music.
But going through the acid number (you know: Is it coming on? Am I getting off?) had used up a lot of energy, and Jorma's guitar was about all I could still pick up on. Tired, happy, wasted, I wandered around until I found Lil and we crashed somewhere off by ourselves, letting the Airplane TCB. There was a jam afterward, but I couldn't listen anymore and we split.
Sure was a nice party.

(from the San Francisco Good Times, 13 February 1970)

* * *


In April the National Educational Television network will present an hour and a half special featuring the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Santana, and 800 invited guests in various states of heightened consciousness. The show was pulled together by writer Ralph Gleason, who was able to secure for the groups complete control over the program, filmed last week at the Family Dog Ballroom on the Pacific Coast Highway. The show promises to be unique in many ways. To begin with, not since the heyday of the old Fillmore Ballroom almost three years ago have I seen such a cosmic gathering. In the crowd Dino Valenti wandered around, as did members of the Quick Silver Messenger Service, Bill Graham, Chet Helms, the old Charlatans, and other members of Frisco bands and scene makers. Members of the San Francisco Hip Society, sipping red or green Kool Aid, according to taste.
At the rear of the hall in a sound box was Owsley, the sound man at the original Family Dog and Acid Test gatherings. It was like the class reunion of Sandoz '65.
The taping started at eight in the evening. Santana, the Airplane, and the Dead were each to do short sets, then join together for a jam session.
The jam session started late in the evening, the Kool Aid and the vibes were electric as the Dead, Quick Silver, the Airplane, and Santana played with each other. Various members of the audience also took the mike and crooned their trip into it. After a decent allowance of time with the mike, the tripster would be gently guided off stage as, together, the bands played on into the night.
All of the bands were as good as I have seen them before, only this night they seemed especially so. It was as if they all got a chance to take a trip back to the scene Frisco was before they were rock stars, before the ballrooms got over-crowded and people stopped dancing in them.
Gleason wrote a book last year, The Jefferson Airplane and The San Francisco Sound (Bantam, 95 cents), in which he reviewed the San Francisco scene from its beginnings and interviewed each of the Jefferson Airplane. In the interview with singer Marty Balin, the following dialogue takes place. 

GLEASON: It's a profound sociological event, this whole last two years.
MARTY: It's funny how it happens like that. If you have a sense of history, you can see...we are the renaissance of today...the young people, the grass, and the music.
GLEASON: They can't stop the music...there are little delaying guys did are on the top of the charts on every radio station in this country. They can't erase that. It is there. Forever. When you do your ninety minute TV thing, what it ought to be is the whole thing. It should lay it right out there visually.
MARTY: That's what we want to do. Yeah! We want to tell it from the inside and tell it so beautifully and so heavy that, for an hour, people are just caught up...not with just selling it, or this and that, you know, just showing off, but just the sheer poetry of it, the beautiful idea that exists. It would blow people's minds, and hour and God! [sic] How can we get the chance to do it? Nobody will give us the chance. They think we are all crazy! When we went into those towns, well, we said, "Let's go play in the park for the people like we do at home." So we'd do that, and I'm not kidding you! We'd play in these Civic Centers, and we played one place, the cops just lined up around this whole Civic Center, all the cops in the city, from out of town, and there are maybe 50,000 kids there for our free concert, right in the middle of the Civic Center. It was just great! It was a fantastic thing... They would have barriers up, and we'd just knock the barriers over. We'd take off our shirts and not bullshit. We just came out on this sunny day, and we're all getting tans, too, and they just had a great time. [We'd] do that before we'd go play a concert lots of times, and they'd still come to the concert. Promoters would freak out. They'd say, "You can't play anywhere for a 50 mile radius," so we played for nothing, for ourselves for free, and they'd blow their minds.
GLEASON: Have they tried to write anything into the contract saying you can't play for free?
MARTY: No. They don't think anybody plays for no money.

Gleason says, "The book is a gas if you were, like myself, involved in the early days of the San Francisco scene. The crazy people Marty spoke of finally got their chance, in the Family Dog Ballroom, to lay it out for TV, so beautifully that the people were caught up, and the old San Francisco magic came back for a return appearance. In April you'll be able to see what all the shouting was about way back then, on Channel 28.

(by John Carpenter, from the Los Angeles Free Press, 20 February 1970)

* * *


The Haight-Ashbury may be a disaster area and the hippies may be dead, dispersed, or diverted, but the music which made the mid-Sixties a turning point in American social history is alive and well.
The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and the Quicksilver Messenger Service are the three bands from the original dances in 1965-66 and they are still strong bands today, and the Dead, strangely enough, is now more popular than ever.
When it was all happening in the beginning months, TV crews and filmmakers from all over the world flocked to San Francisco's ballrooms and photographed the action. I remember when a BBC-TV crew spent weeks here in a frenzy of filming, living with the Grateful Dead and following one band after another around to dances and concerts.
But somehow all these representations of the San Francisco scene failed to bring out what it was really like, perhaps because of time limitations, perhaps because of other things.
In any case, it certainly never seemed to me that what I ended up watching on the screen or the tube really got the feeling that the events themselves had in that period.
So when the chance came to make a film and a videotape program for National Educational Television on the San Francisco adult rock music [scene], it was too good to resist.
The results will be seen today on Channel 9 at 10 p.m. in NET's "Fanfare" series and next Sunday night at 10. Tonight's program is a filmed performance documentary and is called "San Francisco Rock: Go Ride the Music." Next Sunday night's program is a videotape show and is called "San Francisco Rock: A Night at the Family Dog."

The programs began as a series of discussions between Dick Moore (then head of KQED's film unit and now head of the entire KQED operation), Bob Zagone (who had directed numerous rock and jazz programs for KQED), and myself. When NET approved the idea, we then went to the Jefferson Airplane for a long evening's discussion of what to do, and the project was under way.
That was early this year. The Airplane wanted the music to be seen and heard in its most natural setting. So we took over the ballroom on the Great Highway that the Family Dog was then operating and had a two-night rehearsal and shooting schedule with the KQED mobile video unit and with special assistance from Glenn McKay, the light show artist who had done so many of the Airplane's shows.
The program consisted of sets by the Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Santana, one of the exciting younger bands who was there as the Airplane's guest, and a jam session at the end of the evening. Special care was taken to keep the lighting necessary for video cameras low enough so it did not distract either the musicians or the audience and [was] still bright enough to get an image.
Bob Zagone worked outside in the mobile unit's command truck with its control room setup, and the whole evening was videotaped and an hour show edited down from that.

Then we went to work on the film program, the idea of which was to show the bands in several different scenes and to get some feeling of how it was for them, as differentiated from the feeling of the video show at the Family Dog which was more from the audience viewpoint.
We filmed an evening with the Airplane at Pacific High studios in San Francisco where they just played a couple of sets for their friends, a group which included members of most of the other bands and several visitors such as David Crosby. There we had more mobility with hand-held cameras and simultaneous shooting from several locations.
Next we had the unusual opportunity of participating in one of the dances that the San Francisco bands themselves ran. This was an evening at Winterland featuring the Airplane and the Quicksilver Messenger Service.
We were able to film the special technical arrangements being made prior to the performance and to film, with one hand-held camera, a portable light, and a tape recorder, backstage in the dressing room as Dino Valenti rehearsed a new song with David Freiberg of Quicksilver.
Then, with good luck running with us, we were able to arrange for a free concert by Quicksilver at Sonoma State College on a gorgeous sunny afternoon in March during a special week-long peace program. It was a wild day.
One of the group had decided to quit and we didn't know if he would show up. There was a terrible hassle getting a piano for Nicky Hopkins. The electricity blew out three times in the opening number, but somehow we survived it all and got a lot of excellent footage of the band and the audience in that benign setting.
Then the hard part came when Bob Mathews mixed down the music tracks and Claire Ritchie and Bill Yahraus edited the film. That is the show we will see tonight, with the video performance at the Family Dog next Sunday night.
In neither of the programs did we want to set up an outside voice to narrate, so the only voices heard are those of the musicians themselves. In tonight's film there are short interviews with both Marty Balin, lead singer of the Airplane, and Jerry Garcia, guitarist and unofficial musical guru of the San Francisco scene, which set the stance for the entire approach.
Since the filming at Sonoma State followed the evening when Dino Valenti brought out his new song, we were able to cut from the dressing room rehearsal to the outdoor performance in one of the most effective moments I have seen concerning contemporary music.

Rock music is, of course, inextricably bound up with electronics, and we were lucky throughout to get the kind of realistic sound we did. In addition, Bob Zagone's prior experience with Jazz Casual shows and with several rock shows (including the West Pole series) was of immense value in capturing the feeling of the musicians and of the event itself in each case.
Both of the programs are being sent out over the Public Broadcasting System's network to the educational TV stations all over the country, and hopefully they will all program them.
San Francisco's contribution to contemporary music has finally had an adequate representation on film and videotape which, no matter what may happen now to trends and styles, will be available for history. I am proud to have had even a small role in bringing it about.
Both programs will be repeated, incidentally, on the Saturdays following the initial showing. Tonight's program will be repeated Dec. 12 at 6 o'clock and next Sunday night's program will be repeated at 6 on Dec. 19.

(by Ralph Gleason, from the San Francisco Examiner, 6 December 1970) (China>Rider) (Hard to Handle)

See also:

Sep 19, 2018

January 1970: Jerry Garcia Interview


"Dark Star crashes
pouring its light into ashes.
Reason tatters...
The forces tear loose from the axis.

Searchlight casting for faults
in the clouds of delusion.
Shall we go you and I while we can
Through the transitive nightfall
of diamonds?"
 - "Dark Star", Hunter-Garcia

Jerry Garcia, guitar & vocals and guiding spirit of The Grateful Dead, sits feet crossed, beautiful dark leather jacket open, halo hair, eyes "on" in the non-luxury of the wise man, his room at the Chelsea Hotel. Six pieces of furniture: bed, two chairs, lamp, dresser, television also on, the third person, the neutral party. Our talk is an express, no local amenities, just the stroboscopic velocity of his rap, totally there and then, "good-by," gone.
Altamont: A Destruction Car Derby Race Track east of San Francisco in the industrial wastelands. Toll: 4 dead, countless injured at the Rolling Stones free concert.
"It's the only thing on my's the a dirty trick...the best people in San Francisco were working on it...we started two months before...this incredible energy was just rolling, so utterly...I'm responsible for what happened...I mean you could blame the Grateful Dead, we did the first free concerts...we wanted to keep it quiet, a free concert where the Stones would come and play...we wanted to let them loosen up...get beyond the rock and roll band thing they do...but the media got to say 'Rolling Stones' on the radio, 'for free' and 300,000 people just appear...the Stones didn't know...they are so out of touch...their fame makes it impossible...and everything was handled by their business front in New York...all dollars, that hassle...we wanted them to come, walk around, see other people doing what they the one announced the Be-In on the radio, it just's the whole role of music fighting the money-system-music-business's been six years and that's still where we are...the Stones are a rock and roll band...they come from incredibly popular commodity...we didn't want the media to know... that's why Gleason (the San Francisco rock critic who accused Jagger of being responsible for the murder of Meredith Hunter by the Angels) was so angry...none of us would talk to him about it before hand...but he found out and announced it...the media killed it.
"Everyone here has a new sense of's all WHERE CAN WE GO FROM HERE? will NEVER happen more "festivals" until we can get it COMPLETELY COOL...Woodstock, that was a proven crowd, heads...and they were really stoned...yeah, Woodstock was lucky...but they were cool...we know if we're going to do it with that many people they have got to be cool.
"The night before Altamont it was really beautiful...the fires, the stage going up, just a few hundred happy heads...but the next day...polluted air, orange-y and thick...desolate hills...a downer...I came in by helicopter...really high...this, the vibrations...Santana was just leaving, they're friends of was horrible...people as far as you could see...sitting in panic...there was no way out...walking through the large crowd was like going through the circles of Dante's and there you saw these groups of patient heads...but the rest...and up by the stage...people nodding out on downs, people with no shirts, skin all scratched, eyes in panic...empty was murder...THE BIGGEST VOLUNTARY MASS BUMMER OF ALL TIME!
"The Angels...yeah...imagine if there were still sabre-tooth tigers walking around...that's the Angels...and not the San Francisco or Oakland Angels, they're already different...these were the San Diego Angels, San Bernardino Angels...and busting heads, man, that's the Angels' whole bit...but I mean when you live with them you get cool about the learn how to learn how to avoid's cool...the people there weren't hip, most of was just people...Rolling Stones fans...consumers...'Get your free Rolling Stones'...not heads...they didn't know about the Angels...they didn't understand...and once the Angels get violent they go all the way...that's it...imagine a group of Angels standing around something you can't really see...beating on it...I was afraid for my life...I've got to hand it to Jagger...the music was OH FUCKIN' KAY...GOOD SHIT...JAGGER IS A HEAVY DUDE, MAN.
"They filmed the murder...if the Mayseles had any sense or cool they would burn the film...(the Mayseles flew back to San Francisco with the developed film to be used as evidence for indicting the offending Angels)...that'll stir them up...The Mayseles fly out...but we have to live with's cool...the Angels are always being indicted for murder.
"Everybody fucked was a hard and expensive lesson...when I heard there were four deaths, only was a can't imagine what it was could have been's the only thing on my mind...everybody's talking about's the news."

A river of pure water flowing over the waters, around the bends, among the trees. Only high up in the mountains, in America, are there any rivers of pure water. The Grateful Dead are seven of the most together musicians that play together.
In the weeks that have passed one impression remained constant: Altamont was so much the outcome of everything that preceded it, back to Kesey and the acid in the orange juice of the Merry Pranksters bus right up to Woodstock, People's Park and everything this year, and the experience is so organic and the lesson so deep - like Dylan's accident or the death of Brian Jones - it's the Dark Star.
"Ken Kesey...yeah, he is living up on his farm in Oregon...but he has to explain to his neighbors what happened at Altamont...he knows that he's responsible...that we're all responsible...what happens to one of us, now, happens to all of us...and that's not the way things used to's beautiful."
Of course, there are other things on his mind, like the Earth. "If we don't do something in five years it's too late." The project is called Earth People's Park, devoted to acquiring land and setting up ecologically sound communities. "It's time for a big interruption of the game while we try and get the board back together. It's not political, and I can't say 'You are poisoning the earth!' Difference just don't count anymore. I mean there are infinite differences between every two human beings...but we're all in this one together. I hope humanity can get it on in the last minute and pull it out...otherwise, well, it'll be over. There are flashing signs, big neon signs, EMERGENCY. For me, it's the most important thing."

And through it all, music. The scene is "sweeter than ever." Stephen Stills now lives near the Marin county ranch where the Dead are, and is producing their next album. Any of you who heard the Dead's Fillmore concerts this weekend may have noticed the tight vocals, the three voices (Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir) in soaring harmony...that's Stills, and Garcia is very happily into it. The set I heard was brought to a close by a most remarkable song, "Uncle John's Band", lyrical with Band influences as well as Stills'. If it sounded awkward sometimes it's because some of the songs are only two weeks old. The album is already revolving around a subject. "We're thinking of a title...'The Working Man's Dead'." "Any relation to the Stones' 'Factory Girl'?" ", that's a banner song...this is something intimate, personal, not about them but from them...there are a lot of people whose lives are just work until they get old and die...Micky (Hart, the drummer on the left as you face the stage) goes out with the cowboys every day...he looks like a redneck...well, you'll see him...he goes drinking with them, too...they turn him on to juice and he turns them on to dope...they turn him on to work and he turns them on to music."

Hendricks did New Years Eve, and New Years Day eve, and he sure wasn't the old Hendricks. The group, a Band of Gypsies with Buddy Miles on drums and Billy Cox on bass, works out musically very well, but the racial dissonance (cool dissonance) and the flamboyance...gone with the old year. The guitar is essentially feminine, the shape, the strings, the way you stroke it and caress it...but at one point Jimi spread his legs, bent his knees, hung it between them, and wow did it change sex...there it was, stretched foreskin and all, sailing. 15 seconds and that was it. He did it, like an allusion, a reference, the high old times of the Monterey Festival raping the amplifiers, setting his ax on fire, seem to be over. Guess it's time to follow the gypsies.
The most moving thing about the concert was (were) the Voices of East Harlem! Talk about music born from the community! Wow, if you could pay rent with warmth and good vibrations they'd have their own penthouse anywhere they want it. Something to get into very soon. The Voices include the youngest singer (he is really something else) in rock and roll, and on Tuesday night a very likeable Philadelphia group called Sweet Stavin' Chain brought us..."Here he is folks (said mad Nero, the lead guitar) the biggest singer in rock and roll." And out he came, 6 feet 6 inches tall, about 220 pounds in blue jeans and a tie-dye shirt. It was quite a shock. They were very funny when they were putting on rock and roll...a wonderfully freaky rolling on the floor "In A Gadda da Vida," and most amazing of all "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" (Right, "if you go out into the woods today you'd better not go alone...") dedicated to all the 7-year-olds in the audience. Unfortunately the straight stuff wasn't as enjoyable.
With the Dead were Mr. Graham's proteges, Cold Blood. "Good music continues to come out of San Francisco," Bill said as he introduced them. They are very good musicians. Their lead singer, Lydia Pense, is overwhelmingly similar to someone whose first name is Janis, a lot sweeter. Also there was Lighthouse, a 12 man group with horns, winds, and of all things an electric string section, violin, viola and cello (2 of them). Can I report a whole new departure? Unfortunately, not at all. But they did a version of that soul-shaking masterpiece from the Band's first album, Robertson's "Chest Fever" with each word beamed at you like the Midnight Special.
[ . . . ]

(by James Lichtenberg, from the East Village Other, 21 January 1970)

Sep 14, 2018

1969: More Live/Dead Reviews

“Live/Dead” (Warner Bros. 1830) is the new Grateful Dead album, live tracks from a number of locations including the old Avalon Ballroom (where “Dead Don’t Have No Mercy” was cut). It’s far and away the best thing the Dead have offered on record in terms of getting across what the band really sounds like. It ought to be their most successful disc, too, since it not only sounds like the band sounds but it’s attractively programmed and mixed and the lyrics come through clearly and with meaning. The continuing dialogue between Garcia’s guitar and Lesh’s bass is fascinating.

(by Ralph Gleason, excerpt from "The Stones' Music - 'Let It Bleed'," the San Francisco Examiner, 14 December 1969)

* * * 


The Grateful Dead's new double-LP package, "Live-Dead" (Warner Bros. 1830), is not only the best Dead on record, it also contains some of the most interesting music recorded out of the "rock" scene this year.
Actually it is the direction in which the Dead are now pointing, toward new sounds and structures in electronic music, that makes the whole 75 minutes almost consistently fascinating.
The Dead here present the most impressive concert-rock efforts ever recorded by a San Francisco group. The Dead may not (yet) be up to the integrity of the Who, and that group's rock-opera "Tommy," but guitarist Jerry Garcia and his Dead colleagues certainly have some classy sequences on this new pair of records.
The opening selection, 23 minutes of it, is titled "Dark Star," and after four playings I still kept discovering new sounds, attractive matchings of guitars, beautifully produced (and executed) audio changes, and care with dynamics. And rhythmic change-of-pace, great get the idea?
Besides Garcia's elegant guitar, which is featured, but not at the expense of others, there is remarkably fine bass guitar stuff by Phil Lesh, and all kinds of fillers and strong support by Bob Weir, the Dead's other fine guitarist.
There is little, here, to suggest a swing away from the Dead's usual extended blues improvisations to a more "country" sound (which, presumably, is where many groups think things are at, right now) but this collection of music definitely emphasizes the great three-guitar teamwork (including the bass) that Garcia, Weir, and Lesh have developed.
Pigpen McKernan's organ lines flow all through things, and he sings Blind Gary Davis' mellow "Death Don't Have No Mercy" in a warm and sympathetic manner.
"Turn On Your Love Light," second longest track, is recorded live and is a bit sloppy, but wildly spirited. It's a rhythmic romp with plenty of both the drummers (Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart) and great splitting of solo roles, separated by stop-time rhythmic gaps.
"Saint Stephen" is a wild and weird combination of almost medieval mysticism and frenzied hard rock, plus some obscure lyric lines by Robert Hunter. It dissolves, with an eruption of free-sound, into "The Eleven," which ends the concert.
My only criticism would involve the singing, or more accurately, the inconsistent stereo sound balance on the vocals. But I stopped worrying about the words rather early in the listening, and just let the voices fall into place as if they were additional instruments.
Which, of course, they are. 

(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, 24 December 1969)

* * *

on Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

Good old Grateful Dead! A two record set, recorded live, that flows like an acid vision. Almost everything is fine; the only thing I can think of to complain about is that "Lovelight" doesn't get me off as good as it does in person. But a phonograph record just can't handle the kind of vibration that the Dead put out when you're in the same room with them, and maybe it's just as well; when you stand away from the music, a little, you can really appreciate all the musicianship that's there. Garcia, a gliding, joyous lead - playing the way everything looks when you're so stoned you can't find compartments any more. The rhythm section is also looking out for your head: Micky Hart, Bill Kreutzman, Phil Lesh, as free in 11/4 as in 4/4, making the change so smooth it's hard to pick up exactly when it happens.
The programming of the record is perfect too - which it should be, since it just duplicates a typical Dead set.  [line missing]  "Dark Star" and "Saint Stephen" to get you centered and calm, "The Eleven" to get you standing up and (at the Family Dog, anyway) dancing, sliding into "Lovelight" which blows your mind and gets you so whacked out jumping and bopping that you're glad to fall on the floor and just listen to "Death Don't Have No Mercy". Now the acid (or whatever) is probably coming on heavy, so the Dead (ever heedful of your state of consciousness) get into "Feedback". Then, finally, "We Bid You Goodnight" gives you back your head again and sends you out into the night. Whew!
It's all here, and it's as good as we all hoped it would be. Hey, Grateful Dead, thanks for "Viola Lee" and thanks for "The Eleven," and just fucking thanks! What would we do without you? 

(by black shadow, from "Record Wrap," San Francisco Good Times, 18 December 1969)

* * *

Warners 1830

It's taken almost four years, but the Dead finally have a waxed impression of the things they do live so well. It's a double-record set, all live, that completely eclipses the faults of their previous albums, including their other live work ("Anthem of the Sun"). This set is well-mixed, completely non-commercial in approach, and completely free-flowing.
Here, finally, we can hear Jerry Garcia's remarkably fluid guitar runs as they zig-zag in and out of the ever-changing layers of music that the group as a whole puts down. And, for a change, you can hear each individual instrument and (if you really want to) you can clearly understand the vocals. But vocals, to be sure, aren't the forte of the Dead on this set. Except for the 15-minutes of "Turn On Your Love Light" where the vocal bridges are used to draw the audience into the music even more, the seven titles on this album are largely instrumental. More than 75 grateful minutes of Dead music.
As a live album, it avoids the failings of other live sets - the long, extended applause sessions and introductions are omitted in favor of jamming in the most possible music. (Besides, those on-record applause and introduction segments are becoming more and more reminiscent of those television studio applause you have to conform to the reactions of other people. And that's the beauty of Dead music; five different people will react five different ways to it.)
There's really nothing fancy on this set; nothing that the Dead wouldn't have done on any of their live gigs, whether they were being recorded or not. The opening track, "Dark Star," is more than 23 minutes of the best instrumental whallop the group has ever gotten into. This is carried over into "St. Stephen," reworked from the version on "Aoxomoxoa"...they just put more feeling into it, further illustrating the stimuli that a live audience injects into a group. But there aren't too many groups who can work off the energy they receive from the audience and send it back to them in spades...and of those groups that can, they're probably from the San Francisco area. Listen to the interaction at the end of "Love Light," when the vocalist completes his chores with a final "Yeah," hears the audience response, and yells "and leave it on."
Until, perhaps, Quicksilver's next album (set for release in January), LIVE DEAD has got to qualify as one of the best albums ever done by a San Francisco group.

(by Pete Senoff, from "Record Raps," the Los Angeles Free Press, 19 December 1969) 

The same column also had a review of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, which I'll include: 

The Floyd started a couple of years ago as England's first "psychedelic" band. They were touring with their own self-contained light show before news of the San Francisco experiments ever reached British shores. Their original repertoire was pop, but done with a smattering of electronics...their first album was a studio gem. But the epic and most-remembered cut on that album was "Interstellar Overdrive"...a 2001-like opus conceived and staged live before the movie was even filmed. It was an all-encompassing electronic space trip, done with a mixture of conventional instrumentation and electronics. 
A second album and a soundtrack have since passed, with the Floyd taking every opportunity to further refine their space music to an art. They've progressed beyond "songs" as such and into long compositions - variations on a theme. Almost an Anglo-counterpart to current Zappa themes. In the realm of musique concrete, it can't readily be appreciated by lead guitar freaks and "if you can dance to it, it's cool" cultists. The last time Pink Floyd played L.A., they shared a Pinnacle bill with Jeff Beck. [7/26-27/68] Predicably, Beck got the adulation and the Floyd garnered a host of blank stares. However, it's a different story in England, as they're regarded as cult figures, akin to the reputation the Dead enjoy here among a pseudo-underground.
Needless to say, this new double album is already a minor classic on the continent. Made up of a live record and a studio project, it's a good indication of the progression the Floyd have made since last year. In live concert situations, they've been experimenting with an Azimuth Coordinator Sound System, using four speaker units in a close approximation to true 360 degree sound...far more dynamic than ordinary stereo. Although this effect couldn't be transferred onto the vinyl, the four live compositions most certainly do refute any claims that the group is dependent totally on the studio. In truth, they aren't very exciting to watch live, but they amplify this attribute by being super-audio attractions; that's why their records are still the best vehicles for communication. The four live things are rearranged versions of earlier classics, including a more intricate "Saucerful of Secrets" (from their second album). 
The studio record gives each member about 15 minutes to compose, arrange, and play to his heart's content, backed instrumentally by the rest of the group. Most of the compositions are pretty abstract, encompassing diverse elements of every conceivable nature...classical piano, vocal choruses, electronics...even sea gulls. 
It's an engrossing set, one that can best be appreciated through headphones and the best possible stereo system.

* * *


Most albums recorded live are distinguished mainly because of the applause and shouts the fans give the performers after each number. Other than that, they might as well have been recorded in the studio, for there is no great difference.
Grateful Dead's new album (Reprise) is not just recorded live in concert, it is totally Alive. The plastic disc which serves as the divider between the listener and the band is gone, the Dead are right exactly next to you, playing with all their energy for all it's worth.
Long known for the togetherness and energy which they display during concerts, the Dead prove capable of keeping this aliveness or spontaneity intact on their album, where groups like the Airplane or Traffic become deadly boring when their live concerts are released on record.
No member of the Dead stands out above the other, they are a group, and each member's playing (or singing) becomes part of the group's texture. And yet, there is still beautiful jamming and soloing by individuals in the Dead, which makes their music so unprogrammed and exciting; but we still know that the Grateful Dead are performing a number, not just jamming for the hell of it, as Chicago or Led Zep constantly do.
"Saint Stephen-Eleven," "Turn On Your Lovelight," and "Dark Star" are examples of the Dead at their best, through extended jams and solos; yet never losing touch with their basic composition. I liked "Death Don't Have No Mercy" the least, it's a slow blues number, and up until that point the Dead were just too vibrant and moving to switch to such a slow song.
This album is really quite an accomplishment, the Dead have succeeded in putting together a live rock album that really preserves the power of their music performed live, and it should be picked up on.

(by Steve Rosen, from "Musix & Other Noise," the Spectator (Bloomington, IN), 4 February 1970)

* * *

Rock group at its best

The Grateful Dead is one of America's finest rock groups, although it has yet to release a best-selling album. The group's latest, "Live Dead," probably won't make it either, but it should, for the Dead today are playing what rock probably will be all about in a few more years. 
"Live Dead" is a low-priced double album of the Dead at their liveliest best. It's like hearing the group in concert at the Kinetic Playground again, where the Dead played on and on, bringing the crowd to its feet and then back down into a tightly huddled core, with eyes closed and heads bobbing.
The Dead has the ability to hit you with volumes of revelations, to make its music speak without words, and to do it so clearly you think you can touch their intangible sound.
Beginning with "Dark Star," they go through countless changes until they have completely left "Dark Star" and are jamming. After 10 minutes or so, if you can manage to think about it, you realize you don't know what you are hearing. By the time you realize that, they've managed to pull the pieces together and are again doing "Dark Star."
Side two begins with "Saint Stephen," the kind of tribute to Stephen Foster that brings you up to your feet, impatient to sing along.
"Stephen" flows unsuspectingly into "The Eleven." Jerry Garcia's guitar surges forth, and the song takes off. The lyrics are rushed over and yet they are clearly audible. "William Tell has stretched his bow till it won't stretch no furthermore and/or it may require a change that hasn't come before." Garcia's guitar takes off again, and everything falls in line.
Five minutes later, we're back to the beginning, picking up the lyrics that were passed over: "Now is the time past believing, the child has relinquished the rein, now is the test of the boomerang, tossed in the night of redeeming."
"Eleven" then beautifully fades into "Turn on your Lovelight," which continues on side three.
"Death don't have no answer" is the first song on the fourth side. It sounds like the theme song for a heroic, nearly Biblical epic that has one major message: Don't die for something, live for something.
"Death" is followed by nine minutes of "feedback," which seems to have come straight from the crypt. Here again, the Dead show they are not amateurs experimenting with bleeps but are far ahead into the electronic age.
"Feedback," like the rest of this album, flows from beginning to end and finally works its way into the last lyric, with which the Dead usually ends a live set: "Lay down my dear brothers, lay down and take your rest. I want you to lay your head upon your Savior's chest. I love you - ah, but Jesus loves you the best, and I bid you good night."
It's magnificent.

(by Wayne Crawford, from the Chicago Daily News, 5 February 1970) 

* * *


Physicality - that's the thing. And it's all around us. Nude theaters, erotic flicks, bare-skinned photo journalism. More directly - a greater than ever before emphasis on exercise, self-defence, non-verbal encounter, and just plain old physical self-awareness.
But what happened to pop music? Peaking at the greatest popularity, the most lucrative financial return and widest cultural influence in its history, pop found itself, in the late sixties, moving further and further away from the activity which was at the very core of its existence - dancing. "Rock is becoming just like jazz," one listener has said. "It just isn't very good dance music anymore."
One of the reasons that so many sophisticated rock groups came out of San Francisco in the mid-and-late sixties was that dance-music remained a necessary part of their repertoires. Balancing musical adventurousness with solid, danceable rhythms, groups such as the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead demonstrated that it was possible for a rock group to grow into a complex artistic organism without severing the vital tendrils of rhythm that tie it to its public.
The Grateful Dead were at the Fillmore last week, playing their music, showing us that physicality is still the thing in pop music, and reminding us that a band that can't make people dance had better not plan on staying around very long. When Ron "Pigpen" McKernan launched into his unique improvision on blues lyrics, with Jerry Garcia's soaring guitar lines whipping in and around the vocal, the Fillmore audience came enthusiastically alive. The 2nd Ave. rock palace is no dance hall, but when the impulse is strong enough, even the confines of an auditorium seat can be room enough. Soon most of the audience were on their feet, sliding, bending, waving their bodies in an almost symbiotic interchange with the musicians.
It was the kind of musical excitement that the Dead always generate in "live" concerts, and rarely on studio recordings. (The group's newest release, Live Dead, Warner Brothers 1830, recorded live on two disks, allows the band the leisure time it needs to build up musical energy. For the record listener it is a first class opportunity to respond to the enormously powerful rhythmic impulses of the San Francisco septet.)

[The review continues:]

The Dead weren't the only rock group in town stressing physicality. The week before, Delaney, Bonnie & Friends - with superstar guitarist Eric Clapton as the best-known "friend" - were at the Fillmore, and Sly & The Family Stone jammed Madison Square Garden on the weekend. 
If the Dead were the major advocates of dance music in the late sixties, the Delaney & Bonnie and Sly groups look very much like the best new dance bands of the seventies. Arriving in town on the crest of a wave of laudatory publicity, Delaney & Bonnie sounded as though they finally had made a whole cloth out of the many tangled threads of influence that make up their music. The presence of Clapton, one of the authentic cult heroes of English rock mythology, gave the group an aura of solid musical achievement that was reinforced by the stories of Beatle George Harrison's performances with D&B (as a sideman, no less) during their recent European tour. 
But clearly the Delaney & Bonnie eight piece ensemble would be a good one even without the presence of English pop mighties. Bonnie is one of the few - perhaps the only - white female singer who works convincingly with the blues. And like Delaney, she instills the black-based music which dominates their repertoire with a twanging country music swing. The result is probably the most convincing mixture of these two curiously similar musical genres since the heydays of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Buddy Holly. Delaney gives Bonnie a musical, and no doubt spiritual support that seems to stimulate her to a far wider stylistic range than, say, Janis Joplin or Tracy Nelson. But Delaney sometimes dominates the group and Bonnie too much, cracking jokes, boozing between selections, using Clapton as the butt of sophomoric humor, and worse of all, taking too much solo space for himself. Delaney is good, but a group that has Bonnie and Eric Clapton in it should make more room for their superb talents. Like the Dead, they play the kind of music that can get the sometimes immobile Fillmore audience to its feet. A new Delaney & Bonnie recording titled Delaney & Bonnie and Friends On Tour with Eric Clapton is due from Atlantic this week (SD 33-326, stereo). 
Physicality reached its peak with the arrival of Sly and the Family Stone on stage at Madison Square Garden. The arena police, hard put to keep the audience seated during the preliminary acts, gave up entirely when Sly and his rocking seven piece band appeared. Aisles were jammed, masses of youngsters came storming down from the upper reaches, and visibility, even in the front rows of the orchestra, was almost impossible without standing on one's chair. 
Sly's music was undeniably aimed at physical response. "I want to take you higher" he shouted, and the audience answered "higher, higher." The rhythm settled into a driving, heavily accented groove that demanded little from the audience except a recurring, march-like foot stamping so strong that the concrete floor of the Garden began to reveal frightening tremors (reminding me of old stories about the effect Lionel Hampton's version of "Flying Home" used to have upon the balcony audiences at the Apollo). 
As with the Dead and Delaney & Bonnie, Sly has assembled a band that plays together with brilliant technical efficiency; the most exuberantly improvisational sections somehow come together with the cohesive structural dynamism of a first class symphony orchestra. Sly has developed a leitmotiv arranging style that inserts familiar word and melody patterns - "take you higher," "dance to the music," "boom-sha-ka-la-ka-la-ka," etc. - into the fabric of many different songs. These recurring motives give the audience a happily familiar reference point, even in brand new material, and guarantee a persistently energetic listener response. 
So physicality is back in force for pop music. The loud cries of a return to the simple rhythms of nineteen fifties rock & roll confirm just how much it has been missed in the last few years. But so long as the Grateful Dead, Delaney & Bonnie, and Sly and his Family are with us, there will be no need for revivals. Better get out your dancing shoes.

(by Don Heckman, from the New York Times, 22 February 1970) 

* * *


This review is not for Grateful Dead Fans. They already have this record. It is for those who recognize that the Dead are more than a spiffy, hip allusion in "Hair" sung by the Cowsills, but who have never seen them alive. They only come off live. 
In concert on any given night, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Pig Pen, Tom Constanten, Bob Weir, et al, just might jam their way into your heart. The album in question, "Live/Dead," is a collection of old favorites done by the group in top form. 
The problem involved in seeing and hearing the Dead on any given night is that their improvisational music might not come off. When they do get it on, fantastic! When they don't, the music is terrible. That is the beauty of the album; we have nights when they were really into it, preserved on acetate, four sides of it. 
The album opens with 23 minutes and 15 seconds of "Dark Star." The piece is really a fugue with theme and variations. The lyrics are superfluous, in fact, distracting, with their early Alan Watts overtones. For example: "A transitive nightfall of diamonds." But the piece as a whole is tremendous. After hearing this song, you keep getting replays as if the music were in the air. 
"St. Stephen" has just the right lilt for singing along if you can handle more than an eight-bar break between verses. "The Eleven" moves with the same drive and vigor that characterizes the best of the Grateful Dead. 
"Turn On Your Love Light" has never been done quite like this. The Dead don't mess around when they say "turn on your love light," and the crowd responds in kind. For 15 minutes they incite the audience to do all kinds of nasty things with great music and exhortations such as, "Take your hand out of your pocket and turn on your love light." 
"Death Don't Have No Mercy" is funky-down blues. This song is as soulful as any B.B. King rendition could be. Now we come to the bad part. Eight minutes of "Feedback" is more than any person can tolerate at a sitting. 
Jerry Garcia is tremendous on lead guitar. His riffs are fresh, inventive, and neat to listen to. Phil Lesh is great on bass, but it is pointless to cite individual performers because the total performance is greater than the sum of its parts. 
The Dead are a group for those who would rather hear brilliance once in a while than hear mediocrity all the time. "Live/Dead" could have been called "The Best of the Grateful Dead" because that's what it is. 

(by Rolf Hage, from the Oregon Daily Emerald, 15 May 1970)

* * *   

The new Grateful Dead album, "Live Dead," should be purchased by Dead maniacs only. You really have to be a Dead fan to put up with the shoddy production and the obnoxious "Feedback" cuts that Reprise gives you. I like the Dead and this album contains a lot of pleasant and worthwhile music. I think they rely too much on long rhythm-pseudo-solos with two or more drummers, but they obviously enjoy what they are doing and are playing for themselves.
(from "The Critic," by Mike Baron, the Madison Kaleidoscope (WI), 4 March 1970)

This 2 record set is the closest thing to the Dead in person, on a typically good night. And it's as good as you have heard it is. "Dark Star" runs 23:15, "Turn on Your Love Light" is 15:30, "Saint Stephen" and "The Eleven" combined are 16 minutes of side 2, surrealistic jams that could come only from Jerry Garcia and Company. Two tabs, two heads, and "Live Dead" make for a perfect evening.
(from "Records," by Rob Klein, Northwest Passage (Seattle), 20 April 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

More reviews: