Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: New York

Tab-B-Gone

ONE

John Mayer has brought a lot to the Dead: new fans, and new energy, and he’s also brought Fashion Dipshits. TotD, you say: “Dipshits” is too harsh.

And what about Mayer’s on-stage fit—featuring vintage L.L. Bean and Off-White Nikes—which Mordechai got to photograph before the final show? “The vintage L.L. Bean anorak was the most genius thing to wear on the beach at night—it was genius. After the first few songs, he tied it around his waist. And the running shorts! I always say there’s a special caliber of musician who plays in shorts.”

Apologize to me, Enthusiasts. Apologize for doubting my ability to choose words. That’s a guy named Mordechai Rubenstein, who has a trust fund and an Instagram account, and took pictures of brightly-frocked older gentlemen in Mexico recently. He takes pictures of strangers wearing clothes, and that is a job. Vice magazine used to do that, too, but in Mordechai’s defense: he is not ironically racist in his captions. Good for you, Mortadella.

TWO

Speaking of pictures, in 1980, a Welsh journalist named Paula Yates produced a book entitled Rock Stars in their Underpants. The title was not euphemistic. The volume contains Rock Stars you might wish to see in their skivvies (Bowie, Debbie Harry, David Lee Roth) and also Elton John.

And Lemmy.

The shot begs the question: Did ever there exist a group of assholes that Lemmy didn’t love?

THREE

This is a video of the Dead’s crew setting up Englishtown. It’s exactly as interesting as I made it sound.

FOUR

Punching Nazis is a proud American tradition, and especially a Jewish-American tradition. Jews used to be a lot less respectable; used to carry knives and blackjacks, and have nicknames like Ice Pick Willie, and Kid Twist, and Longy. They were gangsters. They used to find out where the Bund meetings were being held, and they would infringe the shit out of the Nazis’ freedom of speech.

Some things about the old days were all right.

FIVE

Candace Brightman is going blind, and the Grateful Dead is turning a blind eye. I mean, they were sweet enough to ask you to pay for it, but no one at Front Street is digging into his pocket. Candace has something called Age-related Macular Degeneration. No cure, but there’s treatment, and Candace is getting the best treatment available, not some screwy-louie bullshit involving “voltage therapy.”

Surely, we’re not sending Candace to a quack.

Real doctors go on Coast to Coast with George Noory all the time, right?

SIX

The big finish! The 92nd Street Y put this together, and it stars a heck of a lot of FoTotDs talking about the Dead and their relationship with New York City.

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, Enthusiasts: New Yorkers are the most provincial human beings on the planet. They will claim anyone who even briefly stopped in town as a favorite son, and–if you don’t stop them–will inevitably begin talking about “the energy of the streets.” If you bring up WWII, they will discuss the Navy Yards; if the topic is the Space Race, they will recall the ticker-tape parades for the astronauts; if you are a professor of Genghis Khanology, they will rave about a Mongolian place they ate at.

(Plus, due to the number of times the Dead played NYC, their batting average is shit for the location. If you don’t count the shows after ’88, the band had a far better great show-to-middling show ratio in Atlanta.)

Thoughts On Another Dead Guy

We’ll start with Lester; it’s the law. If you’re talking about Lou–no, if you’re talking about Lou, then it’s something else entirely, but if you’re writing about Lou Reed (even if a slangy way that the kids might refer to as “joshing about”) then you have to start with Lester. Good old St. Lester the Awful, bloated and wheezing and uncircumcised in every way just shluffed and shlumped on a bar stool next to Lou. They’d both been up for two days, maybe three, could be they just had a full night’s in the sack–problem is, once you start in on fucking with sleep patterns, it takes a real good long time to even it back out to anything resembling human.

Life gets confrontational. And New York, in the 70’s.

What our younger readers need to realize is that New York in the 1970’s was, quite figuratively, the worst place that had ever existed in the history of everything. Each resident of Manhattan was murdered on average 3.2 times a day. The city logo was a stylized rendering of a 14-year-old being pimped out by her Uncle. Before the morning newspapers were delivered, they were set on fire.

Rough town.

When Lester Bangs sat down next to Lou Reed in whatever piss-smelling bar it was all those years ago, it was like Ali-Frazier for assholes. They deserved each other

I can’t remember how I became aware of Lou Reed. It might have been in the dying spritz of CREEM magazine, which I bought a few times and puzzled over. They kept showing the most appalling pictures of a man who truly needed a fortuitous angle. I also couldn’t figure out why CREEM magazine kept asking whether people were happy to see them or had odd substances in his pocket. They repeated that joke quite a bit, with a heightening of substance’s silliness each time, and I never got the joke.

I was dumb as hell, but I craved attention, so when a child molester took me to the mall, I got my first Lou Reed album, New York. (This is true. He was a camp counselor who was grooming my brother and me to get up on us. He did not get up on us, as my mother put an end to the dalliance when she realized that my brother and I were awful. No one wanted to spend time with us; we didn’t even want to spend time with each other. Just dreadful little fucks.

(In terms of child molesting, I objectively won: there were numerous meals of pizza or other things, but almost definitely just pizza; there were cassette tapes, which were $6.99 for the new releases, so that and hot dogs from Nathan’s is your whole allowance, so a free tape? Hell, yeah, I’ll stick my hand in the lion’s mouth for a free tape at age twelve; AND, y’know…at camp, I was one of his favorites.

Don’t tell me boys don’t cry.

Do you have any plan for this?

Winging it, Chief.

Please get back to the subject.

I really don’t want to talk about child molesting anymore. Beyond my own limited experience–

I fucking hate you so fucking much you fuck.

–I would recommend some of the respected literature.

He was in a little mid-career resurgence with New York and settling in to his role as “poet laureate of New York except for when Dylan was living here, and not Queens, and not Brooklyn, and definitely not the Bronx, and DEFINITELY not Staten Island. Forget the bridge-and-tunnel crowd, either. Long Island’s got Billy Joel, and Jersey, well…

No, Lou was the poet laureate of, like, nine or ten buildings and a vague “the village, maybe, no that’s Sonic Youth” neighborhood that was definitely in Manhattan, but in the same Manhattan as the Ghostbusters place and  Stark Tower. The EPCOT version for the boy from the suburbs.

I saw him, live, performing, just once. (I also saw him walking down the street in Lower Manhattan wearing a pair of burgundy sweatpants once; left him alone).  A woman several rows in front of me stood, boogied.

At the fucking…

I’m not alone in this, right?

I’m not alone in finding it disturbing that you’ve held onto this for almost two decades now.

30-03-96
ORPHEUM THEATRE, BOSTON
YES
120
B
Setlist:
Dorita – Sweet Jane – NYC Man – Dirty Blvd. – New Sensations – I’m Waiting For The Man – Vicious – Set The Twilight Reeling – Doin’ The Things That We Want To – Hang On To Your Emotions – I Love You Suzanne – Video Violence – Trade In – Egg Cream – Strawman – Riptide – Hooky Wooky – Sex With Your Parents – Walk On The Wild Side – Satellite Of Love … Ride Into The Sun (with supporting band “Luna“during his own set)

It took some digging to find that; there’s not a tape. (And certainly not multiple sources and endless permutations of those sources. laid out in an increasingly simple and intuitive way–I’m looking at you, Listentothedead.com!)

Of course, there didn’t really need to be a tape: Lou was bashing out the same songs most nights, which is what most bands do because they are not lunatics.  This is his best stuff live, ever

Nor would anyone but a masochist even want to listen to the tape of that long-ago Orpheum show, when it snowed on the long, straight hair of the girl I was with. Her name was Heather and she believed that Al Green should be played during the evening times. She also liked to play Golden Earring. It worked, weirdly: swear to you.

Look at that set list. After Sweet Jane–and why the hell did the Dead not cover that one? Sheerly personal? In which case: bravo–there’s nothing even resembling a good song for an hour. The song Egg Cream does not contain a metaphor: it is about a fizzy drink. Guess what Sex With Your Parents is about. Guess.

An aside: the egg cream is the New York version of putting chili on spaghetti or covering perfectly good shrimp with fucking grits. The reason it’s a “local delicacy” is because no one else wants it. They’ve tried it. They’re remarkably easy to make. No one cares for them, primarily due to the taste.

I can’t defend him, not as a man or as a musician: the vast–no exaggerating–majority of his stuff is amateurish. His supposed “great” albums, Transformer and Berlin are unlistenable.

As a human? Lou Reed was always the biggest asshole in the room, and he was in the record business.

But he sounded good not giving a shit.

%d bloggers like this: