Thoughts On The Dead

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

Thoughts On The Dave’s Pick

Dave’s Pick 10 has arrived; my copy fell off the back of the internet today because information wants to be FREE, man. Jeffrey Norman prefers to get paid, however, so there will be no link to the back-alley version of this latest Official Release.

December 12th, 1969, at Thelma in Los Angeles . Not, of course, “The Thelma Theater” or whatever: just Thelma because someone had skimmed some Aleister Crowley. (Crowley was always ranting about Thelma, but it’s just Greek for “will” and whenever anyone dared question Crowley about his latest lunatic mountain-climber pansexual junkie escapade, he would proclaim himself the King of Black Magic by the Law of Thelma, which basically meant “You don’t know me: I do what I want,” but, you know: EEEEEE-vil.)

The place was right next to where the Viper Room is today and across from where the Whiskey a-Go-Go was (and still is and always will be until California slides into the ocean) and only lasted a few months because it was run by people who would leave the word “theater” out of the name of a theater and three guesses whether that sort of dude is good at paying bills on time and/or not getting busted.

It’s a Panini place now, according to the googles: when I lived in Los Angeles, it was–and I promise you this is true–an oxygen bar owned by Woody Harrelson. People would go and breathe pure, flavored O2 and eat tapas and socialize and then go home and fucking kill themselves. One night, vandals snuck in with a tank of hydrogen and turned the place into a water park. (That last part is not true, but it’s a damn good joke.)

Not a review–the thing’s sold out and if you’re reading this, you’re going to listen to it–just some random thoughts on a first listening.

  • Between this and Dave’s Picks 6, I think we’ve covered December of 1969 quite thoroughly. October of ’77: that’s a good month to release 20% of the Picks so far, but no: December ’69. That is a choice and TotD publicly supports it.
  • While we’re at it: no more 35-minute Lovelights. How many minutes long should Lovelight be? Call it the blackjack rule: anything over 21’s a bust (usually.)
  • I cannot bring myself to go to Dead.net’s forums. First, because they’re impossible to find; and second, nothing can be released/announced/rumored over there without releasing the Kraken that is: the 80’s Truther. Unearth a trove from the late-60’s? 80’s Truther wants to know why you’re keeping 1983’s glories under wraps.
  • THEY PLAYED THE CHINA>RIDER TRANSITION IN ’69?  Dark Star, 12 minutes in, bonus disc. Learn something new every day.
  • I was listening to some January ’68 the other day, stuff from the Pacific Northwest Quick and the Dead tour, and it’s amazing how much different they sound two years later, how much different you can hear them wanting to sound. But they’re not quite there yet: they haven’t quiiiiite learned how to play actual human songs. The early strategy for getting through, say, Cumberland Blues  seems to be, “Go!” Five minutes later, “What happened?”
  • The Next Time You See Me, with Garcia and Pig on twin lead vocals, is so slow it could be a musical tribute to the famous pitch-drop experiment.
  • As most Enthusiasts will know, the Dead weren’t at first good at changing tempos. Nor did they ever get any better at it. In fact, even a casual music fan would rightly describe them as laughably bad at it. They just never seemed to do it all at the same time was the problem, so most of the time, everyone buy Garcia would stop playing and then he would change the tempo, and then Billy would goose it up a bit, and then everyone would jump back in. There was far less chance of a train wreck that way. Which made Easy Wind an often more comical than musical part of the show. The Dead, however, solve the problem this night by simply not playing any of the time changes and just doing the whole song slow as fuck. (The closing jam is great, though.)
  • The bonus disc is absolute Hall of Fame: The Dark Star>St. Stephen>Eleven suite. Into Cumberland Blues. Like you do.
  • The fact that a recording that was made by a hallucinating techie as a private reference so the band could listen to themselves now sounds so good: that’s as close to magic as you can get. There were a couple of Dick’s Picks on the iffy side, sonically, but not this latest series. As with the rest of the Picks, you can hear the room, get a sense of the band’s location in space. This thing’s as well-made as Queen Elizabeth’s dildos.
  • Serious about the Lovelight thing. Live/Dead Lovelight? Fifteen minutes. That’s plenty. Dark Star was about the majesty of existence and terror of an uncaring universe. Lovelight is a song about getting a woman to let you stick it in her for a while. Don’t misunderstand me: these are equally powerful ideas; they’re just not equally complex.

1 Comment

  1. lovelight is pigpen doing dark star.

    I-)

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