Former Grateful Dead manager recounts music-industry experiences in new memoir

 

By Joshua Sabatini of The San Francisco Examiner


 

 

In 1970, Richard Loren first met Jerry Garcia backstage at New York City’s famed Fillmore East rock venue, where they smoked a few joints while talking about music, extraterrestrials, ancient knowledge and film. The late iconic Grateful Dead guitarist, Loren recalled, gave him some advice: Go to California.

So he did. Garcia, San Francisco’s native son, would later hire Loren to manage his side projects and ultimately, the Grateful Dead, from 1974 to 1981.

Loren, 72, came of age with the 1960s generation, during which time he managed some of rock’s biggest acts, including The Doors — he once bailed Jim Morrison out of jail — and Jefferson Airplane.

“The music that they played spoke to my soul,” Loren said during an interview with The San Francisco Examiner on Friday.

In his new rock memoir, “High Notes,” Loren tells his career story, starting with running a few tent shows for Liberace to navigating the world of the music industry for the counter-culture rock artists who had an aversion to “the suits.” He will discuss the book at 7 p.m. Tuesday at The Green Arcade bookstore, 1680 Market St.

Loren says one of his biggest accomplishments was getting the Dead to play Egypt in 1978. The genesis for the idea began years earlier when he was reading about the pyramids in the Mill Valley home of Jefferson Airplane member Marty Balin.

Some other large-scale dreams of Loren’s never materialized. He envisioned a lucrative tour with the Grateful Dead on a river boat along the Mississippi River, but when pitched to Garcia, the legendary guitarist flatly declined. After parting ways with the band, Loren partnered with an interested Garcia to make Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “The Sirens of Titan” into a film, but it never got off the ground.

“Ideas are like eyes, everybody has them. It takes more than just an idea to get anything done. You have to work it,” Loren said.

The memoir also illustrates the value of risk-taking, such as when Loren quit his cushy Agency for the Performing Arts company job in Manhattan, N.Y., early on in his career.

As for how he had such a streak of good fortune to work with some of rock’s most beloved icons, the mystery remains unanswered in the book.

“It’s a lot of me questioning why do things happen? Is it genes? Is it destiny? Is it fate? Is it the alignment of the stars? I mean what is it that makes things happen? But I could never really put my finger on it,” Loren said. “I just went for the joy of life.”

During the different times of exploration, Loren remembers, the sampling of drugs was part of the way of life. Loren was with Garcia the first time he smoked heroin provided by a Persian hash dealer in Mill Valley. For Garcia, it developed into an addiction he would struggle with for the next 20 years until his August 1995 death.

“I missed him way before he was dead. I missed him when I lost him to drugs. I can’t say I wish he didn’t take them. People have destinies. Jerry’s greatest artwork was created under the influence of opiates,” Loren said. “He learned a lot from the drugs he took. To him, psychedelics was an amazing teacher — to me, too.”

Loren has a similar outlook on Doors frontman Morrison, who died at 27.

“The guy is a shooting star. Like Jim told me, ‘I never want to live to be an old man,'” Loren recalled.

Among other career highlights, Loren writes about the energy of the times, but he said today’s times “can be looked at as being depressing.”

“Rock was more of a movement in support of the counter culture. Today, it is just more entertainment. Then, it was a catalyst for change,” Loren said, noting the ’60s anti-war efforts and fights for civil rights. “These movements united us and we thought that we could make a change. Everyone did. We thought that there was hope for a better world.”

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