Grateful for the memories
THE DEAD PLAYS THE GREENSBORO COLISEUM SUN., APRIL 12
On the road, literally and figuratively
By Brian Clarey’
Mama, mama many worlds I’ve come since I first left home
Itwas “Brokedown Palace” that did it for me. That lyric in particularsummed up all of my hopes and ambitions when I first heard it in 1984.I was 14 years old, living in the Long Island suburbs with my parents —very lame — and the malcontented yearnings I had always felt began tosolidify in my young mind. I wanted out. I longed for the day I couldshake the dust of my preppy little hometown from my hair and do someliving. I suspected there were many big, exciting worlds out there, andI wanted to taste them all. But hell, I was 14. I didn’t even have adriver’s license. So I would listen to Dead bootlegs cassettes on mycrappy little Yorx stereo, which was also my alarm clock, over and overand over, rewinding and replaying he lyrics that spoke to me in a wayno other music ever had. The Dead were a pretty big deal in my hometownof Garden City, NY. Kids drew the Steal Your Face on their blue burlapbinders even in the fourth grade; Dead cover bands proliferated;tie-dye never really went out of style. Part of it was theiconography: skulls, roses, dancing bears… all that cool shit. Part ofit, undeniably, was the drugs associated with the scene — they were asabundant in my hometown as any other, I guess.
Partof it was a teacher at the high school, Mr. Rivadue, a tiny CanadianDeadhead who wore tie-dyes in class and went to shows with some of theolder students who didn’t mind the fact that he wouldn’t let them doany drugs. Rivadue was also one of the best teachers I ever had, and Iliked the idea that Deadheads were smart. But for me it wasthe lyrics. I’ve always been a word man, and Dead songs far outweighedthe new-wave pabulum and post-punk crap I had been listening to ingrade school. Going to plant a weeping willow, On the banksgreen edge it will grow, grow, grow Sing a lullaby beside the water,Lovers come and go, the river roll, roll, roll These words hadheft, meaning… a kind of common-man poetry that still influences mywriting to this day. In summer 1986 I went to my first Dead show. Theywere paired with Bob Dylan at Giants Stadium. I drove out to Jerseywith Silly, and we scored tickets in the parking lot, where severaldozen kids from our high school were partying and making deals. I’dbe lying if I told you I remembered anything from that show, other thanhanging out with Silly in the lot. I loved the parking lots at deadshows, where thousands of freaks would chill for hours and hours beforeand after the shows, selling peanutbutter-and-banana sandwiches, veggieburritos, handmade T-shirts and an entirepharmacopeia of illegal substances proffered by cool cats and groovychicks. There would be hacky sack and Frisbee, music and laughter,dancing and screwing… action baby, of the kind I yearned to see when I was a lost teenager trying to discover the world. Andso I started going to Dead shows: Nassau Coliseum, just a mile or sofrom my parents’ house; the Brendan Byrne Arena over in Jersey; MadisonSquare Garden. We’d haul up to Saratoga or Albany, out to Philly andPittsburgh. Some of my crew even made it down to Greensborofor the biannual tour stops. Every one was a surreal treasure. I sawwaves of people, flowing like water, spilling over the side of GiantsStadium into the general admission area. I saw a girl go intoheatstroke on the floor of the Vet in Philly; I tried to shove mywallet in her mouth because I thought she was having a seizure. I gotknocked on my ass by a fire hose in Pittsburgh and saw cops onhorseback trample a gate-crasher in Saratoga. I saw guys in necktiesfreak dancing at Madison Square Garden. My friend Cap spotted WavyGravy traipsing Shakedown Street in the Meadowlands parking lot. Myfriend Dr. Lawyer swears it started raining inside the Hartford CivicCenter during a spirited version of “Looks Like Rain.”
Atthe 1988 show at the University of New Orleans, Ram’n Ramone and Iscored tickets in the handicapped section and spent the first setdancing with people in wheelchairs. By then I knew the words to every song — even the obscure ones like the Blues for Allah andJerry Garcia Band stuff. We sang them like anthems with our fists inthe air, hugging during Jerry Garcia’s soaring guitar work and floatingto Bob Weir’s ethereal voice. We’d cram a dozen or so into ahotel room or sleep in our cars, selling imported beers to pay our way.We’d buy jewelry and T-shirts and scrutinize each others’ purchaseslike a fall fashion line. We’d sing and party and meet girls and getlost. Good times. It was a formula for lasting friendships,that’s for sure, and also an ethos that included beauty and laughter,kindness and generosity, fellowship and gratitude. At least,that’s how it seemed to us. The Dead influenced my life in a number ofways — musically, of course, but also the band, their music and theirfans gave me a taste for the world outside my bedroom window in myparents’ house in the suburbs. I had always suspected there wassomething more. After a few dozen Dead shows, I knew there was something more. So I’ll be there on Sunday night when
theDead come to town. Silly, who is now a banker in Charlotte, will bethere too. It will be a trip down memory lane, to be sure, acelebration of days gone by and an acknowledgement of the possibilitiesyet to come. But mostly it should just be a lot of fun. I’ll be in theparking lot for a couple hours before the show, and if there are anygood T-shirt makers still out there, I’ll likely pick one up. I’ll singalong to all the songs, if I can still remember the words. I’llremember the boy I used to be, the longings he felt and the ambitionshe harbored. And if “Brokedown Palace” makes it onto the set list…well, all the better.
Grateful Dead, family style
By Jordan Green
My dad hitchhiked toCalifornia from Baltimore in 1966 at the age of 18. He rented anapartment on Ashbury Street. That pilgrimage of youthful self-discoveryserved as the mythical lodestone on which my own dreams would laterunfold Members of Big Brother & the Holding Company had previouslylived in the apartment where my dad took up residence, and if memoryserves he salvaged a strip of black and white photographs of JanisJoplin and Jerry Garcia, the celebrated guitar player of the GratefulDead, mugging for the camera. My parents owned Grateful Dead LPs from the time before I was born: The 1967 self-titled debut, Anthem of the Sun, also from 1967; Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, bothfrom 1970; and the double live LP known as “Skull and Roses,” from1971. Later, my parents’ friend, David Hurt, a fellow communard and thefather of my best buddy Garland, pulled out the Aoxomoxoa album,from 1969. My mom, my dad, David and I listened to it appreciativelyone summer evening on the screened-in porch at David’s house. MyMontessori teacher, Leslie Shane, another good friend of my parents,always said she had a crush on Jerry, although she may have been evenmore enamored of Bob Dylan. In the early 1980s, when cassetteduplication technology became widely available, Leslie and anotherfriend, Jean Zeitz, arranged for a copy of the Dead’s triple album Europe ’72 tobe made for me. When my dog, Star, was killed after getting hit by acar, I mourned his passing, tears welling in my eyes as Jerry sang“He’s Gone.” Being that my parents were collegeeducated peasants whotook a vow of poverty, they didn’t buy new music after they moved toKentucky in 1971, but we somehow obtained other Dead albums: Wake of the Flood, from 1973; and Blues for Allah, from1975. Every time my dad would visit his friend, Jan Willoughby, abalding, eccentric ex-professor who had jumped off the academic trackat the University of Kentucky some years earlier, I would pull out hiscopy of Mars Hotel, from 1974, and put it on the turntable.’
Forever,it seems, I’ve known the band’s history and musical evolution: Theirspeedy rock and roll on the debut album, the acid experimentalism of Anthem, the song-based psychedelia of Aoxomoxoa, their sudden transition to rustic Americana on Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, and the swaggering hard country of “Skull and Roses.” And I knew exactly what year each of their albums had been released. Iloved this band from the age of 6 onward, practically to the exclusionof anything else. Listening as a child Deadhead a decade and a half afterthe band’s founding, imagine my surprise when our family emerged fromour agrarian time warp and rejoined the modern world in the age ofReagan at discovering that the Grateful Dead were still making albums,and, what’s more, still played concerts all over the country. Icaught flak from my neighbor, a fiery redhead named Heather who was twoyears younger than me, because the Dead’s name and skeleton iconographywas “satanic.” I knew better, but couldn’t deny that they were weird.My dad confirmed as much, telling me that, like him, the members of theGrateful Dead probably sat around their houses naked, as a consequenceof years of smoking pot. Even now, almost three decades later as Ispend late nights in the office with archival Dead concerts streamingover the internet as the soundtrack for my workload, I struggle to putmy finger on their magic. Their great, sprawling body of American songis certainly joyous, adventurous and, probably most importantly,communal. The give and take of the playing coalesces with the inclusivesubject matter of the songs, which are parables of communities forgedalong the frontier of polite society. Events stoked my loveaffair with the Dead. First, when the 1983 drought sucked the creekdry, left a stunned black snake stranded on the blacktop and destroyedour tobacco crop, my dad decided it was time for a vacation and hauledme with him to California on a three-week trip by Amtrak, thumb, flightand bus. We stopped to see a friend named John Murphy in Chicago, whopulled out a bootleg LP called Vintage Dead. Later, at a record store in Oakland, Calif., my dad purchased the double album Reckoning from 1981, Go to Heaven from 1980, and Terrapin Station from 1977. (He also picked up a copy of Black Market Clash bythe Clash, setting the stage for an entirely different exploration.) Onthe flight back to Kentucky, we had a layover in Chicago. Ispotted a dude wearing a Dead T-shirt and struck up a conversation withhim. He asked my dad if he wanted to step outside to share a joint. Mydad reluctantly and prudently declined the offer. In 1985, wegot our first chance to see the Dead live as a family. We filled acouple carloads of adults; I can’t remember any other children beingthere. As we traveled the interstate through northern Kentucky, I notedwith mounting excitement that Deadhead stickers adorned various cars.By the time we got to Kellogg Avenue, traffic was moving at a crawl andwe saw hippies walking along the roadside approaching Riverbend MusicCenter.
It was agreat show, and I distinctly recall stellar renditions of “AlabamaGetaway” and the Dylan song “Quinn the Eskimo.” Even though it rained,a spirit of fellowship prevailed. I remember an acquaintance of someonein our party offering me a bite of his slice of pizza. We sawharbingers of the new era of the Dead, too. A punk chick with ahot-pink Mohawk stood in third row screamed, “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry….” Aclutch of clean-cut fraternity brothers dressed in khaki shorts trippedon acid. One of them abruptly plopped down in a mud puddle outside ofthe amphitheater and started thrashing his arms. As we left, my parentspointed to a late-model Toyota pickup, and marveled at the seemingaffluence of the younger fans. “These people look like they should beat a Prince concert,” my dad sniffed.
The Grateful Dead played the Greensboro Coliseum seven times
Alabama Getaway Promised Land Candyman Me and My Uncle Big River Althea Easy To Love You New Minglewood Blues Sugaree Lost Sailor Saint Of Circumstance Deal
Set 2: Feel Like A Stranger Don’t Ease Me In Estimated Prophet Uncle John’s Band Drums Wharf Rat Around And Around Johnny B. Goode
Encore: Brokedown Palace 04/30/81
Set 1: Jack Straw Peggy-O CC Rider Alabama Getaway Greatest Story Ever Told Loser Looks Like Rain China Cat Sunflower I Know You Rider
Set 2: Shakedown Street
Samson And Delilah It Must Have Been The Roses Estimated Prophet Eyes Of The World Drums Truckin’ Black Peter Around and Around Johnny B. Goode
Encore: Casey Jones 10/09/83
Set 1: Shakedown Street Samson And Delilah Peggy-O Little Red Rooster Candyman My Brother Esau Big Railroad Blues Let It Grow
Set 2: Touch Of Grey Estimated Prophet Eyes Of The World Man Smart- Woman Smarter Drums Not Fade Away Sugar Magnolia
Encore: Baby Blue 03/30/89
Set 1: Bertha Jack Straw Row Jimmy Blow Away When I Paint My
Masterpiece Bird Song Promised Land
Set 2: China Cat Sunflower I Know You Rider Looks Like Rain He’s Gone Drums The Other One Stella Blue Sugar Magnolia
Encore: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door 03/31/89
Set 1: Hell In A Bucket Sugaree New Minglewood Blues Peggy-O Me And My Uncle Big River Loser Victim or the Crime Standing on the Moon
Set 2: Hey Pocky Way Truckin’ Terrapin Station Drums I Will Take You Home All Along the Watchtower Morning Dew Good Lovin’
Encore: Brokedown Palace
03/31/91 Set 1: Mississippi Half- Step Wang Dang Doodle Friend Of The Devil Queen Jane Approximately West LA Fadeaway Cassidy Might As Well
Set 2: Samson And Delilah Eyes Of The World Playin’ In The Band Drums Space The Wheel Around And Around Johnny B. Goode
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door 04/01/91
Set 1: Jack Straw Peggy-O It’s All Over Now Candyman Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
Picasso Moon Bird Song
Set 2: China Cat Sunflower I Know You Rider Looks Like Rain Dark Star Drums Space Dark Star Reprise
Playin’ Reprise Black Peter Turn On Your Love Light
Encore: Baby Blue
Jeri Rowe, Jerry Garcia and the great ‘extra sticky’ sticker production caper
By Charles Womack
My friend Jeri Rowe wasthe first person to receive one of my Jerry Garcia stickers. We metback in 1988 when he was newly-hired reporter covering cops and crimein Randolph County for the Greensboro News & Record, and I was selling ads for the Randleman (NC) Reporter. Itwas March 1989 and I was being dragged to another Grateful Dead show bymy brother, Patrick. Pat was convinced that if I could see them enoughtimes, I’d be captured by their magic. Since I had acess to newspapercredentials, and a newly-budding desire for capitalism, I hatched ascheme. I contacted the Dead’s longtime publicist DennisMcNally in California and lined up a review ticket and a photo pass,and packed my bags for another bonding excursion with my brother. Wehad traveled to Hampton Roads, Va,, Maryland, DC and other venues, butthe shows in Greensboro are when my entreprenurial skills were born. Ihad access to a printing press, sticker paper and computers, and anidea to make some cash.
Ifound a cool black silhouette of Jerry Garcia and had the printerscrank me out about 500 3-by-5 stickers. Half were on white paper andhalf were on yellow, and they would stick like hell. I mean, once youput these bad boys on, if you tried to peel ‘em off… it would rip andtear and take forever to remove. My cost on the stickers? Anickel. My cost to the buyers? One dollar. I took them to the show inGreensboro and I sold a few. But mostlywe gave ’em away to “closefriends” and “new friends.” I didn’t tally my bounty, but usedthe experience to further my business ideas. I’d like to think I brokeeven. A few days before those Greensboro shows, I ran into Rowe at ourregular meeting spot — the Asheboro Police Department. We chatted aboutgoing to the show and I laid one of my Garcia stickers on him, hot offthe press. He complimented the design and thanked me as I told him hewas the first to get one. I see Jeri from time to time and years laterhe brought up the Garcia sticker, saying, “You know that Jerry Garciasticker stayed on my refrigerator until I moved. I had a bitch of atime getting it off.” We both laughed and marveled at its endurance.And ours.
Jerry Garcia, the sticker image, picks away in Greensboro.
Fellowcampers enjoy the festivities before or after one of the shows inGreensboro at the Womack campsite. (photos by Charles Womack)
The night I met Jerry
By Edward Cone
My Grateful Dead stories are different from yours, but I bet a lot of them rhyme. You’rethinking of a great road trip, rewarded by an exceptional show? I’mthinking Hampton, Va., April of ’83. A serendipitous moment? I’ve got awintry night in Philly when the band opened with “Cold Rain and Snow.”We remember the Deadheads themselves, the twirlers and the freaks andthe guy who burst into a crowded men’s room, shouting, “I guesseveryone takes a leak during ‘El Paso.’” You know these stories, orversions of them. So I guess I should tell the one where I meet Jerry. Itwas Easter weekend, 1987. Backstage, between sets, at the IrvineMeadows Amphitheatre in Orange County, Calif. I was 24, old enough toknow that encounters with famous people can be disappointing. But I wasnot disappointed. Talking to Jerry was like climbing the mountain andfinding the wise man at home. The whole experience was a trip. Abusiness trip, to be precise. A couple of months earlier, I’d pitched a story idea about the Dead to my boss at Forbes magazine.Other bands prosecuted bootleggers, but the Dead encouraged people totape their shows. People traded tapes, the sense of community aroundthe band grew and endless sold-out concert tours kept the money flowingin. Variations on this strategy became popular during the internetbubble, but it was pretty fresh back in the Reagan era. They put me onthe story with a senior editor who did not care much for the Dead.After a couple of shows in Jersey and some negotiations with the band’smanagement, we flew to LA. We interviewed a lot of people that week.Clive Davis received us in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Heate an entire plate of grapes without offering us one. David Geffen satdown at the Ivy and told our local bureau chief that he needed to loseweight. We came away with a big story about a new technology that waspulling in tons of money — the compact disc. It was fun, but it wasn’twhat I’d come for. Finally, we made it to Orange County and checkedinto our hotel. That night, we went to see the band at the amphitheater— my first California show. The next day, after my maniacal editor wokeme up early to play tennis with a couple of salesmen, we hung outpoolside with
BrentMydland, who was still a few years away from the fate that awaits allGrateful Dead keyboardists and Spinal Tap drummers. Later we drankbeers and talked for some time with Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart inKreutzmann’s suite. So far, so good. But the rest of the bandwas nowhere to be found. I knew our story wouldn’t be complete unlesswe got face time with Garcia, the heart and soul of the group from itsearliest days. And from a lessprofessional point of view, Jerry was theone person I really wanted to meet. He was more than a guitarist, hewas a guru. That year, as my father was dying back home in Greensboro,I found some solace when he sang that we all wear a touch of grey. Ihad a job to do, but I was on a pilgrimage, too. Back to Irvine Meadowsfor another show. We flashed our backstage passes and wandered aroundthe inner sanctum while the stage crew did its thing. I had a brief,unsatisfying talk with Phil Lesh, almost got beat up by a very largeroadie and interviewed Bob Weir in his dressing room. During theopening set, I opened a longneck and leaned on an amp, looking overJerry’s shoulder at the crowd while the band played “Promised Land.”
Andthen, during the break, we got the summons. In a trailer, on a couch,surrounded by his bandmates and the legendary promoter Bill Graham, satJerry, graying at 44, holding court. After some banter — Iremember asking him why the band never played “Cosmic Charlie” — weasked if he felt he’d gotten a fresh start after his recent diabeticcoma. “I’m not a whole new me but pretty new, not a new me but anextrapolation of the old me,” he said. We talked about work: “If youdon’t love it, fuck it, it’s not worth doing. The money part is not theimportant part, the important part is the opportunity to get your handswet, to go out there to jump around, fuck around, make mistakes. Tryweird stuff, see what works.” And so it went (you can listento the interview here: edcone.typepad.com/wordup/2003/01/a_conversation_.html. At the end, he cited Borges, mispronouncing hisname as he told the story of a character who longed for a death with“an adventure attached to it.” “That’s how I feel,” he said. We wentback to New York and wrote our article, which left out all the goodparts. I married the reporter who fact-checked it.
The Grateful Dead performed March 30 and 31, 1989 at the Greensboro Coliseum. (photo by Charles Womack)