Thoughts On The Dead

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

Thoughts On The First Set Of 5/8/77

  • Inspiration, move me–
  • Oh. shut the fuck up.
  • Don’t start already.
  • Just get on with it sans invocation, please.
  • Fine: The Grateful Dead, who are currently opening with Minglewood in my headphones 39 years ago, performed a show at Cornell University, more specifically in Barton Hall, and this particular show went on to be famous.
  • Minglewood’s done already?
  • Jesus, I type slowly; now we’re at the first Garcia tune, Loser, and Keith is on the wheezy, squicky keyboard instead of piano.
  • The first reason for the show’s ascendancy to BEST EVAR is evident only a song-and-a-half in: the recording sounds great.
  • I’m listening to the Hunter Seamons matrix, which is what I linked to, and I think the blend of audience noise and the original just exactly perfect Betty Board is well-done; if you’d prefer the naked Betty (hey now), it’s also available, but not as a Charlie Miller transfer, so I can’t vouch for it.
  • Also, if you don’t listen to the matrix, then you can’t hear the guy who yells “DARK STAAAAAAR!”
  • During the first set.
  • In ’77.
  • Don’t be that guy.
  • And now I completely disgusted by humanity and need their sounds erased from my skull (except for the sounds made by the Dead) and I have switched to the SBD I had on my other hard drive.
  • People ruin everything.
  • El Paso bolsters my argument: the drummers are clean and separated; you can tell Billy’s snare from Mickey’s, and hear the difference in high-hats.
  • I’ve made this analogy before, but I like it and so I will again: Betty’s soundscapes were like cafeteria trays.
  • Every food has its own well-defined space, but they combine to form a cohesive meal.
  • Keith is hard left and loud, like he is in all the Betty Boards; Garcia and Phil overlaid on top of one another in the middle; Bobby on the left, and the sound is so clean that even while Garcia is soloing as loudly as possible (so, you know: almost always), you can still concentrate on any other player with ease.
  • Bobby’s doing these quiet harmonic accents in They Love Each Other, and even with the six of them wailing away next to him, you can still make out whether he hits two strings or three.
  • What does the Grateful Dead sound like: what the crowd heard that night, or this recording I’m listening to now?
  • The aether has stopped transmitting in Barton Hall; the sound that was heard there no longer exists.
  • Betty’s tape is still here.
  • They’re playing Jack Straw too slow.
  • Wait.
  • They sped up.
  • Good job, guys.
  • Barton Hall was, of course, named after New York fitness impresario David Barton.
  • This photo is labelled as 5/8, but take that with a grain of salt.
  • dead phil donna bobby jerry
  • The Dead looks very Grateful Dead here: it’s as if they were cosplaying as themselves.
  • Also, Bobby is not paying attention and Phil is hitting the singles bar after the show.
  • Does the show pick up at Deal?
  • It’s a great Deal.
  • Best Deal in town.
  • Hey: you can find a better Deal than this, you take it.
  • Garcia’s killing it.
  • He’s like the Spanish Flu of 1919.
  • Killing it.
  • Is this a better deal than the 10/29 from Northern Illinois?
  • Possibly.
  • Is this sort of comparison boring and pointless?
  • Shit, yeah.
  • (It is in no way better than the 10/29; that one’s the BEST EVAR.)
  • We now come to Tuning.
  • In the Dead’s defense, they got a lot better at tuning their instruments over the years, and I don’t mean that they spent less time doing it.
  • Early on in the Dead’s career, they would also spend four or five minutes tuning their guitars, but the guitars would not be in tune at the end of that time, and they would just play the song that way.
  • (Someone on Etree is bundling up all the versions of every show from 1971, and I’m grabbing the ones I don’t have; naturally, I’ve been listening to them and the only conclusion you can come to from this evidence is that at least one person in the band did not know how to tune their guitar and it was Garcia. Seriously: the man was out-of-tune for the entire year.)
  • NOOOOOOOOO!
  • TRAGIC LAZY LIGHTNING SPLICE!
  • NOOOOOOOOOO!
  • I mean, it could be in a lot worse places: the lethal cut in the 3/18/77 Caution Jam, and the Stella Blue heartbreaker from the From Egypt With Love shows.
  • You know I love me some Garcia–who is perfectly in tune here–but Bobby is doing more interesting stuff than him in this LLL>Supplication transition.
  • Garcia’s only playing one note at a time; Bobby is playing many simultaneously.
  • Seems tougher, at the least.
  • Bobby also plays more complicated parts under his vocals, whereas Garcia mostly did a B.B. King-style “play, sing, play, sing.”
  • Y’know what: Bobby is now the Garcia.
  • Stop that.
  • WHAT?
  • He’s right. I don’t wanna be the Garcia.”
  • Bobby?
  • IMG_4202
  • “In fact, I’m amazed you would even suggest it.”
  • You look surprised.
  • “There ya go.”
  • Okay, both of you: get out of here.
  • “Namaste.”
  • Bite me.
  • First set of 5/8/77 is neither overrated nor underrated.
  • Actually, I don’t know if anyone’s really bothered to rate it
  • And even if they did: fuck ’em; listen to it for yourself; it’s free.
  • Mellow first set, almost subdued; still just as tight as an offensive metaphor about the female genitalia.
  • Second cowboy, Mama Tried, which is appropriate for today and ’77, too: Mother’s Day was the next day after the Saturday show.
  • Aw.
  • “Thanks, Mom.”
  • They’re playing Row Jimmy, and I keep referring to Keith’s keyboard as a wimpleorgan in my head; I have no idea where that word came from, but it sounds right.
  • If an organ-grinder was making that sound, the monkey would be dead.
  • It’s just an unhealthy timbre, plus he’s playing it sullenly.
  • (When I make that assertion, please remember that there is an almost 100% chance that I am either projecting or making things up entirely.)
  • Reggae was not the Dead’s groove.
  • All the big bands did some reggae tunes in the late 70’s, just as they all did some disco tunes; the disco songs were uniformly better.
  • The Dead (and every other white-guy rock band) overplayed the reggae tunes, and one of the main points of reggae is to not play too many notes.
  • You just pick, like, five good ones.
  • Plus, Phil’s philosophy of bass was incompatible with reggae, although he had the correct tone for it, especially in the deeper registers
  • (Phil was playing the four-string Alembic in the picture in ’77; he wouldn’t switch to the six-string until ’84 or ’85, and I think an excellent usage of the Time Sheath would be to take that low-B back to ’74 and hear it through the Wall.)
  • Occasionally in between songs, there will be silence.
  • Not silence.
  • There are random cheers.
  • Chairs scrape.
  • But no tuning, and the mics pick up no talking.
  • And then they start the next song with a huge burst of energy.
  • I wonder what they were doing?
  • They blew this intro every single time they played this song.
  • And then Keith and Mrs. Donna Jean left the band and Brent joined; they kept the disco arrangement; they fucked up the intro with Brent, too.
  • One meeting would have solved this, and not even a full-band meeting.
  • Billy was not needed at this meeting.
  • There were only three people involved, two of whom were best friends, and two of whom have had scurrilous things printed about them: they still managed to forget whether the song started with the chorus or the verse four times our of five.
  • I prefer the disco version to the straighter take on it they did in 1970, and dragged back against both the song’s and the crowd’s will for a dozen or so shows in the 80’s.
  • Disco Dancin’ means disco jammin’ and THERE IS SO MUCH DISCO JAMMIN’.
  • They jam so hard.
  • And Garcia has activated the Funktron and powered up the Mwah Mwah Machine.
  • Remember when Bobby was playing guitar better than Garcia?
  • Yeah, that’s not happening anymore.
  • Ooh, maybe he made Garcia mad.
  • You shouldn’t look a Garcia directly in his guitar.
  • It makes him solo.
  • Other things that make Garcia solo:
    • Mornings.
    • Afternoon.
    • The rest of the day.
    • Asking him to.
    • Paying him to.
    • Sometimes Garcia will be soloing and the solo he’s playing gives him an idea for another solo, so in a way: soloing makes Garcia solo
  • This end riff is cousins to Slipknot!, I think.
  • The live fade-out is rare, but the Dead pulled it off a lot; it may be because of the lack of rehearsal needed.
  • The big TA-DA finish requires everyone to be in sync; a fade hides all mistakes.
  • I’m gonna take a short break; I’ll be right back.

1 Comment

  1. Hate fact checking you, but Bobby’s the out of tune one from their start through about the 72 Academy run. Garcia’s tone and gear sound terrible out of tune, so he bothered more.

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