Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Mon 11 Oct 99 16:10
I majored in Radio/TV/Film, at the time believing I wanted to be involved in TV news. After I transferred to Tufts, and then to UC Berkeley, I majored in political science, but took mostly journalism and art history courses. Today, I think TV journalism is pretty disgraceful for the most part; glad it's not part of my working world...
David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Oct 99 16:56
I'm glad you didn't go into broadcast news! I remember the first time I met you, Blair, in the office of BAM Magazine at 901 Ventura in Albany. Actually, I heard you before I saw you: someone was doing a hilarious Ed Sullivan impression out in the front room, and it turned out to be you. That's not a question, but I had to tell it. I was a fan of your work before then, and from that moment on I liked you as a person, too.
Steven Solomon (ssol) Mon 11 Oct 99 16:59
Blair, NPR <http://www.npr.org> is running a "Top 100" musical compositions of the 20th Century "poll". Basically, they've assembled a group of musicians, listeners, musicologists, etc, to pick out their own top 300, and then they let the public pick their faves of that bunch. One Dead tune appears. Of course, it's "Dark Star". What puzzles me, as seminal and/or defining "Dark Star" could be, is the absence of other performances. The infamous Cornell '77 "Not Fade Away" where they strapped Buddy Holly and John Coltrane on the same rocket n' let 'er rip, is one example. So, I guess what I'm wondering is, does the concentration on compostion in preference to live performance blind current critics to one of the most essential paths to appreciating the Dead? And, what about the synthetic nature of thier actual compositions, and their interpretations of folk and americana. Hard to handle?
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Tue 12 Oct 99 09:55
I think you're totally right, Steven. Critics just don't do the mental work necessary to "get" the Dead; it's an acquired taste, I suppose, just as so much jazz is. That said, I think the Dead have a handful (or two) of classic tunes...not the kind of stuff that would ever show up in a poll, but is there a more perfect ballad than "Stella Blue," for example? "Uncle John's Band," "Attics of My Life," "Brokedown Palace"...all perfect songs in my view. I try to stay away from all those 100 Best this and that 'cause they just piss me off if I invest any time in them. Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide have become completely devoted to churning out those annoying lists week after week. Ugh! TV Guide had a Greatest Moments in Television History where an event like the Kennedy assassination placed below the final episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show. What kind of sick society even compares those two events? Very strange. Actually, I'm amazed "Dark Star" would turn up on that list at all...
David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 10:50
List-compiling seems to be one of those things that a lot of people like and a lot of people have no interest in. I get lots of email from people who want to know my opinion of the best version of this or that...
David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 11:04
And it's nice to see a Dead song mentioned, even if it is one of the least song-like "songs." I mean, every "Dark Star" is different, so which one would you submit? :^)
Gordon Taylor (warfrat) Tue 12 Oct 99 12:49
I was visiting your website, http://www.blairjackson.com, and there is a page where you explain the reasons why you wrote this book and the process and trials you went through in writing it. To back up a bit, we now have, is it 3 books?...that are biographies of Jerry Garcia; yours, Rock Scully's and Robert Greenfield's. In the works is the bio being put together by Dennis McNally. Could you elaborate for us here how your book is different (understanding, of course, that Dennis's book is not out yet) and what it took to pull this project off? I understand it was a long time in the making. Certainly well before Jerry died.
Dave Waite (dwaite) Tue 12 Oct 99 15:19
I've just picked up your book Blair. I finished reading the 1st chapter and enjoyed reading about J. Garcia's Youth. It reads like a story at a family picnic with some of the folks having different rememberance of the same situation. You leave it out there for the reader to decide what was behind the story and the chain of events when they differ. While I'm sure this was intentional, it seems to make the book a much warmer biography. Could you talk a little about how you wanted this book to feel as we read it? thanks
David Gans (tnf) Tue 12 Oct 99 16:21
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Wed 13 Oct 99 10:22
Dave, believe it nor not I thought of the book as a documentary film, with my writing voice connecting large chunks of differing views of Jerry's life. It felt more that way before I had to edit out thousands of words, but that was my intent. I tried to be somewhat objective but I also wanted to some of my affection for the subject to shine through. I mean, I'm not a hack writer who was assigned a book to write. This was definitely a labor of love on every level. As for how the book should "feel"...I don't know, really. I was going for a sort of breezy, conversational feeling. The sad parts move me, the bummer parts bum me out, the funny parts are funny to me, so it works for me! But I've had some people say they think it's a little too sunny. One person thought there was too much emphasis on drugs (and I thought I played that down!). Some people think there's too much discussion of specific tours, songs, set lists, etc. I can't disagree with any of those viewpoints. It totally depends on where the reader is coming from. I tried to write a book that would lay out a chronicle of Garcia's life with a minimum of interpretation/judgment, and that would be compelling to both hardcore Deadheads and more casual (but still interested) fans. Gordon, how my book is different from Greenfield's is that I placed much more emphasis on the music than he did and also stitched together a narrative about Jerry's life in and ourt of the Grateful Dead. Greenfield's book is almost entirely stuff relating to Jerry's personal life. (I think he did a great job, too!) Sandy Troy's "Captain Trips" is like a sketch of Garcia's life; I like to think mine is more like a portrait. I can't speak about McNally's book, but it won't be a biography of Jerry. It's the deep history of the band we've been waiting for him to write for the past 20 years! He's had unparalleled access and spoken to everyone, so it should be something to behold. I'll be very interested to see how he wrestles this behemoth to the ground! It's funny, I heard that Dennis has studiously avoided all the books written about the Dead so he won't be influenced while he writes his tome. I felt the opposite way. I read everything I could and I couldn't wait to get my hands on Greenfield's book so I'd know what ground had already been covered and how. If I were Dennis, I'd be reading them all to see what NEW things I could bring to the literature. I see Rolling Stone says that his book will be out in 2001. I say no way, but we'll see. I also hope he doesn't go with that "Long Strange Trip" title Rolling Stone quoted. I think his original notion was "Waiting to Be Born," which I think was perfect!
David Gans (tnf) Wed 13 Oct 99 10:34
Let's talka bout all that stuff you had to leave out. How did you decide what to cut?
Gordon Taylor (warfrat) Wed 13 Oct 99 10:54
All of which reads like it's own book!
Carol Gould (carolg) Wed 13 Oct 99 11:58
Blair, there are some people in history who seem to command many biographical explorations over the years--for example, I was just at a lecture given by a guy who is writing yet another biogrophy of Freud, from, amazingly, a fairly original point of view. Other notable people are written about once or twice, and that's all you'll see of them in print. Jerry is obviously a perpetually interesting character, and in our time has generated many books, articles, etc. about him. Do you predict that 20 years from now people will still be writing about him? What do you feel are the characteristics of people who are subjects of numerous biographies?
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Thu 14 Oct 99 09:27
Cutting the book was the toughest job I ever had. I had a week to do it and I knew going in I was going to have to cut X number of manuscript pages, so I went through it systematically chapter by chapter with a quota in mind, knowing that if I cut less than the quota in one chapter I'd have to cut more in the next. What a way to work. There was a certain narrative/story flow I wanted to keep intact, so that was paramount. The tangents (many of them pretty cool, I thought) were the first to go. Then it became trimming the second and third voices in various stories, then parts of longer quotes. Ugh. A horrible process. Frankly, I'm surprised it still reads as well as it does, because at the time it seemed like a wholesale evisceration. Carol, I can't really tell you why people keep revisiting the same subjects in biographies. My own standard is (and will be) do I have something significant to add to the existing literature on a subject. Personally, I think a lot of the bios that come out are unwarranted. I mean, is it really worth revisiting jack kerouac's whole life just so a writer can reshape facts to fit his hypothesis that he was gay? Doesn't sound too interesting to me. Could a better bio of Jerry be written? Yes. In fact, with another year and five hundred more pages, I could do it myself. There's pretty steep learning curve with any subject, but the Grateful Dead in particular is a tough subject to rein in because there's so much subjective stuff to deal with about drugs, morality, etc. I've said before that someone could come in and write a really, really ugly Grateful Dead book and every word of it would probably be true--there's so much darkness in the cracks of this story. But obviously that's not the one I was interested in telling.
Ed Lammer (twitcher) Mon 18 Oct 99 15:36
Blair - I found the material about JG's first marriage quite informative. But, despite a number of quotes from Mountain Girl, I'm missing the essence of their relationship and the domestic organization of their lives during the Stinson Beach phase, and when JG had his own pad in the city. Did MG talk with you about this? Was it not a topic of interest to you? Of course, I'm only half way thru your book.
Ed Lammer (twitcher) Mon 18 Oct 99 15:43
I should note that you brought wide grins at our home when you made that crack on KPFA about the Dead's late '71 sweep across midwest college campuses like Washington University -- nailed!! This freshman was swept.
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Wed 20 Oct 99 09:52
Ed, one of the Dead's tour managers told me a story about Garcia doing an interview on the Washington University campus (can't remember if it was in '69 or '71). Jerry was wandering around trying to find the radio station and eventually stumbled upon it. As for the question about Mountain Girl, I'm not exactly sure what you're looking for. As far as I know they were essentially living as husband and wife in Stinson. The SF pad was mainly for nights when Jerry played Keystone Korner or was working at Wally Heider's studio and didn't want to drive back all the way to Stinson.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 3 Nov 99 19:03
Hey Blair, let's talk about the new Grateful Dead boxed set! We got our copies today -- the official release date is November 9. There's a web page all about it, with sound samples, a new video for "Liberty," and a spectacular photo gallery, at <http://boxset.dead.net> What do you think?
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Fri 5 Nov 99 13:32
Having been in the thick of making it--choosing selections, working on the sequences, etc--I'm still too close to it be objective. I'm just starting to be able to listen to it uncritically, to let it wash over me as a "fan" would. There are things I love and things I like less, but in general I think it's a nice piece of work that takes the listener on quite a journey from '65-'95. I think if I was hearing it for the first time, I'd love it. The packaging is cool and I love the essays, particularly Eric Pooley's which I reread again last night. I think the Web site is really happening, too! It's funny, but I think if David, Steve and I each made a five-disc set they would be probably radically different from each other in some ways, yet this boxset encompasses each of our visions of the Dead in a way. Let the second- guessing begin!
Dave Waite (dwaite) Fri 5 Nov 99 13:49
Blair.... Glad yoru still here. I'm about 2/3 through now... I read during the commute.... One thing that shows through is the it appears that Jerry was the reluctant band leader and reluctant project leader....Jerry is quoted as saying something like, 'I don't want to be the 'cop', but if everyone is going to defer that stuff to me, so be it.' I'm not sure where I'm going with this... just hoping you might want to comment.
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Tue 9 Nov 99 09:46
Jerry's quote was "I don't want to be a leader because I don't want to be a mis-leader." I think when he wanted to assert himself everyone deferred to him pretty much. I think he went through periods where he felt uo being The Guy, and others where he wanted to sit back and let everything happen around him without directing it.. My sense is the last couple of years he was very passive about GD affairs...
Members: Enter the conference to participate
Non-members: How to participate