To accommodate the recording the Dead needed two hefty Neve recording consoles, one rented and the other shipped out from their Front Street home base. Both had to be hauled up a flight of stairs to reach Plaza Sound, the studio that sat atop Radio City (and where punk bands like Blondie and the Ramones had recorded). The Dead’s office had sent paperwork ahead of time to make sure the consoles would be able to make it into the building, but when the time came to install them, a problem arose: the consoles couldn’t quite clear the stairwell. After some head-scratching, one of the union workers at the venue, with drummer Mickey Hart’s urging, said, “Oh, fuck it—we’ve gotta get this thing up here.” With that they grabbed a sledgehammer and took down a few inches of the stairwell wall.
Promoter John Scher, who’d been working with the Dead for several years by that point, had no idea the “renovation” was happening, and the thought of physical damage to the interior of a New York landmark rattled even Scher, who thought he’d seen it all with the Dead. “I remember them telling me after they’d already done it, after the fact,” Scher says. “I was basically shitting in my pants until the shows were over.” It wouldn’t be the first time the Dead would encounter some pushback in their career, but this victory was significant. “I had no second thoughts about that,” says Hart. “It was the thing to do. Nothing stops the Grateful Dead. Onward into the fog.” They’d already made it to fifteen years despite adversity, busts, deaths, and fallow periods, and no one was about to let a bit of concrete stand in their way.
Tom Davis had an answer when someone at Radio City asked about the sketch with the LSD-dosed urine. “What are you guys afraid of, a little wee-wee?”
Before part of the wall in the Radio City stairwell came down, another issue had to be resolved about the live broadcast of the Halloween show: the matter of two forty-minute breaks. To fill up that time, and to the event producers (Scher and Dead manager Richard Loren) and director (Len Dell’Amico), the answer was obvious: skits featuring Davis and his Saturday Night Live partner, Al Franken.