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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fall 1971: Keith Speaks, records, FM broadcasts



van Matre, Lynn. 1972. The Grateful Dead Haven't Changed Much. Now Sound 1, 4 (January): 4, 14.
Very brief little piece, the text of which I reproduce in full, à la Dead Sources, below the fold.

Here, just a few bullets, I'll also file under "reading notes".
  • The interview material with Phil Lesh and Keith Godchaux is from 10/22/71, based on one of Keith's comments. 
  • Now Sound is new to me, a Chicago area music paper covering just about every genre, with blurbs and chart info. Lynn van Matre also wrote for the Chicago Tribune and reviewed a bunch of Dead and Garcia shows over the years.
  •  Phil expresses being sick of constantly touring, wishing to get more out of their records. 
  • Keith speaks!
Keith's background is strictly West Coast club work. About a year ago, he attended a Dead concert at Winterland. 'A very heavy flash,' Keith says. 'I'd never conceived of playing with them. I had my own trip, and couldn't see the two mixing. I met Jerry and talked to him and somehow things just worked out. So, last night was my second concert with them. Touring's great, but I've had a hard time keeping a sense of continuity.' (van Matre 1972, 14)
  • Records: Skullfuck has gone gold. They owe WB two more records. "They're eager to do one more studio album. They're also considering recording their upcoming European tour which begins in May." LIA's devastating "Brotherhood vs. Machine" post quotes Hunter, from an interview with Silberman which he helpfully links, calling the planned studio record Rambling Rose, as part of a " Workingman's Dead/American Beauty/Rambling Rose trilogy". I still don't understand why they didn't do that studio album! It would have been great, and instead, indeed, they chewed most of it up on the E72 release. I am sure they had their reasons. 
  • And, for Corry, note the use of FM broadcasts as a way to have their cake of playing out, sometimes in cool theaters like the Auditorium, selling tickets, but without creating hassles for towns and fans. Of course, selling records is expressly desired, too.

van Matre, Lynn. 1972. The Grateful Dead Haven't Changed Much. Now Sound 1, 4 (January): 4, 14.

[4]

The Grateful Dead call themselves the hardest-working band in America today, and it's easy to buy that. On the road almost steadily, almost all year long, their scene's settled into a routine of five or six weeks worth of one or two-nighters across the country, two weeks back home, then out again.

Home, of course, is in San Francisco, where the group originated in the then good haze of Haight-Ashbury's mid-60's days, playing their fine blues and becoming somewhat of a counterculture institution with their good music and free concerts.

The Workingmen Dead all would like to be able to spend a little more time on home turf, rather than constantly touring.

"It's a bummer having to work so much," bassist Phil Lesh said. "It would be nice if we could sell a few more records instead of touring so much."

The Dead, of course, have never been a promoter's dream, what with their free concerts in Frisco, their no nonsense altitudes and unwillingness to be hyped. But this time, it was the whole scene – Dead T-shirts, stickers, the whole works. It seemed so un-Dead, so-

"Sort of camp?" Lesh smiles. "Well, frankly, yeah. In the past the record companies have been pretty lame, all right. But, we would like to sell a few more records. So, this time, we decided we'd do the fabled promotion tour. It ends in December. Then, we'll see if it's worked."

Something is working. For the first time ever, the group's got a gold record - for "Grateful Dead", their seventh and latest release.

"I'm gonna nail it on a tree, fill it with bullet holes and then, nail it on the wall," Lesh said. "Maybe we'll use it for an album cover some day."

The Dead's contract calls for two more records for Warner Brothers. Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, along with Phil, say they're eager to do one more studio album. They're also considering recording their upcoming European tour which begins in May. Traditionally, the Dead have been a performing band, not a recording one, and their albums reflect it.

"Well, we've had about seven years' experience playing live, and less than three months in the studio. Next time, we'll do better," Lesh explained.

The next album will feature new pianist Keith Godchaux in the Dead line-up. Godchaux, 22, was recently signed on to replace the ulcer-ridden, anemic Pig Pen

[14]

(altho someone hastens to mention Pig Pen, also known as Ron McKernan, hasn't left the Dead for good).

Keith's background is strictly West Coast club work. About a year ago, he attended a Dead concert at Winterland. "A very heavy flash," Keith says. "I'd never conceived of playing with them. I had my own trip, and couldn't see the two mixing. I met Jerry and talked to him and somehow things just worked out. So, last night was my second concert with them. Touring's great, but I've had a hard time keeping a sense of continuity."

This tour, many halls were sold out well in advance but in many places, even those fans who were too late in getting tickets and found them all gone ended up hearing the concert because The Grateful Dead have replaced their free concerts with an updated tactic: the free live broadcast.

"It's always been a problem in rock,'' Dead road manager Sam Cutler stated, "how you deal with the people who want to hear, but can't get in. We want to sell out the hall, of course. But then, we want to broadcast the concerts live so the overflow crowd can cruise on home and hear it live on radio. It's never been done before on tours, but this time we're doing it every place we can."

"The Dead haven't changed that much since their early days. The live broadcast is just their·1971 version of the free concert."

9 comments:

  1. Notice that Keith Godchaux says nothing about ever having played with Dave Mason. Rock Scully was quoted in contemporary press releases as saying that Keith had played with Dave Mason, I think to make it sound like the Dead hadn't just hired a guy off the street because his wife had charmed the lead guitarist. Ever since those quotes, the Dave Mason thing is mentioned more often than not as part of Keith's musical pedigree

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  2. I think Lynnn Van Matre might have been a dj at WXRT or maybe WGLD also.

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  3. Thanks for contributing! A propos of nothing, I used to get great tapes from a guy in Marin who shared your name.

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  4. Keith speaks! A rare event; nice to see this.
    Keith doesn't mention anybody he's played with, and his background is left vaguely as "strictly club work." (The implication is that he is pretty much just "a guy off the street" - though you wouldn't guess from this that he'd met Garcia only about a month before.)

    Keith went into little more detail in the May '72 "Book of the Dead":
    "The only explanation of how we joined the Dead was that it was a cosmic thing. We went into this club in San Francisco where Garcia was playing, and just talked to him. A couple of days later I was playing with he and Bill and it just sort of came together. It had to happen. I knew it had to happen because I had a vision... Flash: go talk to Garcia... I wasn't thinking about playing with them before the flash... I just followed it, not knowing what was going to happen. I wasn't playing with anyone else before that. Just playing cocktail lounges and clubs."

    It's also interesting to see Phil (like Garcia) complaining about how much the Dead were touring in '71, and wanting to cut down on it. He sounds very focused on selling more records (he even repeats that) - the Dead were very much beckoning to the mainstream at that point.
    "We decided we'd do the fabled promotion tour... Then, we'll see if it works." The Dead seem to have been surprised that their records weren't doing better; but what happened was that all the touring, live broadcasts etc resulted not in more record sales so much, just more people packing the concert halls!

    It is a good question why the Dead waited almost two years to do the next studio album - at this point, Oct '71, they have a bunch of fresh new songs ready, and they're eager to get them down.
    I think the WB contract may have been the deciding factor here. By early '72, Garcia was talking definitely about leaving WB and going independent. It's telling that as soon as that happened, they went into the studio again.
    On the other hand, there was also Weir's solo album Ace (done in Jan-Feb '72). After using up most of Weir's songs on that album, it probably seemed more efficient to use the live album as the place to put Garcia's new songs. (Which were all partly re-recorded in the studio anyway.)

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  5. Can you imagine how much pressure Keith Godchaux faced? Holy smokes. He joins the band and they broadcast the shows on FM radio! The stress must have been devastating. Yet he responded brilliantly.

    I have a document I am going to try to post that puts more context around Keith's advent to the band, reinforcing the pressure the poor guy faced right from the get-go.

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    1. BK: "Keith felt a lot of pressure in his role as the band's keyboardist and I'm not quite sure he was ever able to fully get a handle on road life" (Kreutzmann 2015, 251).

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  6. is there audio of this keith interview, or is it just 'in print'?

    I-) ihor

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    1. I only know the snippets published in print.

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