December 28, 2010

Jerry Garcia & Surrealistic Pillow

I was spurred to write this by a fellow Dead researcher:
It seemed like it would be useful to have a thorough review of Garcia’s involvement in Surrealistic Pillow.

Garcia was listed as the “Musical and Spiritual Adviser” on the back cover when it was released in February ’67. Though perhaps meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it’s actually quite a serious indication of Garcia’s high standing (at least among the Jefferson Airplane). Hidden behind that vague credit, Garcia did quite a bit of work on the Airplane’s album, a couple months before the Dead even entered the studio – in fact, he spent more time on Surrealistic Pillow than he did recording the Dead’s first album!
This is even more surprising since the Airplane were comparative veterans of the studio, compared to Garcia. They had almost as much playing experience as the Dead – they’d formed just a few months later than the Warlocks, gotten a record contract with RCA much earlier, and were already the most successful band in San Francisco, thanks in part to a first album (Takes Off) which had captured lots of attention.
The Dead, meanwhile, had only just signed up with Warner Brothers in September ’66 and wouldn’t record for a few more months. Garcia’s only known studio experience was a few sessions & demos with Autumn Records back in ’65, and a disappointing attempt at recording a single in June ‘66. (His early studio work is actually mostly unknown, really. When asked later on about his pre-Dead recordings, Garcia vaguely replied, “I did some various sessions around San Francisco. Demos and stuff like that.” I haven’t seen any more definite information!)
On the other hand, the Airplane looked up to Garcia as a guitar player and musician. They had not been too happy with their first album (just as the Dead would later feel!), and felt they needed extra help making things run smoothly in the studio. They had also been going through changes – new drummer Spencer Dryden had joined in July ’66, and singer Grace Slick had just joined them in mid-October, only a couple weeks before they started the album sessions. So it’s likely they were still pulling new material together when it came time to record.

Garcia was asked about Surrealistic Pillow in a mid-’67 interview – the interviewer enthused about How Do You Feel: “Yeah, I played flattop on that. I didn’t play flattop in My Best Friend. Skip Spence did – he wrote the song. Let’s see, on Today I played the high guitar line, and I played on Plastic Fantastic, and I played on Comin’ Back To Me… I’m fond of the songs that Grace is in: I like Rabbit a lot, I like Someone to Love – the original on the album is more or less my arrangement, I kind of rewrote it. I’ve always liked the song she used to do with the Great Society, but it didn’t have - the chord changes weren’t very interesting.”
This is the Great Society’s version of Somebody to Love, pre-Garcia:
Studio -
Live -

(In the same interview, he was asked about the ‘San Francisco Sound’: “I’m not sure what they mean by that. There’s a similarity in the sound…but there’s not really that much similarity in the music… Each of the bands sounds as different from each other as they do from everybody else. The San Francisco music scene is healthier and there’s more stuff going on than there is anyplace else… We all steal freely from each other, we all play together, we’re all friends, we spend a lot of time with each other, we all listen to each other, we’ve all gotten good together, we’ve all improved over the past year or so...playing gigs, getting together and jamming.”)

Garcia later said, “The Airplane thought it would be helpful to have somebody there who could communicate to their producer… And since they all knew me and I understood their music and understood pretty much what they were doing at the time, it would be far-out. I went down there and hung out and was a sort of go-between between them and their producer. I helped out with some arrangements and stuff – I just hung out.”

The Airplane felt Garcia did more than just hang out!
Paul Kantner said, “We had an RCA producer, but Garcia did the art side of it.”
And Jorma Kaukonen said, “Jerry could be credited with really being the producer…in that he was one of us and he knew what to do with the band… He really was the producer who arranged those songs.”
The RCA producer was Rick Jarrard - the Airplane hadn’t liked the producer on their first album, but again they used engineer Dave Hassinger (whom the Dead would work with later).

As Kantner told the story: “Our first album had been made rather restrictive by RCA and we were sort of unhappy with the results, and we needed to get more communication between us and the studio, and in some idiotic fancy of mine, we figured Jerry Garcia would be the person to communicate some of the things we were trying to accomplish in the studio. So [the engineer] would know that Jack's bass should make the board smoke. Smoke comes out of the board, put another fuse in; don't try to damp it down…
"We would be rehearsing something out in the studio, [Garcia] would say, 'I have a nice little part that would work in there; maybe you should play this.' And he would pick up his guitar and go boom, 'Why don't you play that?' and he would play it so good that we said, 'Why don't you play it? It sounds really good and we can't play it better than that. Come on, help us out here.'
"But mostly he was there to serve as sort of a buffer zone between us and the other side of the window. A lot of what we were trying to do, both sound-wise and lyric-wise was eased quite a bit by his very gentlemanly manner. He was not harsh, not abrasive…”

Ironically, the actual producer denied that Garcia was there at all!
Rick Jarrard said, “Jerry Garcia was never present on any of those sessions. Jerry Garcia played no guitar on that album. I never met Jerry Garcia. I produced that album from start to finish, never heard from Jerry Garcia, never talked to Jerry Garcia. He was not involved creatively on that album at all.”

Nonetheless, Garcia is listed as playing guitar on RCA’s session paperwork.
He played the high lead part on Today - he also played guitar on Plastic Fantastic Lover, How Do You Feel, and Comin’ Back To Me - he also played on JPP McStep B Blues and In the Morning, which weren’t included on the album – and he also rearranged Somebody to Love. (All this aside from musical suggestions which went undocumented.) By the band’s admission, this was clearly more than casual session work – Garcia was virtually a band-member! It’s likely that he wasn’t given any music credit on the album since he was now a Warner Brothers artist, while the Airplane were on RCA; so the band may have preferred him to work officially ‘undercover’.
(As an aside, though it’s been thought that Garcia played guitar on My Best Friend, we have his word it was Skip Spence – which is curious, because Skip by then was long out of the band, and already playing in Moby Grape.)

The recording sessions went through November 1966 – though the Dead had shows on the weekends, apparently Garcia would fly down to Los Angeles for the Airplane’s weekday recording sessions. It’s clear he attended every session he could, from start to finish, and he must have stayed with the Airplane extensively between sessions while they were in L.A.

Here’s the rundown:
Oct 31 (Mon) – they started with She Has Funny Cars and My Best Friend, without Garcia. (The Dead were playing the “Dance of Death Costume Ball” in San Francisco that day.)
Nov 1 (Tues) – Garcia joined them, and played on Plastic Fantastic Lover.
Nov 2 (Wed) - he played on Today.
Nov 3 (Thu) - White Rabbit, redone from the Great Society’s version.
Nov 4 (Fri) - 3/5 of a Mile, without Garcia – the Dead were playing at the Avalon that night.
(Then there was a break in the sessions for shows in San Francisco & Vancouver.)
Nov 14 (Mon) – recording continued with JPP McStep B Blues, with Garcia playing, and How Do You Feel. (Garcia’s memory might be off when he recalled playing on this song too, but he was definitely at the session that day.)
Nov 15 (Tues) – DCBA-25, and the newly rearranged Somebody to Love.
Nov 16 (Wed) – Comin’ Back To Me, with Garcia playing. (Marty Balin wrote this song during the sessions, and recorded it right away with just Garcia, Slick, and Casady.)
Nov 17 (Thu) – Go To Her (remake of old song, no Garcia involvement, not included on album).
Nov 21 (Mon) – In the Morning, with Garcia playing.
Nov 22 (Tues) – Embryonic Journey.
At some point, Garcia apparently called the music “as surrealistic as a pillow,” thus inspiring the album title.
The sessions wrapped there, and the Airplane returned to San Francisco to play a run of shows at the Fillmore from Nov 25-27 (some of which has just been released, with the Surrealistic Pillow songs still fresh in the sets).

Jorma Kaukonen had many admiring words for Garcia’s role in this album. “He’s definitely in the mix and an important part of the band on those tracks. When I got into the Airplane, I didn’t have a clue about what an electric guitar was except that you plugged it in and it was louder. Jerry was way ahead of all of us in that. Jerry was his own electric guitar player from the jump.”
“When he worked with us on Surrealistic Pillow, he really helped discipline us. Because he had come from a band, and as a band leader and as an arranger, he just really knew what was important. He was really important in the formation of that record, and I know that personally he taught me a lot about playing in a band. I remember one evening he said to us, ‘It’s not what you play. It’s what you don’t play that’s important.’ In terms of dynamics and just plain letting the music speak for itself. As a band leader, he was really ahead of the rest of us.”

(Though Kaukonen may be exaggerating a bit in hindsight, it’s interesting how close this is to David Crosby’s statements about recording If I Could Only Remember My Name, when Garcia played a very similar role as a kind of co-producer – “Jerry Garcia is responsible for that record a very great deal. He was there night after night after night…thinking, listening, talking - you know, acting as a friend, saying ‘Hmmm, man, what if you, how did you, why don't you try a little more, and....’ And he would play. He played on a lot of stuff.”)

David Freiberg said, “He sure did help the Airplane with Surrealistic Pillow. I don’t know what that would have been without him. He was on every track, pretty near. I can hear him playing on Today. I always thought the sweetness that got put on that whole album never would have been there if it wasn’t for him. Because it wasn’t on any other album they ever did.”

December 3, 2010

Jerry Garcia Interview Links

For some time I’ve lamented that there isn’t a complete archive of Jerry Garcia interviews online. Many interviews in old publications are now more or less inaccessible – a few have been reprinted; a few others have been transcribed online; a few circulate in audio.
So I’ve decided to at least take a small step and try compiling links to the various interviews available to read or hear online. This list is just a start, and is meant to be a work in progress – I hope readers can suggest other interviews I’ve missed, so I can make additions.

This list is not meant to cover what’s available in books or DVDs – it’s a list of weblinks, not a bibliography. I was hesitant to include youtube videos; but there’s a lot of good material there. I drew the line, though, at listing every ten-second snippet!
I also (somewhat arbitrarily) decided not to include torrent downloads, only things that can be streamed, but many audio interviews can also be found on Lossless Legs.
An ever-growing text collection of Garcia interviews up to 1975 is also included on this site: 
This list is arranged by date – I tried to list the actual interview dates, but sometimes had to settle for publication date.

UPDATED March 2018 with some youtube interviews added (and others deleted). I'm sure I've missed or forgotten other items online, so it would be appreciated if people could point out some of those!

July '64 - (Mother McCree's interview)

Spring ’67 - (Audio)
(Several copies are also up on youtube, for instance:

May '70 - (brief video interview in England - excerpt also available at

'70 - (Audio - Grateful Dead radio interview) - link dead

9/70 - (Audio - Grateful Dead interview with Alex Bennett on WMCA-AM, New York) - link dead
Also at:

10/11/70 - (by Jay Itkowitz, for Action World) - link dead

Feb ‘71 - (by David Bromberg)

6/21/71 (has French voiceover) - taken off youtube; may be available elsewhere?

Summer/Fall ’71 - (by Charles Reich & Jann Wenner; published in Signpost to New Space)
Also part here: 

4/11/72 -

April ‘72 - (very short, only a minute) (brief Danish TV bit, from same interview)
5/7/72 - (brief preshow interview)

'73 - (brief Hell's Angels documentary clip)

6/7/73 -  (Audio - by Dennis McNally; mostly about early scene, Neal Cassady) - link dead, but probably available in the "Jerry on Jerry" audiobook.

Oct ’73 -
Jan ’74 - (by Cameron Crowe - not straight interviews, but use lots of Garcia quotes)

6/8/74 - (Audio - by Ken Wardell for BAM, backstage at Oakland Stadium)

9/74 - (Audio - WPLJ interview, New York)

October '74 - (unreleased interview done for the Grateful Dead Movie) [ also had an unedited clip of this interview on a "Celebrating Jerry" page a couple years ago] 

3/23/75 - (Audio - preshow interview by James Cameron included)

Spring '75 - (Audio - by Peter Simon, for WVOI radio) (shorter edit, excerpts with songs added) 

8/6/75 -  (Audio - by Mary Travers)

9/22/75 - (audio)

1/23/76 - (Audio - by Bonnie Simmons, on KSAN) 

1/31/76 - (Audio - by Miles Riley, on KPIX) 

4/1/76 - (by Steve Weitzman, for Relix - also published in Rolling Stone's Garcia tribute book)

1976 - (Audio - by Ben Fong-Torres for Rolling Stone; in 5 parts, follow links - from the "Got Some Things To Talk About" CD) (Audio - Ben Fong-Torres interview, dated c.1975, part 1) (part 2)

1976 - (Audio - "What Was That" interview for KSAN)

10/2/77 - (audio)
also here: 

3/10/78 - (Audio - radio interview w/ Garcia & Kahn about punk & new-wave bands – great music excerpts) (longer, unedited)

3/11/78 - (Audio - radio interview by Andy Gefen, w/ the JGB)

Oct ‘78 - (by Jon Sievert; excerpts from Guitar Player interview) - link dead
( had a few short excerpts from later Guitar Player interviews, but the page is now gone)

1/11/79 - (Audio - WLIR interview with Ray White) 

5/10/79 - (Audio - with Mickey Hart; for Direct News radio broadcast)

6/10/79 - (Audio - Robert Klein radio show)
Also at:
Also at:

11/7/79 - (Audio - WMMR radio show, Philadelphia) 

12/6/79 - 
Audio - (Studs Terkel/Abe Peck interview, Chicago)
Also at: 

Oct ‘80 Radio City press conference w/ Weir - (pt 1)  

3/28/81 - (Audio - hotel room, Essen, Germany) 

5/7/81 - (Tomorrow Show w/ Tom Snyder - with Ken Kesey & Bob Weir) (with the band)
band clip also here:  (dead links)
& here: 
Full interview also at:  and

7/10/81 - (audio, St. Paul hotel interview)
also at:

9/7/81 - (video)

Oct ’81 - (“In Search of the X Factor” – also includes other Dead interviews from Musician issue)

1982 - (Audio - "A Talk with Jerry Garcia" - by Joe Territo) - link dead
also at: (Audio - "a Talk with Jerry," part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)

4/9/82 -  (Audio - by Lisa Robinson)

5/82 - (Audio - WRNW interview with Bill Cooper, Westchester NY)

11/8/82 - (Audio - by Bob Coburn, on Rockline radio show) - link dead (audio)

1/21/83 - (Audio - Santa Rosa 101.7 KVRE FM radio interview)
and here:
and here:

6/2/83 - (MTV interview, part 1) (part 2) (part 3)
Complete 30-minute clip also here:
and here:  

May '84 - (Audio - Paul Krassner radio interview in Eugene, partly printed in '85) 

Fall ’84 - (Video - “PM Magazine” TV spot by Dennis Elsas - brief Garcia comments used)

Fall '84 - (Audio - by Alice Kahn, for San Jose Mercury News "West" magazine) 

12/31/84 - (Audio - by Guido Sarducci)
also here:

1/12/85 - (complete Jas Obrecht interview for Frets; excerpt was used on - dead link 

6/14/85 - (Audio - 20th-anniversary Grateful Dead press conference in Berkeley)

Sep ’85 - (by Paul Krassner, for Realist; different edit than '84 radio excerpt above)

10/14/86 - (by Steven Marcus)
also here:

’87 (video) - NBC News On Stage, Jerry Garcia Speaks, vol. 1 - used to be on as well as video, Amazon instant video, etc., but no longer available for streaming

'87 - (video for Rolling Stone 20th-anniversary TV special) - dead link

’87 - (by Justin Kreutzmann, about the Touch of Grey video) - dead link

'87 - (Audio - Grateful Dead "In the Dark" promo interview)

April ’87 - (audio - brief)

10/31/87 - (audio)

11/12/87 - (by Mary Eisenhart, for BAM – full transcript)

12/87 - (for Guitar World) 

12/31/87 - ("Garcia's backstage kitchen" comedy bit w/ Tom Davis)
also here:

'88 - (by Kate Kelly, for KPIX TV)
full interview at: 
see also: (only brief excerpts)

5/23/88 - (Audio excerpt on the acid tests - by Joe Smith -  partial interview was printed in Off The Record)

9/13/88 - (by Legs McNeil for High Times, on rainforests) - dead link

7/3/89 - (by Jeremy Alderson, for Relix)

Oct ‘89 - (by Steve Peters, for Relix)

10/13/89 - (video)

10/16/89 - (radio call-in questions)

11/20/89 - (Audio - "Timothy White's Rock Stars" radio interview with Garcia & Bob Weir) (part 2)

11/30/89 - (by Fred Goodman, for Rolling Stone)
Also at:

May '90 - (in Hawaii, on a boat) - dead link
Part of this video is a different Hawaii boat interview:

5/10/90 - (audio - Honolulu hotel interview by Ben DiPietro)

5/19/90 - (audio - Hawaii hotel interview)

6/27/90 - (by Howard Rheingold - with Bear) 

Oct '90? - (GD press conference)

2/27/91 - (Headliners TV) - This has been taken down.

3/1/91 - (w/ Elvis Costello, for Musician)

4/16/91 - (with Bob Weir, by Howard Rheingold, for Interview magazine)

6/27/91 - (by Brigid Meier - excerpt later printed in spring 1992 Tricycle magazine) - the site is now gone!

9/9/91 - (by Peter Watrous, for the NY Times)

9/13/91 - (by Scott Muni)
(Same as and )

10/31/91 - (by James Henke, for Rolling Stone) 

spring ’92 - (by Barbara Meier, for Tricycle)

May '93 -  (backstage in Las Vegas) (part 2)
also here: 

May '93 - (by Greg Kot, for the Chicago Tribune) 

5/20/93 - (w/ Bob Weir - by Jon Sievert, for Guitar Player)

9/2/93 - (by Anthony Decurtis, for Rolling Stone)

’93 - (10/11/93 New Yorker retrospective, by Bill Barich)

Jan ’94 – (for Magical Blend)
(Different edits of this interview also available at and and )

3/31/94 - (short interview on art)

5/2/94 - (History of Rock & Roll unedited interview) 

There used to be a shorter two-part copy on youtube, but it's gone now - - this is part 2.

'94 - (phone interview about comic-book artist Will Elder)

'95 - (Jerry talks about Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein)
also here: 

4/28/95 - (Garcia's last interview) (excerpt from above - a brief reminiscence about the old Palo Alto days) - Now gone! (a brief clip of Jerry talking about playing on Merl Saunders' Blues From the Rain Forest) - This has been taken down.
I think this is the same one: (don't know what interview it's from) (brief audio on 1970 drug bust; don't know what interview it's from) (on the trip to Egypt; haven't placed interview) 

Various - (Audio - "Got Some Things To Talk About" compilation) - dead link, but see 1976 link above.

compilation of excerpts - 

'80s - (Don Fass "Reaching Up Radio" show, part 1) (part 2)

Nov ’91 - (some interesting Garcia comments used in this CNN news report from Aug '95) (Audio - 1999 "American Routes" radio program, has excerpts from a July '89 Smithsonian interview by Nick Spitzer) (part 2) 
Also at:

Some other short TV bits: 
11/6/79 Philadelphia TV show (with Weir) - 
c.1980 Good Morning America -
10/29/80 Good Morning America (with Weir) -
1982 Don Bleu's Weekend (talking about Run for the Roses) - 
4/13/82 Letterman TV show w/ Weir -
also at:  

9/5/82 ABC Nightline w/ Sting - 

9/17/87 Letterman TV show w/ Weir -
9/15/88 Good Morning America (talking about rain forests) -
10/10/89 ABC Studios, interviewer Kurt Loder (with Weir, on the growing audience at recent tours) -
October '89 Today Show (with Weir, a similar interview) -
And Garcia with Grace Slick & Bill Graham on a San Francisco TV show in 1984, interviewer Bill Kurtis (talking about changes in the music scene since the '60s) -