Last night my 13-year-old son asked my wife and I if The Grateful Dead were any good. I quickly answered, “They’ve got some good songs, but generally they were really sloppy with lots of pointless improvisations and bad singing. We’ve got some friends who like them a lot.”
“I know you love ‘Bertha’!” said my wife, and that I do.
My wife, who’d been to 10 Dead and Dead-related shows in her college days, couldn’t give them a much better explanation. She objected, however, to my later characterization of them playing no more than 30 minutes of coherent music during a 3-hour set. “‘Drums and Space’ only took up 45 minutes of a set!”
“But what about songs like ‘St. Stephen,'” I replied, “which start out on fire for 20 seconds before veering off into a few minutes of Jerry’s mellow improvisations before returning to the main theme?”
“So they’re like Pink Floyd?” my son interjected, referring specifically to a short film of the Syd-led band playing “Interstellar Overdrive” at some famous Happening that was shown prior to the screening of that recent Doors’ documentary.
Obviously I’m not going to be of great help in setting up the Dead for a fair listen by my boy. I’ll play our son the half dozen songs I like a lot by The Dead as well as some of those long jams and terrible cover songs, but help me put into words what this musically attuned 13-year-old boy might expect. And please, don’t attempt to corrupt the kid. Thank you.