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A Switch magazine article on the Grateful Dead Part II

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From: tsuzuki@adobe.COM (Taro Tsuzuki)
Subject: SWITCH - Part 2 [long!]
Keywords: SWITCH
Date: 8 Aug 91 03:06:51 GMT

This is the Part 2 of the Grateful Dead article on SWITCH magazine. As I did for Part 1, I tried my best in translation. I hope you enjoy reading. The same legend was used as in Part 1.


II. Trip Beyond Time and Space

"Will you come with me, won't you come with me?
Woh-oh, what I want to know is where does the time go?"
R. Hunter/J. Garcia

[WRONG QUOTE ABOVE!!! Intentional or not is unknown...]

At 8:00 PM, as the spotlights hit twice or three times the huge emblem of skeleton and roses behind the stage, the light of the venue filled with 20,000 audience darkened, and Jerry, Bobby, Phil, Bill, Mickey, Bruce Hornsby, Vince Welnick, "Seven Alchemists of Sound", appear on the stage in the midst of cry of joy like a tidal wave. Right, in order to describe the world of the strange Grateful Dead sound, there is no other proper words but such for exact expression. It gives a hint of a Country tune, then from Jazz, spacey solos, Polyrhythm shuffle, Funk, Rock, R&B, and to the other dimension - during an interval of a second, their tunes stretch and shrink like a living being and transform themselves ever freely. One of the players waits for what others do like a boxer on his toes, travels time burying a punch of sound, leading others, then following others. Now the 15-round marathon fight of sound that last 4 hours, sometimes 6 hours is about to begin on the ring called stage. [well, I wish they played for 6 hours!!!]

By the stage, Branford Marsalis, who is the leader of a jazz gang boys [Huh?], a young popular jazz saxophone player, and has just performed the storming warm-up act, awaits for his next appearance. It was the number one jazz-freak of the Dead Phil Lesh who first invited this new star of jazz, who have been asked to play with rock starts such as Sting and Bruce Springsteen, to play with them about a half year ago. "At first I thought, why me? But when we played together, I was blown away. They are not one of those rock dudes who repeat the tune they do on MTV. They have great ears to listen to each other and wonderful skills. And look at these people dancing. There is no other scene like this. The Dead has to be recognized as a group that represents American Music!"

Without paying attention to this admiring words from this young generation, the Dead is now about to weave their rocky road they walked to reach here as a "Bad White Band" into one song.

"My time coming, any day, don't worry about me, no
Been so long I felt this way, I'm in no hurry, no.....
My time coming, voices say, and they tell me where to go.

California, preaching on the burning shore
California, and I'll be knocking on the golden door
Like an angel, standing in the shaft of light
Rising up to paradise, I know I'm gonna shine."

"Estimated Prophet." Bob Weir sings gazing into midair above the stage with eyes like those of a hawk. It is the song of explorers and outlaws, who, long ago, came across the vast land looking for gold and reached this shore. It is also a gospel of their descendants, beatnik, or the rebels who are called hippies. Or, it is a lullaby of Bobby who dropped out from a upper-class family. It is also a rhapsody of this outcast rock band who were poked around by record companies and big shots of the business world. The album released in 1969 "Aoxomoxoa" which was made due to the record company's demand to "make a good record", created by shutting themselves in a studio and with various experimentations, and when they became aware they had a huge debt for their record company. They were blamed by the press for the responsibility of an accident at the Stones' concert at Altamont which involved loss of lives. Their townhouse in Ashberry was raided by the police. Busted while they were on the road..... Feared by general public as if they were a Manson Family, then robbed by the manager whom they trusted..... When they reached the "zero point" after losing business, life, and short fame, the Dead went into a studio, and after shutting themselves in for four weeks, they came back with one album in their hand.

Different from the albums released until then, "Workingman's Dead" set with clear vocals and songs that were easy to hum along, and "American Beauty", released in the same 1970, released themselves from the spell of "Incomprehensible Hippie Band", and were pearls of American Album presented to all people. After obtaining a permission from the mayor, they lined up trucks in the middle of Height street and dedicated a "so-long concert" to their friends who filled the street, then took off to the all American tour of 120 gigs. Then to Europe.....

At a coal mine, in a farm, in a factory, or on a stage facing strangers as audience..... wherever you are, whatever you do, when you work hard at it and enjoy it, "sometimes the lights all shinin' on me." Truckin' The sincere message that is based on their own experience and the attitude as "a hard-working band who seriously seeks enjoyment" (Garcia in '71) encouraged many young people who were crushed by sense of failure and disillusion that were spreading since the end of the '60s. The circus band Dead started to be active dynamically. But...

"Cause when life looks like easy street
there is danger at your door."

The band paid off debts by consistent performance activities and the success of "Europe '72", established a self-managed record company in order to provide quality performance and records for increasing fans, and started a company which produces all the sound equipment from speakers to instruments - the surrounding of the band became alive as the situations improved. The concert venue changed from ones that hold 2000 to larger halls and stadiums capable of holding 4000, 8000, or 10000 so that they could handle rapidly increased number of fans. This caused the birth of the historically significant "Wall of Sound" [actually written in Japanese as "Sound of Wall" ;-)] PA system which weighed 25 tons with 641 speakers mounted on 3-level tower and output of 26400 watts. But it was not easy to go around all over the country with this system which required several convoys and crew members, shipping cost, assembling, and disassembling. The more they performed, the more losses were generated. In addition, bootleg records and mismanagement swept the legs of their newly established record company, and the kitchen of the Dead's office was soon sucked into the wheels of fire.

"When we try to come up with ways so that we can return something to our fans, all kinds of shit happens. On top of that, cops are busting our fans wherever we go like they are playing some kind of a game. I don't know how other Rock bands are doing this, but this can't be what they call success!" spat Garcia who did not usually show his angered expression. In October '74, after their five-day stand at Winterland, the Dead announced their retirement from live performance activities. The news shook up all the Dead fans in the world.

"But such is the story of the past. If you want to record our show, go right ahead and roll the tape! If you think you can get as high as we feel on stage, go ahead and roll that joint. What's good and what's bad is all up to the judgment by each of you. We are just gonna roll our good ol' energy up on this stage.....", as if they were to say, the seven players coil, tangle, shake, dash, withdraw, and become one trying to reach the next point. Phil's bass like a whale surfacing, rhythm section with Bill and Mickey sounding like coyotes and wolves in a vast grass field, Jerry's guitar like a spaceship looking for an exit and spreading pieces of stars in the space, Bobby in search of lost secret chords..... Soprano sax of Marsalis, standing on the stage once again, following the lead of Phil and already finding his space, becomes a light breeze. All of the audience are standing. Candis Brightman adds a touch with her lighting to the tapestry of rich sound being woven on the stage. The sound master Healy smiles alone reading the signals from three computers set on the mixer board and listening the way total 56 miles of cables and 700 speakers roar which he himself set up. Ex-Stevie Wonder Group's MIDI expert, Bob Breylove[sp.] who provides samples of flute, sax, and any sounds according to the requests from Garcia and Weir..... The lead role players of this Cosmic Sound Opera without its conductor are all of these people. Or, perhaps, the true lead role players are this 20000 travelers who travel through the cosmos of sound with their body and soul.....


Coming soon Part III "Hightime Paradigm of the '90s" ((FRIENDS OF THE DEVIL))*

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