August 16, 2009

Garcia Talks About Wake of the Flood & Free Music, 1973

In writing my Allmans post, I came across a couple short Cameron Crowe interviews of Garcia which looked interesting....

The first one from August '73, when they were recording Wake of the Flood, catches Jerry in a positive mood:

"We're recording close to two albums' worth of material," Garcia explains as he chain-smokes his umpteenth filterless Camel of the interview, "and distill it into one record, leaving the rest in the can. It's funny, you know, but I can't really pin down what kind of album it's gonna be. I never have been able to tell with past albums either. When I get the final copy home and listen to it, then I'll be able to look back and see what it is. Right now, all I know is that the tunes are all good. The tunes that me and Robert Hunter wrote are the best we've ever written. For sure."

Jerry is the first to admit that he is a somewhat less than prolific songwriter, but it was last January ['73] that he underwent a creative "spasm" that left him with seven new songs. The band was about to begin rehearsals the next week in their deserted and dilapidated Point Reyes rehearsal hall and Jerry, who undoubtedly felt the crush for new material, came up with the goods. "Sometimes," he says, "I can just crank 'em out and other times ....nothing. Like I could have a spurt in which I'd write four new songs in one week, and in the next six months I wouldn't be able to put two words together. It's that kind of thing."

The Dead's newest tunes, especially 'We Are The Eyes Of The World', are surprisingly complex and some-times jazz-oriented compositions. At a recent performance at Universal Ampitheatre in Los Angeles, the song stood out from the regular standards with ease. "They're a little more sophisticated in terms of structure than our other ones, the new tunes," Jerry admits. "But they're Grateful Dead all the way. I mean they sound like The Grateful Dead. I can't really look at them objectively, but I feel that they're better. It's hard to tell what direction they're moving in. They're really sort of dispersed in that they are widely-patterned. All the tunes are very different from each other and the ones that preceded them as well."

He also notes that the Dead are playing more live shows than they'd like (in '73!), and one goal in forming their own record company is to be able to "pick and choose" which shows to play....

The next interview, from January '74, finds Jerry in a very crabby mood:

"Fuck 'people's music'," laughs Jerry Garcia from a reclining seat in the plush, wood-finished business offices of the band. "I mean, I thought it was a dumb discussion even when it was the big thing awhile back to talk about how music should be free... that music belongs to the people and musicians rip them off. That kind of thing really irks me.

"It's like, in order to get so you can play music you have to sacrifice a lot of what would have been your normal life. You know what I mean? .... It's not a thing you just do. If that were so, everybody'd be making their own music and there wouldn't be professional musicians. There'd be no need for them. For someone to deny the fact that you spent a certain amount of your life working on some sort of discipline and learning how to play... that's the rip-off.... Anytime someone comes down on artists and claims their work on any level, I think that's pure bullshit. There's been too many great musicians who died poor. People's music... it just ain't so."

On other issues he's become more negative....back in Aug '73 he said, "We have nothing against the way Warner Brothers have treated us. They've never interfered with our music." But in '74 he sounds very bitter about having ever worked with a record company.

When the Bear's Choice album was being promoted he initially said, "It's a side of the group that never went on record" - but later he didn't want to hear it and said he couldn't care less about it: "As far as I'm concerned, it's something we owe them. I'm not interested in making Warner Brothers any richer. In a way, I'm glad it's a low-profile, non-success record. It just means there won't be any more energy going to WB via us. The music is what it is....I might not like it, but I played it. If they were no good, it's too late to take those notes back."

"Grateful Dead albums have never been representative of the Grateful Dead. The live albums come the closest, but even they're a year out-of-date by the time they're released. But it's dumb to complain about all that record company bullshit... As far as I'm concerned the whole record trip was our mistake."

He's still a little enthusiastic about Wake of the Flood, though: "We finally made a record better than we play.... But then again, I can't really look at them. When I listen to my songs I'm listening to myself talking to myself. As far as I'm concerned, it's a closed conversation. I'm not that fascinated with my own work."


  1. These links don't work anymore; the page has changed.

    The '73 article:

    The '74 article:

  2. i have never found any similarities between the dead and abb. i was only11 when they raelly got started. now at 54 i feel abb is (the)band. elyce oleary in pa.