Grateful Dead Magazine Articles

A Switch magazine article on the Grateful Dead Part I

Collected from

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From: tsuzuki@adobe.COM (Taro Tsuzuki)
Subject: SWITCH - Article Translation
Keywords: SWITCH
Date: 5 Aug 91 22:16:03 GMT

This is the SWITCH magazine article on the Grateful Dead part #1.

[ ] are used to insert my personal comments
(( )) are used to indicate the title and the subtitles
* is used to indicate that words and sentences are written in English with Roman characters

I tried my best to reproduce the contents in English. But I would like readers to be aware that this is *not* my writing, so please do not flame me for what you read :-) Here we go. I hope you enjoy reading. MoBo. ----------------------------------------------------------------


((Grateful Dead))

Shaking America
Grateful Dead

Since its debut in 1965, the Grateful Dead keeps truckin' on. Its track overlapped with the large scale movement in the 60's, became culture of the 70's, and became legend of the 80's. We left for San Francisco in search of that long 25 years of the trip like magic - to the climax of the first American Tour since death of Brent Mydland, the New Year's Eve Concert. It was dusk when we arrived at the [Oakland] Coliseum. The big sky soon to be dark was clear without clouds, as if it welcomes the BlueMoon..... The mass of cars on highways head toward deep valley of Sierra-Nevada, or to the jungle of the city dominated by wealth and power. [Folks, I am not joking here. This is how they write! ;-)] The people gathered in the parking lot were intoxicated with the sweet anticipation of the festival. And a poet in the crowd murmured, "America, where are you going with your prosperity?" When the first star shines, the entire Coliseum shook with appearance of the American Band.

[two-page wide photo from NYE 1990-1991, inside the Oakland Coliseum] with titles:
((Grateful Dead 1965-1991))*
((TRUCKIN' THE MAGIC BUS))* [with psychedelic typeface]

((The Grateful Dead's Strange Trip))

I. Like a Proud Rose ((RAMBLE ON ROSE))*

Crossing the Bay Bridge, then heading south on I-880, the road from that area to the Oakland Coliseum were filled with cars full of colorful "Pilgrimage". VW vans with California, New York, or Texas number plates and stickers such as "THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A GRATEFUL DEAD CONCERT"*. Old Mersedes and shiny Porche. [Whoa? The Porche Guy went to the NYE???] Antique buses that look like just have jumped out of the movie set in "The Grapes of Wrath".....The youth who greet waving hands over windows of cars that appeared to have gathered from somewhere beyond maps and time. T-shirts with variations of marks of skeletons and roses, or self-embroidered jean jackets are the fashion symbols that identify these strange travelers. When our car slowed down by a highway exit, a long-haired driver started to talk to us.

"Where are you from?"
"From Japan. How about you?"
"From Toronto, Canada. Let's have fun!"

Shake hand and smiles. One of the Dead's tune coming out of the car stereo must be talking about exactly such scenery..... "Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hands"
Scarlet Begonias

The password is "to enjoy". And this is exactly the keyword when five young men, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Pigpen, who met in the campus town of Stanford University, Palo Alto, started a band together.

"That's true. There was nothing common among us except to enjoy." says Mickey Hart, a band member since '67. "Jerry was kicked out of the Army, traveling, playing banjo. Bobby was from a upper-class family, transferred among number of high schools, and playing folk songs. Pigpen was good at playing blues harp and earned money for booze. Ever since a child, Phil was a genius of classic violin and was into music theory and experimental music in college. Bill was playing in different R&B bands. And I mastered military drums and was dreaming of being a drummer in a big-band jazz band. It was a miracle that all these guys coming from different places and musical background got together to form a band. Outcasts in respective worlds completed this strange puzzle just to enjoy ourselves."

"We adventured and sought what we wanted to do. That's why the Grateful Dead is called as the slowest-evolving rock 'n' roll band," laughs Garcia. The Dead started with this unique musical direction so that "we can create music that we enjoy first." Bob Weir The band who sought freedom, almost anarchy, disliking power-play, without having an explicit leader, and making every decision by discussion with presence of all members, was first discovered by Ken Keasey who was at Stanford then and a new-to-the-scene writer and a group called Merry Plunkstars who gathered around Keasey and was experimenting with new consciousness using then-legal LSD-25 as a medium. Before encountering with the Dead (The name of the band at that time was Warlocks = Wizzards!) in summer of '64, they [Merry Plunkstars] were the pioneering hippies who drilled holes in the consciousness of Americans holding on to one-dimensional, conservative 1950s' values and warned them of the coming of "The Sixties", paining a old school bus with psychedelic colors, get high, rolling the camera in every town they pass through, dressing strangely, and singing..... The Dead, who were looking for alternatives to performing in pizza parlors without audience, five sets a day, bars demanding six-day-a-week schedule for playing short, high-tempo hit songs, soon join the group of Keasey and the others. While they performed in strange parties named Acid Tests, they discovered the roots of the band, and the flower that grew from there blossomed few years later at Haight-Ashberry in San Francisco.

A quarter-century later, on December 31, 1990, those who coming out of numerous buses around the venue for the Dead's 25th celebration of New Year's Eve are the second generation of "Flower Children" grew from that seed planted back then. Guys who wear hair bands and bandannas, patched jeans, and show peace signs. Girls who wear flowers on their hair, dressed in long, waving granny dresses which appear to have just come out of closet, dancing in sandals or bear feet. A man with beard selling peace buttons and shouting anti-war. Some with facial paints like Indians [Native Americans]. One who dressed as a wizard with a silkhat, a cane, and net- stockings. A group dressed in rainbow-colored tie-dyes making bubbles.....

In the summer of '87, when the album, "In The Dark" released first time in 7 years, entered top-10, first time in the band's history and climbed to the top on the CD chart knocking off Michael Jackson's "Bad", the press who ever ignored the existence of the band came running for cover stories and finally became aware of the existence of this strange "audience" who fill the venues. The time was the 20th anniversary of "Summer of Love" - "Woodstock". The press, who were planning to provide general public with a nostalgic, sweet tranquilizer for spread of AIDS and crack, economic depression, and other bad news, immediately jumped on the band wagon using the people who call themselves Deadheads and appear to have just arrived to the Dead's concert from Haight-Ashberry 20 years ago with timewarp as their material, saying, "Deadheads - '80s Hippie Nostalgia", "Woodstock Era's Late Arrival".....

"What a joke! We don't come to the Dead shows because of some nostalgia. We come because the Dead is a meaningful existence for the way we live," explains for us Carolyn, a 19-year-old art student from New York. "I wasn't even born then. I am sure there are people here who were born then, but they were at the age for playing Barbie Dolls with mini-skirts rather than going to see free concerts in the park." "And 'Summer of Love' was the cause fabricated by the media for destroying the good scenes. Also, we are annoyed by people who come into our familiar scene without knowing what this is all about. This has got to stop!" argues Ray James, a computer artist who claim to be a Dead historian. When they start talking about the Dead, they seem to grow 10 to 20 years older than they actually are. "When the Dead showed up at Montarey [Pop Festival], they were between Jimi Hendrix and the Who, and nobody remembered the Dead. At Woodstock, the stage came apart because of a storm, and they could not perform well because of electric problems. It is Dead's characteristics that their performance goes down when the number of audience increases. So that was the worst or second-to-the-worst in their long history of performance. This is also a reason for not being screwed by music industry and the media, allowing them to become the world's greatest garage band."

However, popularity of the Grateful Dead is not only of a garage band and of a cult band supported by hard-core fans. As a side story, according to the Forbes magazine in 1989, the annual gross income of the band was ranked number four following The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Bon Jovi, $28.6 million dollars. Such monetary success may not mean much for the Dead who has been doubtful of the ways of the music industry, has attempted to operate a conscientious record company with self-managed production, marketing, and sales (GD Records - went bankrupt in 1976), and has a view of their music scene including its fans as a part of a political, social, and cultural stream with a larger, global sense. Yet, when one thinks of their enduring power and energy that produced such results, it is incredible. Paul McCartney, who took the lead few years ago in the 60's rock stars' comeback boom, along with The Who, The Stones, Boobie Brothers, and Jefferson Airplane said to the press before his tour, "The reason for me wanting to perform live again was seeing the Grateful Dead show. That energy, that unity with audience. I learned from their performance that what makes music powerful is not only the performer." It is unknown how Paul felt of "unity with the audience" during the tour that followed, but does he indeed have the energy to maintain interactions with the fans for 60 to 80 times per year over 5 years, 10 years? Does he have Dan Healy, who has been with the band for 20 years setting up the best possible sound system for every venue from the Golden Gate Park to the Pyramid in Egypt, or the road crew like ramrods, who sweat all day setting up the PA system? Or the supporting staff who handle the tedious tasks of ticket mail order system in order to distribute tickets equally among new-comers and long-time fans, read through all the letters of encouragement, suggestions, complaints from fans, pass them to the band members, playing the role of pipe line with the fans, such as Irene Rowe [sp]? At the Dead's office supported by the staff dedicated (actually spelled Deadicated*) as much as the fans, all the letters from fans have been organized and managed thoroughly. "Stop doing that tune degrading women", "I have more fun recently meeting people at the shows and talking to friends in the lobby. Isn't their performance becoming trite? Is the band truly enjoying in the shows?" From letters that are nearly spiritual confessions to these sever critiques. There is a person who created a bestseller book out of such letters, illustrations based on the Dead experiences, and photographs. There is even a man who created a radio program called "Deadhead Hour". [Hi David!!! :-)] "I don't come hear to 'listen' to the band playing," said Carolyn after she gave her extra ticket to a girl with a carbon board that read "I NEED A MIRACLE*" with beautiful illustrations. "I come here to share the high and magical energy with big family consisting of the Dead and all the people who gather here." Is there anybody among Stones fans and Bon Jovi fans who say anything like this?


End of Part #1 - I. Like a Proud Rose, ((RAMBLE ON ROSE))*
Coming soon, Part #2 - II. Trip Beyond Time and Space,

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