Grateful Dead

Welcome to My (Blog) World!

Why a weekly blog? Well, for a while now I’ve wanted to have a place where I can talk about music, issues, events and people related to the Grateful Dead and the post-GD world on a regular basis — and also hear what you have to say about this unique and fascinating universe we’re all wrapped up in to varying degrees. Basically, for the past few decades, much of my mind and spirit have been dominated by my interest in the Dead and the many tangents that have led from that incredible source of light and life. Of course, I’ve held jobs that have nothing to do with the Dead, raised two great kids, led what for all intents and purposes is a “normal” life, and listened to thousands upon thousands of hours of non-Dead music. But the Dead have always been at least in the background, and often in the foreground, of my life ever since Live Dead came out in November of 1969 and I subsequently saw my first show at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, March 20, 1970. As Bob Weir sang (of a woman, I presume) in “Lazy Lightning,” “it’s an obsession, but it’s pleasing.”

I suspect most of you have seen my byline around this site on stories or product promos, have read liner notes I might have penned for various Road Trips and other releases, and some may go back to my days as editor/publisher of The Golden Road Dead fanzine, or even further to my years at BAM, the free Bay Area music magazine I worked for between 1976 and 1983. If you went to Pelham (New York) High with me in the very early ’70s, you might’ve read my first-ever Dead review—of the Vintage Dead album.

Golden Road magazine publishers
Regan and Blair on duty
at Red Rocks, 1987
I moved to the Bay Area from suburban NY in the fall of ’73, arriving just in time to catch the 11/11 Dead concert at wonderful Winterland — quite a contrast from my previous GD show at giant and decrepit Roosevelt Stadium in Joisey on Jerry’s 31st birthday. For a few years, I’d felt I was destined to live in the Bay Area someday. Then, spending some of the summer of ’73 living with my older bro in the Oakland Hills and going to see several Garcia-Saunders and Old & in the Way shows (not to mention Van Morrison and all sorts of other faves who played in clubs here), pretty much convinced me to transfer to UC Berkeley for my last two years of college. I got my degree in Political Science (was and still am a political junkie), then went to the graduate School of Journalism there, with an eye toward being a rock critic. That segued into my long tenure at BAM, and that’s what allowed me to write my first book about the Dead, The Music Never Stopped (which, at the time, 1983, was the only history of the band available). The following year, my wife, Regan, and I started The Golden Road, which took me even deeper in the Dead world and gave me the opportunity to interview and write about so many of the cool folks who have been part of the scene through the years. We put out 27 issues between the winter of ’84 and the middle of ’93, by which point we were about to have our second child and didn’t have the time or space in our house to keep putting out a magazine. During that time my main gig was being a writer and editor at Mix, the leading U.S. sound and recording magazine, and I continue to write for Mix to this day.

After Jerry died, I spent a couple of years working on the book Garcia: An American Life (published by Viking in 1999), co-produced the So Many Roads box set with my buddies David Gans and Steve Silberman, and also got involved with helping put out posthumous Garcia releases, including the All Good Things box. When Rhino took over the management of the Grateful Dead’s archival release program a few years ago, I signed on to work occasionally for the re-vamped Dead.net website and joined with Vaultmaster Supreme David Lemieux to play a small role in shepherding the Road Trips series.

So, that’s who I am. In coming weeks, I’ll be bringing up various issues connected to the Dead world that we can bat around and (hopefully) have some fun with, I’ll talk about some recent books and films (good and bad) that have connections to the scene, no doubt take a trip or two down memory lane, and we’ll see where it all leads. If there are issues or questions you’d like to see addressed, let me know. Don’t be shy! We’re all friends here…

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Joined: Jun 4 2007
JGB VAULT?

Blair, years ago you interviewed John Kahn and he mentioned that the 1976 era JGB (called themselves The Front Street Shieks) would hang out in the studio playing Bob Dylan material. Is there any of that in the vault?

Thanks.

Waltah

JeremyP's picture
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Joined: Jun 7 2007
Yo Blair!

As Dubya so famously said to our very own egregious little shIt, Mr. Tony Blair, aka St. Tony of the Bloody Hands.

Some randoms thought blobs here.

I'm a nigh on 60 year old English deadhead, who stumbled on the bus at a very early age - just 16 - thanks to the great DJ John Peel (RIP) and some american students boarding with the family of a friend of mine at school in Cambridge. They told tales of what was happening on the West Coast (this was '66 onwards), it chimed with me - I'd been rading up on psychedelics for whatever reason since I was 15 or so, and had decided they were for me.

So the Dead were the perfect hook to hang this desire on! First hear on Peel's famous 'Midnight Garden' show on Radio London, one of our famous pirate radio stations, he hit me with Golden Road, and then Venus In Furs by the VU.

That was it, really. Sold on the Dead. Bought my Mono copy of the first album the day it came out, St. Pat's, 1967. Same day in the States so was I the first person to buy that album! Who knows!

Come '70 and their brief visit, Live Dead was part of the aural wallpaper for our regular trips. Oh boy we had the best dealer - synth Psilocybin and Mesc, as well as fine Acid and hash. Permanently dosed loaded. But - the '70 show here at the Hollywood Festival was the day before my 1st year exams at Oxford Uni, and fail those - you were out. No second chance. So, as I was having such a good time, I did the exams and skipped the Dead.

So when they turn up in April two years later, I have another dilemma. The Dead? Or my finals .... easy peasy, as the kids here, say, no contest.

So one of the treats of the box set is that for the first time SINCE 4.7.72 I'll get to hear ... 4.7.72! Which is cool, as I was so high I recall little of either night, bar surfing Phil's TOO bomb the first night, on a huge wave composed of coloured sound. Yes! It was true! The Dead fucked with your head. BIG TIME!

An impoverished student, I only caught the Wembley shows, B'shaw and the first and last Lyceum nights. Only. Gloy hallelujah we witnessed some sublime music, and the 4.8.72 Dark Star still stands for me as the Dead's Ode To Joy. 8.27 Ode To Darkness? Yup, love that one too, but would I rather have the shit scared out of me (as is good for one now and again) or soar on the wings of joy to heaven? You guessed - the latter, and indeed, when we got that Dark Star again (I'd long lost the Glastonbury Benefit vinyl album it was one), I took it down to Cornwall with me, dropped some mushrooms, and sat looking out to sea as the sunset and the music took me far away again.

I could go on .... I may at a later date .. tales of an English deadhead, who, during the pre-internet days of the 80s, assumed he was the last living Deadhead in the UK. I have since met a few others who assumed the same!

I can't wait for the box set; I recall the spoof alert about this some years back, and recall thinking - mad, but yup, I'd buy it. No choice.
So thanks to all involved in this, most especially the band. That we are still being fed so much heart moving music is a source of wonder. I've been riding shotgun with the Dead, albeit from a .ong distance, fr 45 of my nigh on 60 years.

Gimme more.

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Joined: Jun 4 2007
Twilight

:-) Thanks!

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Joined: Jun 6 2007
Thanx, Timmy!

"tears and laughs and amazements" pretty well sums up the Grateful Dead experience!

Waltah, "Twilight" will come out, I promise! When I was interviewing Robbie Robertson the other day, I mentioned that there were a couple of real good JG versions of "Twilight" from '91 and he seemed surprised and pleased.

Timmy's picture
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Joined: Jun 5 2007
Book

Just want to let ya know, I've been reading your articles in BAM & some other news-mags for years. I read "American Life" about 3 years ago & it is brilliant. Tears & laughs & amazments abound. Thanx, Blair..............

JackstrawfromColorado's picture
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Joined: Jan 2 2009
Oxygen is over-rated =)

"It's got no signs or dividing line and very few rules to guide"

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Joined: Jun 4 2007
Blair Blog

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Blair!

When are we getting a '91 JGB show with a sweet 'Twilight' ?

Waltah (~~):-}

Where is our pal Schabs? :-)

marye's picture
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Joined: May 26 2007
the altitude was definitely an issue

I got to town, I got to the B&B where I was staying jammed in with about a zillion other Heads I didn't know, as I recall, and I was really, really crabby and felt like there was something just really wrong with the whole scene--and got halfway up a flight of stairs and realized I couldn't breathe. There was no bleepin' oxygen up there! Whereas at Red Rocks, which was practically the flatlands by comparison, ti hadn't been an issue at all.

Once I realized there was this little air issue going on I was much better!

JackstrawfromColorado's picture
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Joined: Jan 2 2009
Dr. Buzzkill

Ahhh no worries! I could see how the two venues themselves were the main draw. =) I'm trying to remember but wasn't the aftermath of RR '87 that the GD were banned from playing at RR? The little town of Morrison got over-run by hippies and the townsfolk freaked out. Same thing happened with Phish. As for Telluride, just the thought of the GD playing in Town Park for a couple of days blows my mind. One of the greatest mountain towns on earth. Jerry re-starting Brokedown Palace "because this is all fucked up, it must be the altitude" is a classic.

"It's got no signs or dividing line and very few rules to guide"

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Joined: Jun 6 2007
Not an audiophile...

I have a pretty simple hi-fi system, nothing fancy at all: Yamaha receiver, Pioneer DVD/CD player (hoping to upgrade to Blu-ray soon) and Polk Audio tower speakers (which do sound really good). Frankly, I do most of my best listening on a little Phillips portable CD player on headphones. Or in the car. CDs are still my medium of choice. I'll buy FLAC downloads from time to time (mostly Furthur, but also some others, through Wolfgang's Vault, Downloads.com and other places...) and convert them to wav. files and put 'em on CDs. I'm finally coming to terms with the (slight) deficiencies of MP3, but it would never be my first choice. In my other world of writing for Mix and other folks, I'm increasingly getting codes emailed to me for MP3 downloads of new albums, rather than physical CDs (saves them a ton in mailing and manufacturing, of course, so I understand it), and I'm not too thrilled about it... Of course, when you hear an MP3 first (as with an album advance) you have nothing to compare it to. But I've A-B'd CDs with MP3s of the same album and there definitely is a slight but noticeable difference.

Jack Straw, we did go down to Telluride after those '87 Red Rocks shows. At the risk of being Dr. Buzzkill, I'd say that entire Denver-Telluride trip was better as a vacation--i.e. more fun--than as a showcase of great Grateful Dead. None of the five shows really slayed me, but it was a matchless experience, for sure. I'll cherish that Telluride experience the rest of my life.

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