Robin Russell (rrussell8) Sat 23 Nov 13 18:20
Great to have you here on the WELL, Rosie. Loved your book when it came out in the e-version and just ordered a couple of hard copy editions for seasonal gifts. My favourite of your photos is Garcia in a Nudie suit. There is often reference to a "group mind" in discussion of how improvisation worked for the Grateful Dead. Did you experience telepathic interactions? Did you have access to a group mind?
Rosie McGee (rosiemcg) Sat 23 Nov 13 21:32
Thanks for your comments and questions, Robin. If you'll all excuse an obvious and excruciating pun, those are loaded questions! I'll do what I can to answer them, although words may fail me. I believe that the group mind in place between the band members was something that NONE of us - no matter how close we were, how high we were, how connected we FELT - were truly a part of. Yes, on a given night, we were all connected by that incredible magic when everything lined up just right. But I believe that the band members experienced something several levels above the rest of us, as they flew through the musical changes to the outer cosmos, and always, somehow, miraculously, found their way back to the "one". From my vantage point onstage, dancing within that circle of musical energy contained by the amps, I could swear that yes, I repeatedly witnessed the telepathic interactions between the band members. But did I have personal access to their group mind? No. The critical missing piece was that I was not making the music - just dancing with it. (The use of the word "with" instead of "to" is deliberate.) This in no way negates the transcendent group mind that manifested when all of us in the hall - the band, the crew, the family, the audience - experienced a good night of music together. Now, THAT was something I did have access to repeatedly, and is something I will never forget because it is simply a part of who I am.
Gary Burnett (jera) Sun 24 Nov 13 06:15
What was the phrase? The ONE is where you think it is?
Rosie McGee (rosiemcg) Sun 24 Nov 13 06:56
Never heard that before, but sounds about right.
Gary Burnett (jera) Sun 24 Nov 13 06:57
(I think that phrase is from an interview with either Jerry or Phil that I read years ago, specifically about those miraculous returns from the outer cosmos.) Did any other bands inspire the same necessity to dance for you?
Gary Burnett (jera) Sun 24 Nov 13 07:22
This question comes via email from Beth Carroll: "If you're still interviewing Rosie, I'd like to know what it was/is like for her *as a woman* to be an insider with the Grateful Dead. I'm curious about the gender dimension of the Dead and how she interprets that."
David Gans (tnf) Sun 24 Nov 13 09:56
("The 'One' is where you think it is" was said by Jerry in a 1981 interview with Blair Jackson and me, later published in my book "Conversations with the Dead.") <27> is a beautiful post. Says it so well!!
Rosie McGee (rosiemcg) Sun 24 Nov 13 09:57
Interesting question, Gary. Although I certainly didn't always sit still during those earlier times when I saw the Byrds and other bands play live in North Beach, I don't remember dancing as being that compelling a 'need'. Keep in mind that dancing wasn't permitted in some venues due to an archaic San Francisco statute that was eventually repealed after a public outcry that you couldn't dance at The Matrix, Marty Balin's club. Certainly, the introduction of psychedelics into the mix had a major influence on my need to dance, as well as my introduction to the Dead being at the Acid Tests - where dancing was not only permitted but for me, the only thing there was for me to do. But it was once we returned from L.A. to the wide open ballroom scene in San Francisco, that dancing took on its importance in my life. We were so insanely lucky to have access to that diversity of bands who played the Fillmore and the Avalon every single week! And yes, I danced to all of them, all night - or as long as my energy would allow. However, my experiences dancing with the Dead were always head and shoulders above all other dancing, for reasons I probably don't have to explain. And for Beth Carroll: Chronologically, the Dead moved through two of the most Chauvinistic environments that ever existed - the Hippie/communal scene, and that of being rock-band road warriors. The hippie Chauvinism was much more benign than in the more well-known rock scene; but still, the women did the 'women's work', while the men depended on them to provide the comforts of home. To be fair, in the Dead's early days, we (the women) never thought of that as being put-upon. The band's and crew's work provided the money for our scene to function, and we all did whatever we needed to do to support the effort. We were one big group of friends who just 'got it done', and we had a great time doing it. So what that some of what it took was doing laundry or making dinner? If a woman among us had a particular skill or did something noteworthy outside our scene, she was accorded a bit more respect. And within the scene, women who contributed work, such as Betty Cantor-Jackson and Candace Brightman, were in a different category than 'the girlfriends', but part of their personal deal was to become 'one of the boys'. Complicated question with more aspects than I can cover here.
Rosie McGee (rosiemcg) Sun 24 Nov 13 09:57
Gary Burnett (jera) Sun 24 Nov 13 10:45
Two new question, both via Facebook: Tommy Heck asks "What type of camera and film did [you] use for [your] photographs? And thank you, Rosie ..." and David Ryder asks "Are there any pictures of Phil and Billy's house from the 710 era? The didn't live at 710 I've been told."
Rosie McGee (rosiemcg) Sun 24 Nov 13 11:21
For Tommy Heck: The camera I most remember is a Nikkormat I shamed Marmaduke (New Riders) into letting me borrow when I saw it, unused and dusty, on the top shelf of his closet while I didn't have a camera. Eventually, I bought it from him rather than return it. Film was all over the map - mostly Tri-X for B&W, and Kodachrome & Ektachrome slides plus Kodacolor print/negative film. I was schizoid about slides vs. prints, as slides were cheaper to process but more expensive for making prints from them. For David Ryder: You're right. Phil and I, and at the time we moved, Billy, his wife Brenda and their child Stacy, moved to a place up in Diamond Heights. When we first moved to the city in '66, Billy and his family had their own place, and Phil and I drew straws for choice of bedrooms at 710. We lost the draw when Jerry and his girlfriend and we got the front room to SHARE, with a painted Chinese screen the only barrier between our beds. Not good. We moved. I don't know of any photos of the place we moved to, but next time I'm in the city, I'll try and find it and take a picture - if it's still there. I'll post it on my public Facebook page.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Sun 24 Nov 13 14:18
Thanks Rosie. I re-wrote that question about the "group mind" a couple of times to try to unload it a bit. Everyone comments about synchronicity, and I am pretty sure that Phil is talking about something more concrete than being in tune with each other as a result of constant practice, like a great sports team, when he uses the group mind analogy. I find it interesting that he also uses the analogy of "five fingers on the one hand", with the implication that there might be a single animating will. Garcia and other songwriters have said that the tunes are all out there, you just have to be in the right space to access them and write them down, implying there might be some sort of Muse that could animate the five fingers. Alternatively, there could be a kind of telepathic dialogue between the musicians where directions are determined collaboratively, or there could be a direction set by one (or two) dominant player(s) (who might vary from moment to moment). I have run across several accounts from Deadheads that suggest they were detecting the Grateful Dead group mind telepathically, or sometimes individual minds. Wild times for sure, and worthy of further investigation.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 24 Nov 13 17:01
Nikkormat! I got one for my 21st birthday (with a nice fast f1.2 50mm lens) for years.
John Rottet (unkljohn) Mon 25 Nov 13 10:57
I borrowed a friend's Nikkormat FTn in college for a couple of months....it hooked me for sure. My first real camera after that was a Sears camera (say is that a real camera or a Sears camera???), but then I bought my own Nikkormat FT3 and then and FM and then.......
Rosie McGee (rosiemcg) Tue 26 Nov 13 09:11
Photographers tend to stay within one brand for a lifetime, and the intensity with which they defend their brand is similar to the Mac vs. PC passion with which so many of you are, no doubt, familiar. In the beginning, we stick with our brand because we've invested in that brand's lenses, which each have their own mount. But before you know it, you just get comfortable with how a camera feels and the location of the buttons, etc. I got into Nikon by accident, with the Nikkormat I borrowed from McDuke. Somewhere along the line I moved on to a Rolleiflex when I dabbled with the larger 'medium format' film. I took some awesome photos during that photo, but ultimately, the ease and portability of 35 mm won me back. Tried a Voigtlander for a while - great camera - but I listened to the siren song of Nikon after a while.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 26 Nov 13 09:46
BTW you can see Rosie's work at <http://rosiemcgee.com/> She lived at the Grand Canyon for a few years, and she sent amazing photos to her friends - some of which are on that web page.
Gary Burnett (jera) Tue 26 Nov 13 10:43
Yes, some of those Grand Canyon pictures are wonderful. Here re a couple of questions that are a complete changes in direction: One of the things that you don't touch on very much in the book (but that is of serious -- even obsessive) interest to many of us who are Deadheads is anything to do with the details of the music of the band. Enough that, at one point, you even mention dancing to one of your favorite songs but don't actually say *which* song. The early years are real black holes in terms of the documentation of the actual music the band played, since there are so few recordings of shows circulating (this is especially true of 1967 -- there are more recordings even from 1966). Most of us assume, for instance, that they must have played "Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)" more than the 2 or 3 times that have come down to us on tape. And that there must be many, many covers of songs by other artists that they played in those days for which we have no record (I've seen reference to them playing the Lovin' Spoonful's "Do You Believe In Magic," for example, though there's no actual record of it). So, here's the question: Do you have any particular memories along these lines? Do any particular songs -- especially from those very early days -- stick out in your memories? And another question: do you have, in purely musical terms, a favorite period from the time you spent so closely to the band? Or a particular song that stands out for you? And how did the changes in the band's sound and style over time change (if at all) how you danced?
Rosie McGee (rosiemcg) Tue 26 Nov 13 11:39
Wow. Well, I'm going to have to give this some thought and dive back into that remembering state of mind I was in much of the time I was writing my book. I'll get back to you soon with some answers. As some of you know, I did not keep a journal, so my book was written from my memories. Many people have asked me how I remembered so much in such detail. My reply has come to be that you ALL remember more than you think you do - it's just a matter of accessing those memories by getting into whatever head space makes that work for you. It's all 'in there', believe me. Not that I remember every single thing, as folks have come up and told me stories that I was part of, asking me, "Don't you remember??" Nope, not always. Anyway, I'll be back to you soon with some answers. Thanks.
Gary Burnett (jera) Tue 26 Nov 13 13:05
Just to toss this in ... it's not a question, but seems very relevant to all of our discussion. I'm sitting here this afternoon, reading a paper by my friend Stan Spector, who is a philosopher very interested in dance and in how the Dead MOVE us physically, and in this paper he quotes this, from Jerry's 1967 interview with Ralph Gleason: "I think that we still feel that our function is as a dance band. We feel that our greatest value is as a dance band and that's what we like to do. We like to play with dancers. We like to see it and really nothing improves your time like having somebody dance."
David Gans (tnf) Tue 26 Nov 13 13:12
I remember hearing Mountain Girl, in a radio documentary, talking about returning from Mexico (where Kesey was hiding out), seeing the Dead at San Francisco State, and being surprised and disappointed to see more people sitting and listening than dancing.
Rosie McGee (rosiemcg) Tue 26 Nov 13 20:20
Okay, I'm back, ready to answer those questions about favorite songs to dance to, with full disclaimers that, as in my book, I'm just remembering what I can remember, and am not claiming to be an expert on what they played and when they played it. That being said, yes, I think I remember their playing "Do You Believe in Magic?" at least once. How do I know? Being visual-remembering more than auditory, I closed my eyes and got an image of Phil rocking back and forth and singing that particular song into a mic, with a big smile on his face. Accurate? Not 100% positive, folks. As for the earliest days and the songs I remember dancing to.... at the Acid Tests, I danced to anything and everything, motivated more by the level of my high and the endurance of my energy, than by which music was compelling me to dance or sit down. However, I do remember having a grudge against "Viola Lee Blues" back then, finding its ponderous first and last sections a damper on my high - at least the way they played it back then. Once we moved into the ballrooms and the park, the environment onstage drastically changed, and the first song that compelled me to enter that magic circle of music onstage was "Cold Rain and Snow", which was flat-out fun to dance to. I believe they were already playing "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" back then, and that one was a winner for dancing, and is still one of my favorite songs. And occasionally, "Cream Puff War". By '67, "Dancing in the Street" and "Golden Road" were standards for getting me up to dance, sometimes to try and get people to get up off their asses and dance with me/us. It drove me nuts to see people sitting there in those early days. With the exception of an occasional "Midnight Hour", during which I'd stop dancing and sit down long before Pigpen had wound down to an ending, I rarely danced to the Pigpen songs. I was much more interested in watching/listening to him, or not. Alternately. As the Dead moved into the more complex music and extended jams, I guess around '68-'69, it was "St Stephen", "The Eleven", "The Other One" and of course, parts of "Dark Star". The experience became even more complex and engrossing for me, as they took on that musical 'group mind' discussed here earlier, that I was privileged to witness from that central location so close by. So during those songs and jams, I sometimes left the stage and returned a couple of times during an extended jam, as the spirit and the music moved me. Sorry folks, but words are failing me on some of this. And finally, as we moved into the early seventies, my choices of when to dance had more to do with the rhythm and meaning of a song to me, and less to do with how deeply psychedelicized I might be - as I had somewhat eased up on that. It's also my favorite era of the 'simpler' songs (of the earlier years) - "Uncle John's Band", "Sugar Magnolia", "Bertha", "Brown-Eyed Women", "Not Fade Away into "Goin' Down the Road", and later, "Eyes of the World". But for the sheer power of the deepest experiences I shared with the Dead by being onstage dancing, I'd have to say it was around late '68 and through '69 with the long and complex jams. I hope this has answered some levels of your questions, Gary.
Dave Waite (dwaite) Wed 27 Nov 13 10:44
wow - I'm exhausted just reading about all of your dancing!
Rosie McGee (rosiemcg) Wed 27 Nov 13 12:18
Hey, many times, when I ran out of energy and sat down, there were all those dancers who stayed on their feet all night. So in the larger scheme of things, I was a slacker!
Gary Burnett (jera) Wed 27 Nov 13 13:39
Sometimes, sitting down is dancing enough!
Gary Burnett (jera) Wed 27 Nov 13 14:41
One thing I was surprised by in the book is the fact that Stoneground (a band I always really loved -- the album released from one of their live KSAN broadcasts is still one that I listen to regularly) was put together by Tom Donahue. Was there a sense in the community that they were a "manufactured" band because of this? Sal Valentino certainly had a long tenure in the SF music scene.
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