Grateful Dead Magazine Articles

Playboy Interview w/J. Garcia Pt. 3

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. 3) by Ed McClanahan

"I mean, everybody who's makin' a big thing about the closing of the Fillmore, that's a crock of sh*t, actually. Because, you know, what'd they do before there was a Fillmore? I mean, there's always been a musician scene, musicians have always traveled around and you could always hear music. And that's gonna happen no matter what. In most places, see there isn't any Fillmore. And that doesn't affect anybody except, you know, the Fillmore freaks. I think the end of the Fillmore is just the beginning of different space...."

"The first time I saw Jerry Garcia," my young friend Harry (who is said to be a genius in molecular physics, his major at Stanford, but nonetheless retains a certain charming innocence in matters of the spirit) was telling me the other day, " was in the Straight Theater up in the Haight in '67. I'd never even heard the Grateful Dead except on the radio; I was just beginning to find out about the head scene in those days. But I just loved their music. And when they came on that night --I remember the light show was all these yellow, swirling things going all the way up to the ceiling, it was like sunshine --I went up to the front by the stage and stood there lookin' up at Jerry, and I was thinkin' how I'd just never seen anyone like this before, this far-out, mellow dude just playin' that rock'n'roll, the notes so clear and uncluttered, a beautiful, sparkling thing, you know? And so I looked up at Garcia and I just couldn't help but smile, it was just that... the calm on his face, it was like a Buddha, you know, like you can see where the Buddha is at. Nirvana, you know... and Jerry saw me lookin' at him, saw me smiling and he smiled at me! And that just blew my mind! It was so different, this dude was just so different, I mean before that I could never have smiled at a rock musician, they were all guys who were just showing off. 'I'm the big stud,' you know. It was all just a big pose kind of trip with them, showing off for their chicks and the audience, being tough guys. But this dude, I mean you could relate to him directly, with just your eyes that way....."

It's a late-July Saturday night backstage at the Fillmore West, and out front the Grateful Dead are blasting away on the third and final set of the evening, but I alone of all the 3000 mind-blown music lovers in the hall can't hear them, not at this particular moment, anyhow, because my head has just now bottomed out of one of those bottomless nitrous-oxide tail spins and is only just beginning its swifter-than-the-speed-of-sound ascent, whizzing upward toward a reality I'd just a lief not hurry to confront, thanks all the same, this tiny overheated broom closet of a dressing room with six or seven freaks (foremost among them Zonk the Gasman and his faithful chrome-plated side-kick The Tank, that immortal pair to whose mutual beneficence the rest of us owe this glorious occasion) laid out on the floor in one or another stage of laughing-gas-hog-wildness, grunting and groveling and slobbering and scuffling for the hose like so many French pigs rooting after the Ultimate Truffle (one spaced-out little groupie has had about 12 separate and distinct sets of convulsions in the past half hour, so many that her seizures have become part of the decor of the high; we anticipate them now, and when it's her turn to toke on the hose, we observe her as coolly as if her drooling rictus and spasmodic shudderings have been provided by the management for our amusement between our own tokes), and up there in the real world, where this particular gas flash is about to surface, I'll be obliged to open my eyes again and deal with the dismal fact that the Dead's final set is well under way and I have yet to really listen to a note they've played all evening, not to mention the equally onerous fact that my tape recorder and my brand-new Official Accuracy Reporter's Notebooks are lost somewhere amid the melee at my feet (I've somehow succeeded, by the way, in commandeering the only chair in the room, an overstuffed old number that's just right for doing nitrous oxide in, since it's so thoroughly rump-sprung I can't possibly fall out of it), and sooner or later I'm going to have to dig them out -- the ignominious tools of this ignoble trade, I mean -- and Get Down to Bidness, fall by the nearest phone booth and slip into my Front Page Farrell suit so that when the Dead have wrapped up this set I'll be all primed and cocked to zap them with the ole five Ws, the way Miss Parsons taught us in high school journalism (Who-What-Where-When-Why-and- sometimes-How-are-you, Grateful Dead?), when suddenly my head pops through the surface of my consciousness like the bobber on a fishing line that has just been gnawed in two by The Big One That Got Away, and the sound of the Dead catches up to me all in one great roaring rush, the voice of Jerry Garcia amplified to boiler-factory rumbustiousness yet still somehow as sweet and gentle as the purest babbling branch water chiding me:

"Please don't dominate the rap, Jack
If you got nothin' new to say..."

Oh well, I tell myself happily, settling back into the welcoming embrace of my armchair, probably Jerry's got the right idea there, probably I'd better just have me one or two more tastes on them there noxious gases, just to clear my head, and then I can go out there nice and fresh, all primed and cocked to....

Turn to Part 4. . .

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