Welcome to MusicDayz

The world's largest online archive of date-sorted music facts, bringing day-by-day facts instantly to your fingertips.
Find out what happened on your or your friends' Birthday, Wedding Day, Anniversary or just discover fun facts in musical areas that particularly interest you.
Please take a look around.

Fact #117385


Short story:

The Grateful Dead play the first of three gigs at the Sound and Light Amphitheatre, in the shadow of The Great Pyramid in Egypt.

Full article:


Mickey Hart (drummer, Grateful Dead) : It wasn’t a “whim”, as some have described it. You don’t spend $500,000 on a whim. This was something we’d wanted to do for years. Without sounding too mystical, I’d say we felt drawn there.

Jerry Garcia (guitarist, Grateful Dead) : That was a wonderful adventure and an old fantasy of ours, to play the Great Pyramid. It totally blew my mind. For me, it was one of those before-and-after experiences. I mean, there’s my life before Egypt and my life after Egypt.

Mickey Hart : We could think of no-one better to get us there than (US rock promoter) Bill Graham… so we made placards that said BETTER SOUND, MORE TRIPS, EGYPT OR BUST, and we went to Bill’s house… It happened to be around eleven o’clock at night… We went inside, took his phones off the hook, and presented our ‘demands’. We talked until dawn.

Bill didn’t think we should go to the Middle East, because there was a war going on and somebody might get hurt. I told him “That’s why we have to go there. This is a way we can do something.” Bill didn’t see it that way … so we did it ourselves.

Jerry Garcia : We set the gigs up as a benefit, with part of the proceeds going to (Egyptian premier’s wife) Mrs Sadat’s favourite charity and par t to the Department of Antiquities in Cairo.

Nicki Scully (Dead family member) : The charter flight was outrageous. There must have been a hundred of us on it, mostly Dead family. I remember Kesey being on it … but we didn’t have the whole plane, we only had a hundred seats on it. So there’s all these other straight tourists on this plane, travelling to Egypt. I mean, there we were in International waters. We let all the rules and all the laws go, and we’re smoking up, carrying on, and having our party much to the chagrin and fear of a lot of our fellow passengers.

Larry Kelley (journalist, Rolling Stone) : Amazingly, the 110 Deadheads sailed through customs at Cairo without a single bag being searched.

Bob Weir (guitarist, Grateful Dead) : There is one government-run brewery, and you can get one brand of beer in Egypt. It’s called Stella beer. They import some beer, but it’s real hard to find.

Mickey Hart : After it was all put together, and we were in Egypt, Bill Graham decided maybe it wasn’t so dangerous after all and came on over as our guest, not as the producer.

Ken Kesey (leader, Merry Pranksters) : He was too sharp a businessman to back a dollar loser. But he shows up anyway, right on cue for the sound check.

Larry Kelley : Jerry Garcia hovered around the (Mena House) hotel in a good mood. “This should be strange enough,” he said on his way over to the Great Pyramid to oversee the miking of the five thousand year old tomb of Pharaoh Cheops, which was used as an echo chamber for the Dead’s shows.

Max Bell (journalist, NME) : The Mena, an idyllic and ornate watering hole for the rich, is not the real Egypt. The entrance is guarded against unwelcome visitors by men with Armalites.

Paul Krassner (humourist, editor of The Realist) : A dirty Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis tape served as a preliminary sound check. Later, an American general complained to stage manager Steve Parrish that a rock’n’roll band performing here was a sacrilege to 5,000 years of history. Parrish responded, “Listen, I lost two brothers in ‘Nam, and I don’t wanna hear this crap.” The general retreated in the face of those two imaginary brothers.

Harry Popick (sound crew) : It was so brutally hot that we could only work at night… I’d go to move speaker cabinets and find them melted to each other.

Mickey Hart : There were technical difficulties, and (drummer, Bill) Kreutzmann had a broken hand … we went into the concerts not running on all cylinders.

Larry Kelley : The band’s first performance … was less than spectacular musically.

Bill Graham : The Nubian drummers were playing before the Dead, in this wonderful theatre under the Sphinx. All of a sudden there was a little sound, a light melody like a bird. Jerry was standing behind his amplifier, playing along with these Egyptian rhythms. Then I heard Lesh, and the rest of the band came in…

Paul Krassner : The music began with Egyptian oudist Hamza el-Din, backed up by a group tapping out ancient rhythms on their 14” diameter tars, soon joined by Mickey Hart, a butterly with drumsticks; Then Garcia ambled on with a gentle guitar riff, then the rest of the band, and as The dead meshed with the percussion ensemble, basking in total respect of each other, Weir suddenly segued into Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away.

‘Did you see that?’ Ken Kesey said. ‘The Sphinx’s jaws just dropped!’

Bob Weir : At the beginning of the show, the Deadheads would come to the front of the stage the way they always do. After the show got going, The Egyptians got up and started moving closer, and they crowded the Deadheads out. By the end of the concert each night, the complexion of the audience had changed. It was considerably darker, and the hair was a lot curlier.

Ken Kesey : Only seven hundred tickets sold, mostly to hard-core Deadheads, government operatives and spoiled Saudis who motored over by the limo-load. Local sales were zip.

Bill Kreutzmann : Even though they didn’t understand the words, they were all out there, dancing in their robes. It was very far out to go to a country where they’ve never heard our music.

Bill Graham : After the first show, Mickey took me out horse-riding in the middle of the night … It felt like Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks riding off into the desert. Five miles out, in the middle of nowhere, we came to a tent. A waiter came out and said, ”Stella or Seven-up?”

Max Bell : In the entire five days we were there (bassist, Phil) Lesh could be found as a permanent fixture on a bar stool, him and his girl Debra Kashmir, and liberal quantities of Egyptian Stella beer. He drank so much you figured he was changing his name to Lush.

Larry Kelley : Before the second concert, a Merry Prankster named George climbed up the Great Pyramid to plant a Dead banner at the top.

Bernie Bildman (Dead family member) : They made me climb up first so I could film everyone coming up. Once we were all up at the top, they had to climb all the way up to the tippy-top of this pole - a piece of wood with two or three struts, the thing was probably 10 or 12 feet high…

Max Bell : Garcia’s room is on the top floor of the Mena House, overlooking the Great Pyramid … We’re looking at the summit, where a tiny figure can be seen shinning up the spike. This is George Walker, one of the maddest Pranksters. He seems to slip, but rights his balance without risking the 481 foot fall. Garcia, looking through a telephoto lens, yells, “He’s done it! The brave fucker’s got the Grateful Dead flag up there.”

Bernie Bildman : So there was the Grateful Dead flag blowing in the wind. And it was so beautiful. At the show that night they had a big spotlight on it.

Bill Kreutzman (drummer) : They did a really cool thing for us. They closed off the Great Pyramid to everybody but our group, so we got carted around like Pharaohs for an hour or two. There was Ken Kesey, inside the Great Pyramid singing Oh Susannah! Weird shit! It was delightful…

Sue Stephens (Dead family member) : By the third night the Bedouin were riding their camels out of the desert to check us out. They watched the Deadheads doing their sungroove dance and would imitate them… they got into it. They thought this was great - smoke some hash, dance and everything. The Egyptians were real game for a party.

Paul Krassner : Just before the Dead traipsed on stage that night, I had a feeling … that I was somehow involved in a lesson. It was as though the secret of the Grateful Dead would finally be revealed to me, if only I paid proper attention. And then it happened: “Remember,” I overheard Garcia instruct the band, “play in tune.”

Larry Kelley : The Dead’s third night was their best. Playing during a lunar eclipse, the band opened the first set with Bertha …

Max Bell : Bertha flows into Good Lovin’ and the sounds echo an unearthly resonance through cataracts of stone and timeless tunnels. Transfixing.

Paul Krassner : The music was so powerful that the only way to go was ecstasy. I came out of my closet and danced.

Max Bell : Owsley is proud of the Dead this night. The Merry Pranksters are going apeshit side stage. Chuck Kesey passes a pipe to Ken, who puts down his harmonica and his army of tapes and Super 16mm hand-held camera arsenal and plugs himself into the PA.

Larry Kelley : Kesey and his Pranksters set off rockets and started taunting the Egyptians in the crowd with chants of “Bakshish, bakshish”, a phrase used by Egyptian beggars which, loosely translated, means, “Tip me, rich Yankee.”

Max Bell : Girls with flowers in their hair scream and topple off their seats.

Bob Weir : It was so surreal that I wouldn’t even try to describe what went through my mind.

Bill Graham (promoter) : I’ve never danced in public before. I was never relaxed in front of a crowd. But the third night was one of the great experiences of my life - dancing to Sugar Magnolia in front of the Great Pyramid. In my old age, if I remember major events in my life, this will be one of them.

Mickey Hart (drummer) : On the last of the three nights we played, he (Bill Graham) rented forty horses and forty camels. And when we got off the stage, we all got onto camels and horses and rode out into the desert to an oasis.

Bill Graham : I took the entire group back out to that tent.

Mountain Girl : It was a full moon and we had just about everyone - at least a hundred people. I remember Graham and Mickey led the procession with Mickey on his fabulous white horse.

Max Bell : I slipped off down a scree and lit up in peace. Above me, the clinking of cans mingled with the exhalations of myriad hash receptacles… beneath me, Weir, Krassner, Hart et al are racing steeds over the dunes.

Mickey Hart : We had tray races around the desert, drinking beers, and Bill enjoyed it with us.

Bill Graham : We had breakfast and watched the sun rise.

Bob Weir : After we got back, we got reports and documents showing what had been done with the funds we raised. Madame Sadat’s children’s charity benefitted, and a lot of money went to build soccer fields for kids in the little villages along the Nile.