Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: dick’s picks

Dix Pix (Sic)

Fuck it, ladies and gentlemen: I’m doing the Dick’s Picks. here’s what TotD has to report so far.

That first one is fucking AWESOME. Just killer. Real, real tasty; also sweet as fuck, yo.

Number two? Number two? The second one? Get the fuck outta here with that kooky bullshit, you bullshit kook. The act of asking as to its greatness denigrates its very greatness. Just accept Volume 2‘s manly gift and leave the room without turning your back.

The third one is quite something, too. It is good to listen to–

You have neither an actual idea, nor the patience to do reviews of the records: am I correct?

Twice right, there.

But I do have a picture of Dick!

vault dick

You do realize what you just said is going to get a lot of weird Google hits, right?

Bring on the pervs, baby!

If I Told You ‘Bout All That Went Down…

As is my wont (and my tont and my soupt), this begins with a plea, an urgent command from the Library to listen to something, something you’ve almost definitely heard before, but listen to Keith here on 5/7/77 playing Mississippi Half-Step on THE ORGAN FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE TOUR STARTED, THANK YOU.  Forget the sheer tonnage of beatdown Garcia is bringing: listen to the B3!


Okay: I can tell how many people are clicking on what links and the cold, hard fact is that not nearly enough of you are going on to listen to 8/24/72 even though I keep telling you and breaking your toys in front of you and making you wear Dead Mom’s lipstick every Wednesday night. Humpday? Huh. You got no idea.


In the early days, they all had different relationships with the concept of being in tune. Phil agreed whole-heartedly when it came to his bass and his voice in the early days, but after his vocal sabbatical, he was just all over the place. Bobby played in tune and sang out of it, Garcia sang in tune, and played out of it. Keith was just plain out of it.


Tupac keeps making popping up, Morrison went to Africa like Rimbaud, and people will be seeing Elvis along the highway for as long as the Republic stands. Garcia? He’s gone.


39:07 for The Other One on 9/17/72? Why? Why, Grateful Dead: why would you let this happen? Forget the sheer tonnage of notes; instead, note the date: September 17, 1972. It’s been released, officially, as Dick’s Picks 23. This is not just a show they played, this is something they offered for sale in the market with their imprimatur. In other words. the Dead are telling us that this is behavior that they are proud of. “Most bands could play a song for maybe 20 minutes and then it would get weird and sad. It took us 40 minutes. GRATEFUL DEAD RULES, EVERYBODY ELSE DROOLS”

Downhill From Here (Seriously)

Dick’s Picks was a success. It is inarguable.

There are the pristine (mostly) versions of legendary shows, the stuff you listen to over and over after making it halfway through yet another ’89 that was infuriatingly similar to the last ’89 show you didn’t really see the point to. Harpur College, Fillmore East, the He’s Gone for Bobby Sands. (When Bobby was told about Bobby Sands, he responded, “No, he doesn’t,” and then Billy was all over him.

Listen to 16, 11/8/69 the familiar minor riff in 10 emerges from nowhere and retreats to an alternate dimension where the Mind Left Body theme got turned into a song and the Playin’ riff just showed up in Dark Stars now and again. You would know it was an alternate reality because Garcia would have a goatee on top of his beard.

AND THEN they start playing Uncle John’s, but just the music because at this point it’s just a riff and then your face melts and you pick it up except it fell on the carpet and you were eating fried chicken so…ahh, shit there’s face all over the–

We interrupt the nonsense to just say: hey, the guy’s working himself through some shit right now. Things are weird at the house, okay? You’ve been there.

–okay, okay, one more CrunchBerry–

Yeah, he disgusts us, too. You’re here of your own free will. No one’s forcing you to be here EXCEPT FOR ME WHO IS HOLDING GUN UP TO INTERNET!

You done?


Perhaps the ultimate compliment one can give of this show is that it, briefly and entirely against my own preference, made me dance just a little bit. Sadly, sadly, but with hope? Maybe. They made me do something I didn’t want to do. The Grateful Dead are time-travelling CIA operatives.


Just Like Jack & Jill

The Dead wrote about 135 songs, and did probably half again as many covers, except that doesn’t tell the whole story. Mainly because some songs, they wrote three or four times.

Jack-A-Roe and Peggy-O are–thematically–the same song: doomed love, hyphens, Game of Thrones vibe. Ramble On Rose and  Tennessee Jed are musically the same song, while Ramble On Rose and U.S. Blues are lyrically the same song. Eyes of the World and Help on the Way could be mistaken for each other in a dark alley.

The Dead are lucky that they premiered Iko, Samson, Throwing Stones,and Women are Smarter after their mind-blowing Europe ’72 warm-up show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (Dick’s Pick 30). Otherwise, jamming with Mr. Diddley might have been a little more awkward. (And if you haven’t checked out this offering, you’re just a sillypants: the first disc* alone is worth the price of admission, featuring the five song Bo Diddley jam, a version of Are You Lonely For Me, Baby that defines “ragged but right,” and the only GD performance of How Sweet It Is**–which is odd, because they really rock the hell out of it, but perhaps the three chord tune was a bit boring for a certain bass player.)

To Lay Me Down, Must Have Been the Roses, and Ship of Fools are identical cousins; Black-Throated Wind and Looks Like Rain a bit more distantly related, but still clearly available to donate organs to one another. (Don’t tell Phil.) Chinatown Shuffle and U.S. Blues aren’t fooling anyone.

Now, don’t take this as any sort of chastisement, of course. Hell, a lot of really, really popular bands ripped themselves off: for example, AC/DC has only written, like, three songs in their entire career, which puts them two ahead of the Ramones.

*I hadn’t listened all the way through that first amazing disc when I wrote this, but you MUST check out the Smokestack Lightning, which is usually kind of a drag, but cooks right here PLUS the added fun of–about 8 minutes in or so–hearing Bobby try again and again to drag the rest of them into Truckin’, but the rest of them are simply not having it.

**I mistakenly thought that Bobby and Garcia played How Sweet It Is on Letterman, but it was actually Second That Emotion, because, in keeping with the theme of the post, they are also pretty much the same song. Check it out, anyway: Garcia with Tiger, Bobby with Pepto Pink, and the MONSTROUS Will Lee holding down the bass and backup vocals.

1977 and Bobby Jokes: You Know, The Usual

Why hasn’t Barton Hall been released commercially? Not that I’m looking for it, obviously: I can still remember the all-black Maxxell with 5/8/77!!! written on the tag in red ink. Since then, I’ve never not listened to this show. Even though the boys and I drifted apart during the first decade of the new millennium, that second set still called to me. “Just the first little bit,” I would tell myself. “Just the opening to Scarletdat dat dat–bom ba WHOOOM!” And then, of course, it would be seventy minutes later and the Dead would have destroyed and rebuilt the world with Morning Dew.

But no official release. They have the tapes, obviously, along with a fondness for releasing Spring/Fall ’77 shows–there have been 5 Dick’s Picks, one Road Trip, one Digital Download, To Terrapin, and the 10 CD Winterland ’77 box set. (Swear I did that by memory, so if I’m wrong, then…I don’t know: nothing, I guess. Carry on wasting time reading this nonsense.)

There’s a great book that came out last year, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire by Will Hermes. It might be the definitive history of one of the most fertile musical scenes in history, New York in the 70’s. The author is mugged taking the subway to the train for Cornell and loses not only his money, but also his Dead tickets. The New York Times wrote an article recently about the archive and the sheer volume of shows available nowadays and its effect on ranking shows and whether or not the band should be appreciated show-by-show or by tour. Quite honestly, I think the author of the article was assigned an article covering The Dead’s weary arrival into Manhattan and just couldn’t interview Bobby again. True, there had been no dickpunching since Billy went back to the ocean, but still, you try asking Bobby  any other question other than, “When did you start looking like Dad Wolf from Teen Wolf?

So, who was on Style’s Woof-mobile?

Anyway, what I’m saying is that 5/8/77 is kind of almost vaguely “out there.” And we’re coming up on the 35th anniversary, but no one’s talking advantage of it. New members, fresh blood. Think I haven’t seen hobbies die? I used to work in a comic book shop, man: Hell holds no terrors for me.

Hulk vs. Superman

1977 is something that must be dealt with; its little brother is ’73. Speak to me not of 1974, when Billy decided that they were gonna be a damn jazz band if he had anything to do with it. Leave ’76 in your pocket, when tempos dragged and everything was a dirge. Yes, the Beacon shows were outstanding, but they were still figuring out what to do now that they were less of a fighter jet and more of a bomber.

You’re going to bring up the Old Shit, the Primal Dead Shit. The before-they-learned-how-to-write-songs Dead. The Dead that had, like, four riffs that went with three different sets of lyrics, each more ridiculous than the last, and would just trip their balls off while holding instruments in front of audiences really loud? We all love that Dead. You can’t not love that Dead. It’s like the Baby Jesus. We love the Baby Jesus simply because he’s gonna be Jesus, but right now: he’s a baby! Yay, we love babies! And that’s what the Pigpen era was: Baby Jesus.

If the Dead hadn’t learned how to write songs, they would have ben the Quicksilver Messenger Whatever. Or Jefferson Airplane. Just endlessly jamming with some nonsense lyrics about The Man, or the Shire.

So we must leave Primal Dead, to refocus on 1977 and 1973.  1977 and 1973. They are the Batman and Robin of the Grateful Dead’s output.

Some will say it is the historic availability of the high-quality Betty Boards that bias the long-time Grateful Dead listener: these shows were taped so well that they were invariably the best sounding thing in anyone’s collection. Huge bass, crisp separation–these tapes were a joy to listen to, as opposed to the murky 4th and 5th gen Maxell’s cluttering up your basement. No matter how “warts and all” your stance, you couldn’t help appreciate the sound that rivaled some of the Dead’s official releases. (I’m looking at you, Skull & Roses.)

Perhaps ’77 is so esteemed simply because listening to it doesn’t give you a headache? This would have been a valid argument years ago, but after 32 Dick’s Picks, two dozen Road Trips and Digital Downloads, we have fearful amounts of Dead available, all at a sound quality that any one of us would have once killed for. Yes, you can quibble over the “punchiness” of this release versus that, but these are, when it comes to using the Dead to feed the hunger of your burgeoning OCD, light years beyond what we used to deem acceptable

We have not mentioned any year past 1977. There is a reason for that. (We’ll get to Brent later, you can be assured.)

%d bloggers like this: