1988. “Guatemala” Pete Sears. Human rights video produced by Pete Sears & Watchfire Productions.

 

From the album,

1988. “Watch­fire” album. Pete Sears & Friends

With Jer­ry Garcia​, Mick­ey Hart, Mimi Fari­na, David​ Gris­man, Hol­ly Near, Kit­ty Beethoven and many oth­ers. Jean­nette wrote most of the lyrics. All the songs are about human rights, envi­ron­men­tal and peace issues.
I record­ed it 180 degrees from the way “Star­ship”, which I had just left, record­ed their albums dur­ing the mid 1980’s. I used many unusu­al acoustic and elec­tric instru­ments and record­ed as much live in the stu­dio as pos­si­ble.
We didn’t use click tracks or sequencers. I even brought in a twen­ty piece Slav­ic Men’s Choir.
Baba Olatun­ji and his African drum­mers joined me, Mick­ey Hart and Jer­ry Gar­cia on the song “One More Innocent”…the one that “Star­ship” refused to put on “Knee Deep In The Hoopla” because they felt it wasn’t com­mer­cial enough.
Sure enough “Watch­fire” received no AM Radio air­play and didn’t sell a lot of records, but it did receive over­whelm­ing crit­i­cal acclaim.
Jean­nette and I also formed a non-prof­it video pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny with Emmy Award win­ning doc­u­men­tary film direc­tor Ray Telles…we used David Brower’s “Earth Island Insti­tute” for their non-prof­it sta­tus. We pro­duced a music video using the song “Guatemala” from the album and sent free copies around the world to human rights orga­ni­za­tions try­ing to spread aware­ness of the geno­cide of the Mayan peo­ple in Guatemala.
The film uses footage shot in the stu­dio with me, David Gris­man, and Enrique “Quique” Cruz, mixed in with video and film tak­en of actu­al human rights abus­es in Guatemala. The video was fund­ed large­ly by Jer­ry Gar­cia and was played on the Cana­di­an MTV “Much Music”.
MTV USA’s news direc­tor came with­in three hours of air­ing it on their news pro­gram, but it was pulled at the last minute due to its con­tro­ver­sial nature.
Even though the Guatemalan civ­il war is offi­cial­ly end­ed, Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al recent­ly played it again for an event on Guatemala.
Jean­nette and I have vis­it­ed Lake Ati­t­lan many times since 1978 when the civ­il war was just begin­ning, and Jeannette’s broth­er David Glanville has since built the beau­ti­ful Posa­da de San­ti­a­go hotel. Her moth­er Bon­nie also lives in Guatemala and has writ­ten exten­sive­ly on the civ­il war of the 1980’s.

The “Watch­fire” album orig­i­nal­ly came out on “Red­wood Records” as an LP on vinyl, and as a cas­sette, but soon switched to the then brand new Com­pact Disc for­mat. Jer­ry Gar­cia lat­er had it released on “Grate­ful Dead Records”. After Jer­ry passed away and the record com­pa­ny was sold…I put it out on “Relix Records”, the same label used by the band I played with “Hot Tuna”.

Just a side note. I had Jer­ry Gar­cia and David Gris­man arrive at the same time for a ses­sion on “Watch­fire”, and they hung out togeth­er in the stu­dio kitchen at Steve Suda’s Bayview Stu­dios in Rich­mond. It had been fif­teen years since they talked, and it result­ed in the clas­sic series of “Gar­cia, Gris­man” record­ings. “Watch­fire” was also released in Chi­na, and Korea on Yeh Eum Records Co. Ltd. Approved by K.E.C.P.P. Min­istry Of Cul­ture. 1990.
My co-pro­duc­er and engi­neer on “Watch­fire” was Paul Stub­blebine.
This is also the year that I pro­duced the music and pro­cured the musi­cians for the “Sovi­et Amer­i­can Peacwalk” at the Band Shell in Gold­en Gate Park which drew 25,000 peo­ple thanks to Jer­ry Gar­cia, and Grace Slick etc agree­ing to come down. It was towards to end of the cold war…but nobody knew that yet, and a large group of Sovi­et cit­i­zens had arranged a peace and good­will walk across the USA. This was one of the con­certs.
We had a mid-after­noon cur­few. I’d asked Zero to play two songs on their own before back­ing up all the artists I’d brought down…but in true Zero fash­ion they decid­ed to do what they want­ed at the last minute and play three songs instead of two…the third being a very long instru­men­tal. I was play­ing key­boards all after­noon off to the side to co-ordi­nate peo­ple com­ing and going and I had every­thing planned down to how many songs each of the fif­teen musi­cians would get to play before we had to stop.

I couldn’t believe it as Zero launched into anoth­er long tune when I had all these singers and musi­cians wait­ing for their turn…including Jer­ry Gar­cia, Grace Slick, Mick­ey hart, and Paul Kant­ner. I thought their last song would nev­er end and I had to do some quick scram­bling while play­ing piano to reassess how long everyone’s slot would have to be.
Thanks to my Zero mates…who used to work very hard at being con­trary. I had to cut most peo­ple down to two songs each…I only cut one of Jerry’s songs as he was the main rea­son so many peo­ple had shown up. It was a fun if tense (for me any­way) after­noon nevertheless…and the over­all event orga­niz­ers (there had been many speak­ers and sev­er­al Russ­ian musi­cians who had played ear­li­er) Ron Fra­zier and Bill McCarthy and I arranged for a police escort for Jer­ry Gar­cia, Mick­ey Hart and Steve Parish so they could make a Grate­ful Dead show at the Greek in Berke­ley that night.

As well as play­ing shows for her orga­ni­za­tion, “Bread And Ros­es” Mimi Fari­na and I played a few fundrais­ers for our non-prof­it video pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny “Watch­fire Pro­duc­tions”.
We also played one mem­o­rable show on the rail­road tracks out­side Con­cord Naval base, in Cal­i­for­nia when we played a folk set for a cou­ple of hun­dred grass-roots activists. They were protest­ing US weapon’s ship­ments to the right wing mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ships of El Sal­vador. The El Sal­vado­ran gov­ern­ment was killing large num­bers of their own peo­ple who were sim­ply ask­ing for basic human rights.
We had orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed to set up a lit­tle stage on the small grass area just out­side the Naval base gates…but the mil­i­tary police had antic­i­pat­ed this and cov­ered the area with barbed wire. We end­ed up build­ing the stage on anoth­er small grassy area out­side the base at the end of some rusty old rail­road tracks in front of some trees. We used a small gen­er­a­tor for the PA. I remem­ber Mimi and me play­ing music from her albums and a few songs from my “Watch­fire” album…like “Save Some­thing For The Chil­dren”.
It was weird watch­ing this Navy fel­low stand­ing on a tow­er just inside the Naval base high fence, and video­tap­ing our entire per­for­mance. I won­der if it’s lying around in some vault somewhere…I bet they don’t throw much stuff away.
I also did a ben­e­fit show on piano with Nick Graven­ites for the Viet­nam Vet Bri­an Wil­son (not the Beach­boys fel­low) who was seri­ous­ly injured when a US weapon’s train out of Con­cord he was try­ing to stop called his bluff and ran over his legs cut­ting them both off. He lived but had to learn to walk on arti­fi­cial limbs.
I asked Jer­ry Gar­cia if he’d like to come down and join us…which he did as long as he didn’t have to sing. He had a great time just stand­ing back and play­ing blues guitar…he played great. We did all Nick’s blues songs includ­ing his clas­sic “Born In Chica­go”.
Bri­an had recov­ered suf­fi­cient­ly to attend the con­cert which also fea­tured Jack­son Brown and Ed Asner.

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