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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Elves, Gnomes, Leprechauns and Little People’s Chowder and Marching Society Volunteer Fire Brigade and Ladies Auxiliary String Band




I cannot make any representation for the accuracy of any of this. It's a fascinating piece, of course. Dister was a famous French rock journalist (wiki) who spent ca. 1966-early 1968 in San Francisco, apparently spending a ton of time with the Dead, if the narratives are to be believed. I am sure it is perfectly well based in actual events. My sense is that he's more accurate on the early days (which I focus on here), when he was around, than later stuff, which he gleaned secondarily and in which I have found lots of mistakes on the particulars. Read it like you read Rock Scully's book (1996).

There are some new-to-me band names and such that are more up LIA's alley than mine. There are pre-GD bands and lots of little vignettes. It's a loose participant observation study. Fascinating.

This is an entry in the Reading Notes series, in which I just leave quotes and little annotations of stuff I have read. I make no representation of completeness, it's just whatever catches my eye. Aren't stochastics fun?!? As Ishmael said:
I promise nothing complete; because any human thing supposed to be complete, must for that very reason infallibly be faulty.
Reading Notes:

Dister, Alain. 2007. Grateful Dead: Une légende californienne. Paris: Le Castor Astral. ISBN 9782859207298, 254 pp.

Dister 2007, 22: Jerry’s “beau-père” was Wally Matusiewicz ... was that Ruth’s husband? Says he taught Jerry the rudiments of the guitar, don’t remember that elsewhere. “Wally was not a drinker, but he didn’t disdain the good Lord’s herb, which he considered less dangerous than alcohol.” #family, #Wally Matusiewicz, #Ruth Garcia

Dister 2007, 22: his teacher at the California School of Fine Arts was named Wally Hedrick, who was close to the Beat poets. (?), #Wally Hedrick, #Beats

Dister 2007, 24: after taking a joyride, he was offered a choice between prison and the Army. #Army

Dister 2007, 24: his Army drill sergeant “initiated him in the delicate art of finger picking on an acoustic guitar”. “Certain of his comrades were part of the Kingston Trio” (?) #acoustic, #folk

Dister 2007, 24: before the joyride and the military, Jerry “briefly took part in a jazzy group, The Chords, in the little Northern California town where his mother placed him” #pre-GD

Dister 2007, p. 27: Robert Burns, dit Hunter, born June 23, 1941 in San Luis Obispo. #Robert Hunter

Dister 2007 p. 36: “One can get nothing from the banjo if one does not have an innate taste for a job well done” ... JG as workaholic. “The rest, love, family, hanging out with friends, and the corresponding substances, those were always a sacré foutoir, the uncontrollable part of his existence” ... suggests that music was the one thing Jerry could really exercise some control over. #workaholism, #drugs

Dister 2007, p. 44: ca. 1963, while married to Sara and working at Morgan’s, in a band as follows. Garcia on banjo. Hunter on guitar. NB NRPS parallel: “Hunter was the first victim [of Garcia’s expectation of virtuosity]: he was thanked and thrown out of the group ... An enthusiastic player but with little talent, he gave way to Eric Thompson.” Also Pigpen, Kreutzmann. Name of the band? “Elves, Gnomes, Leprechauns and Little People’s Chowder and Marching Society Volunteer Fire Brigade and Ladies Auxiliary String Band” ... became Black Mountain Boys. #pre-GD, #Eric Thompson, #Bill Kreutzmann, #Pigpen

Dister 2007, 44: autumn 1963, Garcia and Hunter are in the Badwater Valley Boys and meet Bill Monroe at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles. Implies that this was before 11/22/63, JFK assassination. #bluegrass, #Ash Grove

Dister 2007, 44: Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions gig played the Tangent on 1/25/64. #pre-GD

Dister 2007, p. 61: after Frenchy’s, they spent three nights in a row at a Broadway strip joint, Pierre’s, autumn 1965. #pre-GD

Dister 2007, 66: had to change from Warlocks because there were bands by this name in England, Florida, Texas (including future members of ZZ TOP) and a NY-based quartet comprising Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Mo Tucker, the future Velvet Underground. #pre-GD

Dister 2007, 74: GD in LA from February-May 1966 #GD

Dister 2007, p. 78: Olompali ca. June 1966. #Olompali

Dister 2007, 90: “Jamming together, or sitting in with each other’s bands, is what fundamentally distinguished San Francisco’s music scene from LA’s.” #collective improvisation

Dister 2007, p. 91: Bay Area rockers grew out of the folk scene, especially in Berkeley and Palo Alto. “Ces habitués des hootenannies sont également rompus à l’exercise de la jam-session” #collective improvisation, i.e., #jam

JGMF: The hoot and the open jam session spontaneously evolved in many different contexts. Multiple discovery is common in science (wiki), biologists see tons of convergent evolution (wiki), and even some anthropologists talk about cultural universals (Brown 1991). Anything that has this quality of coming up again and again in the human condition is, in brief, probably really important. And playing music together is one of these kinds of things, really down to the root of our natures. I am talking shelter, warmth, maybe some food and drink, some good old goddamned human company. Get a room for the sex if you can, but the drugs and rock 'n roll are never far from the fire, and that's true for white folks in Appalachia and black folks in the Mississippi delta. Beat a drum, pluck a string, sing a little. In the American context, hollers, Gospels-spirituals, blues, jazz, soul, R&B, funk, and any other "black music" you can think of, whether South, North, Midwest, Great Migration, or wherever, has its improvisational tradition, and this is no less true of your old-timey, folk, Gospels-spirituals, bluegrass, country, rockabilly, rock or heavy metal. It's a people thing, painted in the riotous colors of every other kind of earthly variation.

Dister 2007, p. 103: GD were evicted from Olompali and refuged at Camp Lagunitas in ca. August 1966. Moved to 710 Ashbury in September 1966. #Olompali, #Camp Lagunitas, #houses

Dister 2007, 126-127: story of stealing the equipment from Monterey Pop. P. 127 equipment (le matos) “duly returned eight days later [6/26/67], after having been put to use during a free concert in the Panhandle, a concert in which both Eric Burdon and Jimi Hendrix participated (but where are the tapes?)”

JGMF: I list 6/21/67 at the Polo Grounds (no source, not in Deadlists) and 6/24 at El Camino Park in Palo Alto (http://rockprosopography101.blogspot.com/2009/07/june-24-1967-el-camino-park-palo-alto.html, last consulted 3/28/2011), but nothing from the Panhandle.

Dister 2007, 134: the 10/2/67 bust and subsequent police harassment “ended the [MG-JG] dream of living in the middle of the cauldron” of 710 Ashbury, with the baby and all that, living in the attic. “They would first move near the Palace of the Legion of Honor, not far from the Presidio where Jerry did his brief military service. A little later, they’d cross the Golden Gate Bridge for Larkspur bungalow rented out by John Cipollina’s father.” MG in Greenfield says they lived there six months. #houses

Dister 2007, 141. This is interesting about early GD musical interactions. “Early in November 1967, Pigpen (or maybe Garcia) allows me to accompany him into the recording studio.” Anthem of the Sun ... “The little studio is somewhere downtown. Everyone’s there, squeezed around the console. Garcia’s listening to live tapes, pushing buttons, switching from one solo to another, juggling the mix, barely taking the time to the others what he had in mind. Weir s’emporte, he’s like that, rock ‘n roll energy, shooting nasty looks when he didn’t agree. The exchanges are pretty sharp, one could think that these guys aren’t on the same wavelength, that the group is at risk of imploding at any moment. Several alternative musical conceptions, as many different ways of engaging them ...” #Bob Weir 

JGMF that's a cool little piece of color right there.

Dister 2007, p. 143. Says that TC came into the GD at the time they were working on Anthem ... it comes into the narrative before a discussion of November 1967 ... #Tom Constanten

Dister 2007, 146: first live Dark Star was 12/xx/67.

Dister 2007, 147: Ramrod, first roadie, arrives late December 1967. Rex Jackson came next?

Dister 2007, 150-151. Description of a February 1968 gig at San Quentin. He says “I believe that the day of the concert, or the day before, they found Neal’s body on the side of a railroad track somewhere just outside of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.” That was February 4, 1968. Later below, he says that “Phil Lesh had stayed in Oregon after a series of concerts in Portland and in the colleges and universities in that neck of the woods. So Bob Weir played bass.” I think he is conflating some stuff here. The correct date, based on contemporary ex post reports (the best kind of data) clearly confirm Thursday, 2/15/68 as the date of this event (UPI 1968; Torgerson 1968; see also Hannan 2009 SQ LLD post).



Contrasts 5/8/69 People's Park with 5/7/69 GGP show. "A distillation of the ending Sixties: a few show in Golden Gate Park, with Bear at the audio console, while ten miles away as the crow flies, tear gas is still sticking to the trees on the Berkeley campus" (Dister 2007, 158). #jerry and the Jeffersons
 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Inflation Calculator

Here's an inflation calculator:

http://www.westegg.com/inflation/

For example, consider this little tidbit: A June 1975 Bay Area Kool Jazz Festival at the Oakland Coliseum had a $276,000 weekend (Selvin 6/29/75). That's $1,161,692.48 in 2012 dollars. Sounds like a lot of money to me.



LN jg1982-02-04.jgb.all.aud-CC.xxxxxx.flac2448

I have always found early 1982 to be an exceptionally weak period for the Jerry Garcia Band. Jerry's opiate use has really picked up, but in his side band he didn't seem able to get back up with blow or whatever. Indeed, to tell the truth I think January, February and March JGB shows are pretty dreadful between 1982-1987. I'll be checking out some March '83 soon, I think, partly as a test of the proposition.

Anyway, this show is lethargic. Here's a great point of contrast: compare this version of "Tangled Up In Blue" with the version from exactly one year prior, 2/4/81 [TJS | jerrygarcia.com]. Now, granted, the '81 show was the first night of an east coast tour, at the Warner in DC. There would have been extra juice, and it's probably a totally unfair comparison to an off-the-beaten-path, off-night, haven't-played-in-a-few-weeks show. But the second solo on 2/4/81 (around 5:40) shredded *my* sinuses, after it worked my ears and speakers. 2/4/82's is more of the warmish-dampish-Motel-6-towel feeling, without the hygiene.

Jerry Garcia Band
Keystone Palo Alto
260 South California Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94306

February 4, 1982 (Thursday)
CC aud flac1644

--set I (5 tracks, 40:52)--
s1t01. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) [7:58] %
s1t02. Mississippi Moon [10:46] [0:07] % % %
s1t03. Mystery Train/ [8:21]
s1t04. Valerie -> // [6:35] %
s1t05. //Deal [#7:03] [0:02]

--set II (5 tracks, 49:42)
s2t01. I Second //That Emotion [8:#33] %
s2t02. Sugaree [11:30] % [0:13]
s2t03. Night They Drove Old Dixie Down [7:58] ->
s2t04. Dear// Prudence [11:#15] ->
s2t05. Tangled Up In Blue [9:53] (1) [0:20]

! ACT1: Jerry Garcia Band
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
! lineup: John Kahn - el-b;
! lineup: Jimmy Warren - electric keyboards;
! lineup: Melvin Seals - organ;
! lineup: Bill Kreutzmann - drums;
! lineup: Julie Stafford - vocals;
! lineup: Liz Stires - vocals.

JGMF:
! Recording: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording.
! TJS: http://www.thejerrysite.com/shows/show/1589
! jerrgarcia.com: http://jerrygarcia.com/show/1982-02-04-keystone-palo-alto-palo-alto-ca/
! db: http://db.etree.org/shn/4426 (MSC shnf); http://db.etree.org/shn/83952 (MSC flac1644). No aud in circulation as of 1/25/2014.
! map: http://goo.gl/maps/mog23
! venue: http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/11/keystone-sophies-260-s-california-ave.html;
! band: 14c (http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2012/01/jerry-garcia-band-personnel-1975-1995.html);
! R: 2nd gen aud (Maxell XLII90 no Dolby) > Nakamichi BX-300 playback (no Dolby) > Pyle Pro cables > WaveTerminal 2496 > Samplitude 10.1 Download Version (record @ 24 bits/48kHz) > CDWave 1.9.8 (tracking) > Adobe Audition 3.0 (cross-fades, etc.) > Traders Little Helper 2.4.1 (FLAC encoding, level 8) (flac2448).
! R: not great, not terrible. Vocals are quite low.
! P: s1t01 HSII Jerry really starts not sounding good during this period. He sounds tired when he's singing. Late 2 min mark he solos, but sounds like they are trying to get mix together. Electric piano after 3-minute mark. Some big PA sharts. He turns up around 4-minute mark and tries again. Guitar is a little louder.
! P: s1t03 MT Jerry usually started the vocals up right away, but here he misses it and they have to go 'round the bases. The tempos aren't quite together, in general. Kreutzmann with JGB during this period.
! R: s1t03 MT clips out
! R: s1t05 Deal cuts in on goes to show you don't ever know
! P: s1t05 Deal late 5-min mark Jerry is playing some nice chords with nice tone, but he doesn't sound very potent.
! R: s2t01 ISTE tape flip splice @ 5:46, unknown missing.
! P: s2t02 Sugaree is flaccid, and s2t03 vocals sound so weak and fragile. Blech.
! historical: here's a little color for you. The only real piece of between song tape we have (s2t02, after Sugaree) has a guy yell out for "The Wheel" from Garcia's first solo album. The taper and his friends give a Spiccoli laugh and say something like "fat chance". Here's what I hear (which is imagined, but may nonetheless be true): The tapers are locals. Sound like college-age men. Maybe the "Wheel" guy is an out-of-towner, or anyway not a regular. They sound like regulars, sharing an inside joke - they know Garcia's not gonna play "The Wheel" ... they are initiates, while he's a novitiate. Tribalism.
! R: s2t03-s2t04 taper was going to pause between songs, clipped the segue from TNTDODD to Prudence a little bit.
! s2t05 (1) taper: "That was 'Dead Air', February 2, 1982,  Keystone Palo Alto. Weird. Stuff." Indeed. So weird that you got the date wrong. They played Catalyst on 2/2/82. This was 2/4. But who can really keep track, after all? #methodological point: we would normally give great credience to this kind of evidence. In fact, it should be solid gold. But it's contradicted by multiple other facts. First, 2/2/82 is known from the Catalyst - there are master tapes and everything. Second, dude is more likely to lose track of date than location. I may not know what day it is, but I generally have a pretty good sense of where I am. Third, this same show circulates from master soundboard cassettes (part of the Kreutzmann soundboard tapes, I gather, but that could be wrong), dated 2/4/82 KPA. The guy was clearly confused: there's not very much weird about this show at all. It's pretty bland. (I keed: I know he seems to have had a surreal time this night.)
! Disclaimer: This is part of a "Closet Call" project aimed at making missing Garcia dates available for study. These are "warts and all" ... straight transfers of the source cassettes with editing only of the most offensive tape transitions and such. If you don't like hiss, possible speed problems, etc., etc., then move along. And, to anticipate a FAQ: no, I don't plan on doing 16/44s of these. Thanks to wk for supplying these tapes!
! URL: http://jgmf.blogspot.com

Monday, January 20, 2014

Grateful Dead at Olompali, ca. June 1969

I was just sniffing around Olompali a little bit. It's a powerful place. I need to write a lot about it.

Anyway, sniffing around, as I say, and I come across this image:


And it comes from this blog post: http://www.thedoctorweighsin.com/so-who-needs-state-and-national-parks-anyway/

I only infer June 1969 because that's how the picture is dated. The I go to GDAO, and indeed it looks to be a photo shoot for Aoxomoxoa. Here's the GDAO cite:

Hamilton, Sylvia Clarke, “Aoxomoxoa photo shoot at Rancho Olompali: Bob Weir, Ken Babbs (?), Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, Tom Constanten, Mickey Hart, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, with photographer Tom Weir in the foreground,” Grateful Dead Archive Online, accessed January 20, 2014, http://www.gdao.org/items/show/831005.

The picture is not available online at GDAO, it says on-site access only. Happy to have found it!

Who is the mystery man back there? GDAO has question marks for Ken Babbs.

If you love Olompali, and you should, check out that nice little blog post, which reminds us to think and act in preserving spaces like Olompali. What follow are some pix I took there July 6, 2011.














While I am in this space, let me drop a few more breadcrumbs:

GD 9/2/78 pix

Some great photos of GD on September 2, 1978 at Giant's Stadium, by Grant Gouldon.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/grantdabassman/sets/72157627566191322/

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ozzie and Johnny D

LN jg1979-10-07.jgb.all-2.aud-angus-hart.106528.flac1644

First night out for Ozzie Ahlers and John d'Fonseca (and hence, of JGB #11b). Sunday night is consistent with pattern of breaking in new guys on off-nights, but the Garcia fans don't worry about work on Monday morning.



Probably not surprisingly, this performance is not a world-beater. They are feeling each other out.

This was not listed in BAM no. 65 (October 5, 1979), p. 10. That makes me think it might have been a relatively late booking. We don't really know how Reconstruction ended. Recall that Reconstruction was listed at least in BAM (no. 63, September 1, 1979, p. 14) for a 9/29/79 gig, though we don't know if that was supposed to have involved Garcia. What's more, the Keystones ad at TJS just lists "Jerry Garcia", which is a little ambiguous. I am not sure it means anything, but it could. It's all kind of consistent with the possibility that JGB #11a was put together even more hastily than we have thought.

Jerry Garcia Band
Keystone
2119 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704

October 7, 1979 (Sunday)
Angus-Hart all-2 flac1644 shnid-106528

--set I (6 tracks, 51:05, missing one song)--
s1t01. tuning [0:09]
s1t02. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) [7:54] [0:02] % [0:27]
s1t03. Catfish John [8:13] [0:05] % [1:11]
s1t04. Simple Twist Of Fate [8:33] [0:12] % [0:46]
s1t05. After Midnight [9:31] [0:24] % [0:17]
[MISSING: Friend of the Devil]
s1t06. Harder They Come [13:00] (1) [0:19] %

--set II (6 tracks, 48:25, missing one song)--
s2t01. tuning [1:03] % [0:04]
s2t02. Money Honey [9:49] [1:16]
s2t03. They Love Each Other/ [8:33#] % [0:14]
s2t04. Sitting In Limbo [7:53] [0:26] % [0:16]
s2t05. Russian Lullaby [12:00] [0:10] % [0:12]
s2t06. That's Alright Mama [6:14] [0:13]
[MISSING: Tore Up Over You]

! ACT1: Jerry Garcia Band
! Lineup: Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals;
! Lineup: Ozzie Ahlers - keyboards, synthesizers;
! Lineup: John d'Foncesca - drums;
! Lineup: John Kahn - bass.

JGMF:

! R: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording.

! TJS: http://thejerrysite.com/shows/show/1375

! db: http://db.etree.org/shn/14081 (s2 partial, same master, deprecated); http://db.etree.org/shn/32616 (same master, deprecated); http://db.etree.org/shn/106528 (this fileset).

! map: http://goo.gl/maps/z22BN

! venue: http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/02/keystone-2119-university-avenue.html; Arnold, Corry. 2010. 2119 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA: The Keystone Berkeley. Lost Live Dead, December 31, 2010, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/12/2119-university-avenue-berkeley-ca.html, consulted 4/22/2012.

! band: JGB #11a (http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2012/01/jerry-garcia-band-personnel-1975-1995.html)

! expost: "Newsreels," BAM no. 66 (October 19, 1979), p. 17.

! tags: 1979, JGB, John Angus, Scott Hart, Keystone, Berkeley, CA, tapers, listening notes, Ozzie Ahlers, John d'Fonseca

! R: field recordist: John Angus and Scott Hart;

! R: field recording gear: 2x Sony microphones > Technics cassette deck
! R: transfer and FLAC encoding by David Minches: Master played back on Nakamichi Dragon > Grace Lunatec V3 (24/96) > Digital Audio Labs Card Deluxe > Adobe Audition 3.0 (dither/downsample) > FLAC encoding.

! R: Pitch Correction by Joe B. Jones

! R: seeder notes: Thanks to Harry Angus for providing the master tapes.

! personnel: First show for Ozzie Ahlers and John d'Fonseca. Consistent with the pattern of breaking in new guys off-the-beaten path, and/or on off-nights, this is a Sunday show, as is the second gig a week later in Palo Alto.

! R: John Angus and Scott Hart pulled some amazing tapes during the 1978-1981 period, very often the only tapes of any given show. They are rather randomly distributed across this timeframe, a show or two a year. They're not all great, but a few of them (11/18/79, 2/1/80, 2/22/81) are masterpieces. I really mean this. Next time you go to a show, bring your microphones (2x!) and tape recorder and record it. No? No. It's a bitch. I tried it a few times (Grateful Dead 8/22/87, JGAB and JGB 11/28/87) and I nearly died of stress and confusion. A great ambient recording of this kind of event is the quintessential human accomplishment. We are such freaks! This is not one of Angus's best tapes, but I think that's down in part to the sound coming out of the speakers at 2119 University this night.

! P: sluggish, uninspiring. I know it's their first night out, and the sound doesn't sound great.

! R: s1t02 HSII the mix takes a while to come in, not sure how much of this is tape and how much is tape. Sounds muddy. Taper talk "put this right by the wall, man", implies that they are still positioning?

! P: s1t02 HSII around 5:09 they have a little hiccup to get to a little Ozzie run in the 5-min mark. I don't like the sound of these keys, but he plays well. Late 5-min mark Garcia steps up, perhaps a bit rudely, and starts soloing. I would say he cut Ozzie off. But let's be charitable and say that they are just trying to learn to play together, and one needs to send clearer signals, perhaps, at this stage of a professional collaboration. Here are the limits.

! P: s1t03 CJ, pretty good, nothing to write home about.

! P: s1t04 STOF I was just thinking that it's cruel of me to so frequently listen to the first show, or other very early shows, of any given band. They are just getting it together! Here, they don't quite hit the  1 of the first verse, which Garcia typically started in on right away. So they set themselves up, and we get a pleasant little waltz for aminute or so. Not bad. @ 1:09 crowd guy yells "Louder!", telling me it's the PA that's a problem. And I totally agree with him. I don't know if this tape is picking up PA or stage monitors, but the vocals are low, the whole volume is low relative to the crowd. Late 7-minute mark, Garcia has to be pretty terse in bringing things to a close. I think Johhny D. and the tempos are where he's mainly signalling: Ozzie seems pretty tight with Jerry.

! s1t06 (1) JG: "We're gonna take a break for a little while. We'll be back a little bit later." Or something like that.

! P: s2t02 MH meh

! R: s2t03 TLEO clips out

! P: s2t05 RL John bass feature late 6 over 7.

! P s2t06 TAM totally uninspired.

"Bloody Hell"



When called to summarize the show in a headline for my etree list, which is a date index for the site, I said "a pretty good night for Nicky Hopkins." And I do think that this is a strong performance by Nicky Hopkins and the whole JGB. Everyone plays well, every song is played well, and some of this, such as "Catfish John" and "Edward" is outstanding, top-shelf stuff. If you wonder what Garcia had in mind in bringing the especially troubled Nicky Hopkins on board as a business partner (Garcia-Kahn-Tutt-Hopkins dba "Jerry Garcia Band") in fall 1975, check out the show-opening "Let It Rock" from this night, a revelation, channeling melody and time, spirit moving bone. Garcia had never played with a guy like this on piano.

I mean no disrespect to Keith Godchaux in saying this. Keith was a piano maestro in his own right. Garcia on Godchaux (5/12/80, Rowland 1980):

Keith is one of those guys who is sort of an idiot savant of the piano. He’s an excellent pianist, but he didn’t really have a concept of music, of how the piano fit in with the rest of the band. We were constantly playing records for him and so forth, but that wasn’t his gift. His gift was the keyboard, the piano itself.

I am willing to accept Garcia's judgment and framing around this - what the hell do I know? It's a very interesting way of expressing a pianist's strengths and limitations, in any case: the fingers and the keys were as one. The piano provides some beautiful terrain for the realization and display (and thence, third-party appreciation) of human possibility. Listen to Keith's playing in October-November 1971, when he first started with the Grateful Dead, and be witness to instinctive brilliance. He's like a trail-runner, meticulously picking spots while running downhill full-bore with nary a tweak of the ankle. Mistake-free at full speed. If you read fast, or you type fast, or if you speak fluently, or knit or darn or dream - unconscious fluency --what pschologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls "flow"-- is a joy to experience and behold.

But, Hopkins! Instinct and musicality, melody and percussion, note and time … This is human accomplishment, between terra firmaand cosmos.Nicky's playing, at its best, orchestrates my mind. It's agile and powerful and instinctive, totally terrestrial, mathematically precise and impossibly, celestially, colorful. In this show, as in Nicky's whole tenure, there are flashes of all of that.

Now, any empirical scientist will tell you that triangulation is good (for me, the locus classicus is Campbell and Fisk 1959, but there are probably others, and earlier). So after listening to the Cooper tape I decided to check the show out from another point of view, an audience recording by Gerry Moskal (shnid-92780). This particular tape has some banter that the Cooper aud lacks, and it reveals a little of the rabbit's-eye view of my little Tuscan idyll, a good close look at the creepy, crawly underbelly of the natural condition, and a sense of the yin-yang co-constitution of the dark and the light.

After a sprightly version of "Catfish John", Nicky talks to the Queens audience.

·         Nicky Hopkins: "How you all doin', a'right? Hold on a minute? One of the things I would like to say is that outside, when I was in the bathroom, just before we went on, I heard some glass smashing against one of the outside doors, because the place has been booked solid for quite awhile. So there are about twenty people outside …
o   [interrupted by crowd members yelling stuff]
·         ... hold on a minute, please, shut up please ... and I mean that politely."
o   70s Queens dude, very near taper: "You shut up!"
·         Nicky: "There are about twenty people waiting to get in."
o   Crowd guy, possibly same: "Let 'em in!" [other hollering from crowd]
·         Nicky continues "Now wait a minute, please, we'll save time, and we'll get more numbers done that way. In particular, a blond-headed guy was throwing bottles or glasses or whatever at the door ... and then, I just blew it. Because of that. Because ... I had a weird trip that went down, many years ago ... I had a pet cat that chewed on some broken glass that some *bastard* had smashed."
o   [the crowd is laughing at Nicky. And I swear in here someone hiccups very close to the mic. It might be snickering.] [crowd dude yells something at Nicky]
·         "And every time I hear glass smashed, that really just triggers me off. I mean, normally I'm pretty cool, man."
o   [This comes off as desperate, and audience bully guy smells weakness. Guys in crowd are laughing at him. More hollering.]
·         "I mean, let me ask you ... hold on ... please ... just a few seconds silence, before we continue ..."
o   Crowd guy, real loud: "What is this, church?" The crowd is cat-calling Nicky, mocking him, shouting him down, while he begs for silence.
·         "Hold on. Hold on! [sounding like a frustrated parent] Please? Quiet ..."
o   Crowd is just mocking him, viciously.
·         Sounds like Nicky says "OK" or "Oh fine" ... [something inaudible off-mic] Nicky: "Listen. To continue ... before we continue ... bloody hell ... fuck it!"
o   Garcia is strumming "the center cannot hold" chords, smirking a little bit behind his beard, but hopefully not cruelly.
o   Crowd guy, laughing: "We gotcha! So that's your attitude, huh?!?" Crowd just taunting poor Nicky.
And the recording cuts out.

Julian Dawson's excellent 2011 biography talks about how Nicky's personality was just about perfectly ill-suited to spotlight stardom, and his painfully awkward emcee'ing and crowd engagements through his short three months in the Garcia Band illustrate the point in spades. If I ever stop polishing (or pushing) the rock of my 10/17/75 notes, I'll present more evidence and analysis.

In the meantime, what do you do if you are a brilliant pianist who has just had a painful, awkward, embarrassing moment? You play.

"Pig's Boogie" is a great song choice. Yeah, Nicky, you are cool, baby! Fuck yeah you are. If you've ever heard "Gimme Shelter", and you'd better have, Queens guy, you need to STFU. This is Nicky fucking Hopkins, Edward, the Session Man. So, hell yeah, take a feature, tear it up! Jerry's solo in the mid-1 minute mark is real upbeat, too. He knows that was just a weird moment, and he knows, or by this time it's perfectly clear to him, that no good comes from talking too much. Just play. And they do. Around the 4-minute mark, vocal crowd dude correctly identifies and calls out "Pipeline!" Yeah, dude, you are right, there is a little Pipeline break in Pig's Boogie. @ 4:30 John Kahn takes some bass lead that is very rare to hear this late in the game, another descending run for him late 4-minute mark, over 5. He puts a little skip in it, now climbing back up, hits a local bottom at 5:18, Jerry starts picking it up behind him, 5:30 Nicky sharp glissade, now barrel-rolling over the six-minute mark. Jerry is tearing it up to 6:30, now with some double-time chords, calling a too-quick end to it at 6:40, but everyone catches it, and they land clean at 7:00. Wow. Totally different context of hearing it after the "bloody hell" encounter. One last great Nicky fuck you here: "Pig", of course, was his cat, though not, I think, the one who died from the glass. What a great private joke for Nicky and the band. And I think it comes out in the spirited performance. Way to go, Nicky. And by the time he has scalped the room with "Edward" to finish the set, he has the crowd at his fingertips, so to speak, right there where there's control, and comfort, and brilliance. Even as they pose their own challenges, flesh and bone don't talk back.

Incomplete listening notes from the Moskal tape and references below the fold.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Nicky after JGB



Under the rock and jazz heading, you'll see Terry and the Pirates, featuring John Cipollina and Nicky Hopkins playing the Longbranch Saloon in Berkeley on Friday January 2 and Saturday, January 3, 1976.

I had never really picked this up before. After flaming out of JGB on New Year's Eve 1975-1976, two days later Nicky is picking up a gig with his good buddy (and great guitarist, and Garcia pal) the Little Onion and Terry Dolan, who has come clean that he was dealing coke at the time (Dawson 2011, 261). 

I have no moral judgment on any of this or any of these people. I know the drugs are touchy, but they are what they are, and I see little point (and considerable loss) in ignoring the pharmacological context of all of this, not least given how consequential substances were in how so many lives unfolded (and ceased doing so).

blog business

Well, with any luck today I might finish up a post that began as listening notes on JGB 10/17/75 at Concord Pavilion.

It began with a simple listen.

Based on Nicky's banter, I took a long and deep Nicky Hopkins detour. This had many permutations. His records (and recording contracts), transcribing my reading notes from the Dawson biography, more listening (12/20/75), reflections on Edward's Impossible Dilemma, the Session Man's Dilemma, of how to be a star without having to publicly represent as one (sound familiar?), or how to live without the stardom when your creative drive compels you to pursue it.

I think I will have revised my opinion of what Nicky meant pretty substantially by the time I am done.

As part of all of this, I undertook some more investigation into Round Records.

I think as a palate-cleanser, I undertook some more listening, thinking and writing around Jerry and the Jeffersons, but none of it is suitable for the blog.

I understand Corry's term prosopography better and better every day. He has found a way of slicing and packaging (into the Lost Live Dead, Hooterollin, Archaeology, etc. containers) that seems to work, though I doubt it satisfies him. I am close to needing to move into a book format in order to bound and channel some of all of this.

The blog format is great, but when thoughts by several obsessives get scattered over our collective blogs, it becomes really hard for me to draw the fragments back together. It's a data management problem. I have been trying to tag more thoroughly in order to leave more breadcrumbs.

It's also an attempt to give credit where credit is due. Many academics believe that, in their fields, there are ideas floating around that are researchable; the same discovery is ripe for independent discovery by any number of people at any given time. Indeed, the history of science is replete with cases of pairs or groups of scientists independently hitting the same thought at the same time. But at least citation standards are clear, and they work reasonably well. Credit is the coin of the realm, and we built a system to incentivize credit-giving (and, less attractively, credit-claiming).

Blogging, by contrast, is a bear. Because we are all leaving bits and fragments more or less arbitrarily packaged, and because there's a very large volume of material, it's really tough for me to trace back where my thinking begins and, say, Corry and LIA's ends. Certainly the book will have a blanket caveat to that effect.

Anyway, I hope to get that 10/17/75 post done. I have done some good work this holiday season, we'll have to see what other snatches of time might open up between next week and summer 2014.


Friday, January 03, 2014

Jerry Garcia Venues

Harry Angus is soliciting input, anything at all, around the venues in which Garcia played or spoke.

Please contribute information if you have it, and circulate this call widely. I use Jerry Garcia's Brokendown Palaces every day I work on Garcia - it's a great resource.

http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-encyclopedia-of-jerry-garcia-music.html