Chapter 13: Line Up a Long Shot, Maybe Try It Two Times
Page 236, middle: The Dead's commitment to great sound:
Dan Healy said in the mid-'80s, "There have been many times I've gone to [the band] and said, 'Hey, you guys, I need ...' and it involves huge sums of money. 'I've just found out this may be possible and we might be able to do this.' And a lot of times when it's been an absolute risk and there really wasn't very much proof that the suggestion was going to be viable, they've gone out on a limb with me. The band has never said no to me, and I've had my shares of faux pas in the past. ...
"Instead of buying yachts and Riviera condos and that sort of shit, the Dead have always poured money back into the scene in the form of sound and lights and musical instruments musical quality and audience quality; show quality. ... I really think that one of the things that cuts us apart from other bands is that we do have that honest concept that we're doing it for the audience and for ourselves and for the music. It's pure, it's legitimate, it's never been trashed out. To this day, of all the things that we've done and Lord knows we're probably guilty of everything known we've never been un-loyal to our music and our audience. Even in our deepest, darkest moments, when there was probably an easier way out, we didn't take the easy way out."
Healy told this story about the Dead's largesse:
"I had gone to the band in late '72 and gotten $10,000 or $12,000 to work on this idea I had. Now in '72, that was a lot of money, especially for the Grateful Dead. So I went out and got these special low-distortion tweeters [treble loudspeakers] and all this other stuff. ... Then, about three seconds into this Stanford show [2/9/73 at Maples Pavilion] the tweeters were so out of balance that it just blew them all out. I smoked out $12,000 worth of speakers just like that! I thought, 'Oh God," but I think the most that was said was, 'Nice going, asshole," he chuckled. And the next time Healy wanted money for sound advances, the Dead were there with the big check again.
Page 239, middle; Pigpen's final days:
According to photographer Bob Seidemann, "It was obvious to everybody Pigpen was dying. I photographed him a few days before he died and he was so weak he had to be helped from the front door of his place to the car. I wanted to do one more picture of Pig with the Dead, so I picked him up and we drove out to Bolinas where they were rehearsing. I said, 'Look, I've got Pig here. Let's go outside and do a picture ...' And everybody just said, 'Uh, no, Bob. Thumbs down.' So I put Pig back in the car and on the way back he said, 'Seidemann, will you take my picture?' So I pulled over and I got out my 4-by-5 camera and I made a picture of Pigpen. But it was a sad moment when those cats wouldn't do it, and I had to drag Pig back to his apartment."
Three days after Pigpen died, there was a wake/party at Bob Weir's house in Mill Valley. "I chose the booze for the wake and we bought cases and cases of stuff," Jon McIntire remembered. "A favorite thing in Pig's life was drinkin', so what are you gonna do if you throw a party for Pig? You're gonna drink a lot, and we did, and we told lewd and rude stories about him all night and there were lots of them to tell. It was wonderful. It was a great party because it was loose and it was desperate and it was full of love."
Page 240, bottom; more on Old & in the Way:
The group was so informal that the band members even took on joke names: for instance, Garcia nicknamed Grisman "Dawg" an appellation that has stuck with him to this day and turned up in the titles of many of his compositions and Garcia became "Spud," which fortunately did not stick.
Fiddler Richard Greene was struck by the contrast between being in Bill Monroe's band and playing with Marin hippies:
"When I played with Bill Monroe, we would drive all night, go down some old dirt road to a schoolhouse or firehouse with a dirt floor and benches, play through one mike into a tiny system for like nine people, and most of them were octogenarians with no teeth. And I wasn't connecting with anyone I could relate to musically. Eventually, he just ran out of work altogether and I left. But those gigs caused me to question what I was doing, because I wanted to play music for my people. I wanted to communicate with people my own age. So it wasn't until I played bluegrass again with Garcia that I got to feel that spark. Here I was playing, roughly speaking, the same music I was playing with Bill Monroe, only to a different audience.
In Greene's eyes, "We're doing bluegrass gigs and selling out big venues playing this sloppy bluegrass. It wasn't great bluegrass, but what we did have was great feeling and spirit. But it was Deadheads who were coming, and they didn't know good bluegrass from not good bluegrass. They seemed to really like it and that was great.
I remember we played a few shows at the Lion's Share [a small club in San Anselmo, Marin County] and that was my first experience of beautiful rock 'n' roll groupies these beautiful young girls coming to a bluegrass show in droves."
Page 241, middle; Vassar Clements joins O&ITW:
Playing in a hippie band was a new experience for Clements. "I didn't know about Jerry or the Grateful Dead at all," he says with a chuckle. "I was always in this world of bluegrass and country and I really didn't know much about rock 'n' roll. Peter Rowan called my wife and asked if I could do a tour with Old & in the Way, and he was talkin' to her about the Grateful Dead and this and that, and she thought somebody was trying to put her on. 'Grateful Dead?' So I caught up with them in Boston on this tour they were doing, we had one rehearsal and that was it. But I always thought the world of them from the time we started. They all came from different styles of music, but when we got together it gelled and it sounded different and it was great."
What did Clements think of the hippie scene surrounding Old & In the Way's gigs? "It was strange but good," he says. "I mean, I'd never seen people like that. I was amazed. People danced at these shows, which is something I wasn't used to. I don't know what you call that kind of dancing but it was fun to watch and play to!"
Page 243, middle; origins of the Watkins Glen show:
The Summer Jam, as it was billed, had been in the works since November 1972, when promoters Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik first approached the Dead and Allman camps about staging a big one-day event. Koplik and Finkel had produced the Hartford show where the two groups had jammed, and that had given them the idea of putting them on a bill together. Originally Leon Russell was going to be the third act on the Summer Jam bill, but once the promoters learned that The Band could be lured out of their self-imposed year-and-a-half performing hiatus, Russell was dropped. "Ever since the Festival Express we've wanted to play with The Band again," Rock Scully said before the Summer Jam. "The Band has represented a movement similar to ours, only on the East Coast." In deference to The Band, who lived in upstate New York, the Dead agreed to open the concert, followed by The Band, with the Allmans going on last. For their troubles, the Dead earned $117,000, by far their biggest payday up to that point.
Page 243, bottom; more on Watkins Glen:
To Levon Helm of The Band, "It looked like every bit as big a crowd as Woodstock, though we didn't know at the time it was actually bigger. We went in on a helicopter. But Woodstock was so damn hot you couldn't stand it. This was much nicer all the way around. Watkins Glen seemed like a healthier crowd. But then, by the time we got to Woodstock, they were on the third day and everybody was pretty much zoned out. But at Watkins Glen, traffic would pile up, people would get out and start having picnics and jam sessions and pick-up ballgames and stuff. Everybody looked healthy and full of spirit. It was a great time."
Page 245, middle; more on the '73 tour with horns:
"We were doing double-duty because we were playing with Sir Douglas, too," Martin Fierro says. "And when we came back home they paid me for my road services with the Dead and I'll be damned, somebody fucked up they paid me $40 per gig, which was like union scale for the town we played in. I went to Jerry and I said, 'Look man, I don't want to sound disgruntled or unappreciative, but look at what they paid me!' He looked at the check and he was shocked. He wrote me a check for $1,000 and said, 'Give that to the trumpet player. I'll take care of you Martin, trust me.' And he did." Garcia and Fierro had worked together previously on the Howard Wales record, and after this fall '73 Dead tour, Fierro started dropping in regularly with the Saunders-Garcia group, too.
Page 246, middle; Rakow on Garcia, continued:
"In order for us to communicate with each other about business," Rakow continues, "I told him I would have to see to it that he knew enough about accounting, because the language of business is accounting. So I taught him accounting by going back to my elementary accounting textbook from New York University three times a week for an hour to an hour-and-a half each time and he learned really fast. In no time he knew the difference between assets and liabilities, what non-cash charges were, and he could analyze a financial statement. That was interesting because teaching him something ruined you for teaching anybody else anything ever again. Because he learned it faster than it came out of your mouth. If you presented it logically, he'd already be at the end while you were in the middle, because it was logical. He was just a bright guy."
Page 247, lower-middle; more on Garcia's second solo LP:
"John [Kahn] used Jerry in ways he'd never been used as a musician before, as a support player and a vocalist more like a real studio musician," says Richard Loren, Garcia's personal manager during this period. "'Here are the songs, I'll do the arrangement. You'll do a solo between this bar and this bar.' And Jerry would go in and really work on that solo and think about his parts. It was a real different approach for him. He did it as much for John as he did it for himself, 'cause John had that kind of mind and he came from that old rhythm and blues tradition, where you find the material and bring in the players and you have your soloist or leader or whatever. And he wanted to do that with Jerry. I thought it was a beautiful album."
"A lot of it was done in L.A.," Kahn said, "and quite a few of the overdubs were done when Jerry would be out on the road with the Dead. ... We did it real fast we must've done 30 songs in a week [though the overdubbing went on for months]. There's lots of stuff we recorded then that sounds real good but was never released, like that old '50s song 'Tragedy' [by Thomas Wayne] and a bunch of other songs that are as obscure as the ones on the record."
Page 248; more Wall of Sound theory:
In 1996, Owsley noted, "The Wall of Sound system was a result of finding a lot of resistance about the way things were being done [by equipment manufacturers], and the desire to return all that power to the musicians, by putting the speakers behind them. Everything that went to the audience [sound wise] the band was fully aware of because they were embedded in that sound field. For years we discussed this concept that Phil and I kind of came to about the microcosm and macrocosm the microcosm being the world onstage, and the macrocosm being the world for the audience, and how to approximate the two so they became one. That was always my goal. As far as I'm concerned, the soundman should be as superfluous as tits on a boar hog. All he should do is make sure things run and don't break down. Plug the wires in and unplug them. All the control of what's going to the audience should be fully in the hands of the performing artists themselves. That's the only way you'll ever get close to true art."
"Bear is certainly the one who helped inspire them to what could be done as far as a quality sound system," says Dave Parker, who had to actually figure out how the Dead would pay for this immense system. "It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was driving me nuts, because Bear was very good on the conceptual, but in actuality I thought a lot of money was being wasted. But maybe my perspective was too limited to really pass judgment on that. Bear and I were sometimes at odds because he'd have a vision of some fantastic thing he'd want to do replace all this! and I was trying to deal with resources that were actually available."
Page 250, middle; Garcia on "Scarlet Begonias":
"I wasn't thinking in terms of style when I wrote that setting, except that I wanted it to be rhythmic. I think I got a little of it from that Paul Simon "Me and Julio down by the schoolyard" thing [Simon's 1972 hit song]. A little from Cat Stevens some of the rhythmic stuff he did on Tea for the Tillerman was kind of nice. It's an acoustic feel in a way, but we put it in an electric space, which is part of what made it interesting."
Page 253, lower-middle; another tour, another bust:
At one point, however, there was a question of whether the spring '74 tour would even make it to the third date in Vancouver. Steve Brown, who was on the tour as part of the Grateful Dead Records promotional staff, narrates this drama:
"Knowing that we were going to be flying from Missoula [where the Dead played a great show at the University of Montana] into a foreign country, it was decided that everybody's [dope] stash would have to be put with the equipment to be trucked across the border. There was a last round of 'OK, everything's in there, right?' and Jerry and everybody said, yes, it is. So we hopped in this station wagon and went to the airport, checked our bags through, flew to Vancouver, walked over to the baggage area, picked up our bags and went over to these customs check-out tables. Jerry was right in front of me and when he opened his bag at customs, the guy looked in and pulled back about three things in Jerry's bag before hit this big lid of dope it was a big baggie and it had what looked like a giant cucumber in it, this giant [pot] bud. This wasn't a subtle, granular, 'Well, could be herbs or could be tea.' It was so outrageously big, it might have been something the guy had never seen. It was bright green, from Maui, and the guy got this look of amazement on his face. Jerry froze you could hear his heart stop. There was this deathly silence.
"So the guy looked over to his left where there was this doorway leading out, and there was a hippie standing there. The customs guy motions for the hippie to come over, so he saunters over there and walks behind the counter. Jerry's standing there with his hands down at his side looking pretty stupid. The hippie guy looks down at [the dope], he opens the baggie and he smells inside. Then he looks over at Jerry once, and does this double-take. It looked like something a director would tell an actor to do in a movie: 'Huh?' Obviously he recognized Jerry, and he turns to the customs guy and says, 'Nah, I don't know what it is.' We breathed a sigh of relief and thought that would be the end of it. But they ended up taking Jerry and the baggie off into some back room and they kept him for 15 hours before they let him go."
The Canadian authorities apparently never learned about Garcia's New Jersey Turnpike bust in the spring of '73, and the judge in that earlier case never heard about the Canadian incident, or Garcia could have been jailed for revoking the terms of parole. The airport imbroglio might have had a lasting effect on Garcia and the Dead: It's interesting to note that the Dead played in Canada only once between 1974 and 1990.
Page 255, top; more on cocaine in the scene:
"None of us saw how insidious it was at first," says Owsley, who has long maintained that cocaine helped destroy the family feeling in the Grateful Dead scene. "I used it in '69. One day, in 1970, I got up to go across the room to get a pencil, and I found myself in the middle of the room unable to remember why I'd gotten up. So I sat down, then I got up again right away and the same thing happened. That's when I realized it was the coke.
"Cocaine and the people who were its most avid users had a negative impact in my opinion," he continues, "and that negative influence continued until [the late '80s]. How these people maintained their health in the face of all this toxic drug use I don't know. It's a very, very dangerous toxic compound that injures your nervous system seriously, and causes memory loss. It's a nerve blocker; it's not a stimulant like a lot of people think."
"I think one reason Jerry and I werent as close during that time as we were earlier was that Id always be critical of him," comments Tiff Garcia. "Throughout the '60s we were OK, but when the coke was really happening, not just with Jerry, but everybody I was into it a little bit, too I did say something. With all the money they were making, they could poison themselves big-time. Not to put the big brother trip or anything on him, Id say, 'Watch it with this stuff, Jerry. Try to take a break.' Most of the time Id see him at his own shows with Merl Saunders rather than the Dead, because it was so hard to talk to him at Dead shows, because everyone was trying to talk to him there, so I wanted to give him his space which he never got anyway, but I felt like my part was to stay away there. People were always coming around with drugs; people I dont know, but shit, I know that being in the scene a long time, you always had the best drugs, and Id always have to partake and Jerry would always partake. I thought, 'If I had to live in this environment Id be a dead man because I cant say no too much.' And Jerry could never say no at all."
As usual, Dick Latvala has an interesting perspective: "I don't like cocaine. It's a usury-type experience. It doesn't complement the happy hippie vibe that we all began with. But I remember snorting at shows all the time, so I'm guilty as sin, like the band is. And maybe it did change them, but whatever it did and if we're talking about 1973 and '74, when they were involved in coke a lot listen to the shows. If that's what it took to play those shows that way, who are we to complain? Listen to the tapes.
"I always felt that the way they chose to live was their own personal choice and should be respected and not denied them up to Garcia doing smack. But even with that, I would never come down on him. We can't control what they do. We're the receivers. Doing what they did being the Grateful Dead caused them to have certain feelings and needs and we couldn't understand those things unless we got in their shoes, and those shoes are very, very different than ours. I totally accepted whatever they chose to do that was their responsibility and privilege. Garcia eventually choosing heroin as a vehicle to feel comfortable in the world was his choice."
Page 257, top; Garcia on being forced to play stadiums:
"That's where we ended up in terms of the largeness of our audience and the greatness of demand for what we were doing and so forth," he said. "We felt that was a dead end and there was no place for us to go from there, so at that point the experience for us got to be totally controlled in the sense of [it being] airplanes to motels, motels to gigs, heavy security backstage, nobody near the stage. And what's worse is the way very large venues deal with people they deal with them in a sort of cattle-prod methodology: lots of cops, lots of frisk lines. We felt like that was not what we wanted to do; that was clearly not it."
Page 258, end; the hiatus:
"Through the years," Bill Graham said in 1985, "I can think of two individuals who at their absolute prime said, 'I've made my statement; I'm going to stop' Jim Brown, the greatest football player of all time, quit at 29. Just stopped. And John Madden [former coach of the Oakland Raiders] just quit. Do you know how difficult that must be? To quit in your prime? Well, the Dead sort of did that in '74. I'm certain there was no premeditation involved. You know, some people quit so they can come out of retirement. The Dead aren't that calculating. They're as far from the word as any unit I know. And therefore, when I'm asked, 'Didn't you think they'd come back?' I say I don't think they knew."]