As anyone who ever spoke with Jerry Garcia knew, the late Grateful Dead leader was never less than honest and animated in conversation. That side of him emerges once again in Jerry on Jerry: The Unpublished Jerry Garcia Interviews (Black Dog & Leventhal). Edited by Dennis McNally, the former Dead publicist and author of the Dead bio A Long, Strange Trip, the book is culled from interviews McNally conducted with Garcia between 1973 and 1989. Here are a few choice excerpts, along with audio clips of the same passages in Garcia’s own voice, drawn from the Jerry on Jerry audiobook.
On the Dead’s performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967 — and how they wound up with some of the stage gear:
[The Who] smashing all their equipment. I mean, they did it so well. It looked so great. It was like, wow, that is beautiful. We went on. We played our little music. And it seemed so lame to me at the time. And [Jimi Hendrix] was also beautiful and incredible and sounded great and looked great. I loved both acts. I sat there gape-jawed. They were wonderful. I remember Phil’s bass got stolen in L.A. the day before we played.
We were always on the trip of free. In fact, we ended up taking all of the Fender amplifiers [used at Monterey], and they ended up at the [Potrero] Theatre on [Potrero] Hill. They are probably still there. We got ’em, man. We took those motherfuckers. We ransomed them. I mean, the thing was — like always — they [the Monterey Pop organizers] misrepresented to us what it was going to be like. And they didn’t put enough attention and energy into the free stage thing, and there were a lot of people outside who couldn’t get in. We were always in the middle of those kind of conflicts.
On the Dead’s early hassles onstage and how these experiences heightened their need for their own sound system:
There was a while there when every tour, our second set, the last half of our show, somebody would fuckin’ turn off the power, would shut us down. And we started to get fuckin’ pathological about it. You have no idea what it’s like … building up and all of a sudden the power is gone. Someplace in Ohio or some dumbshit college somewhere, and it just makes you crazy. It just made us furious. I mean, goddamn. It seemed like that never stopped happening for one year, maybe ’69 or ’70 or somewhere in there, right when college campuses were in their greatest upheaval. So everybody associated us, for some reason — I don’t know why, God knows we were never very political — but they associated us with danger, you know? As soon as they started seeing people freak out, you know, they thought, “Okay, that’s it. We’re not going to let this go any further.” Boom. Jesus Christ.
I mean, that’s the evolution, really, of our whole sound system and our power things, you know, with those big fuckin’ things that clamp onto the main trunk route — that all evolved from that. We want something that nobody can fucking turn off, ever, you know? It was like they drove us to it, I must say. We were perfectly happy with our regular amplifiers, but they wouldn’t let us go on.
I mean, everybody did it. Bill Graham even did it to us up in Montreal. The audience started freaking out and the cops started getting uncomfortable and Bill Graham told us to stop playing so exciting. “Okay, Bill. Okay. We’ll play some lame shit.” What kind of thing is that to say to us? I mean, that’s what we’re there for. That’s what the crowd is there for. That’s what everybody is there for, and we knew nobody was going to get hurt. They were all like girls and stuff like that. It was, like, crazy, but it scared them. … I mean, if somebody got out of their chair — if they got out of their fuckin’ chair, the cops would come, like three or four big cops, and would come and bang them. This is during that time when cops were constantly getting onstage, constantly getting in our faces, and we were constantly having to shut [down]. It was happening all the time. There would be this six-foot-six cop ready to deck Mickey [Hart], you know, or whoever the loudmouth in the band was. And I’d have to jump in there with my guitar and say, “Hey, wait a minute.” And the guy would swing at me and I’d have to — fuck, I mean, push them off the stage. It was frequently hairy during those [shows].
On life after his 1986 diabetic coma:
I’ve got a lot of gaps. Well, they’re kind of funny kind of gaps … I have to hunt for words now and again. That’s still something I notice. My random access is a little strange, but, yeah, I was talking some completely personal kind of symbolic gibberish when I came out of that coma. And it was really weird, you know? It was strange from my point of view because I understood what it was that I was trying to say, but I couldn’t make anybody understand me. It was peculiar. It took a day or so for that to sort of shake down, but since then it’s been the thing of collecting what I know and what I don’t know, what I can do.
When it’s gone, it’s gone. … I mean, in a way I’m sort of a different person. The material is all there, but every once in a while I run into a blank. Like working down in the studio, every once in a while I look at something and I know what it is and I know that I know that I’ve used it and I know that it has a name and I know that somewhere I know the name, but usually I have to get somebody, “Hey, what do you call this thing again?” … I mean, I lost about four, about five days, maybe, a week. They’re gone. I don’t know how I got to the hospital. I don’t know any of that stuff. I mean, when I woke up in the hospital. I don’t know when — I remember a couple of times kinda surfacing. You know? Tubes and everything, you know, and I didn’t understand where I was or what was happening … so I went back under, kind of. It was strange, though. It had a kind of science fiction–y quality. I didn’t know how sick I was. It’s nice to have come away from it really clean. I mean, I don’t have to take insulin. Or any of that kind of crap. I’m pretty lucky. Lucky for sturdy genes, you know.