In March of 1981 I landed in London on tour with the band that my dad, Bill, was a founding member of, the Grateful Dead. The Dead were in England to play a four night run at the Rainbow Theatre as part of a short European trip. That came about because Pete Townshend had phoned Jerry Garcia and asked the band to play with The Who on a German television show called Rockpalast.
As odd as the pairing of these two 60s bands seemed, they had worked together before and the groups had a respect for each other, particularly Townshend and Garcia, who seemed to be two sides of the same 60s rock legend coin.
As the Rockpalast show neared the old stories started coming out. The Who and the Dead first met in 1967 when they both played at the Monterey Pop Festival. The Dead had the misfortune of having to go on between The Who and Jimi Hendrix!
In a 1994 interview Jerry Garcia recalls meeting The Who at Monterey:
We were scheduled to go on after The Who. They had been out at our motel all the previous night trying to get Pigpen (original Dead member) to come out. 'Cause they’d heard about Pigpen and they wanted to party with the Pig. He wasn’t having any, he wasn’t opening the door for no English guys. Anyway, we’d heard a little about The Who by reputation but we had no idea what their act was like. So we’re standing there watchin’ and their music is good, they’re playing solid and Daltrey’s singing good. Then they do ‘My Generation’ and do their destructo routine. We didn’t realize they’d made an art of blowing shit up. It wasn’t just something they did, they were good at it. So we’re standing there amidst the debris and smoke and it’s time for us to go on. I don’t think anybody even saw us, they were still recovering from The Who. So we went on and played our set and then Jimi came on and just annihilated the place and then he destroyed all his shit, too. We might as well not have been there.
By the time 1976 rolled around both bands had achieved the unthinkable and remained together as groups, working night after night on the road since the mid-sixties. The two Day On The Green shows, put on by Bill Graham, were my first introduction to The Who.
Even though I was only 7 years of age I already had a frightful impression of these crazy hotel wreckers from England. My dad had to pull me from behind his leg, which I’d been using to hide behind, in order to introduce me to Keith Moon. To my surprise he seemed very sweet as he bent down so he could shake my hand and say hello. In the dressing room the two bands traded war stories. The Dead’s other guitarist Bob Weir asked Moon if it was true that he had driven a Rolls Royce into a swimming pool and Keith said “If you’ve got it, sink it.”