Talkin' 30 Trips With Nicholas Meriwether
It's a tall order to take on writing up any year in Grateful Dead history, but to attempt to tell their complete story...godspeed! We called UC Santa Cruz Grateful Dead Archivist Nicholas Meriwether to task for this one and the result is either the shortest book or the longest liner notes you'll find on the Dead. Here he gives us a little sneak peak at the process and a surprising discovery.
Give us a little background on how you got into the Grateful Dead and beyond that, the business of the Grateful Dead.
A college roommate (and close friend to this day) first got me interested in them by playing Skeleton and Roses (Skullf**k), and I fell in love with it. I listened to more and more Dead that year and then saw my first show in fall 1985. I walked out of that saying, "I will spend the rest of my life thinking about this" - - which is pretty much how it worked out.
What's a day in the life of an archivist?
I'm unusual among archivists in that my work is devoted to a single set of related collections, which is a rarity (and a privilege). My job is particularly unusual in that it involves significant ongoing obligations to the donor - I support the band's ongoing series of historical live releases and a host of their other projects, from Mickey Hart sending a researcher to work on the development of the Beam, for example, to the directors of the Bob Weir documentary and the band's own documentary. But what really makes it tough to answer your question is the heavy media presence that the band still has, which makes many of my days focused on outreach and administration, instead of collection development and processing, which are really the traditional archival roles I fulfill. An ideal day for me would be six hours of work on the collections and only two or three hours devoted to answering questions, handling media, addressing researchers, etc. Another huge part of my work is creating exhibits here and helping other institutions who borrow materials for their own exhibitions, like my recent work with the Field Museum in Chicago during the Fare Thee Well shows.
You've written quite a few liner notes for Grateful Dead releases and projects but probably nothing quite as large in scope as 30 Trips Around The Sun. What were your initial thoughts upon being asked to participate in the release, and how did you go about researching and writing what is essentially a book?
That was a tremendous pleasure and honor, as well as challenge. So many good books on the band's history have been published, from Dennis McNally's magisterial A Long Strange Trip to Peter Richardson's recent No Simple Highway and David Browne's So Many Roads; it's a long list, really. So figuring out a way to tell the story in the shortest book on the band's history, and do so in a way that would be sufficiently complete but still be new to well-read and knowledgeable Dead Heads - - that was the challenge. My approach was to wrap the history around the shows in the box, with nods to all of the interesting illustrations from the Archive that I had to provide. The shows that David Lemieux selected, the media accounts and supporting evidence from the Archive, and the essay all work together to tell the story.
What's something – a story or fact – that you uncovered that folks probably don't already know?
That's hard because so many good essays, stories, and accounts of the band's history have appeared, from band members' memoirs to first-rate journalism and thoughtful academic critiques. I think for me the biggest worry was how to frame the final years, which skew so heavily to negative media portrayals of the scene. What I found as I read all of that journalism and all of the letters Dead Heads sent to the band was how overwhelmingly positive the experience remained, not only for most fans but even for many journalists. It's a sobering reminder that listening to recordings can skew our perceptions of how a show could feel to a participant - - and more broadly, that even during a difficult or mediocre show, moments of magic still emerged, and for many, those moments will define their experience.That's what makes the job of historian, or archivist, both challenging and rewarding.
Well, it does now!!
Just got 30 Trips: Amazing selection of Dead from across the ages. 1975 in Golden Gate Park is a gem. Can't wait to make it through the whole set (this fall/winter is going to be all dead all the time...my wife is going to hate me).
One negative piece of feedback to share though. As with my last purchase (Dave's Picks 15), the CDs from 30 trips seem to have come without song titles, album info, or cover art when ripped to Itunes...ahhhh! Please either encode the data onto the CD (like everyone else does) or at least upload the data to gracenote (CDDB) so we can request album info through Itunes.
Other than that, this is a masterful collection with world class sound production...well done.
You would think after the huge price for this boxset and extended waiting time to get it they would have all the cds set up in itunes so I don,t have to type each individual show in. Good grief Grateful Dead.
Hi my dear compatriot,
rule number one of an archivist is to save what could be save from ravages of time; see DPicks serie...a boxset of 30 shows to 6500 copies is not a "big business". I bought the 2 Spring 90 boxset and this time I can not afford the "30 Trips around the Sun" but I don't think it is expensive considering the work usually done by Jeffrey & Dave.
however I regret to not get some of these shows, like 74,75,and the eighties. Maybe we will get individual digital downloads @ deadnet for Christmas?
Hi everyone. I'm a 65 y.o.French deadhead and there's something I don't understand: Each time the Dead staff offers à new Dave picks he says that's à great show...And sometime thé Best one !!! I ordered this box set (à big financial problem for me) and I didn't see the 77 Cornell's show!!!!idem for the last show at Soldiers Field. ...
Fortunately I own à vinyl bootleg. Maybe a nearly offer for those shows with an astronomic price!!!!
So I ask to myself if the Dead team exists for musiclovers or only for the money.
I hope sincerly I'm wrong
Robert de Benoist.
Ps: Do you think that all Deadheads are rich?
Does the spirit and way of life of The Grateful Dead turn on burried ashes?
Strike another match, go start a new.
We can't afford the boxed set (much as I'd love to have it), but I'd love to be able to purchase the booklet. It sounds like it'll be an amazing read. Hopefully they'll see that there is a demand for the booklet and print up some stand-alone copies for those of us who won't be able to get it via the boxed set.
Even though I was fortunate to preorder Boxzilla (30 Trips) I would order a separate copy of the Book if it was available as a separate unit just to have it as sort of a coffee table book PLUS it would allow me to keep Boxzilla & it's contents intact because for some reason I feel this book is going to be an excellent read.
I'm also thinking of going to the secondary market to try to obtain 9/24/72, 4/25/77,10/27/79 & 5/16/81 just so I can keep these 4 shows as 'travel" editions for the car so I can keep Boxzilla strictly for my home listening pleasure, just as I've done with previous box sets, i.e., E72, Spring 1990 I & II. Again just to keep the boxes intact.
Yeah I'm sort of fanatical that way but aren't we all in some sort of way, as we aren't just fans we are rabid Deadheads. It's the main reason I'm hoping that TPTB allow these shows to be released individually, just like E72.
Well I've RAMBLED on enough, plus the wife is beckoning for me to come to bed, it's 12:38AM in warm Philly STAY DEAD, DEADLAND!!!!!!!!
What he said! And doesn't it drive you crazy when people put the toilet paper in so it rolls down the back instead of over the top? Or open their boiled eggs at the little end instead of the big end?
does it bother anyone else that there would only be 29 trips around the sun for the 30 shows ????