Steve Silberman (digaman) Sat 6 Dec 03 10:47
Which "all" was this? It always seemed obvious to me that coke turned people into assholes faster than anything else. Did you Boomers (har har) really feel some kind of permission for excess flowing from the excesses on the stage?
Gary Lambert (almanac) Sat 6 Dec 03 11:21
>coke turned people into assholes faster than anything else Well, my experience was that coke turned assholes into louder assholes. I knew plenty of people who did it and didn't experience much in the way of radical personality change. They just cycled through their multiple personalities faster, is all! ;-) I'm just happy and relieved that I found it, after a very short while, to be a profoundly boring drug.
David Gans (tnf) Sat 6 Dec 03 11:43
> Which "all" was this? Pretty much everyone in my Deadhead social circle. I should have added that limiting language. > It always seemed obvious to me that coke turned people into assholes faster > than anything else. By the tiem I figured that out, I was pretty deep into it. Took me a while to get clear. > Did you Boomers (har har) really feel some kind of permission for excess > flowing from the excesses on the stage? Yeah, I think so.
beneath the blue suburban skies (aud) Sat 6 Dec 03 11:54
the "all" included everyone in my Deadhead social circle as well. a big reason why there are a lot of parts of the Closing of Winterland I just don't remember at all...
weird and conflicted and all resentful and shit (izzie) Sat 6 Dec 03 11:57
guess it shows that I did my Deadhead Days in the mid through late 80's huh? Gee, you old people. Who needs to be all amp'd up on coke, man? Sheese... I don't think my junkie friends and I got into stuff *because* Garcia et al were into it. Strangely enough, I can't remember alot of the details about why and when and all that for when it all started. I do remember though being absolutely stricken when Brent died. I was still pretty recently rehab'd, but the thought that one of The Boys could *die* from drugs... that was a big part of my staying straight. I'm glad there are people like Max who are writing about it though. Speaking of that, I had to put the book down for a night or two. When I'm reading one passage/paragraph about 142 times and can't move on, I figure it's time for some headspace clearing. I'll finish it tomorrow I figure. I want to get to the Mr. Benson line! and hey, I'm feeling pretty much like an old-school Deadhead now for getting that line right off.
beneath the blue suburban skies (aud) Sat 6 Dec 03 12:13
i wasn't saying that anyone i knew got into this stuff because the band was, it just didn't surprise is, is all, because i knew about usage by the band before i ever noticed it in the crowd, or was offered it by sellers in the parking lot. made me yearn for the days when i only head "doses" muttered by roaming vendors...
weird and conflicted and all resentful and shit (izzie) Sat 6 Dec 03 12:17
I was never offered smack in the parking lots or pre/post show scene. but it sure happens nowadays at festivals! I'd have thought those days were long gone, but nooooooo.......
beneath the blue suburban skies (aud) Sat 6 Dec 03 12:27
I was. And have been at Phish shows, as well (not anymore, though, since I only go in Philly and maybe MSG!).
Max Ludington (maxludington) Sat 6 Dec 03 12:51
Yeah, when I was around, smack wasn't a parking lot drug, and neither was blow. If you wanted it, you asked around to see who had it. But it was all there, of course.
Are You My Caucasian? (shmo) Sat 6 Dec 03 13:21
Hi, Max. Welcome, and thanks for the great read. It's a real contribution to contemporary literature and the ever-expanding world of Deadiana. I was quite struck by the passage where Jason shares his father's wisdom: "'Never live in a small world,' my father used to say to us. 'That's where people get to fearing and hating each other, because the world they live in is small and doesn't account for the full range of possibility the real world will always present. People think they're free of prejudice only until they're faced with something truly unexpected.'" This is both eternally profound AND critically appropriate to many of the underlying causes for the increasingly violent world we are all living in today. The citizens of the American Empire live in a benighted bubble, certainly. But so do those being indoctrinated in Islamic madrassahs and in other tightly strictured belief systems. Hatred and bigotry are inextricably tied to ignorance. Contemporary conflict is the result of these self- righteous smallnesses. The lesson of the wide-path mind is crucial to our future survival, I think. A broadness of knowledge, a depth of understanding, a more avid cross-pollenation of cultures seems to me to be the only hope for us to make it past the middle of the century. Ironically, I often found the Dead scene to be a horrifically small world. For all of its inclusionary overtures and "be who you are" tolerance, at least on the surface, I was often troubled by the vastness of the ignorance I came across at shows, swarms of people who, to some degree, were only capable of appreciating one kind of music (I know this is a generalization, but one that I witnessed often enough to bring up) to the snide dismissal of everything else. I say ironic because Jerry Garcia, whose pedestal loomed over the scene with such tremendous sway, had the widest pair of ears around and was capable of digging anything that had "claritas." I remember during the Shakedown Street era, when Jerry was also doing shows with Reconstruction, all of these Deadheads grumbling about "Disco Dead" and "all this wah-wah funk shit," when in fact the music was consistently dazzling. And somewhat related to the passage above is the marvelous Homeric allusion closer to the end of the book, when Jason is driving with his mangled hand and, in the intensity of the moment, remarks at the zombified nothingness of the lives that he's passing by: "None of them lived life as the spontaneous odyssey it was meant to be. I looked at them as they slid slowly backward past me, their bored faces. None of them allowed danger into their lives. In fact their lives were devoted almost completely to minimizing danger in one form or another, I could see that. I thought of Odysseus having himself tied to the mast so he could listen to the sirens. I felt a kinship with him. There were those who would plug their ears, and those who couldn't resist the opportunity of hearing something beautiful, no matter how painful or dangerous it might be." Yum. And, again, ironically, the heroic/romantic adventure of Dead Tour was sometimes a cheat, an empty myth, with any number of heads, to my obervation, not awake to the reality of existence at all, not facing down the impulse-energy life in all its richness, the heart and the edges of mortality (so eloquently being sung to them from the stage) but instead were deeply anesthetized and hiding from Life. Loved the book!
Steve Silberman (digaman) Sat 6 Dec 03 15:57
Beautiful post, Mr. Smolin.
Howard Levine (hll) Sun 7 Dec 03 08:13
boy does that last paragrpah ring true to my ears shmo
David Gans (tnf) Sun 7 Dec 03 09:39
Fantastic post, Barry.
Are You My Caucasian? (shmo) Sun 7 Dec 03 10:06
Are You My Caucasian? (shmo) Sun 7 Dec 03 11:21
Was anybody else sometimes bothered by the narrowness of Deadheads, the very folks you'd think would be least narrow?
David Gans (tnf) Sun 7 Dec 03 11:34
I think the quality of Deadheads varies in relation to when they got on the bus. When I heard the GD in 1972, they were playing great songs and taking deep, deep excursions into the unknown, and althugh there were some set pieces there were also long, long stretches of no-song-in-particular. The band members really seemed to be functioning (as Phil put it in "Anthem to Beauty") fingers on a hand. Jerry made eye contact with people in the audience, often for long stretches (Parish told a story about this in our recent interview, posted at http://www.gdhour.com/parish.030924.html ). By the mid-'80s, the band was bigger, older, less adventurous, and much more ritualized than they had been before. The musical interactions were less a matter of mind-melding and mutual musical insinuation then of increasingly rigid sequences that lurched forward rather than evolving through sweet melodic intertwining or consciously-developed dissonances. Also: I felt I was at the gate of a magical, mysterious place whose secrets I would have to divine by considering the partially-exposed inscriptions on such songs as "Greatest Story Ever Told," "China Cat Sunflower," "Jack Straw," etc. What was "Hell in a Bucket" teaching the new Deadheads?
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Sun 7 Dec 03 15:09
That was my experience, too. The Dead at Fillmore West in 1970 was an absolutely and completely different experience than was the Dead at the Oakland Coliseum in 1994, as different as, say, Louis Armstrong's Hot Five recordings are from "Hello, Dolly" -- to me, at least, the difference was that profound. By the end of the Grateful Dead's long run, it had gotten to the point for me where Drum Space had become the only really interesting musical segment of the shows -- everything else just plodded, though even into the early 1980s I still heard some shows that as a whole were musically very adventurous and fascinating. The "Dark Star" on Live/Dead is still one of the most amazing records ever made by a rock and roll band, and the segue following it, "St. Stephen" -> "The Eleven" -> "Lovelight," is so frenetic with energy that it's as if the band is rushing from corner to corner searching for the real raw blues. I don't think even Little Richard made a livelier record than that "Lovelight." It has occurred to me that perhaps the Dead in the 1967-74 period burned so hot with so much energy they burned themselves out by the end of those days, like a high-performance auto driven very hard for the first 100,000 miles, then loses its zip and gives a nice but undangerous ride for the last 100,000. And to respond to Barry's question posted in #65: Yes, absolutely. Indeed, the amazing conformity of so many of these supposed non-conformists struck me as supremely ironic and quite anti-Dead, given the huge range of interests and tastes of the band members. I was always into the band for the music, never for the drugs or, I guess you could call it, "the experience." Jerry et al. were such fine musicians that they seemed to me to have earned the respect of my full attention. I mean, I would never, ever have gone to a Duke Ellington concert and gotten drunk.
Max Ludington (maxludington) Sun 7 Dec 03 21:56
Wow, lots of great stuff posted! Thanks for that big, astute set of thoughts, Barry. I love that you brought up the scene where he listens to Steely Dan in the car, which was an important one for me. The problem for Jason is the same as the one in "Home at Last", having tied himself to the mast he, unlike Odysseus, has no crew to untie him when the sirens stop singing. Or something like that. I remember feeling some of the same things you guys are talking about, even in the 80s. Of course there were plenty of heads who were musically blinkered, but so many more who were not. ALL of my old tour friends are huge, eclectic music lovers of different sorts. Even in the 80s, I think, for many of us the Dead fostered a love of improvisational and inspired music in general. I found my appreciation for jazz grew as a result of listening to the Dead. I also agree that the 80s-90s Dead was a far more rote affair than the recordings I've heard from earlier (my first show was in '81, aged 13)--you had to really wait for the electric moments, but they were still there every so often.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 7 Dec 03 22:52
> you had to really wait for the electric moments, but they were still there > every so often. Yes.
Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Mon 8 Dec 03 01:07
I'm a little suprised to hear some of this. The shows I went to in the 70's had a psychedelicized yet almost wholesome vibe to them. Even though I did not go out of my way to identify with the scene after that the tapes I continued to hear, sounded like the Dead were continuing to deliver something along the lines of what Gram Parson's called Cosmic American Music. Didn't the Dead shows continue to be a combination of 'Space', C&W rock, and a handful of standards from a variety of the U.S. R&R/R&B canons?
Max Ludington (maxludington) Mon 8 Dec 03 08:46
You're right, Darrell. I think this stuff may be coming off too harsh. There were a lot of great shows in the 80s, and I'm sure in the 90s, though I wasn't at them and haven't heard them. But one thing I meant by "rote" was that the setlists had a certain level of predictability they previously hadn't--not just what songs might be played, but exactly where in the order they would be. I guess this also made the little and big surprises they still did deliver that much more sweet, though (that's me looking on the bright side). I did always like the idea that there were, generally, first set tunes and second set tunes. I liked that the first set was rockin' and fun, with maybe a nod toward the spacey here and there, and the second set was where "anything" could happen. I include the quotation marks around 'anything' purposely, since I think its definition as far as the Dead's music went did very gradually become narrower over the years--of course with the occasional random spontaneous expansion. This narrowing was not ALL bad. It might have focused them and allowed some of the leaps they took in technique and tighness (though tightness was intermittent). In my opinion, the Dead at their best were always one of the great live bands on the planet--not just at their best era-wise, but in each of their eras. I still think when they're on they're a kick-ass band, with plenty for the inquisitive musical mind and heart to latch onto.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 8 Dec 03 10:37
One interesting thing about the Dead musically, I think, is that in the later years they learned to play blues really well. The versions of "Little Red Rooster" from the '80s and '90s are much more interesting than earlier versions, I think.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 8 Dec 03 10:46
I think they did okay w/ the blues in the Pigpen years, too. Bob Weir revived a lot of that repertoire in the '80s, with mixed results.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Mon 8 Dec 03 11:03
I agree with most of what has been said here, with the additional suggestion that, if you want to hear the Later Dead playing as adventurously as the Early Dead, check out what happened during the fall of '89 and here and there for a couple of years afterwards, when the ballsy outrider spirit had a brief renaissance. Two reference points: The "Dark Star" from Miami 10/26/89. The singing is from hungah, but the little intro jam is one of the prettiest things they ever played, and the lengthy jam that follows the first verse stands in my mind as one of the high points of 20th century music, up there with anything Miles or Ornette did for sheer weirdness and fierce beauty. It's 23rd century music. The jamming throughout the second half of the second set on 6/17/91 at the Meadowlands (I *think* this is the right show -- it's the set that begins with a thunderous MIDI-heavy "Saint of Circumstance"). They're interweaving themes from "Uncle John's Band," "Dark Star" and "The Other One" with seamless fluidity -- sometimes playing two themes at once! I think of the music in this set as the last Terrifyingly Magnificent GD music.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 8 Dec 03 11:39
Thanks for the references, Steve. As an outsider to The Scene, I'd appreciate a small handful of other such sonic signposts that might help orient me.
Members: Enter the conference to participate