Dec 25, 2020

December 5, 1971 letter

Monday morning after the best 
fucking Dead concert I have 
been lucky enough to be a part of.!?! 
Man, I can't help but feel that you made a mistake in deciding to do your homework instead of seeing something like what went down last night here in N.Y.C. at the FELT FORUM for a total of 6 SIX tripped hours. 
The concert hall, acoustically is the best I have ever experienced. There couldn't have been more than 3,000 people present - and it was sold out. The place is excessively plush, modern, almost sterile, but no matter where you sit the sound is good and loud and you have at least a decent, relatively unobstructed view of the events. 
I went with Tom, Gary, and my good brother Jacques. Our seats were in the last row near the middle. We split downstairs right after the RIDERS set which went from about 8 pm to 9:30 pm. The RIDERS no longer feature Jerry on the pedal steel. Instead there's some thin guy with very long silky brown hair - I think he's even better than Garcia at the pedal. Torbert, on bass, has grown a small mustache - BIG SHIT! MARMADUKE now plays a white Fender solid body. Dryden is still plugging away on drums. They've got several new songs which are good - extensions on their original style. Dawson's voice was fading faster and faster during the entire set - he was squeaking bad. Oh well, what followed from 10 pm to 2 am was enough to erase any feelings of disappointment. 
The concert was carried live in full by Wnew FM. Throughout the evening the DEAD were very aware of the fact. BILL GRAHAM introduced the band - "Keith Godswell on keyboard, Bill Kreutzman on drums, the oldest old timer I know - Pig Pen, on the organ, the youthful cowboy, Bob Weir, on rhythm guitar, and the master, Jerry Garcia, on lead guitar...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" 
The applause was UNBELIEVABLY LOUD AND FERVENT and lasted SO LONG! The fact that the DEAD were playing to a sell out NYC crowd and especially the fact that whoever wanted to within a 100 mile radius could tune into the tripped atmosphere made this concert perhaps the greatest there will ever be. They started with BERTHA and during the next four hours played tunes like DARK STAR, PLAYIN' IN THE BAND, RAILROAD BLUES, CHINA CAT, FANNY RAE, UNCLE CHARLEY TOLD ME SO, NOT FADE AWAY MEDLEY, BOBBY MCGEE, ME & MY UNCLE, CASEY JONES, UNCLE JOHN'S BAND, SUGAR MAGNOLIA, BIG BOSS MAN, TRUCKIN', AND MORE, MORE......................................................
About 2/3 of the way thru the set I ran into a friend of mine from EXETER who had graduated from EXETER a year ahead of me, gone to NYU and moonlighted on weekends as a FILLMORE usher. There he was behind the police lines, backstage with a pass. I found out that they had run out of passes, and were using black tape around the wrist as a new pass. This trick plus some very heavy doses of BS, con rapping got me past two guards and a DEAD personnel BOUNCER. I eventually wound up right next to the stage. When the concert was over I wandered over to the stairs leading off the stage and ENCOUNTERED JERRY GARCIA, PHIL LESH, BOB WEIR, AND BILL KREUTZMAN gathered together in a kind of conference, discussing the concert hall and the sound as they heard it thru the onstage monitors. My mind! Somehow, whereas in the past when I encountered the DEAD I was speechless, this time I had ease in talking. I eavesdropped on their conference and when Garcia queried as to the sound in the aisles I said that I had been in the last row and the sound was loud and crisp. They seemed dubious of this, saying it sounded fuzzy and distorted with annoying static. I somehow drew Garcia away for about 5 minutes and began by asking him what address I could use that would assure me that they would actually see and read what I sent. He said the DEAD HEADS address was the one. I asked if he had learned anything that he didn't already know from the mail they had received at that address. He said that the feedback was excellent. He felt that the image people had formed from their records and concerts came generally very close to what he felt the Grateful Dead stood for, and in essence were. "Man, the people just simply feel that what we do is groovy, and it is." I asked him if he could put his name down on paper for me - he did. I said "You guys are just the hardest working band of musicians I know of, that's all...." As he handed me back my pen, he said "Naw, what we do is easy, it's fun. It usually takes us about an hour to warm up, and then another hour to break thru all the bullshit, and then if we're lucky we can get in 15 minutes of real music." Garcia has charisma! 
Behind GARCIA, sitting casually on the steps leading to the stage, was BOB WEIR. His silky dark brown thin hair tied in the usual pony tail, wearing leather cowboy boots, very tight brown levi style cords, and a deep blue T shirt with the figure of Mr. Peanuts embroidered on it in orange. There is something weird about Mr. Weir, if you know what I mean. He looks like the archetypal, eternally youthful, totally together, creative, intense, mind blowing guitarist that he is. His gaze, which wanders at will on the people around him, is open and warm, but concentrated and direct. He is smooth and powerful. I began rapping with him for the first time in my life - I had had the [chance] to rap with WEIR before, but had never been able to get it together to rap with him. I asked him if he'd mind putting his name down on paper for me. He did. Then I asked him if there was an address that would guarantee me that he'd read it. He said that if I put on the letter BOB WEIR / DEAD HEADS / P.O. BOX 1073 / SAN RAFAEL / CALIFORNIA he'd be sure to read it..... I asked him if it was true that he lived on a ranch and raised bulls. He said that ending a few months ago the DEAD had lived on a ranch for about a year and had raised horses. I asked if that was where the photo of the DEAD sitting on lumps of hay in front of a barn was taken. He said no that was at Mickey's farm. I asked what Hart was doing these days. WEIR said that he and Hart were producing records out of HART's 16 track recording studio. I asked him if there was ever such a thing as MICKEY HART AND THE HEART BEATS and he said yeah, for a while a few months ago. My final question was about the rumored movie with the DEAD and the AIRPLANE on the STARSHIP theme. He said that it has and will continue to be a real possibility and is something they definitely would like to do. 
I finally split............................................................................ 
My mind!................................................................................
Tonight and tomorrow night I return for more of those blissful melodies. I'm trying to get a good tape recorder together in order to tape the next 2 nights. If successful I will be able to offer you for a small fee a nice addition to your record and tape collection. 
I also listened to a rap between Bill Graham and some freaks. Some punk pseudo hipster was castigating Graham for having closed the Fillmore. Bill said "Listen kid, all you kids want is a machine in which you place a nickel and in return you get happiness, a fantasy world. If you tried to run the Fillmore it would cost you 420,000 dollars and you wouldn't last a day and a half." He said later that he was leaving the USA for good trying to get somewhere quiet and peaceful, was planning to move to Switzerland within the next six months. Had no idea what he was going to do with the rest of his life. Said once, before he started producing gigs, he used to be a very good waiter. 
Things are going well for me. I currently plan to stick at this job until the end of JULY 1972 at which point I will take a month off and travel to CAL and TEXAS if you guys [...] are still hanging your hats out there in the desert sands. [...] 
peace, happiness, and creative inner growth during the sacred season of CHRIST'S birth....................... 
your piscean friend, 
Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also: 

Dec 3, 2020

December 5, 1971: Felt Forum, NYC

The Grateful Dead were back in N.Y. last week, meaning kids standing at and on seats for more than five hours. Also, typical of Dead concerts, the shows were sold out, four at Felt Forum this time, and the young crowd was grooving to the music, rather than causing any serious problems. The four concerts running Dec. 4-7 grossed about $80,000 at a $5.50 top in the 4,700-seat hall. 
Graham, promoting his first N.Y. show since his Fillmore East closed in June, was roundly cheered when he reached the microphone to introduce the New Riders. The group, whose first LP is out on Columbia, were heavier than previously and sounded more like the Dead. Country sounds, a trademark of the unit, were virtually absent except for Buddy Cage on guitar replacing the Dead's Jerry Garcia. 
Garcia was very much in evidence at lead guitar with the Dead, who added a member, Keith Godchaux, at grand piano, which was not heard often because of weak miking. Lights, sometimes flashing, spelled out "Grateful Dead" above the stage. Dancehall mirror globes intermittently reflected spotlights.
(by Kirb., from Variety, 15 December 1971) 

* * * 
NEW YORK -- The Grateful Dead recently made New York radio history as their December 5th Felt Forum concert was stereo simulcast over WNEW-FM radio. While the evening with the Dead recalled the live broadcast of the Fillmore East's closing night, this marked the first time in New York that an individual rock group was honored with an entire evening of prime radio time devoted to its live music. Under the auspices of WNEW Program Director Scott Muni and Music Director Mike Klemfner, the Warner Bros. recording artists played for a listening audience that Muni estimated to be close to 5,000,000 from 8 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. 
In an effort to accommodate their legions of loyal fans, the Dead, who recently received a gold record for the two record "Grateful Dead" album, have been working closely with radio stations across the country so that their sell-out concerts can be heard by anyone with an FM radio. And to insure the high quality that is associated with the Grateful Dead, the band has been traveling with their regular engineer Bob Matthews, who has been supervising all the radio broadcasts. 
The Dead's stereo tour has encompassed three phases. Phase One saw the group broadcasting throughout the Midwest, with concerts in Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, simulcast in stereo. Phase Two covered the Southwest with stereo transmissions from Dead concerts in Albuquerque, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The New York WNEW-FM concert was the second one during Phase Three of the Dead's new concept of radio promotion, with the first show in the series broadcast in Boston over WBCN. 

(from Record World, ? December 1971)
* * * 
Last Sunday night, WNEW-FM broadcasted the Grateful Dead concert live from the Felt Forum. The broadcasting of live concerts is a rare occurrence for New York radio stations, probably due to the fact it's such a good idea. As Bill Graham said Sunday night, from the Forum, live concerts satisfy all. The Dead can play to a small audience (that is if you call 5,000 people small), and yet everyone else can hear them at home. 
The people who handled the technical end of the event did an excellent job. Only Scott Muni, WNEW disc jockey covering the concert, ruined things with his AM-radio voice. Listening with headphones was fantastic. Sound-wise, I could almost believe I was there. At home though, you lose all the electricity in the air that exists between the group's playing and the audience's reaction. 
Listening at home has its advantages, the refrigerator and bathroom being so accessible. I certainly took the Dead's suggestion to get something to eat while they tuned up for the next song. 
I saw them Tuesday night at the Forum, the last of a four-night stand. [Dec.7] They were incredible. Then again, I am extremely biased, since I don't think the Dead could ever play a bad song. 
Though their new album leaves something to be desired, they sang from it both nights - "Me and My Uncle," "Playing in the Band," "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad," and "Not Fade Away." Luckily they played them with the long breaks in which you forget exactly what it was they'd started out playing in the beginning. Pig Pen seemed in much better form Tuesday night than Sunday. "Big Boss Man" had the real tough and gritty Pig Pen spirit. As a matter of fact, in the second half of the concert, the Dead played a lot of good loving music. They also did a beautiful job with "Brokedown Palace," singing it soft and sweet. 
It's a shame that they held the concert in the Felt Forum. Due to union laws it's always a problem when a group wants to play longer and can't. At about 1:30 a.m. the Dead went off, but came back to play "Saturday Night." 
Somehow the Forum looks too new to be comfortable. I guess they need some more Dead concerts to break in the seats.

(by Anne Mendlowitz, from the Observation Post (CCNY student paper), 10 December 1971) 

* * * 

The Grateful Dead, who practically invented the free rock concert, played for perhaps their largest audience at their last sell-out concert in New York. And it didn't cost the audience a cent. 
The Dead were at Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum for a four-night stand, and it didn't take long to sell every seat in the 5,000-seat hall. So the Dead, Warner Brothers, and the Garden management agreed to permit a live broadcast on the final night of the festivities. 
With the rock audience expanding rapidly and the facilities for rock concerts growing ever more impersonal, the live radio concert is about to reach the popularity it once had, back in the 30s when big bands were sending it out to you live and direct from high atop the Squeedunk Hotel. 
For artists like the Dead, this type of radio show is ideally suited. It exposes them to a much larger group of potential record buyers. The radio audience hears them at their best, with the feedback of the concert-hall crowd egging them ever onward on their fantastic musical journeys. And the excitement stimulated the sit-at-homes to be present the next time the band is in town. 
But in many ways, I'd prefer the comfort of my living room. I saw the Dead lay down a fantastic set at the Forum, and I saw them from the best seats in the house - front row center. The following evening, WNEW stereo was sending it right into my home, and there was a lot more room for dancing and fewer rent-a-cops. Didn't see a one. There was also no New York fire commissioner telling the people around me to stay out of the aisles. There was no one ripping off my seat. And no one claiming I was ripping off his seat. And, admittedly, a lot less excitement of an extra-musical nature, like suicidal stage-rushers and 14-year-olds who think the way to listen to the Dead is to be zonked out. 
Listening at home through a good stereo set usually offers finer sound quality than a top concert-hall seat, especially with an amplified rock band. The speakers, generally set up at the wings of the stage and aimed straight back, are geared to send that sound soaring up to the rear balconies, so the sound level is naturally much, much higher up front. So with the speakers on the wings, the concertgoer with a top seat front and center in the orchestra is really in a hole between two sound sources. Middle-distance orchestra is best. Naturally, on the radio, it's all balanced by the time it's broadcast if the engineers know what they're doing. 
The Dead's manager, Rock Scully, told the New York audience that live broadcasts have been arranged in several cities on the current tour only if the concerts are sold out, apparently. That at least protects the promoter and the group. 
One protection can't be offered, however. That's the threat of bootleg recordings of the concerts. For example, most music freaks in the New York area now have five hours of magnificent tapes of the Grateful Dead. Most of them will never do more with these tapes than play them for themselves and friends. But be assured that a few ripoff artists were taking those sounds off the air and will be duplicating them in tape or disc versions, without a cent going to the artists or the radio station or the record company that did it as a freebie.

(by Jon Clemens, "Pop Scene" columnist, from the Commonwealth Reporter (Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin), 17 December 1971) 

* * * 

The latest argument for closed circuit musical events is a big corrugated box up in the record library of WNEW-FM. It's filled with hundreds and hundreds of letters, some of them several pages long, all from listeners expressing their ecstasy over WNEW-FM's live six hour broadcast from the Felt Forum last Dec. 5. The event? A concert by the New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Grateful Dead. 
There's one letter from a postmaster, there's one letter from a priest, there's one letter on WPLJ stationery and another under the letterhead of WCBS-FM. They come from as far as Bridgeton, N.J. in one direction, and Bridgeport, Conn., in another. There's not one dissent among them, or as WNEW-FM director Scott Muni says, "Not one line that came in asking, 'How come you spent six hours doing that?'" 
In Scott's words, the broadcast was "a magnificent success, a huge, huge plus for the station. That's how good it was. Once anyone listened, they had to stay listening, because the sound was better than any recorded album and a live concert without commercials has to be intriguing." What's even more intriguing now is that Scott estimates that his normal Sunday night listening audience, which he claims to be a million, more than tripled for the live broadcast. 
Of course it had to be The Grateful Dead, those six (they've added a piano player) madmen who are only just discovering how great they are. The Dead used to be a house band for acid freaks. Now their audience has become too big to fit in that house. It's really a vicious circle. The more successful they've become, the mellower they've gotten. The mellower they get, the more successful they become. The Dead seem to be coping with it fine. I wonder how the acid freaks are making out. 
This is not to compare the broadcast from the Felt Forum as an event, mind you, it's something like the Concert for Bangla Desh. But put it up against the live simulcast of the closing of the Fillmore East and you see the difference between gimmickry and significance. The Dead could have filled the main room in the Garden easy as spit; four sold-out nights in the Felt Forum with a capacity of 5000 a night equals 20,000. Probably they could have gone clean with two shows in the Garden. But they wanted the intimacy of a smaller house. Moreover, they wanted that live broadcast. 
"Well, you know," says Jerry Garcia, "we've always been into free concerts and the broadcast was kind of a free concert without any hassles. Ever since Altamont everything has been so sticky when you try to do a free show. With us, the whole trip is to make music available." 
And so this tour for the Dead, as manager Rock Scully explains it, has been in smaller, more comfortable, more pleasurable halls, rather than in larger, more profitable, and acoustically poorer halls. And the Dead have arranged for live broadcasts in each city they've been able to. There was one on KQRS-FM in Minneapolis, another on WGCD-FM in Chicago, another on WABX-FM in Detroit, still another on WNCR-FM in Cleveland and another on WEVN in Cincinnati and a simulcast on WHFM and WNBR-FM in Syracuse. 
The Dead decided on the broadcasts after a bunch of kids were maced by guards on the fourth-floor landing of a fire escape during a concert in Boston. "We got sick and tired of being considered by the hall heat as a security risk to the point where our friends were getting tossed out on their backs," Rock says. Or as Jerry adds, "It's kind of like we never wanted to be bait for a trap where you go to have a good night with The Grateful Dead and end up getting gassed." 
The Felt Forum broadcast wasn't arranged until four days before the concert. It costs $2500 for Madison Square Garden to plug the radio in, another $1500 for the union, and $4000 to buy the time on WNEW-FM. Warner Brothers, the Dead's label, put up $4000 and Clive Davis, who has the New Riders under contract, committed Columbia to the other $4000. 
Over the radio, the mix was superb. With even a chintzy stereo set you felt as if you were on stage, right in the middle of the instruments and able to hear each one. Right in the middle of the instruments and as if the musicians playing them knew you were there. It was an inspired performance. 
The point being that we're not going to have any more Woodstocks for a long time. No one is going to allow a half-million kids to get together in one place in this social climate. Still the need and the desire to be communicants at an event keeps growing stronger (that's one of the reasons why the concert for Bangla Desh album may sell even better than three million; the buyers are willing to accept the feeling of having been there any way they can). In other words, if we're cut off from joining in an event with one another physically, then the only way to do it is electronically. Somebody's going to have to try closed-circuit TV for music.

(by Alfred Aronowitz, from the "Pop Scene" column, New York Post, 21 December 1971) 

* * * 
When the Grateful Dead played a concert at the Felt Forum Dec. 5, they entertained a dancing, cheering crowd of up to 3 million persons, even though the Forum itself only has seating space for 5,000. 
The rest of the audience was tuned into a local radio station, where they heard the entire concert broadcast, live and uninterrupted, from 8 p.m. Sunday to 2 a.m. Monday. 
Live coverage has brought sports events, parades, and even beauty pageants to the American public for years, but in the world of rock music, it is still experimental. The problem of getting concert music to fans plagues some performers, and, for the last three months, the Dead have been seeking a solution in live broadcasting. 
Like most musicians, the Dead prefer small halls to huge stadiums and auditoriums. The smaller spots tend to have better sound and are more personal; artists feel more relaxed and perform better. And the noise and energy of 20,000 screaming, stomping fans, although excellent additions to the heavy beat of some groups, can ruin the softer melodies of the Dead and all but obliterate the intricate musical work of the band's star guitarist, Jerry Garcia. 
But according to John MacIntire, the Dead's road manager, a small hall can cause problems - "like riots." The group's last concert at Boston's Music Hall led to a battle ending in broken heads, overturned police cars, and people hanging from fire escapes they'd climbed to try and break into the theater. After, an appalled Garcia said he was "tired of being the bait," the spark that set off injuries. 
As a result, live radio pickups were arranged for each concert on the tour, and Scott Muni, program director of WNEW-[FM] was approached about doing the broadcast locally from the Forum. 
Muni agreed, but union troubles and the telephone strike kept plans up in the air, but finally, arrangements were completed and the Sunday night concert was selected for airing. "It was a hassle from the beginning," said the station's music director, Mike Klenfner. "But worth it," added Muni. 
The program began with a set by the Dead's country-oriented companion group, the New Riders of the Purple Sage; the Dead then came on for four hours and 15 minutes of music, taking only one 15-minute break. 
The Forum crowd loved it. So, apparently, did the radio audience. The quality of the broadcast, which drew compliments even from rival stations, and the uninterrupted show kept listeners cemented to their sets until it was all over. 
The late arrangements kept the show from being well-publicized, but the concert sold out for all four nights from just one newspaper ad, and word of mouth seemed enough for the radio listeners. 
Two days later, after letters and call were totaled, WNEW estimated the audience at 500,000 - by the next day, the estimate was 3 million. 
For the Dead, at least, broadcasting is successful. Promoter Bill Graham considers radio pickups "a wonderful way" of mixing popular groups with fans. In San Francisco, where Fillmore West concerts were carried for years, live concerts and simulcasting (a TV station carries the picture, stereo FM radio the sound) are familiar ideas. 
It is far from general practice, however, and one problem is the musicians themselves. Small halls and simulcasts are not financially rewarding - a band makes more money at one show in Madison Square Garden than four at the Forum, and, as Graham says, a "majority of groups are more interested in making money" than in acoustics. 
Broadcasts are considered risky by performers who feel the concert gate will be hurt or that tapes made from the broadcasts will deter fans from buying albums (although one listener wrote WNEW to say he was so impressed he went out and bought every Dead album he could find). 
And the cost is frustratingly high. Warner and Columbia Records, who handle the Dead and the Riders respectively, picked up most of the tab for the radio show, with the bands contributing and the station donating the time. The union and phone costs were estimated at $10,000, not counting lost advertising. Multiplied by the number of cities on a tour, it comes to a lot of money for a new promotional idea. 
But the Dead plan to keep giving radio broadcasts and would like to add cable TV simulcasts, and even now tell listeners when to start their tape recorders as they play on, entertaining fans all night. Some people really believe music should be free.

(by Mark Arnold, from the "Night Owl Reporter" column, New York Daily News, 18 December 1971) 
* * *  
And for a wider radio context: 


For more than a year now, major-market radio stations - FM outlets, for the most part - have put their records back on the shelf for several hours every few months to broadcast live music from clubs, concert halls, and recording studios. The practice has grown, to the delight of audiences who appreciate the opportunity to hear more live music than their pocketbooks or ticket availability will allow. It may have reached a new peak during the holiday season past.
The relatively low cost of producing such live programming - an hour concert will cost about $800 or $900 (excluding talent fees, which are rarely a consideration) - has attracted many record companies to sponsor these concerts themselves. And the high audience appeal is drawing others. One such radio concert - by the Grateful Dead Dec. 5 on WNEW-FM New York - was heard by more than three million listeners, according to Scott Muni, WNEW's program director.
Techniques for financing and production of the concerts vary. Record companies may approach radio stations with a package in order to gain exposure for new acts. Buddah Records has tried this approach with Exuma and Buzzy Linhart, for example; it contracted WKTK-FM Baltimore to broadcast a concert from the Baltimore Civic Center on Jan. 22.
In other instances, radio stations have negotiated with artists only and produced concerts in recording studios with small invited audiences. Sometimes the record company is offered some or all of the sponsorship of these concerts after the arrangements for studio time and telephone lines are completed and paid for by the station. In the case of the WMMR-FM Philadelphia concert featuring Brewer and Shipley on Dec. 14, Buddah had only to pick up the tab for the artists' time and expenses. On the other hand, when WPLJ-FM New York broadcast a live concert from the A&R recording studio in New York, the 7-Up Co. sponsored all of it.
The Grateful Dead is one of those groups that can sell out concert halls with alarming speed. But the Dead object to playing the larger halls needed to accommodate their growing audience; the loss in intimacy and inferior - to their ears - sound systems do not suit them, according to John McIntire of the Dead management. On their last tour, in an attempt to bring their music to a larger audience, the group asked stations to carry their concert in each of the markets they played during the tour.
During a 10-week period, ending on New Year's Eve, the Grateful Dead played 15 live radio concerts across the country. In each market, the costs were shared jointly by Warner Bros. Records (the Dead's recording company), Columbia Records (the recording company for the New Riders of the Purple Sage, who travel with the Dead), and the Dead themselves.
WNEW-FM had two special holiday broadcasts, a presentation of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass," and a taped concert of Led Zeppelin, obtained from the BBC. WNEW has contracted with the BBC for a series of concerts in 1972, including the Faces with Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones, and the Who.
Other holiday live concerts included two by WBCN-FM Boston with Livingston Taylor and Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen; KDAY-AM Santa Monica, Calif., with Cheech and Chong and Helen Reddy; WLIR-FM Garden City, N.Y., with Buzzy Linhart and McKendrie Spring; and KSAN-FM San Francisco broadcast a Christmas party with Boz Scaggs as well as the New Year's Eve Grateful Dead concert.

(from Broadcasting magazine, 10 January 1972) 
See also: 

For Jon McIntire's response to "the threat of bootlegs," see: 

December 1971: Jerry Garcia/Jon McIntire Interview, Boston

Bent over with a dramatic curve to his lithe body, Miles Davis was dotted with blotches of sweat as he fiercely emitted notes from his trumpet. Miles was getting it on with one elegantly shod foot perched on his wah-wah pedal. 
We were ringside at the Jazz Workshop digging Miles when Columbia promo man Ed Hynes pointed to his watch, which registered 10:30 pm. Not daring to look back at the volatile Miles, we slipped out of the club and walked to Ed's car. 
"The Dead are due in at Logan, at 11 pm, on a direct flight from San Francisco," Ed commented. As we drove to the airport, we followed John Garabedian's van. John, a life-long Dead fan, was until recently, program director of WMEX.
Traveling with the Dead is the second act, New Riders of the Purple Sage. They record for Columbia and Ed made no bones about the fact that his company is attempting to lure the Dead away from Warner Brothers when their contract expires in a year and a half. 
Parking at the airport, we walked casually through the cavernous buildings. Eventually, we encountered the advance members of the Dead party. 
Greeting Dead road-manager Dick Cutler, Ed asked how many were in their party. "Thirty two," was the staggering reply. We just about dropped as Garabedian tried to figure out how many would fit in his van. 
In a few moments the Dead appeared with their entourage including wives, managers, accountants, roadies and the rest. Later, John Macentire, a Dead manager, explained that this was the big trip of the year, including Boston and New York, and that they decided to bring along the wives. 
"It has gotten to be a very large business," he explained. "We maintain a business office, accountants and all that, just so that the band has the freedom to do their thing." 
As the Dead crowded about the luggage pick-up area, John Garabedian singled out Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist, and engaged him in conversation. 
In past interviews with the Dead, I have always been impressed by their vast intelligence and sophistication. Not just another rock band, they qualify as real, dyed-in-the-wool intellectuals, who toss off references to obscure philosophers freely, quote in Greek and Latin and are expert in esoteric French cinema. 
With an interest in Top-40 radio, Garabedian got off on the wrong track with Garcia by asking why the Dead didn't have a hit single. 
"We could care less about that," Garcia replied. "Deciding to do that would be decidedly weird to do." John answered. "Well, it needs to be done (have a hit single)." In a testy mood, Garcia snipped back, "Hitler probably thought that, too, the trip is the same, it's a power trip." A bit timidly, John said, "What can be done then?," to which Garcia retorted, "You tell me." 
Having been in the air for some six hours, the Dead were tired and short on patience for the standard interviews. Their arrival at Logan had been kept as quiet as a military secret to avoid hysteria. 
The conversation might have just ended there, had I not snapped on my tape recorder. I started on safe footing, asking Garcia if he planned any more specialized albums such as his recent "Hooteroll," in which he accompanied organist Howard Wales. 
"Yes, I just cut an album with a dude named Merle Saunders, an older cat from California. I did a lot of studio work on his album as well as the group Lamb. The Hooteroll album was never supposed to feature me, it was Howard's album, but that's just the way certain companies approach the product trip. I don't think of it that way." 
Commenting that many people had felt that the recent live album was a return to the old Dead sound, before "American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead," Garcia retorted, "That's because everybody's taking the albums as if they represent a sequential development." 
"All kinds of music exist simultaneously for us," he replied. "We do an album say every six months and there is a misleading trip happening there like the passage of time means development. It's just what we've been doing all along, but not how we've made our records. 
"In my opinion, we're past "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty." We've done that and now we're into something else. I just made a solo album which will be out in January. I play everything but the drums on the album" (shades of Paul McCartney).
Later, Dead manager John Mcentire was heard to comment that, "We were always a great live band, but had trouble getting it down on records. Workingman's Dead was our first, really well-made album and it really brought greater attention to the band." 
For several years, the Dead used two drummers, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman. Last year, Hart was fired because of financial squabbles.
"Mickey has a number of projects going which we may participate in if we want to," Garcia said. "He doesn't want to travel, however, and besides it's too weird having two drummers. It's a huge limitation as they are restricted to what they can play together and they both have different styles of drumming." 
Until recently, Jerry Garcia has been playing pedal-steel guitar with the New Riders of the Purple Sage. He only started the instrument late in life and only played half the strings. It was, however, a familiar feature of the Riders set to see Garcia on pedal steel. 
"I don't play pedal steel anymore," Garcia said. "I just gave it up, I'm not interested in the instrument anymore. This doesn't mean that I'm not interested in country music, it's just that I'm not going to try being a pedal steel guitarist anymore. Besides, the New Riders have a pedal steel player named Buddy Cage who's much better." 
He observed that it has become fashionable for rock-critics to put down the Dead by saying that you have to sit through hours of average music to get a few brilliant passages. 
"That's if you're there for brilliant passages," Garcia said. "I read all that stuff they say about us and it's all true, it's a matter of opinion. People can think whatever they like. But they go to our concerts for different reasons. Some people go just to see us mess up. Some go for the high moments and if we don't get them they're disappointed..." 
Later John Macentire added that, "For years the Dead got nothing but great reviews. Then we became big enough and we started to get the knocks. I like that better because for a long time we were considered a sacred cow. Actually, bad reviews are often more interesting and they give us things to think about. On a lay back night the Dead are really something to think about..." 
With the Dead and the New Riders on stage, the Music Hall seemed to convey a vintage San Francisco atmosphere. The Riders opened with a strong, hour-long set and then the Dead came out for a 2 1/2 hour set. 
As usual in all Dead concerts, there was a festive atmosphere as kids danced on their seats and attempted to crowd around the stage. Some of the older Dead freaks faded after a few hours, but the devout stayed to the bitter end. 
On the second night of their engagement, the concert was broadcast live on station WBCN-FM. Asked if this didn't invite bootlegging, John Macentire replied, "To the contrary. The Dead always did a lot of free concerts and benefits. Now we are into doing frequent live broadcasts. It is a new thing with us, a new way of promoting the group. But if 30,000 people hear the concert on radio and can record it themselves on tape, then there are 30,000 people that the Rubber Dubber ain't going to sell bootlegs to. In all, I know of some 12 Dead bootlegs, and none are worth having. The engineering is terrible except for one bootleg which was distributed free to 30,000 people in New York. They edited the tracks from several performances and that was boss."

(by Charles Giuliano, from the Boston Herald, 19 December 1971) 

Thanks to Dave Davis.

Dec 2, 2020

December 1, 1971: Music Hall, Boston


Last night at the Music Hall Theater, the Grateful Dead and the New Riders of the Purple Sage fell flat on their collective country-western, rock and roll faces in one of the most evenly bland concerts since Crosby/Nash last warm-milked their way into Boston. 
The New Riders of the Purple Sage were the first course served up to the sellout (both tonight and last night) audience. They specialize in country rock, and heavy on the country-western, please. 
The first number was "Truckstop." Pedal steel wailing, nasal voices whining, this truck driver lament never should have been let in from the cold. A bar and grill dirge called "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud Music" followed, and I began to wonder about all the great things that had been said about this group. Finally, with a slight change of material, a rock-roll transfusion and a prayer, things started to pick up. There were still a few country duds, but Ricky Nelson's "Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart," Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," and Johnny Otis's "Hand Jive" sounded surprisingly fresh with the group's country arrangement. 
That was that for the New Riders. Around half-past nine, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, et al, wandered on stage. 
Hoping for an event, expecting a great concert, I was all set for their first number, which turned out to be "Truckin'" from "Workingmen's Dead," one of their better albums. A fairly good opener, I awaited more. "Sugar Lee," sung and guitared by Jerry Garcia, aroused me to such adjectives as "boring" and "monotonous," as did the next three undistinguished unnamed numbers. 
Although it was nearing the time I would have to leave, I decided to stick it out for a few more songs, figuring it couldn't get much worse, and fortunately I was right. 
A song that appeared to be called "Ain't It Crazy" was a relief from the heavy country flavor of the night with a distinct bluesy roll to it. "Tennessee" proved to be fair and "El Paso" (Marty Robbins's best known cowboy song) succeeded where the Riders' rock-roll had earlier. 
There was undoubtedly more, as the Dead are infamous for the great length of their concerts, but luckily I had to leave. It had been disappointing listening to their reputation, and I hope they start playing up to it real soon.
(by Michael Nicholson, from the Boston Globe, 2 December 1971) 
* * * 
Anyone who attended the first concert of the Grateful Dead's two-night stand at the Music Hall last week and then heard the next evening's performance "live" over WBCN-FM has to wonder why he shelled out six bucks to see the real thing. The radio version - with good stereo separation - was superb, while hearing the Dead in person was, by comparison, like listening to music while inside a barrel. And - unlike most Dead concerts and WBCN "live" broadcasts - it started on time. 

On the bill with the Grateful Dead were the New Riders of the Purple Sage, who evolved from the Dead and at one time included three of its members (Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart). The band is now comprised of all non-Dead folks, but still uses the same San Francisco offices as its better-known counterpart and has toured exclusively with them. "All our exposure has been at the hands of the Grateful Dead, and I can't deny that we've used it to gain notoriety," New Riders' lead singer John Dawson told us here. He added that the band had plans to go it alone in the near future. Hmmm.
(by Nathan Cobb, from the Boston Globe, 12 December 1971)
Thanks to Dave Davis.

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