Saturday, September 02, 2006

Are You Afraid of the Dead?

Grateful Dead - Vintage Dead

It is sort of a given in rock snob circles to hate the Dead. Like the Doors, Zeppelin, the Eagles, and Steely Dan, the Dead are supposed to represent all that is wrong with the mainstream. I'm here to say, it ain't necessarily so.

Thought experiment: say the GD broke up in '69 (almost did - they were broke and the record co. almost dropped them). I'll respectfully submit that in that alternate universe, the Dead would have a standing up there with near-misses like the MC5 and the Velvets.

Preposterous? Nay, I sayeth. Let's run the checklist:
1) Fighting against the man? Check.
2) Identifiable and influential sound? Check.
3) Studio innovations? Double-check.
4) Memorable songs and singing? Well...

And therein lies the rub. The songwriting of the early Dead was pretty far behind the instrumental prowess. But hell, you could say that about a lot of the bands we go crazy over.

Here's a (subjective) beginner's guide to getting started with the Dead.
Stone classics: Anthem of the Sun, Europe '72, Wake of the Flood
Pretty cool: Most of the other Warners stuff.
Have their moments: American Beauty (the CSN harmonies aren't so good), Blues For Allah, Mars Hotel, Go To Heaven (really.)
Steer Clear: Terrapin Station and Shakedown Street (disco Dead), Built to Last, the Touch of Grey one (forgot its name....)
Live Stuff: Anything from 1968, 1970-4 should be pretty good. 1969 and 1975-1983 can be spotty. Stay away from Brent and Vince eras, unless you go for MIDI keyboards and guitar synths.

This posting is a bootleg from 1970 or so. It is a very early Avalon performance (late '66). The energy is low, perhaps an artefact of the poor recording quality. They would be a lot better in a year or two.

Comment rule: if you are going to belittle the Dead (and part of the reason for this post is to kick off fun debate), you've got to list a favorite guilty pleasure band. And it has to be non-MOJO approved.

(the sound of crickets)
The Greatful Dead...Hmmm I have listened to zillions of albums in my time.Started out as a space rock freak Hawkwind/Gong/Floyd etc.Then worked my way through heavy metal/prog/psych/experimetal/jazz/ZAPPA(probably the biggest eye (ear?) opener)But,and here's my point, at no time could I dig the dead. I used to have a live album from around '72ish (I think)which I bought at a record fair but I never liked it. Incidentally I bought it with my Collectors head on 'cos it still had the free bonus disc with it which I was told was Quite rare. This third disc was better than the main album! I also had a gerry Garcia album which I think was self titled and possibly his first. It had a really cool cover but the music just didn't seem to fit. The opening track was called Sugaree and sounded like some Hillbilly strummin' on the back porch - but not in a good way. I will try one of your recommended albums and give them one more chance ( I can't believe I'm doing this after all these years)
Regards Titus Luxor
With the Dead it's easy: it's wonderful music and the only thing you gotta do is – listen! Let go all prejudices, let go what you know about Jerry Garcia or rare bootlegs, the famous San Fransisco scene or whatever. Just listen! The real meat are of course their concerts. Go to (or as a starter to and drown in music of all directions. Everything you give to the Dead they will give back - double. They are like a mirror. So: arms down and they will open up your world - if you let them ... oh, won't you let them ...
the studio live dead record from '68 is god-meat fer shure!!!! i love me my early dead! and fuck all y'all haters of steely dan the greatest pervert-weirdo-jazz-yacht-rock-synth-plasty of all time!
Yeah, the 'Dan. They were the devil incarnate to this singer I used to work with. Used to. Dumb ass had a big blind spot about good AOR, that's for sure.
i mean, i used to be a big hater of steely, in line with kind of a rock as punk byline i adopted somewhere around my 14th birthday. but let's face it, music is more fun when there's no scene politics or garbage ideologies involved. i love those dan records for the same reason i like the gizmos... i just dig the vibes.
I dunno, I love alot of live Brent era stuff. Funky sound and big fat B-3. Of course I'm a heretic, I like the Dead.
Would you kindly re-post it ,I know it's a grate session live at Avalon ,I ever owned this lp ,but I lost it for a long time and I miss the groove feelin' of "in the midnight hour".....
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