Garcia said “We were great for seconds on end.” I was lucky to see Jerry play for about 1,000,000 seconds exactly. Thanks for your 1,000,000 views here . Dave Davis wrote this blog for 500 posts and 5 years from 2015 to 2019. Contact me at twitter @gratefulseconds

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Some Cool Rolling Stone Articles on the Grateful Dead

Have fun. Something to read until I finish my new pieces

Articles from 

Newport Pop Festival Drags on in Dust and Heat

Dead, Country Joe, Crosby, pie fight weekend's highlights

Mud man

An estimated 140,000 attended the first and probably the last Newport Pop Festival in California's Orange County Aug. 3-4, viewing, among others, Tiny Tim, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, Grateful Dead, Chambers Brothers, Charles Lloyd, James Cotton Blues Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the Byrds.
The festival was regarded musically successful but on other fronts rather less than pleasing. The performers appeared on a raised stage under a striped canopy, but the young crowds were left sitting or standing in a huge, flat, dusty-dry open field under a broiling sun. Refreshment and rest room facilities were less than adequate and the sound system was not powerful enough to carry the sound to eveyone present.
The highlight of the pop fest on the first day (Saturday) seemed to come when Country Joe closed the bill. The hour was late and Orange County officials were threatening to shut off the electricity when the band went on, finally relenting to give the band time for two songs. As they began their first, "1, 2, 3, 4, What Are We Fighting For," the approximately 40,000 young people still on hand rose as if one, cheering, hands held aloft in the "peace sign." During the second number, a long blues, even the cops on stage were grinning and adlibbing a moderate version of the boogaloo.
The second day's climax came when David Crosby started a planned pie fight with the Jefferson Airplane. In all, 250 cream pies flew back and forth . . . and the thousands of people present stormed the stage to join in.
The musical line-up was an impressive one. Besides those already mentioned, bands appearing were Alice Cooper, Steppenwolf, Sonny and Cher, Canned Heat, Electric Flag, Butterfield Blues Band, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly, Illinois Speed Press and Things To Come.
But admission to the festival was $5.50 per day -- to sit in heat and dust. Most considered it another in the series of pop music shucks.
The Newport Pop Festival -- which wasn't even held in Newport, but in Costa Mesa -- was produced by Humble Harvey Miller, one of L.A.'s Top-40 deejays, and Wesco Associates, basically the same coalition that staged a similarly uncomfortable weekend festival last summer in another Los Angeles dust bin.
(RS 16, September 14, 1968)

Sky River Rock Groove

Berry farm hosts Dead, Santana and others 

Mud man
"The best freaking scene ever," said one musician. The Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Show was not dampened by the rain that fell over Labor Day weekend, but made creative use of it. And the proceeds went to an assortment of American Indian and Black organizations.
The Friends of American Indian Rights, the principal Indian beneficiary, the Central Area Committee for Peace and Improvement, and the Black Student Unions of the Pacific Northwest were the principal organizations for which the musicians gave their benefit performances. Some of the proceeds are also going to local institutions for alienated youth, such as the Open Door Clinic and the Seattle Free University.
The music started at 9:30 on Saturday morning and ran till after midnight. Sunday's show ran from nine in the morning till five on Monday and Monday's show was of necessity a little disorganized, but after giving everybody four hours to sleep, the festival wound up with one more eighteen-hour slug of music.
Some forty acts, rock, blues and folk, with a few theater acts such as the Congress of Wonders and the S. F. Mime Troupe, were on stage for the marathon event before an audience of around 15,000. Spectators had trooped in from all over to Betty Nelson's Organic Raspberry Farm in Sultan, Washington (pop. 960), fifty miles outside of Seattle, not to be disappointed.
On Saturday it started to rain. All the less reason to forbid the audience to set up their tents in the field of the natural amphitheater. Soon there was a vast modern-day replica of a Civil War encampment, and the clouds of smoke were immense. The police kept their distance, like decent, law-abiding, privacy-respecting public servants, and everybody was happy.
While the audience was gathered like a great camp meeting in the field, the musicans -- all 175 of them -- were quartered in the three floors of the Camlin Hotel. Musicians, it is well known, are musicians because they like to play music, and the concentration of musical trips was incredible.
And who was there? Santana, Dino Valenti, It's a Beautiful Day, James Cotton, the New Lost City Ramblers, Kaleidoscope, the Youngbloods, Country Joe and the Fish, Phoenix, John Fahey, Mark Spoelstra, H. P. Lovecraft, Big Mama Mae Thornton. The Grateful Dead played a magnificent set for their last appearance with the personnel of their recordings.
By Monday the field was soggy with rain, but spirits were high. A Mud Cult arose in the principal puddle, improvising Mud Rituals and Mud Dances. The baptism consisted of taking long run and belly-flopping (with your clothes on) in the mud, alter which you would be covered with mud and embraced by other cultists.
The Mud People also made half a dozen Charges of the Mud Brigade through the Civil War Encampment. Their Mud Chant went something like, "mud (stomp) mud (stomp) we like mud." Mud was, like they say in ads, Happening, so a couple of dozen fans were swinging with it.
Continuity and saccharine rap between acts were provided by Buddha (not the B., you understand, but a San Francisco underground bartender and former KMPX strikebreaker who goes by the name). His longwindedness was one factor in the concerts' running overtime. Musicians got into the habit of telling each other when they were due on stage in terms such as, "We're on at 4:30-plus-Buddha-rap." "The only crummy ointment on the fly," said one.
The kind of festival it was, when a young man wearing nothing but beads got up on stage during Big Mama's set and started dancing in the lightshow, it was not thought strange. Except perhaps by Big Mama, who had registered dismay when she first saw the Encampment that was to be her audience.
As Big Mama turned to leave the stage, the young man found himself facing the microphone, and impulsively said, "Hey, you know what? I just had a real flash. We're all Jesus Christ," and everybody applauded. Then Big Mama came back to the mike and said, "Wow! Wasn't that weird! I'd heard about it, but I never thought I'd see it!"
There was also a great scheduled balloon ascent, and the balloon was lots of fun, everybody played with it the first day. Then on the second day, the balloon went ahead and ascended, but paying no heed to human schedules. And there was a pig, some sort of personage in the festival. He was already a Mud Cultist from in front.
Many a festival would have been ruined by rain, but not a perfect festival, a festival with lots of festival in it. That's what Sky River was, and Lighter Than Air, too. Many thanks to John Chambless, director, and his assistant Stan Maginnis. And especially to Betty Nelson and her organic berries.
(RS 19, October 12, 1968)
Celestial Synapse at the Fillmore

Good vibes in the name of science

Mad scientists
It was a "Frontiers of Science Celestial Synapse."
A what? What's Frontiers of Science? What's a synapse, and what's the Grateful Dead's name doing among the lines of medieval Irish script, the kind preferred for church bulletins?
The answer to the questions raised by the classy printed invitations was unquestionably the best musical gathering in months. Fifteen hundred invitations were sent out for the February 19 event, and though there was no other announcement, probably double that number attended. Everyone was treated to the best vibrations and some of the best music the Fillmore West had seen in some time.
After a stirring oboe and bagpipe introduction by the Golden Toad, Don Hamrick of Frontiers of Science spoke for a few minutes in a gentle rural accent, addressing the crowd as "the Goodly Company." "It is our hope," he said, "that this evening there will be an opening and a free interchange, so that something new may emerge. Let the barriers fall, let there be a merging."
Then the Grateful Dead began a set that ran for four hours or so with scarcely an interruption. "I haven't seen anything like this in years -- it's like one of the old Ken Kesey Acid Tests," said Bob Thomas, piper of the Toad and, like the Dead, veteran of many an Acid Test, "-- only it's less hectic and confused. It's fucking amazing." People were handing each other flowers, joints, funny incomprehensible little picket signs four inches high.
The Dead played continuously, a flowing improvisatory set of new material. (Originally the concert was to be recorded for inclusion on the next Dead album, but last-minute difficulties in setting up the recording equipment scotched that.) Three light shows were playing, at no charge to the sponsors. The Grateful Dead and Bill Graham donated their services for free.
Invitations had gone out to people in music and a broad range of psychedelic tribes -- from Rancho Olompali and other communes to the Hells Angels. Many Frontiers of Science people and other communards could be seen embracing each other, greeting strangers, dancing and celebrating.
Toward two in the morning there were a number of stoned occurrences. People began taking off their clothes. Don McCoy of Olompali got up on the stage stark naked, against a tableau of Bill Graham restraining the rent-a-cops from pulling him down.
The organizing body was Frontiers of Science, headquartered at Harbinger, a former hotsprings resort 100 miles north of San Francisco. Incorporated as a nonprofit organization a year ago, FOS grew up around Don Hamrick, a 33-year-old alumnus of both a Church of Christ seminary (he has since been excommunicated for his radical mystical views) and research physics. Around two years ago Hamrick started speaking of a religious calling to establish order and unity on earth and to connect the physical and metaphysical aspects of science.
It has to do with the crystal at the center of the living Earth, which is affected by human vibrations and which may either change shape (a creative change) or change size (a destructive change, since it would cause earthquakes). The idea is to send down good vibrations to change the shape of that crystal, and the Celestial Synapse may very well have done just that.
"Synapse" is the term used by the people around Hamrick for a mass meeting of minds, parallel to the linking-up of brain cells that makes thought possible, called a synapse in psychology. The Celestial Synapse was the beginning of a five-day Frontiers of Science conference, which included a Congress of Concerned Educators at the College of Marin and a two-day gathering of about 400 people at Harbinger.
(RS 30, April 5, 1969)
The Grateful Dead

Burnout sets in, Dead flat and moody

Too far gone
The Dead didn't get it going Wednesday night at Winterland, and that was too bad. The gig was a bail fund benefit for the People's Park in Berkeley, and the giant ice-skating cavern was packed with heads. The whole park hassle -- the benefit was for the 450 busted a few days before -- had been a Berkeley political trip all the way down, but the issue was a good-timey park, so the crowd, though older and more radical than most San Francisco rock crowds, was a fine one in a good dancing mood, watery mouths waiting for the groove to come. The Airplane were on the bill too, so were Santana, the Act of Cups, Aum, and a righteous range of others; a San Francisco allstar night, the bands making home-grown music for home-grown fans gathered for a home-grown cause.
But the Dead stumbled that night. They led off with a warm-up tune that they did neatly enough, and the crowd, swarmed in luminescent darkness, sent up "good old Grateful Dead, we're so glad you're here," vibrations. The band didn't catch them. Maybe they were a bit tired of being taken for granted as surefire deliverers of good vibes -- drained by constant expectations. Or they might have been cynical -- a benefit for those Berkeley dudes who finally learned what a park is but are still hung up on confrontation and cops and bricks and spokesmen giving TV interviews and all that bullshit. The Dead were glad to do it, but it was one more benefit to bail out the politicos.
Maybe they were too stoned on one of the Bear's custom-brewed elixirs, or the long meeting that afternoon with the usual fights about salaries and debt priorities and travel plans for the upcoming tour that they'd be making without a road manager, and all the work of being, in the end, a rock and roll band, may have left them pissed off. After abortive stabs at "Doing That Rag" and "St. Stephen," they fell into "Lovelight" as a last resort, putting Pigpen out in front to lay on his special brand of oily rag pig-ism while they funked around behind. It usually works, but not that night. Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman, the drummers, couldn't find anything to settle on, and the others kept trying ways out of the mess, only to create new tangles of bumpy rhythms and dislocated melodies. For the briefest of seconds a nice phrase would pop out, and the crowd would cheer, thinking maybe this was it, but before the cheer died, the moment had also perished. After about twenty minutes they decided to call it quits, ended with a long building crescendo, topping that with a belching cannon blast (which fell right on the beat, the only luck they found that night), and split the stage.
"But, y'know, I dug it, man," said Jerry Garcia the next night. "I can get behind falling to pieces before an audience sometimes. We're not performers; we are who we are for those moments we're before the public, and that's not always at the peak." He was backstage at the Robertson Gymnasium at the University of California at Santa Barbara, backstage being a curtained-off quarter of the gym, the other three quarters being stage and crowd. His red solid body Gibson with its "Red, White and Blue Power" sticker was in place across his belly and he caressed-played it without stopping. Rock the manager was scrunched in a corner dispensing Tequila complete with salt and lemon to the band and all comers, particularly bassist Phil Lesh who left his Eurasian groupie alone and forlorn every time he dashed back to the bottle.
"Sure, I'll fuck up for an audience," said Mickey from behind his sardonic beard, bowing. "My pleasure, we'll take you as low and mean as you want to go."
"See, it's like good and evil," Jerry went on, his yellow glasses glinting above his eager smile. "They exist together in their little game, each with its special place and special humors. I dig 'em both. What is life but being conscious? And good and evil are manifestations of consciousness. If you reject one, you're not getting the whole thing that's there to be had. So I had a good time last night. Getting in trouble can be a trip too."
His good humor was enormous, even though it had been a bitch of a day. The travel agent had given them the wrong flight time and, being the day before the Memorial Day weekend, there was no space on any other flight for all fourteen of them. So they had hustled over to National Rent-a-Car, gotten two matched Pontiacs and driven the 350 miles down the coast. Phil drove one, and since he didn't have his license and had six stoned back seat drivers for company, he had gotten pretty paranoid. The promoter, a slick Hollywood type, had told them at five in the afternoon that he wouldn't let them set up their own PA. "It's good enough for Lee Michaels, it's good enough for you," he said, and they were too tired to fight it.
The Bear, who handles the sound system as well as the chemicals, was out of it anyway. When the band got to the gym, he was flat on his back, curled up among the drum cases. Phil shook him to his feet and asked if there was anything he could do, but Bear's pale eyes were as sightless as fog. By that time the MC was announcing them. With a final "oh, fuck it, man," they trouped up to the stage through the massed groupies.
Robertson Gym stank like every gym in history. The light show, the big-name band, and the hippie ambience faded before that smell, unchanged since the days when the student council hung a few million paper snowflakes from the ceiling and tried to pass it off as Winter Wonderland. Now it was Psychedelic Wonderland, but the potent spirits of long departed sweatsocks still owned the place. That was okay, another rock and roll dance in the old school gym. They brought out "Lovelight" again; this time the groove was there, and for forty minutes they laid it down, working hard and getting that bob and weave interplay of a seven-man improvisation that can take you right out of your head. But Jerry kept looking more and more pained, then suddenly signaled to bring it to a close. They did abruptly, and Jerry stepped to a mike.
"Sorry," he shouted, "but we're gonna split for a while and set up our own PA so we can hear what the fuck is happening." He ripped his cord out of his amp and walked off. Rock took charge.
"The Dead will be back, folks, so everybody go outside, take off your clothes, cool down, and come back. This was just an introduction."
Backstage was a brawl. "We should give the money hack if we don't do it righteous." Jerry was shouting. "Where's Bear?"
Bear wandered over, still lost in some inter-cerebral space.
"Listen, man, are you in this group, are you one of us?" Jerry screamed. "Are you gonna set up that PA? Their monitors suck. I can't hear a goddamn thing out there. How can I play if I can't hear the drums?"
Bear mumbled something about taking two hours to set up the PA, then wandered off. Rock was explaining to the knot of curious on-lookers.
"This is the Grateful Dead, man, we play with twice the intensity of anybody else, we gotta have our own system. The promoter screwed us. and we tried to make it, but we just can't. It's gotta be our way, man." Ramrod and the other 'quippies were already dismantling the original PA.
"Let's just go ahead," said Pigpen. "I can fake it.''
"I can't," said Jerry.
"It's your decision," said Pig.
"Yeah," said Phil, "if you and nobody else gives a good goddamn."
But it was all over. Bear had disappeared, the original PA was gone, someone had turned up the house lights, and the audience was melting away. A good night, a potentially great night, had been shot by a combination of promoter burn and Dead incompetence, and at one AM it didn't matter who was to blame or where it had started to go wrong. It was too far gone to save that night.
"We're really sorry," Phil kept saying to the few who still lingered by the gym's back door. "We burned you of a night of music, and we'll come back and make it up."
"If we dare show our faces in this town again," said rhythm guitarist Bob Weir as they walked to the cars. The others laughed, but it wasn't really funny.
They rode back to the Ocean Palms Motel in near silence.
"When we missed that plane we should have known," said Bill Kreutzman. "An ill-advised trip . . . ."
(Excerpted from RS 40, August 23, 1969)
The Woodstock Festival

200,000 fans in the same puddle

Out on a limb
It was to begin, this Woodstook Music and Art Fair, at four PM, Friday, August 15th, outside Bethel (population 2366) in Sullivan County, a Catskills resort area long patronized by the middle-classed and middle-aged of New York City's more threatened neighborhoods. It had first been planned for the village of Woodstock itself, 60 miles to the northeast, and was then moved to Wallkill, 15 miles to the southeast. When the promoters were thwarted there by a zoning challenge, they packed up for Bethel, just short of a month away. 60,000 rock fans were expected.
On the afternoon of August 15th, at the point planned for musical departure, there was a mire of thousands and thousands of automobiles under the sullen sky, stretching two-lanes on a two-lane highway the 12 miles leading to Monticello, the principal town of the area . . . .
Lost in that traffic was the opening act, Sweetwater, and their equipment. A helicopter was commandeered to airlift them out of the stoppage and into the stage area, three miles away. Richie Havens ignited the musical proceedings at 5:07 PM, after workmen finished outfitting the 80-foot-wide stage, and be was followed by Sweetwater; and Bert Sommer, Tim Hardin, Ravi Shankar, Melanie and Arlo Guthrie, and Joan Baez, who rendered a valued "We Shall Overcome" as her closing.
The two ticket gates, each with thirty entrances, had long before been overcome, obliterating the last barriers against this fair actually being a festival . . . . And, by late Friday evening, the crowd had swollen to 200,000 within the grounds. An estimated 100,000 more were reported to be converging on the area, and the crisis reports started chattering out through the channels of the media.
The sanitation facilities (600 portable toilets had been spotted across the farm) were breaking down and overflowing; the water from six wells and parked water tanks were proving to be an inadequate supply for the long lines that were forming, and the above-ground water pipes were being crashed by the humanity; the food concessions were sold out and it was impossible to ferry in any more through the traffic; the chief medical officer declared a "medical crisis" from drug use and subsequent freak-outs; police reported a shortage of ambulances, and those that were available had difficulty getting hack to local hospitals through the metal syrup of the traffic jams.
Approaching midnight, while Ravi Shankar was playing, rain and lightning shot down from the sky, and water collecting in the canopy atop the stage threatened to collapse it. Then were worried mutterings from the festival guards that the stage, built on scaffolding, might be starting to slide in the mud.
But, as the earth dissolved into slime, the crowd burst into a joyous community. In the dawning of the Aquarian age, everyone was in the same puddle . . .
Saturday morning, a steely sun awoke the damp and chilled beautiful people camping in the fields. Those lucky enough found cars to sleep in or had booked rooms weeks in advance. At the Howard Johnson Motel in nearby Liberty, where most of the performers were billeted, a party had been in progress through the night. At one point, Janis Joplin and Country Joe MacDonald wrestled onto a lobby coach and then disappeared . . . .
As dusk, a flouncing and bouncing Canned Heat hit the plywood stage, raising the mud-stained, sweat-splattered mass to its feel for the entire set. Behind them on the stage, Janis Joplin stood tensely motionless, her mouth set hard. Grace Slick, in white that stayed spotless, nodded. The rest of the Airplane and its coterie sat with her, despite requests from the stage managers that they leave, nibbling on delicate grapes, sipping lime juice from Garnier champagne bottles. These were the stars.
But the Star is still missing. There is speculation. He is going to appear. No, he is in Europe. No, he's at home. But he's not going to come because his son is sick. But he could come anyway, couldn't he.
Willingly or not, Bob Dylan was the presence hovering over this three-day jamboree. Aware of it or not, he is the elder of this urban tribe that is fanning away from the amphetamine-streaked cities. If he has not imposed rules, he has offered himself as one, and the tribally tommed-tommed message of WOODSTOCK, Dylan's refuge, WOODSTOCK, Dylan's turf, WOODSTOCK, Dylan's bringing it all back home, was as much responsible for moving this massive surge of humanity onto a 600-acre farm as any advertisements, promotion, publicity . . . .
And as darkness sucked the crowd into a monochrome lump, Canned Heat humped the stage with "On the Road Again," the spotlights buckshotting across the holy fools on their pilgrimage, illuminating waving arms at the distant top of the far hill, as toothpicks against toy trees.
As the night wore on, it was the Battle of the Bands; Grateful Dead, strained after Canned Heat, climbed out onto a limb with hopes that the audience would reach up to them; it didn't. Creedence Clearwater, clear and tight; a static Janis Joplin, cavorting with Snooky Flowers, her back-up band just that; Sly and the Family Stone, apart in their grandeur, won the battle carrying it to their own majestically freaked-out stratosphere.
The Who went on stage after Road Manager John Wolff, taking no chances, collected $11,200 for their upcoming performance. When a movie cameraman moved in on Roger Daltrey, Townshend then kicked that man square in the ass and off the stage. There were no protests either time. Townshend's guitar was intact, however, allowing him to smash it to smithereens as the sun rose behind him. At 8:30, under a bright sky, Jefferson Airplane brought it to happily worn-out close . . . .
(Excerpted from RS 42, September 20, 1969)

An Evening with the Grateful Dead

Jerry and co. mellow out, grow up

Working man
We change and our changings change, a friend said once. It sounded true, but it seems too that through it all we stay the same. That obscure rumination takes us to, of all places, backstage at the Fillmore West, a spot that has mutely witnessed its share of changes and has gone through some of its own. Backstage used to be literally that, a few murky closets with just a few inches and a thin wall separating them from the amps. Now the car dealer on the corner has gone through his changes, and Bill Graham got extra floorspace for a dressing room as big as the lobby of a grand hotel.
No palms but a lot of sofas, on one of which sat Jerry Garcia as if he owned the place. Which he once had, sort of, when it was the Carousel, changed from an Irish dance hall to a mad den of psychedelic thieves who for a few months put on a series of dances the likes of which hadn't been seen since the early days of the old Fillmore.
Jerry Garcia had played over there too -- he had been a foundering member, so to speak -- but he had never owned it. Bill Graham had owned that Fillmore and now he owned this one and Jerry was working for him one more night. There was a time when Bill Graham was always on hand when the Dead were playing, but this night he was in New York on business (the next night in LA), and a second or third generation of underling, a soft-faced young man named Jerry Pompili was watching the clock and counting the heads on behalf of Fillmore Inc.
It was just past eight-thirty, showtime, and Jerry P. approached Garcia and asked if they were ready to go on.
Jerry G. was deep in one of his eyeball-to-glittering eyeball monologues, but he paused long enough for a glance around that indicated he was the only musician present and accounted for. "The other guys will be here in a minute, man," he said, "Phil's the only one who might be late."
"Well," said Pompili, "what happens if Phil is late?" allowing into his voice a hint of his hope that the Dead would find a way to start without him, to be nice for once. A hopeless hope.
"Nothing happens," said Jerry G. grinning deep within his hairy tangle, "We'll start whenever Phil arrives."
"Okay," said Pompili, shrinking like a tired balloon, and Jerry geared back up to rapping speed, instantly oblivious of the interruption.
Everything had changed, and nothing too. After over five years of extra inning play, the celebrated Fillmore (and all of rock and roll show biz) versus Grateful Dead game was still a nothing-nothing tie. For five of those years the Dead took their lumps, always scraping through but never out of trouble. In the past half year, however, their tenacity has finally begun to pay off (perseverance furthers, says the Book of Changes). The years of weathering cosmic crises have given them an unshakable musical and group foundation (and even an odd sort of financial stability) and on that they are building afresh.
Typically, their luck waited until the last possible moment to change. 1969 ended with the near disaster of Altamont. The Dead family had been crucial in its organization, and they were as responsible as anyone for the sanctioned presence of the Hells Angels. That day -- they did not even get to play in the end and do their best to save it -- was, says Jerry, "a hard, hard lesson," and while they were absorbing it in early 1970, they had an epic management crisis. Their manager, whom they had chosen because of his honesty and earnestness, was irritating some family members who did not trust his ingratiating manner. Weeks of tense encounters led to a showdown and the manager was let go. Only then did the band discover that he had been bilking them all along; by that time he had disappeared and no one had the time or heart for a suit.
Then they got busted en masse in New Orleans (their second time, the first in the fall of '67 in San Francisco). That has now turned out to be just an inconvenience of time and money, but in March they didn't know that. In the middle of all of this they had to do a record. Something complex was out of the question; Jerry and his writing partner Ron Hunter had some tunes, so they walked into Pacific High Recorders in San Francisco, and banged it out in nine days.
The result was Workingman's Dead, one of the best of the few good records released this year, their simplest production since their first LP, and their most popular release so far. "It was something," said Jerry, "all this heavy bullshit was flying all around us, so we just retreated in there and made music. Only the studio was calm. The record was the only concrete thing happening, the rest was part of that insane legal and financial figment of everybody's imagination, so I guess it came out of a place that was real to all of us. It was good old solid work. TC (pianist Tom Constanten) had just left to go his own way, and with his classical influence gone, we got back to being a rock and roll band again, not an experimental music group. Man, we had been wanting to boogie for a long time."
Workingman's Dead is just about as good a record as a record can be. Easy on the ears from the first listening, it gets mellower as it grows on you; a lot of different rhythms but one sure pulse. In it they tap the same rich emotive vein that the band has reached, and have made from it story songs with down-home feel hiding sophisticated structures, but the Dead's molding of the material is a lot more raw and driving. The Dead look at the world from the outside edge, and their song heroes are losers and hardworking men. "A friend of the devil it a friend of mine," they sing at one point, and the closest they come to "I Shall Be Released" is:
One way or another,
One way or another,
One way or another,
This darkness got to end.
That's a long way from the messianic enthusiasm of "Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion" ("See that girl barrbonn' around, she's a dancin' and a singin' she is carryin' one"; remember?), but it's won them more friends. Sales haven't been at hit proportions, but enough to make Warner Brothers friendly for the first time since they were trying to sign the band up.
"Of course we still owe Warners money," Jerry said, "but we're getting the debt down to the size where it's more like a continual advance." A family member, John McIntire, is now the manager, some old friends are watching the books, and the days when organs got repossessed five minutes before showtime have receded, at least for the present.
"We're feeling good," Jerry went on, "really laid back, a tittle older and groovier, not traveling so much, staying at home and quieting down. We used to push ourselves and get crazy behind it, but now we're all getting more done but not having to work at it so hard.
No one could say when the turn from the old Grateful Dead to the new began, but the key was opening up the band's structure. The Dead's complex personal changes are as legendary as their public ones, and they ended only when they decided that they didn't have to be just the Grateful Dead. They could also be Bobby Ace and the Cards from the Bottom, a reentry group led by Bob Weir, or Mickey Hart and the Heartbeats which a lot of golden oldie rockers. At the same time (spring 1969) Jerry got a pedal steel to fool around with and ended up commuting dawn to Palo Alto twice a week to play Nashville style in a little club. That group became the New Riders of the Purple Sage and other Dead members sat in from time to time.
All that country music got them singing, something for which they had not been noteworthy in the pass, and hours of three-part harmony rehearsals got them back to acoustic instruments. Less noise made them less wired. The small quiet groups could and did do club work, around the Bay which meant gigs without touring or equipment hassles. All that ended up with the groove that made Workingman's Dead possible and has created a unique musical experience which they call, rather formally, An Evening with the Grateful Dead.
Phil arrived, sweeping in with madman-long strides, a few minutes before nine, and the latest evening began before a happy crowd of oldtime heads. They opened with the acoustic part (there's no other name). Jerry and Bob Weir on guitars, Pigpen on piano, Phil on electric bass, and Bill Kreutzman (who alternates with Mickey Hart) on drums. The first tune was "Juggin'," an easy going autobiography of a band's life on the road, dotted with busts and bad times and long gone friends like Annie who they've heard is "living on reds, Vitamin C, and cocaine, and all you can say is 'ain't it a shame.'" It went on like that for an hour, music soothing to weary hearts and hard-driven minds because it understands that state of mind only too well. Jerry and Bob shared lead guitar and vocals, Pig doodled around when he wanted and just sat there when he didn't, and Phil and Bill just kept the beat. David Nelson of the New Riders came in about half way through on mandolin, and Jerry switched to his Fender, and it was all very sweet and funky. They ended with "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and believe it or not, the Grateful Dead looked angelic at last.
The New Riders came on after the break -- Jerry on pedal steel, Mickey on drums, David Nelson on electric guitar, Marmaduke lead vocal and acoustic, and Dave Torbert on bass. They opened with "Sly Days on the Road" and that too set the pace for a rolling set of country rock that probably sounded a lot like the Perkins Brothers when Carl was working honky tonks around Jackson, Tennessee. Except that Carl Perkins never had a drummer as tense as Mickey Hart, and while Jerry most often was tastefully traditional on the steel, he allowed himself some short freakouts banshee-style seldom heard below the Mason-Dixon. They ended with "Honky Tonk Women" which was a gas; Keith Richards, from a film clip in the light show, watched them without cracking a smile.
Then it was time for the Grateful Dead, and everyone was on their feet moving as they began as they used to begin with "Dancing in the Streets" ("It doesn't matter who you are, as long as you are there"). After that came the lovely "Mama Tried" that the Everly Brothers had on their Rootsalbum, and then Pigpen took it away with an all-out dramatic rendition of "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World." Out of that into "Not Fade Away" (quite a repertory that night, huh?) and it was past one thirty; Jerry Garcia was still going strong after four hours on  three instruments but the Fillmore floor had gotten to me and we wandered out with that Bo-Diddley-by-way-of-Buddy-Holly beat pounding on and on and on ("My love is bigger than a Cadillac . . .") It wasn't one of those weird nights when, acid-blitzed, they gushed out music as hypnotic energy; is was more legible and, if not as spellbinding, more open music. Very fine indeed.
Those weird nights are surely not gone forever, but the Dead are a bit more careful these days. "Altamont showed us that we don't want to lead people up that road anymore," Jerry had said before the show, "taught us to be more cautious, to realize and respect the boundaries of our power and our space." The Dead never called themselves leaders, but they were high-energy promoters of the psychedelic revolution. On one hand they know now that it's not going to come as quickly as they thought; on the other, they know it is already too big for them to direct. They are now just helpers, like the rest of us. "At last the pressure's off," Jerry said.
He is disturbed, however, about what he calls the "politico pseudo-reality that we find when we go out on tour. Dig: there's a music festival, but because there are people there, radicals say it's a political festival now, not a music festival. I don't want to take over anybody's mind, but I don't want anybody else to take over anybody's mind. If a musical experience is forcibly transferred to a political plane, it no longer has the thing that made it attractive. There is something uniquely groovy about the musical experience; it is its own beginning and end. It threatens no one."
"The San Francisco energy of a few years back has become air and spread everywhere. It was the energy of becoming free and so it became free. But the political energy, the Berkeley energy, has assumed a serpentine form, become an armed, burrowing, survival thing. It's even still on the firebrand, 'To the barricades!' trip that I thought we had been through in this century and wouldn't have to will on ourselves again.
"'Accentuate the positive' though, that's my motto," he said with a gleam in his eye, "and there are more heads every day. Heads are the only people who have ever come to see us, and it used to be that if we played some places no one would come out because there weren't any heads in the town. Today there is no place without its hippies. No place."
With that Phil had come and the band had to start juggin,' playing for the people and hoping to get them high. "We realized when we started out," Jerry had said a few minutes before, "that as a group we were an invention, as new as the first chapter of a novel. We started with nothing to lose. Then suddenly there was something, but always with the agreement that we could go back to being nothing if we wanted. So nothing that has over gone down for the group has ever been real except to the fiction which could be made unreal at any time. A lot of limes when we were at that point, we consulted the I Ching, and the change we've gotten has always said push on. So we have; there's not much else we can do until the next change."
(RS 66, September 17, 1970)
Europe 72
The Beautiful Dead Hit Europe

With entourage of forty-eight, Dead visit the Old World

In Paris, Le Grand Hotel is a big deal.
Across the street is the historic and opulent Opera House and running off in several directions are the city's famous tree-lined avenues. In one career of the massive structures is the Cafe de la Paix, the sidewalk meeting place in all those romantic Hollywood flicks. Nearby are the shops at Saint Laurent, and Dior.
The hotel itself is so big you can get lost in the hallways. Single rooms start at $35 a day and all are equipped with balconies and small automated refrigerators that dispense liquor and beer and champagne at ridiculous prices. There are jewelry shops, restaurants, hair stylists, masseurs, art galleries, theater booking agencies, shirtmakers. Everyone on the staff speaks fluent English. It is a popular favorite of visiting Americans.
"Are you still expecting the Grateful Dead?" I asked the reservations clerk.
"The Beautiful Dead, monsieur?"
"Uh . . . not quite. The Grateful Dead."
"Oui, monsieur. Would you spell the surname, please."
"It's a musical troop," I said, filling in the silence. "From America."
"We are expecting a 37-orchestra."
Only the figure was incorrect. The Grateful Dead, half-way through a two-month tour of Europe, numbered not 37 but, depending upon who you talked to, up to 48. There were seven musicians and singers, five managers, five office staff, the equipment handlers (handling 15,000 pounds of equipment, not counting the 16-track recording system), four drivers and 17 assorted wives, old ladies, babies and friends. In its 100 years of catering to the tourist elite, Le Grand Hotel had never seen anything like it.
The Dead arrived late Monday, not quite fresh from a two-day overland haul from Hamburg, Germany. Yet, when they awoke on Tuesday, just as on the first day in each new country so far, a copy of their own Xeroxed newspaper, the Bozos & Bolos News, had been slipped under their hotel room doors.
The Dead began drifting into Room 4600 about noon. This was the Office Suite, where Rosie prepared the Bozos & Bolos News and ushers manned the telephones, while Sam Cutler greased the Dead machine -- changing German marks into French francs and handing out daily "road money" ($10 for the ladies, $15 for the gentlemen, for food), dispatching couriers to check an English festival site and see why the latest Dead single wasn't getting the desired promotion, worrying about lights and sound checks and transportation and luggage and laundry.
When the Dead arrived in Paris they'd been on the road exactly a month. They'd played two nights in London's Wembly Pool (to 8000 each night) and to smaller crowds in Copenhagen and what seemed to be half the cities in West Germany). The Dead had appeared at a festival in England in 1970, had performed at a free concert in France in 1971, but never had they done The Grand Tour, long de rigeur for American bands anxious to improve European record safes.
Outside Room 4600 the day was warm, the sky a cloudless blue. In small groups, the Dead set out to see the sights.
"Today is a free day," the Bozos & Bolos News had said. "In the evening, Kinney is hosting a dinner for all of us (and a few discreet press people) at a very fine restaurant located in the Bois de Boulogne (the city park, but what a park!). It is called La Grande Cascade, and holy shit, is it ever neat! You might even feel like dressing special for it, although you don't have to. It's just that kind of place . . ."
At 7 o'clock, Sam Cutler was telling the bus drivers he was sorry, but could they please do this one thing . . . yeah, he knew he'd given them the day off, but they could have the next two days off, there was just this one dinner and yeah, of course they could join the boys for the Royal Kinney Feast.
Downstairs, in a lounge the size of half a football field (with a fountain in the middle), the Grateful Dead were assembling. Jerry Garcia dropped into an orange imitation leather chair. "Almost every place we went today was closed," he said. "The Louvre is closed Tuesdays. We went to the Notre Dame and we saw that, really boss, but we couldn't climb the tower. We went to the Cluny. We saw that. It was sacked by the Barbarians in the year 300 and before that it was a Roman bath. Flash flash. History everywhere you look. Far-out. Stunning."
What about the rest of Europe so far?
"There's a lotta energy in Germany. Like the US, it's opted for the material thing. Everybody looks pretty well-fed. It has the same external trappings, factories, apartments, cars, lotta roads. The thing that made it for us was the world war flash -- all those movies. Germany has had its culture cut off and it had to start again. It's not like France or England, where it's still all there."
Babe began talking about how boss the purses and hats all looked and somebody else said purses and hats were dumb, and Babe said right, but Paris was where the purse and hat thing was happening and they sure knew how to make them look good. Jerry admitted everybody was buying at least one thing: switchblade knives. And out came hull a dozen. Flick. Flick. Flick. The knives began moving from hand to hand.
Around the huge room, other Americans in Paris swung their heads, mouths open, staring at the tie-dye and denim and hair, watching the flash of knives. Was this Le Grand Hotel?
By eight the "labor dispute" had been settled and we were off by bus to Le Grande Cascade, a splendid wedding cake of a room with oval walls of glass that look out unto a lawn at blossoming chestnut trees. The dinner lasted three and a half hours. (As long as a Grateful Dead concert set.) During the serving of liqueurs, which followed the Alsatian Riesling Grande Reserve and the Chateau Meyney "Prieure Des Couleys" 1959 and the Champagne MummCordon Rouge Brut, things got a little loose. That was when the Dead turned the waitors on.
"Here ya are, mon-sore . . . do yer head some good."
The waiter stood stiffly in his black tie and tails. Timidly he allowed the pipe to be raised to his lips. He sucked deeply, there was a cheer, he smiled, and the pipe was passed.
The Dead were to play the next two nights at the Olympia Theater two blocks from the hotel. Jerry Garcia seemed anxious. "I got a letter from one of our fans here and he said the police like to put plants in the audience to cause trouble, and then the police use that as an excuse to clear everybody out and stop the show."
"Just let 'em try it," said Phil Lesh, leering with anticipation. "We'll go up to 'em and we'll say, 'Come along, Officer -- have a drink of this Coca Cola.'"
Is had been four years to the month since students nearly brought the French government to its knees; it was true that the police -- the flies -- got nervous whenever young people gathered. Two nights earlier, when the Doors played the Olympia, there'd been rioting. So when the Dead walked to the theater, there were seven bus-loads of police at the curb, many of them in riot helmets and armed with rifles.
Inside is was friendlier. As 2200 ticket holders (each of whom paid about $4.55) began swarming into the old theater to the recorded sounds at Jefferson Airplane, Ike & Tina Tuner and The Rolling Stones.
"Bon soir, mes amis," said Phil Lesh. "Uh . . . that's about all the French I know."
The music began at nine, reaching the first climax two hours and 14 songs later wish "Casey Jones." It was clear this was a gathering of Grateful Dead freaks. The opening rhythms of every song were greeted with joyous shouts and applause, and between the numbers there were happy requests.
The Dead look a half-hour break at 11, then played for another two hours. During "Truckin'," as the mirrored ball near the ceiling revolved reflecting light, the audience rose as one, weaving and yelping and applauding the long, jazzy drum, guitar and piano breaks. This set closed with hard rock, the familiar Bo Diddley rhythm pattern in "Not Fade Away" and the Dead's new single, "One More Saturday Night." Now Donna Godchaux, singing backup for the Dead, and some of the Ladies Auxiliary were boogying on the crowded stage. So mellow was the mood as she concert's end, the police outside had nothing to do but smoke cigarettes.
"It's called muscle fatigue," said Jerry Garcia she following day. "We couldn't have played any longer if we'd wanted to." "Like I sang three songs in a row there at the end," said Bob Weir. "Forty-five minutes of singing and singing hard, which for any other singer is a whole night's work and we'd been as for three hours or something before that. When we quit, my chest was fucking heaving, man."
(In England, Weir had said, "when we got there, all the people in that bit country show" -- a reference to a country festival -- "were here at the hotel and I was talking to a lot of those guys and we were talking about how many nights a year they work. I was telling them we work 50 flights a year and they were amazed because they work 150 to 200 nights a year and more. I got the hint that they thought we were really lazy and just laying back and making money off a big name. Then it occurred to me to ask them how long they play every night -- about 45 minutes. Well, we play about three hours a night, so it works out about the same. You can't carry on to 150 to 200 nights a year while playing three or four hours a night and expect to survive.") But Jerry Garcia wasn't quite satisfied.
"Everywhere we've been the audiences have been Grateful Dead audiences. We've had the German equivalent of the guy who gets up on the stage and takes his clothes off. We've had the English freakout, the Danish freakout. But we haven't been playing enough. I'm a music junkie and I have to play every day. The gigs are too far apart. It's like we're not fucking off enough to enjoy that or we're not playing enough to enjoy that."
The second night at the Olympian was better than the first. There were only 30 or so cops on hand -- down from 180 the night before -- a unique sort of "review" of the Dead's music and audience when you think about it. Again, all 2200 seats were filled. Again the audience crawled forward in a friendly inquisitive Gallic swell, applauding, cheering and chanting "one more one more one more" at the end of another four hour-long set. And this time, Jerry Garcia admitted afterward, "We played peachy."
Next morning, it was raining as the Dead began piling luggage in the hotel lobby. They would play that night in Lille, at the other end of a high speed motorway near the Belgian border. That'd make it three concerts in a row: Maybe Jerry Garcia and some of the others would find more satisfaction on this tour after all.
As all the tie-dye and denim and hair gathered in eddies, the other Americans in Paris began swinging their heads, mouths open. If this was the famous Le Grand Hotel they'd heard about -- and were going to spend at least $35 a day to enjoy -- then who were all these freaks?
(RS 111, June 22, 1972)
Perspectives: Full Circle with the Dead

Extended stand in Berkeley should be a model for tours

Among friends
A short time ago the Grateful Dead played a four-night engagement at the Berkeley Community Theater, a hall that seats 3500 when the orchestra pit is used.
The entire series of four performances -- 14,000 tickets -- was sold out by the end of the second day the tickets went on sale. There was no special advertising campaign, just the usual announcements in the standard Bill Graham ads.
No other group appeared with the Dead on the show and the music began early every night, at seven o'clock, and went on until 11 or 11:30 PM. The theater is part of a high school campus, and it is against various rules and regulations of the local and State Departments of Education to run after midnight.
The Berkeley Community Theater is not a dance hall. There is no flat, wide area on which to dance or crash. There are only regular auditorium/ theater seats and it was a reserved seat affair with numbered tickets and prices ranging from $3.50 to $5.50.
It was beautiful. Night after night the audiences were warm, friendly, appreciative and enthusiastic. Even the usual Bill Graham Quiz, in which he stands on stage and answers questions ("When is the Airplane coming? September 15 and 16 at Winterland. John Lennon? John Lennon is at Madison Square Garden Saturday night.") went down without heckling or antagonism.
The music was superb. The band played straight through each night with only a half-hour intermission long about mid-evening. Of course the Dead are unique and the affair would have been obvious as a Grateful Dead tribal stomp even to a deaf man. All you had to do was to look around backstage and see the women, babies and dogs and it couldn't have been anyone but the Dead.
However, what they did was not the kind of thing which is possible only for one special group. It is possible for a lot of groups and it should be noted and considered by the whole rock & roll world.
The standard rock show of today has evolved from two sources. The old original Fillmore dance concerts and the all-star touring show/ concerts of the Fifties. At the Fillmore, the concert was three groups: a lightweight, middleweight and a heavy, each playing about an hour and the show generally repeated twice an evening. A light show was standard right from the beginning. The Fifties concert/show with Paul Anka or Fats Domino would include half a dozen groups or singles each doing two or three songs (concluding with their hit) and then the star doing about an hour.
But earlier, in the Swing Era of the Thirties and Forties, the big bands drew crowds of thousands to dances with only the one group, themselves, on each show. Count Basie or Benny Goodman would play from eight or nine o'clock until 2 AM with only a ten or 15 minute break every hour or so. Occasionally -- and for a very special promotion -- another band would be added and it then became "A Battle of the Bands" with, say, Andy Kirk and Count Basie, or Benny Goodman and Count Basie in which each band alternated hour by hour from eight or nine o'clock until, sometimes, four AM. In those days you stood on the dance floor, you didn't sit or crash.
I have never known why it was necessary to sit or stand through two opening groups to hear the band you came for, except as a means of introducing new groups to an audience.
The whole concert style of Goodman, Ellington, Kenton and the rest which became standard operating procedure at the beginning of the Fifties and which set the matrix for the Fats Domino/ Paul Anka/ Bill Doggett touring shows which followed, was a combination of the status (ego) involved in playing a concert as opposed to a dance and a method of getting new locations to replace the dwindling dance halls. Also, dance halls could have only one ticket price and concerts could be scaled in various echelons for a bigger gross.
So now we have come full circle. The Grateful Dead can play four nights (and they obviously could have played a week) at a concert hall with absolute artistic and commercial success. Some of the patrons -- Graham estimated 20 percent -- were repeaters, buying tickets for every night. It reminded me of a big band playing the Roton Point Casino when I was in high school. We'd be there every night. Or Glen Island where we would make it three nights out of five, say.
There were other good things about the Dead's Berkeley series. Because it was for four nights and there was room enough for everybody (ticket swapping was common with Listeners' Personals on KSANFM acting as a bulletin board), there was none of the hysterical meat-market serum at any of the box offices. There was time enough for us all.
The Dead do not go in for any of the show biz nonsense you see with some Svengali-created groups in which costumes and lighting attempt to create the drama missing from the music. The Dead are very straight ahead in their presentation. To begin with, they are among friends and they know it. And of course it is axiomatic that, being among friends, there is nothing to live up to. Just be yourself.
Aside from the individual virtues of the group, they have mastered the ability to control dynamics to a more consistent degree than any other group I know of except the James Brown band. The Dead can come down to a whisper and still keep it moving, and this is one of the hardest things to do in group music. That they make it appear to be so effortless is a tribute to their ability. That, too, is hard to do, but as everyone knows who has become expert in any field, it's easy when you know how and the Dead sure do know how.
For me, Jerry Garcia was always one of the true original sounds in contemporary instrumental music. Like a very few others (B.B., Hendrix) it has always been possible to pick him out right away. In earlier days he was not a particularly impressive singer. But he has developed into one now. It was evident from the records that he was getting a lot better, but then in the studio it is possible to aid the voice in a way it can't be done in live performance, and now on the concert stage Jerry is a fine singer, again with a highly personal sound.
Phil Lesh (like Jack Casady) has always been a fascinating bassist precisely because he did not play the bass like other bass players but instead made it into a continual counter-melody to Garcia and the song. But Lesh has gotten even better and his bass playing takes over from time to time to become a uniquely dominant voice.
Bob Weir is the personification of the Dead's philosophy of "let it grow." Standing there beside one of the greatest guitarists of his time, Weir has grown. In other circumstances he might have been inhibited, but the Dead's ambience let him be, and he has become a fine singer and an excellent player. Bill Kreutzman has mellowed out over the years as a drummer and really swings his ass off. Keith Godchaux, who replaced the ailing Pig Pen, plays keyboard which gives an unusual pianistic sound now and Donna Godchaux sings an occasional song in a charming Southern-flavored voice.
All in all the week was pure joy. Now why don't the Band, the Who, Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, and the rest do the same thing? Must we always be prisoners of those amphitheaters?
(RS 118, September 28, 1972)
Performance: The Grateful Dead 

Dead send off Pigpen

It had to happen: even the Dead have gone glitter. Resplendently suave in Nudie-type sequined suits, the group appeared on the stage of this comfortably-sized Long Island arena as formal gentlemen, playing before a sold out and devoutly clamoring Monday crowd who nonetheless held true to their flannel shirt and dungaree colors. The music was consistently superb and was delivered with a professionalism and class that might even be taken for granted were it not so historically precarious, caught as it is in the double bind of massive anticipations and internal complexities, good nights mixing inevitably over the bad.
Still, instead of wrestling with the hyper-reactions of their audience -- as was once the case -- the Dead have resigned themselves to that unquenchable factor, even to the point of enjoying it, learning ways in which it might be manipulated and controlled. Their technique here involved pacing -- stretching out the four hours of their pair of sets so that the crowd moved with, rather than against them. The long breaks between songs served the dual purpose of relaxing the audience as well as the band.
The audience had been warmed early in the evening by the pedal steel dominated sound of the New Riders (replacing the Sons of Champlin who opened the first two nights of the stand), high-pointing with "Willie and the Hand-Jive" and a lovely country version of Billy Joe Royal's "Down in the Boondocks." Producer Bill Graham also was on hand, nostalgically tussling with the crowd. "I know this is Long Island," he said at one point, attempting to gain breathing room for those unlucky souls piled up in front of the stage, "but let's try it anyway." No one budged and, of course, Graham threw up his arms and stalked out.
The Dead came on to the usual mass eruptions, played a quick western shuffle and closed it off before Garcia took even the glimmerings of an extended lead. They moved deliberately into "He's Gone," Jerry leaning to the microphone in the evening's only apparent reference to the recent death of Ron (Pigpen) McKernan, reeling out the final chorus: "Ooooh, nothin's gonna bring him back . . ."
The improvement and strength of the group's vocal harmonies was readily apparent; no more do their voices quaver up and down the scale trying to find the right series of notes. Joined by Donna Godchaux, the blend registered chorally near-perfect, if a shade eccentric.
The group then opened into their repertoire, which has become so large as to be in the main unrecognizable. Alternating between Bob Weir and Garcia, the band offered such things as a sharp clicking rendition of "Mexicali Blues," matched by "Looks like Rain" (perhaps Weir's finest composition), "The Race Is On," Marty Robbins' "El Paso," and finally, the first semi-oldie of the night "Box Of Rain." Instrumentally, they were in high form, Phil Lesh bottoming well, Bill Kreutzmann hale and hearty, Keith Godchaux wrapping piano fills around Weir's and Garcia's tone-perfect guitars.
It was the longer songs that got them into trouble, but not by much. "China Cat Sunflower" began the launch into what has become the Dead's extended trademark, and as they took it in a roundabout way to "I Know You Rider," it seemed as if the night was sure to be tinged golden. But later, over the hump of "Around And Around" and "Tennessee Jed"'s sing-a-long chorus, it proved to be a false start. The big song of the set, "Playin' in the Band," never quite caught the handle they were searching for, gears touching but never completely in mesh.
The rest of the night belonged to Garcia. Returning from a short intermission and several filial descendants of "Cumberland Blues," he forcibly led the band through a combination of old and new material, capped by a beauteous ode to a woman named Stella Green. A long jam around "Truckin'" was successful in parts, as was a follow-up slice from "The Other One," and with the band now beginning to group around Kreutzmann in a semicircle, concentrating on making contact, they finally got what they wanted in a long, jazz-oriented piece I'd never heard before, the sound very free, gunning and spooking each other in a continuous upchurned spiral.
They left the stage after "Johnny B. Goode," all those hours of playing not diminishing its strength. To call them back, the audience set off a few matches in the orchestra, a few more responding along the balconies, expanding outward until the whole inside of the arena was lit by matchpower. The Dead returned with "Casey Jones," responsive puffs of smoke rising from the banks of amplifiers, the band chugging along as a revolving mirror-ball refracted minispots around the audience.
(RS 133, April 26, 1973)

East Coast Rocks at D.C. Concert

Dead and Allmans headline RFK weekend

It was far less a concert than an event -- the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band together for two days at RFK Memorial Stadium. Every rock & roller on the East Coast worth his or her faded jeans -- about 80,000 of them -- showed up. The emphasis was so much on scene-making that the music frequently seemed incidental to the conspicuous consumption here of reefers, reds and Ripple.
Doug Sahm and Wet Willie opened the festivities on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Sahm's Texas country-blues drew heavily on his recent album, culminating with a raucous run-through of "San Antone."
But on Sunday, June 10th, Wet Willie surprised everyone with the most lively, vibrant music of the weekend -- an energetic brand of Southern R&B. Jimmy Hall's vocals and razor-edged harp, Ricky Hirsch's scorching guitar and Jack Hall's insistent bass taxed the twin sound systems and filled the stadium with layers of funky greaseball drive.
The Allmans closed the Saturday show with an inspired performance most obvious during "Les Brers in A Minor," which was driven to incredible levels of intensity by Dicky Betts' searing guitar lines.
Sunday evening, the Dead did not fare as well. Though they frequently displayed commendable instrumental virtuosity, they suffered from a relative paucity of musical ideas, which they compounded by playing for more than six hours. After the third or fourth hour of extended variations on the "Dark Star" theme, many persons began to leave. But it must be admitted that the hard-core remainder seemed to enjoy every minute of the rest of the show, especially during "Truckin'," which was accompanied by much stomping and clapping.
The long awaited inter-group jam finally materialized around Sunday at midnight, but with Betts and Butch Trucks the only Brothers participating, it was, in effect, another 90 minutes of the Dead.
President Nixon chose not to attend. In the audience, however, was Caroline Kennedy, Sam Cutler, the Metropolitan Police and a big brown dog.
(RS 139, July 19, 1973)

Watkins Glen Jam Tops Woodstock; 600,000 Fans

Dead, Allmans, the Band bring summer festival back home

From the start everyone knew "Summer Jam" would be the year's biggest rock & roll show. The 95-acre Watkins Glen Grand Prix auto circuit was a natural site. Large, party-mood crowds are routine at the big races, such as the annual United States Grand Prix for formula one cars. The two young promoters announced early on that they would sell 150,000 tickets, at $10 each.
But no one could have predicted that 600,000 people would ultimately choose to attend and make this the largest gathering of rock & roll fans in history. About one in every 400 persons in the U.S. was there.
By Thursday night, July 26th, a full 36 hours before the music was scheduled to sound, more than 80,000 persons were camped in the woods and groves surrounding the stage site. By the next night, still with 12 hours to go, traffic toward the area, about 120 miles west ot New York City, was being affected more than 100 miles away.
By 4 AM Saturday morning, New York State Police established roadblocks 20 miles from Watkins Glen. Undaunted, the people abandoned their cars, hoisted backpacks and set out on foot.
From the air, the ribbons of cars stretching toward the horizon looked if they had been dropped in place be cranes, rather than parked by human beings.
Watkins Glen was the largest gathering of its type since Woadstock, four years ago, when a tribal gathering at the late Max Yasgur's dairy farm gave the so-called counterculture a landmark. Bar Watkins Glen was no Woodstock. It has spawned none of the sociological sermonizing of its predecessor, unless one can say it is the middle of Watergate summer. There were no self-congratulatory, itchycoo Vibes of Nirvana Found.
Watkins Glen was, simply, a presentation of three of the most enduring rock & roll bends ever -- the Grateful Dead, the Band and the AlIman Brothers -- a "Summer Jam."
The co-promoters, Shelly Finkel, 29, and Jim Koplik, 23, first met in 1971 when Pinkel, a product of Brooklyn and NYU, traveled to Ohio with a band he was managing. Koplik, a New Kochelle, New York, native who attended Ohio State, was presenting the show.
They met, again in New Haven later that year at a rock concert being presented by Finkel, and the two decided to team up. Last year they presented sin shows at a 20,000-scat football stadium in Connecticut, and it was at one of those shows, featuring the Grateful Dead, that the germ of Watkins Glen took hold.
"We had the Dead at Dillon Stadium," said Koplik, "and after their set Dicky Betts and the late Berry Oakley of the Allmans came on and jammed. The music they produced was unbelievable, and we decided we had to get the two bands together for a planned concert."
In February of this year, they found out about Watkins Glen.
"When we began thinking of a third act to round out the bill, we decided to ask the two bands who they wanted. They suggested the Band and everyone agreed," said Koplik.
The partners had high praise for Bill Graham and FM Productions, Graham's stage, sound and lighting people. "He's Number One, the best," said Koplik of Graham, who gave his advice and counsel at Walkins Glen free of charge. "In fact," said Koplik, "a couple of weeks ago Bill called us up and asked if it would be all right if he came."
Koplik, speaking by telephone from New York several days after the event, said he had one more thing to add: "We don't want to sound corny, but the real credit goes to the 600,000 who supported the show."
George Rehely was sitting under a large oak in his front yard on a slatwood lawn chair. Rehety is 74 years old. His face is flecked with liver spots. "You know," he said, "these are nice kids. I haven't seen one fight." All through Watkins Glen (pop. 3000) townspeople perched on lawn chairs and bridge chairs, sitting in their yards, watching the hippies. No one saw a fight.
By Saturday afternoon there wasn't an ice cube in Watkins Glen, or a potato chip. The Beverage Baron was almost out of beer. The Beverage Baron was absolutely out of cold beer. "And I'd filled the place with beer, up to the ceiling," Jack Mafianey, the Beverage Baron himself said, "This is ten times bigger than the Grand Prix."
Watkins Glen regularly draws 100,000 and more to the auto races. But these these were different people. "I'd rather deal with these kids than the race crowd any day," a mounted cap said. "I've never been called 'Sir' no many times in my life."
Wooley's Liquor Store stocked up heavy on Boone's Farm fruit wine. What the race crowd drinks. But Boone's Farm didn't move. Instead Wooley's sold out of Jack Daniel's and Southern Comfort, and an extra truck fall of liquor was shipped in with a police escort- to get through the traffic, not because of hijack fears.
Which is not to say there was no trouble. Friday night five youths were arrested far butchering and attempting to barbecue a farmer's pig -- SOP al races, but that was before bacon hit $1.69 a pound. Virtually every shopping cart in Watkins Glen and nearby Mantour Falls was borrowed for the hike to the festival site. There were some 200 arrests, most for misdemeanor drug possession.
At the site a Midway had been set up: shirts, $2; ice cream, 25 cents. One kid had set himself up with a sign: MEXICAN GRASS $20 AN OUNCE. Another walked the Midway singing: "Opium, opium, who wants to cop some opium."
"It's funny, we're seeing no heroin, almost no LSD. Our biggest drug problem here is alcohol" Bill Nagle, a local internist, directed medical operation, He went through $30,000 worth of Band-Aids and Thorazine and tetanus toxoid. Late Saturday night another doctor reported: "Two-thirds of the people we've seen have come in with cuts and fractures. They're all drug related, because everybody is wrecked here, but just one-third of our patients have been ODs. And half of those hare come in with acute alcohol intoxication" Acute alcohol intoxication means dead drunk. Or nearly dead.
The medical tents saw 7000 people. Forty-three were helicoptered out to nearby hospitals. One remains in serious condition. ODed on booze and downs, but he is expected to make it.
There was just one death at the site itself. A skydiver, jumping, carrying some kind of exploding device, caught fire. He was dead before he hit the ground.
And at least five persons were reported killed in automobile accidents en route to Watkins Glen.
There were two stabbings. Two young men refused to give away a quantity of marijuana they had been intent upon selling so two other young men tried to pry the dope away from them.
Co-producers Finkel and Koplik estimated that costs would run to more than $1 million. Although they would not divulge exact figures, they said it was a "good estimate" that the total band fees amounted to about $400,000. "We believe," said Koplik, "that each band had its biggest payday."
(Later it was learned that the Dead received a flat fee of $117,500.)
Other bills included: $30,000 for helicopters; $50,000 for police; $100,000 for rental of 1000 portable toilets; $40,000 for water; $40,000 for clean-up. Also provided were 300,000 pre-moistened facial towelettes. Bill Graham's FM Productions earned $200,000 for the stage, lighting and 50,000-watt sound system.
The Watkins Glen Grand Prix Association rented the circuit for a guarantee against a percentage. That figure was unavailable. The association also ran the concessions, and figured to make a neat profit off such items as hot dogs, pizza and 30cents-a-can soda pop.
Promptly at noon Saturday, the Dead came on and began a five-hour set. The Band played from 6 PM until 9, and the Allwan Brothers came on at 10 PM and played until 2 AM. Then everybody jammed till 3-30. The last song was an extended "Johnny B. Goode."
While the Band was playing, the rains came for about thirty minutes, churning the turf into mud. When the rain stopped, and the Band came back to finish up, there was this couple balling in the mud just below the stage. She was a little zaftig, and you heard the shoosh when the lifted her hips and the splat when she hit bottom.
At ten it was dark -- country dark, and the Altman Brothers chewed 'em up and spit 'em out whole, as they say. Surveying the scene from behind the stage, a roadie said of the endless flickering campfires that could be seen: "It looks like something from the Civil War."
"The Band played brilliant music," said Bill Graham. "Robbie [Robertson] said it was the first 100 percenter he'd been to. Leon had a kick to his drums, and Manuel . . . great. They all had a marvelous time. And the Allmans and the Dead -- of their ilk, they're the best."
Graham revealed how the early arrivals at the race circuit received unscheduled entertainment. "By Thursday night there were already 80,000 to 100,000 camped outside. I said to the promoters let's open at dawn [Friday] and do a sound check in front of 100,000 people. Everybody agreed. My theory was that rather than have a stampede open up at dawn, and those that were up could come in and those that were sleeping could sleep, then get up and not be in the middle of a crowd.
"So they came in Friday. At noon on Friday the sound was set -- and this was never reported -- the Dead played two hours. It drove the kids crazy. The Band came on and did an hour. The Allmans did two hours. By Friday night 150,000 people had gotten a five-hour show. They'd gotten a taste, an appetizer, and they knew their heroes were there."
Capricorn Records, the Allmans' label, recorded their set. So some sort of Watkins Glen album seems probable. However, there won't bra Watkins Glen movie. The Grateful Dead refused to participate, and in a statement, released by manager Sam Cutler, explained:
"The Grateful Dead are sick and tired of being given cornball ideas for rock movies, The Grateful Dead are delighted that Watkins Glen is only a fund memory and that there will be no further commercial exploitation of what was a tasteful musical trip."
Sunday, 7 AM; the morning after. In the early light the compound looked, indeed, like a war had been fought there. A war fought with beer cans and plastic water jugs, whiskey bottles and Cracker Jack bones and 10,000 jars of Skippy Peanut Butter, The young promoters, it turned out, had forgotten to rent garbage cans.
But while "Summer Jam" ended messy, it also ended happy. One youth who faced a ten-mile hike to his car-and then an alt-day and all-night drive home -- said he'd do it again --next week. The girl who'd hitched down from Toronto barefoot not only had a good time, but she was beaming over the pair of discarded sandals she'd found to wear home. And the guy, stark naked, drying his Levis over a fire, holding them there with a slick the way you'd roast a hot dog, he looked like any contented backyard barbecue chef.
"Things went so well," said Koplik, "there's a chance we'll do another one, but not this year. Henry Valent [of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Association] says, 'No more.' We can't do one of this magnitude. He asked me, 'How can we hold things down the next time?' I told him, 'I don't know how we got all those people here in the first place.'" Wandering around in the rubble, I found a Bible half buried in the mud. It was open to the Book of Isaiah. Chapter 24, The Apocalypse: "Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and he maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down.
(RS 142, August 30, 1972)
The Dead Raise the Sound

26,00 amps and 400 speakers bring Dead gig alive

The home of the World Champion Oakland A's provided an ample setting for this show, soaked in the California sun and built around solidly California bands. Upwards of 30,000 people parted with $8.50 each ($10 at the gate), and there was room for all. Not much room near the stage once the music started, to be sure, but there were plenty of seats with unobstructed views and unimpaired sound. Not a corner of the open, 55,000-seat stadium wanted for loud, clear sound, primarily due to the Dead's incredible sound system.
Unveiled recently at San Francisco's Cow Palace, the system consists of 480 speakers arranged on scaffolding 30 feet high and at least as wide, and powered by 26,400 amps. The clarity is amazing, and in combination with the volume could probably fill Death Valley with sound.
"A Day on the Green" started a little before 10 AM with a jumping set by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Fifty minutes of music done in their usual near-parodic style included Billy C. Farlow and his rockabilly Elvis tourine, some fine pedal-steel, saxophone and fiddle work, and of course the inimitable, growly Commander himself with "Hot Rod Lincoln."
The New Riders of the Purple Sage followed an enthusiastic reception, and turned in their standard set, light country with a strong rock beat. As usual, the dope songs got their big roars, in particular Peter Rowan's "Panama Red" and the epic of "Henry" from their first album.
It was an hour and a half of frisbees, streakers, getting high one way or another and sun before the Beach Boys appeared, three of them ostensibly delayed in traffic. The band numbered nine, with Dennis Wilson contributing on keyboards. As soon as they launched into "Wouldn't It Be Nice," the crowd was theirs, a sea of bobbing heads and waving arms stretching across the entire field. They moved through many of their standard hits not mechanically at all but con brio, and the tunes appear to have aged magnificently considering the mileage they've received. "Surfer Girl" and "Surfin' U.S.A." maintained their respective moods, the former dreamlike and the latter nailed solidly to a Chuck Berry foundation. A "sociologically significant" tune about "the wheel . . . in fact, a particular set of wheels," as the introduction went, turned into "Little Deuce Coupe"; also included were "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "California Girls." Their final encore, "Good Vibrations," really tore the place up and struck the keynote for the afternoon.
Finally came the local favorites (and some folks' world champions). The Grateful Dead played as long as the other three bands combined and in so doing reaffirmed their reputation. Some of the interplay between Keith Godchaux's piano and Jerry Garcia's guitar was sublime. The first 90-minute set was given mostly to set tunes, with little exploratory instrumental work. That was saved principally for the second half. Most notable were "China Cat Sunflower/ I Know You Rider" and a version of Bob Weir's "Playing in the Band" that completely encompassed "Wharf Rat" as well as much improvisation. They closed with a churning "Casey Jones" and a wild "One More Saturday Night," Weir proving again that he is one of the best screamers around.
It was a day remarkable for its music and not for any pseudo-event happening around the music. Security was gentle, and aside form the delay preceding the Beach Boys, everything moved apace. Ticket prices were high, but in this instance justified by the high level of quality in the production and music.
(RS 166, August 1, 1974)

The Dead After a Decade: 'Allah' Means Business

Free show is first live gig in a year

The event was officially billed as a free concert sponsored by the Haight-Ashbury People's Ballroom, with music by the Jefferson Starship and Jerry Garcia and Friends. But for the estimated 50,000 people who flocked to Golden Gate Park's Lindley Meadows on September 28th (including a smattering who flew in from as far away as New York), it was a nearly perfect flashback to the Sixties, a Sunday afternoon with the latest incarnations of the Jefferson Airplane and surprise -- the good ol' Grateful Dead in their first public performance in nearly a year.
Chilly, overcast weather never had a chance to dampen enthusiasm as the Starship mounted the stage to a standing hometown ovation and for the next two hours kicked ass in a manner that only months of roadwork, a Number One album and a vacation in Hawaii can make possible "Don't anyone go away!" a beaming Paul Kantner shouted over the applause following a "Volunteers" encore, "The Grateful Dead are comin' on!" And half an hour later, after a well-orchestrated equipment change, they did.
Bassist Phil Lesh was the first to plug in and face the audience. "Hi! Long time no see!" The crowd roared approval. And when he was joined by guitarist Bob Weir, one on-the-scene photographer was impressed enough to yell, "Aw look, it's the fuckin' Bobbsey twins!" Elsewhere onstage, pianist Keith Godchaux breathed into cupped hands to keep them warm, while his vocalist/arranger wife Donna smiled with the anticipation of singing some of the newer Dead songs. Behind them drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann checked snare tunings with tentative rim shots. Then a leather-jacketed Jerry Garcia stepped forward and sent a trademark guitar riff sailing all the way out to Seventh Avenue, marking the start of a satisfying two-hour concert. Earlier Weir had joked to friends that "San Francisco was about to hear the rustiest band in show business" and that "the audience would probably end up holding torches and pitchforks." By the set's end, however, he was euphoric.
The concert also coincided with the beginning of the Dead's second decade as a musical entity, business enterprise and, significantly, near legendary social institution. The Dead's extended family, perhaps 200 in all, has survived a peculiar saga. Somehow the "karass" has managed to play out most of the variations on the themes of growth, change, jealousy, loyalty and loves won and lost, and still emerge with its collective sense of humor and vision intact. Today its principals live quietly in affluent hillside homes tucked away in woodsy, secluded niches around Marin County. To a man -- and one woman -- they're still mavericks, but life now is a trifle less insane.
In Mill Valley the afternoon following the park concert, Garcia, dressed as usual in a t-shirt, jeans and Puma track sneakers, paused to consider what it feels like going into the second ten years:
"It feels pretty purposeful, much more so than our first ten. Before, if we ever had any guiding philosophy, it was just to go with it. Instead of making decisions, we just let it happen. And what it culminated in, professionally, was hugeness -- the Oakland Coliseum-sized places and all those monster rooms. So the first real decision we made was not to go on with it 'cuz it isn't really what we want. We'll still gig together in the future as the occasions arise, depending on how things strike us -- as long as we don't have to willfully step back into our old roles. Now that we've all formed little bands, each of us can individually start that climb again. Because really, there's no place else to go from here if you're a musician. But at least we're going back to the comfortable part of it, little theaters and clubs that are on a human level."
Surprisingly, this decision comes when the Dead are on the verge of enjoying their biggest recorded success with Blues for Allah. The album is quiet, introspective and distinctive. It blends jazz and atonal improvisation with melodic passages and clearly phrased voicings, establishing its own identity and yet echoing previous Dead albums. "It's the first of our albums that's really grown on me," Lesh commented. "I've always been happy with our albums but I've rarely listened to them after they're finished. This one's different. It indicates a new point of departure for our music. We wanted to free ourselves from our own clich�s, to search for new tonalities, new structures and modalities. I think we succeeded. We'll still play a lot of our old stuff, of course, but we're all pleased with the new areas to explore."
This suggests that the Dead will still play together. "We'll definitely be getting together for a few months at a time to do concerts," Lesh said. "I sure don't want to stop playing with those guys."
Still, the shift away from fulltime touring did lead to the closing of two Dead-supported enterprises: the booking agency, Out of Town Tours, and the travel agency, Fly by Night (motto: "Here today, gone tomorrow.") But though the Dead's collective profile has been less visible this year, there's been no letup in activity. Jerry Garcia is rehearsing with an as-yet-unnamed group that includes bassist John Kahn, drummer Ronnie Tutt and keyboard ace Nicky Hopkins. Bill Kreutzmann has joined Keith and Donna Godchaux's jazz and R&B band (currently called Keith & Donna, though manager John McIntire is tempted to rename it the Godchaux-Kreutzmann Band "just to make it more interesting"). Phil Lesh has teamed up with MIT trained composer Ned Lagin to create Seastones, a venture into "bioelectric music" (one Round Records LP out so far). Bob Weir has been gigging for several months around California with Kingfish, a rock and blues band featuring ex-New Riders bassist David Torbert, and will soon enter the studio to begin a solo album. And finally, there's Mickey Hart's innovative Diga Rhythm Band, a high-energy percussion ensemble showcasing tabir master Zakir Hassain.
In June there was the sale to United Artists of world distribution rights to both Grateful Dead Records (a band owned label created in July '73 solely to distribute Dead albums) and Round Records (a second label founded in January '74 to handle solo albums by members of the band as well as other artists). "We were never strong enough to do the distribution and promotion correctly because we just didn't have the product flow one needs," explained Ron Rakow, the irrepressible president of both companies and the Dead's longtime adviser on matters financially transcendental. Blues for Allah came out 14 months after the one before [Grateful Dead from the Mars Hotel), and it's hard to get independent distributors to really go to work for you on that basis. So we sold to UA. I can't reveal figures, but we got a good advance and complete artistic freedom.
According to Round Records general manager Greg Nelson, UA's involvement has already made a difference. "Most Dead albums sell phenomenally for about four weeks after release because of the group's fanatic following, but by the time the albums get to the teens on the charts they suddenly drop off. But Blues for Allah is already in the Record World Top Ten and may have a hit single in "The Music Never Stops." This LP could do much better than Wake of the Flood, which sold around 450,000 copies." Then, too, Nelson added, the distribution deal was timely because the Dead needed the cash. "We'd put up some real nice debts recently, mainly because of two movies in which we've become involved."
The movies, both Dead-financed, feature-length documentaries, appear promising. Rakow said, "We pat up the money for a film about the New York Hell's Angels called Angel Forever, Forever Angel, directed by Leon Gast. The film's almost finished and it's superb -- scary -- transcendental, in fact. The other one we're more involved in -- a film of the Dead's final five days at Winterland last October. Phil Lesh titles it 'The Grateful Dead, Zits and All' hut so far everyone else just calls it 'The Dead Movie.'
"We used as many as nine crews, each with a cameraman, an assistant cameraman, a sound man, a loader and a runner," Rakow continued. "Together with supervisory personnel we hired 46 people on 11 days notice. But by the third night we were all a unit. We loved working together. And good cinematographers like Al Maysle and Kevin Keating. And Don Lenzer -- he shot a lot of Janis and Woodstock. I knew it was gonna be good when Lenzer went up to Phil as he was tuning his bass. Somehow Don's camera motor registered on the amp through Phil's bass pickup, and the two guys started this raving, screaming dance together. Phil's personality, which is incredibly bizarre, came tumbling out at this joyous expression of new weirdness."
And then there's the obvious question: Did the crew get dosed at any point? Editor Emily Rakow replied, "Sure, it was probably inevitable by the last night. But as stoned as those guys were they sure shot straight." Since the Winterland finale, a full-time staff of four editors has worked in the Mill Valley "film house" of the Dead's production company, appropriately named Round Reels. Thus far 125 hours of raw footage have been meticulously screened, matched to a soundtrack and cataloged. Out of this total, a 24-minute presentation print has been assembled, with directing editor Garcia making sure the film is cut precisely on the beat ("I'm very picky about that shit"). From the looks of the teaser, "The Dead Movie" has the makings of a two-and-a-half-hour genre classic -- if not of rock movies then certainly of the Grateful Dead's in-concert gestalt.
Past manager Mclntire sees possibilities. "The movie is starting to look like something you can get high to go to. To sit back and really kick in. Instead of just the screen and the audience, there'll be two audiences -- on the screen and in the theatre."
Though a final print will not be ready until next spring (together with a two-album soundtrack), Weir is no less enthusiastic: "There's a whole dynamic side of the film that doesn't appear in the teaser because it was edited to create a constant hysteria, but there are lulls and dips and slow numbers and stuff. We were all into making it really count since it was the last time we'd be playing for a while."
It's a risky project, as Garcia readily acknowledges. "This is our first movie and we're feeling our way around in the dark. We'd like to finish the film owning it rather than selling piece of it, so we haven't started its distribution yet. But the total investment will probably end up being maybe six- or seven-hundred-thousand dollars. Which is high for us but low for making movies."
If there is any one objective that emerges from the welter of purposeful activity -- of documentaries, distribution deals, solo albums and new bands -- it's the Grateful Dead's eventual liberation from the economic necessity of always having to be the Grateful Dead. "I think we've got a chance," Weir remarked, "of establishing ourselves to the point where the Grateful Dead will be self-sustaining for as long as we're into it. We'll he able to keep going and to fulfill ourselves as a group. Maybe by the time we're old and gray, people will still be listening to us."
For his part, "Cash Flow" Ron Rakow is not about to wait that long: "With everyone out making a living on his own, the Dead will achieve the status of being patronized by its members. And that's when I think they're gonna do their furthest out stuff yet. We're already working on some killer idea -- flying ballrooms and holographic reproduction. Really out there. We're even looking at a concert structure that Buckminster Fuller is doing some design work on right now. I can't give you details but hi gonna be sensational, really transcendental."
(RS 199, November 6, 1975)

Who Meet Dead: Talk about Their G-G-Generation

Monterey, Woodstock survivors team up again

The Who and the Grateful Dead, two among dozens of bands at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969, were together again. They are the survivors. The others at Monterey, you will recall, included Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Janis with Big Brother, Cass with the Mamas and the Papas. And the Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape and Simon and Garfunkel.
The others at Woodstock included the Airplane, Canned Heat, Sly and the Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis with her new band, Crosby/Stills/Nash/Young making their debut and Ten Years After. And Abbie Hoffman, who injected some politics into Woodstock until Peter Townshend bumped him off the stage with his guitar. And, oh yes, Paul Butterfield, who'd also been at Monterey and who later surfaced with Paul Butterfield's Better Days and a song called "It All Comes Back."
The Who and The Dead may have survived, and they may be two of the more stable rock bands around, but it was apparent that at promoter Bill Graham's last two Days on the Green, October 9th and 10th, the audiences have changed. On the average, concertgoers are less concerned with rock history than with rock, now. They did not expect an event, and they did not get one. While many of the Whomaniacs and the Dead Heads of the past few years remain, many more have grown up.
The Dead and the Who, as they have for over a decade each, simply did their jobs. And, as at Monterey and Woodstock, they did them separately, in their own respective fashions -- native funk and flash. They weren't mechanical, by any means, but they were also not new, by any means. Just rock, now.
When Jerry Garcia told Bill Graham he'd always wanted to play with the Who, Graham happily relayed the message to Who manager Bill Curbishley. For months, Graham had been trying to convince both the Dead and the Who to headline one of his Oakland Stadium shows, and when the Who agreed to play with the Dead, Graham had a seemingly unbeatable package.
The Who, according to bassist John Entwistle, were a "bit apprehensive" about the pairing: "We wondered how much of their audience we were going to get." But just before going onstage Sunday, Peter Townshend praised the crowds. "I like playing here," he said. "The vibe is even. I think the Grateful Dead relax people a lot." And Bob Weir reported that the Dead were satisfied with their "warmup" role, even in their own backyard. "We've never put any energy into our visual presentation. These guys are more exciting."
That was the case, at least on Saturday, as the Dead played two 90-minute laid-back sets while the Who stuck to the same high-energy, hits-studded show they'd put on at Winterland Auditorium in March, replete with Daltrey's microphone launches and Townshend's windmill guitar chops and marionettelike moves.
But on Sunday, the Dead came out rocking, with a virtually new program. Added were such tunes as "The Other One,'" Deal" and a 25-minute version of "Dancin' in the Streets." And a shirtless Jerry Garcia kept right on dancing -- in the center-field bleachers -- through the first part of the Who's two-hour set, which ended with a surprise: an encore, "Shakin' All Over" segued into "Johnny B. Goode."
Afterward, Entwistle explained the extra songs: "Bill Graham promised us four sets of Fillmore posters."
Graham announced the concert September 3rd in grandiose style. He hired eight planes to carry trailers around the Bay Area, and another for Los Angeles. He took out full-page ads in Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times. In all, he beat the drums to the tune of $40,000, 30% more than he invested in advertising any of the other shows.
Still, neither show sold out. Just under 51,000 people showed up Saturday, another 43,000 on Sunday.
So what went wrong? Graham, who claimed he did "okay" financially -- "a million-dollar gate is nothing to sneeze at" -- gave his explanation: "A lot of fans, if they were 17, 18 then, are 27, 28 today. I think that many of them will still buy their records but won't go to a stadium concert. When we put the Who into Winterland [capacity: 5400], we had 43,000 pieces of mail requesting two tickets. Whenever we do the Dead for four or five shows, that sells out."
Bill Curbishley agreed, but added: "When I talk to other managers like [Irving] Azoff of the Eagles, 'What did you do at so and so?,' all through the summer people have been losing seats. And I think there is gonna be a change. Most managers are going to play auditoriums next year. I think we're going to go back to them."
"I mean, the whole Woodstock thing is gone."

(RS 226, November 18, 1976)
New Jersey Concert Ends Summer Season

Dead, Marshall Tucker Band rock raceway

It wasn't quite Woodstock, but nearly 110,000 people turned out at Englishtown Raceway in Old Bridge, New Jersey, on Saturday, September 3rd to hear a season-ending, old-fashioned, outdoor concert -- eleven hours of music from the Grateful Dead, the Marshall Tucker Band and the New Riders of the Purple Sage. The concert was the largest ever in New Jersey and one of the largest this summer in the U.S.
As usual, area officials were unhappy about thousands of young persons invading the quiet rural town (where the police department closes at 4 p.m.) for an outdoor rock concert. Middlesex County Prosecutor C. Judson Hamlin had warned that the Hell's Angels and other motorcycle gangs were planning to attend, and that because of lack of police protection, "if anything breaks out, we would have to assume it would run uncontrolled over a period of time." The Angels, however, didn't show, and violence was kept to a minimum. Only two persons were arrested, and area hospitals treated about 30 persons for overdoses.
The atmosphere at the concert was described as "incredibly calm" by promoter John Scher, who drew cheers from the crowd when he announced midway through the concert that a baby had been born in one of the first-aid sections, and "we're all godparents." Unfortunately, rumors of the birth turned out to be false.
(RS 250, October 20, 1977)

The Dead Electrify the Pyramids

Cairo show fulfills historic wish

The Grateful Dead's ten-year dream climaxed on September 16th, when the band played its third and final concert under a full moon at the foot of the Great Pyramid. Despite some problems -- musically and otherwise -- neither the Dead nor Cairo is likely to forget the historic first rock shows at the Pyramid.
Though the Egyptian concerts were more or less a personal whim on the part of the band, they became the basis for a serious pilgrimage for hard-core Deadheads. A chartered DC-7 from California touched down in New York to pick up East Coast Deadheads, and then continued to Cairo. The scene on board the plane resembled Haight-Ashbury, circa 1967. Ken Kesey was there, along with his brother Chuck, their families, assorted Pranksters, Owsley, Mountain Girl -- all familiar faces from psychedelia -- and younger Deadheads.
Amazingly, the 110 Deadheads sailed through customs at the Cairo airport without a single bag bring searched.
The Dead had already shipped in twenty-five tons of equipment for sound, lighting, filming and recording the concerts for a live album and movie. The venture cost the band $500,000, and proceeds from the concerts (tickets cost from $1.50 to $7.50) were donated to the Egyptian Department 0f Antiquities and to the Faith and Hope Society, a home for the handicapped.
The entourage teemed to hit Egypt just at the right time. "The Camp David conference was peaking at the time we were playing," Weir commented after returning to America. "A lot of progress was being made, so the tow was kind of high. We were Americans playing American music, so we were apt to be pretty readily accepted to begin with. Also, the Arab kids had just concluded Ramadan [a month-long period of fasting]. Coming out of that there's a lot of feasting and carrying on, and we got there just at the end of it."
The entourage occupied the first day in the 110-degree desert heat by climbing the pyramids: basketball star Bill Walton, who accompanied the Dead, was filmed by Ken Kesey climbing inside the Great Pyramid. The hotel's bars, restaurants and gardens became filled with American and British hippies, and Dead music poured out of cassette machines everywhere. Jerry Garcia hovered around the hotel in a good mood. "This should be strange enough," he said on his way over to the Great Pyramid to oversee the miking of the 5000-year-old tomb of Pharaoh Cheops, which was used as an echo chamber for the Dead's shows.
The band's first performance, September 14th at the Sound and Light Amphitheater, was less than spectacular musically. Before about 2000 persons -- Deadheads, young Americans and Britons living in Egypt, Western travelers passing through and a mixed crowd of Egyptians -- the Dead came onstage after an opening set by Hamza El-Din, a Nubian oud player. Garcia tuned up for fifteen minutes and then the band eased into "Eyes 0f the World." That suddenly segued into Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." Bob Weir did a set of ill-received country songs, and the show ended with "Round and Round" and no encore.
"Our music is based on a number of presuppositions that we had to somehow get across to these folks," said Weir. "So we had to structure our sets in an illustrated manner. We did a streamlined version of what we normally do, starting out with some regular rock & roll that those kids might have heard on the radio and then backing off the tempo so that we're doing something slow enough so that they could ease into it."
Before the second concert, Ken Kesey raced up the Great Pyramid to plant a Dead banner as the top. Again, Weir performed country songs, like "Mama Tried." The Merry Pranksters undertook a long jam of electronic noise, and the show ended with "Terrapin Station" and "Sugar Magnolia."
The Dead's third night was their best. Playing during a lunar eclipse, the band opened the first set with "Bertha" and closed with "Deal." But the audience didn't really come alive until after the intermission, when the Dead's new reggae song, "Shake Street Shuffle," woke everyone up. Then, in what Bob Weir called an act of "questionable taste," Kesey and his Pranksters set off rockets and started taunting the Egyptians in the crowd with chants of "Bakshish, bakshish," a phrase used by Egyptian beggars, which, loosely translated, means, "Tip me, rich Yankee." The night ended with the Dead's only encore of the three concerts, "One More Saturday Night."
"I think I kind of left my little reality at that point," Weir said about playing during the eclipse. "It was so surreal that I wouldn't even try to describe what went through my mind."
Bill Graham treated the whole crew to dinner at the nearby Sahara City Restaurant to celebrate Kesey's birthday, and then produced a surprise: the promoter had rented fifty camels and horses for the entourage's return to the hotel.
Graham, back in the States, was ecstatic. "You know, I've never danced in public before. I was never relaxed in front of a crowd. But the third night was experiences of my one of the great life -- dancing to "Sugar Magnolia" in front of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid. In my old age, if I remember major events in my life, this will be one of them."
Weir was equally happy with the excursion: "Everybody feels somehow different from the experience. I don't know how to explain it. But I'd love to do it on a regular basis."
(RS 277, November 2, 1978)

The New Year's Dead

Sound of '69 struggles into Eighties

In what has become a New Year's tradition, the Grateful Dead played the Bay Area for five sold-out nights, installing themselves like psychedelic artifacts in the 6100-seat Oakland Auditorium Arena, a hall Bill Graham has been using since he vacated Winterland.
The Dead have been trafficking in basically the same easygoing mix of country- and blues-derived rock, slow-rolling shuffles, extended instrumental meanderings and pseudocosmic lyrics since they first played here in the mid-Sixties. And as the Seventies were about to give say to the new decade, the Dead sounded as dated as rose-tinted granny glasses, Nehru jackets and the Summer of Love.
The group's instrumental chops are still intact and may even be at an all-time high. The ensemble work of guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir and bassist Phil Lesh over the rolling thunder of drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman is what the Dead have always been about musically, and there were flashes of brilliance at this show, the third of their five-night stand. Particularly notable were sections of the "Terrapin Station" suite, which was played in truncated form.
The three-hour performance included eighteen songs, from Dead classics like "Playing in the Band," "Sugaree," "Uncle John's Band" and "Casey Jones" to more recent material like Weir's "I Need a Miracle" and a new Garcia-Robert Hunter composition, "Alabama Getaway," slated for the Dead's upcoming album, Go to Heaven.
For the capacity crowd, the Dead's performance seemed as relevant and revelatory as ever. But to me, the Dead's Sixties metaphysics and musical psychedelia all seemed tame, safe, a bit conservative and ultimately redundant.
(RS 311, February 21, 1980)
The New Dawn of the Grateful Dead

Dead refuse to fade away

When the Grateful Dead play at Laguna Seca Raceway, near Monterey, California, on a weekend in May, the legion of nearly 35,000 fans that attends the performances is largely the same sort of audience that some folks have enjoyed poking fun at for nearly two decades now: in part a crowd of middle-aged sentimentalists but mainly forever-young hippie types, wearing vivid, gorgeous tie-dyes and flowing, free hair and dancing as restlessly and haphazardly as only impenitent tribalists can. Yet as anomalous or naive or plain hilarious as many modern pop fans may find this scene, there's also something undeniably homey and heartening about it. This is a crowd of folks for whom blitheness is not just a bond but also an act of social dissent: a protest against both the resurgent straightness of our times and the meanness and trendiness that seem to characterize much of today's pop music. And for this audience, one of the most meaningful acts of affirmation it can make is to cheer the genial music of the Grateful Dead.
Perhaps it's this sense of shared good humor that helps make the Dead's performances seem so spirited on this weekend. Or perhaps it's simply the experience of witnessing a once-considerable band as it actively reasserts its skill and force, and a bit of its vision as well. In any event, in their best moments, the Grateful Dead are still as eloquent and alluring as in their go-for-broke heyday. More remarkably, they still sound like a unit without any fixed center: the melodic focus still shifts somewhere between Jerry Garcia's restive guitar lines and Phil Lesh's nervy bass runs; the rhythmic impulses pull back and forth between Bill Kreutzmann's swinglike tempos and Mickey Hart's edgier attack; and the harmonic action veers between Bob Weir's fitful rhythm-guitar chords and keyboardist Brent Mvdland's passion for soulful dissonance. In short, though the lineup may be slightly different, in practice, this is the same band that made "Dark Star" and "Uncle John's Band" count for so much a generation ago: a band that needs all its members working and thinking together to keep things moving and balanced.
But the Grateful Dead are never more impressive than in those moments when they make it plain that, above all, they need the audience to keep things purposeful. This idea comes across with special force toward the end of Sunday's show, when Bob Weir leads the band into a hard-pushing, rough-around-the-edges version of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." After a few minutes, the guitars, bass, drums and keyboards drop out of the sound, and there is only the band and the audience shouting those old and timeless lyrics: "Love is love and not fade away/Love is love and not fade away."
"Not fade away," the crowd shouts to the band.
"Not fade away," the band sings back.
"NOT FADE AWAY!" the crowd yowls, leaning forward as one.
It keeps going like that, two bodies staring hard at one another, shouting and beaming, bound up in the promise that as long as one is there, the other holds a hope.
(Excerpted from RS 504-5, July 16-30, 1987)
Garcia: Truckin' Again

The Grateful Dead bounce back with tour

A smiling, energetic, visibly thinner Jerry Garcia calls this "the golden age of the Grateful Dead." "We're going through a good moment right now," said Garcia. "This is a good period for us."
The Dead's first performance since Garcia collapsed last August from exhaustion bore out his words. The group's three-hour concert before 18,000 fans -- the first of two sold-out shows at Denver's McNichols Sports Arena in early December -- was a triumph.
Garcia was animated, moving about the stage, joking with keyboardist Vince Welnick and singer-guitarist Bob Weir and offering up a tour de force of brilliant electric-guitar pyrotechnics. Whether getting down and dirty with raw slide work on Willie Dixon's "Same Thing," finger-picking country-flavored licks on "Jack-a-Rowe" or reaching for the heavens with jazz-inflected flurries of notes on "They Love Each Other," Garcia delivered one virtuoso performance after another.
"For me, there's always moments of excruciating despair and hideous embarrassment, and then there's moments of pure joy," said Garcia a week after the Denver gigs. "It goes all over the place from note to note. For me, it's a complex emotional experience. That's what I love about it."
The leader of the Dead was alert, up-beat and in good humor as he sat in the office of Berkeley's Weir Gallery (no relation to Dead member Bob Weir), which is currently holding an exhibit of Garcia's artwork. "Mainly, I really enjoyed playing in Denver," he continued. "And I loved the way the band played. It was fun for us."
Both Garcia and the entire group have, in Weir's words, "been revitalized." In addition to resuming a full touring schedule for '93, there are plans to record a new studio album, the group's first since 1989's Built to Last and a third volume of the group's older live recordings will be released by Grateful Dead Records.
For Garcia, the revitalization is due to the radical changes he's made in his lifestyle to avoid potentially life-threatening lung and heart problems. "I wasn't that sick," said Garcia. "I didn't go to a hospital or anything. It was one of those things that are reversible and fixable, provided you make changes. That's what it boiled down to."
Once his doctor made it clear what was required, Garcia rapidly got on the program. "I guess it was quick," he said. "I don't think of myself as a suicide. It's silly to ignore dire news about your health.
"For a long time I was sort of planning on something along those lines in kind of a nebulous way," Garcia said. "'One of these days I'm going to do something about my health.' It's embarrassing to go through this stuff publicly. I'd rather sneak off in a corner and be ill by myself . . . . I like what I do and mostly enjoy myself. I don't think of myself as a person who's anxious to die."
Garcia has lost sixty pounds on a special vegetarian diet since last August and intends to lose another thirty in the months ahead. "It's pretty much the same diet that Phil [Lesh, bassist] and Mickey [Hart, drummer] are on," said Welnick. "No oil, no fat, no salt, nothing with a face." He laughed. "Jerry takes it one step further: nothing with an asshole."
In addition to the diet, Garcia works out three times a week on a Nautilus under the direction of a personal trainer. And he is trying to give up a thirty-five-year smoking habit. "This is the best I've felt in years," Garcia said.
Following the Denver shows, the group was scheduled to play seven more dates in December and a handful of Bay Area dates in January. An East Coast and Midwest tour is being booked for the spring. "I don't think we're going to slow down," said Weir. "Maybe in five years, but for the time being I think we're actually going to pick up some speed and momentum."
Recording the next album could begin before the summer. Material already written includes Garcia's folk-style "So Many Roads"; "Long Way to Go," a gritty rocker sung by Welnick; and the soulful "Corinna."
Garcia has no overall concept for the next album. "I never do," he said. "I hope it turns out even halfway decent. When we first started making records, I used to have ideas. Now I see our records as a long string of failures. I see it in terms of near misses."
And what kind of record would satisfy him? "Music that has the power to transform the ordinary into the divine -- how's that?" Garcia said, smiling. "For me, the big test is if I can perform a piece of music without being embarrassed by it."
As he prepared to leave the gallery, Garcia said the break from touring has, ultimately, been a positive experience. "It was good for all of us," he said, zipping up his leather jacket. "We all needed it. Right now we're happening. We're enjoying what we're doing. It's all new again. I think it's helpful to have those kinds of near-death experiences once in a while."
Garcia laughed, then said dryly, "They kind of brighten up your perspective."
(RS 648, January 21, 1993)

Performance: The Grateful Dead, Sting

Las Vegas, NV, Sam Boyd Silver Bowl, May 15th 1993

Where better than Vegas to roll the dice with this seemingly odd combination of acts? The risk was clear for Sting, who at this stage in his career hardly needs to take an opening-act slot, especially in front of a crowd that can be so tough. The Deadheads are a love bunch, to be sure, but they're also very parochial and selective about who gets admitted into the extended family.
But the payoff proved big for all involved. The psychedelic WELCOME STING banner draped over the railings in the stands of this 40,000-seat football stadium stated upfront that there was a friend-of-the-Dead-is-a-friend-of-ours attitude prevailing among Jerry's Kids toward the blond English pop star this weekend. Sting responded in kind with a loose and sometimes frisky set, light-years away from the Important Artist at Work tone of his past.
Perhaps he was a little too conscious of crowd pleasing, playing an hour mostly made up of old Police hits, with only three songs from his recent album, Ten Summoner's Tales. But Sting seemed to make a quick study of how the Deadheads like their music to ebb and flow. Halfway through the set he had it down, turning "King of Pain" into a monster raveup and setting keyboardist David Sancious loose for an extended, jazzy piano solo on "When the World Is Running Down" -- drawing the biggest response from the crowd -- before closing with "Every Breath You Take," its moodiness in sharp contrast to Sting's very visible ebullience.
The Dead, in turn, may have been influenced by Sting's presence as well. At least there must be some explanation for Jerry Garcia's performing in shorts -- the first time most remembered ever seeing his legs -- though one must question the wisdom of going gam to gam against Sting, generally considered a pop sex symbol.
In any case, the vibrant Americana of the Dead and their colorful fans is, strangely, a perfect match for Vegas -- all that tie-dye somehow fit in just fine amid the gaudy lights and jangling rhythms of the casinos. But the Silver Bowl is a few miles outside of town and a million miles away culturally, set in a low desert valley, and the Dead made the most of the setting. The driving desert rain and dust storm that greeted the group seemed a fitting elemental attraction rather than a nuisance, one more sensory stimulant in which the Deadheads could revel, ultimately setting up a perfectly timed version of the rarely performed "Here Comes Sunshine" to open the group's second set of the day.
Reviewing a single Dead show can be a losing proposition, since one can be radically different from another and these multi-day stands can often take the tone of one long set rather than three separate gigs. But this day was a particularly strong one, a good sampler of what the Dead do best -- original myth songs like "Tennessee Jed," statements of purpose like "Playing in the Band," Deadified roots workouts on Willie Dixon's "Same Thing" and Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," all crowned with a new Garcia-Robert Hunter composition, "Days Between," a stately, elegant tune that may be the group's best new song in ages.
In the end, the Dead did, perhaps mischievously, rake on Sting in a battle of Beatles covers. While a rather perfunctory version of "A Day in the Life" was part of Sting's set, the Dead encored with a stunning, shimmering version of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," a sly nod to lysergic roots that hit the jackpot.

(RS 660, 1 - July 8, 1993)

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