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 “huge” bands―the Stones, the Who―have 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. What’s the point? Well, sure, they flare all the time. But it never amounts to anything.
How do you keep that in check?
I don’t think we could put up with anybody else to tell you the truth! It’s gone past family, it’s gone past blood. We’ve been together and so intimate for so long that it’s beyond any other kind of relationship. There’s just nothing that quite compares to it. It’s 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. It’s always something. The press is always looking for a handle other than what it is that you do. If it wasn’t drugs―it used to be stuff like the Hell’s Angels. They’ve always had some way to characterize us that didn’t have anything to do with our playing. They’ve always done it, so there’s no reason to imagine that it would stop now, or that they would suddenly become fair-minded out of the clear blue sky. But that’s 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 I’m sure that’ll disappear. It comes and goes in waves. Sometimes it’s fashionable to be a Grateful Dead basher for a couple of years, but we’ve seen this stuff come and go several times already. It seems to be that there’s times when the press approves of us and times when they don’t. 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 we’re ready for almost anything, unless it’s something completely unexpected but we’re also ready for that. That’s what we’re 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 it’d have to be probably―I’m starting to get tired of [some of] the Dylan tunes, but I still love ‘em. I think―" Minglewood Blues" probably. We’ve 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, “Well, I’ gonna rewrite the words on this or rewrite the words on that” or something like that but he never does.
Out of Bob’s 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 “Estimated Prophet.” I think that’s a wonderful tune. He’s 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 ‘90s?
Well, I hope we get through them the way we did the ‘80s. Or maybe better.