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Friday, January 08, 2016

Reading Notes: Goodman 1989

Goodman, Fred. 1989. Jerry Garcia: The Rolling Stone Interview. Rolling Stone no. 566 (November 30, 1989): 66-68, 73-74, 118

Garcia says he has “vacillated furiously” over the years as to whether he wanted to stay with the Dead or not (Goodman 1989, 68).

“The most cogent example of how my life is changing is that when the GD wasn’t working, I used to go play in bars. Low profile, not many people were interested. Now this has escalated along with everything else. And the stress level has skyrocketed” (Goodman 1989, 68). JGMF: This is one way of understanding the arc of Garcia’s solo career. Garcia had the Midas Touch, and when even his bar band started playing Madison Square Garden (11/15/91), the bullshit quotient is moving into the red. That said, I am coming around to the idea that maybe it wasn't as bad as all that, that it remained a refuge until the end.

Here he advocates drug legalization. “Accept the reality that people do want to change their consciousness, and make an effort to make safer, healthier drugs. When you take the greed out of it, all of the damage starts to fall away” (Goodman 1989, 68)

Says of JA “they’re all so amazingly argumentative”, notes that “sometimes it’s the chemistry that makes you fight and that makes the music good” (Goodman 1989, 68). Could be said about the GD.

“I can call up Kantner any time. And certainly Grace [Slick] was very helpful when I was going through my drug trips” (Goodman 1989, 68). Also mentions how much he loves Pete Townshend.

“What the Acid Test really was was formlessness. It’s like the study of chaos. It may be that you have to destroy forms or ignore them in order to see other levels of organization” (Goodman 1989, 73).

#politics Garcia didn’t vote. “choosing for the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil” (Goodman 1989, 73).

Visual art: “I think of notes as objects that have perspective. They have the front part of them and the back part of them, the attack and the release. To me, it’s very visual. If I had the time, I would illustrate all my solos. I could do it – I have seen them that way (Goodman 1989, 74).

“The members of the GD really have a complex relationship. At this point it’s gone beyond even blood. The GD has been the most intimate kind of relationship I’ve ever experienced” (Goodman 1989, 74).

“I spent a good long time trying a drug world that was pretty closed” (Goodman 1989, 74).

Q: why did that happen? “It’s just wear and tear more than anything else. It’s kind of like I needed a rest. … I stopped because I care more about the GD than I do about myself, ultimately” (Goodman 1989, 74).

"The Grateful Dead has become the focus of all of our lives, even though we have families and children. The GD - that's the center" (Garcia ca. October 1989, in Goodman 1989, 74).

Why did you end up with such a bad drug problem? “Self-indulgence, pretty much. I mean, I liked it too much, and the more you like it, the more it likes you, and pretty soon that’s just about all there is. I’m glad I’m not involved in it anymore. … But I haven’t come to any conclusions about drugs at all on any level. I don’t think I’ve gained any particular insights, but I do know that I’ve always basically been an addictive personality. That’s just who I am. And so, for me, it’s one of those things I always have to watch out for” (Goodman 1989, 74).

Good discussion of Neal Cassady over pp. 74, 118. “He blew my mind hundreds and thousands of times” (Goodman 1989, 118).

About the kids coming to shows: “Grateful Dead stories are their drug stories, or war stories. It’s an adventure you can still have in America, just like Neal on the road. You can’t hop the freights anymore, but you can chase the Grateful Dead around. You can have all your tires blow out in some weird town in the Midwest, and you can get hell from strangers. You can have something that lasts throughout your life as adventures, the times you took chances. I think that’s essential in anybody’s life, and it’s harder and harder to do in America. If we’re providing some margin of that possibility, then that’s great. That’s a nice thing to do” (Goodman 1989, 74).


  1. “The most cogent example of how my life is changing is that when the GD wasn’t working, I used to go play in bars. Low profile, not many people were interested. Now this has escalated along with everything else. And the stress level has skyrocketed” (Goodman 1989, 68).

    That has to be the quote that says it all. Jerry was trapped in his own fame and there was no escaping the stress, it just kept building and building.

    He avoided the decision to take another year off with the Dead in the 80's or 90's (allright he always insisted he was not the leader but when did they ever go against his expressed opinion) because of the number of his friends who relied on Dead tours for their living and he could see the same thing developing, although on a smaller scale, with the JGB. All he wanted to do was play.

    The way he named his various early side projects anything but the "Jerry Garcia something or other" for so long was comparable with Eric Clapton's wish to escape his own personality cult and just play as a sideman with Delaney & Bonnie, then "borrow" their guys to play as "Derek & The Dominos".

    The price of unwanted fame!

    It makes me wonder how things would have panned out if Jerry had enjoyed his fame. Maybe Tutt would only have had to move from one casino to another in Vegas between Elvis and Jerry sets.

    1. What Gans and a co-author called "The Burden of Being Jerry Garcia".

  2. Garcia told McNally that he would've been just as happy playing in a little Mission Street bar as being with the Dead: "Could have lived my whole life there and been perfectly happy."

    So that was one side of him, but it wasn't the whole Garcia. He also wanted to be accessible and popular - he said several times he didn't want to just play for a small bunch of freaks, but wanted to appeal to a larger audience, and the Dead's lurch to commercial success was in many ways Garcia's doing.
    Garcia's ambition is always discounted, in part because he would never admit it himself. He wasn't in two bands that played Madison Square Garden by accident, or simply because audience pressure forced him into it. His ambivalent response to that is well-known, but not the full story.


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