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Copyright © 1998-2022 D. A. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.
by D. A. Wilson

# 1

San Francisco, December 31, 2019

Grateful Dead @ Cow Palace, December 31, 1976

The first time I heard the Grateful Dead play live was on New Year's Eve 1976. I was not at the Cow Palace in Daly City that night, rather, I listened to the radio broadcast on KSAN FM ("The Jive 95") from the relative comfort of my little corner room at the Top of the Hill, Martinez.

The Grateful Dead had already been following me around for a few years. My brother and I hung out quite a bit with JJ Howard at his family ranch out in the Alhambra Valley. His mother, Vivian, was more than a little bit "counter-culture" and on the wall there was a print of a stylized drawing of San Francisco. In the drawing there were many banners and flags flowing from buildings and hilltops. Most of the flags had LOVE written on them (the representation of Alcatraz Island read HATE), but others had the names of rock bands from the San Francisco Scene (Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Grateful Dead). Most intriguing to me as I stared at that poster were those two words: Grateful Dead. Those two words in that combination contained so much meaning, paradox, poetry, profound truth about existence and non-existence. Later, The Grateful Dead became so famous and familiar in U.S. American culture that it is hard to remember how shocking the name was when first encountering it. Some people got upset, even angry, when hearing it (“You would not be grateful if you were dead!” I recall more than one wag scolding in the following years). So, I was first introduced to the band through language. Sometime later, I remember working on a fort ("The Temple of JTEL") on the grounds of Pinel School with Nathan Kreisberg and Kevin Parker. One cloudy day, Nathan was wearing a shirt with the famous Grateful Dead Jester design. “That’s a cool shirt, Nathan!” I said. “It’s from a rock band, The Grateful Dead.” Nathan replied, and pointing at the jester on his chest, and then at me, he added, “He’s looking at YOU.” My second encounter with the band was visual via their iconic artwork. In the Big Room (assembly hall) at Pinel School we had one of those little felt-covered box record players and a handful of old scratched up LPs, many now considered classic albums and all touchstones for me. Among the record collection was Grateful Dead’s American Beauty. I played it loud through the tiny speaker many times.

When I moved on from Pinel to Maybeck High School that put me a lot deeper into the Berkeley life and The Dead became harder and harder to avoid. I was introduced to many new learning experiences, like cannabis and books including The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, which is where I learned the mythologized history of the Grateful Dead and surrounding scene. They had a new live album out, Steal Your Face which was advertised heavily on my beloved KSAN, and my Grandma got me that double album for Christmas! Meanwhile, in the fifty-cent bin of the original Rasputin Records on Telegraph at Durant in Berkeley, I had found and bought a copy of Wake of the Flood which was from then on in heavy rotation on my stereo. Then on my Birthday weekend in 1976, all my Maybeck buddies went to the Oakland Coliseum to see The Who and The Grateful Dead. They came back to school on Monday higher than kites and really razzed me, “Oh, man! You missed it!”

A few weeks after that I attended my first official rock concert which was The Tubes at Concord Pavilion on Halloween, but that's a different review.

By the time we rolled into the holiday season of 1976, I along with much of my peer group were “partying” quite a lot. I had a big hit of blotter acid that I had gotten in trade with Bill Saha for a joint, in the back of those trees by the Cal Berkeley entrance where we boys used to go to get high. I already had taken some LSD trips (That’s a different review). It was only many years later that I heard the advice that probably it would be best for immature people to hold off on recreational use of heavy psychedelics. Oh well. 43 years later I am here to tell the tale.

So, I lived at the Top of the Hill in Martinez with my parents and younger brother, dog and cats. My corner room had my bed and desk and stereo and KSAN FM radio was my usual live soundtrack. I was excited when they announced they would broadcast The Grateful Dead’s New Year’s Eve concert live from the Cow Palace in Daly City.

On New Year’s Eve I split the big blotter hit in half, took half and gave the other half to my friend Dan James who lived down the street off Alpine Court. There was quite a scene of debaucherous youth going on down the hill in the Appalachian neighborhood and there was going to be a New Year’s Eve party in the apartment of “Hamburger Klown,” and Dan wanted to attend. I said I was going to stay home and listen to the Grateful Dead concert on the radio. Dan said that he would stop by later, but I didn’t see him again. Apparently, he had a very melty night.

I settled in at my desk with my sketch book listening to the anticipatory buzz from the live radio feed. Then the band were introduced and began to play. I went totally into the music. I was part of the stories, myths and legends being told in the music and words. It was eternities until I came back to my desk, and the mournful sounds of Jerry singing Morning Dew at the Cow Palace and in my room. I'LL GET UP AND FLY AWAY! … I… was… still… ME!... but transformed and had joined a great cosmic society.

It was still another six months until Fred Faloona said to me one Berkeley afternoon, “No more excuses you are going to the show,” and lead the way across the Bay to Winterland on 06/09/1977. From then on, I was a fully initiated Dead Head.

It was the early 1980s and we were waiting overnight in line outside of Record Factory in Pleasant Hill, when I heard the Morning Dew coming out of some guy’s boom box. I confirmed it was that NYE show then got him to take my address and say he would send me a copy of the cassette, which was one of the first live cassettes in my collection. It was only part of the second set too. In those days it was a big deal getting cassette copies of shows, and more than a few people who had them had certain attitudes about whether-or-not to share them. How beautiful that we now have more riches than we can ever exhaust streaming on the Internet all the time.

My gateway New Year’s Eve show was eventually released officially on CDs, but it can be streamed freely here on our beloved Internet Archive.

# 0
San Francisco, December 24, 2019


I greet you with great excitement on this Tuesday, December 24, 2019 for the premier of a new literary project,
ROARSHOCK REVIEWS by D. A. Wilson. The range of subject matter, brevity or length of each individual piece, and schedule of publication are all wide open. It will be an expansive space for me to work with my words. My job being to make sure I write content interesting enough to draw in my audience and keep them coming back for more. That shall be the ongoing recurring challenge.

Your reader feedback will be welcome, and suggestions of content and topics to explore. Also, guest reviews are possible, and those so inspired are encouraged to submit their material for consideration.

Anticipate reviews of everything in every direction from records to restaurants, plus much more. Picturesque sketches, tips and information both vintage and timely, perhaps including an occasional political posturing, but mostly hopeful advice and useful information. Will there be any pictures? There might be. Drawings, photographs, video and many other multimedia forms are likely to appear.

ROARSHOCK REVIEWS debuts on the 21st anniversary of another and ongoing project of mine, ROARSHOCK PAGE, which first appeared with Volume 0, Number 0 on December 24, 1998. While RP has always been confined within its physical limitations (a single double sided 8 1/2” x 11” piece of paper) and has evolved into a consistent format, no such constricted space or set presentation exists for RR.

Thanks for your attention to this Introduction. As always, voluntary donations are gratefully accepted. The first review will be along soon. Please stay tuned.

P.S. Happy 109
th Birthday to Fritz Leiber, friend and ancestor. Born in Chicago on December 24, 1910.

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