Behind the scenes of The Grateful Dead’s first gig outside North America from back in 1970
The Grateful Dead’s power as a live outfit is undeniable. The band quickly carved out a rock-solid reputation as one of the finest live acts around when they burst on to the counter-culture scene that was springing up in San Francisco during the late sixties.
Soon enough the band had gathered an army of fans who would happily engage in that all-American pastime of road trips and tailgating to grab to watch their favourite band. But by end of the decade, and with the seventies beckoning, The Grateful Dead finally got out of North America and made their way across the Pond for their first overseas show, on this day 50 years ago.
Below we’re taking a look behind the scenes of that fearful day that The Grateful Dead touched down on British soil to perform for the first time for a non-American audience. Despite the lack of experience, the Dead arrived in Staffordshire in England ready to lay down some licks for the crowd at ‘The Hollywood Rock Festival’.
Despite the very cheesy name, the festival was full of stellar acts. Also appearing at the festival alongside The Grateful Dead was Free, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, Colosseum, Family, Black Sabbath and Traffic. It was a line-up the whole band were eager to join.
The footage below captures that excitement perfectly. It’s a piece of bonus material from the definitive documentary on the band’s enigmatic live career, Long Strange Trip: The Untold Story Of The Grateful Dead. Directed by Amir Bar-Lev with the help of Martin Scorsese, the doc simply has to be on your must-watch list during lockdown.
The bonus material alone is enough to get you salivating. For instance the clips below which begin with a frightfully young Bob Weir answering questions, “I gotta say, I had no idea what [the British people] would be like. … I’m looking forward to a new audience, an audience that’s never heard us before. You know, it’s a fresh reaction. Maybe something new will happen with us playing the same old stuff.”
“Don’t say a word!” cries Mickey Hart off-camera, “It’s a trick!” as the two begin to wrestle and fight with Weir trying to answer.
Weir, after breaking away from Hart, eventually answers, “Either, for instance, we go on and we know exactly what we’re gonna do ‘cus we’ve got 45 minutes and we gotta do exactly that much material and so we try to take it through as many changes as we can possibly do. Or, if it’s loose like this scene is, we decide on the spot what we’re gonna do.”
Below you can find a treasure trove of bonus material of the band sound-checking, answering questions and generally horsing around at their first-ever overseas show