March 20, 2010

Garcia & Volunteers

Some of you may know, there's a quote from Garcia in the 'mock newspaper' on the inside of Jefferson Airplane's album Volunteers, claiming to be from the mythical "PAZ Chin-In":
"I broke a string so why don't you wait a minute & talk to each other. Or maybe talk to yourself, to your various selves. Can you talk to yourself? Do you even know you have various selves to talk to?"

What's less-known is that this is an actual quote. It comes from Michael Lydon's article on the Grateful Dead, published in Rolling Stone (August 23, 1969). This is perhaps the best early article on the Dead - Lydon followed the Dead around for several shows at the end of May '69, watching what went down, interviewing the band about their history.
One of the shows he was at was the Portland Springer's Inn show on May 30. He describes Garcia breaking a string during Doin' That Rag, and then comes the famous quote. (Later on, before Dark Star, he says that someone in the audience shouted, "Play the blues!" To which Mickey Hart replied, "Fuck you man, go hear a blues band if you want that.")

What's more, now that we have the tape of this (newly circulating) show, we can hear it for ourselves. The end of Doin' That Rag indeed goes haywire - but what Garcia actually says is not quite the same: "I broke another string, so I'm gonna change this one. Meanwhile, you can talk amongst yourselves - or maybe it's talk amongst yourself - or you can talk to yourself." The rest isn't there. (Neither can Mickey's 'intro' to Dark Star be heard.) Maybe the tape stopped, maybe Lydon heard more words off-mike, maybe he made it up....

Lydon is pretty accurate about the rest of the show; the only song he misses is Cosmic Charlie. He describes a couple other shows as well - the first is the Winterland May 28 benefit. Apparently it was a lousy show, the band unable to get it together. (Garcia said afterwards, "I can get behind falling to pieces before an audience sometimes. We're not performers - we are who we are for those moments we're before the public, and that's not always at the peak.")

The next show is the Robertson Gym May 29 show - the way Lydon has it, they were stuck with the student PA, played Lovelight for 40 minutes and then stormed off the stage in disgust. (If accurate, this makes it clear that our "5/29/69" tape is actually from the 5/11 San Diego show. There is no mention of Santana, nor any reason he'd be at this little gig; whereas reviewers of the 5/11 show remember the jam with Santana there.)
Garcia to the audience: "Sorry, but we're gonna split for a while and set up our own PA so we can hear what the fuck is happening."
Garcia offstage: "We should give the money back if we don't do it righteous. Where's Bear? Listen man, are you in this group, are you one of us? Are you gonna set up that PA? Their monitors suck, I can't hear a goddamn thing out there. How can I play if I can't hear the drums?"
Pigpen: "Let's just go ahead. I can fake it."
Garcia: "I can't."
Pigpen: "It's your decision."
Lesh: "Yeah, if you and nobody else gives a good goddamn."
Lesh to the audience: "We're really sorry. We burned you of a night of music, and we'll come back and make it up."
Weir: "If we dare show our faces in this town again."
It's too bad Lydon didn't make it to the May 31 Eugene show with the Pranksters; a description of that would be great.... But his account of their May 30 plane flight to Portland is priceless, and too long to quote.

By the way - the Volunteers album also has Garcia playing pedal-steel on the mock-country song The Farm - the first of his pedal-steel guest appearances in the studio. (He'd only been playing it a few months.) It also seems to be his only involvement on a '60s Jefferson Airplane album after Surrealistic Pillow, in which he was practically a band member - playing guitar on several songs, arranging others, and perhaps even naming the album, but simply labeled as the "spiritual advisor".
(You could also count the "official bootleg" Jefferson Airplane at the Family Dog Ballroom released a couple years ago, a show recorded Sept 6, 1969 after the Dead's set, in which Garcia and Hart play in a long show-ending jam - Garcia even plays the Darkness Darkness melody! The Airplane actually play The Farm at this show too, but Garcia's not on it.)

There's also another connection between the Volunteers album and the Dead - the main Volunteers/We Can Be Together riff is taken from St Stephen!
It could be a case like the Mind Left Body riff where the two bands just shared a common riff, not caring or remembering where it originated. Or perhaps it was a little tribute to the Dead?
In any case, there's quite a difference between "up against the wall" and "ladyfingers dipped in moonlight"....

Garcia '69: "We are trying to make things groovier for everybody so more people can feel better more often, to advance the trip, to get higher, however you want to say it - but we're musicians, and there's just no way to put that idea, 'save the world', into music - you can only be that idea, or at least make manifest that idea as it appears to you, and hope maybe others follow. And that idea comes to you only moment by moment, so what we're going after is no farther away than the end of our noses....
"I've been into music so long that I'm dripping with it; it's all I ever expect to do. I can't do anything else. Music is like yoga, something you really do when you're doing it. Thinking about what it means comes after the fact and isn't very interesting. Truth is something you stumble into when you think you're going someplace else, like those moments when you think you're playing and the whole room becomes one being - precious moments, man. But you can't look for them and they can't be repeated. Being alive means to continue to change, never to be where I was before. Music is the timeless experience of constant change."


  1. I don't know if you've heard this interview with Garcia from 1967 but if you haven't, you should because it's really interesting. I think you'd love it. He talks a lot about what he did on the Jefferson Airplane album, the San Francisco music scene, the SF bands, and a lot more.

    This interview was conducted before they released their first record. The interviewer is a former student of Garcia's.

    It's a 9 part interview with each part being around 8 minutes. They really cover a lot of areas (including the Vietnam War and the justification for fighting in it) and the interviewer is not deferential to Garcia at all but respectful (of course he wasn't known much in '67).

    Here are links to the nine parts:

    part 1

    part 2

    part 3

    part 4

    part 5

    part 6

    part 7

    part 8

    part 9

    Thanks for your essays - they are very interesting.

    August West

  2. I think that's the same interview (from "July 1 '67", about 66 minutes) that's on the Archive here -
    I do need to hear it again, haven't listened to it in a long time....

  3. Just a brief note:
    This site - - has a Santana tour history; we find that Santana was playing in Fresno on May 29, '69. As for the May 11 San Diego show, it was broadcast live on the radio (which is the source for our tape, explaining why it sounds rather crummy). Though the Santana band contributes in the jam>drums>Lovelight, unfortunately Santana himself can hardly be heard....

  4. I added a note about St Stephen in the post - so obvious I'd forgotten it....

  5. Both Volunteers/We Can Be Together and St. Stephen are based on a modal scale (Dorian, I believe) that is an idiom that predates recorded music. "Little Maggie" by the Stanley Bros. is an common example of this idiom which with both Garcia and Kaukonen were exceedingly familiar by this period. Cheers!

    1. Ah, the different scales are all greek to me... I know nothing about that stuff, so I'm unqualified to write about it. But hopefully someone more musicologically inclined will write accessibly about the Dead someday.