The Dead could end songs. And by that I mean they had the requisite musical knowledge to properly end a tune, not that they knew when to do it. Also, rock songs only end one of two ways: sudden stop or big loud noise.
Starting songs was a little more difficult. That first riff, the one that most bands labor over to get your attention immediately, that says that this band is a professional band made up of professional people? The Dead weren’t good at that. They figured they had at least four or five bars to get the tempo together, and eight to ten bars for the key. They had, however, all been playing the same song at the same time since the “someone just walk over and tell Keith what we’re playing” policy was implemented.
For good or for ill, the songs were precisely as long as they wanted to be (which means, until Billy got bored). The tempos wandered all over the place, from the glacial ’72 Sing Me Back Home to the skittering, out-of-control ’85. ’85 was like the first ten minutes after you slam crystal, right? And you’re just like UHHHHHHH and then you’re like YEEEEEESSHfuck and–
I’m gonna step in here turn down his volume just a touch and say to everyone out there that Thoughts on the Dead supports living clean, waking up early, and smoothies of all sort. Under no circumstances should any of you shoot crystal meth. Let’s check back in.
–and your cock’s like–
Oh, for Christ’s…