Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: Grateful Dead (page 1 of 25)

Thoughts From The Vault

  • I’ve just listened to One from the Vault and I’m at Blues for Allah, so I’m going to listen to Blues for Allah and circle back around.
  • If I just start again, I will not listen to Blues for Allah because it will be late and I will be tired and Blues for Allah is goofy.
  • It is a deeply goofy song.
  • Actually, I don’t suppose it qualifies as a “song,” does it?
  • It’s music, but I don’t know about whether it’s a song.
  • A good deal of it is just re-packaged Space.
  • “Weir, sound like the desert.”
  • “Whaddya mean, Jer?”
  • “I dunno: pretend you’re a sand dune.”
  • “Stop undulating, Bobby.”
  • “I was getting into character.”
  • One from the Vault (hereafter referred to as OFTV) is the recording of 8/13/75 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, which is a tiny place that is still there and open, right down the street from the O’Farrell Theater, which is still there and open.
  • You can look up the O’Farrell yourself, but the short version: two brothers ran a fuck theater, one shot the other; since it was the 70’s and 80’s, there was cocaine involved.
  • At one point, Hunter S. Thompson had moved into the theater.
  • First day of business school: do not let Hunter S. Thompson move into your business.
  • The “Under Eternity” bit of Blues for Allah at the end is Mrs. Donna Jean’s finest hour: she kills it and is genuinely scary – she sounds like an evil muezzin, calling the faithful to prayers…
  • …of DEATH.
  • That would be a great horror movie if everyone involved wouldn’t get stabbed for making it.
  • Nobody’s writing Blues for Allah now.
  • I mean, no one’s really doing twenty-minute suites with giant freak-out sections and one of the drummers playing crickets.
  • But, also not doing any pop tunes about Allah at all, really.
  • Good evening.
  • We welcome you.
  • On behalf of the group.
  • Greatest intro ever, and well-improved for the excision of the Bill Graham’s line about getting paid to do it.
  • No one speaks with Bill Graham’s accent anymore and the world is less for it.
  • Phil makes it.
  • You don’t realize that they;re really doing the old show biz chestnut until Phil responds to his name.
  • The old tricks are old for a reason and then Garcia stabs at those ice pick intro chords as Bill Graham gets out of the way.
  • Would you welcome, please, the Grateful Dead.
  • They almost could have just packed up the gear and gone home after that.
  • That intro is perfect: it’s dramatic, in that there’s a beginning, middle, and end; it’s musical, and not just the band jumping in one-by-one, but in Bill Graham’s Bronx accent; and it’s classic.
  • No boasting about the hottest band in the land; just say the name.
  • Help>Slip>Frank: BEST EVAR or merely HoF?
  • Some people ask themselves, how do I feed the hungry, or cure the sick.
  • I think my question is just as vital.
  • What if you were hungry for a good H>S>F?
  • Or sick of bad ones?
  • I assume that Garcia is playing the Travis Bean, and I’ll state it unequivocably: this is the greatest guitar he ever played, and I stand by that statement until the very instant I next put on a ’72.
  • Franklin’s is one of my favorites, and the versions from 1975 all have this slightly out-of-control feel to them; Garcia sounds almost frenzied on the Lindley Meadows show take, and here, too, he attacks his solos like a drunk man trying to get his money back from a hooker after failing to achieve a sufficient erection.
  • Also, he gets every single word right and doesn’t mix up the verses or repeat any verses.
  • Because he did that constantly.
  • Franklin’s was Garcia’s Truckin’.
  • It’s also one of Hunter’s best songs.
  • I’m sure it’s about something.
  • And yet, it is in no way doggerel or gibberish and hippie-dippie nonsense.
  • It’s as good a lyric as anything he’s ever written, including the concept album he wrote for Quiet Riot called Pick Up the Phone: Metal’s Calling.
  • Everything about the show is weird: the venue, the structure of the sets, the songlist.
  • As always, the facts–as far as we know them–can be found at Lost Live Dead, wherein we learn that the 600-person (or so) joint was packed with radio folks from all over.
  • The Dead had retired, remember, and in the rock world of 1975, 10 months was a long time.
  • They had a new record out and wanted to get it played on the radio, which required giving DJs cocaine and making Program Directors feel important.
  • So, not only was it a small crowd, but also the first non-Deadhead crowd the band had played for in a while.
  • If this Eyes of the World were a van, it would have a dragon with giant tits airbrushed on the side and stop for you when you hitchhiked.
  • Inside, there would be shag carpeting and captain’s chairs and aquariums and a half-court for basketball and a breakfast nook and a conversation pit and a bay window for the cat.
  • The cat’s name is Mouse.
  • On the shag carpet, there is a girl in Jordache jeans and a halter top; there is fringe on the halter top and the strands sway with the curves of the roads.
  • She asks you where you’re going, and hands you a joint; it is powerful and when you close your eyes while coughing, the girl is on top of you with her fangs bared.
  • Stop doing that.
  • Anyway, the Eyes is one of their best, with its sprawling, multi-partite Phil solos and Billy and Mickey are answering each other and chasing each other through time signatures while Garcia covers the top part and Bobby and Keith play the actual song.
  • And Drums.
  • There will always be a Drums.
  • King Solomon’s Marbles is fucking tragic if you think about it.
  • Jesus, listen to them: all six of them nimbly dancing around the beat and hitting every cue, sliding in and out of sections with a Dirk Diggler-esque confidence, throwing the melody from Keith’s Rhodes piano to Garcia and back.
  • It’s jazz-rock that doesn’t suck, so: not jazz-rock at all, but you get my meaning.
  • Alas, this kind of music requires rehearsal, while mid-tempo tramps through Dylan tunes didn’t.
  • Three realities down, there’s a Dead that took this show for itself as a challenge and spent the next decades very differently.
  • Of course, four realities down, there’s a Dead that did the same thing, but their fans hated it and they broke up and now Billy still lives in Hawaii, but under a bridge.
  • You could just play Chick Berry tunes, man.

First Set

  • I missed the first two or three songs of the July 3rd show.
  • Stadiums are built so they can fill up or empty in ten minutes, but not the field.
  • The field is deliberately designed to be tricky to get to.
  • There are only two points of access, and one of them is being taken up by a temporarily-funct choogly-type band.
  • You’ve created a nice little choke point for yourself, plus the folks on the floor need wristbands.
  • Which they ran out of just as I got to the gate.
  • Back-up began immediately, and then people started helping.
  • Helping is to be pronounced sarcastically.
  • Couple of fuckers literally tried to start a riot.
  • There were no cops, and no security: just volunteer ushers trying to do the best job they could.
  • If you didn’t have a wristband, you wouldn’t be able to leave the floor, which seems reasonable, but the stronger the waves of pressure on my back, the less I cared.
  • Years ago, WBCN hired Green Day to play a free concert in the Hatch Shell in Boston.
  • Someone punched the bass player, or something or other, and the band left the stage after four songs.
  • Riot.
  • Crowds are stupid beasts, but they turn quickly.
  • The assholes kept helping, and yelling for the crowd to do what crowds will do.
  • The volunteer usher I was standing with was in law school and wanted to see the Dead for free; I figured I would throw her under a table and hunker down in there.
  • Trey played the opening chords to Bertha a little too slowly, and a small brown guy and a large white guy sprinted up with the missing wrist bands.
  • Welcome back, my friends.
  • It looked like this:
  • rosebucassidy3rd
  • But with more people, and with more Trellis Abdominizer.
  • He began the weekend like a motherfucker, motherfucked his way through the holiday, and then deliberately got a non-direct flight home so he could fuck mothers all the way back.
  • Which brings us to the first of problems.
  • Not problems, really.
  • Problems have solutions: this is intractable.
  • Not only is there nothing like a Grateful Dead concert, but there’s nothing like any kind of concert.
  • Sitting on your couch with headphones on, listening to a crisp Charlie Miller SBD has so little in common with the actual event that it makes more sense to judge them as separate events than even as facets of the same diamond.
  • Tripp sounds great on Bertha instrumentally, but the tape reveals his voice as weaker than I remember.
  • Mostly because when he sang about getting tested and arrested, 65,000 people were screaming along with him.
  • I don’t know about the rules regarding the SBD’s of the Chicago shows, but they are available; I won’t post them, but if they get posted in the comment section, they won’t be taken down.
  • They just finished up Passenger and Bobby asked the crowd if they were “ramping up for a sane Fourth?”
  • They didn’t play Passenger for all that long: ’78 to ’80 or ’81, and the song never felt the need to be ten minutes long.
  • There really isn’t ten minutes worth of song in Passenger, if we’re honest.
  • The sun is now setting on Soldier Field and the closest thing there is to a Grateful Dead is going into The Wheel, and the Deadheads are taking off their sunglasses and swaying and davening and asking each other if this isn’t really more of a second set song.
  • It totally is.wpid-wp-1435974553355
  • I did not notice that Bobby was wearing what had been sold to him as a lengthy short but were in fact jeans.
  • I only had a direct view of the band on the second night: on the 3rd, I was on the floor and am not Bill Walton; on the 5th, there was a speaker bank in between our seats and the stage.
  • Transom is doing quite a bit of Phishy bullshit in this The Wheel, but then he nails the transition into Crazy Fingers, which may be our first honest-to-gosh “>” of the night.
  • The Grateful Dead may have played Crazy Fingers at an acceptably professional level, like, four times in the history of the song.
  • Although, Garcia was the one who always fucked it up, so maybe his death was a good thing for Crazy Fingers.
  • Stop it.
  • Fine.
  • It was almost dark now, and Candace Brightman started doing this sort of thing:
  • blimp view2
  • And as she does this in the soft and magic last light, Trey sings the line “I try” over and over, too many times, and it is a mantra and you cheer with him and for him.
  • We will all try, Treyvon, and we will do our parts as the spotlights pick out love and point out kindness and pin joy down like a butterfly in the perfect Chicago dusk.
  • The acid has kicked in.
  • So has The Music Never Stopped, which is too damn slow, and the tape reveals a frustrated Billy trying to goose the thing up to no avail, but it doesn’t matter when Bobby proclaims that everybody’s dancing and all of us rush to prove him no liar.
  • And then he asked us if they were ever here at all, and a stadium got a catch in its throat and knew it would be the first of many.
  • Mickey is audible for the first time during the jam, and Bruce is whanging on the bottom octaves of his Steinway as his right hand bounces down the top notes.
  • And now Bobby is ranting about Never Stopping and you know no one’s phoning this sucker in: Bobby’s gonna Bobby as hard as he can and then Trey starts fanning the guitar like the old man.
  • It is dark now and all the people are a crowd and we are there to see the Grateful Dead and against all odds, they might have shown up.
  • Set break.

There Will Be Poop

Dear Chicago (if that is your real name),

We here at Thoughts on the Dead have read your latest decision to not allow camping near Soldier Field during the Farewell Shows. Soldier Field Spokesman Luca Serra took time out from being something an Italian widow would yell at you if you took her parking spot to issue this statement:

Whaddayou think-a you doin’, you wacky-a Deadheads-a, you! You jussa wanna poop in-a da parkin’ lot!*

Mr. Serra has a point. TotD did, just weeks ago, offer a plea to Chicago to allow public and semi-public defecation during the weekend. There was also a petition that skirted the issue of doody to concentrate on safety and money and boring stuff like that. Both were ignored.

So, Windy City: we now race past the “asking” section of the program, to find ourselves at the “telling” portion.

Chicago, we will be pooping in your parking lots.

For twenty-five years, the Grateful Dead toured America. And for twenty-five years, a sizable contingent of dirty, but friendly, people followed. And pooped. Deadheads have copped squats in Miami, provided DNA in Austin, and left turds in San Diego. This is not to mention the rampant public pooping in San Francisco that was probably not related to the Dead at all and continues to this very day.

We weren’t asking you permission, Chicago: we seeking your blessing. The pooping will commence, undaunted by official ban. In fact, you’ve now made the act of leaving a loaf in a bush forbidden fruit.

Are you still in America, Chicago? I’m pretty sure George Washington killed Hitler so that we could freely and publicly (or semi-publicly) poop outside football stadia.

Deadheads pooping in your parking lots: you can’t stop them, you can only hope to contain them.



* I am both paraphrasing and being racist.

Sign Your Name

A Petition to Allow Deadheads to Poop in Soldier Field’s Parking Lots

This is a petition to allow Deadheads to poop publicly and semi-publicly in the lots surrounding Soldier Field for the duration of the Dead’s 50th anniversary shows this July Fourth weekend.

The Grateful Dead is widely regarded as one of the most patriotic of all rock bands: after all, half of them are dead from lifestyle choices and the remaining ones are violent capitalists. The 50th anniversary shows will be a truly All-American event: inclusive of all races, tribes, and cultures (that are college-educated white people.)

It would be the safest thing for everyone involved to let us poop in your parking lot, Chicago.

The city of Chicago estimates these shows will have an economic impact of $50 to $100 million over the long weekend. We will drink your Old Style beer to wash down that backalley abortion of a tomato casserole you so hilariously call pizza.

And then we will poop. Please let us poop in your parking lots for 24 hours a day for the entire long holiday weekend.

Camping at the venue before and between shows is a long-cherished Deadhead tradition. And camping, as we know, is just a euphemism for non-civilized pooping. You can sleep in a car or in a chair; food can be brought or prepared easily. It’s the number twos that are number one on everyone’s priority list and it is in this intricacy that the love of taking doodies right outside a football stadium took hold in the Dead family.

Allowing Deadheads to poop in your parking lot is also the safest course of action. As nostalgia will infect even the most rational of people, many of us will indulge in a kind burrito or the dankest grilled cheese, like, ever. We will recall the weeks we spent living off nothing but these tin-foil wrapped health code violations and the wonderful things that happened to us while we maintained this diet and forget that we are now old and the parking lot food will make us sick and we will need to poop.

Please let us poop in your parking lot, Chicago. One last time.

Two Great Tastes

I am listening to a mirror being shattered by an arrow–I am listening to the universe wink at me and chuck me in an avuncular fashion under my chin.

I am listening to a goddamn miracle. The program playing the FLAC files has glitched, or perhaps gained self-awareness and declared itslef aligned with Chaotic Good and the Answer Man alone could solve the riddle of whether or not we should go, you and I.

Keen-eyed Enthusiasts will have spotted that Fillmore South is having a bit of a love affair with the Baby Dead, and today was all about 1969. The picture in the  last post inspired a trip to 4/21/69 at Boston’s The Ark and when the needle skipped to Dark Star, an amazing thing happened: Dark Star and St. Stephen began simultaneously and if the Dead were ever the Cosmic Symphony, they were for a brief moment being conducted by Charles Ives.

This was, accidentally, one step beyond Anthem for the Sun, with its quadrophonic clones battling each other to the death over the soundscape as they clattered their way through the Anthem suite. It was even beyond the tragically overlooked work of art Greyfolded by John Oswald. That record (which you should own, and don’t argue with me or I’ll turn this internet around) used the 30 years of Dark Stars as the paint and canvas for an impressionistic take on just who exactly did those Grateful Deads even think they were, anyway.

These were two completely different songs; surely, the result will not only not be good, but will in fact be intolerable

But it worked. The two songs are in different keys, DS in D and Stephen in A, but they are related keys and, while not being entirely consonant, the effect produced a constantly unresolved chord, note after note failing to resolve properly, because there was no place to resolve to in this scary new world.

Each song has dynamics, a wide range of shout-y parts and ooky-spooky quiet passages, so they vied for sonic territory, battling with the musicians most trusted weapon, volume. Stephen fades out entirely for a moment , only to shatter the tranquility of the quiet jam after Dark Star’s first verse with the 1.21 gigawatt blast of Mickey’s snare signalling that The Eleven was soon to rush to the stage, off-balance and out of whack yet stylish, like a one-legged alcoholic in a tuxedo.

They rushed back and forth, these two Dead classics did, like two oceans meeting: the waves crashed and warred above the surface, but below there was just water and all water is the same, in the same way that everything beautiful is the same.

I wish I could play it for you. Perhaps one of my readers, tall and handy and sexually-charged that they all are, could mash these two things together. It sounds like a thing that could be done fairly easily, maybe even by me. but I don’t know if I want to.

There is still a little bit of magic in this used-up world. But you should never watch a magic trick twice.

Terrapin Playstation

Readers with long memories (so: not my readers) will recall The Grateful Dead Game, which I will not link to out of fear of contamination. It is feculent and shoddy. Overseen by people who called computers “the machine,” it is the worst kind of Rapping Granny.

is this music worth preserving? Should it linger? Should these songs fill the air for another ten years? Another generation?

If the answer is ‘yes’, then the music–and the story of how it was made and what kind of country it was made in–must be sold. I believe that Grateful Dead music is like a 10-inch dong: any excuse to show it to the world is fine. We need to show how grateful our dongs are for the Grateful Dead! Who’s with me?!


Yes, friend?

Wanna get off the barricades for just this once?

It’s just so upsetting that an organization representing a group of men (and Mrs. Donna Jean) that did its best work in 1973 is so bad with the internet.

The Dead would be a great hook for a game. Open world, GTA kinda thing. Start off selling kind burritos, doses, and tuggers out on Shakedown Street. Quests to earn points, which come as little perforated squares that assemble themselves into a sheet of Felix the Cat blotter on the bottom of the screen. Earn a full sheet and level up; each level has its own historically great blotter-paper design.

You try to stay righteous and clean–meters for each thing, and if the former drops, no one will buy from you; if the latter drops, no one will make sex on you.

So you quest for stuff like a new air filter for the van, or putting bumper stickers on cop cars without being spotted. There are mini-games of hacky-sack and devil sticks and you’re having a great time when…

FIGHT SCENE! It’s you vs. the Nitrous Mafia. Their filthy Red Sox hats pulled low over their beady eyes, they encircle you, so you….push AA BB Up Up Down Down. (Or something. I do not actually play video games anymore.) But it’s a fight anyhow.

Assuming you’ve mashed the right sequence of buttons, you stand triumphant over the goons and all the hairy, dirty Deadheads cheer you.


You are now Squatch Johnson, an actual road manager for the Grateful Dead. From the early-morning load-in, to getting the band from the hotel to the show, to carding the underage daughters of politicians and judges, it’s all up to you to make sure the show actually goes on.

Is the fire chief being a dick about the regulations because he’s angling for a bribe or because he’s a dick? Can you keep Keith out of Garcia’s briefcase? Can you keep Garcia out of Garcia’s briefcase? All up to you.

And in the version for the Wii, you can play as Billy and punch dicks with the doohickey.



Once again, due to popular demand I imagined, TotD presents FUNTIME WITH SEARCH TERMS! Presented below are how some of you weird, shameful fuckers got here. As always, they are [sic] the lot of them: it’s funnier that way.

jerry garcia wearing a jacket of skull and roses design, jerry garcia wordpress theme  Visual learners.

crazy old fuck, “lou reed” molested  Been here before, but they were high and forgot the name. Understandable.

donna godchaux fucking bob  That’s Mrs. Donna Jean to you, but I like your sex-positive feminist reading of the situation.

what really happened to bob weir, why does bob weir look so bad?, bob weir fat We talking about the same guy?

thoughts on the Confused by the google.

too da loo used in sentence  You just did, sorta.

thoughts for the deceseased, dead musings, thought of the day on death  Now those first two we can put squarely in the ‘close but no cigar’ category, but that last one is the worst idea for a calendar I’ve ever heard.

thoughts for a dead nice lady OH MY GOD, JERRY LEWIS READS MY BLOGGINGS.

mickey’s thoughts  Murder and shrimp cocktail.

black dicks picks  This guy did not find what he wanted here.

This Whole Courtroom’s Out Of Order

jerry judge

Judge Jerry was a bad idea from the start.

During the taping of the pilot, Parish the bailiff hit three or four people for no reason at all. In his defense, he was near-mad with boredom after fourteen hours of waiting for Bear’s upgrades to the TV studio’s equipment to start working. Bear was going beyond stereo, quadrophonic, or surround sound: he had come up with DodecaHydroSpheric Sound! unfortunately, getting the full effect of the audio required getting really high and sticking your head up Buckminster Fuller’s ass, and this was going to be an afternoon show.

By lunchtime, the project was $340,000 over budget and four months behind schedule.

There had been no fires, though: electricians are very good at keeping buildings from burning down. It is almost their number one function, ahead of a steady supply of power–the lights working 99% of the time is fine, but building has to not burn down every time. So, try as he might–with the smoking and the nodding and the constant, almost magical, replenishing supply of mattresses, ratty couches, telephone books, newspapers, oily rags, and young Drew Barrymores–this place had been throughly Garcia-proofed.

Afternoon judge shows tend to be pithy and quick-moving, and when Garcia launched into another riff about how the word “ambidexter” doesn’t mean someone who’s good with both hands, but that it means that someone is as good with both hand as with his right hand. The right hand is dexter, the left hand is sinister. Hence, the term for a klutz: ambisinister.  And, you know…that goes into the right-hand vs. left-hand paths in most mystery religions…

“Mr. Garcia? We just need you to say, ‘What’s the first case, Parish?’ Still haven’t gotten this first shot.”

It was at this moment that a large crane, the one with the seat and the camera attached to the end, came crashing through the wall because Billy disengaged the parking brake when no one was looking because Billy thought it was funny and Billy thought that because Billy was awful, simply awful.


Box Set Nitties

Themed box sets are the wave of the future, mark my words. Enough with these pedestrian groupings, lumping together shows merely because they appeared consecutively in the timestream.

How primitive.

One could argue that the shows have become free from temporality now, so far away from the piss-and-shit smell of the actual reality of “a show.” An Event, a thing to be done, gone to, waited on, hoped for, remembered fondly and dearly and well. Strip away the context, and we’re left with just the text–only the music remains.

So why, then, are our box sets still chained–enthralled!–by the simian processes and demands of time? We need to see the Dead’s career from above and follow the threads that link performances from across the years, even decades. Here are a few that the band have been working on:

TC: Secret Hero? It barely filled a CD, so this project was shelved and the money diverted to fund a cobbling program to help inner-city youths overcome the lures of drugs, gangs, and chickenheads by learning how to make TC’s fancy little booties. The project was a failure and resulted in multiple deaths.

Billy’s Got His Dick Out Randomly, but regularly, Billy would play the show with his dick out. You could look, you could not look.Billy didn’t care: it was muggy or something, his hog wanted some air, and Billy was a fucking American–what are you gonna do about it? This 25-CD package was to include the infamous 1973 show in St. Louis when Billy’s dick took his own dick out, and everybody freaked right the fuck out, because, honestly: what the fuck, Billy? We will not have your forays into infinite masculine regression up in this muhfuh, if you please.

January ’78: It’s Bobby Time!  Those three or four shows in wich Garcia lost his voice, Bobby lost his mind, and we lost our patience. There’s only so many Mexicali Blues in a row a man can bear.

The Complete Wagner’s Ring Cycle by Phil and Ned  12 discs of atonal, non-synchronous, apathetirythmic (that’s when you know where the beat is, but you don’t care) musiqúe concrete loosely alluding to, obliquely referencing, and distinctly ignoring the text of Wagner’s multi-evening magnum opus. Sometime in August of ’73, Phil and Ned shot way too much crystal meth and did all 16 hours at once and the fall-off from beginning to end is rather severe. At one point, Phil audibly wanders out of the studio and has to be lured back in with candy. 

GD: The Tahoe Tweezer by the Grateful Dead Like, nine or ten discs of the Tahoe Tweezer on repeat. The packaging is a plain cardboard box containing a poorly Xeroxed photo of Phish with Garcia’s head taped over all four of theirs’. It’s both disconcerting and telling how far through the decision-making process this idea got before falling by the wayside.

Having Fun Onstage With Bobby The yellow dog joke! The deer poaching joke! The clever asides, wisecracks, and japes! That weird Okie accent he does for no reason sometimes! Two full discs of him ending songs with ‘THANK you!’ in that high-pitched voice. It was scheduled to be released last July, but Bobby locked himself in to TRI Studios for three days and immediately upon getting free, locked himself out. Then he soured on the whole project, which is a shame because the gold lame suit he had ordered from Nudie Cohen had cost $45,000.

Egypt ’79, ’83, ’84! During the Heineken Years, Phil would occasionally just refuse to believe they weren’t back in the Land of the Pharaohs and mostly people just rolled with it, except for when, at one of the ’83 shows, Phil saw a swarthy guy backstage and screamed, “GET DOWN, ANWAR SADAT!’ and tackled the poor hairy bastard. Covering five mostly-well played shows that take place mostly in desert cities, although the ’84 was in Maine, which worried people, but amused Billy because he’s awful.

The Mutineer

The show I posted yesterday generates opinions: some enjoy the energy, and others think that 6/4/78 was too over-the-top, that there is a difference between being enthusiastic and being the naked guy who still keeps trying to eat cops after he’s been shot seven times. Mrs. Donna Jean joining in the NFA jam was certainly her prerogative, and I enjoyed it: she saw everyone else going out-of-tune and decided to join in. Cool beans for Mrs. Donna Jean.

The show was from one of Bill Graham’s Day on the Green shows and Warren Zevon was opening and Warren Zevon was drinking because that’s what he did that year.

It did not go well.

Zevon wasn’t a good drunk, but he was a consistent one. He blacked out, a lot. He liked guns, and kept them handy. Also: pills and hitting people, mostly the woman closest to him. His shit was fucked up.

There is a recording of the abuse that Warren threw at the mostly-Deadhead audience, but it’s not readily available; I did find this picture:

phil zevon

I found this on the wonderful that contains some nifty pictures taken by a lovely man with a good eye named Bill Fridl.

You must appreciate Phil’s bemused chuckle at watching Warren eat it, deliberately and seemingly on purpose. “Yeah, I’ll get to the coke, but first I’m gonna watch Johnny Hairline piss off 25,000 people. That reminds me, I should call Ned Lagin.”

Warren: this was a big show, probably the biggest in sheer size you had ever, and might ever, play. The Deadheads liked you coming into it: their heroes had given you the most explicit of thumbs-ups. Covering a song that was in the charts? Unheard of! (Butchering that song? Heard of!) The Dead played one of your goddamn songs: MAKE FRIENDS WITH THEM, you idiot: the audience AND the band.

And it’s odd of him to piss off famous people of any stripe: Warren was an inveterate name dropper; every song in his live show has an intro about “It’s one of Marty Scorsese’s favorites.”Warren was never quite as famous as he knew he should be. It’s not narcissism: I share the opinion. So do most people with a little bit of taste in music.

His live show was usually good, especially during the ’80’s when tough times turned him into a one-man-band, playing twelve string and, of course, piano in little theaters and big bars. When times were good, he had LA sharpies; he could never afford to take the real motherfuckers out with him, though–the guys he hung out with back home and made most of his records with.

Zevon’s first bunch of records were immediately brilliant.  They were cool and funny and smart and his hair…well, you know about his hair. His next bunch (and this was a rather larger bunch; some might say ‘most’) were in retrospect full of heartless love songs that over years worm their way into you as their production makes the expected transition from ‘cheesy’ to ‘dated’ to ‘classic’. Then his last three, which were contextually beautiful back then; they stand on their own now.

Writers make sense of place, and explain ourselves to us: without grounding, there is nothing. To this day, there are parts of Lower Manhattan that still feel like Visions of Johanna. Hunter got San Francisco, and the open road, and the trail: Hunter was good with the trail.

But, Warren got Los Angeles right.


Warren Zevon could write the fuck out of a song.

PLUS the Heineken.

Older posts
%d bloggers like this: