Hal Royaltey (hal) Thu 15 Dec 05 00:52
Turning to an important part of America's musical heritage (and certainly a part of the soul of the Well) we welcome David Dodd, author of "The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics". David Dodd is the City Librarian of San Rafael, California. He has published two previous books about the band (The Grateful Dead and the Deadheads: An Annotated Bibliography, 1997; and The Grateful Dead Reader, 2000). He lives in Petaluma, California, with his wife Diana Spaulding and his two children. Our interviewer is David Gans. David is a musician, author, radio producer, and one of the hosts of inkwell.vue. He's contributed three volumes to the groaning shelf of Grateful Dead books, and various granules of his scholarship appear in David Dodd's book.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 15 Dec 05 12:11
Welcome, David! I will begin our conversation by quoting one of our WeLL neighbors, John McAlpin: > I'd like to say this book will take an honored place on my bookshelf. > It won't. It will never be far from my hands when I am listening to music. > Or thinking about GD music. This is an absolute treasure. I was stunned by > how beautiful it is. The illustrations, the layout, all are perfect. I agree with John wholeheartedly! Let me start by asking why this sort of documentation is appropriate for the work of a rock band. What is the big deal about these songs?
David Gans (tnf) Thu 15 Dec 05 16:37
I interviewed David on KPFA 11/2/2005, and I have posted MP3s (as edited for the national Grateful Dead Hour) at http://www.gdhour.com/music/dodd.html
David Dodd (ddodd) Thu 15 Dec 05 17:59
Does that mean I shouldn't repeat or contradict myself? I fear I will do both! I think this sort of documentation would be appropriate for ANYTHING in which someone is interested. If there's one thing I've discovered over the course of my time in librarianship, it's that there are experts beyond anything you might expect in pretty much every field of knowledge, and that includes the most arcane, minuscule areas within every field. So it is with Dead-dom, as many of us have found out. There's always someone who knows more about the band, its music, the words, etc. There's always someone who has been to more shows, has more tapes, or whatever. My own approach has been simply to follow my own interests and whims. I have done these annotations not because I think I'm particularly qualified, but because it's been my way of having fun--my way of enjoying the heck out of the songs. That said, I do of course think there's something special about THESE songs. Clearly Hunter and Barlow have created a body of work that holds endless fascination for a large number of folks. So I think it's worth looking closely at the words, as works of art worthy of close examination. I find something new in them almost every time I look, and that, to me, is the mark of art, or one of the marks of art.
ray (riescher) Fri 16 Dec 05 04:49
Can you give us a bit of history of the project. How did the idea for the annotated lyrics web site start? How long had you contemplated turning the collected information into book form? And a fine book it is. It's much more interactive for the reader. Take Hunter's own "Box of Rain" book of lyrics. That's not a book I've spent a lot of time with over the years. I've mostly used it as a reference tool to check a lyric here or there. The annotated lyrics add insight and knowledge to the periphery of the art.
David Dodd (ddodd) Fri 16 Dec 05 08:36
The idea for starting the web site came pretty much as soon as I discovered the web in 1994. I was working as the head of cataloging at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, and the job came with the status of faculty, and the title of Assistant Professor. To make full professor, I would need to gain tenure. And to do that, I would need to undertake research and publication. I saw the exploration of a literary text using the new hypertext technology as an opportunity towards tenure. As far as I have been able to determine, the Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics website (http://arts.ucsc.edu/gdead/agdl) was the first use of the web to annotate a literary text. As soon as I began to post the work I'd been accumulating on small catalog cards for the past ten years (I started in around 1982, while I was working at the Fremont Main Library in Alameda County), I found myself spending hours learning html and doing additional research. Fortunately, that kind of time was built into the job, and no one seemed to think twice about my spending work time--lots of it--building a website about the Grateful Dead. Since I observed intellectual property laws and always asked for Ice Nine's permission before posting the lyrics to any songs, I believe I cultivated a good relationship from the start with the Dead organization. I thought it could become a book very early on--and approached Oxford University Press about publishing it. They liked the idea, and I went to Ice Nine, who said (this was 1995) "no, not just yet." And they continued to say that, without completely discouraging me, for the next nine years. (Hmmm. the project was on ice for nine years...) In August of 2004, I had an inquiry from another publisher about possibly just publishing the annotations, sans lyrics. I wrote to Ice Nine just in case, and they came back within 24 hours with a "yes, it's time." So I had from September to March to turn the website (a sprawling, ungainly thing) into a book (perhaps also sprawling and ungainly). I'm glad to hear that the interactive nature of the thing carries over into book form, at least somewhat. And I will keep the website going, as time permits! (The arts server at UCSC, however, was recently hacked, and I currently have no access to make modifications to my pages.)
David Gans (tnf) Fri 16 Dec 05 10:22
Not sprawling and ungainly at all, sir: a delightful trip! Made more so by the illustrations. Please tell us about the artist, and about how you worked together.
ray (riescher) Fri 16 Dec 05 10:33
>> I'm glad to hear that the interactive nature of the thing carries over into book form, at least somewhat. >> I find it interactve in many ways. Much more than hyperext and notation. The notations reference other music and literary sources that I've been prompted to seek out or find out more about. I'd imagine, David, that you've done andenormous amount of reseach and discovery during the life of this collection. Can you talk about specific music or other works of art that you've researched, and ultimately been turned on to, as a result of this endeavor?
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 16 Dec 05 11:25
David, welcome! The book is not only marvelously written and researched, the design is exquisite. Congratulations. I'm curious -- as a librarian and literary mind, what are your personal favorite moments in GD lyrics, and why? For what it's worth, one of my favorite turns of phrase is the line "all that fancy paints as fair" in the Terrapin suite by Hunter and Garcia. The phrasing is so euphonious it can just slip through your mind without much scrutiny, but if you look hard at the meaning of the words, there's a very profound observation there about how our feelings about people and things influence our perception of them -- it's almost canonical Buddhism, but expressed in language that strikes me as nearly Shakespearian in its phonetic compression and pure gorgeousness. I love how Hunter resurrects the old meaning of the word "fancy" in it (as in, "I fancy you"), how "fancy" has homophonic resonance with words like "fantasy" which underscores the meaning of the line, how "paints" suggests both artfulness and deception or illusion (as in Buddhist samsara or Hindu maya), and how the alliteration of the Fs fine-tunes the music of the phrase. Obviously, I have many other favorite moments in the songs (I adore Barlow's phrase "the catch-colt draws the coffin cart" in Cassidy for the same sort of music), but I'm more curious about hearing yours. Thanks for being here, and mazel tov on a beautiful book!
(automated posting) (picospan) Fri 16 Dec 05 12:07
<linked from inkwell.vue.261 to deadsongs.vue.233 by confteam>
Dan Levy (danlevy) Fri 16 Dec 05 12:55
Hi David.... how have the Dead's lyricists worked with you over the years as your project evolved... And...in the decade since you began the project, have you seen any web annotation software available that you wished you had at the beginning?
David Dodd (ddodd) Fri 16 Dec 05 13:57
Whoa! I turn around for a couple of hours and whoosh! I have questions to answer. To all, FYI, today and tomorrow are moving days for me--my family and I are picking up and moving across town, to the west side of Petaluma, from the east side where we have lived for six and a half years. So I am loading and unloading trucks and boxes, trying to get the place ready for the movers who will handle the large stuff tomorrow. If anyone's in the Petaluma area and wants to help, please feel free to email me! Now, to the questions. I will work backwards, since I can see Dan's question hovering right there above this little window. Hello back, Dan! Thanks for coming. Y'know, I really had very little, close to zero, interaction with Hunter or Barlow over the years, aside from their very gracious permission to use the full text of the lyrics. Hunter did provide me with encouragement early on, by dropping me some key emails. The first was in response to a pretty tortured and byzantine annotation I wrote for the phrase "Marsh King's daughter" in "Mountains of the Moon." Finally, after reading all my speculation about who the Marsh King might've been (including, I think, the idea that the marshes were the same as the fens, and therefore the Marsh King might've been King of Fenario...), Hunter sent me an email that said: "The Marsh King's Daughter is a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. I just wanted to say that." And he sent me a nice note about my work on "Uncle John's Band," saying that he thought the discussion was heading in a good direction, when I started posting info about the New Lost City Ramblers. I have only met either lyricist very briefly. Hunter signed my copy of The Grateful Dead Reader and said, "Now here's something I _want_ to sign!" And I met Barlow at a library conference, and he actually thanked me for doing the annotated lyrics website. That was kind. About web annotation software. You know, I had an idea very early on in the web's existence that there should be a little plug-in that would allow you to highlight any word and execute a web search on that word. Yahoo seemed interested for about a minute, but I don't think it was ever developed. Google was what I would've wanted, and now it's there, and I use it a lot. I am eager to see the digitization of more and more print sources--that will make this kind of work faster. Steve! Thanks for dropping in! Favorite lyric moments for me...hmmm. I have a lot. Interestingly, many of them correspond to musical bridges. But not always. I love the "wind in the willows" moment in "Scarlet Begonias," and the "see here how everything lead up to this day" in "Black Peter." Gee, there are so many, once I start thinking about it. I note, Steve, that you picked alliterative phrases, and I seem to recall some long-ago thing you wrote about the CSN song "Guinevere," which also contains those long alliterative lines. A pattern? Ray--hi! I've discovered a lot of music, art, and little corners of human endeavor as a result of the work on the annotations. I've been pointed at the standards in American music repeatedly. I found out about Crazy Otto. I've gone back to TS Eliot again and again, and to the Bible. Let me think more about this one. Gotta go for now! I'll get back to David's question about the artist, Jim Carpenter. He merits a longer more thoughtful reply.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 16 Dec 05 15:28
Best of luck with your move, David! > "see here how everything lead up to this day" in "Black Peter." This line catalyzed one of my all-time classic Dead show psychedelic epiphanies, standing near the stage at the Frost Amphitheater. > alliterative Yep. I was schooled in poetry and its attention to phonemes. As Louis Zukovsky said, describing the terrain of language he wanted to explore in his poems: "Upper limit music, lower limit speech."
Dave Waite (dwaite) Fri 16 Dec 05 16:01
Hello David- I am enjoying your book and know it will be the coffee table book. There is just so much to open up and see. I've opened up the pages to see which song I'm going to read the annotations. The artwork is beautiful, and I know this is a collaboration, but would you care to talk about how or maybe why you chose specific full page pieces?
David Dodd (ddodd) Fri 16 Dec 05 17:53
OK, it's definitely time to talk about the artwork! It would be great if Jim Carpenter was inon this interview, come to think of it. Let me ask him! Meantime, I'll do my best. First off, the little illustrations were actually my wife, Diana Spaulding's, idea. She's also a librarian, and she pointed out how a really good reference book often has small but highly pertinent illustrations, in the manner of a good dictionary. So that was the starting point. And then Alan Trist and I thought it would be great to have a book without any photographs, just drawings and paintings. And the book designer, Harry Choron, came up with the font and the general layout, along with Jim and Alan and me. We spent an entire two days holed up at a table at the Panama Hotel in San Rafael, working out the design. (We kept railroading our publisher, Free Press. I must say they were very good about it most of the time!) Heck, I'm losing the thread here. So: Alan had written a book called _The Water of Life: A Tale of the Grateful Dead_, with illustrations by Jim Carpenter. I thought those were wonderful, and Alan asked Jim if he'd like to be in on this project. He was interested, and wound up doing all of the drawings--not sure of the exact number, but he drew over 200 pieces, most of which we used. Some we asked him to do, some he came up with on his own. The cover is Jim's, as are two of the color paintings--he chose to interpret "Friend of the Devil" and "St. Stephen." He also picked out which songs he connected with in a way that warranted half-page illustrations--we only asked that they be scattered through the book. We also used four pieces from the first Grateful Dead songbook in the color section, and two paintings by Tim Truman, one of which was done for the book, of "Throwing Stones"--really a wicked image. And oh yeah, we have three drawings by this guy named Jerry Garcia...the two lyricists, and his "Wharf Rat."
Pat Adams (scarlet) Sat 17 Dec 05 10:25
Wooo! I've been waiting for this discussion to start, and my copy of the book is fat with Post-Its. I have to ask about "He's Gone", specifically, "Smile, smile, smile" I thought it was 'obviously' a reference to the WWI tune - Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag And smile, smile, smile but you didn't mention that. This is part of the beauty of these songs!
Steve Silberman (digaman) Sun 18 Dec 05 15:04
Heh David, you were just FARKed. :)
Jeff Loomis (jal) Sun 18 Dec 05 20:05
Looking forward to seeing this move. Good luck with the book. It always seems that inkwell authors seem to have some sort of real life thing going on during their two week tenure.
Jeff Loomis (jal) Sun 18 Dec 05 20:08
Oops. Edit error. Looking forward to "book", good luck with the "move"
David Dodd (ddodd) Sun 18 Dec 05 20:30
I like the transposition of "move" and "book." "Bookin'" on over to a different side of town here in Petaluma...and we've pretty much landed. It's Sunday and I'm bushed...and we don't have any heat yet, but otherwise it went ok. Lots of stuff still in storage. But enough about the book. I'm here to talk about the move! Pat--gee! You're right about the "smile smile smile" reference. How did I miss that? Something for the web site and for the revised edition... I do like the Willima HOward Taft reference, though. A great campaign slogan: Smile smile smile. And Steve, you sent me on a chase looking to find out what FARK'ed means. I found this set of definitions: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fark, none of which really seems to fit. Can you define for me? Looking forward to more from the post-its in Pat's copy of the book! I'm on a dial-up modem right now, so I'm not sure when I'll once again have DSL working. I hope before this conversation officially winds down!
Jeff Loomis (jal) Mon 19 Dec 05 02:41
I am curious about Fenario. Haven't seen the book or gone too deeply into the website.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 19 Dec 05 10:58
David Gans (tnf) Mon 19 Dec 05 18:32
What's your favorite entry? Or maybe I should ask, which song has the most references?
Jeff Loomis (jal) Mon 19 Dec 05 18:39
What was the question that "fark.com" was the answer to?
David Gans (tnf) Mon 19 Dec 05 19:28
See <16> and <19>
David Dodd (ddodd) Mon 19 Dec 05 20:11
My favorite entry--good question! I'm pretty sure the song with the most entries is "Ramble On Rose," which was the song that got me going on the project in the first place. Many points of reference there. Figuring out who Billy Sunday and Crazy Otto were was great fun. I think my favorite entry, over time, though, has to be the phrase "double-E" from "China Cat Sunflower." As I say in the footnote for the phrase, I'm beginning to believe, now, that Bob Dylan made up the phrase himself for "It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," because the train people (train people are even more fanatical than Deadheads, I think) can't come up with a meaning from the train world. So, people have come up with all kinds of great speculation as to what a "double-E waterfall" might be. My favorite of those is the painting by e.e. cummings entitled "Waterfall." Amazingly.
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