Poised for Flight, Wings Spread Bright - Garcia: An American Life (2000)

Garcia: An American Life (2000)


Poised for Flight, Wings Spread Bright

ver since January’s Human Be-In, which was the first Haight-Ashbury event to get extensive national media coverage, teenagers and young adults had been arriving in San Francisco in increasing numbers. They took buses from Des Moines and planes from Boston. They hitchhiked west with just a few clothes tossed into a backpack, or stuffed all their worldly possessions into old cars and Volkswagen microbuses. Some came from comfortable suburbs with a wad of cash supplied by Mom and Dad (who had no idea why it was so important, all of a sudden, to go to San Francisco). Others came from poor rural areas with just a few hard-earned dollars and wide-eyed expectations for the hippie promised land. Runaway rebels, dropouts and misfits were joined on the interstates and on buses by curious college students eager to check out the commotion in California. There was even a fluffy but infectious bit of folk-rock all over the radio that May and June that added to the buzz: “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” written by the leader of L.A.’s Mamas and the Papas, John Phillips, and sung by another Angeleno, Scott McKenzie, promised “summertime will be a love-in there.”

Time and Newsweek, Look and Life and all the major television networks covered the rise of the San Francisco counterculture with varying degrees of befuddlement. This was, after all, something genuinely new in this country, a cultural and generational rebellion of unparalleled scope and seriousness. Though it was easy for mainstream Americans to chuckle at the colorful external trappings of the revolution—the long hair, wild clothes and jargon-filled lexicon, not to mention that noise these kids call music—the majority of Americans truly believed that what they saw happening in the Haight, and maybe on a much smaller scale in their own cities and towns, was truly a threat to the traditional American Way of Life.

And it was. Hippies rejected many of the assumptions that are the foundation of Western materialistic society. They believed that working hard in an unfulfilling job to acquire enough money to live in a culture that values conformity over creativity and individuality was not a well-spent life. They believed that the competitive capitalist paradigm was outmoded and noxious, destined to be replaced by cooperative community. Further, they believed that the widespread expansion of consciousness through drugs or other means—meditation, yoga, music, art of any kind—was the only way the Earth was going to survive what appeared to be a certain apocalypse, caused either by war or by the destruction of the planet’s natural resources. There had never been such a public flaunting of out-and-out lawlessness and morally seditious behavior in this country before. And that scared the hell out of people.

“When the big media flash came out,” Garcia said, “when Time magazine guys came out and interviewed everybody and took photographs and made it news, the feedback from that killed the whole scene. It was ridiculous. We could no longer support the tiny trickle that was really supporting everybody. The whole theory of hip economics is essentially that you have a small amount of money and move it around very fast and it would work out. But when you have thousands and thousands of people, it’s just too unwieldy. And all the attempts at free food and all that—certain people had to work too hard to justify it.

“At the early stages we were operating purely without anybody looking on, without anybody looking through the big window. We were going along really well. And then the crowds came in. All the people who were looking for something… . [There were] too many people to take care of and not enough people willing to do something. There were a lot of people looking for the free ride. That’s the death of any scene, when you have more drag energy than you have forward-going energy.”

On the surface at least, the Haight-Ashbury scene must have seemed extremely appealing to independent-minded kids. Free music in the park! Cheap rent in communes or no rent at all in crash pads! Free food for those in need! Dope for the taking! A community run by freaks for freaks! According to Garcia, the Haight was originally made up of “all those kids that read Kerouac in high school—the ones who were a little weird. Then it became a magnet for every kid who was dissatisfied: a kind of central dream, or someplace to run to. It was a place for seekers, and San Francisco always had that tradition.” And because rents were so cheap—an old house with a dozen rooms that could accommodate twenty or thirty people living in close quarters might cost only three or four hundred dollars a month—and there was a well-established cooperative economy, where barter was nearly as common as cash on the street, a subsistence hippie lifestyle was fairly easy to maintain. At least for a while.

Even with the Haight’s population explosion beginning to strain the resources of the neighborhood (not to mention the patience of the area’s sizable non-freak contingent of mainly working-class folks), the feeling on the street was still overwhelmingly positive as the summer solstice approached. Just a few blocks from 710 Ashbury, the Straight Theater was getting ready to open its doors. The long-abandoned theater, built in 1910, had been acquired by a group of local hippies in April 1966 with an eye toward making it a neighborhood rock ’n’ roll hall and an arts center offering a broad array of cultural programs for adults and children. But it took more than a year and about $100,000 to completely renovate the decaying structure and fight through mountains of bureaucratic hassles and red tape, and some neighborhood merchants were still waging a bitter war against the theater when the Grateful Dead played at the “christening” party on June 15, 1967. The Dead also played the official opening of the Straight near the end of July, a gig notable for the appearance of Neal Cassady rapping onstage into a microphone as Pigpen and the Dead charged through a version of “Turn On Your Love Light,” the Bobby “Blue” Bland rave-up that was a brand-new addition to their repertoire.

But the biggest event in the counterculture that June wasn’t the Straight Theater christening or the giant solstice celebration at the Polo Fields a week later. In fact it wasn’t even in San Francisco. Two and a half hours down the coast from Haight-Ashbury, the Monterey International Pop Festival drew thousands of people to the Monterey County Fairgrounds for three days and nights of music featuring some of the most popular rock ’n’ roll bands from England and America, as well as various lighter pop groups and singers, and from India the great sitar master Ravi Shankar.

Though the event was organized by L.A. record business types, including promoter Lou Adler and “Papa” John Phillips, because the event was taking place in what was, figuratively at least, San Francisco’s backyard, every effort was made to include the top Bay Area bands in the festival lineup. At first most of the local groups were wary of getting involved—it had the look of some slick L.A. scheme to cash in on the growing reputation of the San Francisco underground. Who knows—maybe the release of Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco” had even been designed to grease the wheels for the festival. In the end, though, entreaties by everyone from Paul Simon to Beatles associate Derek Taylor, and the obvious strength of the bands who had signed on for the festival, finally persuaded the Dead and some other San Francisco groups to participate. However, even after agreeing to play, the Dead remained suspicious of the motives of the organizers, did everything they could to stay away from Adler and Phillips, and flatly refused to sign a waiver, presented to them right before they went onstage, that would have allowed their performance to be filmed for a movie being shot by the noted documentarian D. A. Pennebaker.

Despite the troubles between the Dead camp and the festival organizers, the band was given a prestigious Sunday slot for their set at Monterey. Unfortunately, the way things worked out, that slot was between two of the most powerful and electrifying acts of the entire three days: the Who and Jimi Hendrix. Much to the consternation of Dead roadie Laird Grant, the Who left the stage in a shambles after ritually destroying much of their equipment during their grand finale, “My Generation.” And Hendrix’s performance was so eagerly anticipated by the throng that much of the crowd seemed distracted and uninvolved during the Dead’s brief time onstage.

Nevertheless, the festival was hardly a washout for the Dead and their retinue. After all, the music was spectacular. The lineup included the sensational soul singer Otis Redding, the Byrds, African trumpeter Hugh Masakela, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Simon and Garfunkel, Canned Heat and the Blues Project. The event turned into another gathering of the tribes, as freaks from up and down the West Coast and points east descended on Monterey to dig the music and each other. Owsley acid was everywhere, and the vibes were good all three days and nights. The Dead managed to organize a free campground on the football field of nearby Monterey Peninsula College, and even set up a stage there, powered by generators, where various musicians who were playing at the festival—Eric Burdon, Jimi Hendrix, lots of San Francisco band people—came and jammed late at night after the fairgrounds were closed. (Contrary to the impression given in Rock Scully’s Living with the Dead, Garcia and Hendrix never played together there, or anywhere else for that matter.)

“Monterey was an incredible event,” says Dick Latvala. “How could it not be? Jimi Hendrix was coming! We’d all heard about how great the Who were live. And of course Otis Redding already had a big following in San Francisco. Everybody looked completely stoned on acid. People were so high it was common to think that the Beatles were going to come out of the sky in flames! To have so many amazing personal experiences in the context of all these other people having amazing group experiences, gave everyone a huge sense of respect for each other. When you were there, it felt like everyone was in sync, and that was amazing.”

About three weeks after Monterey Robert Hunter arrived in San Francisco, fresh from two and a half months of adventures in New Mexico and Colorado. His Scientology experiences behind him, Hunter had drifted in and out of the Dead’s orbit during the latter part of 1966 and the first part of 1967, but he’d gotten heavily involved in what he called the “caustic” Bay Area methedrine scene, even contracting a case of hepatitis B. So he went to Santa Fe at the end of April 1967, in part to get away from that world. He spent his time in the Southwest doing psychedelically inspired pencil drawings—“but they were not the sort of things that rich Texans were going to buy,” he said—and working on song lyrics, a relatively new pursuit for him.

“I first started waking up to the possibilities of rock lyrics being serious with Blonde on Blonde [Dylan’s ambitious 1966 double album],” Hunter said. “It opened up everything; it said it was okay to be as serious as you wanted in rock. I had been writing unpublishable poetry. Joyce was my primary influence; it was really heavy Joycean stuff. I guess it made Joyce look more conservative, though—he didn’t have acid.”

Hunter mailed some of his lyrics to Garcia in San Francisco, and within a few weeks, unbeknownst to Hunter, Pigpen and Phil had worked out the music for one called “Alligator,” with Pigpen even adding a verse or two of his own. As set lists from 1967 are rare, it’s impossible to determine exactly when the song was first performed onstage. In the book Deadbase, which is regarded as the more-or-less official source of information about what the Dead performed when, the first listing for “Alligator” is the Dead’s opening night at New York’s Cafe Au Go-Go in early June 1967, but chances are it was introduced sometime the previous month. Two other songs from the first batch of lyrics Hunter mailed from New Mexico, “China Cat Sunflower” and “Saint Stephen,” were set to music later. In early June Garcia wrote a letter to Hunter—“incredible to think that Jerry would sit down and write a letter,” he said—telling him that the band had set the lyrics for “Alligator” to music and urging Hunter to come back to San Francisco to work more with the group.

At the beginning of September the Dead, with Hunter in tow, drove north to the quaint Russian River community of Rio Nido to spend time at a friend’s ranch honing some of the group’s original songs in preparation for recording sessions in Los Angeles for their second album, set for mid-September. The newly written “Alligator” was developed further, and Phil Lesh and his poet friend Bobby Petersen had written a piece, sung by Weir, with the unlikely title “New Potato Caboose.”

It was in Rio Nido, too, that the Dead’s most famous improvisational vehicle, “Dark Star,” was born. “I was in my cabin,” Hunter recalled. “They were rehearsing in the hall [about 100 feet away] and you could hear from there. I heard the music and just started writing ‘Dark Star’ lying on my bed. I wrote the first half of it and I went in and I think I handed what I’d written to Jerry. He said, ‘Oh, this will fit just fine,’ and he started singing it. That’s true collaboration. I mean, I actually heard the Grateful Dead playing and those are the words it seemed to be saying. I’m going to take a big stretch here and say the music seemed to be saying that and I transcribed it.”

Dark star crashes

Pouring its light into ashes

Reason tatters

The forces tear loose from the axis

Searchlight casting

For faults in the clouds of delusion

Shall we go, you and I while we can?

Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds

“That did it for the time being,” Hunter continued. “Then, a couple of days or weeks later—days, weeks, what were those in those days?—Jerry said he’d like as much material again. So I went out and sat in the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park. I was sitting there writing some more lyrics and a hippie came up and offered me a joint. I took a hit on that and he said, ‘What are you writing?’ I said, ‘This is a song called “Dark Star.” Remember that, it’s gonna be important.’ He said, ‘Far out.’ Off he went and I finished writing it. I suppose it is important within the context of the Grateful Dead, and the most we can ask for is importance within a context.”

Though the song had begun from a groove Hunter had heard the band playing, Garcia noted that “the reason the music is the way it is, is because those lyrics did suggest that to me. That’s what happened. They are saying, ‘This universe is truly far out.’ That’s about it. You could take whatever you will from that suggestion. For me, that suggestion always means, ‘Great, let’s look around. Let’s see how weird it really gets.’” From the outset, “Dark Star” was designed to be a tune with a constantly shifting interior between the two verses, though in its nascent stages it didn’t have nearly the complexity it did a year later.

The Dead went down to Los Angeles in the second week of September to begin work on the group’s sophomore album for Warner Bros., with Dave Hassinger once again producing. Though much has been made through the years about the Dead’s apparent dislike of Hassinger, that was not based on their experience making the first record. In fact, part of the band’s dissatisfaction with that album was that Hassinger didn’t have more engineering input on the record, since that’s what he was best known for. However, working at RCA Studios, Hassinger was forced to use RCA engineers, rather than relying on his own engineering chops. “That’s a lot of what the band wanted from me,” Hassinger recalled. “I was new to production, and the Grateful Dead really didn’t need a producer to tell them what to play or how to play it. They needed someone to help them get the record to sound the way they wanted it to sound, and that’s what I would have liked to have done.”

This time around, the Dead were determined not to be rushed through the recording process as they had been on the first album. This was an era when albums rarely took more than a week or two to record and mix, though by the summer of 1967 there were starting to be records that took longer and showed more obvious studio craftsmanship—the Beatles’ Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds being the great shining examples that so many musicians, producers and engineers have cited through the years as having inspired them. Those albums had an incalculable impact on the recording industry because they showed that there could be more to making a record than simply documenting a performance; an album could be art, and, used creatively, the recording studio itself could be a tool to create that art. That meant thinking in new ways about how to work in the studio and make the most of the technology that was available. And if the Beatles could make such powerful, sophisticated and sonically detailed records using four-track recorders, imagine what the Dead could do with an eight-track, which became the de facto standard in top studios around the time the Dead started work on their second album. The Dead may not have aspired to make an album like Sgt. Pepper’s, but from the outset they decided that rather than just playing live in the studio, they would layer the record, first putting down basic tracks—drums, bass, guitars, keyboards—then adding other parts to it to make the album more texturally interesting and involving.

During the two weeks or so the Dead were down at RCA Studios, they worked a little on the basic tracks for a number of different songs, but “we accomplished absolutely nothing,” Garcia said. But they did play their biggest Southern California concert to date at the Hollywood Bowl (“Bill Graham Presents the San Francisco Scene in L.A.”), taking the middle slot on a bill that had the Jefferson Airplane headlining and Big Brother and the Holding Company opening. Then, after a pair of shows at the Family Dog’s Denver ballroom and a free concert in downtown Denver, the band headed back to San Francisco for two nights at the Straight Theater, which, after having been denied a dance permit because of city and neighborhood opposition, managed to operate as the Straight Theater School of Dance. There was, in fact, a bit of dance instruction at the Straight: Peter Weiss, a onetime dancer with Anna Halprin’s troupe, said to the crowd, all of whom had to fill out dance class registration cards to attend, “What I would like everyone to do is close your eyes and relax and note how you breathe and how your heart is pumping… .” This rigorous instruction out of the way, the Dead broke into their raucous version of Martha and the Vandellas’ Motown hit “Dancing in the Streets.”

At the first of those two Straight shows the Dead took on a sixth member, a drummer named Mickey Hart. His addition to the lineup would have a profound effect on the direction the band’s music was to take.

* * *

Brooklyn-born Michael Hart was the son of two drummers. His father, Lenny, was a national and world champion rudimental drummer, and Mickey’s mother, Leah, took up drumming to get close to Lenny; together they won a mixed doubles drumming competition at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Shortly after Mickey was born in 1941 his parents split up and he and his mother moved in with her parents; Mickey didn’t really meet his father again until he was about twenty. Though not a musician himself, Mickey’s grandfather, Sam Tessel, was a huge fan of military drum-and-bugle corps, which were highly popular during World War II and in the years right after.

Growing up, young Mickey loved going to drum corps competitions, and though the absent Lenny Hart was scarcely mentioned in the Tessel household, Mickey “was acutely aware that I was the son of a great drummer,” he wrote in his autobiography Drumming at the Edge of Magic. “That was my father’s legacy to me; that and his drum pad and a pair of beautiful snakewood sticks he’d won in a competition.” Mickey got his first drum when he was ten or eleven, but it wasn’t until the Tessels had moved to Lawrence, Long Island, and Mickey was a freshman in high school, that he started to play seriously. Over the course of his four years in high school, he worked his way up from pulling (rather than playing) a giant bass drum on wheels in the high school marching band to first chair percussionist in the all-state band. Mickey practiced incessantly, on drumming fundamentals as well as just bashing along to records featuring big band jazz drummers like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, or to Elvis Presley and other rock ’n’ rollers. But sometime during his senior year, Mickey abruptly quit school and joined the air force, “burning to test myself in the world of grown-up drummers. I wanted to become an adult as fast as possible, and the quickest way to accomplish that when I was young was the military.”

Mickey got to play plenty of music in the air force. Stationed in Spain, he traveled the country playing military music by day and big band jazz at night. By 1965 he’d left the air force and returned to Long Island, hoping to make it as a drummer in New York. He got fired from the first and only drumming job he landed through the New York musicians’ union—filling in for a drummer in a staid fox-trot band. Then, without warning, Mickey received a letter from his father asking if he wanted to work with his old man in a music store he was opening in San Carlos, California. Without hesitation, Mickey moved west and convinced his father that the guitar store the senior Hart had envisioned should—of course!—be a drum store. For the next two years Mickey spent his time working in the store and practicing his rudimental drumming.

Then, one night in late August 1967, Mickey went to see Count Basie’s band at the Fillmore Auditorium. Mickey was friends with Basie’s drummer, Sonny Payne; they hung out together whenever the Basie band was on the West Coast. At the Fillmore, a friend of Mickey’s introduced him to Bill Kreutzmann, who was in the audience that night, and the two hit it off immediately. After the show, Hart and Kreutzmann hung around outside the Fillmore, talking and drumming on parked cars for a while. Then Billy suggested they go to the Matrix club to hear some friends of his, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Even though Mickey had been in the Bay Area since the early days of the San Francisco rock ’n’ roll scene, he’d never heard any of the bands before, and that night at the Matrix the combination of James Gurley’s deafening, feedback-laden guitar solos and Janis Joplin’s raw, primal singing “cracked open my comfortable little notions about music,” Mickey wrote. “In my excited and defenseless state I let myself be ravaged… . I felt like I’d fallen through a time warp into another universe. I was grinning so hard my jaws were starting to ache.

“Kreutzmann and I became drum brothers after that first night at the Matrix. We started hanging out, drumming together, cruising around Haight-Ashbury in Billy’s Mustang.” A couple of times Billy invited Mickey to Grateful Dead practices, “but I could never find the right warehouse where they were rehearsing,” Hart wrote. And so, as fate would have it, the first time Mickey ever saw the Grateful Dead play was also the first night he played with them—September 29, 1967, at the Straight Theater. Mickey watched the first set and was blown away by the band’s energy and power. Then, between sets, Kreutzmann suggested they round up another drum set so Mickey could sit in with the band during the second set. They drove to a friend’s house, grabbed a kit, zipped back to the Straight, set up the drums as fast they could and “launched right into the first song of the next set, a tune they’d been fooling around with called ‘Alligator/Caution.’ Everything had been so frantic that it was only then, as the song gathered speed, that I was able to focus on the fact that I didn’t have a clue as to what I was supposed to play… . One of the things Billy had stressed about his band was that the unexpected was welcome, indeed was actively sought—so I threw away my caution and dove in.”

Hart’s baptismo del fuego had been a triumph: “Suddenly, with two drums pounding away in the back,” he wrote, “they had glimpsed the possibility of a groove so monstrous it would eat the audience. There seemed no question that it was an adventure we would all explore together.” And from that night, Mickey Hart was in the band.

* * *

The intense civic resistance to the Straight Theater that fall was emblematic of the city’s changing attitude toward its hippie enclave in Haight-Ashbury. All summer, as the crowds in the Haight got bigger, so did the police presence in the neighborhood. From the freaks’ perspective, there seemed to be more police harassment. Drug busts became more common and in some cases more violent.

But the drugs in the area were changing, too. Amphetamines had been a problem in the Haight for a while, but in the summer of 1967 the problem escalated, as more and more dealers moved into the area and found easy prey among the thousands of out-of-towners looking for kicks. Heroin, too, made new inroads in the Haight, and with increased heroin use came more petty crime, as desperate young addicts turned to robbery to scrape up enough money for their next fix. Psychedelics had been the inspirational soma in the early days of the counterculture, but now a dark side began to manifest itself in the Haight, as poorly manufactured drugs were taken by kids who had no prior experience with psychedelics, no guidance from caring friends, no clue about what constituted a safe dose and no idea how to deal with the intense changes the drugs put them through. And it wasn’t just bad acid that was going around. There were all sorts of odd substances being concocted in makeshift labs in the area, a veritable alphabet of bizarre and often dangerous synthetics—STP, MMDA, PCP—that would flood the streets for a few days or even weeks at a time, leaving dozens of people in hospital emergency rooms or, if they were lucky, in the capable and caring hands of workers from the increasingly important Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic.

Not surprisingly, from the earliest days until Garcia’s death in 1995, the Grateful Dead scene was a magnet for people on the dark periphery of the psychedelic drug world—lowlife dealers, kids who were barely functioning drug burnouts and out-and-out wackos attracted to the lunatic fringe of the hippie world. Anyone was welcome, it seemed, and few judgments were made. What this meant for the band, however, was that a certain amount of vigilance was required to keep the crazies away from the inner circle, and to recognize which folks trying to glom onto their scene were nice people with good ideas, and which ones were scam artists looking for money or power or both.

“Back in the Haight,” Garcia said in 1981, “there were some Charlie Manson characters running around, really weird people who believed they were Christ risen or whatever, and who meant in the worst possible way to take the power. Some of them saw that the Grateful Dead raised energy and they wanted to control it. But we knew the only kind of energy management that counted was the liberating kind—the kind that frees people, not constrains them. So we were always determined to avoid those fascistic crowd-control implications in rock. It’s always been a matter of personal honor not to manipulate the crowd.”

“It got so we could recognize those kind of people in a heartbeat,” Mountain Girl says. “The minute you looked at somebody you could tell by their vibe, by what was coming out of the tops of their heads kind of, whether they were going to be really dangerous to you or really dangerous to themselves or completely off the wall so you didn’t know what they might do. I hardly ever felt personally threatened. The negative energy pretty much stayed away from me. But it would attach to Weir, and Jerry attracted it, too. If anybody tried to chase down Kesey at the Acid Test, it was usually because they were an English major who had freaked out and been in the nuthouse and then read Cuckoo’s Nest. But for Jerry it was other types of nuts. He seemed to attract compulsive people; strange people that either wanted to be part of his life or part of the Grateful Dead—they would write themselves into the drama and it would just become this maddening compulsion for them and they’d follow us around. That stuff was going on pretty early, actually. Then there were these other types who would have some doom-filled message that they had to communicate to us. Or it would be something inter-hippie: ‘So-and-so is an evil person,’ and you had to be warned about stuff. Or there were a lot of warnings about incipient busts. There were a lot of false alarms.”

There was also the real thing. At 3:30 in the afternoon on October 2, 1967, eight narcotics agents from the San Francisco police, accompanied by reporters and television crews they’d tipped off, pulled up to 710 Ashbury, knocked on the door and demanded to be let in, even though they didn’t have a search warrant. When their entry was denied, police kicked in the door and searched the house from top to bottom, eventually finding about a pound of pot and hashish. They confiscated the files, money and address books of both the Dead and the Haight-Ashbury Legal Organization, which had an office in 710, and proceeded to arrest everyone in the house on marijuana possession charges, including Bob Weir and Pigpen, Bob Matthews, Pig’s girlfriend Veronica, Sue Swanson, Rosalyn Stevenson, Christine Bennett and Antoinette Kaufman. Danny Rifkin and Rock Scully arrived once police were already in the house and were promptly busted, too, as was another late arrival, Rosie McGee.

After six hours in jail the suspects were released on bail. The next morning, the San Francisco Chronicle’s front page carried the news under a banner headline: ROCK BAND BUSTED. Below a very sinister-looking photo of Pigpen—ironically, the one person arrested who was not a dope smoker—was a subhead that read COPS RAID PAD OF GRATEFUL DEAD, and a long story detailing the arrests in “the Dead’s way-out 13-room pad.” That morning, too, the eleven bustees were arraigned in court, and then the entire Grateful Dead and their managers held a press conference in the living room of 710 to decry the bust, draconian drug laws and the police crackdown in the Haight.

In the end, the bust was more an annoying distraction than a serious threat to the band’s future. No one believed for a minute that anyone would serve time, and no one did. In May 1968 the eleven defendants were fined $100 to $200 each. But the bust did have a somewhat sobering effect on the Dead, or at the very least taught them that they were being watched by disapproving forces from the straight world.

“The bust was kind of like the last straw for us,” Mountain Girl says. “We were feeling too exposed. And Haight Street just wasn’t any fun anymore. There were tour buses driving in front of our house, cops all over the streets. The Chinese grocery closed up so we were going to have to drive to shop. Everything started changing and becoming very trendy, so we started looking for a new place to go, but it was hard to find a place because the city had such a low vacancy rate in those days.” Eventually Garcia and Mountain Girl found an apartment in the outer Sunset district—near the ocean but often fogbound—and lived there for five months or so. “It wasn’t too great,” M.G. says, “but at that point we were tired of sharing a house, so it was kind of nice to be off by ourselves.” Jerry and M.G. didn’t need a car to get around when they lived in the Haight, but once they moved to the western edge of the city they bought a used Plymouth station wagon with a rear window that didn’t roll up, and they continued to bop down to 710, which remained the Dead’s headquarters for a few more months after the bust.

If things were unsettled, even chaotic, on the home front, musically the Dead were entering a new phase in the fall of 1967, as Mickey Hart became integrated into the lineup and the group began to play more open-ended original compositions in addition to the blues, R&B and jug tunes that had been their stock-in-trade the first two years. The band spent untold hours rehearsing at the old, run-down Potrero Theater, clear across town, developing their new songs, investigating different kinds of beats and grooves, experimenting with dynamics and learning how to move seamlessly from one tune or musical feeling to another. The Dead had always been considered a jamming band, but during this period there was a quantum leap in the complexity of their musical constructions, the ferociousness and abandon with which they charged into uncharted realms, and the originality of their collective vision.

Although the group had occasionally linked two songs in the same key together to form one longer piece—on blues numbers like “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” and “You Don’t Love Me,” for example—the songs the band wrote in 1967 and ’68 were specifically designed to open up and give the band the flexibility to move in whatever direction their inventions took them. The first great jamming vehicle along those lines was the combination of “Alligator” and “Caution,” which rolled from the chunky, syncopated rhythm of the former tune to the locomotive drive of the latter via a long and always unpredictable jam that served as connective tissue between the two. In the fall of 1967 the band also introduced another multilayered original that incorporated several different tempo changes and textural shifts—“That’s It for the Other One.”

The song opens with a lovely midtempo passage called “Cryptical Envelopment,” written and sung by Garcia, and once described by him as “an extension of my own personal symbology for the ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’—the old folk song—which I always thought of as being a sort of Christ parable. Something fuzzy like that; fuzzy Christianity.”

The other day they waited

The sky was dark and faded

Solemnly they stated

He has to die, you know he has to die

Just as the Dead’s version of “Morning Dew” derives much of its power from the stark contrast between the beauty of the melody and the bleakness of the words, the folky lilt and shimmer of “Cryptical Envelopment” is deceptive, masking a darker lyric thrust.

Garcia’s part of the song ends abruptly, and then Hart and Kreutzmann come rat-tat-tatting in together, their drum lines rolling inexorably toward each other until they meet at a single point where they’re joined by Garcia, Lesh, Weir and Pigpen in a fireball blast, which then gives way to the relentless, galloping gait of “The Other One.” “That was sort of a serious, hole-in-the-wall psychedelic explosion,” Garcia said of the song, which was based around a revolving pattern in 12/8 time conceived by Weir and Kreutzmann:

Spanish lady come to me

She lays on me this rose

It rainbow spirals round and round

It trembles and explodes

It left a smoking crater of my mind

I like to blow away

But the heat came ’round and busted me

For smiling on a cloudy day

Comin’, comin’, comin’ around, comin’ around

Comin’ around in a circle

“The Other One” is less a tune than it is a rhythmic shell capable of housing an infinite number of variations within its constantly rotating figure. Lesh and Garcia might chase each other for several bars—stalker and prey—then become intertwined, the bass and lead notes tumbling over each other chaotically, or miraculously fusing together in an intricate upward dance, while Weir’s rhythm guitar cuts deep slashes in the air around them and between them, and the drummers keep pushing the jam forward at a breakneck pace.

Eventually the “Other One” jam would make a final quick turn, like a speeding roadster trying to execute a hard left, the “tiger paws” rhythm (as Weir once called it) would break apart, and the band would fall back into the gentle strains of the last verse of “Cryptical Envelopment”:

And when the day had ended

With rainbow colors blended

His mind remained unbended

He had to die, you know he had to die

That passage then flowed naturally into a series of jams that allowed Garcia to lead the others through a web of different but related melody-based variations rooted in “Cryptical” ’s moderate, loping 4/4. If “The Other One” jam always seemed to be hurtling out of control and headed toward certain calamity, the jams after “Cryptical Envelopment” were more like watching the ocean at sunset, with waves undulating in the twilight, breaking on the sandy shoal and then receding, changing ever so slightly one to the next. That the Dead could create such a complex, colorful and intensely detailed sonic universe within the fifteen to twenty minutes “That’s It for the Other One” usually lasted in those days was a remarkable achievement, unparalleled in the rock world at that point. And when the Dead then attached that song to “New Potato Caboose,” which offered a whole other set of kaleidoscopic musical pictures, and linked that to “Alligator/Caution,” the band could play for an hour or more without stopping between songs, taking the crowd through an amazing series of moods in the process. This had never been done before in rock. Even in jazz, where Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Charles Lloyd and others had been playing twenty- and thirty-minute compositions for some time, there were rarely attempts at fusing pieces together the way the Dead did, much less figuring out on the spot, through inspired improvisation, ways to create transitions between songs that hadn’t previously been joined; no easy feat. The Dead succeeded at this because they dedicated themselves completely and selflessly to developing their sound as a group, and then put in the hours to thoroughly explore every interesting musical possibility that presented itself.

“You can’t play the way the Grateful Dead plays without working at it,” Garcia said. “It’s not something that just happened to us. It didn’t happen overnight, either. There was a long, slow process that brought that into being.”

“The essence of this kind of playing is really to be open to the context you’re in,” says David Gans, author of several books on the band and a guitarist who has played Dead music himself for more than twenty-five years. “When it’s really working something happens and you are a delighted witness to its creation, just like everybody in the audience; you’re just the person who has his hands on the guitar neck and can take something and go someplace with it. So if you’re cruising along in a groove coming out of a song, and you’re looking at a place, like where the signature part of a song starts to drop away and then you go somewhere else, what you’re doing is listening to what the other musicians are doing, and that creates a space into which new music, ideally, will fall. So it’s what you’re doing, but it’s also what the other guys are doing, and it’s trusting each other and supporting each other. It’s not about individual virtuosity as much as it is about how well you keep your periphery open to influence. It’s what makes brilliant new structures emerge out of the void.

“I’ve always thought that part of what made the Dead so great was their willingness to cooperate,” Gans continues. “Although everyone adored Jerry’s solos, the thing that made him such a magical player was how well he blended in and cooperated with the others. Every band needs a reliable source of inspiration, and the glory of Jerry was that for many years he was almost never at a loss for a musical thought, but also never really obsessed with dominating everything. So if an idea needed to come up, he’d be there with one, but it was also an idea that was freely shared. Then somebody else could answer it, and that was the thing—laying out an idea and then listening to what it educed from the other guys. And it was that way with all of them. The job of playing Grateful Dead music is to open yourself up to divine inspiration, to put yourself at the disposal of the collective muse, and that means being a good listener.”

For the musicians, listening to and making sense of the tremendous amount of musical information pouring out of the amplifiers and blasting from the drums in the heat of an intense jam required acute concentration, to say the least. Often it was unclear who, if anyone, was perched on the leading edge of the jam, and who was listening to whom at any particular moment. So the way jams progressed depended on each member of the band fitting his part into a fluid musical stream and at the same time trying both to direct that stream and to anticipate where it could or would go next. That meant that sometimes jams would unfold with a mellifluous all-for-one, one-for-all directivity, and sometimes it would be more like a clash of the titans. This is a band that always reveled in its differences and in fact turned them to its advantage.

* * *

The Dead went back to Los Angeles to resume work on their second album, which became Anthem of the Sun, in the middle of November 1967, this time at American Studios in North Hollywood rather than at RCA. Unfortunately, the change in scenery didn’t have much effect on the band. They continued to have problems recording the basic tracks for their new songs tight enough to satisfy either themselves or Dave Hassinger, who was feeling increasingly frustrated by the band’s seeming inability to realize their ambitious compositions in the studio. Basic tracks on “Cryptical Envelopment” and “New Potato Caboose” were completed, but rather than continue on in L.A., Hassinger and the group decided to travel to New York to work in a pair of highly regarded eight-track studios there, Century Sound and Olmstead Studios.

“One of the things that we built into our contract which was unheard of at the time was unlimited studio time,” Garcia said. “We knew we’d have to pay for it, but we wanted as much as we wanted. Our strategy was: ‘We want to play in the studio. We want to learn how the studio works. We don’t want somebody else doing it. It’s our music, we want to do it.’ So what we did essentially was we bought ourselves an education, and the way we achieved it was to spend lots and lots of time in the studio fooling around with stuff—‘Let’s see what happens when you [turn this knob]: “Skrawwwwwkkk!” Oops, that’s not going to work. Let’s try this over here: “Eeee-eeee-eee!” Nope!’ It was a trial-and-error kind of thing.”

And it drove poor Dave Hassinger crazy, to the point where in the middle of the Century Sound sessions he quit the project and flew back to Los Angeles. “I gave up in New York,” he said. “We’d been working a long time on that second album, and they had put down some new tracks in New York and no one could sing them. Nobody could sing the thing, and at that point they were experimenting too much in my opinion. They didn’t know what the hell they were looking for. I think if you experiment you should have at least some sense of what you’re ultimately going after, but they were going from one end of the spectrum to the other.”

After Hassinger left, “We found ourselves with enough music on tape for maybe a third of an album, so we had to figure out what to do,” Phil Lesh said. “But we did have a lot of live performances [recorded],” and it dawned on the band members that they could actually combine live and studio recordings into a sonic sculpture that would sound like, in Phil’s original conception, “a thousand-petal lotus flowering from nothing.” Amazingly enough, Warner Bros. decided to let the Dead finish the record themselves and even allowed them to record in a studio close to home—Coast Recorders, a well-equipped facility in San Francisco. To help them on the technical end the band enlisted Dan Healy, who had replaced Owsley as the Dead’s principal live sound engineer after Bear was busted in the fall of 1967. Healy had been part of the Bay Area studio world before he became involved in the San Francisco rock scene, so he was the perfect choice to help the Dead on their maiden voyage of self-production. Armed with exceptional-sounding four-track live recordings made by Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor in Los Angeles in November 1967 and on a tour of the Northwest in late January 1968, Healy, Garcia and Lesh hunkered down at Coast for the complicated task of constructing the album.

“We weren’t making a record in the normal sense,” Garcia said, “we were making a collage. We were trying to do something completely different, which didn’t even have to do with a concept. It had to do with an approach that’s more like electronic music or concrete music, where you are actually assembling bits and pieces toward an enhanced nonrealistic representation. That is really the sense of what we were doing.”

Indeed, Anthem of the Sun is a carefully constructed montage of live and studio performances that flow in and out of each other and are stacked to very strange effect. Each side is a continuous piece of music with no breaks. Side one opens with “That’s It for the Other One,” followed by a transitional section put together by Phil’s old friend from the electronic music world, Tom Constanten, using some of John Cage’s “prepared piano” techniques—in which gyroscopes and other objects were placed inside the piano to create unusual sounds for a bizarre, even scary, sonic tapestry. As T.C. said, “I was given the interesting task of whipping [the music] up into a greater frenzy, ultimately causing it to explode, and out of the rubble of the explosion and the smoke and the ashes and everything would come the delicious sounds of ‘New Potato Caboose.’” That song is followed by Weir’s unusual “Born Cross-Eyed.”

Side two is a mind-bending meld of “Alligator” and “Caution” that, in addition to opening with a chorus of kazoos (shades of the jug band!), at points features multiple performances of similar but still different passages from different shows, all playing at once, as well as studio tracks that speed up and slow down unnaturally. Solos fade in and out, walls of feedback are erected then torn apart, three or four Pigpen vocals are woven together in parts. “There are places of extreme awkwardness,” Healy admitted later, “but it wasn’t hurting for imagination.” Garcia said, “We mixed it for the hallucinations,” and thirty years down the line, Anthem of the Sun is still a very, very weird album. No question about it, Anthem of the Sun was one for the heads, from the dizzying mix of sounds on the album to the seriously psychedelic cover painting—by Phil and T.C.’s friend Bill Walker—depicting the bandmembers as six heads of an incredibly intricate fire-breathing monster-deity out of Tibetan/Haight-Ashbury mythology.

The album as a whole works as a sort of metaphorical acid trip, with passages of clarity followed by passages of tremendous confusion, frightening and funny moments juxtaposed, fabulous detail emerging from dense sonic squalls and cryptic lyrics that somehow managed to mirror the album’s variegated musical textures. It’s an often dark, even troubling work that couldn’t have been farther removed from the happy bounce of “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion).” This was music made by people who had obviously spent lots of time perched precariously on the psychedelic edge, witnessing heavens and hells worthy of Hieronymus Bosch, and were reporting back on what they’d experienced. Anyone who bought Anthem expecting to hear San Francisco “flower power” in full bloom got quite a shock. But then the Dead were never that kind of band, despite how they might have seemed on a sunny Sunday in the Panhandle playing to blissed-out dancers under the tall eucalyptus trees. This was, after all, the acid band, born out of the chaos of Muir Beach and Watts and the Trips Festival, and always looking for new pathways to the deep beyond.

Driving away Dave Hassinger earned the Grateful Dead what they sought—the autonomy to make records their own way. And it effectively frightened off Warner Bros. executives from further meddling in the band’s affairs. “The record company had a funny relationship with us,” Mickey Hart said. “They were scared of us. They wouldn’t visit us because it was too dangerous. They couldn’t eat anything or drink anything around us because they were afraid everything had LSD in it, so they never really showed up.”

At the same time, the group was establishing their independence in other ways, too. Their tour of the Pacific Northwest with Quicksilver Messenger Service in late January and early February of 1968 was booked without the aid of conventional promoters. And, closer to home, the Dead decided to circumvent Bill Graham and Chet Helms and play exclusively at the 2,000-capacity Carousel Ballroom on Van Ness Avenue in downtown San Francisco, which had been taken over by friends of theirs. The Carousel had been a popular venue for big band dances in the ’40s and ’50s as the El Patio Ballroom, and was all but unused by the winter of 1968, though it was still owned by a very successful Dublin-based ballroom operator named Bill Fuller. Ron Rakow, a onetime Wall Street whiz kid who’d moved to San Francisco in the mid-’60s and befriended Rock Scully, Danny Rifkin and, in time, the band, negotiated a deal with Fuller that allowed the freaks to lease the hall for no money down, but a guaranteed rent of $15,000 a month plus a percentage of the gross receipts. The Dead, along with Quicksilver, first played the Carousel on January 17, 1968, a Ben Franklin’s birthday bash that was a rousing success. But the official grand opening came on Valentine’s Day, with the Dead and Country Joe and the Fish sharing the bill for a concert broadcast on KMPX—quite a coup for both the Dead and the Carousel.

Phil Lesh once listed that show as his favorite Dead concert ever; certainly it was one of the best of that era, and one that shows the transition the Dead made around this time from a group that played mainly short cover tunes to one whose sets were dominated by original songs connected by long jams. It was one of those nights when it seemed as though nearly everyone in the place was dosed, which always put an interesting spin on things.

The Dead’s first set opened innocently enough, with a typically serpentine version of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.” But that would be just about the last glimpse of terra firma until the final “Midnight Hour” at the end of the evening, about three hours later. Everything in between was unrecorded material that showed the Dead at their spacey best. During the first set the band introduced the vast listening audience to a formidable sequence of three new songs written with Robert Hunter.

Just a few months after its unveiling in the fall of 1967, “Dark Star” was already beginning to stretch in all sorts of interesting directions, slowing down and elongating a little more with each playing.

Garcia had plucked the whimsical “China Cat Sunflower” from the first batch of lyrics Hunter had sent from New Mexico, and devised a bouncy, bopping musical setting loaded with clever contrapuntal melodic lines and neatly interlocking rhythms that were every bit as playful as the words, which owed a debt to Dame Edith Sitwell, Lewis Carroll and psychedelics:

Look for a while at the China Cat Sunflower

Proud-walking jingle in the midnight sun

Copper-dome bodhi drip a silver kimono

Like a crazy-quilt star gown

Through a dream night wind

Musically, the song was a new form for the Dead, a harbinger of other interesting rhythmic numbers Garcia would create over the next five years. Each player laid down a different but complementary rhythm with his part, and then Garcia’s light, skipping vocal pulled the pieces together into a “song.” “China Cat” was an instant success with the Dead’s fans, and it was the only late-’60s Garcia song that he performed for the rest of his career.

The third new song that night was “The Eleven,” a furious, constantly mutating jam in 11/4 time (hence the title) that had been conceived by Phil and the drummers during marathon rehearsals at the Potrero Theater before the Northwest tour. Like “China Cat,” it was quite obscure lyrically (in fact, a section of the words was originally a verse that followed the three stanzas that became “China Cat”), but it was always less a song than a long monstrous groove that gave the musicians on opportunity to see how much music they could pack into a fast eleven-beat pattern—spraying bursts of notes, chords and beats in long and short phrases that somehow, incredibly, always ended up meeting at the one-beat of each measure as the song rolled through space like some planet threatening to spin out of its orbit.

“[Playing in unusual time signatures] really started when Mickey met [the Indian tabla master] Alla Rakha [in the fall of 1967],” Garcia noted. “What Indian music seems to have—the combination of tremendous freedom and tremendous discipline—really impressed Mickey, so he started right away studying with Alla Rakha. That influence got the rest of us starting to fool with ideas that were certain lengths.”

At the Valentine’s Day show, the jam after “The Eleven” eventually calmed down enough to segue into “Turn On Your Love Light,” which became Pigpen’s signature tune in the late ’60s. The Dead never really got the credit they deserved for being innovative rhythm and blues players—on songs like “Love Light,” “Dancing in the Streets” and, later, “Hard to Handle,” the band was capable of jamming long and hard on different riffs and progressions that sounded like psychedelicized mutations of ideas swiped from James Brown’s Fabulous Flames or Archie Bell and the Drells or any of the other funky kings of the day. Sometimes they would hit on one fat soul groove after another, with Pigpen endlessly improvising above the band, masterfully playing with words and phrases, bringing the energy in the room up and down at his whim. And other times Pig would do his thing but the band would be on a completely different plane for much of the song, still out in space from the previous song, and perhaps unwilling to come back down to earth. But no matter which direction the “Love Light” jam took, eventually the song reached a climax that had Pigpen and Weir screaming call-and-response like preachers in a Baptist tent service, as the band played the song’s finger-snappin’-catchy six-note riff louder and more intensely with each pass. “Love Light” never failed to get a crowd up on its feet and dancing, and Pigpen was never above cajoling the few people who weren’t grooving with him to get loose and get down. “He always had more nerve than I could believe,” Garcia once said with an admiring chuckle. “He’d get the audience on his side and he’d pick somebody out—like a heckler—and get on them. He’d crack us up, too. Sometimes he’d just kill me!”

The band dedicated their second set at the Carousel that Valentine’s Day to the memory of Neal Cassady, whose body had finally given out while he was walking along the railroad tracks near the small Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende on the evening of February 2. A seriously psychedelic version of “That’s It for the Other One” included a new verse by Weir that referred to “Cowboy Neal at the wheel of the bus to never-ever land,” a fitting tribute their fallen comrade/hero. The rest of the set was composed of the other tunes that would make up Anthem of the Sun, played in order and played extremely well; in fact, parts of this show actually made it onto the album. It was the Dead at a magical peak, fully in command every step of the way, equally comfortable ripping through a fluttering Spanish-sounding jam or letting all their musical structures crumble and dissolve into dissonant sheets of white noise, feedback and, ultimately, silence, which is how they ended the set. On tapes of the show, there’s barely audible clapping from about ten people in the crowd, but you sense that it’s because the rest of the audience was probably too incapacitated by what they’d been through to know whether it was the end of the set, or the end of the world for that matter.

“It was right around that time that the Dead’s music started to take on this huge, monstrous dimension and the unique qualities that really separated them from all the other bands,” observes Dick Latvala. “Within a year we got ‘Dark Star,’ ‘That’s It for the Other One,’ ‘Alligator,’ ‘Caution,’ ‘Love Light,’ ‘China Cat.’ They were steppin’ out! Back in ’66 it was mostly Pigpen singing, and that was great for what it was, and they had three songs they’d really jam on—‘Viola Lee Blues,’ ‘Dancin’ in the Streets’ and ‘Midnight Hour’—and that’s the stuff you’d wait for. But when these other songs started coming in, that’s when the big change occurred. Mickey came into the band at the beginning of that wave.

“It was like the music itself was escalating. Everything became a vehicle to go ‘out’ with, and the jamming was so focused but still totally on the edge of being out of control, I remember thinking, ‘This music is way, way unusual.’ Somewhere near the end of ’67, the music started getting too far out for me to even dance; I had to just sit down and be as still as I could so it could come through me. I remember being scared sometimes. I mean, there were times when Phil was making the bass notes so big that I thought I was going to explode, and maybe I should leave. But then I’d think, ‘Well, if I’m going to explode, let’s do it here!’ It was dense shit. Even today, you can’t listen to that stuff all day—it’s too much.”

“People weren’t afraid to let go and get really high at Dead shows because it felt like a ‘safe’ place to [trip],” Mountain Girl says. “You knew that you’d probably be taken some pretty interesting places during a show, but that you’d always come out on the other end in one piece. Experience, expectation and fine-tuning—the Dead were really good at being there for that. The music evolved to enhance that and people got into it. The music would not have developed the way it did if it wasn’t for people’s willingness to go on a big trip with it, and the band’s willingness to help them along. That was pretty deliberate, and it made for a wonderful, musical, intuitive kind of mix. They definitely created the set and the setting, and then they played to that, both with the music and the lyric content, and the lights and the noise and the glorious and horrible sounds; all that stuff.”

Though nobly intentioned, the Carousel Ballroom experiment was probably doomed from the start. “We were terrible business people!” said Jon McIntire, a friend of the Dead’s who helped manage the Carousel. “We made mistakes from the outset. We opened up with the Dead and [Country Joe]. The place was crammed to the gills. The next weekend we didn’t have anyone—the place went dark—and then we opened up the following weekend. Well, if you’re trying to establish a place as a draw, that’s death. But we simply didn’t know that.

“To me, what the Carousel was about was freedom, true freedom,” McIntire continued. “‘You can do anything here and it’s okay, as long as you don’t hurt anyone.’ That’s the kind of anarchy that shows that people at their basis are good; they don’t need constraints to make them good. So that’s what we were experimenting with there. I think that’s what all of us in the Haight were experimenting with. The Carousel was the epitome of anarchy at its finest. A lot of people found it scary, but I think a lot of people in San Francisco found it to be exactly what was going on, and very important to them, and exciting, warm and wonderful.”

Unfortunately, “warm and wonderful” doesn’t necessarily pay the bills, and when the Dead and the Airplane were on the road (separately) that spring—the Dead played various clubs, ballrooms and armories in cities such as Miami, Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis (where the Dead opened for Iron Butterfly) and Los Angeles—the Carousel crew was forced to compete with Bill Graham and Chet Helms to book headlining acts. Graham, in particular, proved to be a formidable foe who was not above demanding that groups of national stature who played for him in San Francisco play only for him or he wouldn’t book them into his new venue on New York’s Lower East Side, the old Village Theater, which Graham renamed the Fillmore East. Graham was also looking for a new, larger dancehall for his shows in San Francisco in the wake of riots in the Fillmore neighborhood that spring after the assassination of Martin Luther King. So when it became clear that the Carousel was failing financially, Graham hopped on a plane and flew to Dublin to meet with the ballroom’s owner, Bill Fuller, and he persuaded Fuller to let him take over the struggling operation. By mid-July Graham had opened his new San Francisco flagship, at first called Fillmore-Carousel, then the Fillmore West. During the time they’d controlled the Carousel, the Dead didn’t play for Graham in San Francisco, but they did play at the Fillmore East, and after Graham took over the Carousel the group swallowed its pride and gigged there often. It was a great room, and by the end of 1968 the Dead were filling it easily, so it made good business sense to play there.

By mid-’68 most of the bandmembers had moved out of Haight-Ashbury and relocated in different parts of Marin County. In early March the Dead had bid a fond farewell to the old neighborhood with an impromptu free concert in front of the Straight Theater, drawing thousands of people into Haight Street for what turned out to be their final appearance in the neighborhood. Panhandle shows were part of the distant past by this time, the Straight was struggling, and by the summer of 1968 the vibe in the neighborhood had deteriorated so much that it had become a dangerous and forbidding place for many people—particularly those who had been around the Haight two years earlier.

“After a while, the police and the city just got sick of what was happening in Haight-Ashbury, and they cracked down,” says Steve Brown. “They were edgy because the black community was rioting and there was a lot of right-wing reaction to the anti-war, liberal, hippie, drug-taking, commie, pinko element. These guys wanted to smack a few heads. They were not interested in keeping cool. They wanted to scare them and drive them out. And by the late ’60s, especially with the change of the drug scene in the Haight-Ashbury, it was hard to blame them, because it had gotten pretty ugly there. In ’67 the police sort of turned the other cheek and let the hippies and the flower children do their thing. There was enough media support that they would have looked like real ogres to have gone hot and heavy on the kids. But by ’68 they’d had enough of it. ‘Let’s run ’em out!’”

The Dead had seen the storm clouds gathering ominously over the Haight for so long that by the time they left they had already moved past any feelings of disillusionment. As Rosie McGee put it, “They were never really a part of the flower power thing, so it wasn’t too crushing for them when the Haight turned the way it did. We knew it couldn’t last forever.”

It was really like a moment,” Garcia said in 1994. “There was a breath there for a moment that was like an open door—‘Oo-oo, look!’—and then BAM! It slammed shut again immediately… . There was a moment there where there was a very clear, wonderful vision, but you see, it had to do with everyone acting in good faith. It had to do with everybody behaving right. There was a lot to it. It wasn’t a simple thing.

“So the thing of this door opening—it was one of those things that we were all inducing it as well as perceiving it. I think probably everybody saw what they wanted to see or what they needed to see. They’d all been brought there somehow for that moment. And you can’t even say what it was or when it was or what it boiled down to or anything like that. But for me it’s been enough energy to keep me going this long and I don’t see any end, at least for me, in terms of my work… . It doesn’t matter to me whether it has any historical value or whether it’s measurable in some objective way. I don’t care. For me, the subjective reality is what counts—what I experienced, what happened to me. I know a lot of people who shared something like it, their own version of it, and who are still moving with that energy; that energy is propelling us. That energy has also gained enough momentum over the years [that] it’s partly responsible for all the things that have happened historically since then, in some way. It’s part of it. It’s part of the gain in consciousness that the last half of this century has represented. And that includes all the technology that goes with it—the braincraft that subsequently sprang up. And it’s still rolling, it’s still happening.”