We need to talk about Bobby because I’ve been talking about Bobby and I need to know why, godammit. Admittedly, I go through phases: a quick glance through the archives will reveal the Mickey phase, the Keith era, and–real early on–a whole lot of Vince jokes in a row. But I always go back to Bobert W. Weir, like the swallows returning to Capistrano. (Also, if you wanted to go back to Bobby’s hotel room, you had to swallow his Capistrano. DICK JOKES!) Picasso had his Blue Period; I had a month where I made a lot of Phil jokes.
You can relate to Bobby more than the other guys, though: he was the Everyman, the Protagonist, the White Guy Abroad that Hollywood likes to make movies about. Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai? That guy.
You couldn’t relate to the others: Phil was intimidatingly smart and currently yelling at a roadie. It’s like that saying, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere?” Well, no matter the time, somewhere, Phil is yelling at a member of some road crew, somewhere. That’s why he opened up the restaurant, to scream at busboys in halting Spanish, “TIENE OIDO ABSOLUTO! DAME TUS HEPATICAS!” Billy was scary: there was always so much blood and none of it ever seemed to be his. Garcia and Pig were…well, Garcia and Pig: one might admire or imitate or spurn, but relate?
But as everyman as Bobby seemed, he was anything but: an orphan, a rich kid, really pretty, in good shape. Wait! Bob Weir…Bruce Wayne. Huh.
Bobby was a guy who’d found a home, that family we all yearn for. Adopted, shipped off to boarding school. And, legendarily, a ranch for the greater part of a summer, hence Bobby is a cowboy, but that’s been well-established. (I make fun of Bobby for this, but what man doesn’t pursue their white whale into the sunset? People need the myths they choose; they filter them back out and it turns into Mexicali Blues, which you like more than you’re willing to admit, and kind of rules when those nutty drummers decide to turn it into a disco tune on 5/25/77
He made the Dead better, and they made him better. Bobby outside the realm of those other five or six guys was a mess with visions of Hollywood in his head, and had he been able to come up with some hit singles and gotten the right backing, Bobby could have been just as big as, say, Bob Seeger. But, like a flawed diamond, Bobby’s beauty only truly shone in one oddly-shaped, custom-made setting: the Dead.
Beyond the superficial, speculative, and shit I’ve just made up entirely, there stands the inarguable fact that Bobby was a master musician of the highest caliber, dueling it out with Phil and Garcia every night and walking away proud. He adapted this oddly-voiced, syncopated approach to rhythm guitar, finding a path that isn’t self-evident under Garcia, over Phil, and side-by-side with the keyboards, but he wasn’t flashy: like Billy, he was often at his greatest only upon second, careful listening.
But what about his songs? Lost Sailor sucks, dude! More like ‘Velveeta’. Heh heh.
Yes, what about his songs, made-up straw man? You mean like Sugar Magnolias, Looks Like Rain, Greatest Story, PLAYIN’ IN THE GODDAM BAND, One More Saturday Night, and a little thing called The Other One? Not so italicized now, are you? Like those other fuzzy burnouts were contributing anything towards the end in terms of new material? You want to hear Eternity again? No song has ever been more properly named.
Now, of course, there was this kind of bullshit:
He learned, eventually, but at first, Bobby was convinced that, gee willikers, it just wasn’t a slide solo without going ALL THE WAY up the neck to make those horrible, metallic screeches.
So, we raise our whatever’s-at-hands to Bobby. We love you, you goofy bastard. And you know what it is they say about our love…