Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan

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Grateful Dead, "When I Paint My Masterpiece"

Grateful Dead, "She Belongs To Me"

Grateful Dead, "Maggie's Farm"

Grateful Dead, "Desolation Row"

Grateful Dead, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

We've reached the end of the road with this Grateful Dead excursion, on to bigger and better things next week. Since I mentioned Bob Dylan in the context of the Grateful Dead, it seems fitting to bring those two figures together in these posts to close this series out. Dylan and the Dead have always had a special place in my heart, and so I want to highlight the important place that Dylan's songs played in the life of the Grateful Dead.

Honestly, these songs are good, but they are missing something to my ears. They tend to lose Dylan's voice, his darkness and anger. The closest the Dead come is in their beautiful and rare version of "She Belongs To Me," which achieves all of the sense of heartbreak and loss and emotional turmoil that the original had. However, I think for many people these might sound perfect, easier on the ears than Dylan's versions. Let's be honest, Dylan's most popular songs are the ones that were covered by Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds and Peter, Paul and Mary. Listen for yourself and decide.

The Dead and Dylan toured once in 1987, for a much maligned tour and album. Dylan was not at his peak, struggling with addiction, a less-than-stellar backing band and a worsening voice. It was best forgotten, a lost opportunity. After that, there were a few opening dates for Dylan on Dead tours, but nothing major. No, the way to see the influence is in their use of each other's songbooks for live shows. Dylan still plays an occasional Dead song to this day, an enduring testament to the influence and respect he has for their music. Above are some examples of the Dead's.

-For those interested in further exploring the Grateful Dead and their music, I cannot recommend the Live Music Archive more highly. It is a database of nearly every recorded Grateful Dead concert in existence, available for your listening pleasure. It is an amazing resource, albeit a bit diminished.

As of today, you can only download audience recordings; soundboards can only be streamed. I'm not going to get into the controversy, but I will say that this was a terrible decision on the part of the band and a reverse in the open, sharing philosophy that has guided the band and its fans.

-Deadbase is another great resource, especially for guidance in exploring the band's history and the thousands of shows they played over the years. If you need to know how many times they played Philly in the 70s or how many times they played "Sugar Magnolia" as an encore, and I don't want to know what desperation lies behind such a need, this is the place to go.

-GD Radio is a streaming site bringing you nothing but the music of the Grateful Dead, a good option for those of us without Sirius.

-My first experience with the band's music came through David Gans' radio program, The Grateful Dead Hour, which ran weekly on WXPN in Philly. Well, it's still going strong years later after the band stopped existing, and I cannot recommend it more highly for those new to the band's music or unsure where to go for the best live stuff. David Gans even keep a blog detailing each episode the program.


Anonymous said...

nicely done

Anonymous said...

you are a pure dork. your first experience with the dead came through the radio show? come on, you have no credibility whatsoever. what, did you hear them on the radio and decide to become a deadhead? pathetic. but that seems to be a popular word when it comes to the bif fat junkie and his band of flunkies. once and for all, PLEASE leave dylan out of all conversations related to the dead. He was a songwriter, they were a cover band. Though they helped him get his shit together, they needed him way more than he needed them. shut your trap, crank the dead, and let dylan keep rocking the world. thanks, corndog

52stations said...

dylan needed the dead more than the dead needed dylan - dylan got lost in the 1980s (not sure about the "addiction" clain - but he WAS in bad shape ) - - dylan had no real place to turn for advice - the dead were the only 60s survivors who learned how to thrive with their original ideals more-or-less intact. . .the dead re-taught dylan his own songs, and the GD model of touring whenever they wanted with no regard to record release schedules, plus mixing up the set lists, improvising, and doing cover versions set dylan on his own never-ending-tour in 1988 (still going strong ! ) plus dylan's eulogy for jerry was even more heartfelt than the ones for fellow wilburys roy o & george h . . dylan even used JGB drummer david kemper for years, and dylan tour a couple of tours with phil lesh in 1999 - the best shows of the NET, if you ask me ! people who don't get dylan & the dead don't get dylan OR the dead

Matt said...

I saw Dylan with Phil & Friends in 2000. I thought it was ironic that Dylan opened the show. I remember being dissappointed when not 5 minutes after Dylan's set ended you could see him driving away in his tour bus. I was hopeful Dylan would play a couple with Phil.

The anonymous commenter who made the "band of flunkies" comment has no clue what he is talking about and should try to make his comments more constructive. He has nothing to say at all.

Anonymous said...

i liked these songs.
im a huge Dylan fan and a mild GD fan...the only song i think that really worked was Baby Blue. love that guitar riff.