Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: jerry garcia (page 1 of 116)

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.

We’re A Two-Gong Band

“How many cables do we need, Precarious?”

“All of them.”

“Gongs?”

“All of them.”

“Amplifiers?”

“Put everything we own on the stage.”

“Gotcha.”

OR

They must be playing one of their bibbledy-boppidy songs that Pigpen can’t understand, because look how sad he looks with that stupid tambourine.

There’s A Jerry Band Out On The Highway

The only Grateful Dead who wasn’t in Jerry Band at one point was Bobby.

OR

Ronnie Tutt is sitting there thinking, “He’s not gonna do any karate?”

OR

Is that a long-sleeved guayabera?

Phils Like The First Time

You know I don’t do the Today in GD History bit too much; in fact, I resent May 8th and that miserable week in August for drawing so much attention to themselves. Some dates need celebrating, I suppose, but not all of them. Certainly not the 38th anniversary of a show in San Jose.

Unless, of course, it’s Brent’s first show. To honor him, I present you with this photo that he’s not in. This would set a tone for the rest of Brent’s tenure in the band.

OR

If you only had this picture, you would think Phil had a head like a Pachycephalosaurus.

Once You Pop

This is 6/18/67 at the Monterey Fairgrounds. I don’t know if I’ve listened to it; I will now, though. This show was the Monterey Pop Festival, legendary for its unlegendariness (at least as far as the Dead goes). The Boys were scheduled in between The Who (beginning a long inter-band relationship) and Jimi Hendrix (beginning his and Bobby’s best friendship); both acts put on high-volume shows punctuated by instrument destruction, arson, and explosives. In the face of such showmanship, the Dead countered by standing there and playing Viola Lee for 14 minutes.

They also refused to be filmed for the movie, which gives them a perfect record for avoiding being in iconic Rock Films: Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Gimme Shelter. Dead missed ’em all by thaaaat much.

Paging Chez Ray, Paging Chez Ray

Where you going?

“Getting that meatloaf sandwich.”

You’re obsessed.

“I’m hungry.”

How did Brent do?

“Who?”

Brent. Your new keyboard player. This is his first show.

“It is? I thought Donna called in sick.”

No.

“How about that? I’m sure he did great. When have we ever hired the wrong keyboardist?”

40% of the time.

“Close enough for rock and roll, right?”

Kinda.

“Now stop bothering me. Sandwich time.”

Okay.

Used To Play For Silver, Now We Play For Klein

You are just in a Jew sandwich there, aren’t you?

“I’m the meat, yeah. Not ham, though.”

Maybe a nice cold meatloaf on a kaiser roll.

“Sounds good. Bring me that.”

I can’t bring you food.

“Well, you know, man: have you even tried?”

No.

“Give it a whirl. Never know what you’re capable of.”

I don’t even know how that would work, honestly.

“No imagination at all on you.”

I know.

“Shit, now I want a meatloaf sandwich.”

Sorry, buddy.

“Yeah, yeah.”

There’s Always One More

Here you go, Enthusiasts: this is my contribution. Previously, there were three pictures of Bobby in various stages of bunnification; now there are four. (I always figure if I haven’t seen a photo, then most haven’t. If that comes across as arrogant, well: consider the topic. It’s like bragging about Magic the Gathering. And plus I didn’t even claim to be the best at it, so it’s like bragging about coming in sixth at a Magic the Gathering tournament.)

The Grateful Dead, Younger Enthusiasts, didn’t do a lot of teevee. Possibly because the first time they were booked on a show,¬†Playboy After Dark¬†in 1969, they ended up dosing the entire building. But it also makes sense: there weren’t too many televised venues for any rock music back then. There was Ed Sullivan in the 1960’s, and the Smothers Brothers for a year or two, but after that the opportunities dried up. Pop stars were all over the dial, obviously, but not rock. Johnny Carson didn’t book bands at all until much later in his run. There was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, and that was about it.

And then, in 1975, came Saturday Night Live. They had rock bands on, good ones and wild ones and sometimes things would go terribly wrong, which was horribly entertaining, and they had very hip taste. Tom Waits was on in 1977, and Sun Ra in ’78. The first four musical guests in ’78 were the Stones, Devo, Frank Zappa, and Van Morrison. (Zappa was actually the host, and that went precisely as well as you’d assume. It turns out that “doing sketch comedy with stoners” wasn’t in Frank’s toolbox; he and the cast hated each other by the end of the week.)

Week five was the Dead. The comedy writers Al Franken (who is now a Senator) and Tom Davis (who is now dead) were massive Deadheads and lobbied Lorne Michaels to book the band. He didn’t want to–the Dead were not very cool at the time, and certainly not Lorne Michaels’ New York-centric version of cool–but one has to believe that Al Franken can wear you down. Lorne must have liked them because he had them back the following year, and even let Billy be in a sketch.

Look:

Told you.

Contrary to Frank’s Zappa’s surliness, the Dead are affable fellows (and Mrs. Donna Jean) and made friends with the cast; Belushi and Ackroyd would do their Blues Brothers routine at Winterland with the band the night they closed the place down.

Phil may or may not have gone to town on Lorraine Newman.

Caption Contest

Whatcha got?

Shake The Hand That Wore The Hat

“Jenkins!”

“Sir?”

“What the hell kind of hat is this?”

“It’s an Uncle Sam hat, sir.”

“I don’t see it.”

“That is most definitely an Uncle Sam hat.”

“Just doesn’t say ‘America’ to me.”

“The stripes? The colors?”

“Nope. Nope.”

“What if I stuck a little flag on it?”

“Perfect! Then you’ll say ‘That’s an American hat.’ Wait. You were talking about an American flag, right?”

“What other kind is there, sir?”

“Hot damn, I like that answer, Jenkins.”

“I knew you would, sir.”

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