Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 27 Jul 00 13:46
Leading the conversation with our next guests is Mary Eisenhart - marye, here on the WELL - a writer, editor, long-time Deadhead and WELL member, one of the co-founders of the WELL's Grateful Dead conference and herself a contributor to The Grateful Dead Reader. Mary introduces her guests and co-contributors: Our guests are David Dodd and Diana Spaulding, a husband-and-wife team of librarians responsible for a multi-year labor of love now published by Oxford University Press as The Grateful Dead Reader. In the GD Reader, David and Diana have collected articles, interviews, poems and writings that defy easy classification, all chronicling the Grateful Dead and Deadhead culture from the band's beginnings in 1965 to the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995. Authors range from Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, Tom Wolfe and the late Ralph J. Gleason (essentially the first music critic to take rock as a serious art form) to obscure dudes who wrote articles for obscure publications and then vanished. Among the contributors to the book are a number of Well folks, including David Gans (tnf), Steve Silberman (digaman), Gary Burnett (jera), and me (marye), the Interviewer of Record here. We've already been having fun hanging out on David's show on KPFA and at the July 25 reading/booksigning at the Booksmith on Haight St., and as we join our esteemed editor in this forum we hope to continue the questions, answers, storytelling and good times that are off to such a good start in the physical world.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Thu 27 Jul 00 14:03
So David and Diana, why don't you tell us a bit about what inspired you to undertake the task of putting this book together, and describe some of the adventures you had along the way?
David Dodd (ddodd) Thu 27 Jul 00 21:00
Okay, Mary! (Firstly, though, as librarians, we must insist that nothing defies classification!) Back in 1997, David was the co-author of a very serious and academic work entitled *The Grateful Dead and the Deadheads: An Annotated Bibliography,* with Robert Weiner. We tried our very best to track down every book, chapter, article, and fan magazine ever written about the band, read it all, and then annotate and cross-reference the whole thing. It was quite an experience, and included a trip to the Dead's offices where Eileen Law and Alan Trist gave us access to a lot of material from the band's archives. We felt, when the book was published (Greenwood Pr., 1997), that it represented a fairly complete picture of the state of the literature on the band, and at least that it would be a good starting point for future scholarship. It retailed for a whopping $75, and we think Greenwood sold about 700 copies, which, for a bibliography, and at that price, is pretty ding-dang good (possibly the best-selling rock bibliography of all time). So there sat David, having read all this stuff, and being also in the midst of the creation of a web site about the Grateful Dead's original lyrics, The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, and the next idea to spring to mind was that perhaps the web site could be a printed book. Oxford University Press was interested, but securing the permission from the band proved beyond us--it's on a very long-term back burner. Oxford suggested that David might like to compile an anthology of writing about the band, in their "Readers on American Musicians" series, which up to then included the Duke Ellington Reader and the Frank Sinatra Reader. This sounded like a reasonable project (little did we know), so we said sure! David looked around for a co-editor, and although a couple of folks were interested, no one really had the time to spare right then. But Diana thought it might be a good way to have an opportunity to work with David (weird writing about ourselves in the third person--perhaps in future posts we could identify ourselves and just use "I"), and she came on board as co-editor. As the project took on a general form it became clear that the largest task, after selecting the pieces to be included (which David initially did, resulting in a 700 page plus book), would be securing the necessary permissions. With Oxford, this is the responsibility of the author, both clerically and monetarily speaking. Fortunately, David Gans introduced us to his agent, Sandy Choron, who is now our agent, too, and who did a good job keeping us on track financially. Diana took on the job of securing permissions when followup and research was required, and we worked from a budget of what we could afford if we paid everyone roughly the same amount for their contributions. Of course, some cost more, but fortunately some writers waived their fees altogether (a great kindness), and we were able to put together a pretty good table of contents. We need to take a break now, but we'll write more about the whole process very soon! Thanks for inviting us onto the Inwell conference.
David Dodd (ddodd) Thu 27 Jul 00 21:20
Diana here--I don't have a well account of my own so I'll be sharing the "ddodd" address. I don't think David mentioned that fact that I'm not a deadhead (boo, hiss, I know...). It was an honor to share David'd labor of love, truly. Securing the permissions involved a lot of phone calls, and we struck out in finding a couple of authors. One day we took a drive into the Santa Cruz mountains and put a letter in the mailbox at the last known address of William Craddock. He happily agreed to have his work reprinted and expressed some surprise that we were able to find him. Turns out he hadn't lived in that house in over 10 years but the owners were friends who passed the letter on to him. We're very pleased with how the book turned out as a cooperative venture for us and as a literary accomplishment, too.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Thu 27 Jul 00 21:29
What kind of criteria (if any) did you use in making the selections? Got any "one that got away" stories?
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Fri 28 Jul 00 07:54
And, aside from the work of people likely to participate in this discussion, could you tell us about some of the selections in the book and why you like 'em? For example, I find that many post-boomers have no idea who Ralph J. Gleason was. And who is this Craddock guy anyhow?
David Dodd (ddodd) Fri 28 Jul 00 08:43
The question of criteria for selection is an intricate one, as you might imagine. As I noted above, my initial table of contents would have resulted in a much larger book. It would have included enough interviews with various band members to make this a less Garcia-Hunter centric book. And it would have been arranged thematically, rather than chronologically. There would have been a section on band members, on the deadheads, on the music, on the lyrics, and on the tradition fostered by the band (as in the carrying on of the torch by bands such as Phish, Blues Traveler, etc.). There would have been some actual song lyrics. Barlow would have been in there, which he hardly is! But Oxford, thankfully, has quite a process for review pre-writing of the books they intend to publish, and this includes sending out the prospectus of the book to experts, which in this case included Blair Jackson, who made a number of very well-taken comments about the book, and who advocated leaving out quite a few things and structuring it differently. We took his advice. And Oxford told me that although the Duke Ellington Reader was over 700 pages, that was an exception, and they would prefer something more along the lines of 300 pages for this one. Even so, some pieces of inarguable quality were never on the list. Our criteria from the get-go included the principle that we not republish material readily available elsewhere. That meant leaving out all of the Rolling Stone material (some of which is pretty much essential reading) with the exception of one piece by Ralph Gleason (who was, incidentally, the co- founder of Rolling Stone, along with Jann Wenner). It also meant that we would leave out most work by Blair Jackson and David Gans, each of whom have their own anthologies! An overarching principle, and one that I can only hope was successfully implemented, was that we wanted to emphasize good writing, rather than merely informative content. So we wind up with pieces such as Philip Baruth's first chapter from The Millennium Shows, which is atmospheric, non- factual in the extreme, and frankly weird, but utterly appropriate to the anthology. And William Craddock's piece, excerpted from the chapter entitled "Morgan's Acid Test" in his 1972 book *Be Not Content*, a classic of hippie writing, is also more valuable for its evocative writing than for its information. (Perhaps there is, though, an evocative means of imparting information: as in poetry.) And speaking of poetry, we include a poem from the Dead Heads Newsletter by Hunter, rather than any of his lyrics (which are available in many places but especially in his *A Box of Rain*). Besides the Garcia-Hunter centricity, we also have received from editors and earlier reviewers a frequent, if not complaint, then at least recognition that the book's contributors are male in the overwhelming majority. Mary, Alice Kahn, and two photographers are the only female contributors. (Mary Ann Mayer and Susana Millman are the photographers.) We had, initially, two more pieces by women in the book: Ingrid Sischy's wonderful piece on the death of Garcia and the Dead's redefintion of "family"; and Liza Williams's early piece about a Winterland New Year's show that appeared in an underground paper from LA. We couldn't afford Sischy's permission fee, and we couldn't find Ms. Williams, though we tried for months. She had published an anthology of her writing back in the 70's, but the publisher had no ideas where she was, and none of the contacts from the LA newspaper scene could point us to her. And there are WAY too many women with that name or variations thereof living throughout the USA. So we gave up, regretfully, on that piece. I would welcome any theories about why it is that men seem more prolific in the rock journalism field generally!
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Fri 28 Jul 00 10:14
Heh. I dunno if we should go there.:-) I mean, I'm not sure I'm surprised about the male dominance of rock journalism overall, seeing as both the artists and the audiences are still mostly male and the whole lifestyle often seems notably testosterone-driven. (And allow me to point out at this juncture, since I copy-edit her stuff with joy, that there is a Gurl Writer at Sonicnet.com by the name of Bliss Bowen who writes about folk-blues and is very, very good.) But for the Dead and Deadheads I had more enlightened expectations.:-) My bias in this is that I was so dumbstruck by the Dead and by Garcia in particular in January of 1981, a time at which I was employed as the Toy Lady at Payless, that I decided the only way I'd ever get to talk to them intelligently would be to reinvent myself as a journalist, and the following April was so amazed by a show the JGB did at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma that I literally couldn't sleep until I'd written a review of it. After showing it to a colleague at work who wrote stuff for Soap Opera Digest, who told me yes, I could write, I sent it off to BAM, which I read but otherwise didn't know much about, and soon got mail back from one Blair Jackson, saying "uh, we have enough Dead stuff for now, but wanna write something else? Call me." In the interim I actually read some of Blair's stuff (often aloud to co-workers while giggling hysterically at his witticisms), so he will probably attest that I was inarticulate with terror when I finally did call him, but he persevered and sent me off to review David Lindley's first solo gig. After several months he also told me to stop calling him Mr. Jackson, dammit. Several years of long strange trips and social engineering later, I did indeed interview Jerry...and spent many months thereafter wondering what I'd do with the rest of my life.:-) The closest I can come to defining why I didn't stick it out in rock journalism (I mean, other than the need to support myself) had to do with not being able to sustain the necessary head-butting, for lack of a better way to put it. Also, surrounded by people who were really really good at it, I didn't, and don't, think I was good enough at it to do it long-term. But I'm honored to be in this exalted company.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Fri 28 Jul 00 10:19
And speaking of exalted company--Blair, Steve, David (tnf) and Gary, would you talk a bit about the pieces you have in the book, and how you came to write them?
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 28 Jul 00 10:47
I should say right away, if immodestly, that the piece of mine that ends the book, "The Only Song of God," is my favorite piece of my own writing, that is, the only piece of my own writing that contains a few lines that seem like real writing <grin>. I'm tickled pink or some more psychedelic color that the essay found a home in this wonderful book, because the venue of its original publication, a Garcia tribute issue of Dupree's Diamond News, was even more ephemeral than the usual fanzine ephemera, being tied up in a warehouse somewhere as part of some lawsuit. So, thanks, guys! That piece was written at the request of John Dwork, the editor of Dupree's. Because Jerry had died, which felt like a huge passing-away to me of so many things that had been centrally important to me for over 20 years, it seemed like a speak now or forever hold your peace situation. I had already published "Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads," but the curious form of that book, and the fact that I was writing it with another writer, constrained me from more rhapsodic pronouncements. This one was just for me and God's ears, and I cried as I wrote the last parts of it. For better and worse, I won't mind if this is what's remembered of my time here. "Primal Dead at the Fillmore East" was written for Goldmine and the Taper's Compendium, appearing in slightly different versions in each place, and I frankly forget which came first. It was an elaborate excuse to ask Dick Latvala for a copy of the long-sought-for "lost" set from 2/13/70, which rewarded my curiosity by being not quite as sublime as the music from that night which set the standard of Grateful Dead wonderfulness for years, but was still damn interesting listening, if only to hear how the band, and Garcia especially, refused to rest on the laurels of even the other set *that day*, and pushed forward into the unknown. More later.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 28 Jul 00 10:57
My piece was written for the KPFA Folio by way of introducing myself and my radio show, which had become part of the station's lineup in the spring of 1990. My relationship with the Dead, and my place in that cosmos, was so weird for so long that I was unable to write much about it for many years. I promised KPFA a piece, though, and after much procrastination I delivered one.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 28 Jul 00 11:50
"Transformative Mysteries" was written at the behest of a sweet editor at the San Francisco Sentinel, who is now dead of AIDS, sadly. For about six months in the mid-'80s, the Sentinel was a really interesting bohemian publication, proto-Gen X even, attracting genius writers and photographers some of whom went on to bigger and better things (Andrew O'Hehir, now of Salon, among them.) The Sentinel was something nearly unimaginable: a gay San Francisco newspaper that refused to be ghettoized, that insisted on looking beyond this week's Miss Leather Tits contest and sex ads, to engage hip culture at large. What a relief! It couldn't last, and didn't, bought out by some bar-owning Neanderthal who promptly returned it to our regularly scheduled program of "Pride" <tm>. That essay came out of my frustration at never meeting any gay Deadheads, after years of going to shows. I was living with a wonderful guy at the time who managed to see the Dead open a second set at the Greek on a sunny day with "Fire on the Mountain" and still be unimpressed. I knew my heterosexual brothers and sisters were having peak experiences together, enraptured, falling in love during "Stella Blue," smooching during "Morning Dew," and so on; yet, though the Dead seemed like marvelously liberated swinging fun *to me*, and gay people seemed to "get" tribal psychedelia if there was a disco ball dangling over the dance floor, I was continually frustrated by the disdain with which my Dead interests were met from the few gay people I could relate to. It was something about fashion or lack of artifice, something about the homophobia radiating from the Dead Zeitgeist perhaps -- I didn't care. I felt more at home on Haight Street than I did on Castro Street. So I tried to explain it, translate from one world of hip otherness to another.
David Dodd (ddodd) Fri 28 Jul 00 12:42
And Steve's work, along with the article by Edward Guthmann (A Tale of Two Tribes), are an example of another thing we hoped to accomplish with this anthology, namely, to break down some of the stereotyping of Deadheads as one particular type of person (white, male, hetero, and either a teenager or an aging hippie...). Another example is the piece by Milton Mayer, "An Aged Deadhead." Another is Paddy Ladd's article, "You Don't Seem to Hear Me When I Call," by the noted British Deaf deadhead.
Blair Jackson (blairjackson) Fri 28 Jul 00 15:37
Let's see...I wrote "Deadheads: A Strange Tale of Love Devotion and Surrender" in early '81, back when I was managing editor of BAM. I felt like no one had ever really written anything cool about Deadheads, and since I was one and as editor could give the subject the appropriate space, I took it upon myself to write that cover story. It marked my first interview with a Dead member (Mickey), though I had met Jerry at a photo shoot for BAM in late '77. (The famously cantankerous and assholic shutterbug Jim Marshall hit Jerry up for cocaine; Jerry obliged!). I took all the Deadhead photos that appeared with the original articlea pretty hideous crew it was, too. 'Course I was afraid to go up to cute girls and ask if I could take their picture. I've always liked that article and I was thrilled when Paul Grushkin used the opening (about Egypt) in his (still)fine "Book of the Deadheads" the following year. "This Darkness Got to Give" was one of my preachy, up-on-my-high-horse editorials from The Golden Road, mixed with some actual reporting, about problems in the Dead scene whenever the hell that was...late '80s? '90? I dunno. I read it the other day. Not bad. It's a slice of history, I suppose. The writing is kind of pedestrian; not exactly designed for future anthologies, but there it is... "American Beauty" was a piece I wrote in a couple of weeks right after Jerry died, at the behest of Guitar World (a magazine I'd barely even seen) for a lot of money. It was a very strange time, to say the least. Aside from being bombarded by media folks for the first couple of weeks after Jerry died, I was going through a really horrific health crisis which was severely debilitating and completely mysterious. At one point, after days of discomfort with neck, chest and arm pain, I checked into Kaiser's emergency room fearing I was having a heart attack or something. I went through a zillion tests, was told I had a fantastic heart, and then went to my wife's chiropractor, who informed me how screwed up my neck/back was --maybe it was tension and poor ergonomics etc. finally catching up with me, exacerbated by Jerry's death, which I never could really absorb on a personal level because I was so busy writing about him/it; then I plunged right into doing the Jerry bio. Anyway, it took many weeks of chiropractic care but I was healed 100 percent (hellelujah!). But you don't care about all this. Anyway, the point is I was in bad shape when I wrote the article but I did work hard on it, and I was happy to get the opportunity to write about Jerry for an a largely non-Deadhead audience--I used the piece to try to explicate some of what was interesting about him as a player and bandleader, etc. I had been told it was going to be a cover story, so imagine my surprise when I walked into a Times Square magazine shop and found AC/DC on the cover. Hey, metal sells. The other piece I wrote in the Reader was "The Swirl According to Carp," which I wrote for High Frontiers (later it became Mondo 2000) under the pseudonym Jack Brittton. (Britton is my middle name.) I just thought it would be nice to step outside my usual persona in the Dead world and try something a little different. I'd like to say again, what a great job David and Diana did on the reader. As David Gans has said, this is a project both he and I had considered tackling (separately and together, I think) at different times, but never quite got around to, so I had some pretty strong ideas about what I thought it should be like. And I can honestly say it's better than what I probably would have done given the same pool to draw from. It belongs on every Deadhead's shelf...
David Gans (tnf) Fri 28 Jul 00 16:01
What Blair said. These editors did it up right! Steve said: >the homophobia radiating from the Dead Zeitgeist Can we talk about that? I'm not really aware of such a thing, but then, I'm not really attuned to it.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 28 Jul 00 16:34
Oh, my. One hardly knows where to start. But start with the assumption that anyone you meet who looks like a hippie, who isn't a screaming femme or a butch dyke, is straight. It's not as bad that way now -- the world has grown up a little! especially in the Bay Area -- but back in the '70s and '80s, gay people were one tribe of weirdos, and hippies stoners and freaks were another, and it wasn't just that they were different tribes, but sometimes they felt actually opposed. Especially by the late '70s and into the '80s, gay people had developed this subculture around the urban ghettos, which was pretty bourgeois, style-conscious, "clones," and so on, and longhairs with their shrooms and their backpacks were like, yuck. The modern day equivalent is the culture of the Circuit parties, which -- despite the fact that they're centered around drugs and dancing for hours to beat-heavy "tribal" tunes -- is all about looks, and money, and a certain kind of jaded cool. Looks, money, and jadedness play roles among Deadheads too, but -- you get the picture. It didn't help that the whole *vibe* around the Dead was bikerish, Peninsula cowboy redneck, a funny kind of macho embodied in the big mustached galootitude of, say, Steve Parish, or, more elegantly, Barlow. Despite what one heard aboutr Weir, which I suspect was a case of universal wishful thinking, the whole Dead trip seemed to be about a kind of cosmic no-bullshit tough alpha-male self-sufficiency. Which is cool, in many ways. But one never had the sense that Garcia -- even Garcia, the smart one! -- had done much self-examination "around" homosexuality. It was probably tough enough for him to examine his having a body at all, and all the iconic numenon fed him by Hunter was about female muses -- not that any of this has anything to do with homophobia plain and simple. But hey, the vibe was accurate: there were at least two major closet cases in the inner Dead scene, and I'm not talking about Weir -- in fact, I'm not saying any more about that at all. But after 30 years, I find myself the most "out" Dead-related figure, and I'm not at all an insider. That says something. We are everywhere, but where are we?
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 28 Jul 00 16:36
Funny thing, by the way, I *still* have more Deadhead friends than gay friends.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 28 Jul 00 16:38
By the way, as out as I am, I *still* got uptight at the reading when Edward read his article about me being gay before I myself got the chance to read, because I felt like now everyone would see my reading through the gay filter. Right: *I'm* the one laying that trip down, but still, I definitely had the sense that I was the only gay guy there besides my wonderful boyfriend.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 28 Jul 00 17:22
...plus Edward, of course.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Fri 28 Jul 00 17:32
Alas, where's Randy Futor when we need him... Checking out the celestial Jerry show, one hopes, but he would have some great comments on this, I'll bet.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 28 Jul 00 17:35
>gay people had developed this subculture around the urban ghettos, which was >pretty bourgeois, style-conscious, "clones," and so on, and longhairs with >their shrooms and their backpacks were like, yuck So the disdain was bidirectional. >It didn't help that the whole *vibe* around the Dead was bikerish, Peninsula >cowboy redneck, a funny kind of macho embodied in the big mustached >galootitude of, say, Steve Parish, or, more elegantly, Barlow. Backstage, maybe, but in the audience? >there were at least two major closet cases in the inner Dead scene That's a pretty hairy thing to assert if you're not prepared to elaborate. What's interesting to me about this is that the Deadhead subculture seems to be so much about acceptance, and safety.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 28 Jul 00 17:39
Reminder to those who are reading this from the web: You may submit questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Fri 28 Jul 00 17:48
There was at least one gay couple that was part of our extended show- going group for many years. Both long dead of AIDS, sad to say, but at least one of the guys had been into the Dead since the '70s.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 28 Jul 00 18:02
> That's a pretty hairy thing to assert if you're not prepared to elaborate. Well, elaborating would out them, so... that's why they call 'em "closet cases." There were gay and lesbian Deadheads around, always. But many of them would decline to hold their partner's hand at shows to avoid "weirding people out." I actually didn't meet one single out gay Deadhead until the mid-'80s, and I'd been going since '73, and looking for them. There was Deadophobia on the gay side, for sure. By the way, gay Phish phans have already built themselves a sanctuary at http://www.brianrobert.com. I suspect that as long as there's an Internet, things will never be as bad as they were that way.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Fri 28 Jul 00 19:19
One of the cool things about this book, from what I've seen of it so far, is that you see a lot of different subcultural facets of the Dead scene from a lot of different perspectives. The tip of the tie-dyed iceberg, but a start... David and Diana, what sort of stuff got lost in the missing 400 pages? Might we see it in some hypothetical Volume 2? And while you're at it, say more about this bibliography.
diana (ddodd) Fri 28 Jul 00 21:22
About that second volume...there is plenty of material, but, you see, every year that David has published a book we've had a child, so NFW! because two is my limit. One anthology is enough given that others do exist. David just told me a fun idea for another book (feel free to steal this idea): trace the band's touring across the country by looking at local news articles, a kind of history through local news coverage. One comment about the macho image: I also felt that at the shows I attended. I'm not saying there was blatent misogamy, but I can certainly understand a gay person feeling less than accepted. Now I'll let David (currently barefoot and in the kitchen) answer the question about the bibliography.
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