Sunday, August 27, 2017

10/2/77: "I'd be back here talking to the walls"

I was checking out the recording of a backstage “interview” with Garcia from 10/2/77 (Portland, OR), looking for info about his guitar strings, and I wound up listening to the whole thing.  It's about 36 minutes and actually not much of an interview, more like Jerry waiting around and making small talk in his dressing room with a couple of guys and a woman, who sound maybe like they’re music students at Reed College.  They’re all doing coke and swapping stories about cops, travels abroad, food, and so on.  One of the guys wants to book the JGB at Reed but can’t get a hold of Richard Loren, which Garcia doesn’t bat an eye at: “He’s a lot like me, he doesn’t want to know about anything, he doesn’t want to work fundamentally.”  There’s some talk about the upcoming Egypt trip, which at that point sounds far from definite and seems to be kind of a finale to their planned European tour (also, “Bill Graham’s trying to hustle a scene where we’d play for free in Red Square in Moscow”!).  Garcia is dismissive of their rusty playing at Englishtown, but says that the band -- unusually -- loved their performance in Seattle on 9/29.

There were two things really stuck with me, though.  The first is some of the guitar talk.  Garcia says that he's playing his newly-returned Wolf guitar instead of his Travis Bean.  Deadbase notes that the last time Garcia played the TB was on 10/16/77, so I had always assumed that the Wolf came back into action for that final Oct-Nov leg (and may have been a contributing factor to those mostly particularly amazingly hot shows).  But apparently not.

Then they get on the subject of guitar strings.  For a good bit of the conversation, Garcia is restringing and tuning his guitar while he talks.  He tells them he's playing pure steel strings (Vinci’s), so they rust quickly and need to be changed every show, sometimes twice a show.  “Jeez, I hate this,” he gripes. “This is really the most miserable part of music, tuning.“  A few minutes later, while he’s still working at it: “I hate this, this is so fucking boring.”  I’m sure most every guitarist out there would agree with him.  But what rock star of Garcia’s caliber changes his own strings?  Isn’t that what guitar techs or roadies are for?  I’d think that would be the first thing you would hand off to a crewmember, but nope, here’s ol’ Jer twisting away and bitching about what a pain in the neck it is to change your strings.  Hmm.

The other thing is how casual Garcia is about the whole encounter.  Again, I don’t know who these folks were, but Jerry doesn’t seem to know them very well, yet is perfectly happy for the company.  This was a guy who, by all accounts, was pretty constantly swamped by hangers-on, friends-of-friends, and every other character who had something to get off his or her chest or needed something from him (remember the "do you give banjo lessons?" lady).  Eventually he’s summoned for the soundcheck, and his guests take their cue to leave.
JG: This has been great fun.
?: Thank you very much for your time.
JG: Yeah, it’s cool.  My time is not… I mean, y’know, I’d be back here talking to the walls if I wasn’t… you guys don’t have to leave if you don’t want.

He sounds completely genuine, and offers more than once to get all three of them on his guest list so that they can stick around backstage.  Between that and the guitar strings, he really comes across as the antithesis of any kind of celebrity or even professional musician.  That probably comes across as no surprise to anyone reading this blog, but still, it’s intriguing to hear it unfold in real time, particularly given what we know about the nature of band’s behind-the-scenes scene, what it had already resulted in, and where it would all lead him.

edit: jgmf once posted a comment made by Bob Weir about the nature of Garcia's life offstage w/r/t celebrity, ca 1980.  I assume it couldn't have been all that different three years earlier, yet Garcia doesn't seem guarded or even put-out in any way in this (admittedly maybe non-representative?) exchange with some fans.

No comments:

Post a Comment