Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: 5/8/77 (page 1 of 3)

Next Step: Federal Holiday

Sisyphus was a pussy: he didn’t have Cornell. Roll the fucker up the hill every year; you think you’re good and May comes around again, whistling innocently. Here I am, sailor. Let’s dance.

I have no more dances in me.

And then Cornell says DANCE, FUCKER and sticks all of its hydrodicks into you.

At least this year there’s the new box set to talk about, Get Shown The Light. (There’s one  set, with the books and pictures and essays, left at Amazon.) The full set is four shows–May 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, 1977–from the fabled and long-lost Betty Boards. Technically, they weren’t lost: they were in the shed of a chemistry teacher who wanted too much money. By the way, now that they’re safely back in the Vault where they belong and this can’t actually happen and I can’t be implicated: I am deeply saddened by Deadheads’ refusal to heist the tapes.

But if they were stolen, then they couldn’t be remastered and sold by the Dead.

HEIST!

Good argument.

Thank you. I’ve listened to the whole set and Jeffrey Norman, et al., have done their usual brilliant job: one of the draws of the Betty Board for Cornell has always been the huge, but specific, bass; Phil always sounded like he was 200 feet tall and mad at a mid-sized city. Once again, though,  the production team has improved what seemed unimprovable: the sound is massive and immersive, with air all around the instruments

(You can still buy the three-CD release that just has Cornell on it.)

Cornell’s the Best EVAR show that the Grateful Dead played because some show has to be, and why not it? It was more available than other shows back when the Dead existed on cassette tapes and traveled via the mail; it sounded better than most other contemporaneous recordings, causing people (perhaps unconsciously) to listen to it more; it was a more accessible chunk of music than, say, Veneta’s half-hour Dark Star freakout.

So call it number one.

And so a cottage industry has built up around the myth of Cornell: books, documentaries, walking tours. There’s even a section in the Cornell bookstore dedicated to merch commemorating the show. You can buy all sorts of things.

  • Baby onesie with “The DEW, brah” written on it.
  • Take A Step Back: the turn-based role-playing game.
  • Decorative collector’s spoons. (Sold in sets of two only. The first set is okay, but the second is really good.)
  • Betty Board ® surfboards.
  • Scarlet begonias. (Seasonal)
  • Fire on the Mountain hot sauce.
  • For thirty bucks, someone who was at the show will tell you stories.
  • Leroy Neiman prints of Billy in his underwear.
  • Snow globe with Barton Hall and tiny little students coming out of the show.
  • Because it was snowing when they came out of the show.
  • Did you ever hear that before?

Anyway, it’s Cornell Day. Go listen, or don’t. You do you.

May 8th

The eighth day of May is the 128th day of the year, at least according to the Gregorian calendar. They have May 8th in China, but the Chinese would argue. This is the 2,017th iteration, probably. Neither the Romans nor the Greeks would have called it May 8th: the Romans would have called it “the day before nones, and the Greeks would have called it “that day we invented architecture.”

King Kamehameha I died on May 8th, back in 1819. He was the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The Hawaiian archipelago is like any other place, and has the same history: bunch of warlords ruling little fiefdoms until one guy comes along and conquers everyone else and declares himself king. Kamehameha was basically Hawaii’s Arthur, but he actually existed. Maybe its Garibaldi, whatever. In 1789, two ships, the Fair American and the Eleanora showed up.  A disagreement turned into 100 Hawaiians dead on the beach from cannon fire, and Kamehameha learned his lesson. Everything you need to make gunpowder can be found in abundance on the islands, and rifles could be purchased. His kingdom, unified, remained unconquered for a hundred years until the fair Americans came back.

V-E Day is May 8th, Victory in Europe, and V-J Day would come soon after. Harry Truman’s birthday is also the 8th; that must have cheered him, even with a fat man and little boy perched on either shoulder. (Harry Truman made some tough decisions, and mostly he chose correctly: dropping the Bomb, desegregating the Armed Forces, firing MacArthur before that nutjob started World War III.) Millions poured into Trafalgar Square, and Times Square; people just went to squares. That’s how happy they were.

Speaking of presidents, Zachary Taylor won the battle of Palo Alto today. This was 1846, and the Mexicans were fighting the Americans. (The Americans are always fighting someone, aren’t they?) Palo Alto was a few miles outside of Brownsville, Texas, and doesn’t that sound like a fun place to spend the summer in 1846? Zach would later whompinate Santa Anna and become a national hero; the (semi) modern equivalent is Norman Swarzkopf. Except, as you’ll remember, Stormin’ Norman chose not to be a terrible chief executive who inflamed the secession debate by ignoring it and died.

Edward Gibbon and Don Rickles were born on the 8th; one of those men is much more amusing than the other. Two towering figures of design were born today: Saul Bass and Tom of Finland. Thomas Pynchon and also Peter Benchley; more people pretend to have read Pynchon, but everyone knows the story Benchley told about a shark and an island town called Amity.

Theodore Sturgeon and Robert Heinlein both died on May 8th. Maurice Sendak, too. Dana Plato and George Peppard, who were on teevee in the 80’s, and Nixon’s drinking buddy Bebe Rebozo. Oswald Spengler died on this date, and he is right there next to Pynchon on the list of authors that people pretend to have read.

May 8th is the celebration of the Feast of Arsenius the Great. He was an anchorite, which means he was bricked up into the wall of the church with a just a small opening for food and water and waste. Pointing out that a feast might not be the best way to remember him is a mortal sin. Arsenius had a sister named Afrositty, which is the best name ever.

“Hop in!”

“Why?”

“We’re going to Afrositty!”

“Groovy.”

Excuse me.

Yes?

It got strange.

It does that.

Did you have a point, or are you avoiding writing about Cornell?

The second thing.

At least you’re honest.

Only strategically.

Still.

A Religious Holiday

Well, isn’t this nifty? Who says government doesn’t work for the people?

This is, however, the final draft of the document. The first version was quite different; one of the Haight Street Irregulars broke into City Hall and stole a copy so I could share it with you:

PROCLAMATION

WHEREAS the Grateful Dead’s concert at Barton Hall at Cornell University on May 8, 1977, was perhaps the best show they played that week, depending on whom you ask, and

WHEREAS the show has become a local cottage industry, and

WHEREAS on the other hand, you pop Cornell in the tape deck of your Datsun and turn that shit up, and you have a good old time, and

WHEREAS there is no Sugaree or Half-Step, precluding the show from ever truly being the greatest show of all time, and

WHEREAS it was snowing when the students exited the building, and

WHEREAS it has been said many times by many people, the best people, that Cornell was just a tremendous show, a real top show, and probably the best of all time, which is what many, many people are saying

NOW THEREFORE, I, Dan Klein, Vice Chair of the Tompkins Legislature hereby proclaim May 8, 2017, as

GRATEFUL DEAD DAY

WHICH means that all members of the Grateful Dead are eligible for up to 10% off at participating local businesses.

I Am Starting The Backlash

Let me be the first to declare Peak Cornell. (Who else is getting annoyed? Raise your hands in the Comment Section.)

I Have No Thoughts On A Book

I was going to, Enthusiasts, I was going to. I tried, and hopefully I will, but not now. I’ll have to write about Cornell in a month–it’s the 40th and the spiffy new Box Set is coming out–and if I write about Cornell ’77: The Music, The Myth, and The Magnificence of the Grateful Dead’s Concert at Barton Hall now, then I might just blow my Cornell wad and then I’ll be dry next month, and dust will shoot out of my word-cock.

What now?

My word-cock. That’s what writing is. Emptying your brain-balls  all over the page via your meaty word-cock, staining it with your essence. This is the first step towards literary immortality.

Would the second step be actually publishing something?

DON’T YOU PUBLISH-SHAME ME, MOTHERFUCKER.

All your friends have published books. Even some of the dumb ones.

I hate you.

It’s mutual. Go back to talking about the thing you’re not talking about.

Right: I have nothing to say about this book. Not that it’s a work-for-hire rush job to capitalize on the 40th that the author admits in the acknowledgements was not his idea. Not that it spends 30 or so pages delving into the backstories of the student committee that brought the Dead to the school that night. Not that one of the two glossy-paged picture sections is just photos of the Cornell campus. Not that a full ten percent of the 200 pages (I did the math) are a “Further Listening” chapter that lists several studio albums you should hear, because someone who just read 180 pages about Cornell probably needs to be told about Blues for Allah.

I’m certainly not going to mention the padding.: the ten pages on the history of audience taping in a book about a show that got famous from the SBD; the chapter on Bear and the Wall of Sound; the extended anecdote about the author’s recent trip to Bobby’s TRI Studios.

Wonder if I could just flip open at random and find padding? Let’s see.

Yup: two pages on the guy who runs Rhino Records

Thank God I’m not writing about this book; there’s nothing to write about. Go to your local library, Enthusiasts, or shoplift this book.

Bob Weir – 5/8/77, Cornell

I think this was during Deal.

An Unpublished Photo Of Cornell’s Barton Hall, 5/8/77

With the last rocking notes of One More Saturday Night ringing in their ears and fedoras, the students exited the building to find it was snowing; this was most meaningful, indeed.

Fun fact: the tall guy on the right in Bill Walton.

A Newly-Surfaced Photograph From 5/8/77

The band posed for this shot in the hallway outside the dressing rooms; I don’t know where Mrs. Donna Jean is.

Corne77

We haven’t discussed the new box set–and the doings behind it–in detail yet. The first release from the newly-reacquired Betty Boards, May 1977: Get Shown The Light contains four full shows that you’ve almost certainly heard (and heard, and heard, and heard) before. The 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th of May (New Haven, Boston, Ithaca, and Buffalo, respectively) of that magical and well-rehearsed year of 1977, shined up to a gleam and bursting with extras and bonus bullshit.

This is usually the place where I post the latest video from David Lemieuxsebitmysister, but he recorded this one inside a vacuum cleaner. I don’t know how he got the lake in there, but he accomplished it and all you can hear is wind.

Luckily, I found a piece of software that transcribes YouTube videos, and I can present to you his words here:

“Uh, hey, everybody. David Lemieux here, your old buddy Dave, and I’ve got some very exciting news. If you’re watching this you probably know that we’ll be releasing–”

[NOTE: At this point, a large duck steals Dave’s hat.]

“Hey! That’s mine!”

[NOTE: Dave chases the duck in and out of frame for two minutes and three seconds.]

“Okay, as I was saying: big news, folks. You probably remember that, after quite a bit of negotiation, we got the so-called “lost Betty Boards” back into the Vault where they belong. So what we thought would be a great way to commemorate the 40th–”

[NOTE: A small child, naked but for her toque, sprints towards the lake.]

“NO, GIRL GORDIE!”

[NOTE: Dave snares the child before she enters the water.]

“You know we can’t swim!”

[NOTE: Canadians cannot swim. Sink right to the bottom. They’re like bulldogs or chimps.]

“Go back and play with your mother Regina, and your siblings Gordie, Northstar, Jean-Luc, Fleece, and the twins, Mickie and Billie.”

[NOTE: As Girl Gordie begins to walk back to the igloo where the Lemieux family live, a duck steals her toque.]

“Darn it, not again.”

[NOTE: At this point, Dave and a small, naked child with no toque chase a duck in and out of frame for several minutes.]

There’s like twenty more minutes of that, if I’m honest.

There is also, as I mentioned, a bevy of bonus bullshit: a book, and an essay, and–in 5 of the 15,000 copies that will be shipped–a Tie-Dyed Ticket. The lucky recipients get to go to the Vault, meet DL, and be ironically murdered. Last one standing gets to be the new Dead archivist.

The Return Of The King

Well, Enthusiasts, you by now surely know the big news of the day.

THAT GOBLIN-DICKED GLASS OF CURDLED MILK IS GONNA KILL US ALL!

The other news.

Oh, the thing about the 40-year-old concerts that everyone already owns?

Yes.

Sure. Talk about that instead; pretend everything’s all right.

We’re all just choogling past the graveyard at this point, pal.

I’m your pal?

Yeah. You’re my friend. We gotta stick together nowadays.

All of us?

Yup.

Even Elvis?

Jesus Christ, don’t mention that lunat–

“AH HAVE BEEN SUMMONED ONCE AGAIN.”

No you weren’t. And “once again” doesn’t really work. You’re always here lately.

“TH’ PEOPLE NEED THEIR KING.”

Yeah, okay.

“IN YER HEART, YOU KNOW AH’M AWESOME. WHASS GOIN’ ON WITH THAT THERE HAIRY GARCIA?”

A box set.

“THAT BOX GOT FRIED CHICKEN IN IT?”

No.

“PASS.”

It’s music, Elvis. After years of legal wrangling, the Grateful Dead’s most famous concert is finally being officially released.

“CORNELL?”

Yeah, Corn…what? Why would you know that?

“AH WAS THERE.”

No, you were not.

“YEAH, MAN. HAD ME A COUPLE DAYS OFF FROM MAH TOUR, WHICH WAS A WELL-OILED MACHINE.”

You were literally dying in public.

“WELL-OILED MACHINE! MAH SKILLS IN KARATE HAD NEVER BEEN SHARPER. AH DECIDED TO HAVE MAH FINAL SHOWDOWN WITH MAH ARCH-NEMESIS, HAIRY GARCIA, AND SO AH MARSHALED THE MEMPHIS MAFIA AN’ WE WENT T’ UTICA.”

Ithaca.

“YOU DIDN’ LEMME FINISH, BOY! WE WENT T’ UTICA. THEN WE REALIZED WE WAS IN TH’ WRONG CITY.”

Okay.

“FOR THIS ERROR, AH CHASTISED CHARLIE HODGE ABOUT HIS FACE AN’ HEAD.”

He deserved it.

“WE REACHED ITHACA’S ROCKY SHORES TOO LATE T’ SEE TH’ OPENIN’ ACT. AH ASSUME TH’ GRATEFUL DEAD HAS COLORED GIRLS SINGIN’ GOSPEL ‘FORE THEY GO ON, RIGHT?”

No. And we don’t call them…ah, forget it. What’s the point?

“AH WAS APPALLED AT THE SHODDY PRESENTATION. AH FIGGERED THEIR CAPE TRUCK GOT STUCK SOMEWHERE, BUT THASS WHY YOU HAVE A BACK-UP CAPE VAN TAKIN’ A DIFF’RENT ROUTE.”

The Dead also did not wear capes.

“SLAPDASH, MAN. WEARIN’ TEE-SHIRTS AN’ DUNGAREES, SMOKIN’ CIGARETTES, SOME SORT O’ HUMAN/GOAT HYBRID PLAYIN’ PIANO. IT WAS UNWHOLESOME.”

You’re not wrong.

“MAH FLABBER WAS GASTED, MAN.”

You didn’t enjoy the show?

“THASS NOT THE POINT OF TH’ TRIP. AH WAS THERE T’ DEFEND TH’ HONOR OF MAH DOJO, AN’ KICK A HIPPIE IN HIS FURRY HEAD.”

Okay.

“BUT AH WAS PARCHED, AND CHARLIE HODGE HAD SECRETLY SOLD ALL MAH SCARVES AN’ WATER OUT IN TH’ PARKING LOT. MAH THIRST WAS INTOLERABLE!”

This is such an easily curable problem, King. Water fountain, snack stand: there were so many places to get a drink.

“MAH BEVERAGES ARE PRESENTED T’ ME, DAMMIT!”

Sure.

“AN’ FROM OUT O’ THE CROWD OF FILTHY YOUNG CRETINS CAME A TALL MAN, OLDER THAN THE CHIL’REN. AH THINK HE MIGHTA WORKED F’R THE BAND. ‘KING,’ HE SAID. ‘HERE.’ AN’ HE HANDED ME AN ICY-COLD PEPSI-COLA.”

Uh-huh.

“HE CALLED IT ‘BOOGIE JUICE.'”

I think we all know what’s going on here.

“AH DO NOT REMEMBER MUCH OF THE REST O’ THE EVENING.”

Yeah, we all know what happened.

“AH BELIEVE THAT TH’ BOOGIE JUICE INTERFERED WITH MAH HEEBIE-JEEBIES.”

Could be.

“BY TH’ TIME AH REMEMBERED AH WANTED T’ KARATE WITH HAIRY GARCIA, IT WAS THREE IN THE’ MORNIN’, AN’ AH WAS NAKED IN A FOUNTAIN.”

What were you doing in the fountain?

“BACKSTROKE.”

And there’s the big finish.

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