Addicted To Noise editor Michael Goldberg reports: A
member of the Grateful Dead spoke for the first time on Thursday about the end
of the legendary San Francisco band. "I think we've done it about as good as it
can be done," drummer Mickey Hart told San Francisco Chronicle writer
(and ATN contributing editor) Joel Selvin. "This thing was a conversation, a
very intimate conversation, between us the band, and the audience. It's
something you can't really manufacture. It's not something you sign up for or
sign out of. Think about it. We went through presidencies. Vietnam. Thirty
years. It was never planned. It was spontaneous, with a great helping of magic.
It was a great ride."
I first heard the Grateful Dead on record, when as a
kid I bought their first album, Grateful Dead, as soon as it was
released. I managed to see the group perform when singer/keyboardist Pigpen was
still on board. Those were the days when the Grateful Dead were a "new band,"
not an institution. The Dead were still finding themselves. I can remember when
the word got out that they'd added a second drummer (Mickey Hart). Before I
even heard the band, I'd seen their photograph in an underground magazine.
Check out the early photos by Herb Greene or Bob Seidemann and you'll see a
band that looks as hip and unconventional as, say, the Clash did in the late
In the '60s the Dead were just one of the bands (others being the
Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe
and the Fish, the Jefferson Airplane) that defined the "San Francisco Sound."
The potent mix of psychedelic drugs, rock 'n' roll and hippie countercultural
values resulted in songs (and a sound) that was unique to the Dead. And as the
'60s faded, the Dead became the only San Francisco band able not only to
survive but stay true to a kind of '60s aesthetic, one that was clearly
embraced by Dead Heads for three decades. They managed to keep the spirit of
the '60s alive, and that was no small accomplishment.
While the Dead won't
continue, most of the former members will continue to make music. Bob Weir and
Vince Welnick have been touring in a new band, Ratdog. Mickey Hart is wrapping
up another solo album. According to the group's manager, Cameron Sears, drummer
Bill Kreutzmann will likely pursue other things than music.
The band felt
that to go on without Jerry Garcia--who not only provided the distinctive lead
guitar sound, but sang and co-wrote the group's most compelling songs--just
wouldn't work. "It didn't have the magic that was at the core," said Hart.
"That was one of the things that we depended on. I spent my whole adult life in
this band, and it will be following me forever."
This evening (Sun., Dec.
10), former Dead bassist Phil Lesh and possible other former members of the
band will participate in an Internet chat session, answering fans' questions.
It will begin at 7 PM. You'll find the chat session at http://www.dead.net .