The other night my wife and I were watching TV when an ad came on for that new David Chase movie, Not Fade Away. As I was getting agita at the thought of soon hearing a patented, mouthbreathing Captain Obvious Fresh Air interview with another one of Terry Gross‘ darlings, something along the lines of her Fall 2012 interview with Stephen Colbert, which for some reason focused on his favorite musical artists, mostly obscure soft-rock pioneers like James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg, my wife distracted me with an unexpected question:
What’s this, a movie about the Dead?
I would never have made that connection, but I only saw the Dead once in college. She saw the Dead and assorted offshoot bands a total of 10 times before I knew her. That would have qualified her as a Deadhead, which helps to explain why I thought she was hot the first time I saw her. I always had a soft spot for Deadheads. Well, that’s not quite the right term, is it? However, by the time we met and started getting to know each other her Dead bootleg tapes were buried in a box of personal items, stuff I wouldn’t know existed for a few years.
For the next few days I couldn’t get the notion of the Dead’s cover of “Not Fade Away” out of my head. It gnawed at me, the way the thought of hearing Chase wax poetic over whatever obvious albums he grew up loving gnawed at me. I felt compelled to re-examine the Dead’s dreadful cover of one of the finest cover songs the Rolling Stones ever committed to vinyl. I got no further than the YouTube clip posted here: the Grateful Dead captured mid-jam. Note that the clip of this interminable cover is entitled Grateful Dead – Not Fade Away 12-31-78 – Pt. 2. The “Pt. 2” says it all: ROCK CRIME!
I’m not picking on the Dead, necessarily, because big, bad old me has come around on that band more than I ever would have imagined. While my family and I were driving through Big Sur last summer I had the urge to crank up the half dozen Dead songs I keep on my iPod for such kinder, gentler times. They sounded great in that highly cliched yet appropriate setting, although our boys sounded like little versions of thinner, bad young me.
“UGH!” our oldest son exclaimed, “Dad, what is this?”
“Yeah,” his Flavor Fav kid brother chimed in, “this is terrible!”
Really, the half dozen Dead songs I had on my iPod sounded good. I’ll stand up for them. I even tried to pull out a comparison to the Velvet Underground‘s Loaded, an album our boys know and dig. No dice!
I’ll stand behind the half dozen Dead songs I like and even another half dozen—hell, I’ll even warmly pat some of the unintentionally funny ones on the back, songs like “Shakedown Street” and “I Need a Miracle”—but I will NOT tolerate their cover of “Not Fade Away.” Couldn’t they have found another 2-chord song to jam over? I don’t think any cover by any band is less in tune with the spirit of the original song than that one. Oh, you guys know so much. You’ll come up with a cover that does less justice to the original, but I bet it doesn’t require a “Pt. 2” when posted to YouTube.
I hear a pre-echo of BigSteve, who will point out that the lyrics of the song uphold the band’s admirable ethos. I hear another pre-echo of Geo referring me to a bootleg from the Europe 1972 tour. And I accept the high fives in advance from those of you who share my appreciation for the sex appeal of Deadheads.
Has anyone seen that new movie? Is it as ponderous and loaded with white man’s remorse as it looks, like a 2-hour version of that recent AARP ad we examined? Most importantly, how’s Chase’s use of spirit glue and wigs?