Others probably read this when it first came out but I just ran across it today.
From an interview of Bob in Rolling Stone
What is John bringing that is genuinely new to songs you know so well, that you have already played in various permutations?
First off, he gets what we’re up to. And he loves the idea. It appeals to his sense of fun and adventure. Then he brings his musical personality – all of the stuff he’s looked into. And he’s deep. He’s a monster musician, a studied musician. He knows the various ideas from which we draw. Or he’s eager to study them if he’s light in that area.
That’s the way we’ve been operating all along. [Founding organist] Pigpen was heavy into blues. Jerry and I were good with the country stuff. Phil was good with modern classical music. On it goes.
But John is the first pop star you’ve had in the band.
That’s part of the American musical heritage too [laughs]. We’d be idiots to look away from that.
You met and played with John for the first time, on The Late Late Show, at the same time you were meeting with Trey about potential songs and set lists for Fare Thee Well. You started moving forward with John at the same time as you were planning an event of anniversary and closure.
I was doing preliminary get-togethers with Trey, kicking around the material. Trey is also a monster musician. If I had to make a broad categorization, John is a classicist by nature. Trey is more of an iconoclast. They’re both explorers, someone who’s happy to break tradition. Juxtaposing Trey’s take on the material with the insights John brings got me looking at all of the songs afresh.
I look forward to playing with Trey again, any old time. But I am really eager to get back out with John-boy and chase the music around, get to know each other. When that dream came to me, it was at about that point that I started to realize that I was feeling comfortable with knowing that John had moved, musically speaking – being able to intuit the songs. We were feeling each other out on a new level, several bars down the road.
Were there songs on the last tour where you could hear John transforming the music, putting his own voice into it? Bill mentioned “China Cat Sunflower” and Mickey brought up “Althea” as songs that John grasped and changed even in rehearsals. When did you hear it?
There was a moment in rehearsal last September. We were going into “Scarlet Begonias” [on 1974’s From the Mars Hotel]. Nobody was stepping out. We had just started playing the song, feeling our way into the groove. And there was one thing John was playing. I don’t know if he was doing it on purpose, or if he wasn’t quite sure what song we were playing.
But he was listening to what we were doing, and the figure he was adding had a slight reggae tinge. Rather than hold fast and correct him, I immediately went to that, then backed off a little – I didn’t want everybody to take it all the way into reggae. What we got was this rendition that had a seven-percent reggae tinge to it – just so sweet, just that amount of inflection. I hope we can remember that when we come back around this summer.
But that was the Grateful Dead’s M.O. – if somebody was a little unsure of where we were or was hearing something differently, if you could hear that and jump on that, then the song would transform. It was magical. And that sort of stuff happens with Dead & Company. It happens enough that it keeps everybody’s eyes wide open and everyone light on their feet.
The songs carry the spirits of those who made them as well as those who continue to play them. It’s an ongoing process.
I still hear Jerry in these tunes – more so now, perhaps, than in any instances on a bad night when he was playing with us.
What do you still hear?
Since Jerry checked out, he hasn’t departed in the least. I can still hear him crackling away somewhere behind me, above and off to the left, if you will. I can hear the crackle of his harmonic content, where he would live in a song. And I relate to that like I always did: “I’m going to take it here, then I’m going to take it that way.”
But that gets fed through what somebody else is doing now. And it’s wonderful to see these songs reinvigorated – regenerated with new life.
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/...y ... yle-50971/