In 1972, the Dead toured Europe; they brought Pigpen with them. In 1974, they went back with Ned Lagin. That’s a better metaphor than I could ever dream up. “Taking Ned Lagin to Europe” should be a folksy way of saying that your own actions have ensured your doom.
As pernicious an influence Ned Lagin was on Phil and the rest of them, this bit of weirdness excised from Dick’s Pick 7, 9/11/74 from the Alexandra Palace in London, is worth the listen: Garcia and the rest of them come out and lay down a solid hour of insect/incest terror fuckbombs and also a Chuck Berry Tune.
The European tour from 1974 was almost completely a debacle, so debauched that even Long Strange Trip, which is R-rated, had to glance over the assuredly NC-17 truth.
And not hot and sexy NC-17. Like Bad Lieutenant type shit. You want to know what the Europe ’74 was? Picture Harvey Keitel masturbating onto your neck, forever.
The jaunt was a bad idea in the first place: they were exhausted from 14 months straight of touring; taking the Wall of Sound somewhere there’s a border every 85 feet is just ludicrous; and, Billy–for all of our jokes–might have gone feral by this point.
Since debuting the proto-Wall in February of ’73 until that summer of ’74, they had played 114 shows. 28 states. The longest they had gone between performances was 20 days. The Wall eventually grew to 65 tons and required a crew of 21 men to build and tear down.
Did you look up any of that?
No. But those numbers sound ballpark, right?
But the boys (and Mrs. Donna Jean) were entranced by some rich lunatic with a giant sack of drugs. This is not their fault, as it was apparently in the band’s founding charter, as witnessed in Bear’s constant Professor Bunson Honeydew-like presence.
So they went to London, Paris, Munich. With the Wall. In 1974, taking a piece of equipment larger than a toaster for the stated purpose of doing business required–this is not a joke–that at no less than three points in the process, an official affix his seal to the documents via wax, a candle, and an ancient ring bequeathed to him by his ancestors.
From the accounts I can triangulate in the usual sources (McNally, Scully, Random Dudes on the Internet), the band was passed from one international drug smuggling lunatic to another across the continent: they were hairy versions of the half-naked Chinese kid with the firecrackers from Boogie Nights.
There was so much cocaine that a ritual burning of the stashes was forced, except there was a basic problem with the thinking. The thing about cocaine is this: it may be tough, occasionally, to get cocaine. It is never tough to get more cocaine. More cocaine is the easiest damn thing in the world to find.
Munich was the nadir, or more appropriately, the ScheissenKonzertenSchnitzel. Billy got lost, and scared, and he hated Europe; he didn’t like punching uncircumcised dicks. Call him a phallic jingoist, but he liked a smooth shaft. He also found the bruising was more uniform, and thus healed quicker. Billy cared about the dicks he punched. Why else would he punch them. It made Billy sad that no one understood that the first step in punching dicks…is reaching out.
So, long story short, yadda yadda, blah blah: Billy nearly starts a riot and throws a moped through a department store’s window. This incident even makes it to Long Strange Trip.
Billy throwing a moped through a window in a foreign capital is the thing that they ADMIT. Think of the shit they’re keeping from you that is–as a loyal Enthusiast–your BIRTHRIGHT. We must storm the castles of UC Santa Cruz! That’s in Los Angeles, right?