• June 15, 2012
    http://www.dead.net/features/blair-jackson/blair-s-golden-road-blog-touch-grey-summer
    Blair’s Golden Road Blog - That “Touch of Grey” Summer

    On June 19, 1987—25 years ago this week—MTV showed the video of the Dead’s just-released single, “Touch of Grey,” for the first time. You’ve all seen it: Life-size skeleton marionettes decked out like each band member (complete with facial hair!) mime the song before an enthusiastic Dead Head crowd—it was shot at Laguna Seca (Monterey, Calif.) the night of May 9, a few hours after the first of two weekend Dead shows there. In the video, which was conceived and directed by Gary Gutierrez (of Grateful Dead Movie animation fame, among many more film projects), the skeletons magically transform into the actual Grateful Dead near the end of the song. The band is all smiles, and Garcia, who was hovering near death less than a year before, looks fantastic—“Sorry, not today, Grim Reaper!” MTV placed the video in heavy rotation, exposing the band to millions of people who had never heard them before.

    Around the same time, the single began its slow march up the pop music charts. This had happened a couple of times before on a much smaller scale—a Dead single gets some radio play, a few folks buy it to nudge it up a few notches the first couple of weeks, but then it vanishes before it can get to the coveted Top 40. But this time it was different. “Touch of Grey” had a bouncy, irresistible quality that made it appealing to non-Dead Heads. Just about everybody could relate to “I/We will survive” on some level, even if they couldn’t quite fathom all that strangeness in the verses about clocks running late, the cow giving kerosene and the shoe being on the hand it fits.

    It helped that the Dead were suddenly media darlings. Garcia’s miraculous return from the brink did not go unnoticed. The group’s 1987 spring tour was big, big news: The tie-dyed spirit of the ’60s lives on! Grateful to be alive! Reluctant Haight-Ashbury guru is back and better than ever! It was incredible to read all the nice things that were suddenly being said about this band that was mostly ignored or derided by the mainstream and rock press just a year earlier. Tickets were extremely hard to come by (nothing new about that), and the ticketless hordes outside the shows—which had been on the increase for a few years—grew significantly on that tour, though not compared with what was to come in the summer.

    And what a summer it was! I remember hearing “Touch of Grey” on the radio in my local convenience store and in The Gap. I bought the single just to show my support (and to get the B-side, “My Brother Esau”); it was the first Dead single I ever owned. My 69-year-old mother bought the single (she was always supportive of my Dead obsession) and proclaimed it “pleasant and catchy.” The announcement of summer tour—including six stadium dates with the Dead opening for, and then backing, Bob Dylan—built the new Dead fervor to a fever. Not one, but two ’60s legends! Everybody wanted a piece of that!

    The group’s first studio album in seven years, In the Dark, was released on July 6 to mainly favorable reviews and huge sales on its way to Number 6 on the Billboard album chart. The single of “Touch of Grey” made it to No. 9. An hour-long conceptual video directed by Garcia and Len Dell’Amico, called So Far, was an instant smash, as well. MTV was so enraptured by the group, all of a sudden, that in the middle of the band’s summer tour they put on what Grateful Dead ticket czar Steve Marcus later described in The Golden Road as “that goddamned ‘Day of the Dead’… I personally think that Day of the Dead on MTV is what fucked up everything. There was one solid day on MTV where like every third video was Grateful Dead-related, and then all day they did cut-ins from the Meadowlands parking lot showing ‘what a great scene it is out here in the parking lots!’ From that point on, the number of people in the parking lots tripled, and it was like—party time! Instead of going to Fort Lauderdale for spring break, you go on tour with the Dead, but you don’t go inside!”

    That, of course, was the downside of the Grateful Dead’s brush with the mainstream. The crowds outside the shows became larger and increasingly unmanageable, which led to the Dead eventually being banned from a number of venues and cities. Inside, there were now thousands of newbies, some of whom came just to party and not necessarily pay attention to the music. There were also thousands more who totally “got” the Grateful Dead during this era and became fans for life; it cut both ways.

    We all knew the inundation was coming, though it was hard to predict exactly what it would feel like when it hit. There were definitely plenty of bad moments caused by boorish behavior, but actually more after the summer of ’87, on subsequent tours. The “Touch of Grey” summer had a certain triumphant glow to it that let us see past the bad stuff. It was shocking that this band I’d been ridiculed for loving the previous 17 years was now the Toast of the Town. It was hard not feel giddy about it.

    Mostly I remember being thrilled that my Grateful Dead were back and healthy and playing great music again—this after we nearly lost them the previous year. I had so much fun in 1987, seeing runs at the SF Civic (January, Chinese New Year), Kaiser (March, Madri Gras), Irvine Meadows (April), Frost (May), Laguna Seca (May), Ventura (June), the Greek (June), Eugene and Oakland shows with Dylan (July), Red Rocks and Telluride (August), Shoreline (October), Kaiser again (November) and New Year’s at the Oakland Coliseum. Whew, I’d forgotten how many shows I saw. They weren’t all great shows, but they were all great fun. Never had such a good time!

    Truth be told, the extraneous crowd bullshit wasn’t too bad inside the arenas and amphitheaters, and I was convinced the alien influx would fade away after “Touch of Grey”-mania subsided. I was wrong about that. But from the center of the swirl in 1987 the future looked bright indeed. We weren’t just surviving; we were thriving. It was a wonderful time to be a Dead Head.

    * * *

    And now, as a special 25th anniversary bonus, here’s a bit of a much longer interview I conducted with Garcia on June 24,1987, the day before the band left for Alpine Valley to start summer tour. This originally appeared in Issue 15, Summer 1987, of The Golden Road.

    I sense a massive Grateful Dead assault coming, like troops coming over Pork Chop Hill or something.
    Right!

    Does it feel that way to you guys?
    Yeah, it does. Although it wasn’t planned that way. It’s not like we planned D-Day and now we’re hitting the beaches. It just worked out that way. So, I really don’t know what to think about it except there really isn’t that much to it, you know?

    What do you mean?
    Well, there’s the Grateful Dead record, and the video—the short video that goes with “Touch of Grey,” the single. The single is the consequence of the album; that’s really one thing. And then there’s the video [So Far], which is really a completely separate but interrelated project.

    Have you thought of what real success would mean to the scene?
    Shit, I always thought we were real successful! [Laughs]

    I know. That’s what I’m saying.
    As long as people buy tickets to our shows we’re successful. And we’re already way ahead of that.

    When you can sell out Giants Stadium in two hours you’re doing OK.
    Yeah, how much more successful can we swallow?

    Exactly. So what do you do?
    I don’t know. If this translates to unheard of record sales or something—some enormous number of records—then we’ll have a real serious problem. We’ll have the problem of where are we gonna play?

    Overdemand.
    Right. We already have that problem to an extent [East Coast promoter] John Scher says he has to “de-promote” us. [Laughs] We don’t spend any money on advertising anymore. So where do we have to go? At this point the Dead Heads and the Grateful Dead have to get serious. We have to invent where we can go from here, because there is no place.

    Do you have any sense of options?
    What options? There aren’t any in existence that fill the bill in terms of the band and the audience. The audience requires the band, the band requires the audience, you know what I mean? And anything short of live performances is short of live performances. So some sort of video isn’t going get it. Bigger venues isn’t going to get it. When you’re at the stadium, that’s the top end, and that’s already not that great. So we’re looking to improve the quality of the experience—that’s been our thrust all along—in whatever ways we can. Either by the sound or the production; all the things that have to do with the show.

    I don’t think we can play that many more shows, so this represents a problem. The answer may be videos and more records and that sort of stuff. I don’t know.

    It’s pretty weird.
    It’s an interesting problem to have. The problem of being too successful. It’s one of those things that completely blows my mind.

    Also, in the case of the Grateful Dead, it manifests itself in such a different way than it does for someone like Springsteen or U2, because there’s such a scene surrounding the Dead.
    That’s true. We may have to do something like work on material that’s deliberately inaccessible. Thin down the audience that way.

    That’s what I’ve been suggesting. Come out and play “Blues for Allah” for half an hour.
    Yeah, play something that’s too weird for words! [Laughs] We could do something like that, but it seems kind of counterproductive.

    Unless it’s sincere. Unless the whole thing weirds you guys out so much that that’s the kind of music you start making.
    Yeah. That could happen.

    There’s a sort of mini-parallel to this situation. Back in ’70, when American Beauty came out, I noticed an influx of this new element shouting for “Truckin’” and “Casey Jones” because they’d heard those on the radio. But as often as not you’d play 25-minute versions of “Dark Star,” and most of those people didn’t come back. Sort of “natural selection.”
    That will stay in operation. If people come to our shows expecting to hear the album, they’re not going to, you know? They’d have to come to three or four shows. Eventually they’d hear the album, but they wouldn’t hear it in the traditional way. So, since we don’t play down that road, people will either be attracted to our live shows or they won’t—those that can get in. But there’s already a problem there—they can’t get tickets; the tickets are already sold to Dead Heads.

    As far as I can tell, we’re at the cul-de-sac, the end of popular music success. It doesn’t mean there’s no place to go from here. But now we have to be creative on this level, as well, and invent where we’re going to go. It’s happened before. The times we’ve gone to play theaters and do runs in places and that sort of thing were all efforts to address this kind of thing. Making changes in the P.A.; all that kind of stuff.

    But you know, for me the success of the album and everything is still hypothetical. I’ve heard all this before: “Your album is going to be triple-platinum!” and all that stuff. That’s not new to me. I’m not convinced we’ve produced something that’s that accessible.

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On June 19, 1987—25 years ago this week—MTV showed the video of the Dead’s just-released single, “Touch of Grey,” for the first time. You’ve all seen it: Life-size skeleton marionettes decked out like each band member (complete with facial hair!) mime the song before an enthusiastic Dead Head crowd—it was shot at Laguna Seca (Monterey, Calif.) the night of May 9, a few hours after the first of two weekend Dead shows there. In the video, which was conceived and directed by Gary Gutierrez (of Grateful Dead Movie animation fame, among many more film projects), the skeletons magically transform into the actual Grateful Dead near the end of the song. The band is all smiles, and Garcia, who was hovering near death less than a year before, looks fantastic—“Sorry, not today, Grim Reaper!” MTV placed the video in heavy rotation, exposing the band to millions of people who had never heard them before.

Around the same time, the single began its slow march up the pop music charts. This had happened a couple of times before on a much smaller scale—a Dead single gets some radio play, a few folks buy it to nudge it up a few notches the first couple of weeks, but then it vanishes before it can get to the coveted Top 40. But this time it was different. “Touch of Grey” had a bouncy, irresistible quality that made it appealing to non-Dead Heads. Just about everybody could relate to “I/We will survive” on some level, even if they couldn’t quite fathom all that strangeness in the verses about clocks running late, the cow giving kerosene and the shoe being on the hand it fits.

It helped that the Dead were suddenly media darlings. Garcia’s miraculous return from the brink did not go unnoticed. The group’s 1987 spring tour was big, big news: The tie-dyed spirit of the ’60s lives on! Grateful to be alive! Reluctant Haight-Ashbury guru is back and better than ever! It was incredible to read all the nice things that were suddenly being said about this band that was mostly ignored or derided by the mainstream and rock press just a year earlier. Tickets were extremely hard to come by (nothing new about that), and the ticketless hordes outside the shows—which had been on the increase for a few years—grew significantly on that tour, though not compared with what was to come in the summer.

And what a summer it was! I remember hearing “Touch of Grey” on the radio in my local convenience store and in The Gap. I bought the single just to show my support (and to get the B-side, “My Brother Esau”); it was the first Dead single I ever owned. My 69-year-old mother bought the single (she was always supportive of my Dead obsession) and proclaimed it “pleasant and catchy.” The announcement of summer tour—including six stadium dates with the Dead opening for, and then backing, Bob Dylan—built the new Dead fervor to a fever. Not one, but two ’60s legends! Everybody wanted a piece of that!

The group’s first studio album in seven years, In the Dark, was released on July 6 to mainly favorable reviews and huge sales on its way to Number 6 on the Billboard album chart. The single of “Touch of Grey” made it to No. 9. An hour-long conceptual video directed by Garcia and Len Dell’Amico, called So Far, was an instant smash, as well. MTV was so enraptured by the group, all of a sudden, that in the middle of the band’s summer tour they put on what Grateful Dead ticket czar Steve Marcus later described in The Golden Road as “that goddamned ‘Day of the Dead’… I personally think that Day of the Dead on MTV is what fucked up everything. There was one solid day on MTV where like every third video was Grateful Dead-related, and then all day they did cut-ins from the Meadowlands parking lot showing ‘what a great scene it is out here in the parking lots!’ From that point on, the number of people in the parking lots tripled, and it was like—party time! Instead of going to Fort Lauderdale for spring break, you go on tour with the Dead, but you don’t go inside!”

That, of course, was the downside of the Grateful Dead’s brush with the mainstream. The crowds outside the shows became larger and increasingly unmanageable, which led to the Dead eventually being banned from a number of venues and cities. Inside, there were now thousands of newbies, some of whom came just to party and not necessarily pay attention to the music. There were also thousands more who totally “got” the Grateful Dead during this era and became fans for life; it cut both ways.

We all knew the inundation was coming, though it was hard to predict exactly what it would feel like when it hit. There were definitely plenty of bad moments caused by boorish behavior, but actually more after the summer of ’87, on subsequent tours. The “Touch of Grey” summer had a certain triumphant glow to it that let us see past the bad stuff. It was shocking that this band I’d been ridiculed for loving the previous 17 years was now the Toast of the Town. It was hard not feel giddy about it.

Mostly I remember being thrilled that my Grateful Dead were back and healthy and playing great music again—this after we nearly lost them the previous year. I had so much fun in 1987, seeing runs at the SF Civic (January, Chinese New Year), Kaiser (March, Madri Gras), Irvine Meadows (April), Frost (May), Laguna Seca (May), Ventura (June), the Greek (June), Eugene and Oakland shows with Dylan (July), Red Rocks and Telluride (August), Shoreline (October), Kaiser again (November) and New Year’s at the Oakland Coliseum. Whew, I’d forgotten how many shows I saw. They weren’t all great shows, but they were all great fun. Never had such a good time!

Truth be told, the extraneous crowd bullshit wasn’t too bad inside the arenas and amphitheaters, and I was convinced the alien influx would fade away after “Touch of Grey”-mania subsided. I was wrong about that. But from the center of the swirl in 1987 the future looked bright indeed. We weren’t just surviving; we were thriving. It was a wonderful time to be a Dead Head.

* * *

And now, as a special 25th anniversary bonus, here’s a bit of a much longer interview I conducted with Garcia on June 24,1987, the day before the band left for Alpine Valley to start summer tour. This originally appeared in Issue 15, Summer 1987, of The Golden Road.

I sense a massive Grateful Dead assault coming, like troops coming over Pork Chop Hill or something.
Right!

Does it feel that way to you guys?
Yeah, it does. Although it wasn’t planned that way. It’s not like we planned D-Day and now we’re hitting the beaches. It just worked out that way. So, I really don’t know what to think about it except there really isn’t that much to it, you know?

What do you mean?
Well, there’s the Grateful Dead record, and the video—the short video that goes with “Touch of Grey,” the single. The single is the consequence of the album; that’s really one thing. And then there’s the video [So Far], which is really a completely separate but interrelated project.

Have you thought of what real success would mean to the scene?
Shit, I always thought we were real successful! [Laughs]

I know. That’s what I’m saying.
As long as people buy tickets to our shows we’re successful. And we’re already way ahead of that.

When you can sell out Giants Stadium in two hours you’re doing OK.
Yeah, how much more successful can we swallow?

Exactly. So what do you do?
I don’t know. If this translates to unheard of record sales or something—some enormous number of records—then we’ll have a real serious problem. We’ll have the problem of where are we gonna play?

Overdemand.
Right. We already have that problem to an extent [East Coast promoter] John Scher says he has to “de-promote” us. [Laughs] We don’t spend any money on advertising anymore. So where do we have to go? At this point the Dead Heads and the Grateful Dead have to get serious. We have to invent where we can go from here, because there is no place.

Do you have any sense of options?
What options? There aren’t any in existence that fill the bill in terms of the band and the audience. The audience requires the band, the band requires the audience, you know what I mean? And anything short of live performances is short of live performances. So some sort of video isn’t going get it. Bigger venues isn’t going to get it. When you’re at the stadium, that’s the top end, and that’s already not that great. So we’re looking to improve the quality of the experience—that’s been our thrust all along—in whatever ways we can. Either by the sound or the production; all the things that have to do with the show.

I don’t think we can play that many more shows, so this represents a problem. The answer may be videos and more records and that sort of stuff. I don’t know.

It’s pretty weird.
It’s an interesting problem to have. The problem of being too successful. It’s one of those things that completely blows my mind.

Also, in the case of the Grateful Dead, it manifests itself in such a different way than it does for someone like Springsteen or U2, because there’s such a scene surrounding the Dead.
That’s true. We may have to do something like work on material that’s deliberately inaccessible. Thin down the audience that way.

That’s what I’ve been suggesting. Come out and play “Blues for Allah” for half an hour.
Yeah, play something that’s too weird for words! [Laughs] We could do something like that, but it seems kind of counterproductive.

Unless it’s sincere. Unless the whole thing weirds you guys out so much that that’s the kind of music you start making.
Yeah. That could happen.

There’s a sort of mini-parallel to this situation. Back in ’70, when American Beauty came out, I noticed an influx of this new element shouting for “Truckin’” and “Casey Jones” because they’d heard those on the radio. But as often as not you’d play 25-minute versions of “Dark Star,” and most of those people didn’t come back. Sort of “natural selection.”
That will stay in operation. If people come to our shows expecting to hear the album, they’re not going to, you know? They’d have to come to three or four shows. Eventually they’d hear the album, but they wouldn’t hear it in the traditional way. So, since we don’t play down that road, people will either be attracted to our live shows or they won’t—those that can get in. But there’s already a problem there—they can’t get tickets; the tickets are already sold to Dead Heads.

As far as I can tell, we’re at the cul-de-sac, the end of popular music success. It doesn’t mean there’s no place to go from here. But now we have to be creative on this level, as well, and invent where we’re going to go. It’s happened before. The times we’ve gone to play theaters and do runs in places and that sort of thing were all efforts to address this kind of thing. Making changes in the P.A.; all that kind of stuff.

But you know, for me the success of the album and everything is still hypothetical. I’ve heard all this before: “Your album is going to be triple-platinum!” and all that stuff. That’s not new to me. I’m not convinced we’ve produced something that’s that accessible.

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On June 19, 1987—25 years ago this week—MTV showed the video of the Dead’s just-released single, “Touch of Grey,” for the first time. You’ve all seen it: Life-size skeleton marionettes decked out like each band member (complete with facial hair!) mime the song before an enthusiastic Dead Head crowd—it was shot at Laguna Seca (Monterey, Calif.) the night of May 9, a few hours after the first of two weekend Dead shows there. In the video, which was conceived and directed by Gary Gutierrez (of Grateful Dead Movie animation fame, among many more film projects), the skeletons magically transform into the actual Grateful Dead near the end of the song. The band is all smiles, and Garcia, who was hovering near death less than a year before, looks fantastic—“Sorry, not today, Grim Reaper!” MTV placed the video in heavy rotation, exposing the band to millions of people who had never heard them before.

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I'd got my first real job that month, at a London-based satellite TV station called "Super Channel". They carried several hours a day of 'Music Box' - an MTV clone. In the library was a copy of the "Touch of Grey" video.My job was in transmission (master control) - making sure the right thing ran at the right time. We had a bit of a free hand for fillers, so every now and then "Touch of Grey" got another play. If it didn't reach anyone else, it turned me into a DeadHead, and I finally saw 'em in Shoreline 2 years later. I also worked briefly at MTV Europe, where I could push the "Bucket" video as well - now that was a wonderfully dumb video :-) Good times to be in satellite TV.
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Gained a pile of new fans during this period. I wonder how many heads the Dead lost around this time. I'll raise my hand for that one. My first Dead stadium show was Foxborough, Sullivan Stadium 7/4/87. Dylan and the Dead. It was the single worst Dead show I've seen (ditto for Dylan). It was also the last Dead show for me. I hated the fact that I was in a football stadium for a show. It was hot. There were just way too many people. I have no good memories of the day...precious few memories of the day, period. I didn't know it would be my last show. It wasn't intentional, I didn't walk away thinking "That's it, I'm outta here." But that experience coupled with the whole MTV-ization of the band (or so I saw it) left a bad taste in my mouth. I just let go and really didn't look back. And then Jerry's death hit a nerve that I didn't know existed. Some kind of reset button got pushed that day, and I was back on the bus. Kicking myself in the butt for ever having gotten off. We live and we learn, eh?
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Really good piece Blair... substantive rock journalism remains no small thing! I remember thinking for a stretch in the 80s, that the way out of the arena life for the group was to duplicate to go upscale e.g. Jerry On Broadway. Higher prices for sure to make it work, but much smaller venues and most important -- a creative setting for experimental, improvised new Grateful Dead. Infrared Doses Tour, in a plush theater near you. I think this was why I flipped so much for the PLQ in particular, they seemed experimental to my ears.
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For me there was a sense of urgency. I had seen the dead for 10 years and thought the end of the way it was, with touring and venues was about to change. i thought it wasgoing to be scaled back. When tickets when on sale for Ventura I made sure I called the hotline and sent money immediately. I had not seen them in California. Dylan and the dead was a must, etc... I enjoyed 1987. As time went on it seemed nothing was going to change, but the parking lot.
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July 2-3 1988 Oxford Speedway, Oxford Me. I remember my long time tour buddy saying to me "Look at all the Touch Heads" meaning people walking around in Kiss shirts and Van Halen shit. No offense... I saw and liked both but it was pretty obvious that they didn't get and were only there for the balloons and and massive alcohol consumption. (I'll jump on my soapbox here and say again that Dead Heads should not drink at shows. It just seems to bring out the stupid in this crowd) My biggest complaint was it seemed to bring out those who were only looking to make a buck off the newbies and Dead Heads. My other memory is that there was more litter everywhere after this show than any time in my Bus Ride. Beer cans and bottles and trash everywhere. This is a top notch 2 days of shows and was glad I was there. Listen to it all the time but I knew this was going to be it. Can't stand massive venus and really don't like outdoor shows even though I have two more tickets for this summers tour because I also don't want to make the mistake and miss the possible last tours we will ever get to see. All we get is today and I'm taking everything I can get
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All of a sudden, or so it seemed, the band that I loved got swamped by wanna-bes. The touchholes just flooded the scene forevermore and unless you were selling something and getting rich it just didn't feel the same anymore. The most annoying people were those who just posed as veterans after going to ten shows in a two year period. The scene became much more snobby and exclusive as the older deadheads tried to adjust. MTV had to go and spoil a really good thing. I could have lived with the skull & bones Greek college kids -- at least they were intelligent. The great unwashed masses were just all too much. Way too much!
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I was prepping for a "Weekend in the Valley" at Alpine Valley on June 26th, 27th and 28th, just before the deluge of new, and justly deserved success and the massive throng of new fans. Alpine '87 was the calm before the storm. Prior to that, at my first Dead show in '84 at Pine Knob, I had very little knowledge of their music, and no clue about the scene. I was intrigued, but not quite to the point where I actually felt like I "got it". I didn't see them in '85, so my next exposure to them was at Alpine Valley in '86 for two shows. That was the first time I felt like there was more going on than just simply a concert and enthusiastic fans. I guess I was starting to grasp the bigger picture with the Dead. By the time of my next shows, which was Alpine '87, I felt like I understood most of the big picture. My next show was Buckeye Lake '88, and by then, it was pandamonium. Humongous open air general admission venue, massive parking areas in massive farm fields, oppressively hot day and what seemed like 200, 000 people in a venue that holds 70,000. It didn't matter though. Tickets were available at the box office, and Bruce Hornsby sounded great on accordian sitting in on a couple of songs. Does that make me a "touchhole"? After all that the Grateful Dead had been through up to that point, the loss of two bandmembers, the near death of Jerry and any other number of ups and downs, the band got the long overdue success they deserved. I don't understand why some fans have this hierarchy mentality when it comes to those who came onboard at any given time before or after them. In regards to the Garcia interview, I think it's interesting how Jerry seemed to have a good sense of forsight into things coming their way, even not knowing how successful they were about to become. A true "be careful what you wish for" moment. I've never read that interview before! Thanks for posting it. In fact, I have never had the opportunity to read the Golden Road News letter, but have heard lots about it. I think I may have to start tracking some of those down.
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Ten shows in two years is some pretty serious deadication if you were a working stiff like myself
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if you lived in the Bay Area it was relatively easy, but otherwise, not so much.
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We all came to the Dead by different paths, and I don't think one person's experience is more right than any others. I only saw 7 Dead shows between Tinley Park in '90 and Richfield Coliseum in '93, but it was never just a phase for me. In fact, I've seen far more post-Jerry incarnations and solo projects than I did actual GD shows. I must admit, I was smitten with "Touch," as I was with many of their songs, and as a young college student, I didn't even realize that the scene was disintegrating. For me, having come of age in the plastic 80s, everything that went along with a Dead show was utopia. I didn't get drunk at shows or gate-crash or take advantage. Do I wish I had seen some shows with Keith and Donna? Of course! Too bad I was 8 years old when that lineup played their last show. Hell, I even wish I would have discovered the band a year before I did, because they played some (relatively) great shows in the summer and fall of '89. Sometimes I lament having joined the party too late, but if not for the exposure that "Touch" brought, I may not have discovered them at all. Nah, I would have. The fit was too right. Great post, Blair. I don't usually comment, but I always love reading your stuff, whether this blog, your liner notes, or the Garcia bio.
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Standing there in utter amazement watching Jerry like noone had seen him before.Healthy, full of life and putting on one hell of a performance. We all had Jerry back just the way we wanted. He spoke of feeling a "healing vibe" when he was down for the count. There were alot of desperate people out their, myself included that simply would not accept anything but a clean and healthy Jerry. Alive. Look at the two years prior and the two years that followed. Amazing.
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I grew up in the 80s and in retrospect it was a great period to be young, in the USA, and rocking. I was a little too young and they didn't come close enough to see them in the mid 80s except for Eugene 87....but why didn't I go? Just too far, couldn't together it together? Too bad. But I do remember celebrating and was astonished to hear "Touch" and later "Hell In A Bucket" on the radio in my small, ultra conservative town while I was out delivering pizzas. It was unbelievable. I will get by. This Pizza Hut job will pass. Tough times don't last but tough Deadheads do! For some reason I remember the rock station just flogging that Whitesnake album that summer. LOL. But then...here comes "Touch" again! Incredible. I bought the Arista cassette of the album. I still have it. It was white plastic with black type and sounded great....much better than the crap record companies were putting out on cassettes. You know what is hilarious to me ...at that time the press were marveling "GD hasn't put out a studio album in seven years!!" Seven years! It was like an unimaginable length of time when you were a kid. Time goes by so quick now. Everything is compressed. Forever sleep just around the corner now! What a great album and great period to be a teenager.
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Saw a bunch of shows between '77 and '84. By '84 the whole thing really seemed to be going downhill, so I gave it up. For a while... After Brent died and Bruce came in, I started hearing what I liked again in the tapes (thanks, Gans!) and my first shows back were the Boston Garden shows in '91. Those shows were great! Essentially, though, I missed the entire Touchhead phenomenon, as I had no MTV until well into the 90s. For me, going back was about the music being revitalized. Unfortunately, the shows I saw until I was done again in '93, got steadily worse. Touch of Grey was awesome when it first appeared in what, '82 or something? Not as great in later years...
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I remember being happy that the Dead were no longer necessarily viewed as pariahs. They finally were getting some of that long-overdue respect. They didn't have to "sell out" to get it either-it just took a little near-death experience to get noticed. There is satisfaction in being part of something that is not neccessarily known or understood by others-sort of secret, arcane knowledge, but conversely there is also satisfaction in thinking that there was true virtue in that stuff you knew about and those dumb f.... are finally figuring that out now. Vindication, smugness perhaps are in there somwhere. Of course the other side is loss of scale-things get out of hand, the new folks didn't pay their dues, didn't have a real sense of the culture of the community. The good and bad. But, you know, I remember me and my buddy stopping the car to let a large group of young-uns cross the entrance at a Maine show and heard:" They are pretty cool for old guys." So, maybe there was hope there after-all. Maybe some of them are now cool old guys too with a permanent attitude change brought about by the "Good, Old Grateful Dead". Its all good.
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The 1980s were peculiar years for DeadHeads outwith the USA. No new studio albums since Go To Heaven, no live albums since Reckoning and Dead Set, the latter of which was a bit disappointing for some of us, and no live gigs after the 1981 tour. We did have Relix magazine, if we could find somewhere that sold it, and dodgy individuals at record fairs sold cassette tapes of Dead gigs, often poorly recorded and with bits missing. So as the decade drew by, we wondered if we'd ever get new albums or a tour here. So it was great when In the Dark appeared, and the 'Touch of Grey' video was actually shown on the telly a couple of times in Britain. The puppeteers really made the skeletons stand and move just like the band members. I remember being greatly cheered when I heard 'Throwing Stones' blaring through a pub window in Camden Town. Then we had the (to my mind) rather underrated Built to Last, and despite the sadness we all felt when Brent died, we then had the band's European tour in 1990. The Internet age started up soon afterwards, and we are now kept much more informed about the music scene in the USA; then what news items we had about the Dead were indeed few and far between.
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I remember friends always talking about how much better everything would be if everyone was into the Dead shortly before Jerry's coma. I didn't share their opinion simply because there's only so many tickets and people that the scene could handle. It was getting crazy before IN THE DARK had even been recorded. Then, Jerry fell into a coma and people who had hoped off the bus started coming back. You had the anniversary of the Summer of Love and Monterey Pop Festival mixed with the band putting out it's first studio album in seven years. Groups like The Beatles, The Stones and others were also having their back catalog put out on cd for the first time. Rolling Stone magazine was having a birthday. That being said, IN THE DARK is actually a pretty decent studio album. I had already seen groups like Yes and Jefferson Starship sell their souls so I was quite concerned about what this "new" Dead album was going to sound like. Yes, many of the songs had been played for years but we were constantly hearing that this new album had top 10 written all over it. I was really getting worried and studio albums didn't always have the same feeling as the live versions. The Dead had actually experimented with Disco at it's height so I was beginning to worry slightly about a video involving a band member with spiky red hair and leather outfits. Thankfully, the Dead were able to have a hit without selling out and the Hell In A Bucket video was a hoot! Shows in 1987 were actually pretty good despite all the newbies showing up. Granted, they're not the most jammed out but they rock pretty good and you could tell that the band was happy to be back. I remember Jerry even dancing a bit of a jig here and there. I saw a bunch of show that year and I can't remember one where the band members weren't smiling ear to ear. It makes me happy just to think about it and then every show after 1986 always felt like a bonus to me.
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...Dr Paul, I would agree. I think the execution is incredible on that album. The songs may not all be classics but I think it is one their best if not very best studio album from the standpoint of execution. That "Foolish Heart" is just chiseled....you can sing/"air guitar" or keyboard every little phrase.The other day I was checking out "Blow Away" ....the background vocals "baby who's to say?" ....damn, that's slick. Are those the Eagles!? Both those albums to me have a lot of "definitive" versions of the those songs...."Throwing Stones "Touch" "Black Muddy" "Blow Away" etc. Not many live versions that are much better for me and usually with the studio stuff it is the other way around, in my opinion.
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The closing quotation by Garcia, about producing something that's accessible, reminds me of Blair's article about turning people on to the GD. The mystery of how two people can listen to the same music, and yet hear completely different things- Secrets of the pyramids.
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I remember that summer well. The radio stations played "Touch of Grey" A LOT!! I heard it played from "pop" to "hard rock" stations. Of course MTV was still actually playing videos most of the time, they played the video all the time. Sullivan Stadium 07/04/1987 was my first concert experience. I was 15 years old and my father took me. He was there for Dylan, I was there for the Dead. I thought that the show was WAY OVER-PROMOTED!!!! It was all the radio stations talked about! I enjoyed myself and thought that the live experience was really fun, but the show definately did not live up to the hype. I always wondered why so many fans of any group always complain when their favorite band finally gets some success. They work their butts off for years with little/no recognition or success, and one song/record becomes really popular and everybody thinks they sold out. I think that it was well deserved for any band to have success after struggling for a long time. I had gotten turned to the Dead about a year and a half before seeing them live. American Beauty, Aoxomoxoa, Live Dead, and a couple of live tapes was all I had to listen to. I wish that I was old enough to see them in '69, 70', '72, or '77, but I wasn't. I feel fortunate to have seen them live 35 times, even though it was not their best shows. It was still better than many other bands at their very best!!
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I absolutely came along during the Touch era but was always respectul of the culture and as a fellow musician, I was there for the music. All I have to say is thank God the music never stopped - each era was full of wonderful twisted idiosyncracies from Pig to Keith to Brent to Vince. For me, Touch was a starting point to dig furthur back and forth in time (from In the Dark to Skeletons to Terrapin to Live Dead and beyond.) The trip is neverending (and if you think some 80s shows are boring, try listening to and making (non)sense of what Bob is doing or the logic of musical decisions Phil makes as individual contributors to the ensemble . . . then I dare you to figure out what Jerry is thinking). As Blair mentioned, it may have been wonderful in the late 80s and 90s when the scene was thriving (in some ways and not in others), but it was definitely that era of the Dead the got me intrigued and eventually dragged me on the bus. But how fortunate are we to have sereral years of resurgence and golden nuggets post 87? Maybe I wear rose colored sunglasses, but I'd rather have all the good of the resurgence with the bad ... and just be grateful.
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In Philly, the din was beginning to build even during the April '85 run at the Spectrum; same was true in spring '86 too when they almost had a broadcast on WMMR. But, Wow! The March '87 Spectrum shows showed that the times were a-changin'. The strangest of places was the 3-29 show which got underway late due to Wrestlemania's simulcast. The next night was incredible, as was the last night of the run (3-31). By the time they pulled into town for the "Alone and Together" show with Dylan (7/10), it was a mad house. In fact, it took several hours to make it through stopped traffic from Wilmington, Del. to JFK Stadium and the scene was waaaallll to waaaalll. That was the show in which suddenly a Looks Like Rain appeared to be a first set closer, but wait... Terrapin followed? In the first set?? Nope. It was a first and second set combined. The second set was the Dylan and the Dead. My first time seeing Dylan and it was a terrible intro. It was awesome to see them all together, but the music fell waaaay short of being all that good. It was great to get to see Jerry sitting at his pedal steel, but aside from that, the Dead set was pretty good. Yes; Touch was the encore that evening and smiles were all around. It was also cool to have Los Lobos on the radio is heavy rotation with La Bamba! The fall Philly show brought out La Bamba sandwiched between Good Lovin'. All in all, '87 was the return of hot Dead! The years between '77 and '87 are what I consider "ordinary time." Yes; '80 and '82 were well played, but most shows were more about the experience than the blow your mind music. 87 was back to blow your mind music for the next few years! "and [we] kept on dancin'
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Hey Man, For me, I dug the slow burn of new music and not knowing just where it came from or where and when it would end up. On a new Record? Perhaps. It was 1982. The 1st Touch of Grey Cap Ctr 9/15/1982 in the encore slot. Then: the band placed it as the 2nd set opener in Portland Me. 9/17/82. From the get go when we heard "Must be getting early,clocks are running late..." we said, "That's unmistakable R.Hunter words." Also that night was Bobby's 1st Throwing Stones. We all wrote down "Ashes Ashes" on our UD XLII cassette card set lists. And from then on for, what, nearly 5 years?, we got to hear this material getting rolled out with no reference to an official recording. Out came "Brother Esau", "West L.A. Fadeaway blues", etc. Also enjoyed the Dupree's revival of that time. There was Brent's "Monster Train Song"(-Garcia), "900,000 Tons of Steel", Bob's "Helena Bucket" ... Oh dear, I lost my purpose for this comment in the swirl of memories. Touchhead, Touchhole, who cares? Regardless, I was done after the Boston Gahden run of Sept 1991, Grey matter notwithstanding. "If I only had my way, I would tear this old building down" Razed in 1997. shwack in nh-- onbus: 1978-1991
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July 1987 Anaheim Stadium with Bob Dylan was my first Grateful Dead show. I went for two reasons: At that point I’d go see Dylan anytime, anywhere, no exceptions and two, I’d FINALLY get to check out the Grateful Dead. I was 20 years old and had been a hardcore music fan for about half my life, with The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan being my all-time faves. I learned a lot about music from my local record store in Escondido, CA called Gary’s Record Paradise, just a tiny little place with new and used vinyl and a few shelves of ‘head shop’ stuff including bumper stickers that said “There Is Nothing Like A Grateful Dead Concert”, which piqued my curiosity, but never enough to make me seek out their music. What I’d heard as a kid sounded mellow and country and that was before I was into country/folk/roots music (before I’d gotten into Dylan). I’d read in books about other bands that the Dead were ‘‘acid rock” which in my mind meant heavy metal and what I heard (studio version of stuff from American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead) didn’t sound like metal and it didn’t fit the image in my mind conjured up by the name Grateful Dead, either. A few years later, I remember seeing the ads for their concerts at Irvine Meadows, where it seemed they played so frequently and they played several nights in row each time!. “Wow, there really must be something that makes people love this music so much. I don’t get it, though.” As I got into Dylan (via the Byrds) I started to open up to the country and folk side of rock music and I was unknowingly becoming primed to get into the Dead. I met Mellisa, the ex-wife of Gary, owner of Gary’s Record Paradise. She was into the Dead, he was not. He looked a little bit like Frank Zappa. I think the Dead were partially responsible for them not staying together, but that’s just speculation. Another employee at the shop was also into the Dead and he informed me that the Dead often covered Dylan, but not on records, only on live tapes. He invited me over to his house and he had tons of tapes of shows, none of them labeled with the setlists, just the dates. I just wanted to hear all the different Dylan covers he had, but he didn’t really know what song was on what tape very well, so it was a cumbersome process to search through his collection for the Dylan covers, so I just settled on a few of his choice picks. He gave me 7-13-84 Greek Theater, but just the second half of the second set for some reason. I listened to Space>Wheel>Miracle>Stella Blue>Sugar Magnolia over and over. The Wheel and Stella Blue immediately grabbed my attention. He also gave me some version of Its All Over Now Baby Blue and I was floored by the emotion that Garcia sang this with and the loose, rambling way the band sounded, earthy and organic in tone and in no hurry to reach a particular destination but rather focused on getting into the feeling of the song, it sounded. “Hmm, I guess I was wrong about the Dead, there is really something to them. And it seems that the people who get it have their own collective little secret and that the rest of the world has a mistaken notion of what the Dead are all about. I think I kinda like this stuff.” When I told Mellisa and this other Head who gave me my first tape I was going up to Anaheim, they said they were too and I could ride along with them if I wanted. So these older Heads were about to show me how it was done going to a really long daytime concert. I wasn’t smoking at that time and they didn’t pressure me, but once we were in our seats it felt right and I partook for the first time in a few years. “Wow, the Dead are a REALLY good rock band! This crowd seems really cool and mellow and friendly for a rock audience. People are dancing and smiling and interacting with one another. And they are REALLY listening to the music!” I was amazed at lots of things on that day: how a dude could be the only dancing, standing up person in an entire section of sitters and not one person every asked him to sit down! I had some kind of stoned epiphany about the deep and significant meaning of the words “little red light on the highway, big green light on the speedway” that I, of course, could not remember the next day. After the first set was over, I was feeling good, glowing in how great this music was and I was happy to be around such nice people. I, however, realized how thirsty I was. I really didn’t feel like getting out of my seat to navigate the crowded halls or wait in long lines. My hosts, after asking what I was thinking about, at that moment pulled out of their bags slices of cold watermelon and I will tell you I was never so happy to get that cool liquid in me without having to leave the comfort of my seat. These Deadheads know how to attend a rock show, they bring everything they might want with them. Later in the show, after the Dead’s second set, they pulled vitamin B-12 tabs out of their bag and said “You’ll need these for energy for the Dylan set”! I got a nice Shakedown second set opener, my wished-for Stella Blue, and a mind-blowing Terrapin Station in all its orchestral bombastic glory! I was dancing my ass off and smiling perma-grin and we still had the third set with Dylan to go! Dylan’s set was also a revelation, with the songs like Watching The River Flow that he hadn’t played in years, all backed by that easy-going shambling Grateful Dead music. When it came time for the Touch of Grey encore, I swear the entire stadium was on its feet, dancing, twirling, rocking out with a joyful abandon that I just could not believe. A huge electric feeling of happiness filled that stadium and I’d never experienced anything like it at any rock show I’d yet been to. All these people, all focused on the same thing, feeling the same thing at the same time, everyone happy and open to one another and the joyfulness of being alive and music was the vehicle for it all, the center of the celebration. I was overwhelmed with joy and a thrilling feeling that I’d at long last found the home I never even knew I was missing. I immediately became a Deadhead through and through. After the show I was thinking that this was just like the first time I discovered pot, that the Dead had been waiting for me all these years, that I would eventually get into them had always been a foregone certainty that I just didn’t know about, and that this day was a major culmination of destiny in my life. My only question was “When is the next time I get to see this band? I’d go tomorrow night and every night after that if I could” Yeah, the summer of Touch of Grey was a big one for me, a life-changer for sure. I never felt weird or lesser or had anyone judge me for getting into the Dead at that particular time. And I do wish I’d gone to see them years earlier, but then again things happen for a reason and I got into the band when I was most ready for it. That’s just how the universe works, in my view and I’m more than grateful that I got to see so many fantastic Dead shows in the years I went.
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40 years ago today...the first show after the Europe 72 tour...my first Grateful Dead concert and Pigpen's last performance with the band. Sorry to be off subject...how time flies by...
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I took a friend to his first Dead show - it must have been '93 or '94 - here in L.A. (either the Inglewood Forum or the Sports Arena), and the one song he wanted to hear - naturally for the sake of this thread - was Touch.And sure enough the boys opened the show with it. It was a great moment.
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I'm glad Shug 9 (see previous comment) enjoyed his first Dead show in 87 at Anaheim Stadium, and i don't mean to rain on his parade.But for me, it was without doubt the worst of some 35-40 GD shows I attended starting in 1970. The reason is simple: the venue - a giant, faceless, characterless, soul-less concrete pit. We were pretty far back and I'm sorry, but the music just didn't translate very well in such a giant bland space. Thank God many Touchheads were a passing fancy and by 92, 93 or so, I was relieved to be able to once more see the band at say tiny Cal Expo in Sacramento - positively miniscule compared to the Big A.
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... and was disappointed by Dead-Dylan in Eugene (though there were great moments). But for some reason when the Dead-Dylan tour came to Oakland a few days later I loved that show, even though we were miles from the stage. Maybe I'd lowered my expectations after Eugene. But also the Dead played a more "stadium"-style show, with more rockers, etc. And the Dylan portion was excellent. Made me almost wish I was going to Anaheim, so vividly described by Shug9 above. I'm happy to have the VFTV of the Oakland and Anaheim Dead sets. Both are great! A few years ago, I approached Bob Dylan's management, whom I knew a little, and said, "Hey, guys, let me put together a REAL Dead-Dylan 2-CD live album from that tour as part of your 'Bootleg Series.' Dead Heads will definitely buy it." Could've been SO cool. But they politely declined. Oh, well, maybe someday someone will see the light and pluck the jewels from those six shows, because the first Dylan-Dead album sure didn't...
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I am reasonably sure these were the Dead's two last "massive" shows, where one could easily sense being among ~100,000 people, like Englishtown (my first show). The JFK '87 scene was so vast, hot, sunny and dusty, stadium filled to the top edge. It was mellow, and all about how to survive the heat. Thank god for the hydroworks.... eventually, shower pipes on flimsy wood frames were ripped down and then held vertically and rotated around (by the strong and wild-eyed), for the benefit of the sweaty. I loved the two hour superset by the Dead, I wished after that day that more shows could be so musically concise and intense. I went to Maine, to Vegas, and a few other large outdoor and stadium shows after '87, but Dylan and the Dead at JFK '87 was the last of its kind for me.
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One thing I think everybody is missing is that the Dead circa 87 was so darn refreshing in regards to almost everything else in pop & rock cause they played actual instruments. This was the beginning of the backlash against the processed sounds, drum machines, synths that took over music (we built this city-anyone??). That is the reason why Guns-n-Roses were so popular. Cause they played guitars, no synths (Van Hagar-anyone??) and did not mic the snare so damn loud like every other band back then. I saw Bruce Springsteen at Giants stadium in 1985 & all I could hear was the loudest snare drum ever, uggh. So the reason I loved the Dead and early indie rock like the Replacements, Meat Puppets, etc. in the mid to late 80's was because it was so darn authentic, not some overprocessed 80's dreck. By the 90's even the rappers & dance music artists had live musicians playing along. Musicians went back to using tube amps & vintage sounding instruments......The Dead of the 80's & 90's started to sprinkle in Midi & whatnot but it was never overbearing. Years later I was in shock when I finally got around to the raw grit of 68 & 69 Dead. Stripped down, hard rocking & exploratory. I never knew they could outright rock with the best of their peers (Hendrix, Zep, the Who)
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I would also add something I meant to mention in the original post, which is that in '87 the jam band thing was still in its infancy, so there weren't many places to get a fix of improvised rock 'n' roll. By the early '90s, when the Dead were (perhaps) in decline, there were so many cool young bands out there jamming....
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...is precisely why I gravitated towards the resurgence of blues bands from that era. While the rest of the music industry were utilizing MTV to commercially promote brands, the 80's were kind of a renaissance for blues artists, young and old. I suppose the suprise commercial successes of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, along with The Fabulous Thunderbirds had a lot to do with keeping that flame going. Besides the Grateful Dead, there was lots of great music being performed/recorded by bands that never conceded to commercial trends back in the '80's. Alligator Records was one of those labels who bucked the trends. I'll take a tiny raunchy hot sweaty blues club over a stadium anyday.
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We now interrupt our regularly scheduled blogcast to ask whether I am the only one who is going crazy waiting for the next announcement of some new GD product! No DaP3 announcement, no box set (whole tour or otherwise), no vault or DVD release, nothing! I need to look forward to something!! We now return you to your regularly scheduled program... :)
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For me there were so many excellent shows in 1987, except for the first SF Civic Show (Get Back) which was pretty bad, the show, not Get Back. One notorious Taper and Deadhead HATED that Garcia was doing one and two minute solo's instead of 5-10 minute solos. I told him that I would rather hear three minutes of killer solo than 5 or 10 minutes of solo's that didn't go anywhere...and, in fact, Garcia's solo's got longer and better as he got his chops back (remember he had completely lost his ability to play guitar after his coma and had to relearn everything!) After his coma and for the first couple of months GD only played what they had rehearsed because Jerry didn't remember songs, and then they played a killer Morning Dew at HJK and Phil Lesh told me that it surprised him because they had not rehearsed it all and it came out of no where. Jerry told Phil that it "Just popped into my head!" And from there the flood gates opened. But what happened after that goddamn MTV Day of The Dead almost destroyed the entire scene. Because of the incredible deluge of non-fans going to Dead show parking lots and not into the shows, by the end of 1989 we had lost Frost Amphitheatre, The Greek Theatre, HJK and even places like Hampton. GD was only allowed back to Hampton because the shows were listed as Formerly The Warlocks and not announced until a few days before the shows...The last time GD played Hampton almost 15,000 people showed up in the parking lots! For The Warlocks there were less than 1,000 for both shows! But from there it just got worse, although the playing didn't. I felt that 90% of the shows from 1987 until Brents death in July of 1990 were very good to excellent, and the tapes do bear that out. After Brent it was pretty good until Bruce left, but had already faded to not so good by summer 1991...After Brent died it just seemed that Jerry lost it. I remember him coming over to the Grateful Dead Ticket Sales office on August 1, 1990 for our annual "Jerry's Birthday BBQ" (and the first time I invited him) and he said, "I dread going on stage and not having Brent there..." All of the tapes of The Dead with and without Dylan in 1987 sound great to me, and I liked every show I saw, especially the Oakland Stadium show. Unbeknownst to most Deadheads, Dylan had made it clear that he would be showing up at The Greek Theatre, Ventura and Alpine Valley to play an unannounced third set with GD...Airline and Hotel reservations were made for him for all but the Ventura shows (because he lived nearby.) But, alas, Dylan didn't show...that would have been fun!
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you have read what is left of my mind-I have been thinking that the silence around here is deafening-something is due to be announced, dropped, etc-in my wildest dreams I'm also hoping for new Jerry solo stuff-"we are now returning the control of your TV set to you"
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"I don’t think we can play that many more shows, so this represents a problem. The answer may be videos and more records and that sort of stuff. I don’t know." Always ahead of the times...I wonder what Jerry would think about Terrapin Crossroads and TRI's new digs and ability for live broadcasts in HD? I bet he would be right on board and probably would've been the first with such a studio if the technology had been available the way it is now back then.
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i remember the MTV dotd. I didn't think everything would grow like crazy. i was just happy to see the GD get some props. China Kantner did part of it. GD87 is pretty limp in my book. tinny keyboards, short shows (want a "it's blech to me"? 8/13/87. ugh. i did go to 7/19/87. my first show in three years (long story). gd sets were ok; the PITB jam was about four seconds long, though. the sets with dylan glowed nicely (as did everything on the way back to seattle.)
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Love the insider's perspective especially from S Marcus. Please keep those coming! One note though...the whole thing about "all the non-fans" ruined the scene. Isn't it more fair to say "all the new fans plus the people who were there to party" made the scene unmanageable? I was of the younger generation. What defines a "real fan?" If you came and behaved and enjoyed the music doesn't that make you a fan? If you wore short hair or a Van Halen or REM t-shirt or you had never heard "Viola Lee Blues," does that put you in the "non-fans who ruined the scene" category? I don't think so. The idiots who just came to drink and be belligerent ...fine. But wasn't that mainly toward the very end? I remember seeing a lot of burned out hippie types begging and panhandling. Were they Deadheads but the guy like me who was a college kid with short hair who listened to rock wasn't? I remember going to a show in Eugene and some guy wouldn't "help me" because I looked like cop. Dude - get over it. Just that whole kind of attitude kind of bugged me.
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The game is afoot.
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I know what you mean, DoubleT. Although I came into the Dead community in 1987, I was a responsible member of the scene. I never showed up without a ticket and I bought my "supplies" somewhere other than the parking lot so as to not contribute to giving the cops a reason to conduct a witch-hunt at the shows. I know the whole parking lot "store" scene and scoring tix day of the show, maybe even for free was a really cool thing to have happen, but of course it could only continue to happen until too much attention was brought to it and cops and other authorities became aware of it. It was a privelege to be nurtured and protected, it was not a undeniable right. When the band came out and said over and over "if you don't have a ticket, don't come to the show and don't buy illegal drugs at the show" and so many "fans" ignored their pleas, that is when the scene started to go bad and we lost Greek, Frost, Kaiser, Ventura, Red Rocks, etc. I'm sure it was great in the early 80s when you had the gypsy Deadhead scene AND the killer music in killer small venues, but when it came down to a choice of either hear the music in great venue and give up the scene or keep the scene and give up the great venues, it was a no brainer for me. The music and the cool venues took way more priority over buying drugs and showing up without a ticket. I just seems there was a portion of the community that could not accept that times had changed and their behavior needed to change too. Because they didn't, we all suffered the loss of those great venues. I'm really glad I got to see the last shows at the Frost and HJK, at least I got there in time for those.
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The only shows I caught that year were the Red Rocks-Telluride shows. Sold Out shows, lots of Phony mail order tickets at Red Rocks, guy dies at Chief Hosa, another guy almost dives off the Red Rock cliff during Samson right as Jerrys lead started. In Telluride I saw Phil & Jill walking down Main St shopping at the antique stores, I spoke to Billy he was around, Bobby & Brent were Mt biking and visiting with fans in town. Bill Graham was using Moped & Walkie to keep things together. After the 1st show Movies were provided by the Town Park, featuring all the Touch Of Grey Videos and others. After the 2nd show I witnessed a pretty wicked cat fight between 2 long haired freaks complete with biting, hair pulling scratching etc...the 5 shows were well played and had some great moments.
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I was a "local" deadhead as I only saw shows when the band would come to upstate NY. I saw them at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in 83', 84' and 85'. After the 85 show, they were not welcomed back because of the vast sea of garbage left behind by we deadheads. It took them 2-3 days to clean up after that show (which set a SPAC attendance record). Because they were not welcomed back, I didn't get to see them again until SPAC allowed them back in 88. That really bummed me out. I remember word going out that they didn't want people showing up without tickets for the 88 show. They really limited the amount of people inside the venue, however, the outside was still a sea of tye-dyed masses of people. The juggernaut that was The Grateful Dead could not stopped by anyone.
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11 years 5 months
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...was one of the places I, a West Coast Head, always wanted to check out. Seems like the band always played well there. And I was also curious about Alpine and Deer Creek (though Alpine was soooo big (at least outside the pavilion)...
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The interesting thing about the SPAC show in 1985 is that Springsteen played earlier in the year and sold 24,000 tickets (Sold out!) on a sunny day... Grateful Dead show up on a rainy downpour with sales of 25,000 in advance and a record breaking "walk up sale" of over 22,000 tickets in the rain! Up to that point, a "good" walk up sale would be maybe 2,000 tickets! I never made it to SPAC...
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9 years 10 months
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More interesting comments from another interesting thread. As I have noted several times in other threads, age prevented me from getting on the bus until 1988, but was definitely one of the responsible folks. During the Dead's time, i was never able to tour or travel far and wide to see them as college took priority for me. I stuck around Wisconsin (through 1989) and Chicago shows. I was one of the responsible new Heads, never went without a ticket (like shug). Camping at Alpine 1989 was a great time, but even checking tickets before letting cars in the lots did not prevent a deluge of people (1988 Alpine crowds were insane)-- sad that they got banned at that point. Blair, I have many great memories of Alpine and yes, that grass is big. Clapton 1988 and 1990, Stones 1989, that SRV 2nd to last show was mind-blowingly good, and many other fine shows. It was next to impossible to get pavillion seats there. I was in line at a Ticketron (remember them) outlet in Madison waiting for Clapton tickets in 1988 and only two of us were there-- me and I ran into a friend there for the same reason. So, window opens and we are #1 and #2 in line and we still couldn't get pavillion tickets!! I still shake my head about that one. Regardless of the hill, it was a magical place to see a show-- sound was usually good, the steepness of the hill provided decent sightlines and the size usually gave you space to breathe.
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I imagine that it's no coincidence that many of the younger folks here on dead.net are the ones who were responsible and didn't just show up to get wasted in the parking lot.
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At some point around this time JGB & Weir & Wasserman were doing a tour together. They had a Sat night show booked at Great Woods in Mansfield MA. This was a very nice, fairly small outdoor venue. They were expecting a large crowd of parking lot crashers so they checked all tickets at the gate and wouldn't let you into the lot without a ticket. This caused a 3 hour traffic jam to get into the parking lot. As we were waiting in stop and go traffic and getting very irritated I realized I had an extra ticket that I needed to sell. There were hundreds of people with fingers waving and "I Need A Miracle" signs hanging from their necks so I yelled over to the first person I saw and told him I had an extra for face value $25. His response.."Oh wow man, I don't have any money but can I trade for some love beads"? Really? At that point the heat/ traffic/ crowd had totally put me over the top and I lost it on him. It was then that I realized I wasn't into the scene at all anymore and hated being herded around like cattle. It was no longer any fun for me.
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I'm not sure at what point "miracle ticket" started meaning "free ticket," but it did get sort of ridiculous when there were these hordes of people hanging outside long sold-out shows with plaintive expressions hoping that someone would give them a free ticket. Especially when there were also hordes of people waving cash. Yes, sometimes miracles happen. Sometimes scalpers happen too, and the whole ecosystem got really ridiculous with all the warring expectations in what had up to that point been a fairly harmoniously self-regulating scene, and the vibes did get pretty weird. Not necessarily in the summer of '87 though. The summer of '87 was getting to Telluride and there's a banner across Main Street welcoming Dead Heads, and Clide Williams telling people to have their tickets out and ready!
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9 years 11 months
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Blair, Just so you know......Marshmallows are banned from SPAC...While I remember tortillas being thrown around Shoreline.........Relatively safe I guess. .The Monsters of Rock fans would light the marshmallows on fire and toss them through the crowd, at SPAC. A mini-napalm. It on signs as you walk in - I had to ask Jay Doublu

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    Phillyhead79
    4 years 3 months ago
    As far back as 83 spring tour......
    .....I started to say that the band needed to take a break for a while. Too many people were coming, the venues were beginning not to like us (Merriweather, SPAC, The Cap Centre)and the whole scene was just getting way too unwieldy. Once I got inside a show I would find the least populated area and stay there so I could relax and just listen. The outside scene and the security scene were a pain then and that was a good four years before the 87 explosion in popularity. I made it to 91 before it became too much for me. But to be honest I cannot lay the blame solely at the feet of the Touch heads. The older heads had become, to my thinking, as annoying as the Touch heads if not more so. It became almost a "who's a more fervent" head type of pissing match. There was a fair degree of condescension among the mid 70's start heads and the late 70's start heads (myself) and it was even worse directed towards the 80's folks. The outside scene, even in the early 80s, has obscured the love of the music. Sadly it wasn't just the non-head people that made it that way. Of course, I could be completely full of shit. Just my opinion.
  • Mr. Pid
    6 years 4 months ago
    Flying objects at shows?
    Well, my mind was usually one of those... Non-lethal things like frisbees, beach balls, glow sticks and such, I don't see any problem with stuff like that. Things that are literally on fire, though? Furthur proof that it's unwise to under-estimate the potential for stupidity in humans.
  • fluffanutter
    6 years 4 months ago
    Based on the info you gave
    Spacebrother, I'm going to go out on a limb and say your home town is Grand Rapids and the venue you are speaking of is the Grand Center. Am I right? The incident you speak of isn't all that rare of an occurrence. it happened a lot through the years. The general hysteria around acid was such that the very mention of it could send the TPTB into a protective frenzy. Something untoward didn't necessarily have to happen. If some friend of a teacher made a comment about how there would be a lot of this or that floating around town in the wake of a Grateful Dead appearance that would be deemed a priori evidence that little Jane and Johnny were the targets of every long hair in town. In small towns especially this was a huge problem. For the hippies who had to endure unwarranted suspicion. While it was possibly true that some sick and twisted mind might have conceived of the plot on a certain Halloween night, in basis it was 99.9999% rumors and old & new deadheads alike were just nice people who were into dancing and having a good time. Just the facts.
  • SPACEBROTHER
    6 years 4 months ago
    Whose to blame, old Heads or new Heads?
    This conversation triggered a childhood memory I would like to share. When I was 12 years old, towards the end of the summer of 1980, and long before the Grateful Dead were even remotely near my own radar, they played their one and only gig in my hometown, at a small venue that used to be called Civic Auditorium. An older sibling of mine and his friends attended that show. About a week after they played their one and only show in my hometown happened to be my first day back to school going into 7th grade, our principal and teachers called an impromtu assembly meeting for all of my fellow students to warn us not to accept anything from anybody, on or off school grounds that resembles a temporary tattoo, or tiny pieces of candy that resembles mini tic tacs. They told us that If we encounter anybody trying to do so, to immediately report it to the principals office, or a teacher. Needless to say, even back in 1980, some Deadheads left a negative enough impression on my community, that they were never allowed anywhere near my hometown and within a two hour drive. I have an older sibling who did attend that Civic Auditorium show with some of his friends, and I surprised him when I scored a recording of it many years later. It wasn't one of their best shows from that era, but it's awesome that it's documented. A true rarity. He was also the person responsible for taking me to my first Grateful Dead concert 4 years later at Pine Knob. I haven't been the same since, in the best possible way. Surprisingly,there are actually a lot of photos from the Civic Auditorium show in the publication, "Grateful Dead: The Official Book of the Deadheads" - Author: Paul Bassett, Cynthia Bassett, Jonas Grushkin - Publication date: 1983. One is of Jerry in full tophat, enjoying a horse drawn carriage ride down one of the streets in my (what used to be) tiny hometown.
  • Anna rRxia
    6 years 4 months ago
    you missed a few venues
    they got banned from, peakshead... Worcester, Red Rocks are 2 more I can think of in 88 alone. Jerry started doing a little ditty called Big Boss Man during the last show at a venue.