Robin Russell (rrussell8) Mon 19 Dec 05 20:57
We have already seen some gems come up in this discussion (smile, smile, smile). Are you getting a lot of new insights as a result of the book coming out?
Jeff Loomis (jal) Tue 20 Dec 05 02:10
I had some insights into Miss 1/2 back at the time of the recent flooding. And from life here on *a* Big River, meaning the Ohio. I'd have to reconstruct my epiphany, but all of the sudden a very complicated and confusing lyric made a whole lot more sense, in my mind anyway. Something along the lines of Mississippi not being *the* Mississippi, but rather a metaphor for Big River. And Rio Grande not being *the* Rio Grand, but *a* Rio Grand, spanish for Big River. Pronounce Rye O Grand near this "big" river.
searchlight casting (jstrahl) Tue 20 Dec 05 13:15
Two couples i know have a new
searchlight casting (jstrahl) Tue 20 Dec 05 13:19
....hmm, what happened? Anyway, two couples i know have a new holiday gift. Thanks, David! I'm surprised by Hunter saying he associates Row Jimmy with New Mexico, a state i don't associate a lot with rowing, aside from the Rio Grande( which, interestingly, is in the last line of Half Step, the song which comes right before Row Jimmy on Wake of the Flood). I've always had images of the area by the Mississippi, or somewhere in the South, when hearing the tune.
David Dodd (ddodd) Tue 20 Dec 05 13:25
Thanks, jstrahl! I know--that about "Row Jimmy" does seem odd, but the way water runs through so many of the _Wake of the Flood_ songs ties it all together, as you point out. I just had an email today about the Rio Grande-o line, pointing out that it translates as Big River, so maybe it wasn't the literal Rio Grande. This is the kind of stuff I get to deal with day in day out! At least six interesting emails today--it seems to be picking up again in volume, what with the book coming out. Now I have to find time to update the website! Phew.
John P. McAlpin (john-p-mcalpin) Tue 20 Dec 05 16:36
David, I've read where you said that the book is not designed to interpret songs or provide meaning for the listener. My mind responded to the Sweet Jane reference in "Truckin" as having something to do with the Lou Reed song. I knew it likely was not the case, but that's where I went. Knowing that Hunter had in mind a toothpaste jingle now takes the line out of my mindset with its baggage and puts it back into his. In some cases, knowing exactly what the phrase meant or the literary allusion was might keep a mind from wandering, so to speak. By way of weak example, "He's Gone" for so many years was clearly about my friend Tom. How could it not since the song perfectly described my best friend. Then I read about Mickey's dad and that mess. So now instead of thinking about Tom, I think about Mickey's dad and Tom. What happens when one of your notes provides a listener with details that are too concrete to ignore? Can such background be distracting? And thanks again for the wonderful effort. It is a treasure.
searchlight casting (jstrahl) Tue 20 Dec 05 20:50
Would the timing fit Lou Reed's Sweet Jane? Truckin' was done in '70, i don't remember hearing Lou Reed's tune till at least '73, but then i didn't hear about him at all till then (Walk on the Wild Side), wasn't at all in the Velvet mindset back in the '60s (nor the Dead, for that matter).
*%* (jewel) Tue 20 Dec 05 22:44
That is a great point about the concrete examples potentially detracting from where the songs take our mind as a result of our individual perspective. I have been reading David's website for years and I have found that even though the new knowledge adds to the experience, over time, my imagination takes the helm once again and adrift I go. I think that is one of the most beautiful things about great songs - their ability to perfectly mean so many very different things to so many people. I have encouraged David to write a second book - the Interpreted Grateful Dead Lyrics where the focus is on a wide variety of interpretations for each song. Sure they may have an official "meaning" or not, but there is clearly this other whole dimension.
Smoking Crater of my Mind (freeform) Wed 21 Dec 05 00:24
Great topic, I've got to rush out and get the book immediately. BTW, Sweet Jane is from Loaded - 1970, so it fits. Or maybe Lou and Hunter took inspiration from the same muse, tooth paste or something more obscure.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 21 Dec 05 08:10
>>>I have encouraged David to write a second book - the Interpreted Grateful Dead Lyrics where the focus is on a wide variety of interpretations for each song. Sure they may have an official "meaning" or not, but there is clearly this other whole dimension.<<< This is a great idea. There's a Hunter quote somewhere (perhaps it's in <tnf>'s book) about how folks would come up to him with all sorts of imaginative spins on his lyrics which were often more interesting, he said, than what he had intended. I don't know who "Black Peter" is about, if anyone specific, but if I found out that Hunter meant it about someone he knew it would not diminish at all the strong connection I always feel the song makes with the death of my mother. The song's "life goes on" ethic, rendered in gorgeous poetry, is the perfect bromide in the wake of the death of a loved one. It's my favorite Dead song of all even though I still water up about half the times I hear it.
*%* (jewel) Wed 21 Dec 05 08:22
As I typed that another question came to mind: David, have you considered a project like this with Dylan's lyrics?
David Gans (tnf) Wed 21 Dec 05 10:38
"Black Peter" is the song Patti Smith and her band recorded the night Jerry died. I was fortunate to get permission to use it on "Stolen Roses: Songs of the Grateful Dead."
Marked from the Day That I was Born (ssol) Wed 21 Dec 05 10:50
It is an amazing, raggedy rendition. It is a treasure. Um, I don't mind knowing different interpetrations of Hunter's lyrics, the images and metaphors. There can often be so many, it's like rummaging through a drawer full of old jewelery, sometimes finding just the right gem. Sometimes, of course, I've just invented my own, and that is exactly what the song meant at that time for my emotions and experience.
David Dodd (ddodd) Wed 21 Dec 05 11:03
What a wonderful series of posts! I remain hopeful that things aren't allowed to get too concrete--don't want to fix that hole and stop anyone's mind from wandering where it will go... (Now THERE's an annotated lyrics project I'd like to see. And as to Dylan--that would require an editorial board, but I think it's worth doing, yes. So: Beatles and Dylan next.) I've likened the overall effect of the annotated lyrics project, at least in terms of the Dead's lyrics and the listeners, to the kind of light shed on things by the mirrorball in Winterland. Brief illuminations that don't really light up the whole picture, and whose effects won't necessarily last. So yes, even though I know now intellectually that Hunter had a toothpaste jingle in mind, that will never really overshadow my own personal image that is called up when I hear the lines about Sweet Jane. (And by the way, there are so many sweet Janes ((marijuana, the movie with the title about whatever happened to Baby Jane, etc. etc.)) that I will never be able to track them all, I fear.) The Interpreted Grateful Dead Lyrics. I see this as an endless project best held, for the time being, as a web-based effort. And in fact, David Gans, Alex Allan and I established the deadsongs.vue conference as a platform for just that sort of effort--the collective wisdom about the songs, including what they mean to you! Take a look.
searchlight casting (jstrahl) Wed 21 Dec 05 11:17
Great idea re the platform for interpretations. Interesting to see Black Peter interpreted as "life goes on". I always saw it as "my own death seems so ordinary", and maybe allusions to race and African Americans being hidden from view,even in death.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 21 Dec 05 11:19
*%* (jewel) Wed 21 Dec 05 11:55
It is amazing to see how even the annotations themselves can lend themselves to inspiring new interpretations. Black Peter, for instance. From the annotation, it appears that a Black Peters carry bundles of switches with which they beat naughty children. Reading that I think of the man laying on his death bed beating himself for his misdeeds in life.
gazornblat (dwaite) Wed 21 Dec 05 12:27
Black Peter - oh my... for years and years, I always envisioned it a synanon for salt peter - now hear me out, please... :-) I'll get you there, as odd as this might be... but the song and death - for a teenager, at least this teenager, was much like having to deal with puberty while taking salt peter... later, after seeing a wonderfully short lived play... black peter becuase the coal miner catching a lungfull of the stuff years and years of coal-mining would produce... ^became
Christian Crumlish (xian) Wed 21 Dec 05 15:00
Somehow it never occurred to me for for years that Black Peter was African-American. It seems like an obvious enough interpretation in retrospect but I guess I always interpreted it as meaning "low in spirits," "dark in mood," etc. A Blue Peter is a flag signalling it's time to board a ship as it sails on the next tide. I wonder if a Black Peter is also a flag? And that Dutch Black Peter (Swarte Piet or something like that) accompanying Santa (Sinterklas?) is often associated with the devil. Or, maybe, de debbil.
David Dodd (ddodd) Wed 21 Dec 05 15:15
An appropriate discussion for Christmastime! I had to go look into the question of the Blue Peter vs. potential Black Peter as a flag. Nothing that I can find in a cursory look around. One index element that I wanted for the book but which was scotched by the publisher was a set of motif indexes, where I would group references in the song lyrics to colors, numbers, animals, flora, personal names, geographical names, and so on. "Blue" and "Black" were pretty heavy in their respective numbers of references, as I recall. Ask me about the indexes sometime.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 21 Dec 05 20:32
Are they online?
David Dodd (ddodd) Thu 22 Dec 05 11:43
No, they're not--maybe that would be good, but unfortunately, since they got quashed in production, the page numbers won't correspond to reality without a good deal of work. But let me think about how I might do that...
Steve Silberman (digaman) Thu 22 Dec 05 12:21
> "Black Peter" is the song Patti Smith and her band recorded the night Jerry died. > It is an amazing, raggedy rendition. It is a treasure. And the backstory is, Patti's then-lover Oliver Ray called me from the studio that night, told me Patti wanted to do the song, and had me dictate the lyrics! It's a lovely recording. David, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on Hunter's evolution from Joycean psychedelicist to Old Western storyteller circa 1969-1970. It's quite a leap across the ol' Rio Grandio to go from coppertone bodhis and hallelujah hatracks to incisive little portraits of cowboys in the desert. Wha' happen?
David Dodd (ddodd) Thu 22 Dec 05 13:23
An early-ish interview with Hunter (BAM magazine, I want to say 1977, and I want to say the interviewer was Gans, but my reference books are at home...) had him saying something about how he felt that the "glittery image-bank" lyrics had become old hat to him, and how he could toss off a "China Cat" or a "Dark Star" in no time, but that it was a challenge to write the character songs. I do think there's a link between the two (only connect...) types of lyrics. Both proceed from a psychedelic mindset: "we're all One" and similar revelatory truths. The psychedlic lyrics work to provide connections between unlikely things: "hallelujah hatrack" (from "The Eleven") is a perfect example: divine and mundane side-by-side. Then look at "Wharf Rat," for instance, and the connection forged is between the listener and the unlikely object of our empathy: a street person panhandling for spare change. Hunter is making connections, letting us in on the big secret that we're all one. Just my thoughts, though... I'd argue that there's a third (or possibly fourth) era of Hunter lyrics in which he becomes more inclined to dispense advice and wisdom. "Foolish Heart," "Days Between," "Touch of Grey," and so on.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Thu 22 Dec 05 13:58
just love the way Me & My Uncle (I think) rides up out of the middle of The Other One inside the Dark Star from the Harding Theatre show in 1971.
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