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)

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