Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Confessions of a Closet Deadhead

Once again, I find myself listening to the Grateful Dead on my daily commute to work. That means at least two hours of great music, and it's always something new, even as it's familiar. It's addictive.

So much to like. Jerry's guitar leads. Phil's wandering bass lines. Bob's enthusiastic singing. Lots of drumming by Bill and Mickey. Pigpen's down-and-dirty blues. Multiple keyboardists. A disco period. A post-disco period. Nearly 500 different songs by the Dead--and more by the guys as individuals. Covers.

What I like best, though, is the group musicianship. These guys, even at the beginning, but  always later--play together. I feel like they are different parts of one entity. I've read quotes from the guys saying that they just sensed when to come in or when to change songs or play a certain way. It's a feeling.

I appreciate hearing the same song done dozens or hundreds of different ways. God bless the tapers. I know most of the standard recordings, but when another version of Bertha comes on or I hear yet another version of Dark Star it's always exciting.

The band went through different periods, but is still around, in a way, with Furthur, so it feels like they've been playing forever. I guess in 2015 we'll celebrate 50 years.

In one hour this afternoon on Sirius/XM's Grateful Dead channel, I heard Blow Away, featuring Brent Mydland singing, then the harmonies of a version of Jack Straw. Then there was Pigpen wailing away on Promised Land. And on and on...

The first Dead I heard was The Golden Road on KFRC AM - the big 610, in 1967. They stood out then! I then received a gift of Anthem of the Sun (who was it that gave it to me? Can't remember...). I listened to that one on headphones in my bedroom over and over again in early 1969. Then, it was Truckin' on the radio and this and that. But it wasn't until I started playing the bass in 2003 that I began to appreciate Phil's inspired work and started buying the CDs. Now, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty are favorites, but I like the freshness of Terrapin Station, too, and put on the other discs periodically.

Even though I have always identified with and appreciated the Haight Ashbury and the 1960s, I regret that I missed out on the live shows. I'd like to be there with the people, sharing the music in person. Luckily, thousands of hours live on. There are bands who play the music, too, and I've heard a few. So nice.

Maybe I'll find a way to get to a Furthur show. I did see Jerry with Merle Saunders at San Francisco State in the 1970's. Maybe I'll find a way to play some of the Dead's songs myself, too, with some other interested musicians.

What a long, strange trip it's been.

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