Grateful Dead Magazine Articles

Playboy Interview w/J. Garcia Pt. 2

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. 2) by Ed McClanahan

OK, then; me, by God! So there I am in September 1970, early morning, and I'm hurrying home to California to write about the Grateful Dead (I've been at this quite a while, you understand) after a three-week hiatus back East, barreling along in my big Dodge camper all alone through the everlasting vastly reaches of central Iowa, on a back road somewhere 40 miles in some direction or another from Cedar Rapids, and it's raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock, a cold, driving rain that chills me even with the camper's heater ramming hot air up both pants legs; and beside me on the hump of the engine's housing are spread my Official Accuracy Reporter's Notebooks filled with three-week-old runic scribblings (garcia missing 2 joint midl. finger rt. hand! --phil leash leanness lincolnesk! -- sam cutler rd. mgr. look like capt. hook!! -- bob weir billy the kid!! -- john mcintyre bus. mgr. elegant, look like yng. rich widmark!!!!) and several yellowing copies of Rolling Stone featuring articles about the Dead, and my little portable stereo tape recorder and five cassettes of the Dead's albums and -- here comes the weird part-- on my head I'm wearing Buck Rogerslike, an enormous pair of superpowerful headphones plugged into the recorder, and the volume is turned up full blast and the Dead's "Turn it on! Turn it on!" is crashing into my eardrums and I'm bouncing ecstatically in my seat and hammering the heels of my hands on the steering wheel to Bill the Drummer's surging, 19-to-the-dozen rhythms, while the guitars scream as loud as locomotive whistles; and now an image swirls to mind and shapes itself, the interior of my skull has somehow become the interior of the Fillmore West, San Francisco's onetime Carousel Ballroom, this cavernous old relic of a pleasure palace amid whose tawdry grandeur our forebears forbore Guy Lombardo and Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythms that we might live to dig the Dead, my throat and tongue the Fillmore's threadbare maroon- carpeted lobbies and stair wells and my teeth it curlicuing rococo plaster baustrades and my brainpac the grand ballroom itself, my medulla oblongata its vaulted ceiling festooned with heavily sagging billows of silvery-gray asbestos damask, and there are 3000 dope-crazed Dead fans crouched haunch to haunch in the darkness on the immense dance floor of my mind, while at the far end of the great chamber, onstage, dwarfed beneath the high curved bleach-white band shell that is the inner surface of my forehead, the Grateful Dead are getting it on, a demon-driven suicide squad of assassins under the harsh command of the archbrigand Pigpen ("turn it on! jes a leetle bit hi-eee-yer!"), a murderous little band of renegades, savages, tartars in cowboy mufti, angels of death armed not with three supercharged guitars and a set of traps but with three choppers and a mortar, mercilessly laying waste to the shrieking, writhing mass of defenseless supplicants spread beneath them, and against the back of my eyeballs the giant light-show screen behind the bandstand is ablaze like the night sky above the battlefield with the garish lightning of their fusillade, it is more than just a massacre, it is a by-God apocalypse hurtling along right here inside the fragile eggshell of my skull at 70 miles an hour through the Iowa monsoon, the incredible cacophony of it thrumming in my blood and beating wildly against the backs of my eyes, mounting and mounting and mounting and mounting until it peaks out at about 11,000,000 megadecibels and Pig screams "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeo-o-o-o-o-o- o-o-o-o-wwwwwwwwwwww!" and barks "And leave it on!" and within the headphones there descends an abrupt and wondrous stillness, a silence made infinitely deeper and more profound by the absence not merely of the Dead's righteous racket but of all sound, the headphones baffling out even the engine's roar along with the slap-slap-slap of the wipers and the steady suck of tires on the flooded roadbed, as if the whole wet world were inexplicably and without warning stricken mute, and as the wipers streak the veil of water on the windshield, I see, standing stalwart by the lonely Iowa roadside like heaven's own herald, an enormous billboard, sky-blue with great thick square white letters proclaiming, for no good reason at all,



and even as the wind-blown water sheets the glass again, blurring, then fracturing the image beyond all intelligence, I hear Jerry Garcia begin the next song on the tape, his voice rising sweet and clear and plangent into the silence,

"You know Death don't
Have no mercy
In this land..."

Turn to Part 3. . .

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