Rex Jackson and Mark ‘Sparky’ Raizene setting up in the Chateau grounds, June 21, 1971

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Herouville or Bust

“Got a passport? Wanna go to Paris? We need you to speak French!’ With these words Jon McIntire roused me out of my lethargy in Alembic’s windowless garage office one Wednesday in 1971. “Day after tomorrow — we’ll be gone five days — you and I will go ahead of the band — I’ll explain on the plane!’

This began an obscure adventure remembered thus:

The sight of the proposed music festival was a minor dude ranch outside of Paris with a full Hollywood-style western street where we had a beer at the functioning saloon.

When the equipment arrived at Orly, no truck had been arranged and I was left alone, on a week-end, with a wad of money and a couple of local schleppers, to find a truck to rent and get the equipment to a location 65 kilometers away.

The festival was rained out and the band, having come so far to play music, could only pace the halls of their lodgings, the 17th century Chateau d’Herouville, while the storm howled.

There was a glorious springtime visit to the Eiffel Tower with some of the band and crew — even there and even then, a wild-haired guy from Mill Valley came up to Jerry with a “Hey man, far out!”

At a nighttime gig on the lawn of the Chateau, lit by a news crew’s lights, the Dead played to the mystified but game local villagers and a handful of Parisian media, the only option to returning home without playing a lick.

After four fairly sleep-less nights, we were back at the airport; an hour to flight time and the equipment was on the plane but we weren’t — our tickets were held hostage waiting for some freight document. Fifteen minutes before departure, still no document and I was surrounded by six supervisors representing two airlines, the airport, and the French government. All were arguing at once, the airlines over who would nab these paying customers, the government agent trying to ensure we would have time to pass through his drug checkpoint, the airport security trying to calm everyone down —while waiting 20 yards away, the guys were about to lose it completely. They just wanted to go home!

Exasperated from an hour of harassment, I picked on the stubborn official who was holding the tickets and shouted over the din in French, “Monsieur, look at those guys over there (the band). I can’t say WHAT they’ll do if they don’t get on SOME airplane immediately. Do YOU want to be PERSONALLY responsible for an international incident, right here and right now?” The gentleman looked over, and the guys, ready to explode anyway, picked up on my cue. One or two gave the well known American one-digit salutation while roaring like lions, and the rest merely projected visions of Hell to Pay — the poor man broke down completely and weakly handed me back the boarding passes. A sprint through the airport, a token stop at a security check, and we collapsed in our seats on the plane with our equipment riding below.

The next day was a Wednesday, one week after Jon’s call. I sat at my desk at Alembic, business as usual, wondering if I’d dreamed up the whole thing.
— Rosie McGee

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Louis XIV gave lavish parties in the gardens of Versailles where the great classical musicians in fashion at the time came to play their music while glitzy fountains blossomed in light shows. In the woods, the guests exchanged their chronic blennoragies (gonorrhrea) artlessly. It happened that Procol Harum came to jam with Wolfgang Amadeus, and I clearly remember: one evening a large skinny and curly black sow caused an indescribable panic among the large orchestra of Richard Wagner.

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I fell in over here people even want to buy my pictures (until they see the prices). I got a letter from London yesterday (The Collettes) everything seems as I expected. I go back to Switz. this week to see Dr. Leary who I hear is in jail there. Money is scarce & I’m enjoying that, since I got a new American Express card through my Geneva office (they really go for the Okie Doak here. I just love it. I’ll call you guys collect after I see Timothy. love
(Ron) Rakow

Photo: Bobby – Rosie McGee