Gary Burnett (jera) Fri 16 Mar 07 10:55
There have been times when I thought I was the only person around who really liked "London Town"! If one could just excise the horrible "Morse Moose and the Grey Goose" from it ... Of course, I also like much of "Back To The Egg," so my taste in these things is probably pretty suspect.
Marked from the Day That I was Born (ssol) Fri 16 Mar 07 16:57
My gopod, one other person knows about "London Town"!
David Gans (tnf) Fri 16 Mar 07 18:27
I found myself craving "Ram" not long ago, and when I put it on I enjoyed it immensely. A guilty pleasure, I guess.
Gary Burnett (jera) Sat 17 Mar 07 06:42
Oh, no! There's nothing whatsoever to feel guilty about for enjoying "Ram" -- it's a wonderful album!
Marked from the Day That I was Born (ssol) Sat 17 Mar 07 10:10
Heh! I'm reading a little book of Einstein's essays and letters; "The World as I See It". The guy was not just a scientist but possibly the greatest practical philosopher of his age. Brilliant stuff in that slim volume. So, that song from "Ram" that I hadn't recalled in years has been running around my head. "Uncle Albert" likely has nothing to do with Einstein, but it does in my mind today. So, do you folks think "China Cat Sunflower" is a worthwhile diversion ;-)
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 18 Mar 07 00:51
So, do you folks think "China Cat Sunflower" is a worthwhile diversion ;-) China Cat Sunflower is the consummate diversion, "'cause you're gonna miss him when he's gone..."
David Dodd (ddodd) Thu 3 Jan 13 08:07
Posted, with permission from the sender: David, I'm sure you know this already, but I just learned that "I rang a silent Bell" in China cat could refer to a gambling term from last century. While lazing around here, I watch 'Pawn Stars' on History channel. They just reviewed a gambling machine which had a bell imprinted on the top of it, and b/c gambling was illegal...if one won at the game, it was called ringing the silent bell. Episode "Rick's Big Bet" S1 Ep10. I thought that was neat, and it would figure in Hunter's imagery, for he was young at a time that the phrase may have been uttered around him. Thanks! Whit
David Dodd (ddodd) Fri 3 Jan 14 13:55
Here's my current post on dead.net, for the "Greatest Stories Ever Told" blog, featuring "China Cat Sunflower." I wasnt sure exactly why, but I had been saving China Cat Sunflower for a special occasion. Celebrating the start of a new year seems like an appropriate occasion, so lets look at what is probably my number one desert-island song. I mean, if I had to whittle it all down to just one song I could bring with me, this would be it. And in particular the Europe 72 recording. This song opened my ears to the band in a big way. And I have spent many hours with it over the years, never getting tired of it. I dont tire of it musically, or lyrically. I dont tire of the interplay between the words and the music. I relish each new dive into this song. And Im not sure why this is. I do remember when it happened to me. I was home for Christmas break from college, and a friend and I went shopping for records. She was a huge Deadhead, and I was a neophyte. She told me I should buy the triple Europe 72 album, so I did. And that night, I put it on my parents record playeran old Magnavox console--when they were somewhere out and about, and listened. I lay on the floor of their living room, and stared at the cottage-cheese ceiling, and watched the patterns form and re-form there, to the music that was playingsuch a delicate constellation of intertwined guitar notes. I couldnt believe the intricacy! I couldnt fathom how it was being done. And I dont think I actually understood very many of the wordsthey were more like part of the instrumentation, like the poetry of HD Moe that I later came to love because he used words in this way to create a stained-glass verbal image. Learning the words took awhile. First, I started in the time-honored method of lifting the needle from the groove and setting it back just a bit to try to catch the words. My transcription didnt get very far using this method. It wasnt until David Gans published an interview with Robert Hunter in BAM magazine, which included the lyrics to China Cat Sunflower, that I had any real inkling what was being sung. That said, actually having the words didnt do that much to clarify anything, and I think thats just exactly what Robert Hunter would have wanted. Hunters statements about the song include this, from his lyric anthology, A Box of Rain: Nobody ever asked me the meaning of this song. People seem to know exactly what Im talking about. Its good that a few things in this world are clear to all of us. And, from an interview with David Gans, in his Conversations with the Dead: I think the germ of China Cat Sunflower came in Mexico, on Lake Chapala. I dont think any of the words came, exactly-the rhythms came. I had a cat sitting on my belly, and was in a rather hypersensitive state, and I followed this cat out toI believe it was Neptureand there were rainbows across Neptune, and cats marching across the rainbow. This cat took me in all these cat places; theres some essence of that in the song. The song is part of what was a set of lyrics sent by Hunter to the band when they recruited him to be the lyricist for the group. A note on Alex Allans Grateful Dead Lyric and Song Finder site says: Robert Hunter played Saint Stephen>Alligator>China Cat Sunflower>The Eleven>China Cat Sunflower on 18 March 2003 to illustrate how the songs had originally been conceived. The kaleidoscope of imagery in the song does seem fairly clear in the overall state of mind its communicating. Hunter referred to the effect as something along the lines of a glittery image bank, saying: I can sit right here and write you a China Cat or one of those things in ten minutes. How many of those things do you need ? Given thats true, stillIm endless fascinated by the selection of images in the song, and the way they play off each other and off of my own state of mind or place of being at any given moment or stage in my life. Hunter mailed the lyrics to the band in mid-1967, and by January 1968 the band was performing a medley of songs that included Dark Star, China Cat Sunflower, and The Eleven. The first known live version of the song dates from a Carousel Ballroom performance on January 17, 1968. The song evolved over the ensuing months, including changes in key, tempo, and arrangement, until sometime in the summer of 1969, when it was paired, for the first time, with I Know You Rider. Once that pairing became the standard, it was locked in, with the single exception noted in DeadBase being a March 9, 1985 version where it went into Cumberland Blues. China Cat remained steadily the repertoire, with the exception of the years 1975-1978, when it was played just once, in 1977. Overall, it was performed live 552 times that we know of, making it the fifth most-played song by the band, and number one in songs sung by Garcia. Its final performance was on July 8, 1995, at Soldier Field, in Chicago. The song was released in its studio version on Aoxomoxoa, in June 1969. Looking at the lyrics as a whole, and comparing them to a kaleidoscope in the effect they have on the mind, I see a range of accessible and yet mysterious associations and cross-references. Maybe its a reflection of Hunters mind in the self-described hypersensitive state, but it works fine for any listener who can picture silk trombones, violin rivers, Cheshire cats peeking through lace bandanas, and crazy quilt star gowns. I see crazy quilts, and lacey patterns, and weaving in and out of everything, cats. No commonality seems to link the imagery, except that they can take us on a journey. We see Leonardo da Vincis mirror-script, for instance. If you happened to be holding the album cover for Aoxomoxoa in your hand, the mirroring is the theme both of the albums title and of Rick Griffins artwork. Mirrors feature in a couple of early Hunter lyrics, from Dark Stars shattering mirror, to the window-mirror in Rosemary. The mirror in China Cat is introduced only if you find yourself thinking about the Leonardo words. As far as the cats go, we have a number of possibilities. First, theres the China Cat of the title and first line. Theres a whole ceramic artform in Japan, dating to the 17th century, devoted to creating and decorating china cats, called Kutani, in which ceramic cats are beautifully painted. A related version of these cats is called Satsuma. Some things just resist logic or understandinghow the particular journey Hunter was on transpired is completely out of our reach, as is that of any one of us taken as an individual. And yet we can share the sense of the experience, understanding that there is something beyond reason, something vast and visual and auditory that is ready to be tapped at any moment, if only we can access that place and state of being. I am very happy that Robert Hunter gave it a go. And Im glad to know that there are those who understand without needing to understand. Happy New Year, everyone!
coal will turn to gray (comet) Fri 3 Jan 14 22:01
Maybe he meant China Scat
Christian Crumlish (xian) Mon 21 Apr 14 15:55
I'm reluctant to even bring this up except that RH once said that people who really get what China Cat really get it so I'm going out on a limb here but I think it's actually a song a song about sex through a psychedelic lens. Something about the copper-dome bodhi dripping a silver kimono (sounds somewhat phallic to me), peeking through a lace bandana like a one-eyed Cheshire (sounds kind of yonic or clitoral to me), crying Leonardo words from out a silk trombone (sounds kind of ejaculatory to me), beneath a shower of pearls (sounds kind of jismatical to me), etc.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 21 Apr 14 16:14
David Dodd (ddodd) Mon 21 Apr 14 16:32
Yes, I've heard that interpretation. "Rang a silent bell," and all. Kinda compelling.
coal will turn to gray (comet) Mon 21 Apr 14 21:17
Sometimes a scat is only a scat 8-0
The faster we go, the rounder we get (icenine) Thu 24 Apr 14 11:22
I resemble Hunter's earliest remarks on this song...over the years, as I listened to this song in concert in various altered states and picked up snippets of the lyrics, the lyrics and music just deeply resonated with me, long before I was able to access the actual written lyrics...to this day, I carry around in my briefcase a print copy of the lyrics to pull out at work and go off into that space again while at work...I return to work activities, refreshed...have never analyzed the lyrics, I just respond viscerally and have left it at that, happy to have such a powerful response to this particular song
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