Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Grateful Dead


The Grateful Dead, Turn On Your Lovelight

The Grateful Dead, Death Don't Have No Mercy

No, hell has not frozen over. The man who believes in a genre called booty music, who considers Luke Campbell as important as the Founding Fathers, and who believes "There's Some Whores In The House" would make a great wedding song loves the quintessential hippie band. The band that is the butt of jokes, the band that jams endlessly, the band that was followed from city to city by dirty, smelly druggies has been one of my secret loves for many years now.

I'm not really sure how it began. I went to a high school where Phish was the band of choice, a regular stoner's paradise. However, for me, the Grateful Dead seemed a more difficult pursuit. Sure, kids went to the concerts and got wasted, but the music was more difficult, the influences more elusive, the mood more dark and foreboding. That was intriguing. First, I listened to the band's studio albums, perhaps one of the most underrated canons in music. Their songs were great, on par with some of the great pop music ever. However, at this time, I was probably in the midst of a pretentious avant garde phase and so it was the Dead's jazzy roots and sound explorations that had the most impact.

Over the years, I have remained loyal to the band and the music they made, even as they and their fans became a punchline. My connection has only grown stronger since Jerry Garcia passed away, as the archival vaults have been opened and even more amazing music has been released. I never wore tie-dye, I don't think that white guys should have dreads and I don't like leaving city limits, let alone sleeping in my car while travelling around the country. However, I do like the Grateful Dead and the music they made for 25 years. I hope that my readers will give this a chance and listen to the music I put up over the course of the next week. Keep an open mind, and I assure you that you will hear music that is many things: dark, beautiful, experimental, catchy, heart-breakingly sad.

The songs above come from the first live album release by any rock band, Live/Dead. It is the album that brought many people into the fold, displaying the Dead's penchant for improvisation and solidified their reputation as a live act. I hope that they can serve the same purpose for those just coming to the music. Live/Dead compiled highlights from their legendary run at the Fillmore West in San Francisco in late February and early March of 1969. The next few posts will present a few of these sets, which were recently put out in a 10 CD boxed set.

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