David Dodd (ddodd) Mon 8 Sep 03 09:50
What's Become Of The Baby w: Hunter m: Garcia AGDL: http://arts.ucsc.edu/gdead/agdl/baby.html LASF: http://www.whitegum.com/songfile/WHATSBEC.HTM
Alex Allan (alexallan) Mon 8 Sep 03 18:41
What's Become Of The Baby Lyrics: Robert Hunter Music: Jerry Garcia Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission. Waves of violet go crashing and laughing Rainbow winged singing birds fly round the sun Sunbells rain down in liquid profusion Mermaids on porpoises draw up the dawn What's become of the baby This cold December morning Songbirds frozen in their flight Drifting to the earth Remnants of forgotten dreams Calling; answer comes there none Go to sleep you child Dream of never ending always Panes of crystal Eyes sparkle like waterfalls Lighting the polished ice caverns of Khan But where in the looking-glass fields of illusion Wandered the child who was perfect dawn What's become of the baby This cold December morning Racing, rhythms of the sun All the world revolves Captured in the eye of Odin Allah, pray where are you now All Mohammed's men blinded by the sparkling waters Sheherezade gathering stories to tell From primal gold fantasy petals that fall But where is the child Who played with the sun chimes And chased the cloud sheep To the regions of rhyme Stranded cries the south wind Lost in the regions of lead Shackled by chains of illusion Delusions of living and dead
Back in Columbia Blue: (oilers1972) Sat 12 Sep 15 01:13
This song has always seemed to me to be a rather imagistic (and hallucinatory) paean to the end of what had animated the Haight-Ashbury scene just a few years earlier. The "baby" symbolizes the innocence of the flower children, as it seems to me. And the December morning (even though Hunter wrote this in or possibly prior to 1968) of the song fits December 1969 and its several events that summed up/symbolized the end of the Sixties for many (Altamont, Manson, the Chicago police murder of Fred Hampton, the activities of the Weatherfolk [who at that time were planning to blow up a ball for military personnel and their wives and possibly a police station or two] and the similar turns a number of other political radicals and some of the counterculture were making toward embracing violence as a method of changing society). In fact, the line "Lost in the regions of lead" sounds like those once-peaceful hippies who were now ready to get guns and practice what a famous poster of the era called "Armed Love." This also describes the Weatherpersons at that time aptly. The next line, "Shackled in the chains of illusion," bemoans those who now believed that violent overthrow of the government and/or violent, armed self-defense against reactionary forces was the way to go. This, on another hand, could also express how the once optimistic feelings that had held sway in America as a whole were now corroded by the destructive and divisive war in Vietnam, and by the fact that the forces that supported the war were now increasingly willing to use their guns on protestors (i.e. Reagan's call for a bloodbath on America's college campuses) as they already had done with the Black Panthers and, in fact, had done during the People's Park confrontation in May 1969, and would more famously do at Kent State and Jackson State one year later. "Sheherezade gathering stories to tell/From primal gold fantasy petals that fall" reads as Sheherezade, the heroine of _1000 Arabian Nights_ who famously told the sultan/king a different unresolved tale every night to prolong her life for another 24 hours until he finally rescued her from his doom, gathering stories (or songs, or any other type of art) from her imagination (possibly supercharged with a natural or chemical agent or two?), possibly once meant just for sharing with those of her tribe/community and instead selling them to the wider world to pay for her day-to-day survival in this world (in the same way that the band themselves had to sell records and [especially] go out on the road and play live as many nights as possible in order to financially support themselves and their own extended family, as well as to pay off their now humongous debt to their record label--so they could survive to make more records and play more shows). What a change from just a few years earlier and the feelings of giddy optimism that grass would grow and deer would graze on that grass on Wall Street in just a few years, once the rest of the world got turned on to acid. That was also expressed in the poem "All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace" by Richard Brautigan which was an expression of the idea that advancing industrial automation/cybernization would lead to an economy where machines would do all of the work that was still (and much of it still) being done by humans and humans would then be able to lead lives of leisure (provided, of course, everyperson was then guaranteed a livable income or all goods and services were made free) and now this was already appearing to not be the case (in fact, the American economy would undergo changes that were quite different). In quite a few ways, "What's Become Of The Baby" would prove to be prophetic as well as expressive of its time and of a time that had just recently passed. Or, acid to acid, dust to dust.
David Gans (tnf) Sat 12 Sep 15 08:41
Jeez, now I have to listen to this weird thing! I have never given it much thought.
David Dodd (ddodd) Sat 12 Sep 15 16:07
Me, too! Amazing post, <oilers1972>.
Back in Columbia Blue: (oilers1972) Sat 12 Sep 15 22:30
Thank you both!
Back in Columbia Blue: (oilers1972) Sat 12 Sep 15 23:33
I also think that the Stockhausen-esque backing accompaniment on the original mix for Garcia's singing helps convey the feeling of "what manner of world have we wrought?" better than musical accompaniment that matches or even responds contrapuntally to the melody in the vocals. Surely, when in a state of supercharged or unconventional imagination, this sort of juxtaposition can make sense, even if it's not a kind of sense that we might consider to be conventional. At the same time, this does give the song a feeling of alien unfamiliarity, which is also one of the points of the psychedelic experience. (On the remixed version of _Aoxomoxoa_, this backing was erased and this version of the song sounds more like an aftermath of Paradise as sung from exile from that Paradise.) But in this song, even here in psychedelia, all is not peace-love-and-flowers. But of course, there is no guarantee that such experiences, like any other type of life experience, will remain, or even ever be to begin with, idyllic or fun. And, as I'm sure Hunter would agree, the psychedelic community that flourished in the Haight eventually turned sour for a number of reasons and even in the Haight's heyday, not all there were always having a good time. Interesting that the next (and last) song on the album is "Cosmic Charlie" which sounds musically like a mid-tempo country song (although earlier versions were in a more uptempo rock rendition, akin to the Beatles' "Revolution." Maybe Hunter and/or the band, or some of the band, themselves flirted a bit with the same revolution-at-any-price ideas expressed in an earlier post, but thought better of that soon after). This is interesting, in that when _Aoxomoxoa_ was released in June 1969, the Dead were already writing and integrating the first of several country-influenced simple melodic tunes like "Dire Wolf" and "Casey Jones" into their live repertoire, even as they continued their nightly excursions into their more improvisationally-oriented/visionary material like "Dark Star" and "That's It for the Other One," which from this point would begin to become a bit less nightly. I do not think the band planned it that way, but I do find it remarkable that this recorded song sequence came to become an allegory for the stylistic turn the Dead were beginning to take. (Also, by this time they had already begun to phase out most of the other songs from the album; only "Cosmic Charlie," "St. Stephen," and "China Cat Sunflower" would still be in the repertoire by the end of 1969, and only "China Cat Sunflower," which pre-dated this album, would remain in the regular repertoire through the remainder of the band's history, with a brief break here and there.)
it all rolls into one (sffog) Sun 13 Sep 15 15:10
I saw this song as leaving ones childhood behind, but I can also see it apply to the Haight-Ashbury or even the grateful deads music Some of the lyrics remind me of some of the country joe and the fish lyrics for their song Porpoise Mouth: The white ducks fly on past the sun, Their wings flash silver at the moon. While waters rush down the mountain tongue The subject reminded me of Jefferson Airplanes song Lather about growing up or not.
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