Fifteen Years of the Grateful Dead

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The Eighties have come to the Haight-Ashbury. The street is dotted with chic boutiques and restaurants, art deco stores and a gay-owned disco. But the Sixties haven't left yet. Hippies-turned-winos litter storefronts; the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic is still around and needed. And at a street fair just a month or so ago, you could pick up every artifact you missed out on in its heyday.

Still, things have changed. One recent morning, a couple of men sitting at Kiss My Sweet, a dessert and coffee shop with a high-tech decor, spotted a woman at the counter. One of the men approached her. "Didn't I see you at the detox center?" he asked. "No," she said, repelled. He tried another line. Indicating his friend, he asked, with a smile: "Can we treat you to a quiche?"

Around the corner and up Ashbury, at 710, Michael and Francine Filice live in the two-story Victorian house they bought in 1973. It was a dump when they got it, in need of exterior paint, plaster, new plumbing and a fumigation. All they knew about the house was that a commune of between twenty and thirty people – and three dogs – had just moved out, leaving behind fallen ceilings and large, painted rainbows in every room. Today, the house is lovely. The Filices spent five years restoring Victorian touches and even added to the house's original stained-glass windows and trim. The kitchen, where a good amount of dope was successfully hidden during one of the notorious busts, was just featured in Better Homes and Gardens.

The Filices take their house's place in rock history in stride. Having bought the first Dead album themselves when they lived in Manhattan (on the Upper East Side), they are at ease with the occasional visitors. "They just sit out front and look," said Michael, a wine importer. "They are in awe. It's like a saint had lived here."

Photos: the Grateful Dead Through the Years

Their son, C.J., was not a Dead fan – "I thought it was kinda hick music" – until a high-school friend, Gino, got him to a concert last year. Now the Dead are his favorite group, and the only other bands he likes are the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin and the Stones.

In the kitchen, C.J., Gino and another schoolmate, Dave, talked about the Dead. All three are clean-cut and laugh off the presence of drugs at Dead concerts. "Even though the people there are kinda weird," said Gino, "it's a calmer crowd than the punks." Asked why he likes the Dead, Gino said: "Some of the songs really get you, I guess," and laughed, embarrassed. At school, said Dave, "out of a thousand, the majority don't like 'em. The punks have this line, 'The Dead are dead.'" But Dave is a loyalist. "I want them to play 'Ripple' at my funeral," he said, beaming. "And if they can't make it, we'll play a tape, or we'll have Beluga Oil." Beluga Oil? "That's a band. They play a lot of Dead."

I asked the boys what they know about hippies. "Revolt," said C.J. Dave added: "To be free. They were running everything, concerts in the middle of the streets. People were doing what they wanted where they wanted." From that knowledge, do they have a positive or negative impression of hippies?

"Positive," said C.J. "I thought it was pretty good," says Dave. "It started the Dead. Had to be pretty good!"

After fifteen years, what's ahead for the Dead? A tighter show? Maybe. Work in other media? Definitely. Mickey Hart got a taste of film work when he scored part of Apocalypse Now, and he wants to do more. Jerry Garcia, who edited most of The Grateful Dead movie and has done musical and sound effects on such films as Phil Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Roger Corman's Big Bad Mama, hopes to direct a movie version of Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan, to which he has secured the film rights.

"Moviemaking," he said, "is something I've always wanted to do. Not all the ideas I've had are music. Making a movie is really solving problems – visual and dramatic problems – of various sorts, and I've convinced myself I can do it, and do a good job of it."

Meantime, Garcia is providing the voice, via his guitar, for a robot child in a movie, Heartbeeps (starring Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters). He has something up his sleeve with Deadheads Tom Davis and Al Franken, and he and Dead lyricist Robert Hunter are considering making a movie out of various Grateful Dead songs. "There's a latent story there that we've been fooling with all these years. There's a story that kind of runs through."

In short, lots of new beginnings. I asked Garcia if he feels lucky to have survived, and to be doing just what he wanted.

"I feel very lucky indeed," he said, laughing again. "I feel we've scored real well on that one. But I also feel that, in terms of being a practical model, we haven't done anything exceptional. That is to say, anybody who can imagine themselves doing something better than what they're doing should just go ahead and do it, and have no fear of failure or success but just go for it. That's all we've done. And apart from that, it's not as though we're especially gifted. We may have been lucky – even that, I don't know about – but we have been exceptionally determined."

I was reminded of a remark by a Deadhead. The Dead, he said, were unique for their willingness to take chances.

Garcia nodded emphatically. "And we'll continue to take them. That's our shot. That's who we are. And we're also an illustration that you can go through life that way and it'll work. It might be bumpy, but it's never boring."

This story is from the August 7th, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone.

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