The Grateful Dead Revisited : A 1976 Interview with Jerry Garcia
Who are the last few people you’ve done sessions for?
I did a whole spasm of local ones, like all those Merl Saunders ( Live At Keystone, Fire Up ) records. Tom Fogerty’s records. And the Airplane sessions. Stuff like that. I used to do more than I do now.
Kingfish and your band are both on similar—and sometimes identical—tours at the moments and sometimes even cross paths, but you never share a bill. Are the two bands’ identities so different that it would hinder playing together?
Well, it’s just that neither one of us wants to cash in on the Grateful Dead notoriety. And also the people that are in our respective bands have identities of their own to support. So rather than get everybody under the big Grateful Dead umbrella, it’s better if everybody can have their own little shot. Because, for example, it would be possible for Kingfish to go out and work without Weir. They’re a band without him as well as a band with him. There are those kinds of considerations, because when we start working on Grateful Dead stuff, which we’ll start doing pretty soon, those bands will have their own survival problems. Not so much my band, because Ron (Tutt) works with Elvis. John (Kahn) does studio stuff and he’s always got stuff going on.
Are both you and Kingfish ending up your tours at about the same time?
Yeah. The Grateful Dead has to start rehearsing.
Are you going to do a big summer tour like everybody else?
We’re going to approach it differently. We’re going to try and do small places. We’re going to do theaters. We’re not going to do any barns.
Why, at this point have the Grateful Dead decided to get back together?
We’re horny to play. We all miss Grateful Dead music. We want to be the Grateful Dead some more.
What kind of material will you be doing?
Probably some old stuff but more new stuff, and I think probably the biggest change will be that we have Mickey back in the band.
When you look back on your records—you still probably maintain that you hate all your records…
I don’t listen to ‘em. I can’t (laughs).
Are there any that you hate less than the others?
Well, I always like the one we’re working on, or the one that we’ve just finished. That’s the one I feel closest to. But after that, I have to disqualify myself. I can’t judge them against anything but an emotional situation that I’m in, in relation to the Grateful Dead. Either they recall to me what was going on at the time we recorded or something else. It’s more personal than anything else.
When you work on songs, can you tell which ones maybe become classics with your audience, like “Sugar Magnolia” or “Truckin’?”
Uh…not really. I can’t. ‘Cause often, the ones that get me don’t get anybody but me (laughs).
Which ones have gotten you that haven’t gotten many other people?
Well I don’t know, but there are some songs that I really loved…like I really loved “Row Jimmy Row.” That was one of my favorite songs of ones that I’ve written. I loved it. Nobody else really liked it very much—we always did it—but nobody liked it very much, at least in the same way I did.
“U.S. Blues” got real popular in the summer of ’74 and became a big number for your live shows…
Well that kind of figured to me. Some of ‘em, you can say, “Well, this’ll at least be hot, if nothing else.”
I like “Scarlet Begonias” a lot.
Yeah, that’s another song too. That’s a song I like. “Ship Of Fools” is a song I like an awful lot. But my relationship to them changes. Sometimes I really like a song after I’ve written it and I don’t like it at all a year later. And some of them, I’m sort of indifferent to, but we perform it and find they have a real long life. For me to sing a song, I really have to feel some relationship to it. I can’t just bullshit about it. Otherwise, it’s just empty and it’s no fun. There has to be something about it that I can relate to. Not even in a literal sense or a sense of content, but more a sense of sympathy with the singer of the song. It’s a hard relationship to describe, but some songs have a real long life and you can sing them honestly for a long period of time—years and years—and others last just a while and you don’t feel like you can sing them anymore.
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