The Grateful Dead Revisited : A 1976 Interview with Jerry Garcia
With the countdown on to this weekend’s Furthur Festival we thought it was a fitting moment to revisit this Jerry Garcia interview from April 1976, originally published just over a decade later when Relix celebrated its 15th anniversary in 1989.
Just think of the possibilities…Imagine H.G. Wells’ most celebrated vision—the time machine—as accessible as a Hertz Rent-a-Car. Where would you go? And when??
For the millions of rock fans who have seen the Grateful Dead perform live, that decision would be made with very little deliberation. Quicker than you could say “Casey Jones,” the controls would be set for the Fillmore West in San Francisco.
The year? 1967, since on any given night at Bill Graham’s storied Bay Area auditorium, there was the distinct likelihood of witnessing the hall’s three “house bands”—the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Jefferson Airplane, all sharing the same bill and presenting their new material to a small but fanatical audience.
As most music fans know, other San Francisco groups who eventually used the same Fillmore stage as their springboard to national prominence include The Doors, Santana, Moby Grape, Country Joe and the Fish and Big Brother and the Holding Company, which featured a transplanted Texas tornado of a blues singer named Janis Joplin. The combined notoriety that each of these acts achieved marked San Francisco as arguably the most fertile spawning ground for rock and roll of any city in the U.S.
Looking back from a 1988 vantage point, those Fillmore performances will never be forgotten by those lucky enough to have witnessed them; the fact that the passage of time has left them behind in another dimension (unfortunately H.G. was a novelist rather than an inventor) makes them seem magical.
But, for the Grateful Dead, it’s the other way around. Those are the magical times. Twenty-two years after the release of their debut album the Dead are more popular than ever. Their latest album, In The Dark, shocked everyone in the music business (and probably the band themselves) by becoming their largest-selling record ever. A long, strange trip? They couldn’t even have imagined how long or strange it would be.
In 1974, I was the music critic for the Philadelphia Bulletin newspaper. Being a regular writer for a major-city daily newspaper at the age of twenty-four was rewarding and gave a certain satisfaction to a young rock fan’s life. Getting paid to see and interview bands like the Grateful Dead, was, at times, so much fun, it almost seemed illegal. But someone had to do it, so…
Anyway, that summer of ’74 the Grateful Dead were booked for two nights at Philadelphia’s Civic Center. My job was to do a preview story in the Sunday Bulletin on the band. Their publicist approved an interview with Bob Weir (Jerry Garcia, I was informed, “wasn’t talking to the press”), and provided me with ticket to see a show in Providence, Rhode Island, a couple of weeks before Philadelphia, and off I went.
The interview with Bob Weir before the concert was terrific. Weir, as most people know, is a friendly, witty man and gave me more than I needed for the story.
The show that night, at the Providence Civic Center, was a five hour extravaganza, leaving everyone, band and audience alike, drained and exhausted but in a state of euphoria. A few minutes after the last encore, I noticed Jerry Garcia, wearing a dark green t-shirt, Wranglers and Acme boots, leaning against a wall backstage, winding down. I went over to say hello and asked him about a new (at the time) song from Mars Hotel they had closed the show with.
Spotting the tape-recorder I was carrying, he said “I’m not doing interviews this year,” in the same tone of voice he might use to order an after-dinner wine. “I hate all my records,” he added as an afterthought. “The Grateful Dead don’t make good records.”
Was he satisfied with the performance they had just given?
“If I was ever satisfied,” he added totally seriously, “I’d quit playing.”
Two years later, in a New York hotel room, on appropriately April Fool’s Day, 1976 (he has always appreciated a good joke), Jerry Garcia has agreed to an in-depth interview. Following two years of low Grateful Dead activity (which were filled with rumors of retirement), Garcia is in town with a solo band featuring John Kahn, Ron Tutt and Keith and Donna Godchaux. Being into gadgets, he inspects with interest, a new tape recorder I had just bought, and we begin…
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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