Monday, April 24, 2006

Have I Been Wrong All These Years?

For as long as I can remember, I've been an anti-DeadHead. I probably wouldn't have given it too much more thought, but for a comment by rabidt in which he (shockingly) admitted to having heard and enjoyed some Grateful Dead music. Now, this was a revelation. And, it was a revelation from an individual who has a loooong history of revealing great music to me.

So, I was spurred to some introspection. If I were ever going to listen to some Dead without merely dismissing it out of hand, I would have to get past some preconceived notions. I would have to look at the reasons why I didn't like the Grateful Dead:

1) The stuff I'd heard on classic rock radio sucked. I'm sorry, people, but "Truckin" is as bad a song as I can imagine, especially relative to the level of hype and airplay it has received over the years. "Casey Jones" is a bit better. But, take out the lyrics "high on cocaine", and it probably wouldn't have attracted as much attention as it has. "Uncle John's Band" is a song I find repetitious and boring. "Sugar Magnolia" never did anything for me.

2) DeadHeads are annoying. Admittedly, this was based on anecdotal evidence, mainly second-hand stories at that. Perhaps it would be more accurately stated that "DeadHeads" as a concept were annoying. I mean, a bunch of dirty, ratty, left-over hippies following a band around the country, getting high, shitting in the woods, selling burritos in the parking lot for a "living" didn't really appeal to me. I was raised in a somewhat conservative household, after all.

3) I was lead to believe that hallucinogenic drugs were a prerequisite. The title of this blog indicates my tendency to "hallucinate". However, I assure you it's not drug-related. I've never tried anything "harder" than pot, and that was decades ago. Hell, I hardly ever even drink beer any more. My "hallucinations" are usually the result of too-quick formations of opinions. If LSD was necessary, I wasn't interested.

So, here's what I did. First, I said, I love the Rolling Stones. And, I know they recorded more songs than "Brown Sugar", "Bitch", "Beast of Burden", and "Miss You". But, I can't remember the last time I heard something else of theirs on the radio. Perhaps judging a band with the longevity of the Dead based solely on a handful of songs from a couple of albums (Workingman's Dead and American Beauty) that were released in the same year (1970) isn't the right way to go.

Secondly, I paused to recall that I no longer subscribe to the theory of judging artists by their fans. I gave that up long ago, except for two cases: The Dead and Jimmy Buffet. I figured I wasn't quite ready for Buffet yet, but I'd try the Dead. Finally, I resolved that if it couldn't be heard sober, then I could legitimately say it still sucked.

So, I searched the net this weekend, and found the Aquarium Drunkard had posted a Dead show from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, May 8, 1977. Use the link, and then the 2006/04 Archives. The post is from 4-15-2006. You can listen to mp3 files of each song.

It's a great recording of a great concert. I'm not just saying, OK, these guys are a little better than I thought. I'm saying this is great stuff. Garcia was way, way better on guitar than I ever would've imagined. Fluid. Reminded me somewhat of late-'60s/early-'70s Carlos Santana in that respect. Of course, Santana was all about pausing to sustain a note for an impossibly long time. So, they're definitely different. But, both are/were very fluid.

I'm not going to get into it too much more. I'll just say that, once again, mainstream radio had steered me away from the right stuff. I'll also say that I've developed a theory to help keep my life from becoming any more unmanageable than it already is. My theory is that this 5-8-77 show is the absolute pinnacle of the Dead's existence. Thus, since I have captured this show on 3 CDs, I no longer need to seek out any more Dead music. (Lord only knows I cannot afford to start chasing another musical act with a seemingly infinite number of recorded shows...)


Blogger Keith Kennedy said...

I have cut you some slack on the Dead comments because you seem so right on with the rest of your musings on music.

You know, they say that you judge someone else's intellegence based on how much they agree with you........

But the Dead was a phenomenon and most people do judge things by what they hear on the radio.

I used to listen to Jimmy Buffet play in a pool hall before he ever cut a record and knew at that point that he was going to be huge one day because he was that good. But if all you ever heard was "Margaritaville", well, you didn't have the same basis for opinion that I did.

For the Dead, they were a semi-jazz jam band that was full of wonderful musicians and while I could not stand hours and hours of it, it was very refreshing compared to say an AC/DC vibe.

LSD always helps the music but it's not a prerequisite. All you need is an open mind.

I'm glad you found the can opener.

7:30 AM, April 25, 2006  
Blogger AC said...

It is really hard to believe that such a fanatic of Neil Young could have disliked the Garcia filled Dead. Especially to do it based on purely aestethic reasonings and not on the judgement of the true music. It was well done of you to go after a live show, as most fans wouldn't even scoff at one of their cds. Although I love so much of their music when they rock it out and jam better than anyone could jam during one run, I continually go back to "Ripple". It's just a beautiful song.

3:28 PM, April 25, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

"and not on the judgement of the true music"

Well, that's part of my point. The more mass-market-friendly songs played on the radio did not appeal to me. The rest of the peripheral bullshit ("DeadHeads", drug culture, etc.) became convenient excuses to not dig deeper into their music.

Hey, no one's any happier about my "conversion" than I am. I'll admit I was wrong. I just can't afford to go back now and start loading up on too much of their stuff. I don't have the time or the cash. But, I won't talk shit about 'em any more...that's for sure!

5:38 PM, April 25, 2006  
Blogger AC said...

Well, I guess that's good enough. I do have to say, I did dabble bit into the culture for a little while as well. But that was the Phish culture, a definite difference to that, but really only one letter. "H" to "Y".

4:34 PM, April 26, 2006  
Blogger AC said...

You wanna start talking about my favorite band...WEEN???

4:34 PM, April 26, 2006  

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