Jan 30, 2019

1970: Bob Weir Interview

An interview by Bud Scoppa & David Reitman

Some things flow along so organically, you hate to interrupt them or bring them to an end. Like the Dead's music on a good night. So you just lie back and let yourself get carried along. When I showed up at the hotel room to talk to Bob Weir, I found Bud Scoppa there doing just that. What they were discussing was so startlingly real (for a change) that I couldn't bring myself to break it up. So Bud and I decided to combine our interview right there and I oozed into it at that point.
Talking with Bob Weir, and the assorted New Riders and friends that were present, was like hearing the Dead verbally. Maybe it was those chocolate-chip cookies, I don't know. I do know that I and Thou had their first good discussion for a long time, and since Bud was doing such a good job as Thou, I kept my questions/comments to a bare minimum. I hope this edited version of that marathon makes you feel as good as it made me feel. Or at least gives you some insights into the Dead's music.

BS: What is your relationship with Warner Brothers like now? 
BW: We finally caught on to how to make a commercial, or more commercial, record. And with that came their renewed interest in marketing us, and with their renewed interest in marketing us came a renewed relationship between them and us.
BS: But even prior to that, the "put on the Dead and spread" thing...
BW: They were without a doubt trying before that thing...
BS: It might be hard to separate these two elements, but on the one hand you've got Warner Brothers' need for a salable product and on the other hand you've got this whole vocal-traditional thing working itself out. Did those things just come together? Was it more one than the other? Did you consciously strive to make a salable record?
BW: No, not really. You try to make it as good as you can and hope that it'll be salable. Workingman's Dead came out with ten cuts on it as opposed to 3 or 4...
BS: Well, the first one was like that...
BW: Yeah.
BS: Is that the kind of thing that was just before its time?
BW: That was the kind of material we were doing at that point. Then later we got into more extended improvisational stuff. Then after doing a couple of years of that we found sort of a happy medium, where we could do both extended improvisational stuff and songs. From a record company standpoint and the way the media's set up these days, it's easier to sell songs than it is to sell improvisational long pieces.
BS: That's even more substantially true now than it was a year ago. It seems to me to be awfully tight.
BW: That's one of the restrictions of the art of making a record. The art of making a record encompasses the music, how long the piece is going to be, how appealing and how accessible it is to the audience. By accessible I mean easily understood. As opposed to John Coltrane, who played some dynamite music, I mean some really fantastic music, but he was never any superstar. And he had not much of an audience, because not many people could understand what he was playing.
BS: So accessibility was really the problem with your music...
BW: Yeah, I would think so. It bugs you if you are playing music the best you can play it, and not many people are listening, and just because you want people to listen, because you're a performer, and a performer wants people to listen, generally, you might consider changing your material or finding a new sort of material that more people will be interested in listening to, and at the same time you will still be interested in playing it. And that's kind of where we settled down, at least with Workingman's Dead.
BS: Do you prefer one way to the other? You're involved more in the improvisational aspect, aren't you?
BW: Not when I write songs. It's hard to say; I like them both. Generally when I write a song I think first of the record, of the recording of the song. It can grow from that point, in live performance. So these days I think of an encapsulated song and I try to state all the possibilities and avoid repetition and try to keep within a short space of time a whole lot of movement and to build a relatively cohesive unit out of the song. So I live in both those worlds...
BS: Complementary, in your case...
BW: Yeah, because say in a single for instance, two minutes and twenty-five seconds, if you can state a theme that could be a jam, if you can state a theme that can suggest everything that could go on for 20 minutes in that theme in 15 seconds, you've really created something...
BS: I've always thought that singles were pretty highly evolved art forms...
BW: I feel the same way.
BS: And the other thing is, not on your earlier records, but especially in live performance, it seemed what you were doing was 2:20 singles surrounded by transitions, you know, going away and coming back again. It's like when the people get up and start dancing and scream their heads off, that's when you hit that recognizable part...
BW: Right...
BS: ...and that's kind of the exciting thing.
BW: That all falls in the realm of accessibility once again.
BS: It seems like a successful formula. Like the Byrds did it with "Eight Miles High."
BW: Right. That's a really graphic example of what I was just saying...
BS: Is anybody else doing that specific process?
BW: Well, Buffalo Springfield were doing it a long time ago and so were we. A lot of bands have been doing it for a long time. You can go out at any given point and then come back and there's a flash of recognition, and that's the onstage excitement syndrome where everybody used generally the same ploys. That's a ploy where the audience gets off a whole bunch and retrospectively you get off, where you've gone out for an extended improvisational period of time, shall we say, and you flash back in on the song and everybody goes "Oh wow!"
BS: That's the thing that makes it transcendent, because it isn't really planned...
BW: We've been doing that pretty consistently on the Other One, the song with the "tiger paws" rhythm that Billy and me came up with, and the other night it was getting slowed down and convoluted and there was really no direction it was headed, and all of a sudden I had a flash of inspiration and I kind of half remembered a Coltrane riff from Africa Brass that I was particularly fond of, but I couldn't remember it all, so I made up my own tonal structure for it and I came in with a rather slow, lazy African shuffle, and Phil picked up on it real quick, and underneath it all the time was the other rhythm, because they were synchronized...
BS: You're really doing two things at once...
BW: We're playing one thing and suggesting the other, and then intuitively at one point we both made Garcia feel it; Garcia was playing in between the two. So me and Phil and I think Bill came crashing back with the other rhythm and the crowd of course stood on its head... That's a great feeling, because I look over at Garcia, before all that went down everybody was tense, trying to get it on, nobody was smiling much, and at the point that we came back into the Other One rhythm the bottom half of my face just about fell off and Garcia, well he was more grin than beard, which is unusual.
BS: And you can really avoid that whole thing about being on Broadway for 500 shows because you can make it whatever you want it, within some context.
BW: There's a lot of factors there - how much sleep we've had, how particularly inspired we are...
BS: Well that's the danger I guess. You are taking a risk every time you go out on the stage.
BW: I don't think we'll ever be at the point where we can go out there and rip off a really professional show behind playing just set music, because none of us can get off behind it any more. Because of that fatal first flash of when you get into some really far out intuitive stuff, and it's so electrifying when it works right...
BS: As much from you as the guys out in the audience...
BW: Oh, probably more, because we feel it really deeply. It's so electrifying and satisfying when it works right that we can no longer get off performing anything set. So in any of our given songs, there's very, very little structure. The structure can go only as far as chord changes and at our best, we even intuit chord changes. That's pretty far out. That hasn't been done in music yet, where people are cohesively intuiting chord changes together, and that's happened to us and that's just some amazing stuff.
BS: It really mates the mind and the body, doesn't it; it's really like coming I suppose...except in your head.
BW: Sixfold. Cause there's six of us doing it.
BS: In our all-encompassing need to classify things, it seems as though there's a movement afoot to classify the music you've been playing as something other than rock, whatever that means.
BW: It's nothing more than an extension of rock and roll, a logical, I would think, extension of rock and roll.
BS: I was thinking that calling that rock rather than calling it jazz, let's say, has as much to do with the response to the music... That's the kind of response that jazz might find it handy to imbue upon an audience, bring a kind of warm excitement back rather than a cool appreciation. Am I being simplistic?
BW: We played with Miles Davis at the Fillmore West and he started playing amplified music and, lo and behold, it's still jazz. I think there is a fine line there. One of the fine lines is that Miles Davis has been playing for how many years and he can play 32nd notes until his nose turns blue, and each one's more beautiful, more perfectly timed and well placed than the next. He has so much more technique and there's so much more going by; generally there's not too much time to get really worked up. Though he has the same effect on  me that a really good rock band does, he really gets me off. He's got a lot of young people in his band and when I was listening to him at the Fillmore West, he'd take a solo and split and some other soloist would come in, but they're all younger guys, pretty much in our range. They're pretty well versed and certainly musically know a lot about what they're doing, but they didn't get off - I know they didn't get me off - like Miles got me off; as soon as he stepped back up to the microphone and started doing what he was up to, playing his trumpet...
DR: Didn't jazz in a sense get away from the people, during the bebop era; as you said, they ripped off a whole bunch of 32nd and 64th notes and it was very hard to know what was going on, unless you were a musician, whereas what you're doing is a little more accessible because you don't play as many notes.
BW: Well, it depends what you're going after. Of course what you're going after depends on who you are. Like I say about accessibility, I can appreciate Coltrane - Phil turned me on to Coltrane as a matter of fact - but how many people can appreciate Coltrane? I guess it's a shame Coltrane sacrificed accessibility for something else - whatever else he was doing. And the result was he had little audience and great music.
DR: You seem to be trying to get an audience and make great music.
BW: Well, we try to learn by example, and Coltrane set a really striking example of that possibility where you can get just too far out... He brings me up and I start playing stuff I didn't know I could play, and I imagine when I'm 30 years old, I'll be doing that to somebody else. So we have a scene where we have people who know where to go and people who can follow, but it gets turned around - sometimes I have the far-out idea - generally it's Garcia or Phil - but sometimes I have the far-out idea and it goes that direction, but in that we have so many people playing together and a sort of a basic commitment to make it understandable to everybody in the band - and by taking in everybody in the band you can generally reach everybody who's listening - it seems to work.
BS: It seems like every X factor you add, you multiply the number of levels you can reach, because you're bringing in all the levels each person is capable of and all the levels they're capable of getting to with each other's help.
BW: Right. But somehow it didn't work that way with Coltrane, where he had a lot of people, he had Pharaoh Sanders, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and of course Elvin Jones, and the combination of Trane and Jones was the musical happening of that decade for certain, probably the musical happening of the quarter century, for that matter. But they were all too well versed, there wasn't enough diversity in what they were all into. They were all pretty much conservatory trained musicians and they started right there on a level that's beyond the man on the street's, and of course they got better and better, more proficient in their realm, and left more and more men on the streets being men on the streets instead of enlightened individuals, like they left a few.
BS: I guess it's all in the way you look at music, like if you define music as that which is played and that which is heard...
BW: Right, right...
BS: Then Coltrane is less valid than, let's say, the Beatles.
BW: For sure, in that sense.
BS: It seems to me that, as you move up the line, that if you keep one hand locked onto what you started with...
BW: We started with something different because our roots are completely different than Coltrane's. Jazz obviously came out of the blues and into what Coltrane was doing. But our roots are American country music, and a little bit of country blues, as exemplified by the jug band. Seeing as though we've been playing around those forms of music for a long time, we understand them best and work within those modes, and those modes are really ingrained on people's psyches. They've heard blues, rehashed and rehashed, to the point that none of it can get by them; so we're relatively safe if we keep working in that area, for the next few years, in terms of getting over people's heads.
DR: Why do you suppose that older country musicians never took it in the direction you're going in, that is take it as a basis and then stretch it out?
BW: Well, I would say probably economic reasons. If you're a Nashville studio musician you play Nashville studio music, that's how you make your living, and I imagine they get together and jam. I've heard stories of rooms full of pedal steel guitar players, and as early as 1964 - 1963 actually - the big rage down there was playing Charlie Parker riffs, on the pedal steel guitar, getting them perfect, sounding like a horn. If they can do that, they can fuckin' do anything. And the pedal steel guitar is an amazing instrument anyway. And there's other perfectly capable musicians down there, I don't have to start running off examples among those musicians, there must be some supermen who can do anything, and I imagine they've done pretty much anything you can imagine down there in their own spare time. You don't hear it because there's apparently no market for it.
BS: Well, maybe you'll help them indirectly.
BW: The restrictions of their art are how far you can get within the 3-chord or 4-chord restrictions of country music. And that's a meaningful restriction. And a restriction like that makes the form a fine art. They've done some really amazing stuff behind those limitations.
BS: Strict limitations don't always hurt. I think in some cases they kind of compress and challenge artists who ordinarily might be too lazy to challenge themselves.
BW: Either that or they have a tendency to force scenes you can't spread out, they have a tendency to force you higher. If we're playing in a country mode, you won't hear us going off into Coltrane licks and that's understood; in order to appreciate the art form, the country music art form, you have to appreciate its limitations, you have to play within it. At the age of 23 I can't say I'm going to be the innovator that's going to melt these two together, because I can't say that I've got enough experience or proficiency or anything to be that innovator until I'm sixty years old.
BS: And you do keep them distinctively separate.
BW: We at least try to.
BS: By having two separate parts of the show, with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, rather than one in the middle of the other, let's say, and by using certain musicians in each...
BW: Right...
BS: By adding that to what you already have it's kind of like a natural completion. You've been giving them post-rock and roll and now you're giving them pre-rock and roll, and the middle is the core and the core is just the distance. That kind of leaving a no man's land between them. Which is the body of what they've been hearing for the last few years.
BW: You can suggest all that by giving them the roots and giving them the logical completion, not the completion but the extension of where they're going, and you can suggest easily all the distance in between. A lot of times we play Coasters songs and "Good Lovin'" for instance, and stuff like that.
DR: Weren't the New Riders born out of necessity as much as just pleasure?
BW: Pleasure.
DR: But doesn't that experience enhance what you do elsewhere? You can bring things back from it.
BW: It's an attempt to bring more different music to the people...
BS: You know, what you have is a close parallel to Kubrick's "Space Odyssey." You know, the ape throws the bone into the air and it turns into a rocket ship. The bone turning into a rocket ship and becoming all those thousands of years that went in between, you know, in a much compressed sense...
BW: You know we've suggested much more music than we can possibly between all of us play in one night...
BS: When I first heard American Beauty I really liked it instantly a lot better than Workingman's Dead, like I always liked some tracks on it, but I never could get behind the whole album. I thought Live Dead was the one that should have been shouted about instead, or should have sold, but this one is really good. I don't know what the difference is. I think you do sound a little tighter vocally now.
BW: That, as a matter of fact, has been instrumental in the change. The change that has been the most noticeable to the record buying public. Well, we all decided that we'd like to sing, because singing is a lot of fun and we'd been glossing over it for a long time, and all of a sudden we delved into it. That was pretty much maybe like Crosby's and Stills' influence on us, cause they were hanging out for a while with us back around this time last year, and they were really good singers and they never directly got together with us and coached us on our singing, but perhaps their influence...whatever it was, we began singing together.
DR: Why do you suppose the Dead have lasted as long as they have? Is it because you have been denied the ego conflicts brought about by super-stardom?
BW: If I get to be rich I'll be glad. If, on the other hand, I get to be a rock and roll star, it'll probably bum kick me. Because that makes it impossible to relate to people. It's to the point now where it would be very difficult for me or any one of us really to fall into a scene here in New York, for instance, because most everybody knows our faces now and we just cannot relate to people on a person-to-person level. The time-honored bitch of the star.
BS: Well, it's as valid as it ever was.
BW: Like we had a whole myth and we actually supported that myth in the eventuality that someday we might make it big. We supported that myth in the hopes that even if we did make it big, that we could still be real people and still have the fun that real people have and still have the trips that real people have. And apparently that's not possible with the arrangement the media have got for promoting music.
BS: It's funny. Groups will come into town for the first time and I'll talk to them and they'll be just like you and me [and the next time] they'll have a best-selling record and they'll be changed.
BW: It's hard not to.
BS: Well, I guess you get protective of your own time.
BW: I know very few people who have achieved any success who've gotten a big head behind it or anything like that. But you do get defensive and you do get a lot of shit laid on you. Like, for instance, along with success comes responsibility and people assume that you should be owned up to the responsibility, and that of course is a great weight on you. Like for instance I've got to be right on with whatever I say, and I've got to be as universal in my thinking as I can possibly be, and if I'm ever pursued to make a statement about a given subject it's got to be like I say, right on. Or I'm going to start factionalizing people. If I said "Kill the pigs" or came across with that philosophy, then all of a sudden you find there's a bunch of people that are on that trip and, "So and so from so and so group are big stars, and they say that, so that must be where it's at." You start scenes like that and you can easily create a whole lot of unrest. It gets beyond music into political philosophy. And I'm a musician, not a political philosopher. And generally I say, "I just play the guitar" or words to that effect. I may have the feelings on any given subject, but a lot of times I'm not at liberty to express them.
BS: Well, you're pretty much acting out your political philosophy.
BW: Exactly. This is my bitch: that people don't see I'm living and acting out any political or social philosophy that I may have. I'm not a perfect example of the way I think and the way I feel about things, because the way I think and feel about things hasn't come to completion yet. So you can only see it half way and you can misconstrue what you see, easily. So I have to be very evasive. And that's generally the case for most everybody...

(by Bud Scoppa & David Reitman, from Rock, 15 February 1971 - also partially reprinted in Sounds (UK), 15 May 1971)

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com. 

Jan 29, 2019

October 19, 1971: Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh & John Dawson Interviews

OCTOBER 19, 1971
Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
KQRS-FM Broadcast


DJ: We'll be back with more of the Grateful Dead in a moment. This afternoon John Peet talked with Jerry Garcia, and it went like this.

Q: //during the Grateful Dead concert, we are doing it before the Grateful Dead concert. Jerry Garcia here. You'll notice that there's a lot of noise in the background, it's due to the fact that people are setting up the equipment, getting ready for the program to go on tonight. Jerry, you've been on the road for so long now, I'm sure that you're pretty used to this sort of thing, the pre-concert thing. What does everybody get into from that aspect - I notice a number of the musicians come out, some of them start to tune, some of them start to play - how much are they getting [into it]?
GARCIA: Well, it's the idea of hanging out where the workers [are], you know what I mean? It's kind of like - it's kind of another version of the sidewalk superintendent trip, you know, when there's guys putting up a building or something like that, there's always people standing around watching - it's kind of like - that's one of the things that's happening - and the other thing that's happening is everybody likes to get into a place to kind of feel what it's like, get in early enough to try - sound out various different ways of playing your instrument, making sure your equipment works, all that kind of stuff. You know, getting used to it.
Q: You were here - it's about 2:00 in the afternoon, you've been here for about an hour and a half now just kind of looking over the hall - what do you do, just pick up how it's going to sound and how it's going to feel?
GARCIA: All that. I just let it hit me - it's like watching TV or something, it's like - I don't have any formula, I just like to hang out.
Q: Does all it depend upon the - we were talking last night about the EQ. (G: Right.) Does that have something to do with it?
GARCIA: Oh yeah. Sure, because - this place is going to be transformed when the show starts, you know, when we get playing tonight, so it's like it's kind of groovy to get an idea of what kind of vehicle is being used, you know what I mean - like a road test.
Q: Do you have any idea how many individual pieces of equipment the Grateful Dead brought with them, along with the New Riders?
GARCIA: How many pieces do we have there, Rod? [Rod answers.]
Q: 150 pieces of equipment. Plus 22 people, nine of whom play - and this is really quite an organization. (G: Right.) I mean it isn't just a couple guys going round the country playing rock & roll...how much different is it from when you started?
GARCIA: Not much.
Q: The trip remains the same.
GARCIA: Yeah, the trip is basically still the same, it's just that, you know, now we've got 150 pieces, you know, and 22 people.
Q: In other words, quite a bit of the bread that you've made over the years has gone back into it.
GARCIA: Yeah, well right, that's our whole scene - I mean, we have faith in what we're doing, so in that sense we kind of like invest in ourselves, or invest in our trip - make it better.
Q: You've appeared now just recently on the Jerry Garcia-Howard Wales Hooteroll album, and I understand that you do - primarily just gig with him just once in a while.
GARCIA: Yeah, I also play with another fella out in San Francisco named Merl Saunders who's an organ player - and Tom Fogerty, he used to play in Creedence Clearwater - and the same rhythm section that was on that Hooteroll record, John Kahn and Bill Vitt. We play around in bars and nightclubs and so on.
Q: Just for kicks?
Q: I just take it you're getting on with each other.
GARCIA: Yeah - my whole trip is that I just enjoy playing, I enjoy playing any context - see, the Grateful Dead being this complex institution - it's like groovy to be able to play in a situation which is not of any great interest to anybody, but just a chance to get off, you know.
Q: How about the other group that you're playing with now, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, was this your idea?
GARCIA: No no no, the New Riders was more or less a spontaneous creation - basically founded on Marmaduke and his songs.
Q: And then you don't regard yourself as the prime mover in that group.
GARCIA: Oh no, I don't regard myself as the prime mover in any group. See, it's like my function, my role as a musician - I work better in a situation where I'm working with somebody else on their - on somebody else's music, [rather than my own], in the sense of - you know, like I've always enjoyed working with Crosby and those guys because they have their own ideas about what music should be and I work well in that complementary context, you know, and that's the way I like to think of myself in any situation - I don't really think of myself as a [musical leader].
Q: Well the New Riders, of course their style is quite a bit different from the Grateful Dead (G: Right), and when you're doing the same concert in the same amount of time with two different groups, do you have to change your frame of mind to get into playing with, you know, a different thing, or does it all just [count]?  
GARCIA: Not really, it's all music - although, you know, being in the Grateful Dead is like - is something very far out, you know, it's not - it's just a whole different trip - there's nothing else, no other thing compares to it, you know what I mean, it's unique.  
Q: It isn't just music, is it?
Q: Is there a little bit of a family - there's gotta be a family-type relationship with guys like you who've been on the road for quite some time.
GARCIA: Well, definitely, everybody in the whole scene, in fact all these guys that are working here on the stage, you know, we're all - you know, we've all been through a lot together...on our sojourns...
Q: How many people have you picked up over the past say two years now, as far as new people are concerned?
GARCIA: I don't know, I would say about four or five people in the last couple years - it's like, the people who are our scene, we sort of find them and they find us, you know what I mean - it's just, whoever thinks that they can dig it - not unlike a motorcycle club in that respect, you know what I mean, it's not really everybody's cup of tea, but there are some people that it's really right for.
Q: That's an interesting concept, for comparison.
GARCIA: You know, it's turned out to be that way, because we've had people [knowing] that it wasn't really right for, it wasn't the right thing for 'em - you know, it's definitely something some people can get into.
Q: Now your organist is not on this tour (G: We have a new -), you have a new organist.
GARCIA: Right, he plays piano, too.
Q: Now what is happening on the homefront, are you still using Pigpen on the other things?
GARCIA: Well, Pigpen is sick, that's his main reason for not being on this tour - and you know, when he's well, we get into our next set of [practice], whenever that is -  Actually, Pigpen didn't really play that much organ on that many tunes or anything like that, he was mostly more into just doing what he does, singing.
Q: Who's your new organist now?
GARCIA: He's Keith Godchaux.
Q: And how did he happen to come to you guys?
GARCIA: Well...he's the guy that thought that he was the right guy for the job, and he came around and we tried playing with him and it seemed to work out real well, and that's just the thing that happened. It's exactly like what I was talking about a while ago, there's some people that are just, that's what they're supposed to be doing, you know.
Q: And it just seems to fit together.
GARCIA: Yeah. Well, you know, it doesn't always, you know, obviously, if there's a lot of people [...] the Grateful Dead, it's not really what's happening, you know what I mean, but there are some times when something just happens and it's mutual and everybody gets off behind it, obviously it's the right thing to do.
Q: Jerry, do you envisage doing anything other than being on the road and being a rock & roll musician?
GARCIA: Well, I'm a musician, y'know - I don't like to define myself any more than just saying that I'm a musician - I don't think of myself as a rock & roll musician, you know, really. That's what I do, music's my life...
Q: Do you plan [on]...branching out into other phases of the arts [...]?
GARCIA: Well, I would like to get into movies sometime, because I enjoy making movies - I mean, that would be like from the standpoint of being someone who might direct, you know, or just put together my own movies for laughs, but not like an actor or anything like that. You know, obviously I'm interested in all those -
Q: I think you'd be very good as an actor.
GARCIA: It's not my cup of tea (laughs), let me put it that way.
Q: Well actually, I suppose when you get up on stage to a certain extent, there's a certain pose -
GARCIA: Well, no - there are people that can do that, but we haven't ever been able to do that - that's one of the things about the Grateful Dead that makes it weird also, is we don't make any attempt to put on a show, we don't make any attempt to be in any way really theatrical, you know what I mean?
Q: The British groups seem to be really into that.
GARCIA: Right, they're much more conscious of all that - but see, we come from the background of where, you know, you play and it's the music that comes out that's important, not what you seem to be doing.
Q: Is there still what you'd call a San Francisco scene?
GARCIA: Oh yeah, more than ever, I would say - especially in music, you know - I mean, I would say that it wasn't - that San Francisco is probably an inappropriate title or label, because really what scene there is is much more spread out than just in San Francisco - the city itself, it's more like in the Bay area [...] Marin county, especially where we're at.
Q: Van Morrison I understand is now out in that area.
GARCIA: Yeah, same as everybody else - I mean, really a lot of musicians are there - that's one of the reasons that there's a consistent musical thing coming out of San Francisco, you know.
Q: Is it because of the vibes from the city itself or -
GARCIA: No, I think the city is not what's happening, I think it's the fact that there's just - that all the turmoil, changes and stuff that the Bay area's gone through traditionally like two or three years ahead of everyone else, like the whole Berkeley scene, the whole violence trip, all that stuff, the whole Haight-Ashbury and all that, represents experience which has now been assimilated into the culture out there, in the sense that now, you know, it's like very free for most people. And so artists naturally would gravitate toward that, musicians especially, just because it's real nice out there.


Q: Once again, you're hearing this during the concert, we're doing it before the concert, because it's the afternoon, about 4:00, and we've been here now for about two hours, people have been setting up, some of the musicians have already been here, one of them is Phil Lesh. Phil, you've been with the Grateful Dead for a long time, and we talked to Jerry Garcia about his feelings going into the concert - now you get out and play, now there's gotta be a reason for it in the afternoon, are you just picking up or what?
LESH: You mean playing in the afternoon? Before the concert - well, because we have to get the sound of the place right. Every hall is unique, you know, every acoustic environment is unique.
Q: And what happens when you get into a place like this, you're totally alien to it, I mean to begin with, so when you get into it before the concert starts -
LESH: That's what we're trying to do. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can't, it depends on the hall. A place like this, matter of fact you could say it's very easy to get into.
Q: Just judging from some very nice things that are happening around town today, for instance the fact that the weather cleared up -
LESH: That's the reason we bring the rain with us - especially this time of year.
Q: This is such a nice place to be - as a matter of fact, just 22 people here - it's really quite a big crowd.
LESH: Yeah, it's our normal touring-aid scene, although we've added on - we're now taking on most of it ourselves, rather than splitting it up between the PA company and [--].
Q: Well, with $100,00 worth of equipment, it's rather obvious that everybody's pretty serious about it. Do you guys -
LESH: Yeah, we're investing in it very heavily [...].
Q: Phil, you've been with the group since its inception, back in the early dim dark days -
LESH: Those were pretty bright days, [if I may say so].
Q: How do you think the thing has changed since then, as far as you're concerned?
LESH: Well...for me, it's coming around full circle. We're sort of beginning a new cycle, reveling up a new plateau that's going to climb again soon.
Q: You feel this musically now, or just touring, or everything coming together?
LESH: Everything, on every level, you can't separate the music from what goes on, both going in our heads and in the world.
Q: While talking with Jerry, he said there's no leader to the Grateful Dead, is there a spiritual leader?
LESH: We all consult each other from time to time.
Q: Everybody's into everybody on some level.
LESH: We're all each other's gurus. I know that those guys have always been my gurus. All my friends that I've ever had in my life have been my teachers.
Q: It happens - with the group on the road, you do so many cities in so many days, it's gotta be kind of tough on you physically.
LESH: I guess it is. I definitely have symptoms of physical strain now.


Thanks to Harry Angus.

* * *


Roy Rogers had The Sons of The Pioneers. Captain America has The New Riders of The Purple Sage.
They've been called America's best unknown band. But, there's a reason: nobody's ever heard of them. That could change. They are good. The new album - Columbia C30888 - is a good example of a major direction in contemporary music, Country/Rock (but mainly Country). Before their recent concert at the University of Minnesota with The Grateful Dead, I talked with them.

SE: You remind me a lot of the Sons of the Pioneers, that band that used to follow Roy Rogers around and sing great Western music whenever there was a lull in the action. In fact, I almost think you could call yourselves the sons of the Sons of the Pioneers. Agree?
NR: Ya. Although there was an earlier group, the Riders of the Purple Sage.
SE: Would you call what you do Country and Western?
NR: Umm....
SE: I mean besides the fact that music is music no matter what the categorization.
NR: We listen to a lot of country music...old country music. I guess it influences the way we play. But, we're not really country and Western because we're not country people ourselves. Really we're San Franciscans.
SE: I know that Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead had something to do with getting you together.
NR: Well... He was learning the Pedal Steel. A couple of years ago. He'd just picked up on a new Pedal Steel when the Dead was on the road and he was trying to get into it and learn some chops. And ah...I had a few songs that I was playing and I'd go over and pick in the living room with him and just play chords that he could improvise steel stuff behind just as a practice thing. And at the same time I had a little job in a coffeehouse down in Menlowe Park, south of San Francisco which is next to Palo Alto which is where we're all from. Jerry came down...drove all the way down from Marin County every Wednesday.
SE: To take lessons?
NR: No... He just helped me play the gig. And it was practice for him and it was groovy music to add to mine in this little coffeehouse. And then we said, "Hey, that's pretty nice." And we figured we ought to get a bass player and another guitar player and start a band.
SE: Have you always played country music? It's suddenly very hip to put a little country tinge on just about anything today, from Bach to the Beatles.
NR: It's about time.
SE: Who are your favorite country singers?
NR: Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. The Stanley Brothers. Doc Watson.
SE: I guess I'm a selective bigot, but I like certain things in country very much and I suppose by a purist's standards they're the commercial things. I like Tammy Wynette's music.
NR: Ya. She's good. Dolly Parton. Loretta Lynn.
SE: Ya, she was supposed to be here for the State Fair. By the way, Spencer Dryden, you were with the Jefferson Airplane for five years before you joined the New Riders. What happened? Did you decide to change forms musically, or what?
SD: Ya...I left the Airplane in March of last year. Little over a year ago.
SE: That seems to me like a pretty big jump from one style to another. What prompted the change?
SD: Like...I guess I graduated. If you go to college for four years you learn as much as you think you can and then decide what you want to do. It's like taking different majors. And everybody in the Airplane has kind of gotten off into their own tangents. Marty left and Paul and Grace are doing things. Jack and Jorma have Hot Tuna. They all go into these different directions. It's kind of natural evolution. I'd known Jerry from the Grateful Dead on different things we'd played together. And I liked this band.
SE: People who don't like long-haired musicians could be fooled if they just heard the music and didn't see you. Have you ever played on an authentic country Western bill?
NR: No. That'd be scary. Those are the real guys.
SE: You can't fool them.
NR: No.
SE: You could fool me. Good luck with the album.
NR: Thanks.
(and then they rode off into the sunset) 

(by Steve Edstrom, from the "Words and Music" column, the Winona Daily News (MN), 31 October 1971) 

Jan 25, 2019

January 17, 1969: Robertson Gym, UC Santa Barbara


Climaxing four hours of the best concert that has happened on campus this year, the Grateful Dead offered a mind-expanding experience to the 4,000 who crammed into Robertson Gym on Friday night.
As one of the true acid bands originating in 'Frisco, they have survived national success and remained the most outstanding group on the hard-rock scene today.
First on stage was the Travel Agency, who are noted for their numerous originals which feature their fabulous lead singing and harmony back-up. Unfortunately, the P.A. system was not working until after their set, so they jammed for the entire time.
Their music was a fast rhythm and blues along the lines of "Ten Years After." Their drummer appeared to have great ability, but he did not project the rich full sound that Santana's and the Grateful Dead's drummers were able to produce.
After the Agency, the Santana Blues Band came on, feeding their soulful vibes to the eagerly awaiting audience. Their Afro-Blues sound got most of the crowd on its feet, turning on to the violent primitive beat. Sitting still during their set was impossible; their music let everyone release all tensions and frustrations by just letting it carry them.
Using three different conga drums, Santana's conga drummer dominated their presence. In a truly aggressive spirit, he carried the soulful beat throughout their set.
Most of Santana's members were very talented, as was proven in the solos. The conga drummer overwhelmed the audience when he broke into solos, while the organist, in the style of Barry Goldberg, created a mood of his own.
Their drummer took his solo in their fourth number, and really displayed his great talent. "Soul Sacrifice," their concluding number, brought the audience to a peak of excitement as its crude, pulsating beat flooded the gym, which then seemed to be in another world.
Whereas Santana's music was like a rushing torrent cutting deep into the earth, Grateful Dead's sound created visions of the pool of eternal calm, high above the native earth. Their graceful flowing music permeated every object, letting everyone who was receptive experience an emotional ecstasy that cannot be forgotten.
Just as the Grateful Dead began, the power blew and both drummers immediately went into solos as if it was part of the number. When the lights came back on several minutes later, most people suddenly realized what had happened.
Opening with "Shine on Me," they established their easy flowing rhythm. All seven of the Dead are exceptionally talented, and together they produce a mood that can only be experienced, not explained.
As a whole, the concert provided an atmosphere of total environment. The sound system, once it was finally set up, was very good. The visuals, which were provided by Dry Paint, left something to be desired. They had sufficient equipment to do an excellent show, yet they apparently did not know how to utilize it effectively.
The police stationed inside the gym were very "cool" about the whole affair. At the beginning of the concert, they worked diligently to enforce the "no smoking" regulation, but later on in the evening most of the heads were lighting up without any hassle.
Possibly the only disappointment of the evening was when the Grateful Dead were forced to stop playing after the house lights had been rudely blinked on-and-off several times. They probably would have continued for quite some time, as they usually do at their concerts.
Hopefully the great success of the concert will encourage other "organizations" to sponsor a similar happening. Besides being a success financially, this concert provided an exceptionally satisfying and enjoyable evening for all who attended.

(by Jack Evans, from El Gaucho, Santa Barbara, 22 January 1969)

Thanks to Dave Davis

See also: http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2016/11/dropping-in-robertson-gym-gd1969-01-17.html


December 13-14, 1968: The Bank, Torrance CA


The Grateful Dead, one of the original components of the San Francisco sound, journeyed south to the Bank in Torrance over the weekend for what amounted to a progress report on the development of their music.
Unlike other bands of the same era, the Dead's music has survived the pressures of commercial success and popularization.
While other groups were rapidly releasing albums in an attempt to capitalize on a moment, the Dead waited over a year to release their second record, hoping that it would be a further exploration of a territory they were only beginning to discover. The result was nearly fatal with a fickle public.
Their brilliant performance at the Bank this weekend went far toward obliterating any early demise. Guitarist Jerry Garcia displayed his prowess as an innovator capable of sustained solos that are never dull. His strength lies in the lyrical progressions he employs to develop thematic lines.
Bassist Phil Lesh combined with the Dead's two drummers to create a series of exciting contrapuntal bottoms that were highlighted by frequent, but never wanton, variations in time signature. Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir provided catalytic themes from which Garcia and Lesh drew inspiration. Weir would state a theme, wait for Garcia to interpret the statement, and then move on to another idea.
The Grateful Dead seem to function in a musical hinterland that utilizes the potential of its individual members in relationship with its group entity. Each member of the band is concentrically related to the unit, allowing individual freedom of exploration and the security of a fixed position at the same time.
In keeping with the Bank's policy of providing balanced quality booking, Magic Sam, a superb Chicago blues band, also performed.

(by David Mark Dashev, from the Los Angeles Times, 17 December 1968)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

* * *

EARWAX  [excerpt]

The Grateful Dead played at one hell of a funeral last weekend as the Bank announced it is closing down.
Main reason for the death of the fifth Los Angeles rock club to close within a year was pressure from the local gendarmes who have done their best for the last four weeks to intimidate Bank patrons. It was not unusual to see a dozen or so cars being searched between the club and the Hamilton Street offramp, a distance of one quarter of a mile.
The scare tactics worked on the less faithful with a subsequent drop in attendance.
The Bank was one of the few nightspots around that maintained an intimate atmosphere so important to the moodiness of most bands. Now smogville is left with the Ash Grove, Troubadour, Whiskey, and the Shrine - with the Ash Grove being the only club where bands can get it on with any frequency.
The Dead's great lead guitarist Jerry Garcia displayed his genius for nearly three hours on Saturday night without boring anybody. Magic Sam and blues guitarist Richard Dennis aided Garcia in making the Bank's farewell a rousing wake. The club's "family" are planning a final "Screw L.A." party for New Year's Eve for the official burial. Sad to say we'll all rest in peace. 

(by Bob Barnett, from the Valley State Daily Sundial, 20 December 1968)

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com

Alas, no tape! 

See also this list of shows at the Bank:

Halloween 1969: San Jose State College


This Friday evening SJS is having its own “trick-or-treat,” when it brings out The Grateful Dead to play in the College Union Ballroom.
The Grateful Dead, pioneers of the San Francisco sound, will be making their first appearance at SJS Halloween night.
“The Dead” have added a little country to their blues and psychedelic elements, and the blend works well, according to people who saw them last weekend at Winterland.
“The Dead,” whose music has what many people term a euphoric effect, will play two sets, a total of one and a half to two hours. It is hoped that they will play some of their more famous sets which range from straight country, as in “Mama Tried,” to the blues encore, “Good Morning Little School Girl.” In the former, bass guitarist Phil Lesch produces a good country vocal sound, and in the latter, Ron (Pig Pen) McKernan is at his vocal best.
Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia also has a good set as does organist Tom Constante and rhythm guitarist Bob Weir. The dependable work of drummers William Kreutzman and Mickey Hart is ideal in the country tunes.
Accompanying “The Dead” will be the far out sounds of the “Experimental Flash.” In addition, two color horror films will be shown, “Billy the Kid vs. Dracula” and “Godzilla vs. The Thing.” Both films will be shown silently behind the bands.
The dance will be held from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and admission is $2 for students and $3 for the public. Tickets are on sale in [the] Student Affairs Business Office, located on the second level of the College Union.

(by Marty Pastula, from the Spartan Daily, San Jose State College, 29 October 1969)


The Grateful Dead and Southbay Experimental Flash will perform at 9 p.m. tonight in the College Union to a masked audience.
In keeping with the theme of Halloween, the College Union Program Board (which is sponsoring the dance) has asked that all those attending tonight’s dance wear masks.
It is hoped that the debut of The Grateful Dead at SJS will be a pace-setter for future “name groups,” according to [the] CUPB student director.
The CUPB will provide masks for those who “forget their disguises.”
Tickets are still available in the Student Affairs Business office. [...]
[The] CUPB director added that in case it gets too warm, there will be “bobbing for apples” as refreshing but perhaps “ghostly” fun.

(from the Spartan Daily, 31 October 1969)