Friday, June 23, 2017

Weekend Mix/ Dead Ahead

This started in the comments section of Sal's post from last week. I said (lightly edited):

"I heard "Truckin'" as a 'hit' on the radio and thought it sounded like the Beatles, specifically side two of Abbey Road. It knocked me out. The harmonies worked and I liked the stories.

"Sugar Magnolia" and "The Wheel" were included on a couple of the first "Loss Leaders" I bought. 
Later I shoplifted "Europe '72" (3 records were too much money, I haven't changed. I'm still stealing music). 
I still can't quite figure out the appeal of "Casey Jones".

Their second album, "Anthem Of The Sun" is unlike anything else and to me an interesting, but unlistenable psychedelic artifact. For awhile "Born Cross Eyed" opened the mix, because it's fun, and is two minutes long, but isn't really a song, so didn't make the final cut.

They had quite a run with "AOXOMOXOA", "Workingmans's Dead", "American Beauty" and "Grateful Dead(Skull and Roses)". Throw in "Garcia" and "Ace", with highlights from "Wake Of The Flood" and "Mars Hotel". 
They kinda lost me after that.

I saw them once in Santa Barbara, at the County Bowl. I climbed over the fence while Warren Zevon opened with "Werewolves Of London". When the Dead came on I could tell which ant was which in the distance.

Caught Jerry and Merle Saunders some time in 1973 at The Golden Bear in Huntington Beach California. It wasn't The Dead and the saxophone was too loud. 

Hold you thumb and forefinger apart the thickness of a dime, and that's how close The Grateful Dead have come to being a Weekend Mix."

"Charlie C. said...
@buzzbabyjesus: Just Do It!"

I immediately accepted the challenge.

In 1987 I was a driver on the movie "The Winter People" (with Kurt Russell, Kelly McGillis, and Lloyd Bridges). 
I drove the camera crew to and from the set. Dick Latvala was running sound. We got to talking and I expressed admiration for his other employers, The Grateful Dead. He told me that "Dick's Picks" were on the way. He was really excited about it.
Years later I bought 7 of them, used, at NYCD.

While I'm a longtime fan, I'm not a Dead Head. The live stuff just doesn't interest me. There is so much of it and it's rather repetitive. A lot of the extended jams are boring. You defintitely had to be there. 

You could just get "Workingman's Dead", and "American Beuaty", and call it a day.Those are the best artistically. Jerry's definitely in charge. In addition to guitar he plays banjo and pedal steel. (David Grisman plays mandolin).

I'm a little tired of "Uncle John's Band", "Sugar Magnolia", "Casey Jones", and "Till The Morning Comes", so losing them made room for "AOXOMOXOA", "Wake Of The Flood", and "From The Mars Hotel".

I soon realized I'd made "Cherry Garcia" which wasn't my intention, so I decided to include "live" material from "Grateful Dead"(aka Skull and Roses), because I've always liked Bob Weir's vocal on Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried", and "Wharf Rat" is a favorite that never made it to a studio album. 
Merle Saunders overdubbed the organ parts.
I can't imagine a better take, and the Dick's Picks I have bear this out. 
"Wharf Rat" was first performed at The Capitol Theater (Passaic,NJ) on February 18th, 1971. (They played it 398 times, and it was their 20th most performed song)
Both of them were recorded at Fillmore East in April 1971. 
There was a three year gap between "American Beauty" and "Wake Of The Flood", however Jerry and Bob both made solo albums, employing no one not already in the band.
During that time they toured extensively and some new songs were introduced on the road.
But it's obvious something happened which severely changed the arc of the band.
For one thing they became, in Bill Kreutzman words, addicted to the road, and the money it brought in.
Some of the acoustic material didn't adapt to the stage, and the new songs were arranged with that in mind.

Pigpen died in March 8, 1973, joining the "27 Club". 

"Bombshelter Slim said...
Of course, my bias is that they never did anything worthwhile after Pigpen passed... (well, not really, but you know what I mean)."

While Ron Pigpen McKernan was a founder and spiritual center of the band, I'm not crazy about his voice or musical contributions.

Phil Lesh said after Pigpen died it was "all showbiz".

According to drummer Bill Kreutzman, the band's use of cocaine accelerated throughout the early '70's.
Jerry started using heroin in 1974. He struggled with addiction for the rest of his life. 
He was in rehab when he died. 

Turn the cover of "From The Mars Hotel" upside down and look at it in a mirror you can see the words "Ugly Rumors" under the title.

While researching I found many forums. Here is an excerpt from one:

"There is a lost Grateful Dead album from this era. It's called Rambling Rose.
Hunter talks about it. He wanted to do a third album in the style of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, turning those two into the first parts of a trilogy. Hunter's working title for the third record was Rambling Rose. It would have been in 1972 instead of '71 but that's about the only difference. Even if you allow for all the great songs on Garcia and Ace, both released in 1972, there are still plenty of wonderful songs left over. But the Dead didn't make another studio record until 1973. Pigpen's being sick and soon dying, the desire to get out of the contract with Warner Brothers, plus great tapes coming out of the 1972 European tour, kept the band from focusing on recording Rambling Rose."

There were a lot of comments, and no one agreed on the songs or the order. I'd already made "Dead Ahead", 
but since I'd really wanted to include "The Wheel" from "Garcia", and while at it dig out my vinyl 
copy of "Ace" for "Looks Like Rain" and "Cassidy", I couldn't help taking a crack at "Rambling Rose" myself.

As a result there are two Weekend Mixes. 

Jerry Garcia died on August 1, 1995. The Grateful Dead played their last show at Soldier's Field, Chicago,
on July 1, 1995. It was number 2,318.

There are about 50 songs they played only once out of over 400. For instance they covered Hall & Oates, 
"Everytime You Go Away" at Madison Square Garden on September 24, 1988.

 My favorite song is probably "Dupree's Diamond Blues". The bluegrass and ragtime folk elements really 
prefaced "Workingman's Dead, and "American Beauty", only to be abandoned in favor of what worked best 
with electric guitars on the road.
Except for a little surface noise, I think vinyl sounds better. The version of "Playing In The Band from "Ace" is amazing. 
They'd played it live just enough to really nail it in the studio.

My band had too many people trying to play guitar. There was a vintage '50's Hammond organ no one was using 
in the room, so I took it up. I found my daughter a piano I ended up playing, but wasn't that helpful in approaching 
the organ, which is a beast, with two keyboards and bass pedals to contend with. It started to be fun after two years, and 
since then I was able to rescue a beautiful 1966 Hammond in Montlair. 
I had to replace all 15 tubes, but now it sounds wonderful.
When struggling with the instrument I found the organ parts in these Grateful Dead songs to be the most helpful in
making sense out of the thing.


Grateful Dead Tour Statistics

Full Show Beat Club 1972

Dead Ahead

Dead Ahead, too

Rambling Rose

Rambling Rose, too

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

You. Must. Watch. Him. Play. Guitar.

"Bored Civilians": Even More Lost Than The Usual Lost Record

Up until the early 2000's, I thought I knew every pop and rock record ever recorded. Even if I had never heard a note of the music, like say, the Ramatam album, I'd at least seen the record 1,000 times and could tell you a little bit about it.  Once the internet took over and thousands of records were being released each month, I gave up. I feel like I know nothing about a good portion of popular music released in the last 15 years, though I try.

So, it was a real surprise, a pleasant one at that, to come across a record called "Bored Civilians," released in 1972 in the U.K. on Decca Records, by Keith Cross and Peter Ross. Never saw it before. Never heard of it. Doing some research, I found that Keith Cross  was in a band called Bulldog Breed--never heard of them-- and was also a bit of a guitar wizard with his band T2, who also had records out in England. Never heard of them either. Some of the musicians helping Keith and Peter out on "Bored Civilians" are Richard Thompson, Jimmy Hastings, B.J. Cole, Nick Lowe and Dee Murray. What the hell?

It didn't take long for me to fall in love with this record, certainly not as long as it has taken me to decide how to describe it. There is an absolutely English folk thing going on, but on more than a few songs, the melodies and harmonies remind me of Big Star.  Musically, especially the opening track, "The Last Ocean Rider," the songs seem to dip their toes into shallow prog waters,  though nothing gets chaotic. The feel throughout is almost a laid back, Laurel Canyon thing. One track, the first video above, "Story To A Friend," almost turns into late period Steely Dan.

So to recap, "Bored Civilians" sounds like Fairport Convention, Lindisfarne, Big Star, Jackson Browne, Yes and Steely Dan. Again, what the hell?

Give it a listen and tell me what you hear.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Deep Cuts Part Three: Steely Dan

There is a bar/restaurant in Greenwich Village that I had been going to weekly since 1985. Good food, great staff and great music. One night, I'd say five or six years ago, I stopped in, sat at the bar, ordered my usual and looked at the menu. Within seconds, I was greeted by two bartenders, two waiters, the manager and a bus boy. I LOVE THIS PLACE!

"What's going on with you tonight? You by yourself?"

"Yeah. Just grabbing a bite and then I am walking up 8th Avenue to the Beacon. Going to see Steely Dan."


Lots of laughter, none if it mine.

"HEY!" (calls out to waiter) He's going to see Steely Dan!"

(more laughter)

One of the two bartenders, came out from behind the bar, yelling "They suck!" He went outside, laughing.

True story.

I never felt the same way about that bar and those people I called my friends.

Is Steely Dan universally despised the way, say, Nickelback is? Am I missing something? Sure, they are smug and occasionally stiff, but when did playing your instruments well and writing songs with enough hooks for AM radio that also have enough solos for FM radio become something to scoff. (Or actually, when did seeing them live become something to laugh at?)

I haven't heard Steely Dan the same way since that night, and I recall not enjoying the concert. But yesterday, I listened to "Pretzel Logic" and I loved every minute of it. It also didn't feel like Steely Dan as much as "Peg" feels like Steely Dan. So, with all that said, I felt like tossing out ten deep cuts for those who might enjoy hating Steely Dan.

You've got three headstarts with the videos.

The Caves Of Altamira
Green Earrings
Home At Last
Night By Night
Razor Boy
Rose Darling
Sign In Stranger

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Songs Of The Week, 2017: 6/10-6/16

International Playboy- Wilson Pickett

M'Lady- Sly & The Family Stone
Night Flight- Jeff Buckley
Heaven Tonight- Hole
Save Me- Queen
The Happening- Herb Alpert & The TJB
Prayer- Rick Springfield


Friday, June 16, 2017

Dead Bonus

Not to be confused with a Weekend Mix. That is forthcoming.

I'm a long time fan, but definitely not a Deadhead. I like the studio recordings best. A fantastic bedrock for their epic live shows.

So many of their classics were co-authored with lyricist Robert Hunter. A fine story teller, he made some solo albums, and if he were a stronger singer, might have found bigger success.
My favorite is "Keys To The Rain".

"AOXOMOXOA"(1969) is the first album I bought. I picked that one for Rick Griffin's cover, as I'd been a fan of his contributions to ZAP Comics and Surfer magazine. He is reponsible also for "Tales Of The Great Rum Runners".

Only "China Cat Sunflower" became a set staple throughout the bands career, though "St Stephen" was played until 1971 revived in 1976 and 1977. "Cosmic Charlie" was revived and played a few times in 1976.

It was recorded twice. When a new 16 track machine became available, they re-recorded the whole thing exploring all the sonic possibilites.  They thought they had to fill up all the tracks. The band spent 8 months in the studio. Putting them into deeper debt with Warner Bros. Records at a cost of $180,000 (1,175,554 in 2016).

They hit the road with a vengeance to pay it off.

1n 1971 Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh remixed the album, removing most of the experimental, extraneous sounds, creating tighter intros and fading out others, and in general making it sound less psychedelic and more like the albums that came later.

"Dark Star" is one of their most played and beloved vehicle for improvisation in their live shows. It began as a single recorded during the 8 months of  "AOXOMOXOA".

Here is a fine rip of the 2013 vinyl reissue "The Warner Bros. Studio Albums", with "Dark Star" as a bonus.

The original mix has never been on cd and is only available as part of the vinyl only box set.

My first copy was defintely the remix and not the original. I hear a lot of differences.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

My Long Strange Trip

I had one of the best record collections in the neighborhood and I had not yet turned 13. Some of my uncle's friends, all ten years older, would come over to hang with me and listen to records they didn't own themselves--King Crimson, Curtis Mayfield, The Hollies--yet, I somehow managed to escape all things Grateful Dead until I was almost 30 years old.

None of us owned any Grateful Dead records and all we knew was what WNEW-FM would play. "Uncle John's Band?" Not bad. "Truckin'?" Not good. "Casey Jones?" Horrible. That was it. From 1974-1994, I turned down endless offers to see the band live, turned off by the scene, but mostly turned off by the Deadheads I met over the years with their goddamned cassettes and proclamations, "5/8/77, maaaannnn!"

I was into harmony. The Beatles, The Left Banke, Todd Rundgren, even the Andrews Sisters. I loved groups that could really sing. I suffered through a few of those aforementioned cassettes, while being held prisoner on a weekend in Vermont, and all of it sounded so hit and miss, both musically and vocally. What the hell was this? Don't they hear themselves?!

Then it happened.

At another one of those punishing weekends in Vermont, I heard something that simply knocked me out. It was energetic, truly ass-kicking. The guitar playing was fiery. The bass and drums were relentless, deep in a pocket. The harmonies, well, it wasn't The Hollies, but they were all right! What the hell is this? "Binghampton, 5/2/70 maaaaaan!"

"Cumberland Blues," Dick's Picks Volume 8, acoustic set, 5/2/70. This is when I realized Jerry Garcia could play his guitar just like a ringin' a bell. I wanted more. (The version up top from 1972, might even be better.)

I continued over the years, slowly. I tried to avoid the places and things I knew would upset me. Anything over 10 minutes, where "they really get it together at around 7:34." Covers of anything I loved--"Dancing In The Street," "El Paso," and that gotdang "Hey Jude" from the Fillmore in '69. (When I die, and if I am in the same place as Linda McCartney, she will get an apology.) I started with the first album.

That first album is unlike anything else by The Grateful Dead, or anyone else for the matter. A garage-y, psychedelic, folk and blues gem! First time I heard "The Golden Road" I thought it was some one hit wonder on the Nuggets box. Might as well have been The Association or The Buckinghams. I was hooked.

Over the next 20 years, I became a fan. I still had my doubts about certain, beloved live performances, but I no longer flinched when someone would ask me to "put on some Dead" at my shop. I finally understood, or at least I thought I did.

I am two acts into the new Amazon documentary "Long Strange Trip." That's only about 95 minutes of film, and I can finally say, I really do understand.

It is very easy to dismiss this band if your only exposure is to what you've pieced together in your mind from all of the negatives. The very thing I resisted all those years ago, is the very thing that has grabbed a hold of me now. It's a whole new ball game listening to the band members tell the story and not the Deadheads. Garcia is beyond lovable. The whole mission statement, if you let it, will move you, especially if you're a musician. It's all about "just seeing" and "why the hell not."

I've made a side career making fun of Bill Kreutzmann, but it was something he said in Act Two, that could have just as easily sent me packing for good twenty years ago, but instead, enlightened me today. He said he never worries about keeping time. "Keeping time is for a marching band." (20 years ago, I would have slapped him silly and I bet many drummers still want to.) But he continued. He plays to feel it, and sometimes, he feels it so much that the band feels it along with him and before you know it, no one remembers what song they began with, but is totally where they are at that moment. (Or something like that.) He says this, and a black and white clip of the band playing "The Eleven" begins. The clip is less than a minute, but I was transfixed. It was everything I loved, when I heard Led Zeppelin do it live, or King Crimson, or Miles Davis. I imagine, if what I saw in that clip was when they "got it together at 7:34," 0:01-7:33 would not be such a hardship. What a payday!

The thrill of building something and finally seeing something that resembles a finished product, only to deconstruct it and start over, say...ten times a night, might not sound like your ideal way of making music. And I would understand completely if your thing is a tight, 3 minute pop tune and you have now high-tailed it out of here. I am all about that tight, 3 minute pop tune. But I have learned to no longer resist what the Grateful Dead had to offer.

I can't be comfortable saying I love music and turning away from the Dead. The Dead love music. The Dead love the blues, country and western, soul, bluegrass, rock music, funk, swing, classical, pop, and of course, psychedelia. They do it all and you'll hear it all, if you give it chance. Stop resisting, at least long enough to watch the first two acts of "Long Strange Trip." Don't worry, you won't get any on you.