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Published: 1998/09/15
by Matt Iarrobino

Dick Picks the Wetlands

By now, most of us know who Dick Latvala is. He is the inspiration behind the Dick’s Picks series of releases on Grateful Dead Records and the official Tape Archivist for The Grateful Dead. On August 8th, the 3rd anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death, Dick was at The Wetlands Preserve in New York City. He spoke to the crowd that night, answering questions and engaging in discussion. VH-1 was in attendance, doing a story on Grateful Dead tape trading. I was lucky enough to be the DJ on this evening.

For most Dead fans, Dick’s Picks is just what everyone has been waiting for: superb sounding soundboard recordings of stellar Dead shows, spanning their career, officially released by The Dead. Of course, there was One From The Vault, Two From the Vault, Hundred Year Hall, Live Dead, Dozin at the Knick, Europe ’72, etc. Dick’s Picks, however, represents something much more special. The sound is a bit rough and unaltered, which I feel, preserves the original energy of the music played on the evening of the show. It’s more of a snapshot of a moment in time, capturing the spirit of the moment just as good as any photograph can do. A good way to hear this difference in sound is to compare 5/3 and 5/4/72 with Europe ’72. 5/3 and 5/4/72 are not Dick’s Picks shows, but two shows that made it into circulation over the past year and a half. The interesting thing is that songs from these shows were used by The Dead for the Europe ’72 album, specifically, China>Rider, Tennessee Jed, and Jack Straw. If you listen to the mixed versions on Europe ’72, there are signal processing effects added such as reverb, compression, etc. If you listen to the circulated tapes, you get the raw sound, unaltered, and full on sonic energy. Dick’s Picks are altered a bit, but still seem to capture that energy. Dick spoke to the crowd of about a hundred and fifty at The Wetlands on the seventh. He touched upon a number of subjects including taping, The Other Ones, future Dick’s Picks releases, Phish, and much more. Below is the transcription of the entire speech with comments thrown in by me.

Dick: Hi, my name is Dick Latvala, I’m the fall guy for a program of releases we do at Grateful Dead Central here called Dick’s Picks, and if you want to raise any problems with me, do it! But I’m gonna try to coax some people up here on stage that have some knowledge that’s way beyond mine, cuz’ I don’t know much of anything about this subject. But there are people here in this crowd that do know a lot about taping, and that’s sort of what we were talking about downstairs with some people down there, VH1 wanted to talk about this whole taping thing, you know. Why do people have tapes, you know? Why don’t they just settle for going into the record store and getting a CD? Well, so were addressing those issues and we could take this anywhere and um, I’ll say anywhere, take it! Ahh, and some of you might want to raise some issues. I have my own issues, I’d like to address, but I, like Steve Silberman, my boss man. This man here is famous Steve Silberman gets on stage and sits on a stool to the left of Dick and ahh, way famouser than me, and ahh, he knows something, so ahh, he wrote a book called Skeleton Key, and he has written so much great shit that I can’t even begin to account for it, so ahh, I’m honored if he’ll sit up here and talk to any questions about taping and stuff. He is a writer, a very good writer. Ah, there’s a few others out there that I might try to coax up here. I sort of want to see if any of you guys out there have anything you want to talk about, cuz, this might be superfluous, and why not just get to Border Legion where the real good are. But there are a bunch of questions we could deal with.

Audience member shouts out a question, and the crowd laughs.

*Dick: That’s a great one! Name ten shows that I think should come out in the next two years. (Steve murmurs Englishtown and the crowd cheers) Hey baby, your talking to the choir. I’ve been yelling this in Cutler and Phil’s ears for centuries and they are not willing to go with it yet.*

Steve: Is there anyone here that was at Englishtown? (Crowd cheers) All right cool!!

Dick: OK, who was?

Steve: Lots of em!

Dick: OK, OK were you there all day?

Audience Member: All day. We got there at 6:30 in the morning.

Dick: 6:30, OK. You saw The Riders, Marshall Tucker, and it was hot. Right? How long were you in the sun? How long was that though. Eight hours? Nine Hours? Ten hours? Something like that, right? OK, OK, OK, the Grateful Dead play a show that it would probably just make you come in your pants (crowd laughs). We’ll, it makes me on tape. I don’t know what it did to you guys live!

Steve: I was a little stoner kid working as a camp counselor when that concert happened, and I snuck outside of the camp with a radio, and got stoned and picked up the live broadcast in the middle of this field in the Berkshires.

Dick: (laughs) Isn’t that good. Now wait one second! A distinguished gentlemen has arisen from the audience here, my buddy, Stu Shimmel. He does not want attention, so don’t even remember his name. You know how Jerry said, don’t tell ‘em my name. Anyway, this man is a collector of tapes, like me. If were gonna talk about collecting tapes, these guys know something about it, and I have my angle. So know, back to the questions.

Audience Member: Dick, how do you decide******. (I can’t make out the rest on the tape)

Dick: Ya, what was the question? Ya, OK, are you ready? Take out your books man, I could tell you a hundred shows I want in two weeks, or two years, whatever! Two days! However long it takes. The goal is to spread it out. You know, like, give some samples from different eras and stuff. I just have a hard time, myself personally, I’m biased, I admit, I have problems. I have to learn to accept that there were shows in 1980, ’90 even!

(It appears as though Dick is a seventies man when it comes to his favorite shows. That’s fine with me; I am too!)

Steve: ’85.

Dick: Ya, ya there are great shows there. Well, ah see, I think we need to examine the ah, the reason this phenomenon happened in the first place. The shows in the sixties, well, there repetitious so were not gonna dwell there. But, in a, ’72 – 73. Well, That’s about it folks, man, I’ll never leave!! But I will leave, I mean, I try once in a while. It ain’t me , you know, it ain’t just me deciding, I have to pass this through two other guys, fortunately, none are band members.

Steve: Phil doesn’t have a say?

Dick: No, no. Phil’s out of the loop. No. These guys in the band, I want to testify to, do not gave a clue about what we want, well I say we as Deadheads want. They don’t have a clue. Not a clue. OK. Getting back to Englishtown, that is a multi-track. That is in the province of Phil and John Cutler. Phil Lesh I mean and John Cutler, not Phil Cutler and John Lesh. Anyway, so, yes. Englishtown is a monster of the monsters. I cannot believe our team is not,**.if their goal is only making money, well Jesus Christ, give them the goods and make some money!*

Personally, this is disturbing to me. With you too, I imagine. I would like to think, and hope that, the guys in the Dead, this band that I constantly listen to, and whose tapes I obsessively collect, share my interest. Truth seems to be, they don’t. At least not all of them. I remember Jerry commenting once that after he plays, it’s history. But, think about it. Jerry was an artist. Any artist is extremely critical of their work, and therefore, prefers not to listen to it for fear of hearing mistakes. OK, I can deal with that. I mean, let’s face it, you can hear mistakes in many shows. Imagine if your the guy who actually wrote the music!! As far as Phil is concerned, I think what Dick is saying hear is that Phil has nothing to do with the Dick’s Picks CDs, but is involved with other releases, some of which, are multi-track. Can’t deny he had a hand in The Phil Zone and Dozin at the Knick. Whew! I feel better now.

Steve: There’s a handful of multi-tracks.

Dick: I would never go say that about 8/27/72.

Audience Member: Why don’t you do some more Pigpen stuff?

Dick: Ya, a whole release thingy, ah, like a four or six CD Pick. That’s my thought. Including things like, we’ll, Phil took a copy for The Phil Zone, but The Midnight Hour, or, or, Empty Pages or ah, you know ah, Two Souls. All those things he did a few times, you know? And in ’66, man, when I saw most of my shows, there were a million songs. So ah, Pigpen, ya, that’s a great idea. But listen, you’ve got to know man, I don’t have control over the multi-track idea. They ask me for my input sometimes, and I don’t know if anyone listens. And sometimes I have to really shake some heads about some things about it. I mean, I could tell you bad stories. But Englishtown, Yes.

Audience Member: What about The Garcia Band?

Dick: That’s not. That’s harder. Because, the situation of the will and Deborah Koons and all, there’s a complicated thing there, that I’ve been told, Dick, Shut up is what I’ve been told. Because, I tell them, go to ’73. Garcia and Merl. ’73. The hottest year in the history of our planet. We’ll, besides ’68, and ’69. Well, Besides a few other years.

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