December 27th, 1967: After many weeks of fruitless and often shambolic recording sessions in studios on both the west and east coasts of the U.S., Warner Bros. Records executive Joe Smith writes a very stern letter to co-manager of the Grateful Dead, Danny Rifkin. In it, he informs Rifkin of the band’s frustrating lack of progress and unprofessional attitude during recording of their sophomore album, Anthem of the Sun; even going so far as to label it “the most unreasonable project with which we have ever involved ourselves.”
Producer David Hassinger did soon quit the project – apparently the final straw was a request by guitarist Bob Weir to create the illusion of “thick air” in the recording studio – and the album was eventually released in July of ’68.
Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Grateful Dead.
WARNER BROS. RECORDS, INC.
December 27, 1967
Mr. Danny Rifkin
710 Ashbury Street
San Francisco, California
Dave Hassinger is back from his New York trip and the tapes are being sent from New York. We plan to release the LP in February and must have all art work in her almost immediately. There is no time for delays or indecision as we must have the package on the market as quickly as possible.
The recording in New York turned out to be very difficult. Lack of preparation, direction and cooperation from the very beginning have made this album the most unreasonable project with which we have ever involved ourselves.
Your group has many problems, it would appear, and I would believe that Hassinger has no further interest or desire to work with them under conditions similar to this last fiasco. It’s apparent that nobody in your organization has enough influence over Phil Lesh to evoke anything resembling normal behaviour. You are now branded as an undesirable group in almost every recording studio in Los Angeles. I haven’t got all the New York reports in as yet, but the guys ran through engineers like a steamroller.
It all adds up to a lack of professionalism. The Grateful Dead is not one of the top acts in the business as yet. With their attitudes and their inability to take care of business when it’s time to do so would lead us to believe that they never will be truly important. No matter how talented your group is, they’re going to have to put something of themselves into the business before they go anywhere.
Recording dates have been firmly fixed for January 3rd and two days thereafter. We expect that you will be on hand to complete this drawn out project and get the art work going. Your artistic control is subject to reasonable restrictions and I believe that the time and expense involved along with your own freedom has been more than reasonable. Now let’s get the album out on the streets without anymore fun and games.
Joseph B. Smith
cc: Brian Rohan