Built To Last: A Conversation with Jerry Garcia
During the Shoreline shows, I thought I noticed some onstage tension between you and Bob, and it made me realize that all of the other so-called âhugeâ bandsâthe Stones, the Whoâhave been forced apart at one time or another by a monumental rift. How has the Dead managed to avoid that? Do tempers ever flare?
Nah. Whatâs the point? Well, sure, they flare all the time. But it never amounts to anything.
How do you keep that in check?
I donât think we could put up with anybody else to tell you the truth! Itâs gone past family, itâs gone past blood. Weâve been together and so intimate for so long that itâs beyond any other kind of relationship. Thereâs just nothing that quite compares to it. Itâs who we are, really.
Does it bother you that sometimes in the straight press, the element of drugs at the shows sometimes overshadows the music?
No. Itâs always something. The press is always looking for a handle other than what it is that you do. If it wasnât drugsâit used to be stuff like the Hellâs Angels. Theyâve always had some way to characterize us that didnât have anything to do with our playing. Theyâve always done it, so thereâs no reason to imagine that it would stop now, or that they would suddenly become fair-minded out of the clear blue sky. But thatâs the nature of news. You look do look for other handles on stuff.
Do you think the band is getting more respect now as opposed to ten or 15 years ago?
Yeah, in a way. On some levels, yeah, but Iâm sure thatâll disappear. It comes and goes in waves. Sometimes itâs fashionable to be a Grateful Dead basher for a couple of years, but weâve seen this stuff come and go several times already. It seems to be that thereâs times when the press approves of us and times when they donât. It kind of goes like that.
Are you concerned at all that Built To Last could create a whole new wave of Deadmania?
I think weâre ready for almost anything, unless itâs something completely unexpected but weâre also ready for that. Thatâs what weâre in it for, really.
If you had to pick a song that the band currently performs that you could take or leave, what would it be?
That I could take or leave? You mean preferably leave?
You mean a song that I really am tired of? I would say itâd have to be probablyâIâm starting to get tired of [some of] the Dylan tunes, but I still love âem. I thinkâ" Minglewood Blues" probably. Weâve done that more than is fair and right, you know? I try to get Bob to start doing more of his regular tunes from the past. And he keeps saying, âWell, Iâ gonna rewrite the words on this or rewrite the words on thatâ or something like that but he never does.
Out of Bobâs songs, are there any that leap to mind as tunes you really enjoy playing?
Most of his tunes are at least challenging to play. I love âEstimated Prophet.â I think thatâs a wonderful tune. Heâs really a truly interesting songwriter. Weir is, and his songs are really interesting too.
Do you have any final comments about the Grateful Dead in the â90s?
Well, I hope we get through them the way we did the â80s. Or maybe better.