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Sunday, 4 January 2015

did I ever see The Grateful Dead?

It's bitterly cold out & I'm bored, so thought I'd reminisce about the couple of times I heard The Dead. The first time was in a small park on the outskirts of Miami, Florida. Probably sometime in 1968 - I desperately wanted to be a hippie, like all the cool people in California  ;  ) A buddy with the same ambitions went with me, & it was a very funky gathering of neophyte hippies, Deadheads & a few curiosity seekers. It was a small gathering, probably not more than a few hundred. One of the Dead (Pigpen? RIP), walked around the fringe of people sitting on the swampy grass, surreptitiously dropping joints.

I remember sitting in a small picnic shelter & burning a dollar bill - couldn't think of anything else to do to 'be a hippie'. Also I wanted to impress a young girl who was also hanging out there.

The next time I saw The Dead I'd dodged the draft for the Vietnam War, & had been living in the largest hippie commune in the UK for a few years (1969 - 1971). We called them squats, & our squat was the deserted old hotel on Eel Pie Island where the Stones had played, Bowie & Rod Steward had hung out, etc. etc.

I wrote my memoir about this period of my life about 27 years ago, & self-published it as EEL PIE DHARMA. For some reason I didn't write about attending both Dead concerts, or the fact that I was also at the concert at Dinner Key in Miami when Jim Morrison was busted for obscenity. I also didn't write about (God knows why) attending the Stones memorial concert for Brian Jones in Hyde Park in early July 1969. I'd arrived in London just a couple of weeks before this. There's a great BBC doc on Youtube about this event called "the Stones in the Park". I saw it a few months after the concert on Brit telly - in black & white of course.

About a decade ago, with the advent of widespread internet use, one of my old Eel Pie buddies tracked me down in Canada, where I've been living since 1972. I sent him a copy of my memoir, & over the course of a year or two he put it online, chapter by chapter. It's still there for free reading, in the spirit of The Dead & hippiedom  ;  ) Just over two years ago a publisher reprinted the memoir as EEL PIE ISLAND DHARMA. It's available from Amazon etc. .

The hippie era was a very magical time of my life, & it's been fun remembering those two long ago Dead concerts. Something I never anticipated, but my little memoir has since become a source for several other books about that period, part of a BBC doc on the Thames Valley Music Scene, and even a bit of a source and inspiration for a novel by well known Brit author Hari Kunzru.

peace, love & great memories!
Chris (known back then as Canadian Chris)

p.s. some other concerts I saw back then were The Velvet Underground (Lou Reed) at Thee Image on Miami Beach, Hendrix - also on Miami Beach, Hendrix at the second Isle of Wight concert (but I fell asleep), Jefferson Airplane somewhere around fort Lauderdale (Grace Slick was very drunk), oh, & I met George Harrison in the village of Esher (I did write about this in my memoir), also briefly met Peter Townshend of The Who (also in book), attended the first Glastonbury Festival (in book - who'd a thunk it'd still be going over four decades later?), Dylan at the First Isle of Wight Festival, got stoned with the drummer from Free ...

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