Jerry Moore, one of the pioneers of Grateful Dead concert taping and a co-founder of Relix magazine, interviewed in New York City in January of 2008.
Jerry Moore: I was born in Ireland but I’ve been here in New York most of my life. I got into the taping world kind of ass backwards, because there was no taping world at that time. I was in high school. This is about 1971, and one of my friends brought in a Grateful Dead bootleg album. I’ve never seen such a thing before. I asked, “where did you get this artifact?” He said he’d been walking around Sheridan Square and there was some guy walking around with an armload of these things. I said, “Cool. I’m gonna go get me one of those,” except I couldn’t. I never saw that guy. Believe me, I haunted that neighborhood, too, looking for him. I’ve never been good at dealing with frustration, so somehow or other this eventually led to my making my own…. What there was of it wasn’t very good quality, and one thing led to another. If you want to get it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.
I had seen [the Grateful Dead] a couple of times at that point. I got into them more as time went by. Some time like maybe mid-’72, I was pretty well hooked. The first Roosevelt Stadium show [9/19/72] was the one for me. After that, there was no looking back.
David Gans: Can you describe what it was about the Grateful Dead that became so compelling?
Jerry Moore: If I could describe it, it probably would have been less compelling. It’s just everything about it. It sounds so trite, and it’s been said by a hundred thousand people, but it’s just the scene. The music was great. Sometimes, it wasn’t. There was a social scene about it, though how that came about I’ll never know. It just sort of seemed to fall together around me, and I guess a lot of other people too. It was just a good feeling. You’d see the same people, and you’d just have a hell of a time. It was just like any social scene anywhere else, but there was something really different about it, but to this day, I can’t put my finger on it. And it’s not that I’m bad with words. I can put my fingers on a lot of things. I can describe a lot of things. I can’t really describe what it was about the Grateful Dead. I could describe aspects of it. I can’t describe the whole thing, I just can’t.
The music was great. It flowed, it stopped, it started, it staggered. It went interesting places. It could surprise you, which a lot of music doesn’t. I’m into a lot of what I consider really good music, and some of it it is wonderful, but it’s usually a little more predictable than the Grateful Dead were. It’s not that they’re not predictable, too, or haven’t been predictable, but… sometimes they’ll throw you for a loop.
I eventually began taping them. My first efforts didn’t turn out very well, to say the least. By the middle of 1973, they were OK.
I’m not even going to describe the failed experiments, but the first ones I made that turned out okay were with a Sony 110, mono portable cassette machine, and an AKG D1000E [mic]. For a while I carried around an Atlas mic stand – the old cast iron ones. I held that up at chest level with the boom, for hours.
DG: In those days, you had to sneak your stuff in, and you had to keep an eye out for the ushers and sometimes the road crew, right?
Jerry Moore: You had to keep an eye for everybody. Even the environment itself is kind of unpredictable. Random audience members could do some really erratic things, even without active opposition. But yeah, there’s is myth – God bless ’em, it’s not a total myth – that the Grateful Dead encouraged taping. This is a crock of hooey, because they totally did not encourage taping – at least not in the early days. They tried their best to stop it.
They basically lost the war. I guess it’s embarrassing to say, “Oh well, we tried to stop it. We couldn’t do it. We surrendered.” So the party line sort of changed over the years, to “Yeah, yeah, we’re all for it.” It’s a great deal for them. They should have been all for it earlier, because I think it’s probably what made them what they were. I mean, the music made them what they were, and that whole other scene made them what they were. But what blew the thing into mammoth proportions was all the tapers.
We formed this sort of network. It was small at the beginning… At first it was like a couple of us, then there was like a dozen of us, a couple of hundred of us. And then there were a couple of thousand of us.
DG: You started the Free Underground Tape Exchange, right? And you started Relix with Les Kippel.
Jerry Moore: I’d known Les Kippel for about a year or two by this point. And the phone rings and it’s Les. He says, “Hey, we’ve been doing this tape thing for a long time now, right?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “It’s time we made some money at it.” I said, “Les, how do we do that? That’s illegal.” He said, “We’re going to start a magazine.” I said, “That sounds like fun.” We did start a magazine, and I had fun, and Les made money. It’s the truth.
We started that in late ’73 or early ’74. There weren’t many people in the taping world. I met Les through a guy named Glenn Finley in Boulder, Colorado, who as it turned out knew Cary Wolfson, who knew Pat Lee, who knew this one, who knew that one, who knew the other one. And I met Louis Falanga under the George Washington bridge, as the Hell’s Angels boat ride sailed around out there. You couldn’t hear Garcia.
DG: You were down there trying to hear Jerry?
JM: Yeah. Fortunately, I had tickets to the New Riders that night because you couldn’t hear [Jerry] worth a damn. I was walking around with a microphone. A couple of Hell’s Angels asked me if I wanted to get on – they thought I was with the film crew or something. They wanted me to get in a speedboat – they’re going to give me a ride out to the boat.I passed on the offer. What if they figured out that I’m there under a false pretenses? What are the possibilities there?
TO BE CONTINUED in the next issue.