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Friday, July 13, 2007


There was a bit of a tumult recently over at Newcritics when Jason picked the Grateful Dead as America's greatest Rock Band, maybe it was Rock n Roll Band - whatever. It was the 4th of July, and Jason was trying to say something about the Americaness of the Dead, through the songwriting, and the......well, I'm not sure, I never read his entire post. Mostly I just wanted to see what everybody else was gonna say.

I knew that his premise was faulty because Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are America's greatest Rock Band, or Rock n Roll Band, again - whatever.

But I do like the Dead.

Here's where Tony grabs his chest and starts moaning.

Much like the Giants, I sort of had to like the Dead. It was either that or be an outcast.

My brother Rod has successfully turned me onto a lot of great music, and with the exception of that Creed period he went through, I've always looked to him as an arbiter of taste.

The Dead was a challenge though, much more so than the Giants.

I did not want to like the Dead.

If you choose to not like the Dead, you have a goodly amount of ammunition. Let's face it, there's a big 'point and laugh' factor.

First: they are a bunch of dirty hippies.

Seriously. The worst sort of non-accountable smelly burn outs.

Then there's Jerry's voice. Now, I'm an accepting guy. Hell, some of my favorite vocalists have questionable voices: Warren Zevon, Keith Richards, Geddy Lee. Jerry, however, lacks sack. There's nothing coming from below, that menacing place, the place where the mojo comes from. No soul.

The same is true of his guitar playing; constant running up and down scales, no emotion - NO BENDS!

There is no good reason to have two drummers, both playing a kit. This is law.

Why is Phil Lesh never playing the same song as the rest of the band?

What's up with the Spinal Tap like keyboardist curse? How has Bruce Hornsby managed to survive?

How come I can't hear Bobby's guitar?

Having said all that, I do like the Dead. I like the songs. Well, I like a lot of the songs.

Everyone who has to defend the Dead musically ends up referring to two records. 'Workingman's Dead', and 'American Beauty'. Both good records.

I like 'Terrapin Station'.

I always gotta be different.

So, anyway, how's that for a back-handed compliment?

I will of course, take a listen and see if, once again, I can find the magic that you speak of (just picked them up at Amazon). I wonder if Jason ever got around to picking up one of the first four Aerosmith records?

BTW... After all the hoopla at Newcritics over this, I did recall a Garcia moment that impressed me. I was flipping channels years ago and a PBS show popped up and it was some docu being narrated by a banjo player of note (name escapes me). He had cronicled some sessions with him and Garcia that culminated into a concert that I thought was pretty good. Some of the other Deader's joined the live performance and as is their thing "Deaditized" the tunes, but not enough to spoil the more trad Bluegrass Garcia nad this banjo player were doing.
Here is my (unfortunate) opinion.
I think the Dead 'thing' was more about the culture/experience than the music. I never went to a Dead show, so I have no appreciation for the music.. The first thing a dead fan would say is "you gotta see them live to really understand" This is why the number of Dead fans has decreased so much since Jerry died.. The music wasnt really the primary draw... It was the interaction of similar-minded (read: tripping) people creating their own filthy utopia..
I worked for a guy in Carmel, CA who moved from the east coast just so he could be near Jerry...
Were the records that good?
Agreed, and in a word (or two), not really, no better than, say.....Poison?

The shows were endless fun, except the one where I attempted to not take acid, I made it half way through 'drums and space' before I headed down to the floor in search of......
i will not, can not, and shall not listen to studio dead.

i do still occasionally listen to live dead.

milkyum is spot on. it is all about the shows.

as watson said, it's the dead chicks.

they turned me on to the dead.

and the drugs too.

that is key.

I too am somewhat of a reluctant deadhead. I grew up sharing a thin wall with a deadhead and was lulled to sleep over and over to Workingman's Dead and American Beauty,et al. It was in the same manner that I grew to love Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen... but they were much easier for a sleepy child to appreciate because the words were alot more accessible. The Grateful Dead's words were so far apart. So I grew up to have a lot of Dead songs in my subconscious but not really knowing any of their names. Now I am living with another deadhead and have developed an actual appreciation but my initial impression persists. I find myself at Dead shows and other jamband shows hoping above all hopes that someone would just SING something. I'm something of a jamband devotee who can't stand jamming... Particularly Phil Lesh's jamming. I can agree with Jackson on almost all points. Drums in Space is too much for anyone to endure. I'm sure even the wharf rats need something to get them through. By the way, I can't get the image out of my head of Jackson desperately trying to score, having been driven out of his mind by incessant percussional masturbation, and ending up either a. getting ripped off or b. thinking he got ripped off only to find that everything kicks in while he's driving home. Why are the yellow lines bleeding? But the one statement that I find way off-base, perhaps even offensive, is that Jerry's voice got no soul. I was just listening to Brokedown Palace and trying to find a version of Peggy O just to dispel your blasphemy from my mind. I guess I know what you mean... you wouldn't want to hear him try and belt out O'Holy Night but I love Jerry's mournful, breakable, unassuming voice. He cuts right through me and I miss it. There's a moment in Festival Express when assorted musical characters finish up a song and for no apparent reason, Jerry professes his undying love to Janis Joplin saying something like 'Janis, I've loved you since the first time I laid eyes on you." The man's got soul. Maybe you gotta be a chick to hear it.

Scenerio 2, driving home...

I guess Jerry's soul is a chick thing too...
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