Subscribe to Syndicate
Submitted by m3jimphoto on Fri, 10/21/2011 - 4:43pm

You can’t talk about Jim’s massive and influential coverage of seminal San Francisco bands without focusing on his work with the Grateful Dead.

And you don’t have to be a Deadhead, Fellow Traveler, Merry Pranskter, aging hippie, boomer or any other member of the gigantic global tribe that avidly follows the band -- and its myriad offshoots today -- to appreciate the magnitude of The Dead’s importance, then and now.

Since I, once again, came very late to the party and (full disclosure) respect but don’t exactly “get” all things Dead, I have relied on the stalwart photo research of JMPLLC archivist and Dead photographer extraordinaire in his own right Jay Blakesberg. Kudos also must go to my wonderful partner and longtime Dead fan, Dan Sullivan, for his research, insights and caption support.

According to Jay, who shot his first Grateful Dead Show at the Meadowlands in 1978 and has poured over hundreds, if not thousands, of Jim’s Grateful Dead images in the JMP archive, “The first photos of Jim’s I saw as a teenager were of the Grateful Dead playing live on Haight St. on the inside of the Live/Dead album.  So all these years later when I got a chance to look at his proofs from that concert, for example,  it was interesting to note how few shots of the band there really were among all the frames.

“I know from shooting the band so much over the years myself that you maybe had five minutes of their full attention before they would start goofing off just to torture you.  They really just didn’t care about their image much, it seemed, and so you had to be really quick and patient.  I can only imagine what it must have been like for Jim, like herding kittens or something.

“And I also think that maybe Jim was looking at the events the Dead played from a historical perspective, there were so many great shots of the crowd from the top of a Victorian.  Jim was capturing the scope of the moment even though he probably wasn’t there on assignment or getting paid.

“Did he know it was going to be viewed 30-40 years later as this incredible moment in history?  Probably not, it’s just the way he shot and he probably thought to himself,  “I’ve got enough shots of the band, I just got them yesterday.  Maybe it was sort of a ‘been there, done that’ feeling and he was more intrigued with the scene around them.”

Speaking of the scene around them in the early days, the band was nothing if not a lightning rod for authority and its more tyrannical side … as it was for all those who opposed that authority.  One of the more perfect early examples is the Dead’s 1967 drug bust at the band’s house and headquarters at 710 Ashbury St.

Here’s drummer Mickey Hart’s recollections as told to Spin magazine in a Q&A from 2009:

“Q: I recently re-read an article about the infamous drug bust at the Grateful Dead house in 1967.  What’s it like to look back on those days in San Francisco?

“A: We were kids doing what kids do -- and we were set up!  Not that there wasn’t a lot of dope in the house, but the inspector actually planted the stuff that they arrested us for.  They could have gone into our cabinet and found a whole bunch of it.  We were set up, but it made us famous.  Getting busted was the best thing that ever happened to us.  We made headlines.  It certainly didn’t stop our way of life -- in a way, it validated it.  We thought that these people really violated our sanctity.  We didn’t take it sitting down.  So I look back on it and go, ‘Wow, that was really fun.’ "

And here’s a link to a a rather low-fi video of the press conference where Grateful Dead manager Danny Rifkin (that’s the Dead's manager Rock Scully to his right) makes a rather eloquent case for the band and against fear tactics.  It’s amazing this argument is still raging nearly 45 years later.

Lately It Occurs to Me

Truckin’

Truckin’ got my chips cashed in. Keep truckin’, like the do-dah man
Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on.

Arrows of neon and flashing marquees out on Main Street.
Chicago, New York, Detroit and it’s all on the same street.
Your typical city involved in a typical daydream
Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.

Dallas, got a soft machine; Houston, too close to New Orleans;
New York’s got the ways and means; but just won’t let you be.

Most of the cats that you meet on the streets speak of true love,
Most of the time they’re sittin’ and cryin’ at home.
One of these days they know they gotta get goin’
Out of the door and down on the streets all alone.

Truckin’, like the do-dah man.
Once told me “You got to play your hand”

Sometimes your cards ain’t worth a damn, if you don’t lay’em down,

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me
What a long, strange trip it’s been.

What in the world ever became of sweet Jane?
She lost her sparkle, you know she isn’t the same
Livin’ on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine, All a friend can say is
“Ain’t it a shame?”

Truckin’, up to Buffalo. Been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow
Takes time, you pick a place to go, and just keep truckin’ on.

Sittin’ and starin’ out of the hotel window.
Got a tip they’re gonna kick the door in again
I’d like to get some sleep before I travel,
But if you got a warrant, I guess you’re gonna come in.

Busted, down on Bourbon Street,
Set up, like a bowling pin.

Knocked down, it get’s to wearin’ thin.
They just won’t let you be.

You’re sick of hanging around and you’d like to travel;
Get tired of traveling and you want to settle down.
I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’,
Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me, What a long strange trip it’s been.

Truckin’, I’m a goin’ home,
Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong,

Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ home.