Deadspin looks at Bill Kreutzmann’s Deal, David Browne’s So Many Roads, and our This Is All a Dream We Dreamed
Archive for the ‘“Grateful Dead”’ Category
Here is an execerpt from This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead, by Blair Jackson and David Gans. You can order a signed copy here.
BOB MATTHEWS: After the experience of Aoxomoxoa — so much time, so much loss of direction, so many hands involved — on Workingman’s Dead we went into the studio first and spent a couple of days rehearsing all the tunes and recording them on 2-track. “Before we even start, let’s have a concept of what the end product is going to feel like.” We learned from Sgt Pepper’s [Lonely Hearts Club Band] that every album had a beginning of side one and an end of side one that segued mentally into the beginning of side two and out through the end of side two.
I gave copies of the proposed album sequence on cassette to each of the band members, and they went back to the rehearsal studio in Point Reyes and practiced with that concept in mind. So when they came into the studio, there was a vision in everybody’s mind about the continuity and the emotional feel of this project, ending up with the next to last one being one of my favorites, “Black Peter.”
BETTY CANTOR-JACKSON: Bob would handle the board most of the time, and I would do all the setup, handle the room, set up all the microphones, and I would run the machines. I got to do my first solo mixing on it, and it was the first record I got to master by myself.
BOB MATTHEWS: When I delivered the Workingman’s Dead reference lacquers to Joe Smith at Warner Bros., he gave me a hug and said, “I can hear the vocals!” He was also very pleased with the fact that we did the whole album in less than twenty-eight studio days, delivered. And he loved it.
ROCK SCULLY: That was a different Grateful Dead, really, from what it had been before. It showed how tight they were getting with Crosby and Stills, and Jerry playing pedal steel and working in the same studio as them [Wally Heider’s in San Francisco]. [Graham] Nash is the one who brought in that English thing of stacking vocals — building out the harmonies on top of each other and keeping the songs short and simple. That’s what Hunter was writing and it translated great to that. Jerry liked it simple, and he liked that presentation. He liked singing together, those harmonies.
ROBERT HUNTER: It’s what Garcia and I wanted to do. It gets back to our folk roots. It’s what the first album was supposed to be, actually. A lot of the songs on that are really just folk tunes rocked up. “Viola Lee,” “Cold Rain and Snow” – those are folk songs. Garcia and I knew we could write better songs than that; we knew that idiom cold. It shocked the public [when we turned in that direction], but they were just songs to us.
JERRY GARCIA: We didn’t mean for people to start taking a lot of cocaine when we put out [“Casey Jones”]. It’s clearly an anti-coke song. The words aren’t light, good-time words — it’s just the feeling of it. We were manipulating a couple of things consciously when we put that song together. First of all, there’s a whole tradition of cocaine songs, there’s a tradition of train songs, and there’s a tradition of Casey Jones songs. And we’ve been doing a thing, ever since Aoxomoxoa, of building on a tradition that’s already there. Like “Dupree’s Diamond Blues.”
BOB WEIR (1970): You try to make an album as good as you can and hope it will be salable. Workingman’s Dead came out with ten cuts on it as opposed to three or four [like on Live Dead].
[In the late sixties] we got into more extended improvisational stuff. Then, after a couple of years of that, we found sort of a happy medium, where we could do both extended improvisational stuff and songs. From a record company standpoint and the way the media’s set up these days, it’s easier to sell songs than it is to sell improvisational long pieces. That’s one of the restrictions of the art of making a record [that] encompasses the music, how long the piece is going to be, how appealing and how accessible it is to the audience. By accessible I mean easily understood. As opposed to John Coltrane, who played some dynamite music — I mean some really fantastic music — but he was never any superstar. And he had not much of an audience, because not many people could understand what he was playing. It bugs you if you are playing music the best you can play it and not many people are listening. And just because you’re a performer, a performer wants people to listen. Generally, you might consider changing your material or finding a new sort of material that more people will be interested in listening to and at the same time you will be interested in playing it. That’s kind of where we settled down, at least with Workingman’s Dead.
[Workingman’s Dead] was a sudden change for the record-buying public, but it was a gradual change for us, because over the period of months before that, inasmuch as we’ve been hanging out with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, particularly, and listening to them sing together, and just blown out by the fact that they really can sing together; and we began to realize that we had been neglecting our own vocal presentation for instrumental presentation. And so we started working on our vocal arrangements, and choral arrangements. As it turned out, the next record we did had a lot of that on it. And it represented a marked change from the way we had sounded in the past, though none of us had really given it any thought. We were just going straight ahead and doing what we’d been doing. It was a lot of fun to make that record. It happened very quickly, and there was a spontaneity about that record that was just beautiful.
An “outtake” from This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead by Blair Jackson and David Gans, published November 10, 2015 by Flatiron Books. (You can order a signed copy here.)
Blair and I turned in a manuscript that was much, much longer than the publisher expected. Bob Miller, our editor, was very kind about it, and we didn’t have to cut too much out of the final text. Here is one of the “codas” that we had to drop.
Ka-ching! The Grateful Dead’s Modern Merch
Peter McQuaid was hired to be Director of Merchandising (and eventually CEO) just as the Dead’s popularity was peaking in the late 1980s.
Peter McQuaid: I think it was 1988 that the Grateful Dead parted with Winterland [Productions], which had been their merchandising licensee for a long time, and went with a company back East called Brockum. That deal didn’t end up being as successful as the band wanted it to be, primarily because they didn’t relate to one another. They started this process of trying to figure out what they wanted to do, which coincided with the band having become so big [post-“Touch of Grey’]. They felt, “We have to control this.” One of the things they wanted to do was re-examine Grateful Dead Records and Grateful Dead Merchandising to see if they should be reined in — not so much to turn them into big businesses, but to put away the issues that had to do with third parties that were involved with this stuff.
They interviewed a bunch of people, and I got the job [to help bring the merchandising operation in-house]. It was like a two-month process with five or six interviews. The final interview I had was with Garcia and Billy, and that was strange dynamic. Billy was like a cut-to-the-chase kind of guy: “Okay, what’s the first thing you’d do if you get this job?” I think he wanted to hear, “I’m going to fire a bunch of these people because they’re not doing anything.” I said, “I really don’t know. I have no idea.” And he stopped and said, “That’s a pretty good answer.” I said, “I’d go up there and figure it out.” Garcia was like, “Well, man, we don’t really need to do anything up there, except that we’d like to be able to control the thing and make sure that what’s happening is cool.”
But there was nothing about “We want to bring in X amount from merchandising.” At the time, they were bringing in fifty or sixty million bucks a year just in tour revenue. I was very fortunate: I came along when they needed to make a change, to maintain some respectability and to avoid being embarrassed or displeased with what was going on with our name. It was a very unusual situation for someone who was business-minded like me to come into. I didn’t feel any pressure from them at all to make a lot of money.
I was hired as the Director of Merchandising, which made me the co-head of Grateful Dead Merchandising along with Kidd [Candelario]. Kidd and Patty Harris had put together this effort to revive Grateful Dead Records and reissue the albums from the United Artists era, and interface with Brockum. Kidd was primarily a roadie, of course, and he was a good guy to have out there to interface with the scene in the parking lot, which he did.
[GDM] was not profitable; the overhead was pretty darn high. There were all these people working there and no steady engine to drive the business. It was there to sell stuff that Brockum had made, or before that, Winterland. Due to the nature of the deals with those companies, the profit margins were not as good as the should have been. It was viewed as an extension of the Grateful Dead spirit, but it just wasn’t efficient — not for lack of trying, but because the underlying deals having to do with record distribution and merchandising couldn’t be competitive with “real” businesses.
It hit me that it was really important for the fans to feel like they were dealing with the Grateful Dead, and not Winterland or Brockum, and that they wanted to support this and that’s where they would go to buy their stuff. We started doing the Grateful Dead Almanac [a beautifully designed newsletter for Dead products that started in 1993 with Gary Lambert as editor]. We did it in desktop [publishing], which was still kind of new at that time, and we were able to send it out to the mailing list three or four times a year. It devoted space to news about the band, and maybe a report on the Rex Foundation, and a comic strip by Tim Truman, and it integrated some of the stuff that was around when St. Dilbert was in the mailings [in the original “Dead Heads” newsletter from the early ’70s].
The Almanac was a big hit out of the gate. The fact that we could do it so quickly and it looked so good and could be competitive with a real professional thing — but was our own — really made a difference to the Deadheads; they appreciated it. In those days, before online commerce, people would order from 1-800-CAL-DEAD; after we mailed the first Almanac it got so busy that AT&T called me to say, “We’re sorry, but there must be something wrong with the activity we’re seeing on your lines. You’re getting twelve thousand, five hundred orders a day.” It was really cool.
When I got there, they had put out One from the Vault and Two from the Vault [archival releases from multitrack tapes, spearheaded by Dan Healy]. They sold about a hundred and fifty thousand copies of each of those; it was pretty impressive. But in the first week I was there I was informed, not by the band, but others: “That’s it. There’s going to be no more music coming out of the vault. That stuff isn’t release-quality; we can’t sell that stuff. Dan Healy found the two shows that were worth doing.”
Around that time, though, there were a couple of campaigns around Dick Latvala to start putting out what became Dick’s Picks. Kidd and Dick were tight, and David Gans and Gary Lambert were also getting in Phil’s ear about putting out some of the vault music. Dick and Kidd would talk about it with the band, and then they were coming to me and saying, “You’re the new guy. You’re supposed to be running this thing, so we’ve got to put out this music.” I said, “It’s my understanding that we’re not going to do that.”
Right around this time, though, I became aware of all the bootleg CDs that were starting to show up, especially from Italy. So Kidd or Dick brought in this huge box of probably twenty or thirty multi-disc bootleg sets that had come from Italy. I took them all to a band meeting and I put them on the table; the [band] guys were picking them up and tossing them back and kind of grumbling. I explained that they were CDs from their concerts. I said, “It’s my job to let you know what’s going on with your stuff. This is getting big, and one good way to deal with it is to do something better to compete.” Within about twenty minutes, they said, “Okay, do it.” Dick was in the meeting — I think it was the only board meeting he ever came to — and he was so giddy he jumped up and ran out of the room. “My prayers have been answered!” He was the happiest man in the universe. [Laughs] And that was the start of Dick’s Picks.
I think Dick’s Picks 1 sold about ninety thousand copies and Dick’s Picks 2 around seventy-five thousand, all through mail order. They were big successes, and then, over time, we’d give Arista [which got a small cut for each set sold in exchange for permission to release non-Arista product by mail order], say, Dick’s Picks 1 through 6, and 7 through 12, and they’d put them in the stores for a limited time only and they were big sellers. Aside from In the Dark, Arista made more money from Dick’s Picks than anything else connected to the Dead. And they didn’t have to do any work or put up any money.
“The world’s two leading Grateful Dead scholars have a new and important book that will be a boon to bloggers like me for the rest of our days. This Is All A Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History Of The Grateful Dead, by Blair Jackson and David Gans, has been released by Flatiron Books just in time for Christmas 2015 (if you get it now, you can finish reading it before you wrap it as a gift). Instead of a retread of the already-known, Jackson and Gans have a vast trove of new interviews with those who were there. ”
Here is what writer Peter Conners (Growing Up Dead, JAMerica) had to say about This Is All a Dream We Dreamed in a review on the book’s amazon page:
“When it comes to Grateful Dead experts, you don’t get any more expert than David Gans and Blair Jackson. They’ve used this expertise to create an easy-reading, but incredibly informative history of the band told in the voices of the key players. I particularly enjoy their approach to oral history which combines new interviews with older ones (including pre-Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia) to illustrate the development of the band and their approach to music. If you think you’ve read every Dead book that matters… you haven’t. This one matters. Gans and Jackson leave no turn unstoned. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
Order your signed copy here.
Use this link to order a copy of This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead signed by both authors. US addresses only, please! If you’re out of the country, contact me and we’ll work something out.
From the Grateful Dean blog:
I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy of the latest Grateful Dead book that will be hitting the market next Tuesday.
This Is All A Dream We Dreamed, An Oral History of the Grateful Dead by Blair Jackson and David Gans is The Grateful Dead Story as told by those that were actually part of it. For many of us, Blair Jackson and David Gans have been the link between the inner circle and the outer circle of our community for several decades. They’ve combed through thousands of hours of interviews and conversations they have participated in, with those closest as well as those in the band, to convey a first hand look at the history of our favorite topic. Instead of guessing what Garcia might say in regards to any given topic, this book gives you plenty of things he really did say instead of assuming. While many bits and pieces that make up the book have appeared elsewhere before, it’s packed with new stories and conversations that have yet to be seen. The book takes pieces from the stories told by the characters that make up Our Community and places them within the proper context and time period from which they came. Since the book is largely comprised of short pieces by different individuals, even the most burned out meatheads can navigate their way through the adventure without losing steam. This approach seems to make reading large chunks of it just as easy as picking it up for a minute or two. That is a tremendous accomplishment when your book is aimed at a community with a good deal of members that have absolutely no clue how to pay attention. I think the ladies will be happy that there is a lot more input from the significant women in and around the scene. Blair and David obviously felt like this was an important piece of the picture that has been limited in other historical perspectives. You’ll definitely hear more from the women at the center of it all than you have before.
Many of us are currently spending a little more time than we have in a while on planes, trains and automobiles. A little more time than usual in hotels, motels and parking lots, if ya know what I mean. It’s great to have something new to read while flying, travelling or waiting for show time. This book will keep you engaged from the minute you pick it up. As a collection of stories told by others, there are really no parts that are difficult to get through. It’s a story we all know, full of characters we all love. What could be better than having all of those characters tell it to US, all in one place? That’s exactly what happens in this new addition to any Deadhead’s required reading list for winter. Whether you grab it on Tuesday or put it on your Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa list, I guarantee you’ll have a blast as you learn and relive the days that make up the history of The Greatest Live Band the earth will ever know. Nothing is better than a history book that’s told by the people that were actually creating it! David Gans, in his humility, downplays the role he’s played for many of us throughout the years but for me, he has been a bridge between the Center of Grateful Dead Land and its inhabitants. I appreciate how Blair and David have taken the pieces of our past and arranged them for us in a way that is both extremely enjoyable and easy to read. It’s a scrapbook you can read and a highlight reel from decades of interviews and conversations. My attention span is shorter than the line for the women’s bathroom at Phish Shows and I am completely sucked into this book. Pick it up on Tuesday or put it on your holiday gift list! You’ll be glad you did.
(Ordering info and all can be found here)
Trip out with tasty nuggets from the new oral history of the Dead, This Is All a Dream We Dreamed.
More on the book on the Macmillan web site.
Available in 8×10 or 11×14. Limited edition, signed (by the photographer) and numbered.
Update 11/4: No more orders will be taken.
Publication date is November 10.
Publisher’s Weekly gave us a good review:
This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead
Blair Jackson and David Gans
Flatiron, $32.99 (528p) ISBN 978·1·250·05856·0
This epic oral history of the 50-year-old band is timed to coincide with five massively hyped “Fare Thee Well” concerts. The straightforward approach by Jackson and Gans (who collectively boast almost 80 years of Grateful Dead journalism) uses multiple perspectives to tell the story of a group that began as a San Francisco jug band of penniless hippies, morphed through multiple musical incarnations, and created a colorful psychedelic subculture. The more than 100 voices here include members of the Dead – including deceased guitarist/ de facto leader Jerry Garcia, and keyboardists Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Brent Mydland – and their collaborators as well as business partners and fans. Jackson and Gans relied on new and archival interviews, as well as other published and unpublished sources. To their credit, the authors focus as much on the creation, recording, and marketing of music as they do on the ingestion of hallucinogens. The result is a solid, engaging chronicle.
Kirkus Reviews: also quite favorable!
THIS IS ALL A DREAM WE DREAMED [STARRED REVIEW!] An Oral History of the Grateful Dead
Author: Blair Jackson
Author: David Gans
Review Issue Date: September 1, 2015
Online Publish Date: August 15, 2015
Price ( Hardcover ): $32.99
Publication Date: November 10, 2015
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-250-05856-0
Coming on its 50th anniversary and just after the band’s farewell tour, an engaging, near-comprehensive oral history of the Grateful Dead. If “the Grateful Dead” and “disco” are not phrases that go together, it’s not for want of their trying. As Jackson (Grateful Dead Gear—The Band’s Instruments, Sound Systems, and Recording Sessions, from 1965 to 1995, 2006, etc.) and musician Gans (Conversations with the Dead: The Grateful Dead Interview Book, 1991, etc.) — collectors and archivists who know as much as nearly anyone alive about the storied band—chronicle, midway into the 1970s, with albums such as “From the Mars Hotel” and “Wake of the Flood” under their belts, the Dead were enough under the sway of Saturday Night Fever to attempt a disco-ish take on “Dancing in the Street.” Chalk it up to Mickey Hart, one of the many thorns in this thorny narrative hide, whose return to the band wrought big changes. “We had to tell him [what to play],” said guitarist Bob Weir in 1977, “which means we had to be thinking about it, which means while we were thinking about it, we might as well rethink things in general.” As fans already know but will further note, the superficially peace-and-love demeanor of the Dead disguised all sorts of tensions, from personality clashes to money worries and differences over musical direction. But it all worked, despite Jerry Garcia’s drug use and increasingly erratic behavior. Says sound tech Bob Bralove, “The energy around [the last tour with Garcia] was kind of confusing, because there was this really positive energy coming from the band, but it was missing a key ingredient.” For all that, there’s plenty of peace and love here and lots of smoke and psychedelia, as well as the usual Altamont regrets, all voiced by people in and close to the band. Worthy of Studs Terkel and an essential addition to the books of the Dead.