Posts Tagged ‘This Is All a Dream’
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 excerpt: “Capturing the band’s essential aura through the words of band members and their collaborators is riveting, even for readers who don’t claim to be Deadheads. The myths and magnetism that drew a dedicated fan base is illustrated through interviews with over 100 people, including unofficial leader Jerry Garcia, drummer Mickey Hart, concert promoter Bill Graham, Carolyn ‘Mountain Girl’ Garcia, band member Bob Weir and others. Braided into the disparate, personal accounts with clarity and an admirable lack of hyperbole, given their backgrounds as Dead aficionados, Jackson and Gans insert fact-laden bridges to bolster an engrossing narrative.”
Another “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 another of the “codas” that we had to drop.
How Dick Got His “Picks”
Dick Latvala became the Grateful Dead’s tape vault keeper in 1985, and in 1993 began shepherding the Dick’s Picks archival CD release program for the band. These remarks are from a 1993 interview, shortly after the release of Dick’s Picks Vol. One. Dick died in 1999, after putting out fourteen Dick’s Picks releases and laying the groundwork for the series to continue under the capable direction of current vaultmeister, David Lemieux.
I got my start in this [scene] at the Trips Festival, Longshoremen’s Hall [Jan. 21-23, 1966]. There were three nights, and I went to the first and third. There was so much else going on there, it wasn’t like I noticed the Grateful Dead as being an entity separate from any of the other things going on.
Just before I discovered the Grateful Dead, I took LSD in a research project in 1965 in Menlo Park, for which I actually paid $500 to go through this experience, which was, perhaps, the most powerful single experience I ever went through. I was in my fifth year at San Francisco State College and not wanting to be there, but I wanted to know who I was and this LSD deal seemed to be very appealing. So I studied it and then decided to take it, and something happened that changed me forever.
Actually it was mescaline by this time, but it was still a major dose and it transformed me fundamentally. Then I took it again six months later, in January of ’66, and this was just before the Trips Festival, which was my first experience with the music scene that started in the Bay Area at that time. Then I knew where I was supposed to be. I wasn’t supposed to be in college — I was supposed to take acid and go see the Grateful Dead. My mom didn’t want to hear that, but that was really the fact.
I did manage to graduate, but barely, and my main focus became going to concerts. It wasn’t just the Grateful Dead. There was Quicksilver, Big Brother, the Airplane, and a slew of others, [but] by around ’68 the Dead became the sole focus. By late ’67, I was a Grateful Dead freak. There was no question. There was no other band doing this. It became more and more exciting and compelling. It was the experimental nature of the sound, the willingness to take chances instead of coming at the audience with an idea already pre-set in their minds. It was like jazz.
I didn’t realize that live tapes existed until around 1974, when I was living in Hawaii. I started writing people, collecting a few tapes and then writing someone else and getting to know a few more people, and just trying to get to the hardcore tapers that existed at the time. I wanted every show and saw a value in each, but the more I got into it, the more I became a little more discriminating and realized that some shows weren’t so good.
[My direct involvement with the Grateful Dead] started on August 12, 1979, at Red Rocks. I went out there with a friend from Hawaii who knew someone in the scene, and they got us tickets, so we flew from Hawaii to Denver, and I was in the lobby of the hotel, sitting there with my suitcase while he went upstairs and somehow freaked out and left me all alone there. I didn’t know anyone. I got a ride from Nicki Scully, who got me backstage, and I met [crew member] Kidd Candelario there. He offered me a backstage pass and I ended up on that rock behind [the stage] for my first time backstage. It was a powerful moment.
I started meeting people [in the Dead organization]. Every time I’d come back from Hawaii I would pass through and bring “treats” and see everyone in the office. Over the next five years I got to know a lot of people and I was always able to go backstage. One day I was up in Eileen Law’s office, and I was telling her I had these tapes I called “primal Dead.” I was explaining that this Dead music was as good as it gets. Phil was standing behind me in the doorway listening to me tell Eileen this, and he popped in. I don’t know how I summoned up the nerve, but I said, “Hey, Phil, I want you to listen to this stuff.” I think I put on 10/12/68 from the Avalon Ballroom, just an incredible Anthem of the Sun jam. He was so enthralled with it, he ended up listening to over three hours of the primal Dead tapes I had put together. I kept saying to Phil, “Is someone taking care of these tapes? This is really important stuff.” I wasn’t saying it because I wanted a job. The next day, I found out I had a job. So I have always interpreted it that he felt that they needed someone who really cared about the tapes to make sure that they were organized and all that. So that’s how I got hired; that was in 1985.
My first chore was to go through the tapes and write in log books what was actually on them. A lot of the boxes weren’t labeled properly, and in many cases even the years were wrong. That was like a never-ending job, so it was something I was doing for many years at my leisure, besides doing other things at the studio.
Now let’s move forward in time. In the last couple years [1991 and ’92], the Grateful Dead have released a couple of CDs from multitracks in the vault [under the direction of Dan Healy], but at long last they’ve decided to start looking at the material on the [stereo recordings].
The way that Dick’s Picks started was, in  Kidd asked me to come up with the best three shows on two-track so he could float this idea by the band at a board meeting. As a Deadhead and a tape freak, it would seem like that would be no problem. I know hundreds of great shows. But when it came to really having to pick them for the band to listen to and judge, boy oh boy, did I become critical. That knocked out a whole bunch of choices. I chose three shows, making sure they were okay before I gave the tapes to Kidd to give to the band to listen to. The ones I chose were 12/19/73 [Dick’s Picks Vol. 1, from Tampa, Florida], 2/13/70 [Dick’s Picks Vol. 4, from Fillmore East] and 10/11/77, Norman, Oklahoma [Road Trips Vol. 1, No. 2]. It was just to get some rough idea of some good shows. And then as it became closer to a reality, we settled on 12/19/73 because it was right in the middle of the other two possibilities, and it was a real creative era — I’m discovering more and more that the late ’73 period had some just magnificent shows. I remember that being a really jazzy and spacey period where the jams were really long and rangy.
My goal [with the Dick’s Picks series] is to try to find [shows] that aren’t obvious choices. Let’s see what happens!
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.
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.
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.