Grateful Dead Magazine Articles

Playboy Interview w/J. Garcia Pt. 14

Collected from
Back Previous Bus Stop Forward (Beth Dyer)
Organization: University of California; Santa Cruz
Reprinted without permission from Playboy, March 1972...

GRATEFUL DEAD I HAVE KNOWN (pt. 14) by Ed McClanahan

"Guys in other bands have that kind of stuff a lot, there'll be five or six chicks runnin' around all the time sayin' they're somebody's old lady, that kind of trip. But we don't get too much of that sort of thing, actually, we're all kind of ugly for that. Ugly but honest, that's us. Hey, there's a good title for you, 'Ugly but Honest.' A'course, we ain't all that honest, either. Maybe just 'Ugly' is good enough...."


"an evening with the gd," fillmore, third set, full complement dead (garcia, weir, lesh, pig, kreutzmann, hart), full electronic amplification-they open w. "dancing in the streets," a motown-style rocker, follow that w. merle haggard's tender honky tearjerker "mama tried," then "it's a man's world" with pig doing a very creditable james-brown-in-white-face, then buddy holly's "not fade away," working through their repertory the way a painter might put together a retrospective, displaying their influences, putting the audience through the same changes the dead themselves have been subject to-it is eclecticism in its very best and highest sense, and the audience already thoroughly jacked up by the first two sets, is flashing strongly to it-the upturned faces near the stage, awash with the splashover of swirling colors from the light show, seem almost to glow with enthusiasm and delight, and each time the band takes up a different song there arises from out there in the dark a wild chorus of voices, dozens of them from even the farthest corners of the hall, whooping and howling and yipping like coyotes baying at the moon, aa-ooo-aa-ooo-aaaa-oooooo, a savage animal, tribal thing one knows instinctively they do only for the dead, in honor of the dead-a christian missionary would get gobbled up in seconds in such a scene as this- now bob weir, looking like a full-color, slick-paper idealization of billy the kid on a dime-mag cover, sings "truckin'". hunter's leisurely, laid-back ramble about the vicissitudes of life on the road with the dead ("busted/ down on bourbon street/ set up/ like a bowlin' pin..."), puts me in mind of those old-timey toddlin' tunes like "side by side," only with more substance, gene kelly and donald o'connor with soul-they follow that with two more hunter songs, "uncle john's band" and "casey jones," and by the time casey ("drivin' that train/ high on cocaine..."), is highballing down the track toward that fateful encounter with train 102, the crowd is on its feet and chugging up and down, it is the train, a great joyous surging mass of energy hurtling headlong into the uncharted darkness of the future-and it doesn't stop when the song ends but charges right on into lovelight with just the scantest pause to catch its breath, pig taking the throttle now, strutting around onstage with his tambourine whirring in his hand and his hat cocked low and mean, dangerous, snarling and fierce ("i don' want it all!/ i jes wanna leetle bit!"), his exhortations as raw and lewd and laden with insinuation as a carnival kootch-show pitchman's hype ("git yo' hands outta yo' pockets and turn on yo' love light!"), and every now and then i seem to hear a line of such brazen unbounded lickerishness ("dew yew lak ta fu-u-u-uckkkk?") that i start and blink and wonder did he really say that? -- and the whole thing builds and builds, 10 minutes, 15, 20, and now the audience is clapping to keep time, they have joined the dead en masse as one enormous synchronized syncopated single-minded rhythm section, taking up the beat from bill the drummer's tom-tom and making it their own, insisting on it, demanding it, and the dead are delightedly handing it over to them, one by one laying down guitars and drumsticks and leaving the center of the stage to pig and jerry, first weir,then hart and lesh, then even bill the drummer, leaving their posts to join the crew of groupies and quippies and buddies and wives and old ladies at the rear of the stage back against the light-show screen among the throbbing blobs, greeting friends and accepting tokes on whatever gets passed their way, beer or joints or coke or ripple, and just jerry and pig and the audience are left to mind the music, jerry's guitar weaving incredible intricacies in front of the rhythmic whipcrack of applause, pig chanting his unholy litany (".... so come awn bay-beh, baby please,/ i'm beggin' ya bay-beh, and i'm on my knees...") like a man possessed by a whole mob of randy, rampant demons, and now jerry too puts down his guitar and leaves, and it's just pig up there along with his tambourine and his snarl ("... turn on yo' light, all i need...") and his 3000-man rhythm section keeping time, keeping time, i've never before considered ("...huh!...") what that expression really means, the crowd has undertaken to tend and cherish the beat until the band comes back ("... i jus' got ta git sum, it's all i need...") and resumes its stewardship, the whole arrangement amounts to a very special kind of trust, we are ("...huh!...") not just audience but keepers of the flame, we are of the grateful dead, with them (" ta keep pooshin', all i need...") and for them and of them...


It's the crack of doom or the first shot of the revolution or anyhow a cherry bomb that Pig has somehow set off just at his feet, a cloud of dense gray smoke still boils up around him, no longer any doubt about it, he is plainly a satanic manifestation, and without my noticing them the other Dead have stolen back to their places and taken up their instruments, and at the signal of the cherry bomb the song blasts into life again, the decibel count is astronomical, the crowd is shrieking in one hysterically ecstatic voice and the volume of the music is so great it swallows up the very shriek itself; by a single diabolic stroke a multitude of 3000 strong has suddenly been struck dumb, the din is enough to wake even the moldering spirits of those moribund old poets who once set myriad toes atapping in the hallowed hall. I can almost see them now, Vaughn Monroe and Wayne King the Waltz King and Clyde McCoy and Ginny Sims and the Ink Spots and Frankie Yankovic and Ralph Flanagan and the Hilltoppers and Kay Kyser and His Kollage of Musical Knowledge and Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights... a whole host of phantoms, troupers to the last, crawling out of this old wormy woodwork and rising up from the rankest, dankest depths of the memory of man to join the living Dead for one last encore, just listen to the racket, Bill the Drummer's heavy artillery is pounding at my temples and Mickey Hart is laying into his four great shimmering gongs until the pandemonium itself is all atremble with their clangor and my back teeth taste of brass, and Lesh and Weir are ripping furiously at the faces of their guitars and the crowd is screaming as if that enormous palpitating blood-red blob of light behind the band were the flaming dawn of doomsday, and Jerry's guitar is winding out a shrill silvery coil of sound that spirals up and up and up until, whining like a brain surgeon's drill, it bores straight through the skull and sinks its spinning shaft into the very quick of my mind, and Pig, a rag doll buffeted by hot blasts of ecstasy gusting up from 3000 burning throats, flings himself into a demented little St. Vitus' dance of demonic glee and howls the kamikaze cry of one who is plunging headlong into the void, the last word beyond which all sound is rendered meaningless as silence...


Turn to Part 15. . .

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