Yesterday, Grateful Dead lyricist and Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry
Barlow participated in an Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit. Barlow responded to questions on a wide range of
topics and we've rounded up six responses of note.
[Photo by Joi Ito, CC 2.0]
1. Barlow's most fond memory of working with The Dead:
I'm pretty fond of the time we were playing the football stadium and the University of
Colorado and one of those biblical Front Range thunderstorms popped over the ridge and
walked toward us on legs of lightning. The stage and sound system had been designed by
Bear to be a ""floating ground" so immediately there was St. Elmo's fire all over
Lightning struck all over around the stadium. Killed one fan. And the rain formed in this
great canopy over the band. It was about to fall and crush everybody when I and another
guy jumped up and started cutting holes in it. I got mine where the water could get to the
ground, but one of his dumped onto the stage. Suddenly the stage had 2 inches of water on
it and the band was still playing.
THEN, somebody in cutoffs came onstage with a Skilsaw, knelt down in the water and started
cutting holes in the stage while everyone around him jumped for cabinets. I don't know why
he wasn't electrocuted. Or, for that matter, why the band, which went on playing, was
2. JPB on Jerry Garcia's eating habits:
(Garcia) would have made a poor poster child for Whole Foods. But he was kind of like a
lot of us, he ate healthy food when somebody put it in front of him, and much of the time
he just at what we there. Honestly, I don't think he thought much about food. Or health
for that matter. It was the music that counted.
3. Who would win in a fight between Barlow and Hunter:
Depends on the weapon. He can, has, and always will beat the living shit out of me in
the song-writing category. No contest. The only reason he hasn't driven me to commit
ritual suicide is that I always knew that it would be a monoculture without other voices.
And I don't like mono cultures.
On the other hand, if we were competing with handguns, it would be over quickly. I'm a
very accurate shot with a S&W .357 Magnum.
4. Whether there's any deeper meaning to the words "written in the letters of your name"
in "Looks Like Rain":
Actually, I never knew where things like that came from. They would just appear in my
head. I never tried to write songs, I just tried to write them down as they arrived.
Occasionally, I had no choice and it was just work. I had to buckle down and make shit up.
But "written in the letters of your name" was just there when I reached for it.
5. Barlow on whether he attended the Dead's famed Egypt shows and what he thinks about the
current situation in the country:
I didn't go to Egypt in 78, more's the pity. I was ranching at the time and was right
in the middle of the usual panicked rush to cut, bale, and stack three thousand tons of
hay before the snow came. I hated not being there, but have since gone and spent a fair
amount of time. I was very much involved in helping keep the Internet up during the Arab
Spring blackout. I am deeply distressed, though not surprised, by the growing possibility
of a civil war. The Internet is tough on monotheism. It's filled with truths that aren't
"in the Book" as well as cultural systems that don't fit the local standards. What you see
on the streets in Egypt and many other places is a standoff between the young "natives" of
Cyberspace and the defenders of the faith. It will go on being bloody unfortunately.
6. John on the songs he's most proud of:
I wish I were more fond of my own songs, since I'm a helpless fan of Hunter's. But I'm
really grateful that they work for other folks and, in a way, it's none of my business
what people find in them. But I do have a few I'm pretty fond of: Cassidy (of course),
Looks Like Rain, I Will Take You Home, Estimated Prophet, Music Never Stopped. etc.