David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 09:26
First, the canned bio: BLAIR JACKSON has written about Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead for nearly thirty years. From 1984 to 1993, Jackson and his wife, Regan McMahon, published the Dead fanzine The Golden Road in their spare time. Jackson's books include Grateful Dead: The Music Never Stopped, and Goin' Down the Road: A Grateful Dead Traveling, Companion. He currently works as executive editor of the professional audio trade magazine Mix. He lives with his wife and two children in Oakland, California. Blair is the author of GARCIA: AN AMERICAN LIFE, published in August by Viking, and he is also one of three producers (along with Steve Silberman and myself) of the Grateful Dead boxed set SO MANY ROADS (1965-1995), to be released by Grateful Dead/Arista on November 9. Blair, it's great to have you here in the WELL!
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 09:27
Let's begin with the book, of course, and with a Big Question: What is it about Jerry Garcia that makes his life worthy of so damn much documentation?
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Fri 8 Oct 99 09:43
I think part of it is that his life spans so many interesting epochs of American cultural history. He has roots in both Beat culture and suburbia (both post-War phenoms). He was the son of an Americanized immigrant. His story encompasses the "folk scare" (as he liked to call it), the dawn of the mid-'60s counterculture/drug culture, the post-Beatlemania rock world, the Haight, Woodstock, Altamont, the rise of independent labels (their own), the rise of coprorate rock, etc. It's the ultimate "alternative" music story in a way...
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 09:49
I've always thought the Dead embodied the true spirit of "rock'n'roll" as defined by the godfathers of rock journalism, e.g. Dave Marsh Greil Marcus, et al. They did it their way, goddammit, and they succeeded hugely. Why do you suppose the Dead wound up on the outs with all those critics?
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Fri 8 Oct 99 10:12
One word: hippies. Because the conventional rock crit thinking is that hippiedom either died or should have died in about 1974, the Dead were perceived as being the leaders of a movement that was old and in the way (so to speak). Then, when punk and new wave started bursting out of the garages in '76 and '77 part of it was in reaction to what those groups saw as the excesses of late-'60s, early '70s music--long guitar solos, which were always termed "self-indulgent" (and most of 'em were!) and the complicated structures of the dreaded "progressive" rockers, from ELP to Yes and Genesis. The new wave was a chance for guys (and girls) to get in on the ground floor again, with limited knowledge and/or expertise. That was a good thing! But I think the Dead were swept away in the minds of many for being just more '60s detritus. We won't get into personalities, but I've always thought Dave Marsh is a total jerk with an extremely limited and myopic view of rock n' roll. Greil is obviously brilliant in that Greil kind of way; I'll leave it at that...
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 10:20
Heh! >The new wave was a chance for guys (and girls) to get in on the ground floor >again, with limited knowledge and/or expertise. Good point. And that's how it always goes: all of these great waves of music began as DIY scenes. The Dead and their peers started out playing in their own communities, and their audience grew over time. I suppose it worked out well for everyobdy. The Dead were free to create their music in front of a loving audience, and the demands of the "real" music industry were totally irrelevant. Why do you suppose this stuff works so very well for our thin slice of the demographic pie, while leaving so many other humans absolutely cold?
Danger Mouse (warfrat) Fri 8 Oct 99 10:43
Jerry was mentioned at the GG Park memorial in his honor by one of his daughters as a "true American" (or something to that effect) and your title seems to reflect that. Jerry was truly American in so many ways. Care to comment on how you came up with the title and reflect on Garcia's life as a "true American"?
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Fri 8 Oct 99 11:01
It's a life that couldn't have happened anywhere else, and its so wrapped up in American ideals of liberty, freedom of expression, democracy, etc, but in completely left-field ways. Frankly I was going a little for irony with the title. David, in response to your last question, would it sound too flip to say: You had to be there? But seriously...obviously there is something the Dead tapped into that was deeply emotional for many people, and Jerry's guitar playing was probably the most overt expression of that expansive Grateful Dead emotional landscape. But I've often wondered what the Dead would have become if they'd never hooked up with Hunter? He gave the repertoire its heart and soul to a large degree. When I hear all the neo-hippie jam bands, I'm always struck by the fact that as well as they all play, none of them have found their Robert Hunter. I don't think you can overstate Hunter's importance to the whole equation. But then, I've always been a word guy. I know folks who saw the Dead hundreds of times and never really absorbed the words. There was plenty for them, too. I loved both sides; one fed the other.
Danger Mouse (warfrat) Fri 8 Oct 99 11:31
Hunter is great and I agree that many "jam bands" have not found their "Hunter" (with, maybe, the exception of Phish). It's also interesting that there are a few songs that many people think are Hunter songs but are actually traditionals, "I Know You Rider" for example or "Morning Dew". If I state to some non deadhead that Jerry was a "true American", I get a good laugh. How do you think history will regard the contributions he and GD have made to the musical patchwork of our American lives as a society?
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 11:44
Years ago, I said to anyone who would listen, "If we think the Grateful Dead deserve a place in history, we'd better start writing the books." Blair and I have done our part, and so have dozens of others! I have been going through my bookshelves here, preparing for a garage sale, and I was thinking about the impressive number of Dead books we have now. When Blair's first book, "The Music Never Stopped," came out, there were only a handful -- Hank Harrison's books and "The Official Book of the Dead Heads," and maybe onr ot two others...
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 11:46
>David, in response to your last question, would it sound too flip to say: >You had to be there? That's probably the truth. The tapes can only record so much. >obviously there is something the Dead tapped into that was deeply emotional >for many people, and Jerry's guitar playing was probably the most overt ex- >pression of that expansive Grateful Dead emotional landscape. Well said. They made their maps as they created the terrain; it was usually Jerry pointing the way. >But I've often wondered what the Dead would have become if they'd never >hooked up with Hunter? He gave the repertoire its heart and soul to a >large degree.... I don't think you can overstate Hunter's importance to the >whole equation. Amen to that!
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 11:47
From: Ktrnka Date: Fri, 8 Oct 1999 14:04:21 EDT Subject: Blair Jackson interview Hi David, I don't have a question. But I want to thank both Blair AND you. Even though my first show was in 1969, my husband and I had all the LPs, and always went to Grateful Dead concerts when they came to our vicinity, I never considered myself a Deadhead. After we returned to the Bay Area in 1983, I went to the Psychedelic Shop in San Francisco for a poster artist event. (There's one happening tomorrow at Great American Music Hall, you know.) One of the guys at the Psychedelic Shop turned me onto "The Golden Road" - the very best Grateful Dead publication EVER, imo. And about the same time, you (David) had an earlier version of the Deadhead Hour on KFOG. (I think) For the first time I realized that I, too, was a Deadhead. The people I thought of as Deadheads were actually a subgroup of Deadheads (Tourheads I began to call them). I carried around the statistics Blair published that about 80-90% of the fans at any given show being from the area of the concert, and a smaller percentage of fans who actually followed the band. And I also learned about the taping community, that the Dead never played the same song during a run (which wasn't true when I began going to their shows, you know), and later I found the online community because of you two, Thank you to both of you. You have enriched my life and members of my family (the notorious McElhineys) and god(dess) bless you. :-) LATVALA! Kathy Lutes (Katrinka)
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Fri 8 Oct 99 11:55
Too early to tell, Mouse. I think a lot of what the Dead did and Jerry in particular played is really more comparable with someone like Coltrane than their rock brethren. I don't hear that much specific Grateful Dead/Jerry musical influence in other bands, but you see their approach, both to jamming and to how they handled their career, in many, many groups obviously. Mouse, do you really think Phish has a Hunter? I really don't want to get into a debate about Phish (I'm pro-Phish, though I don't actually listen to them much; I think they're great musicians, cool guys, great attitude, etc., but they don't really do it for me, if you can dig the distinction) but I can't say I've ever been moved by any of their lyrics. A lot of 'em seem kind of lightweight to me, though I can see they're trying hard to go somewhere with 'em. But Hunter draws from such a deep reservoir of different song/poetry forms, not to mention his own life experiences, which shaped him so.
Alan Thornton (southerndisc) Fri 8 Oct 99 12:15
Hi Blair, Thanks for the book and for the outtakes on your website. There are lots of great words in the world. If someone wanted a Hunter type lyric they could try setting 'Song of Myself' or 'Mexico City Blues' to music, couldn't they? I feel that the connection between Jerry and Hunter was more than just a lyricist/musician deal, though, yes?
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 12:35
Date: Fri, 8 Oct 1999 15:05:11 -0400 (EDT) From: Joe Tucker <firstname.lastname@example.org> Blair, Much has been made of Garcia's life and music, and I continue to discover new pearls of musical wisdom through the Dead's music. Still, I cannot help but feel that Garcia's appetite for narcotics seriously dimmed his musical abilities for long stretches of his career, yet many Deadheads came back again and again. Some kept coming back for the hope of great music, but many more came for the party/travelling market. Do you perceive a point at which the level of Jerry's musicality becomes almost irrelevant to the 'Heads and do you feel that Jerry's awareness of this fact contributed to his malaise? Joe T.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 13:18
There's a full page roundup of Grateful Dead-related books in the 10/28 Rolling Stone. "Readingman's Dead" is the title of the page, and GARCIA: AN AMERICAN LIFE is the first book mentioned. "Jackson's biography offers refreshingly unromantic glimpses of the band's gestation, the acid trips, the Haight-Ashbury atmosphere, the stadium tours and Garcia's last days...." I'm thrilled to add that my book CONVERSATIONS WITH THE DEAD is also favorably mentioned. Blair's book and my book are the two covers pictured out of nine titles reviewed. There's also a terrifric photo of the band playing live.
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Fri 8 Oct 99 13:44
Joe, I think there was always a segment of Deadheads who didn't care about the musicality of the experience in absolute terms; i.e., who got off on it more generally than specifically: "Wow! All right! A Grateful Dead show!" That's fine. There were times when I wish I could've been less critical a listener; I would've had more fun. Toward the end, I definitely found myself trying to listen a little less critically. Maybe that's why I had more fun in '94 and '95 than a lot of my friends who were constantly fretting about whether Jerry had "lost it" or whatever. I don't think Jerry's awareness of this uncritical element at his shows affected his playing. Certainly he appreciated the latitude that Deadheads gave him, but I'm not cynical enough to believe that he phoned in performances knowing that a lot of people didn't care about quality. If he phoned in performances from time to time, it's because he occasionally didn't care/didn't want to be there. Alan, I agree that Hunter/Garcia was more than just a lyricist-composer relationship. This wasn't Lerner and Lowe or Goffin and King, but something deeper. I'm loathe to characterize it beyond that, as there are levels I'm sure we'll never fathom. But it's pretty obvious there's a deep level of communication going on between the lines in many of their songs.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 13:55
From: "Teddy GoodBear" Subject: Re: Blair Jackson interview on the web Date: Fri, 8 Oct 1999 16:43:18 -0400 Hi David & Blair, Thank you both for the work you've done over the years. I'm extremely excited about your new book Blair!!! As a Deadhead & as my main hobby, I research Dead & pre-Dead history & trade music online via high speed modem. I found the 1st few chapters of your book so fascinating I've read it over at least 3x! I can't wait to get to the rest of the book!!! I'm, along with other caretakers, documenting these early years for the non-profit project at www.deadlists.com. I'm hoping I can use the photos & historical facts you wrote of in your new book & incorporate it within DeadLists w/o violating any copyright laws? That way 100 or more years from now the history & origins of the Dead can live on. I think the GD will live on in history like classical musicians have. It's so neat with the technology we have these days. You can click your mouse & information & music comes into your computer & then you can make CDs or DVDs all within a few hours & soon to be within a few minutes! My predication is that the GD related history will continue to grow on the internet & have the biggest amount of information available then any other rock group or sub-culture. Teddy :^) www.goodbear.com Teddy-AT-GoodBear.com Art Pages: http://www.pompano.net/~goodbear Home of AUD Etree(s) & Tree(s) http://www.goodbear.com/tree.html
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 13:56
(I want to point out that www.deadlists.com is a terrific resource! Along with DeadBase, the WELL and the Tapers' Compendium mailing list, deadlists was a hugely valuable aid to the producers of the boxed set.)
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Fri 8 Oct 99 14:37
I agree. I have it bookmarked! That said, I feel like legally I have to stick up for photographers, some of whom may not want their stuff on the web for whatever reasons. And, quite frankly, if one were to indiscriminately reproduce the photos from the book on the web it somewhat diminishes the value of the book--I paid for those photos to be in there and I'm proud at how many are exclusive to the book. Hate to sound like a tight-ass about it...
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 8 Oct 99 14:41
That brings up one of the most interesting aspects of the gd phenom... the peculiar and particular intellectual property assumptions of the deadhead culture. I always found the tension between 'sharing' tapes, drugs, sex, rides, whatever... and the entrepreneurial instinct of the GD artist/logomaker/knockoff folks very interesting. Folks wanted to have their cake and... Or rather to sell their burrito and share it, too.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 8 Oct 99 15:27
Teddy GoodBear replies: I understand. I'll be looking forward then to paraphrasing & quoting the words only from your book, giving credit to you & your book in the reference footnotes. That way the book can be promoted & deadlists members can get their tummies full of burritos, <g>. BTW, thanks to both you and David for choosing some 1994 songs on that boxed set. IMHO, that was a fine year for me. I got to see nearly 50 wonderful GD shows & travel throughout the country.
Carol Gould (carolg) Fri 8 Oct 99 20:03
Hey Blair...it's great to see you here! I don't have anything to ask or comment upon at the moment, but I just wanted to tell you I loved the book. It's rekindled my desire to listen to my tapes, which has been dormant for a long time. Having all the fresh analysis of the music in my mind is making me want to listen to it again, with somewhat "new" ears. It's great not only to hear the music but to stir up some very fond memories, of dancing at the Greek or Cal Expo or Kaiser or whatever.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Sat 9 Oct 99 13:23
Blair: What writing made you want to be a writer?
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Mon 11 Oct 99 09:14
Hi Carol, Regan told me you were thinking of calling in when I was on David's show to ask about Jerry singing "Wake up to find out the you are the size of the world" during one of his more rotund periods! What a crackup. I haven't heard that, I have a couple of tapes where he sings "the heart has its sneetches"--must be the Dr. Seuss influence. Steve, I don't think there was any particular writer who inspired me to be a writer. Growing up the son of a jornalist, though, our house was awash in piles of magazines and newspapers at all times and I used to read 'em all. I'm not very well-read, bookwise. I've always preferred non-fiction; biography is my favorite form, appropriately enough.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 09:19
You went to Northwestern, Blair. Did you major in Journalism?
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