Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: jerry garcia (page 1 of 117)

Career Opportunities, The Other Ones That Never Knock

EXT. NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BEACH – THE PAST

Out in the water, a Mexican man with a beard drowns.

INT. BAR – STILL THE PAST

A man wearing an Army officer’s dress uniform sits at the bar. LITTLE JERRY GARCIA (6 years old, beard, smoking) sits next to him.

MAN
Hello, little man. I sure heard a lot about you. You see, I was a friend of your
dad’s. We were in Bataan together, we walked side-by-side. Lot of time to talk,
and I got to know him real well. If things had worked out different, then he’d be
talking to my boy. But this is how things are. And so I have something for you.

The man pulls out a guitar.

MAN
This guitar was purchased in Nashville by your great-grandfather for eight
dollars and two chickens. These were the old days, you understand. You
could buy a guitar with a chicken. Your great-grandfather, well, he jammed
all over the country with it. Your grandfather, when it was his turn to jam? He
did it on this guitar, but wasn’t so lucky. Wound up in a Disco Biscuits tribute
act.

The man takes a drink.

MAN
Before he took his own life out of shame, he gave the guitar to the keyboardist.
Keyboardist died, though. They do that. The bass player, though, he got this guitar
to your grandma. She gave it to your father, and he used it to jam in the lounge at
the Luzon Holiday Inn. When the Japs came, he thought that was it for the guitar.
They got a glimpse of it, and it would be gone.

Another drink.

MAN
So he hid it. He hid it in the one place that he knew it would be safe. For five
years, your father hid this guitar up his ass. And when he died, I put
the guitar up my ass.

Excuse me, please.

You absolutely cannot be here right now. This is a screenplay.

I see that.

Look at the formatting.

Very professional. Stop doing this.

I’m auditioning.

This is why you’re not allowed to contribute to Pitchfork articles about the Dead.

I’m sure I don’t know what you’re referring to.

Sure, champ. Please stop this.

What if I told you that Garcia was going to be played by one of the kids from Stranger Things?

Which one?

The black one.

We’re done here.

Three Dead In Massachusetts

“You want some, Pig?”

“Keep that devil’s lettuce away from me! The ol’ Pig smokes Camels like Jesus said to in th’ Bible!”

“He said that?”

“I’m just repeatin’ what I heard in Sunday School.”

OR

Anything made of metal that remained still for more than ten minutes got a Stealie welded to it; objects not made of metal would get Stealies stuck to them.

OR

Garcia’s head looks like a chimney brush. Just saying.

OR

This is also from the Kresge Plaza show in 1970; like I said, the students had taken the campus in protest of the Kent State murders.

We speak now to the Younger Enthusiast, may they stay so forever. On April 30th, 1970, Nixon announced his new strategy to win the Vietnam War, which was by going to war with Cambodia. And, if that failed, Laos. Nixon was going to win this war, no matter how many wars he had to start. Naturally, this alarmed able-bodied young men, whom are required to have a war, and it doubly alarmed students because in 1969 the college deferment had been eliminated.

(Did people avoid the draft by taking a couple credits each semester for the length of the war? That might have been my method. I could have easily hid from the war for a decade at my local community college, taking whatever class interested me. That sounds like a pleasure, actually: you could learn, and make new friends.)

In 1940, the Unites States started drafting young men, which makes sense, but then the government forgot to stop when WWII ended, and so there was conscription until 1973. Any amount of thought or research will lead you to the fact that armed forces rarely want conscripts; they’re just going to fuck everything up on purpose. Remember how Klinger from MASH was always trying to get thrown out of the Army? In real life, that’s less cute because the guy who really wants out of the Army is surrounded by guns and grenades. How are you going to get any soldiering done when half your time is making sure your squad isn’t trying to escape? Throughout history, a conscripted troop will bolt the first chance he gets.

But this is the US government we’re talking about, so the draft stayed. There were free passes, though: college, marriage and/or children, homosexuality. The nation needed to protect its thinkers, families, and gays, so they were not allowed to go to war. (That’s why gays weren’t drafted, right?) In ’69, like I said, Nixon removed the student deferment.

And then, right before May Day, he announces the whole “Start two wars to win one” campaign. The students responded with equanimity.

And then they began setting things on fire.

They did at Kent State, at least: things got out of control. A little bit by the kids, but mostly by the adults. And the adults had all the weapons. The bayonets, too: on the 3rd, several students got stuck. The National Guard had brought bayonets to the campus, and then used them. That was on the 3rd. On the 4th, the National Guard remembered that they had rifles, and they used them, too.

Two of the dead were 19 years old, and the other two were 20. Nine others, all students, were wounded. The closest was not within 100 feet of the Guard’s position, the farthest was over 700 feet away. All were unarmed.

No criminal charges were ever brought. Civil cases failed. The public blamed the kids, and reelected Nixon in a landslide 16 months later.

This is what the Alt-Right are trying to do at Berkeley right now, this is what they want. Ann Coulter masturbates to that photo of the girl crying over her dead friend.

That went from history to current events kinda quick.

Everything happens at once.

It does tend to do that.

M.I.T As Well

When dunces give you that “Jerry didn’t want it to be about politics, maaaaaaan,” jive, just remind them the Dead were literally the house band of a student riot. This is 5/6/70 on the Kresge Plaza at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The band was scheduled to play the next night in the gym, but when the kids took the campus in protest of the National Guard murdering four Kent State students, the Dead agreed to provide the soundtrack; they were hidden in the back of a bread truck and smuggled onto the site. (It looks like they didn’t bring Pig’s organ.) It was cold–May in Boston can get wicked chilly–and they had more trouble keeping their guitars in tune than normal, but the set’s got a crackly and wired energy; Dancin’ in the Street is the highlight, which makes sense given the context.

Garcia didn’t do politics because he was terminally passive-aggressive, but the Grateful Dead always chose sides, and it was always the side you’d expect.

Sittin’ On Top Hat Of The World

Hey, Garcia. Whatcha doing?

“Video.”

You sound thrilled.

“Ah, man, this blows. All jive, y’know? Who am I, Madonna?”

You could’ve said no.

“Less hassle to do it than to refuse.”

And you got a nifty hat.

“You like?”

Very nice.

“Hiding a meatloaf sandwich in here.”

You got your meatloaf sandwich?

“Jerry Garcia always gets his sandwich.”

Case closed.

Pic Of A Pic Of A Pig

Oh, Garcia, no. You are not a pirate, Garcia. Put them boots inside them trousers. Your buckle does not swash like that, Garcia.

Nudie, Nudie Minglewood Blues

Last shot of the Nudie Suits. (Is this Winterland?)

OR

Everybody’s favorite fun game: Spot Precarious Lee’s Work. Here’s a hint: it’s the monitors.

Nudielicious

Here’s another shot of Garcia’s Nudie Suit from behind; the outfit maintains the usual Dead motifs: skulls and roses and bullshit. Nothing says Grateful Dead like skulls and roses and bullshit.

Fuck it, might as well empty out the Nudie Suit library in one easy-to-find place. Here’s Bobby:

Is that a chicken? I think that’s a chicken. Here’s another of Bobby:

The son of a bitch just didn’t have a bad angle.

Say “Cheese.”

“Cheese!”

You look spiffy.

“Flash, baby.”

Awesome. This is Phil:

But you already knew that. (Check out the cowboy boots.)

This is a better shot of the weirdo Strat from late ’72:

This is 12/12, and he also played Numbers (I just named the guitar) on 11/22/72 at the Municipal Auditorium in Austin. We know this from this picture…

and this article.

I gotta be honest with you, Enthusiasts: this research horseshit is not for me. I’m exhausted. The president’s right: facts are for suckers.

And we finish up with a shot featuring both the Nudie Suit and the weird guitar. I brought all the threads together.

And you without a Pulitzer.

I know, right?

Live Nudies

The Nudie Suit experiment has never been properly explained; this sounds like a job for Lost Live Dead. There’s not many pics of The Boys in their suits, and they only wore them for a few shows: one (or more) of the Winterland run in December ’72, and then again at New Year’s. The outfits came out again 2/19/73 in Chicago, and then made their final appearance on 3/19/73 at Nassau Coliseum. (And not even for the whole show: everyone changed during set break.)

Wait, you’re saying. Those sound suspiciously like facts, TotD. You don’t traffic in fact and research.

Stop talking, I’d say, or I’ll throw myself out the window and you’ll never find out how the Little Aleppo story ends.

Wow, you’d reply. That got dark real fast.

And then I’d start crying. Are you happy? Is that what you wanted?

Stop this.

They did it. It’s all their fault.

Who is “they?”

Them.

Just stop it.

Fine. The dates from Winterland and Chicago may be wrong–I’m just going on Archive comments–but the Nassau show is a confirmed event. There is, Enthusiasts, evidence.

Look:

Bobby says in an interview that Garcia had his first, in fact had his before April of ’72 because he brought it to Europe with him (even though he didn’t have the balls to wear it onstage.) After March of ’73, though, they were gone forever. Phil still has his…

…and it still fits. (Phil went a little low-key with his, which I disagree with. What’s the point of a Nudie Suit if it can’t be seen from space?)

Who has Garcia’s? Gotta be worth something, more if it hasn’t been laundered.

But let me start at the beginning: 1902 was a terrible time to be born Jewish in Kiev. There’s never been a good time, but 1902 was worse than usual.

“Izzy?”

“Yes, Schmuley?”

“We should go somewhere where there aren’t Cossacks.”

“What is it with those guys?”

“They just seem to like hitting us with sticks.”

“And kicking.”

“Kicking, too. Let’s go to America.”

“You mean the Land of the Free, a country built on immigration that would never turn away needy and desperate refugees?”

“No, America.”

“Oh, okay. At least there’ll be jobs.”

“Sure.”

And so on.

One of these newly-arrived Jews was a young man named Nuta Kotlyarenko, who renamed himself Nudie Cohn and became a tailor, first in Minnesota where he met his wife Bobbie; they opened a shop in New York selling underwear to showgirls, and then moved to Los Angeles in the 40’s to make Western Wear. Spangles and frills and themes, and the last one is the most important: the key to the Nudie Suit is the theme. Anyone can slap some rhinestones onto a jacket, but a Nudie has a raison d’etre.

Look at this bullshit:

That’s some down-home bullshit right there.

That’s Porter Wagoner (right), and he was the first Country star to start wearing Nudie Suits; in fact, Nudie gave him his first suit for free, thinking it would be good promotion. It was. Soon, every male Country star had to have a Nudie Suit.

Hank Williams had one:

The notes represented his love of music.

Gram Parsons had one, too:

The drugs represent his love of drugs.

Every artist has a masterpiece, and Nudie Cohn was certainly an artist. His greatest suit of all time may have been both his simplest and his flashiest. You’ve seen it before once or twice:

“AH’M BACK!”

No, you’re not. Shh.

Anyway, Nudie Cohn died in 1984, but you can still get “Nudie Suits;” they make periodic comebacks adorning roots-rockers or alt-country acts. (You really can’t wear a Nudie Suit anywhere other than the stage. If you walk into a Taco Bell dressed like this, you will get gorditas thrown at you.)

Circling back to the Dead (this is about the Grateful Dead, remember), we still have many questions. Why would Garcia have had one in the first place? A Nudie Suit wasn’t an impulse purchase, nor could it have been a gift: they were hand-made, so you have to visit Nudie for measurement and fittings, and very expensive. And recall that Garcia got his before everyone else did, so it wasn’t a group decision. Garcia–in an entirely out-of-character move–bought himself a Nudie Suit out of nowhere? None of this makes sense. Bobby was the one who thought he was a cowboy. Someone explain this to me.

Like I said, the rest of the band thought it was a spiffy idea, so they followed Garcia down to the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, where Nudie’s of Hollywood was located, and fancied themselves right up. Bobby and Billy looked like this:

“I was gonna get skank on the legs, but I settled for pot.”

Quiet. This is not a dialogue post.

“Ah, suck my nuts.”

Great.

Even Keith had one, though there’s just this one black-and-white photo of him:

Poor Keith. He doesn’t want to be in a Nudie Suit. He knows he’s not pulling it off. Aw.

Much like the Farewell Shoes, Mrs. Donna Jean was not included. She did, however, wear a very fetching red number when the rest of the band payed dress-up. She looked like this:

Another alternate reality created, another unwritten future. What if they hadn’t learned to write songs? What if they buckled down and rehearsed and continued being the band they were in ’77? What if Brent didn’t die? And: What if they gave a shit about what they looked like?

Alas, it was not to be. The Nudie Suits were put in the closet, and the tee-shirts and jeans came out; in the 80’s, sweatpants and short shorts replaced the jeans. Never again would the Dead have “stage clothes.” But for a moment, they looked bitchin’.

Hey, Slim

’75 Garcia could give Bobby a run for his sexy. There, I said it. Look at him, all skinny and clean and happy. I bet Bobby was leaving candy bars in Garcia’s dressing room.

Pedal Steal Your Face Right Off Your Head

That there is a pedal steel guitar, Enthusiasts; specifically, a customized (of course) Zane Beck D-10 that Garcia bought in 1969. Two necks with ten strings, each in open tunings. Some pedal steels have only one neck, but Garcia was in the Grateful Dead, so we should probably just be glad he didn’t order one with nine necks.

The pedal steel guitar has more in common with Brent’s Hammond B3 than it does with Wolf or Tiger. All of your limbs are involved; in fact, one leg does double duty. Your right foot controls the volume (like the B3), but you need to use your left foot and knee. The three pedals lower the pitches of the strings, while the knee levers raise them. The slide goes in your left hand; picks on your right fingers; mute with your right hand. The upper strings of a double-necked guitar are usually tuned to E9, which looks like this: B-D-E-F#-G#-B-E-G#-D#-F#. Plus, if you were Garcia, you had a cigarette to manage.

I can’t imagine why he stopped playing the thing.

OR

Full Muppet.

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