In a private discussion last week with my close personal friends E Pluribus Gergely and Lady Gergely, EPG wanted to know how I could say with a straight face that I liked The Grateful Dead‘s “Sugar Magnolia.” First, I reminded him, I like the song with an associated chuckle, which is how I like 10 of the 11 songs that make up my nearly heroic Dead Dozen playlist on Spotify. There’s nothing wrong with having an associated chuckle over a loved one, is there? Think of the friends and lovers in your life.
Somehow, he brought up “Just What I Needed” and my longstanding beefs with the perfect pop craft of The Cars. He wasn’t satisfied with my equally longstanding belief that the first Cars record is one of the most solid, justifiably hit-packed records of all time. He wanted to know why, if you’ll excuse my French, I’d rather fuck “Sugar Magnolia” than “Just What I Needed.”
My wife and I went out for a quick pickup the other day. We took her car. Bluetooth picked up a random Grateful Dead mix from her phone. One of my favorite 11 Dead songs, from a Dead Dozen mix that I curated and shared with friends on Facebook a couple of months ago, played. Then some others I didn’t know so well. I’ve come a long way through the years in appreciating the Grateful Dead. Even when we left off with Rock Town Hall in 2016, I would have been hard pressed to compile a mix of 11 Dead songs I actually liked – and not for strictly humorous purposes. A couple of weeks ago, I got some deeply upsetting, if expected, personal news, and I immediately turned to my Dead Dozen mix for comfort, letting myself shed some tears during “Ripple.”
Anyhow, while we made our quick run to the liquor store, something called “Dark Star (single version)” popped up on my wife’s random list. I had no idea there was such a thing. “Dark Star” is a song I can’t identify to save my life. The one time I saw the Dead they played it live, and the 19,997 Deadheads around me and my other 2 Dead-hater friends went wild. I furiously sucked on a bowl for the next half hour, but I didn’t get it then. I try to listen to recordings of that song every couple of years, to see if anything sticks. Nothing ever does. It’s like that kid back in your early school days: “I remember the name, but I can’t see his face!”
I thought this single version of “Dark Star” might help me see the heart of “Dark Star.” You know what I concluded?
I received the following message from a close personal friend and Townsperson who just joined a Dead cover band. He asked me to pass along his note in hopes of getting advice from the Hall on how to best handle this new challenge
I just joined a Dead cover band to help out a friend from our synagogue They do Dead, Stones, The Band, “Into the Mystic,” “Breathe” by Floyd, and some other classic rock. What was I thinking? Now what do I do? Can any drummers in the Hall give advice on how to play Dead-style drums? I’ve been listening to the band’s set recordings and it’s all bad habits and bad fills.
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!
Townsman trolleyvox asked if we could talk about this 1969 promotional film for David Bowie, Love You Till Tuesday. Time has come today, and while we’re at it feel free to talk about a 1976 film starring Bowie, Nicholas Roeg‘s The Man Who Fell to Earth, which I finally watched all the way through.
My main thought about the promotional film is that the ’60s could not contain Bowie. He had no available space to occupy. Everything he tried to do in a ’60s vein, including whimsical gnome pop, UK pop balladry, and soft-shoe/mime routines, had already been done better by Syd Barrett, The Bee Gees, and Davey Jones (The Monkees’ Davey Jones, that is), respectively. The scenes with him playing alongside his buddies are really awkward. David did not play well with others. He had to be his own man. He had to help shape the next decade. It was a matter of survival.
Speaking of matters of survival, Bowie is really good in The Man Who Fell to Earth. I’ve mildly enjoyed him in other small acting parts, but he does fall into self-consciousness more than a real actor should. In Roeg’s film he gets to play a variation on his musical character. He’s even an alien space traveler who misses his wife and is named Thomas. (No word on whether he ranked as a Major on his home planet.) As an added bonus, I got to see way more of Candy Clark‘s acting talents than she was able to display in a movie from my childhood that did much to shape me: American Graffiti.
When I was younger Roeg’s visual-heavy style left me unsatisfied, but since seeing this movie and re-watching Walkabout a few months ago I’m willing to see him as more than a Thinking Man’s Ken Russell. Maybe I’ll revisit Performance or Don’t Look Now or even the one about Einstein and Marilyn Monroe. Jeez, I’m turning into Buskirk!
In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-InMr. Moderator broadcasts “LIVE” from the Coast of Loving, “Frisco,” as the natives call it, specifically! The Moderator is calling all Peace Warriors to tune in, turn on, and drop whatever it is you were doing. As an added bonus, for those curious to learn more about Eric Burdon & The (Then-)New Animals, you’ve come to the right episode.
[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/RTH-Saturday-Night-Shut-In-50.mp3|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 50]
[Note: The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.]
Well, no, actually I don’t love the Grateful Dead, but there are plenty of people around that do, and those Deadheads will tell you that Europe ’72 (issued in November 1972) is one of their best albums. The band was arguably it its strongest and Jerry Garcia was still vertical at this stage. As far as live albums go, this triple-LP or two-CD set is pretty good and makes for a quite sufficient introduction to the Dead to mere mortals like me. However, the true adepts are always wanting more grateful death, and even 30 years of trading concert tapes and purchasing all 2,387 Dick’s Picks CDs didn’t quite satisfy their junkie cravings.
Like all good pushers, Grateful Dead Productions and Rhino Records arrived with the goods last month to ease the cold sweats and shakes of these product-starved Deadheads by offering what might be the most mega box set of all time: Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings. Along with books, maps, and other paraphernalia, the massive wooden box consists of 73 CDs documenting 22 complete European concerts. Although I’ve not seen a complete track listing, I assume that means 22 versions of “Truckin'” and “Sugar Magnolia”. Funny me, I though that having only one version of each would be well more than adequate.
Again, like the good pushers they are, GDP and Rhino knew to keep the supply limited and the prices high. The price of the box set was $450 and only 7,200 copies were issued. Is it a surprise to anyone that every single one was sold within 4 days? The pusher guys came to the rescue once again with the recent announcement that the 72 CDs would be available to all without all the limited-edition nonsense. The price for the less-deluxe edition? Still an eye-watering $450.00, bless their rapacious little hearts. If you still can’t sleep at night without one of the full-luxoid packages, they’re now available on eBay with Buy-It-Now prices up to $1,200.00.
There has to be at least one hardcore Deadhead out there in RTH-land. What’s the buzz on the box set? Is it worth the legendary reputation and the equally legendary price? Have you purchased it or are you planning to? Inquiring minds want to know! As for everyone else, what other totally outrageous box sets come to mind?