Monday, November 18, 2013

11/18/13, Astoria

Eric said...i have too much respect for u sal as a music maven, a mensch, and a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve...yet, to mention the dead with hall Oates/eagles/and POCO...pass the cyanide....

This was a comment from last week's post about the Grateful Dead's 1980 release "Go To Heaven." I'm not surprised by the anti-Hall & Oates/Eagles/Poco sentiment. No one is expected to like everything, though I happen to like all three of those bands. But what came to mind after reading Eric's comment was this.  All those years I resisted the Grateful Dead was because of comments like these. Okay, not completely, but...

For years I was forcefed cassette tape after cassette tape of the Dead, featuring B+ audio of the band noodling for minutes upon minutes until, as each particular owner of said tapes would point out, "okay...right the transition and how they peak for the next 1:44."  Such work for a small return.

Why hadn't anyone ever said, "You know you should listen to the studio recordings. There is amazing songwriting and some really fine playing."

Eric also pointed out in his comments the difference between the Stones by-the-book live sets versus the Dead's ability to "put you on another planet."

Personally, it wasn't until I discovered the beauty of "Workingman's Dead" & "American Beauty," or the psychedelic blues of the debut, or the pleasantly erratric and daring sounds of "Aoxomoxoa" that I was able to appreciate what the band could do live. Actually, the specific recording that turned it all around for me was "Dick's Picks Volume 8" from Harpur College in 1970. It was the opening acoustic set that made me realize just how amazing Jerry Garcia was on guitar.

In my naive little world, records like the majority of Hall & Oates output in the 70's and early 80's coexist with Poco and David Bowie and Genesis and Joe Jackson and the Grateful Dead. The music to be found on most of the Dead's studio LPs isn't exactly "pop music," though what is found on "Go To Heaven" sure is. And it's quite enjoyable.

I'd still rather listen to any one of the Dead's studio recordings over any one of their live shows. And I'd still like to know why even the most loyal Deadhead, at least the ones I know, feel the opposite.

What is so unappealing about a clean, 5 minute song with good lyrics and great playing? Why must it always be taken to another planet?


William Repsher said...

With The Dead, "another planet" often implies high as a kite. I had a similar trajectory with the Dead: unfortunate college experiences with Deadheads and cassette suitcases filled with those telltale skull/lightning bolt labeled bootlegs that made me want to assault the next hackey sack player I saw. If someone had just sat me down and played Workingman's Dead, they would have won me over instantly. Didn't occur to me to do this until the age of 30 or so, at which point I was floored.

Also recall one of our friends being a huge Hall & Oates fan ... which we found laughable at the time (although I secretly bought Big Bam Boom on cassette and liked it). Excellent pop sense and an ability to bridge the decades, which is always the sign of a sharp creative mind at work.

The music world is a whole lot bigger and more diverse than just the Dead and Hall & Oates! Balancing diverse tastes like that seems pretty sensible when you throw in experimental jazz, Aborigine tribal music Gregorian chants, to name a few.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I've been a Dead fan since I heard "Truckin'" on the radio when I was 13. But I'm certainly not a Deadhead, and I've never liked their jamming. You had to be there and tripping as far as I'm concerned, and with the unpredictability of acid, even that's not a given.
The studio albums from the first half of the '70's are among my favorite records. I include "Garcia" and Bob Weir's "Ace" as well.
So many haters out there that don't know what they're missing.
It's not the Grateful Dead they dislike, but Deadheads. Tie-dye and dancing bears irritate me too.

steves said...

No offense to Eric (or anyone else), but Hall & Oates has the distinction of being the most boring concert I've ever seen. Then again, most things really sucked in the mid-80s.

Anonymous said...

I have always like The Dead, at least since late high school and I caught them live a couple of times with Jerry as well as on of the Jerry shows at the Lunt Fointaine in 1987. I liked but I didn't love. As I have gotten older I have moved more towards love and in fact I consider myself an aging Dead Head who arrived a bit too late.

I think you are spot on about the studio material and the quality of many songs they recorded. Really good songs with some very good playing. You can't bet that combination. I have a problem with some of the of live particular Dark Star. I just don't get it but a huge chunk of the rest I absolutely love and listen to on a more than frequent basis.

Check out the Sunshine Daydream release from 1972 in Oregon. With the exception of the 30 minute Dark Star I think this is a pretty close to perfect Dead show (as do most heads). The songs are great, the playing is fantastic and the band is peaking. I just skip dark Star and move right on to an absolutely fantastic Sing Me Back Home.

And don't forget Reckoning for some truly wonderful acoustic Dead. The new Record Store day piece is pretty interesting as well (sounds so-so but the performance is similar to DP8).

Anonymous said...

I always think of it as there are Deadheads and people who just don't know they're Deadheads yet.

Allan R.

Anonymous said...

ok, time for a real deadhead to weigh in.

you cant judge the Dead by listening to or selecting moments in time.

the dead is a history, a lifestyle, Americana, and a passing down of lore and history.

think of being a lifelong yankee (or any team) fan. Did you only like the 77 Yankees? No. a real yankee fan thinks back to what turned him onto the Yankees, all the games he went to, watched on TV, places he was when the big moments happened -- that's exactly what the Dead was.

If you are picking certain songs or trying to understand why someone likes a certain show or another, or arguing over live versus studio, you aren't getting it. Its ALL part of the history that is the Grateful Dead.

A deadhead can hear a live song and most likely tell you the year, or even the show. That's because its an evolving mass, each song, year, performance, adds to the whole, and fills in holes, until you have the giant Grateful Dead legacy.

The Dead turned me on to country music, jazz, Americana, history, and I saw parts of the country I probably would never have seen if not for following them.

As the deadheads always like to say, "we are everywhere"

Not to sound like a snob, but if you are trying to figure it out, you just aren't getting it. I guess my point is, you cant review or analyze the Dead like you would any other band or artist.

And no, you don't have to be tripping and high.

It's fine to be a casual fan, most casual fans would never even analyze it; they just enjoy it for what it is and that's it.

Sure I have my personal favorites, all deadheads do, but most likely its because of where I was in life when I heard it, saw it, experienced it.

also, just because Im a deadhead doesn't mean I don't also love Hall & Oates, Poco and Metallica

its just different....

ps re Go To Heaven. It's a great album with great songs, many of which were part of the live shows for years before, and years after release. The Dead weren't insulated; their records definitely reflected the "time" like the disco-y shakedown street, or the sounds on go to heaven.

A walk in the woods said...

I'd never been a Dead fan until I found out what a catalyst Jerry Garcia was to getting Dylan back on his feet musically on their 1987 tour... I think Garcia deserves a lot of credit for that. And musically, their studio LPs are good.

And I'm unabashedly a Hall & Oates fan. It's one of the first things I play when I'm playing a mix on my iPod.

A walk in the woods said...

Oh, one more thought: I saw Bob Weir open solo acoustic for Dylan this summer, and that DID pique my interest in live Dead. Weir's set might have been the highlight of that package show (with My Morning Jacket and Wilco also on the bill). And this is said by a confirmed Dylan maniac.

Sal Nunziato said...

"think of being a lifelong yankee (or any team) fan. Did you only like the 77 Yankees?"

No. But as a lifelong Yankees fan, I never hesistated to say they sucked when they sucked. I didn't celebrate the weak 4-game winning streak in 1972 when Horace Clarke went 3-13 in an otherwise miserable season.

"you cant review or analyze the Dead like you would any other band or artist."

Sure you can! We're doing it.

I appreciate your candor, Anon, but it seems just a bit offputting to suggest that trying to "figure it out, means you are not getting it."

I've traveled cross-country to see Todd Rundgren. Seen him over 150 times. High. Sober. It's a lifestyle that I often detest; being around fans who are deaf to the music specifically and only swear by the lifestyle. I know when he's great. I know when he sucks.

Also, I don't think William Repsher was referring to Deadheads when he said "with the Dead, "another planet" often implies high as a kite." I think he was referring to the band.

buzzbabyjesus said...

As soon as anyone claims to be a "real" Deadhead, I assume whatever follows is short on credibility.

Anonymous said...

what did I say that wasn't credible?

I was giving my opinion as a fan of the dead, not sure what credibility has to do with it, I wasn't offering any facts.

and about the yankee analogy, I never said I loved everything ever by the dead. I never hesitate to say the dead sucked when they sucked.

and comparing the dead to todd rundgren just further reinforces what I said about not getting it. I love todd, but it isnt the dead.

hey sorry for offering my opinion

let buzzbabyjesus tell you what its all about, hes been a dead fan since he was 13. but he doesn't like the jamming!

Gene Oberto said...

I tuned into the Dead through Live/Dead in '69 though I must admit that Dark Star was a little much for me. Workingman's and American Beauty sealed the deal. In the Dark is my personal favorite that I can play all the way through at any time and still enjoy every song particularly, "Touch of Grey", which may be the first song I can recall that dealt with aging realistically. I was two years away from hitting 40.

I think I really like the Dead so much is that you can sing along with them on any song and no matter how bad you are you always fit when you let loose at the top of your lungs in the shower, driving your car or at some other place where people won't assume it's a cat being strangled.

I have stood for four hours at shows in the States and in Europe as well as fallen asleep in the Paramount Theater in Portland. Which, I think, is OK with the Dead because they just put it out and you can accept their music any way that you like.

Be a Deadhead, a fan or a listener of Casey Jones only, it's all good. The roots of the band come from folk, bluegrass and jazz. All influences are based on improvisation and bonhomie.

There is no other band like the Dead and, most likely never be again.

William Repsher said...

No, Sal, with "high as a kite" I meant the fans. That experience of the cassette suitcase filled with bootlegs happened to me more than once at school. And each time, drugs were involved, too, albeit nothing much stronger than weed or 'shrooms. That's another staple of Dead culture -- not noting this in a positive or negative light, it just was, at least back in the mid-80s when I knew a few folks who "had to turn me on to the Dead, man."

My loss that I was so turned off at the time. I'm not sure why AOR radio in the 70s wasn't playing great album tracks like "Box of Rain" and "Brokedown Palace." The stuff they were playing -- "Truckin," "Casey Jones" and such -- while I liked it, it just didn't pull me in fully as a fan. What can I say, different times of life, different things start making sense. Dylan didn't make sense to me until college, country until my 30's. All things in time.

Sal Nunziato said...

I stand corrected, William. I read it wrong.

I wrote this post to not only explain how and why I finally "got" the Dead, but also to hopefully hear from Dead fans/heads a bit about why the studio recordings aren't as revered as the live recordings.

No need to apologize, Anon, for offering your opinion. But it feels like your comments dismiss the opinions of a whole lotta people who may know a whole lot about music, which is what I was trying to focus on, the music.

I wasn't comparing the Dead to Todd Rundgren. I was just riffing on this:

"and I saw parts of the country I probably would never have seen if not for following them."

Maybe it's the Deadheads I don't get. But I'll stand by "getting the music."

buzzbabyjesus said...

"what did I say that wasn't credible?"

Where do I start?

You lost me with whatever point you were trying to make concerning the Yankees.

And then there's this:

"Not to sound like a snob, but if you are trying to figure it out, you just aren't getting it. I guess my point is, you cant review or analyze the Dead like you would any other band or artist."

Which is pure Hooey.

I should have said,

"As soon as anyone claims to be a "real Deadhead", I assume whatever follows will express a certain lack of discernment, because a fair amount of their jamming is straight-up boring."

The implied lack of discernment is what undercuts the credibility.

I forgot to mention I was 13 in 1970 and "Truckin" was a new song.
I shoplifted "Europe '72" in 1972.
I saw Jerry play in a club with Merle Saunders in 1974.
I climbed over the fence at the Santa Barbara County Bowl in 1978 to see them like ants onstage in the distance.
In 1987 I was a driver on a movie working with Dick who was running sound when he told about "Dick's Picks" which he was in the process of putting together.
Me, Jerry, and the boys go way back so don't give me any of that "real Deadhead" crap.

William Repsher said...

Well, I look at the big picture with this, too, concerning the Anon fan and his take on the Dead. They did create a legitimate sub-culture back then. This whole concept of fans grouping together and forming small, roving economic structures around their favorite touring bands did not exist before the Dead/Deadheads. I could understand being part of that culture and caught up in the value system, whether or not I agree with it.

Look at this now with jam bands: multi-million dollar festivals, people making livings out of providing services at the concerts of touring bands, legal or otherwise. It's pretty amazing when you think about it, even if only from a sociological standpoint.

dogbreath said...

When my house was broken into several years ago the burglars had time to take a load of DVDs and some other stuff but didn't touch any of my Dead bootlegs in the same room. Tells you something?

ken49 said...

I have been piecing together a live version of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. My favorite period of theirs is 1971/72 especially the live in Europe stuff and Road Trips Vol 2 which is from 1968. There is a huge difference in the band from 1968 to 1972. It's like they found a different template.

buzzbabyjesus said...


I think it was because Pigpen was gradually fading out as defacto front man, and they were finding themselves as writers.

Eric said...

eric here: clarification, i was into the dead heavily 73-77, then ramones/heads/blondie/television switched me around...the dead live was a bit of an orgy without the sex(englishtown, nj)...the short, live songs killed for me, but the noodling and double drum solo was time to skip out..i did have the pleasure of seeing them one last time with jerry and he delivered.... i think acid was more beneficial for pink floyd shows, though

charlie c. said...

"to hopefully hear from Dead fans/heads a bit about why the studio recordings aren't as revered as the live recordings."
The live recordings represent the live experience which represents blissful times in a like-minded community.
The live recordings, for me, capture that. The guy playing you the B+ tape was probably there, maybe even THERE. You didn't fall short for not getting it, no one could.
Here's a (weak) analogy - would you like to stand right up against the guardrail at Niagra Falls or look at a picture? that's the difference, to me. The picture might be clear, artistic, maybe even the best shot ever, but it ain’t like being there.
Another, discographic note - many studio cuts were fashioned and fine-tuned on the road rather than releasing an album and then fashioning and fine tuning the songs live, as most other artists do. So - the song I heard develop, go from yearling to thoroughbred is not the one on the album.
As exquisite as Friend of The Devil is on the record, and it is a masterpiece of playing, songwriting and recording technique on American Beauty, there are live versions that tear that one up! Real quick – compare the studio one and the one on Dead Set - is it even the same song?!?