Interview: Solving rock and roll puzzles with Debbie Gold of Rediscover Jigsaw Puzzles

With so much of our life’s activities spent playing virtual games, it’s refreshing to know that gaming still exists in real time and real life. This is where XPN member and business woman Debbie Gold comes in. Gold is the founder and owner of Gold Standard Games, a company that released the highly successful Grateful Deadopoly in 2009. Following up on Deadopoly, Gold just launched Rediscover Puzzles, the first volume in a series of classic album cover jigsaw puzzles. That’s right: good old fashioned, old school jigsaw puzzles; and these are cool. The concept is simple: take both sides of an iconic album cover and turn them into high quality, double sided, 300 piece, 16″ X 16″ sized puzzles. For the first volume, Gold nailed some pretty heavy classics including David Bowie’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Late For The Sky by Jackson Browne, the Grateful Dead’s Aoxomoxoa, At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love, Bob Dylan’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones.

Gold is an uber music fan who has been in music business for many years. She produced Bob Dylan’s 1992 album Good As I Been To You and has worked closely with the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen. Born in Mt. Airy, she spent her young teen years in Wyncote and went to Cheltenham High School. Two years into college, her life took a quick turn into the deep ends of rock and roll and the music business. The Key caught up with Gold via e-mail.

The Key: How did you get in to the music biz?
Debbie Gold (DG): As a kid, I was very passionate about music. I just had to be around it any way I could. When I was 14, I started working at Jerry’s Records (a record store in Philadelphia) on weekends and then summers. After 2 years of college, where I had a record co-op on the campus, I got a job at the Tower Theatre. In just 3 months there, I worked on many shows including Jackson Browne, David Bowie and then a Jerry Garcia / Merl Saunders show. Garcia and his management thought I did a great job with promotions for that show. The next morning, they bought me a plane ticket, offered me a job, a raise, and a place to live in Stinson Beach. I wondered, “How am I going to tell my parents that I am going to San Francisco to work for the Grateful Dead?” But 2 weeks later, off I went.

TH: Speaking of the Dead, you created Grateful Dead Opoly a few years ago. How did that happen?
DG: It was a crazy idea that just came to me one night. But after it sunk in the first thing I did was go see Bob Weir. I thought he would laugh it off, but he said, “I love it!” And I knew I had to do it. I developed the majority of the early stage plans for the game at Weir’s house in Marin County and in Philly. I flew many times to California and got Steve Parish – who worked with the Dead for years as a roadie and was a close friend and one time manager of Jerry’s – involved. We’d sit around all day and Weir & Parish would tell story after story. We figured out a lot of the game there, together. We discussed strategy and what the pieces could be. I wanted to get things in the game that you couldn’t find out anywhere else, I wanted it to be authentic. I hired Tim Truman, the legendary comic book artist who, as luck would have it, lives in Lancaster. His sense of humor and understanding of the Dead was a huge part of this – and of course his brilliant illustrations. When I brought Weir the finished game, he was amazed because he couldn’t believe the detail that came from those early seeds we planted.

TK: Did you play the game with any of them when it was done?
DG: Weir and John Perry Barlow did. The first time we tested the game was at Weir’s house and he beat us all.

TK: You worked with the “big three” – Springsteen, Dylan and The Dead over the years. What did you do?
DG: I worked with Jerry Garcia in management, booking tours and on the road. Jerry and I were great friends. He was so warm, brilliant, funny, and incredibly articulate on virtually any subject. He always treated me like a kid sister and I became part of the Dead’s extended family. Bruce I met at The Record Plant while Darkness On The Edge Of Town was being mixed. Shortly thereafter, Jon Landau hired me and I was lucky enough to be a part of the Darkness tour. This was a very exciting time to be around Bruce. We did 181 shows on that tour and he was breaking huge. His energy and enthusiasm were quite contagious. Bruce was always excited to get onstage. Then, after playing at least 3 hours, he made sure – with my help – that he chatted with each local rep, DJ, music writer and many fans every single night after the show. Everyone involved – band, crew, management, record company – was thrilled to be there. We were on a mission. We all bonded and to this day, I am sure that all would agree — it was one of the most remarkable tours ever.

The first record I worked with Dylan on was Shot Of Love in 1981. From the beginning and through the years the fact that I was always honest with him was the reason that we worked well together. That may sound simple, but when you are Bob Dylan, you don’t always hear the truth from people around you. Most of them are looking for approval, afraid of losing their jobs, or have an agenda. I worked on many albums, tours and projects with Bob. He knew he could always count on me to give an honest opinion – and although that could sometimes cause short term problems, he trusted me and that is the basis of our long term working relationship and friendship.

TK: After Dead Oppoly you hit on a new concept, the puzzles. Why puzzles?
DG: I immersed myself in the toy and game biz. Toy Fair became like my SXSW. I could see there were a lot of puzzles, but nothing really cool. Puzzles seemed to me to be an obvious way to celebrate the art of rock n roll album covers, which I felt was missing from today’s culture. Diminished with CD’s and hard to find in this digital world, we miss our album covers. I made the puzzles double sided because the back cover with track list was equally important to the whole experience. I think these iconic covers are some of the best 20th century art we have, so it’s nice to bring them back. When we think of our favorite records it’s a visual memory as well as an aural one. Kids are embracing classic rock in a big way as well.

TK: Was there an album cover you really wanted to get the licensing for and they just said “no way”?
DG: The one I had my heart set on was Bitches Brew, by Miles Davis. Although I had the total approval of Miles Davis’ estate and approval from Sony, I wasn’t able to get approval from the estate of artist Mati Klarwein, who created beautiful cover. It’s a stunning piece of art and I’m hopeful one day they will come around.

You definitely want to consider these for your holiday shopping this year. Go here to purchase the puzzles.