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Monday, January 03, 2011

a few more Surrealistic Pillow tidbits

LIA did a great post on Garcia on Surrealistic Pillow, partly in response to the little tidbit I posted about. I love how fully many of my fellow, GD/JG scholar-bloggers are able to develop thoughts and evidence in this medium. It is much harder than I would have thought, but of course very, very enjoyable. Thanks for the conversation, folks!

(Aside: LIA, can you please provide an RSS feed link to your Grateful Dead Guide? Be great to be able to keep up more easily.)

A few scattershot reax.


As an aside, though it’s been thought that Garcia played guitar on My Best Friend, we have his word it was Skip Spence – which is curious, because Skip by then was long out of the band, and already playing in Moby Grape.

Right. This is discussed a little bit -- though the book is so poorly organized, it's hard for me to see by whom -- in Fenton 2007, p. 267. The interviewee says this:

The first single released was My Best Friend. Very possibility [sic] the weakest tune on the record. It was also written by Skip Spence. Skip by this time is obviously out of the band. If we pretend the single sold well you are now promoting somebody that is on another record label. If the public enjoyed that style how will you recreate the song when the writer is with Moby Grape.

BTW, on the same page there's a bit of discussion of Jerry's contribution to Surrealistic Pillow, to the effect that McNally told whomever is speaking that JG helped with the arrangement on Somebody to Love. So this is probably ultimately derived from the same 1967 interview with Garcia, to a portion of which I originally linked. By the way, the audio version of that interview posted at runs to about 68 minutes, but there is a version around that runs to 83 minutes and seems basically complete.

Now, in terms of the dates of Garcia's contributions to SP, I have compared LIA's post with the four sources listed in the references. These four sources together manage to provide dates for every track on the album, and the main tunes that were cut in those sessions but didn't appear on the original vinyl.

Two discrepancies that result. When Tamarkin contradicts other sources, I defer to him. Here are the discrepancies:

  1. Plastic Fantastic Lover. LIA dates this 11/1, as does Abbott, but this contradicts Tamarkin. Tamarkin p. 116, says that Garcia joined them on the second day of sessions, which was 11/1. But it doesn’t specify any tracks cut on that day. On p. 117, he says “The next day, the band cut ‘Plastic Fantastic Lover’”.
  2. Today. LIA dates this 11/2, as do Scofield and Abbot, but this contradicts Tamarkin. Departing from a discussion of 11/2 (as "the next day" following the second day of sessions), JT says that Garcia is credited “again on the next day’s session for Marty and Paul’s ‘Today’” (p. 117). That would be 11/3.

I'd say the best way to resolve this would be, first, to ask Tamarkin, and second, to re-read the relevant passages of Got a Revolution. But I think I have what he put down on paper correctly interpreted.

Anyway, here is what I have come up with. You should be able to click on the image to view it larger. Comments, reactions most welcomed!

Surrealistic Pillow - Tracks by date

  1. Abbot, Scott. 2007. JABase: Jefferson Airplane Setlists, v3. Last updated March 29, 2007. URL, accessed 1/3/2011.
  2. Fenton, Craig. 2007. Take Me To A Circus Tent: The Jefferson Airplane Flight Manual. West Conshohocken, PA: Infinity Publishing.
  3. Scofield, Matt. ND. Deaddisc entry for Surrealistic Pillow, URL, accessed 1/3/2011.
  4. Tamarkin, Jeff. 2003. Got a Revolution! The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane. New York: Atria Books.


  1. My goodness, a chart!

    Just a note, I shouldn't be taken as a "source" on dates as I was just copying Abbot more or less - I don't have any of the Jefferson Airplane books. In fact, I don't even have the reissued Surrealistic Pillow CD - but if the booklet credits in there have recording dates, I assume that would be the most authoritative source.

    I don't remember why I "doubted" JG playing on How Do You Feel...(maybe just because nobody else has credited him?) But it's the first song that interviewer asked him about, just 3 months later, and Garcia specifically remembered playing 'flattop' on it, so I'd go with Garcia's word for this.

    The redates for 11/2 and 11/3 don't change the picture that much, except to leave 11/1 "blank" - either they had some rehearsals with Garcia after he arrived that day, or perhaps there were failed takes of a song.

    In general, the recording pattern is very interesting - very professional, one or two songs a day, no later overdubs (that are known?).
    Some of the songs Garcia ISN'T on, are because he was out playing a show in SF that night - but overall he was there from start to finish, contributing to half the songs. And we don't even know what other suggestions he made in the studio, that apparently quite impressed Paul Kantner & Jorma. It's no wonder Jorma said he was the "real" producer of that album.

  2. that's my brother's book you're taking about. if you don't have it, get it! it's a good one. i helped with some of the research.
    dave tamarkin

  3. I third the emotion about Got A Revolution. A terrific book, not only about Jefferson Airplane but the San Francisco 60s rock scene in general.

    I realize that there's no market for it, but I'd sure like to see the full Jeff Tamarkin treatment of the Hot Tuna story.


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