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Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 23, 1975 - Jerry Garcia Interview

I don't know who the interviewer is, nor the radio station from which this particular recorded. It is the first track of shnid-126296. This is the interview Jerry gave before the SNACK Benefit at Kezar Stadium. Sounds like reading the newspapers around the time of the show will prove interesting, mismanagement of budgets by bureaucrats probably a recurring theme. I can't talk about that now.

Instead, just a few quick thoughts, with link to audio and my reasonably full transcription below the fold.

1. Why Side Trips?

One of the theses I'll address in the book is that Garcia's side projects were about more and different live gigging, relative to what he could get with the GD. It ain't earth-shattering to posit the primitives of quantity and quality of course. But the evolution over time is very interesting, how he interpreted and put into practice, these desiderata, is really rich. Indeed, it's what Fate Music will be about, how Garcia navigated his life beyond the Grateful Dead. It's a nontrivial problem, and his solutions tell us a lot about him and, certainly for me, sheds light on the human condition, on how each and all of us must navigate our own lives "beyond the Grateful Dead".

On the quantity side, history's arc bends pretty straightforwardly: until mid-1975, "more" meant "all the time". As time went on, it would this would diminish and become highly routinized, mostly through the Jerry Garcia Band. He'd play a weekend or two at a regular local haunt (the Keystone Family of venues until 1987, the Warfield after that, a weekend or two every few months, with the occasional off-weekend show thrown in. West coast trips to SoCal and up to the Pacific Northwest. Maybe an East Coast tour, eventually only in the fall.

A simple chart of the number of GOTS gigs over the years will nicely illustrate the point, but I don't want to go generate one right now. Soon enough.

The quality calculus, i.e., the evolving meaning and practice of "different" on The Side, moves, over the years, from challenge to comfort. The cut-point is 12/31/75-1/1/76. Prior to that point, the side projects involved more challenge than comfort. After that point, the curves cross and comfort starts trumping challenge.

I say all of this because there's a nice Q&A here on where Garcia's head was it, with respect to all of this, on March 23, 1975.
0018 interviewer You're an incredible guy, because with all the history of the GD and the all the musical avenues that the Dead has explored, you also work with Merl Saunders and the bluegrass thing OAITW… do you find that that is what you need to keep stretching musically?

0044 Well it’s just that I have a lot of different interests, and any one thing might not take up … If I have space … for example, when the Grateful Dead were touring, there would be times when we would be on the road for two weeks, three weeks, and then off the road for two or three weeks. During that two or three week interim period, I’d usually want to play some, y’know, play music somehow. And, obviously the Grateful Dead can’t go out and play in clubs, without causing some sort of amazing commotion … and so I started taking up my time about four or five years ago jamming, just jamming, on Monday nights at the Matrix, and started playing with Howard Wales and them, and later Merl, and John Kahn played bass and stuff like that. But it started to be a more or less regular thing, and I just got into feeling that, ‘yeah, when I’m not workin’, if I’m not on the road or touring or something like that, there’s still a lot of room for me to play and cha … and reach, y’know, out to a, … in a learning sort of situation and all that.
2. Fate Music

There's a great little Fate Music line here, too, where he talks about OAITW (@01:46)

Bluegrass music is something that’s a little different. It’s something I’ve always loved. And mainly with bluegrass music, you sort of have to wait for an opportunity to present itself, where there are musicians around that understand the music and play it really well .. and Old And In The Way was a result of that sort of coincidence, where suddenly there was [sic] three or four of us around who knew the music and who enjoyed playin’ it. So we started loosely, just getting together and playing for fun, and then got to be more serious about it as time went on. But really those things sort of happen accidentally in a way.

I like this for the Fate Music theme of these things coming together by happenstance. But this little synopsis also speaks to the process of institutionalization. It starts off a lark and ends up a job. That's one feature of the arc of Garcia on The Side that's essential to keep in mind.

3. GD and Side Trips

One of the key issues that I spend a lot of time thinking about (since my subtitle is Jerry Garcia's Musical Life Outside the Grateful Dead) is how the side stuff and the GD interact. Here, Garcia is asked whether being so busy with side stuff undermines the Dead. His answer (@02:22): "No, I don’t think so. I think it adds to it, just in terms of that each thing stays fresh if you’re not doin’ it all the time. You come back to it with new ideas and new influences and stuff like that.

4. Record Companies

The interviewer asks Garcia to evaluate whether the record companies were a good idea, in retrospect. This is really informative: in his mind, they were dead by 3/23/75. Here's Jerry's reply (@0427):

Well, yeah. I think so. Certainly in our heads I think it was a good idea. It hasn't been the world's most outrageously successful endeavor, but that's not the focus, either. Again, that hasn't been the focus. Now that we're in the midst of a bone-crushing economic slump, and all the rest of that stuff, our, we're scuffling just like everybody else is, basically.

5. Film Company

Round Reels, the film company, remains almost totally opaque to me. Garcia mentions it here as if it's a relatively recent innovation. He mentions The Movie and also the company's involvement with what would become, in 1983 (!) Hells Angels Forever [imdb].

6. The First Pirates' Ball, JGMS, 9/5/73, S.S. Bay Belle, NYC Harbor

In that connection, he paints a great picture of the first Pirates' Ball show (for the second, see my post on 9/15/76), September 5, 1973 (@0540). There was one

time that Merl and I and Bill Kreutzmann and John Kahn played for the Hells Angels, for one of their parties, where they rented sort of a ferry boat … the kind that go around Manhattan, y'know? They rented a ferry boat and they had this blowout for all these Hells Angels. They came from all over the United States, plus all kinds of New York weirdos and stuff like that. We played on this boat, on the top deck of the boat, underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, and went around the island a few times. The Jolly Roger was flying, y'know? And we played out by the Statue of Liberty with all these crazy Hells Angels and all this stuff. And they were filming it from all over, from perspective points like the tops of buildings, in New York, looking down those long canyons, and you could see this ferry boat go by with the Jolly Roger and that kind of stuff. There's a lot of really … there's a lot of arresting … striking visual stuff in the movie.
7. Hiatus

"That's part of the reason we stopped performing, was an effort to pursue completely new ideas and shake loose the past, in terms of musical … stuff" (@0742, discussing the "Blues For Allah" stuff they're going to play in just a few minutes)

Anyway, loved this interview. Not sure if it has been transcribed before, but, anyway, here it is.



Jerry Garcia Interview
Kezar Stadium
San Francisco, CA
March 23, 1975
10 minute shnid-126296




0003 interviewer I'm with JG in his dressing room. Jerry Garcia and Friends. Been a long time. Good to see you.

0016 JG mighty nice to be here. on the radio.

0018 interviewer You're an incredible guy, because with all the history of the GD and the all the musical avenues that the Dead has explored, you also work with Merl Saunders and the bluegrass thing OAITW… do you find that that is what you need to keep stretching musically?

0044 Well it’s just that I have a lot of different interests, and any one thing might not take up … If I have space … for example, when the Grateful Dead were touring, there would be times when we would be on the road for two weeks, three weeks, and then off the road for two or three weeks. During that two or three week interim period, I’d usually want to play some, y’know, play music somehow. And, obviously the Grateful Dead can’t go out and play in clubs, without causing some sort of amazing commotion … and so I started taking up my time about four or five years ago jamming, just jamming, on Monday nights at the Matrix, and started playing with Howard Wales and them, and later Merl, and John Kahn played bass and stuff like that. But it started to be a more or less regular thing, and I just got into feeling that, ‘yeah, when I’m not workin’, if I’m not on the road or touring or something like that, there’s still a lot of room for me to play and cha … and reach, y’know, out to a, … in a learning sort of situation and all that. [0146] Bluegrass music is something that’s a little different. It’s something I’ve always loved. And mainly with bluegrass music, you sort of have to wait for an opportunity to present itself, where there are musicians around that understand the music and play it really well .. and Old And In The Way was a result of that sort of coincidence, where suddenly there was [sic] three or four of us around who knew the music and who enjoyed playin’ it. So we started loosely, just getting together and playing for fun, and then got to be more serious about it as time went on. But really those things sort of happen accidentally in a way. [JGMF: fate music] … #workaholism, #why, #bluegrass, #OAITW,

0221 does that detract from the GD at all?

0222 No, I don’t think so. I think it adds to it, just in terms of that each thing stays fresh if you’re not doin’ it all the time. You come back to it with new ideas and new influences and stuff like that. [JGMF: Croz – cross-fertilization].

0235 Q one of the amazing things about you and with the Dead is for all the popularity … stayed close to what you came from …

0252 That's the best part of what we ever did. That was the best part. Relating to the people and relating to each other on a friendly basis. And closely, and in a family sort of way, it's more rewarding to approach anything that way than it is to do it for success reasons or that sort of thing. It just is better. It feels better. And I think it produces better music, too.

0325 commercial success of the GD

0333 It never really happened, in terms of commercial success or making a fortune or anything like that. We have never been that. Our effort has always been to plough back the proceeds from our gigs back into expanding the quality level the equipment and that sort of thing. In an effort to improve what we're doing in terms of the effort and the money that we've made, rather than distribute it to individual wealth and that sort of thing. That's just been … our focus has been that way all along. There's no … That seems to work out pretty well. It also seems to be most fair, in the sense that fans … people who are coming to hear our music are, in a way, promoting and paying for –supporting—the thing of making it better. Which I think is f … is a good, reciprocal .. y'know.

0428 Q well you've blazed into territory that most musicians fear to tread too, when you started your own record company. [0432 Garcia laughs "yeah!"] 0434 let me ask you now, how, in retrospect, do you think that was a good idea? [JGMF note that the record companies are already kaput, the way he asks this. They're no longer in the middle of it, they can look at it in retrospect, in the rearview mirror.]

0427 Well, yeah. I think so. Certainly in our heads I think it was a good idea. It hasn't been the world's most outrageously successful endeavor, but that's not the focus, either. Again, that hasn't been the focus. Now that we're in the midst of a bone-crushing economic slump, and all the rest of that stuff, our, we're scuffling just like everybody else is, basically. We're determined, pretty much. We're also expanding, insanely enough, in the face of catastrophe, so to speak. Now we're into movies … #The Movie, #record companies,

0510 Q oh really?

0511 Yeah. We have a film company now that has two films. One of them is a film about the Hells Angels, the New York City chapter of the Hells Angels, that's being done by a guy named Leon Gast in New York City. [sarcastically?] It's a very fine movie. And the Grateful Dead film. We filmed our last five nights at Winterland there. #The Movie, #Hells Angels, #movies

0532 Q tell me about the Angels, you said it was a very funny movie.

0535 Yeah, it's good … I can't tell you very much about it. They've got millions of feet. But one notable episode was a time that Merl and I and Bill Kreutzmann and John Kahn played for the Hells Angels, for one of their parties, where they rented sort of a ferry boat … the kind that go around Manhattan, y'know? They rented a ferry boat and they had this blow out for all these Hells Angels. They came from all over the United States, plus all kinds of New York weirdos and stuff like that. We played on this boat, on the top deck of the boat, underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, and went around the island a few times. The Jolly Roger was flying, y'know? And we played out by the Statue of Liberty with all these crazy Hells Angels and all this stuff. And they were filming it from all over, from perspective points like the tops of buildings, in New York, looking down those long canyons, and you could see this ferry boat go by with the Jolly Roger and that kind of stuff. There's a lot of really … there's a lot of arresting … striking visual stuff in the movie. I don't know how it's going now. They're editing it, cutting it now, but everything I've seen, the brushes [?rushes?] are amazing. #1973, #S.S. Bay Belle, New York City Harbor, New York, NY

0650 Q This is something that'll be in general distribution?

0653 It'll be in general distribution, I think.

0656 Q That's still in the 'I think' stage.

0657 Oh, yeah. [laughs] Everything is in the 'I think' stage. [big laugh]

0659 Q Jerry tell me about the musicians you're going to play with today. All we know is that it's Jerry Garcia and Friends.

0706 Well it's the GD, really, an expanded version of the GD. It's the GD sort of like the old Grateful Dead: two drummers, Mickey and Bill are playin'; Bobby Weir, me and Phil, and Keith. So that's the nucleus Grateful Dead. And then Merl Saunders is playin' and Ned Lagin [note soft g], who's the guy that Phil's been working with a lot. So, three keyboards, and David Crosby is sitting in, too, on rhythm guitar. So … [Interviewer, interested: David Crosby.] Yeah, right. So we've got a nine-piece band: three guitars, three keyboards, two drums and bass. #Ned Lagin, #David Crosby, #Merl Saunders

0740 interviewer laughing "Oh, that's a symphony orchestra!"

0742 Almost! You know, we've got a thing worked out more or less specially for this … we've got something that we haven't done before. We won't play our old material or any of that. It's a … we're approaching this freshly. That's part of the reason we stopped performing, was an effort to pursue completely new ideas and shake loose the past, in terms of musical … stuff. It'll be interesting. I can't wait to see how it turns out. #hiatus

Q 0809 have you sung with David before?

0810 Uh, yeah. We've rehearsed a little. Actually, this thing will only have a little bit of vocal. It'll be more an instrumental piece. It has a little bit of vocal in it. And then maybe we'll do some song if the time allows. But it's piece just designed to cover the amount of time we're allotted on the program. It'll be a good flash for us all.

0830 interviewer, aw, that sounds great. Jerry, thanks so much for talking with us. Oh before we end, I wanted to ask you a little SNACK Benefit. There's been some recent confusion. [JG There sure has] You got any thoughts on that?

0850 Well, I don't know … I could say that those blundering fools in City Hall have put us all through a lot of changes for no good reason, but the way I understand it is that the budget is skimpy regardless, even if they have discovered an extra couple of million dollars, that probably won't stretch very far knowing that mismanagement is rife, y'know. My reasons for getting into it, one of the reasons I agreed to do it, was just because I'm from here, I went to school in San Francisco, and … not that I could say that I greatly benefited from the sports programs [interviewer laughs], or anything like that, but I'm sort of more interested in other kinds of extracurricular things that this money would also have to do with, the music stuff and that sort of thing. #benefits

0940 Interviewer: you talk about mismanagement, man, there hasn't been a rock band in the world that set aside $2.1 million

0946 That's for sure. We're penny pinchin' fools when it comes to that.

Thanks -9:53 %

5 comments:

  1. If the interview was before the SNACK show, then the radio station was likely KIOI (K101-fm). It is possible that the interviewer was head dj James Gabbert, who was one of the voice-over djs during the broadcast. Bay Areans of a certain age may recall Gabbert from a few years later as the owner and late night host of UHF Channel 20, which he renamed KOFY ("you've got KOFY on your TV").

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  2. Thanks for the transcription! It would've taken me a while to get to it.
    The interviewer says it was done in Garcia's dressing room the day of the show, and there seems no reason to dispute that. Note that Garcia still expects Crosby to participate.

    It's also great to see Garcia talking openly about the Dead's change in direction:
    "We've got a thing worked out more or less specially for this … we've got something that we haven't done before. We won't play our old material or any of that... We're approaching this freshly. That's part of the reason we stopped performing, was an effort to pursue completely new ideas and shake loose the past... It'll be interesting. I can't wait to see how it turns out."

    Unfortunately, this particular new direction didn't survive '75! I wish the Dead had been able to play a few more stealth "Jerry & Friends" shows that year, as they were apparently planning to (they strongly hinted at it in the deadhead newsletters).

    By the way, I don't see the question about whether starting the record company was a good idea "in retrospect" as indicating that the company was already perceived as finished. I read the meaning more as, 'now that you've been running the company for a while, do you still think it was a good idea?' I don't think there was any public indication yet that the company was already in trouble.
    In any case, Garcia certainly answers in terms of the company being an ongoing thing: "Now that we're in the midst of a bone-crushing economic slump...we're scuffling just like everybody else is, basically. We're determined, pretty much. We're also expanding, insanely enough, in the face of catastrophe, so to speak."

    The film company, I think was a very short-lived idea. The Dead film took two more years to finish; the Hell's Angels film went into a long limbo; and the Dead's finances vanished. It probably didn't take long for Garcia to realize that his dream of having a film company was not going to happen. (Or maybe it was one of Rakow's flights of fancy? Rakow was also very tied-up in the Hell's Angels film.)

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  3. My notes say the interviewer at Kezar was James Cameron.

    https://archive.org/details/gd1975-03-23.sbd.snack.18525.flac16

    http://thesteamengine.net/home/download-jerry-garcia-friends-1975-03-23-kezar-stadium-san-f.html

    http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2010/12/jerry-garcia-interview-links.html

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  4. > underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, and went around the island a few times.

    the boat left the dock near the staten island ferry at the southern tip of manhattan, proceeded up the hudson river and circled under the george washington bridge. there was a small crowd - maybe 50 people? - but i am not sure how much they heard or how well, considering that the boat went around and around.

    I-) ihor

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  5. I'd agree with LIA about the interpretation of the question about the record company. I don't think he's saying, and Garcia is agreeing, that the record companies are kaput. What I think he means by "in retrospect" is the decision to start the companies rather than sign again with a major label. That is quite obviously in retrospect. From my discussions with Lagin it seems like the serious financial problems of the record companies didn't become evident until a little later. Jerry intimates that they're not doing great but at this point I think he, and the other band members, still hopes to make it work. I think the sale of the distribution rights to UA is the key sign of major issues and that didn't go until June 1 so they still have a month or so after SNACK to plausibly realize they needed help and to negotiate the deal with UA.

    And my thanks as well for transcribing this! Very nice to have.

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