Musically, the early seventies are remembered as some of the Dead’s
finest years. But some of those inside the scene had a very different
perspective on what was happening with the band.
Robert Hunter recalled the Europe ’72 tour:
“What I most remember about '72 was the tragedy of it. Looking back over empty years that should have brimmed with joyful greatness, I realize more and more fully how tragic it was... How much should be said? To me the '72 tour was about division. I joined to see Europe and to write songs (and because I always toured with the band) – endless European bus trips seemed like a God sent time to get the next album sketched out since Garcia was almost always otherwise occupied in the States - maybe a fourth album to follow the Workingman's Dead/American Beauty/Rambling Rose trilogy. Instead a major insurrection occured. The Bolo-Bozo metaphor was a way of laughing it off, but the always incipient schism between crew consciousness and artist orientation became decisive. Every meal was a food fight. Sensitivity to cultures was nearly non-existent. It was not only insinuated but bluntly proclaimed that the show could not go on without muscle and tech. Strike was threatened. The band was intimidated and no one was able to call the bluff. I split off from the group at the end of that tour, feeling alienated, groundless and forlorn, eventually moving to England. Though I continued providing songs and collaborating with Garcia, in essence I retired from the Grateful Dead touring and business juggernaut after 'the '72 tour. It was plainly headed for a brick wall. So was I.” 
This perspective of the “schism” between band and crew hasn’t really surfaced in other accounts of Europe ‘72, though McNally drops some hints that the crew was pretty hard to deal with on the tour. (Jon McIntire diplomatically said, “The equipment guys could be a problem since they were…emotionally willful.”) They were a boisterous bunch, swinging bats and flicking knives – in one famous incident, they dumped ice cream over a young protester in Paris, who then proceeded to sabotage their equipment truck. The Dead seem to have found all this more hilarious than Hunter did.
Hunter wrote more about his later disenchantment with the Dead scene:
“About midway through the ‘70s shows became a trial for me to go to. Before then I was there with every note, immersed in the adventure - the blossom was bloomin' and there was no telling what the flower would look like. But something indefinable that attracted me became increasingly rare. Not to say it didn't show up in a thousand instances right up to the end, folks say it did and I believe them.
On the other hand, maybe it was just that I was falling into disuse, my personal relations with these "Stars" becoming strained and less productive. Pig was gone, Keith hit the skids pretty quick, I never even got to know Brent. The drug stuff was no longer experimental, just stupid addiction. I'd break away and then wander back. Coteries became entrenched and the politics were insufferable. The understanding among the politicos was: all you needed to do to work your will was to get Jerry on your side - and the way to do that was to isolate him - the rest of us could go fuck ourselves. You can pretty well suss from Rock's book the kind of contempt in which he (and others) held everyone but the big G . They had contempt for him too, but it was tinged with astute respect for his actual power.
I think this Machiavellianism was the main source of the leaks in the dream. It conditioned everything. Jerry knew it for what it was and hated it. He retreated into dreams of his own, tried to make music apart from it, but the die was cast. He was like a lost dinosaur trying to fit into a trailer home.” 
Hunter missed the early years of philosophical banter with the band. “I often wish the interpersonal Grateful Dead scene had continued along those lines. We used to shoot the shit stratospherically, yes indeed we did. That's the part you won't find in the tell all books because who can begin to remember all that was said? It has to be created anew on a regular basis. Prior to 1972, the Dead was all about discourse and music. You can hear echoes of the dialogue in the music. After '72, drugs and earthbound elements established domination. Dialogue metamorphosized into employee gripes and road plans. The butterfly returned to the chrysalis and emerged a centipede with numerous legs, capable of infinite truckin'.” 
Hunter wasn’t happy to see the transformation of the Dead into an organization devoted to internal politics, “employee gripes and road plans.” The original vision seemed distorted, in particular by the band’s burly road crew. After one tour, Hunter wrote “The Ten Commandments of Rock & Roll” about the Dead’s crew:
1. Suck up to the top cats.
2. Do not express independent opinions
3. Do not work for common interest, only factional interests.
4. If there’s nothing to complain about, dig up some old gripe.
5. Do not respect property or persons other than band property or persons.
6. Make devastating judgments on persons and situations without adequate information.
7. Discourage and confound personal, technical and/or creative projects.
8. Single out absent persons for intense criticism.
9. Remember that anything you don’t understand is trying to fuck with you.
10. Destroy yourself physically and morally and insist that all true brothers do likewise as an expression of unity. 
Echoing this, old friend Willy Legate once wrote a note to the band about their scene:
“Bad-mouthing someone in his absence is an art form, deliberately cultivated here… Optimistic descriptions of situations are sometimes passed out to anyone nearby who is prepared to play the role of patronizing fawning multitude. The optimistic description is given with the understanding by all concerned that if it should change within the next hour or week, that adjustment will not be relayed; in other words, that anything good you’re told is meaningless. In the words of the prophet: if you don’t know by now, don’t mess with it.” 
The Dead had a very macho and intimidating road crew who made their own rules, and Hunter wasn’t alone in feeling aghast at their behavior. Stories abound of their hazing rituals, surliness, violence, and random abuse of outsiders. Once in ’73 a crewmember dumped the group’s dinners over a Philadelphia promoter’s head (it wasn’t the food specified in the contract), prompting his partner to write Sam Cutler: “The crew was given as many extra considerations as we could muster… We’ve had quite a few problems with your crew in the past. You say that the band knows that they’re animals but that they can’t do anything about the situation.” Cutler responded that they wouldn’t work with that promoter again. 
One Rolling Stone article in 1973 pointed out the roadies’ “habit of destroying hotel rooms,” but Steve Parish tried to explain: “We’ve shown a rough exterior to a lot of people, but that’s because you get jumpy on the road… We’re not gorillas. We’re all really sensitive guys. Well, yeah, it used to be a big thing to flip out – we were experts at flippin’ out. And we did a lot of machoing out too – a brotherhood swaggerin’ kind of thing.” 
But the Dead must have found it useful to have their own Hell’s Angels-type characters on the crew, keeping the growing audience at bay. (Band members trashed their own share of hotel rooms, too.) The Dead also took pride in having their own kind of anarchic democracy, where everyone in the crew would have as much say as the bandmembers in what went on. As Garcia said, “They’re there when we have our business meetings. We’re dragging them through life, shouldn’t they have some say about it? We’re all working on the same thing – why should we treat each other any differently?” 
David Gans wrote:
“In the beginning, I think, the presumption was that everybody would behave responsibly and look out for the group; but it was well known that you could pretty much do what you wanted to do in the Dead world. Those high tribal ideals the family once embodied gave way to the realities of the tour. Power went to the men who put the rubber to the road… Jerry Garcia was a most reluctant emperor. He was pretty much the only one who could have controlled any of it, from the thugs on his own crew on down, but for the most part he refused to correct anyone’s behavior. A long-time associate of the Dead left the tour in 1972, he told me years later, because ‘I realized that Jerry was never going to control his people, and I couldn’t stand to work in that sort of craziness.’” 
Mickey Hart told McNally that the crew “became so powerful, and we just said whatever. That was one of our downfalls, not taking a stand with the crew. They didn’t want to work, and we said okay, whatever. It was one of the stupidest things we’ve ever done, letting the crew run the show… Rifkin and Ram Rod were the great spirit of the Grateful Dead, the real souls, but some of the other guys had other agendas, partying animals… We let it go down. It was our cross to bear. We spotted it. We thought it was endearing and cute, letting the quippies run the show. That’s what I thought. What an odd thing. Everything else is so odd, why shouldn’t this be odd? Maybe they’re protecting us from some evil… I liked all of them.” 
Garcia admitted that “the quippies” were not always the kindest souls: “The Grateful Dead is not where you’re going to find comfort. In fact, if anything, you’ll catch a lot of shit. And if you don’t get it from the band, you’ll get it from the roadies. They’re merciless. They’ll just gnaw you like a dog. They’ll tear your flesh off. They can be extremely painful.” 
Garcia & Lesh joked about Steve Parish once –
Garcia: There’ve been meaner guys – Steve ain’t that mean…
Lesh: Now when Jerry breaks a string, he’s lucky he doesn’t get garroted – “How dare you break a string?”
Garcia: [Laughs] Right – “I don’t want to have to ask that big guy for something – I’ll just play without the string. God knows what he’ll do, holy shit.”
Lesh: “I’ll whistle the top notes.” [Laughter] 
Parish and Garcia reminisced about life on the road –
Garcia: I loved it that time when you changed all my strings but one. He just wanted to see if I’d notice…
Parish: You’re in a world where everybody is trying to party, and trying to get you to party… You’ll be made fun of if you fuck up…that keeps you on your toes…
Garcia: The road thing is, some people can adapt to it and some can’t. Some people really go to pieces on the road…
Parish: Everybody was always playing practical jokes on each other…constantly. If you ever let your guard down your foot would be on fire, or you got a real weird haircut – and a lot worse stuff that I can’t talk about… You’ve got to be able to take a hotfoot as a joke at 5:00 in the morning when you’re trying to sleep sitting up in a seat and you’re pissed off and your back hurts and maybe you’re wounded…and then everybody’s laughing at you, so maybe then you’ll laugh… We’ve had some [new] people we took out, and they only lasted like one trip… They couldn’t make it through the grueling, rigorous initiation, which goes on for years. You have to prove yourself on so many levels – little games that we play, sort of like initiation rites, on the crew. You have to run a certain gamut…
Garcia: You’ve got guys like Kidd nippin’ at your heels day in and day out…
Parish: When you’re getting yelped at, you love to yelp at someone else. We used to have some fights – people would look at us and say, ‘They must hate each other,’ but we loved each other. If somebody else from outside messed with us, they were like opening up Pandora’s box. 
In his time touring with the Dead in 1974, Ned Lagin didn’t really have a problem with the crew in particular, but was concerned about how the wider Dead family was negatively impacting the music.
“There were crew members, particularly from Oregon, who were just great to me… There were a few members of the crew who were less gracious, cordial, and friendly, and some of the business and management and touring family were not particularly receptive to my being there. They did not want to see the band go off into outer space and not return. Collective composition wasn’t random, but it wasn’t particularly controllable; you got where you were getting when you got there. There were people who thought those prescribed happy sequences of Grateful Dead tunes should just go on.” 
The Phil & Ned segments of the shows ran into some resistance. “Sometimes there was acceptance and sometimes there was rejection – audience rejection, and comments by critics and writers that were not appreciated, I guess. Jerry didn’t like audience rejection; he worked very hard to be who he was, but also to be popular, quite honestly. And people weren’t as open as they said they were…and never would be. And I think Jerry was not happy in acknowledging that. There was a lot of criticism about weird music, strange music – which none of us really liked.” 
Lagin saw the conflict between the mainstream rock aspects of the Dead that were more popular and accessible, and the more esoteric improvisational possibilities that could be closed off if the Dead simply pursued audience acceptance. It must be said that the Dead managed to balance these two sides of their music, but offstage Lagin was wary of the internal culture that had formed around the band. The Dead’s “pirate brotherhood” was going sour.
“The Grateful Dead was a brotherhood like the Hell’s Angels in a certain sense, though by ’74-75 that was past being visible except as a rationalizing philosophy. Anybody who entered the brotherhood got a real, though unstructured, trial by fire. It lasted for months or years. It was like a screen test to be in the pirate movie.
“I grew up in New York, and I had a certain amount of toughness and dedication to what I was doing… They thought I could take it, and maybe give it as well. But when you were getting messed with by somebody, they chose almost always to not take responsibility.”
He mentioned a run-in he had with a Hell’s Angel at Roosevelt Stadium, where the band didn’t interfere but some crew members stepped in. “When authority figures in the band such as Jerry or Phil were present at…minor injustices taking place, they did not choose to exert a mitigating force. Some of the crew did, as regular stand-up guys… I thought there was a certain level of counterculture communal hypocrisy, of…not exercising any real level of control, involvement, and responsibility for situations they created. I think they had a highly contextual sense of loyalty and responsibility for their friends; it was a registration of some deep cynicism – and fatalism.”
“How the band members interacted in the musical realm should have been very different. But the “family” issues increasingly spilled over into the music. I think there was a lot of interpersonal politics and frustration, related to the growth of the band, the growth of the audience, and the change in the technology.
“We have a growth economy in the United States. Instead of living within our means, we have to continue to create new markets so everybody can have more and more. Although the Grateful Dead came from the counterculture, they wound up behaving just like the dominant culture… They thought they had to continue to expand to stay alive. They did that better than other groups, and longer than anybody else. But fundamentally, they were locked into the same American Dream growth paradigm…
“This was a period of transition for Phil and for Jerry and for the Grateful Dead – getting bigger and more famous and doing more stuff. Commensurate with their becoming bigger, there was, at least to my way of thinking, a bigger emphasis on a family culture of extremes and nihilism. Everyone seemed to want something from someone else… Music was not enough.”
In Ned’s case, he wanted to play in a different, more quiet way than the Dead were playing – his desire to play “minimally, delicately” wasn’t that suited to the rock-show context. “We couldn’t get back to the delicate places, the intimate, small, cozy, loving little spaces, and I really wanted to be able to play that kind of music… There was too much emphasis on electric instruments and technology, rather than on collective intuition and expression… Because of where the Grateful Dead were going, and because of the frustrations and dynamics within the band – Phil’s and Jerry’s nihilism and extremes and hardness and edge, and the requirements of meeting the demands of a rock & roll extrovert culture – it didn’t seem that we could get to moments of gentleness and delicacy that weren’t bracketed with dynamic or power contrasts.” 
Aside from Lagin’s concerns, by the Europe ’74 tour the band was frazzled. He recalled, “Everybody was deeply upset…by the time we got to London, everybody was clearly doing too many drugs. We had a meeting with everybody who was on the road with the band. We agreed that everything was fucked up: to be blunt, cocaine was a problem. We all agreed to flush our stashes, which we all dutifully did.”  The rest of the tour went more calmly, but “everybody was burned out…and very tolerant of excess.” 
Now and then there would be LSD nights as a way to reestablish group communion, “recoup the good old Grateful Dead.” Since Keith avoided acid, he would be dosed. “No one thought there was serious irresponsibility going on, particularly since it was within the pirate cowboy brotherhood.” 
Bear returned to the crew in 1972, after two years in prison, and noticed a dramatic change. In the earlier years, “Everything was a constant flow of ideas and so forth. And there was no isolation. Everybody was involved. That was the scene that I left. When I came back in 1972 [it was more like a compartmentalized union organization]…everybody had a job and a responsibility, and that was his, and this was his…all isolated. And this went on for two years. I come back, and there’s this scene that’s totally different, where nobody is going and helping the other guy – ‘Oh no, that’s my job, that’s your job…’ And all of a sudden I found that the three things that I did – recording, stage monitors, house mixing…there were three guys doing that job. Each one fiercely defending his little territory… It was ‘this is mine, this is yours…’
“Suddenly there wasn’t a place [for me]… I was still smoking a lot of pot, so I was being everybody’s fool. You know how with kids somebody would get down behind you and the next guy would push you over, stick you in the aisle and trip you? It seemed like that, psychically; that kind of thing was happening, so I was flopping down…and being a real nuisance… I had to figure it out: why is this different? Why are these guys not being nice to each other? Why is there this heavy jockeying going on?... [It was] power trips, lots of power trips…
“Going from something which I considered as being an almost tribal thing of everybody sharing in all of the work and all of the obligations, and helping each other like a bunch of brothers, all of a sudden I came back and it was like the union and the management…There was a lot of cocaine and they were bitching at each other and using abusive language, and a lot of beer and everything else. I was feeling very uncomfortable with the whole thing…
“I was getting pissed off at the way in which every time I tried to do something, somebody would interfere. I’m not going to lay any blame, it was a group-consciousness thing, and they didn’t even think of it that way… The scene had changed; it didn’t seem to have a place for me…
“It was too fucking much. There was a lot of coke and a lot of beer and a lot of booze and a lot of roughness and there were too many people working, there was too much weird shit going on, and there were too many power struggles at the top – management against management against the record company. The whole thing was just this weird energy going, always this maneuvering. The brotherhood was gone. There was a lot of talk of brotherhood, but from my viewpoint there wasn’t any brotherhood. It was like a lot of guys protecting their territory, this is mine and this is yours… And I was in there with this concept of cooperative, tribal, brothers all working together… It wasn’t working. I was very uncomfortable. And every time I turned around, I was pushed a little bit closer to the perimeter. Or that was my feeling.” 
Perhaps the low point for Bear came when some equipment was stolen at one show and a crew member “picked me up and threw me into a water cooler.” After his experiences in late ’72, Bear apparently stopped working with the road crew for the next couple years, instead working on the band’s sound system.
“They started saying, ‘We want to be bigger… We want to go to bigger shows.’” The end result was the Wall of Sound, which Bear had mixed feelings about. “The thing was such a monster. It required so many people, so much bureaucracy, so much logistics, so many trucks, so many stages, so many boxes, so much wire, so many amps, it became this huge thing! Because it was very inefficient… It was a logistical nightmare. There were a lot of problems… This thing was out of control.” 
“Eventually it just became too much, and it collapsed on itself and the band just backed away from it suddenly…one day they came out and said, ‘Hey, we can’t handle it anymore…’ In this case they couldn’t fire anybody – they always felt like that kind of family. They didn’t know what to do, so they just stopped playing, hoping that the people would go off because they had to make a living… When they started back up, they started back up with the guys who hung in the tightest. Parish was working with the Garcia Band and Ram Rod was involved… The core guys were the guys who had clung to the Dead and made something to do…and the others had gone off in different directions.” 
Weir later said that in ’74 the crew was “drowning in mountains of blow… We had a crew that was being paid like executives for doing blue-collar work, and they were abusing our generosity.” According to Weir, one goal of the hiatus was to force many of the crew members to find other jobs. 
Lesh recalled ’74 in his book as a time of “stresses and strains” that produced “cracks and crevices in our unanimity of purpose.” Part of this was due to the businesses they’d formed – from the Dead offices sprouted not just two record labels, but also a booking agency and travel agency. Lesh sighed, “In our naivety, the band thought that we could control all this without falling prey to the infighting and dissension that comes with the territory. At the same time, no one in the band wanted to be bothered with the boring details of such control.” Infighting and dissension soon followed, with the band firing their tour manager Sam Cutler at the start of 1974 as a result of various office backstabbings and accusations. They rounded out the year by firing manager Jon McIntire on the Europe tour after more arguments.
“We now employed twice as many stage crew and truckers as before, meaning we had to play larger venues, sell more tickets, and play more often to be able to support the sound system. Luckily, our audience was continuing to expand; even so, the financial strain would eventually prove untenable… The expenses associated with the Wall of Sound meant that we were constrained to play only the largest venues…where the intimacy we’d prized in the ballroom era was a fading memory. The stages were ten to twelve feet high, further removing us from contact with the audience, who receded into a blur of shapes lacking any individuality. Our crew was twice as large as it needed to be, and could be quite surly. Simultaneously, the psychic atmosphere was beginning to cloud up with the emergence of cocaine as the drug of choice among the crew, generating an ‘us against the world’ mindset. The amount of security and backstage space needed in an arena had tripled from that of a theater or ballroom, and the band became more and more detached, withdrawing into the famous ‘bubble’ of isolation out of the sheer desire for preservation of our energy and sanity.” 
(Though Lesh says that “at that point I wasn’t drinking or using drugs,” other evidence makes it sound like he was already chugging beers pretty heavily by 1973.) 
In a November ’74 interview, Garcia sounded quite unhappy about how the year had gone.
“Basically, success sucks. And all the other crap that goes along with it. We've unconsciously come to the end of what you can do in America, how far you can succeed. And it's nothing, it's nowhere. It means billions of cops and people busted at your gigs. It means high prices and hassling over extra-musical stuff. It's unnecessary…
“Our whole development has been 'going along with the changes.' It's not as though we've plotted to get to a certain level. By just not thinking about it, or not making conscious decisions about what we were doing, we ended up in that place of stadiums, coliseums, large civic-owned and civic-controlled buildings, high ticket prices, enormous overhead, in an effort to fulfill the requirement of whatever the level change was. For example, we changed from playing theaters to large places…because there were more people who wanted to see us than we had time. So the obvious thing was to go to bigger rooms. [But] that meant we can only go to bigger rooms if we sound good in them, and that led to our whole PA thing, which is expensive. Our rationale was, 'We'll divert the income into developing the resource' because, really, we have a relationship with our audience...
“But the truth is we've been stuck in this total control situation; our whole lives are controlled by economic circumstances. We're sort of up against the back end of success… It's been gradual, but that's the really insidious thing about it. We were prepared mentally for any quick jump, but going slowly into this scene, it becomes almost habitual. Finally we all realized: 'it's gotten to the point where we can no longer really make enough money to keep it working at the present rate. And also there isn't anything for us to get off on. We're removed from the audience, we're removed from what we're doing and it just is a drag.’” 
"That's where we ended up in terms of the largeness of our audience and the greatness of demand for what we were doing and so forth. We felt that was a dead end and there was no place for us to go from there, so at that point the experience for us got to be totally controlled in the sense of [it being] airplanes to motels, motels to gigs, heavy security backstage, nobody near the stage. And what's worse is the way very large venues deal with people — they deal with them in a sort of cattle-prod methodology: lots of cops, lots of frisk lines. We felt like that was not what we wanted to do; that was clearly not it." 
Ned Lagin felt that the feeling of togetherness that the Dead’s shows were supposed to inspire had become more distant by ’74.
“The collective id of the Grateful Dead juxtaposed the American mythology of doing what you wanted to do in the wide open West…with a certain tribal psychedelic pseudo-telepathic conformity about ‘being on the bus or off’ – a juxtaposition that could be as destructive as it is empowering… ‘You’re either on the bus or off the bus’ was a real clubby, exclusionary, nonsensical thing to me. It’s the pirate creed: ‘You’re sailing with us or you’re not sailing with us…’ It’s not a question of being on the [bus] or off… The idea of sense of spirit and community…and interconnectivity – unfortunately, at least the way I see it, the audience didn’t become the Grateful Dead. They just wanted to get on the bus with the Grateful Dead.” 
Bear’s perspective was also that the communion between band and audience of earlier years was now gone. “The microcosm [the band onstage] and the macrocosm [the audience in the hall] are now separated. The macrocosm/microcosm of brotherhood and community, which was the Grateful Dead family, propagated out into the audience and took hold. When I went away, it was macrocosm/microcosm; the Grateful Dead and crew were the same as the people that were out there. Well, the band/crew thing, as the stages got higher…it produced a separation, a gulf. And the microcosm turned into something else, but the macrocosm continued to be what it was…
[Early on,] our stage was sometimes two feet off the floor. I was in the audience… [Now] when I’m walking in the crowd…I feel the sixties, I feel the way it all was. In the old days, there was no separation. The Grateful Dead, the deadheads, the crew, everybody was the same… It was like a family… The concept of tribalism, of brotherhood, has propagated out and maintained itself as the band removed from [it], as they got to the point where they come off the stage into limos and are gone, from the days when they walked through the hall, through the people, hung around – had a gig that would go to dawn, sometimes.” 
From their different viewpoints, each saw the Dead’s ideals eroding as the “family” and audience expanded. Hunter hasn’t talked directly in these terms about the distance between band and audience that I’ve seen, but he was focused on his own distance from the band.
“My tie with the organization has been that of an outsider ever since '72. I was once described as a maverick's maverick. All I ever wanted to do, back then, was to put my full energies into the songwriting aspect of the group, but that became harder and harder to do as other matters assumed greater immediate importance. I continued to write - there must be hundreds of lost songs, since that was before word processor files, and often there was only one typed or handwritten copy which, like as not, would go in someone's back pocket and end its life in the washing machine. "Hey Hunter, do you have another copy of that song?" I'd try to remember it, end up writing something else. A few phrases might remain.” 
“The pressure of making regular records was a creative spur for a long time, but poor sales put the economic weight on live concerts where new material wasn't really required, so my role in the group waned. A difficult time for me, being at my absolute peak and all. I had to go on the road myself to make a living. It was good for me. I developed a sense of self direction that didn't depend on the Dead at all.” 
No longer on the road with the Dead, he gradually stopped going to Dead shows altogether. Though it’s hard to trace the decline in his attendance or just what the last shows he saw were, he did say that in the later years “I only went to only one big outdoor stadium gig” (in 1987). Flabbergasted, he decided “the only way I could remain dedicated to my part of the vision was to stay clean away.” 
Though initially pleased by the Dead’s burst of popularity in ’87, over the following years Hunter came to see it as ruinous. “The "Big Time" was always problematic… I don't ache for the same thing the fans ache for, so my viewpoint is very different. I don't even ache for the promise I watched going down the drain for a dozen years. Big time success meant less than shit to me. It was like a forced death march. I was in the trip to write good songs. Nothing more, nothing less. My engagement was exactly equal to the opportunity to do that.” 
He felt it was fortunate that financial success came late to the Dead: “Getting this far with my spirit and creativity intact are far more important to me than getting an olympic sized swimming pool. Having "big money" is a career of its own… The increased standard of living attendant on sudden and disproportionate wealth is, to my mind, the source of the major problems which destroy the camaraderie of successful bands... Two things which allowed the Grateful Dead to become what it was were lack of radio success over the years and lack of overwhelming wealth. We were given leave to grow musically, rather than as a financial empire. That came later, but the deed was already done.” 
During this time Hunter became suspicious that the Dead were intentionally dropping his tunes, even while Garcia was blocking him out as well. “Tunes dropped out of repertoire for years at a time, replaced by others, for no other reason than to have a different show. If a complex tune dropped out, it would need to be rehearsed to be brought back in, and there are so many songs some of them just went bye-bye. As I stopped going to shows, becoming less interested in pushing my material on an increasingly apathetic collaborator, a lot of my songs were replaced in the repertoire with cover tunes, which the audience found quite acceptable. I was never clear on what the message was, other than that my less than subservient stance, born of frustration, was unacceptable and I was being deleted insofar as that was possible to do, considering the backbone of the repertoire. It wasn't a highly motivating situation.” Hunter found Garcia at a “creative impasse – he was unavailable for years at a time, other than for musical projects he could accomplish standing on his head – and it was imperative that I seek elsewhere…[to find] the mutual respect and excitement in creating that is such an important part of collaboration.” 
Of course, on a personal level Hunter also felt robbed of his friend – not by the Dead, but by addiction. “Heroin, period, destroyed our scene. It destroyed Jerry… I hate the drug because it fucked my life over so bad, via my friends, without my even enjoying whatever the pleasures of taking it happened to be. Watching all human feelings die from the sidelines. Being excluded from creative participation because [I was] neither a junkie nor an "enabler"… My diving experiences with Jerry [in 1993] were the only time I felt in touch with my cantankerous old friend in a decade and a half.” 
In a way, by the stadium shows of the ‘80s the band were revisiting the problems they’d faced in the early ‘70s and had never really solved – if anything, most of the issues had gotten worse. Lesh wrote, “Suddenly we were drawing so many people to our shows that we now had to play mostly stadiums and huge indoor arenas… It’s a very rare stadium show that can sustain the shared intensity of focus that’s needed for ignition, let alone lift-off; the audience needs to know that they’re making the music… The psychic connection and sense of community shared by the band and the audience is the key to our music and to the Grateful Dead ‘experience.’ This connection can be diluted by the presence of too many people; especially if people were coming to our shows because they heard that it was a great party, or because they heard that they could score drugs there… Playing stadiums had been exciting at first, but the thrill of projecting our music across such vast spaces evaporated rapidly in the face of the mind-numbing sterility of the stadium environment. It came to feel as if we were playing into a vacuum, with no possibility of feedback or response from an audience that was barely visible from the stage.” 
While in ’74 they could back off and try to start afresh, in the later years they couldn’t – they still felt trapped. By ’91 Garcia was starting to complain loudly about this.
One witness said, “He wanted to take a break; it was very clear… There was one meeting where they were talking about the stadium tour of ’91 and he stopped everybody and said, ‘Am I the only one who thinks that stadium shows suck? I don’t ever want to play in another stadium. Does anybody else feel the way I feel?’ And nobody said anything. But they were trapped: big overhead, big family, dates are reserved. Who’s gonna say, ‘Yeah, you’re right. Let’s cancel the stadium tour’?” 
Lesh’s book has a sample of the minutes from one meeting, summarizing Garcia’s statements: “We are a community, a family, a tribe. This pressure chokes off enthusiasm. It’s killing to keep doing the same tours. It has not much dignity. The pressure is so great that we can’t stop. It’s hard to be creative with a gun held to your head. It’s a huge responsibility. (Vince adds, “We need to take some time together to rework things. Doesn’t want to stop – can hardly afford his house now.”) Talking about 25 years and is burnt-out and wants to do what he wants to do… (Kreutzmann suggests taking six months off.) Can’t guarantee the workers. We can make enough to take six months off without shutting down. We did it in 1986…we can try to do it next year… Try to eliminate the fall tour.” 
Garcia went at length about this to Rolling Stone that year – asked if he’d told the band at meetings that he wasn’t having fun playing with them anymore, he said, “Yeah, absolutely… The last couple of times I’ve been there screaming, ‘Hey, you guys!’ Because there are times when you go onstage and it’s just plain hard to do, and you start to wonder, ‘Well, why the fuck are we doing this if it’s so hard?’… I probably brought it out in the open, but everybody in the band is in the same place I am. We’ve been running on inertia for quite a long time. I mean, insofar as we have a huge overhead, and we have a lot of people that we’re responsible for, who’re working for us and so forth, we’re reluctant to do anything to disturb that. We don’t want to take people’s livelihoods away. But it’s us out there, you know. And in order to keep doing it, it has to be fun. And in order for it to be fun, it has to keep changing…
"We’re going to have to construct new enthusiasm for ourselves, because we’re getting a little burned out… So we have to figure out how we are going to make this fun for ourselves… To me the answer is, let’s write a whole bunch of new stuff, and let’s thin out the stuff we’ve been doing. We need a little bit of time to fall back and collect ourselves and rehearse…and come up with some new material…
(RS: Do you think you might stop touring for a year or so, like you did back in 1974?) "That’s what we’re trying to work up to now. We’re actually aiming for six months off the road… I don’t know when it will happen…” 
It didn’t happen that way, but Hunter felt that by then it was too late for the Dead to recover. He wrote a year after Garcia’s death:
“Say, for example, the band had continued, with a break for a heart bypass operation for Jerry, and the problems with the crowd escalated even more? Suppose the shows became insuperably problematic to attend? It was not only headed that way, you know, it was full upon us. And say the music was suffering for this, the whole inspiration - because what kind of thoughtful musicians would expose crowds to that kind of thing just to make money or jam? What I'm driving at is the very likely probability that you and many others would find that what was so good and moving in what the GD was being destroyed by circumstance. Entropy, if you will. What happened had to happen pretty soon, whether via death or retirement. The fractalization into smaller units, forced by necessity, is probably the only real solution. Downscaling for the Dead was impossible. We were about ready for another quantum leap and it would have been a disaster. … A lot of people were already caught in that quandary. The music was often not all that hot and many didn't like what we were becoming. A mega-stadium powerhouse. Venues were closing their doors to us. Violence was erupting. It was a personal quandary for me. I often felt we should call it a day. Jerry often felt the imminence of true disaster. But who rides the tiger fears to dismount.” 
All of Hunter’s comments here were written around that time in 1996, which should be kept in mind considering their bitter tone. The interviews he gave while the Grateful Dead were active are generally optimistic about his work with the band, and (that I’ve found) give no sign of his estrangement. His bad feelings about what the Dead were becoming, he kept to himself until after Garcia died.
“My dream for the Grateful Dead went down in flames too and I am somewhat bitter, but not embittered. I think that's an important distinction. I believe in the community... All I can say for certain is contained in the old expression: "the jewel is in the lotus"…of course, the lotus is renowned for growing out of the muck and mire. The jewel is the community which flourished around the Grateful Dead. The lotus, muck and mire were the band and its internal scene.” 
4. McNally, Long Strange Trip p. 57
5. McNally 60
6. McNally 268
7. Perry, “A New Life for the Dead,” Rolling Stone 11/22/73
8. Gans, Conversations with the Dead p. 57
10. McNally 215
11. Henke, Garcia interview, Rolling Stone 10/31/91
12. Conversations 238
13. Conversations 223-5, 231-2
14. Conversations 362
15. Conversations 374
16. Conversations 362-64, 373-74
17. Conversations 365
18. Conversations 369
19. Conversations 366
20. Conversations 327-29, 331, 334-35
21. Conversations 332
22. Conversations 335
23. McNally 475
24. Lesh, Searching for the Sound p. 218
28. Conversations 362, 365
29. Conversations 339-40
37. Lesh 281, 301
38. Jackson, Garcia p. 405
39. Lesh 298
40. Henke, Garcia interview, Rolling Stone 10/31/91