• January 2, 2014
    http://www.dead.net/features/greatest-stories-ever-told/greatest-stories-ever-told-china-cat-sunflower
    Greatest Stories Ever Told - "China Cat Sunflower"

    By David Dodd

    Here’s the plan—each week, I will blog about a different song, focusing, usually, on the lyrics, but also on some other aspects of the song, including its overall impact—a truly subjective thing. Therefore, the best part, I would hope, would not be anything in particular that I might have to say, but rather, the conversation that may happen via the comments over the course of time—and since all the posts will stay up, you can feel free to weigh in any time on any of the songs! With Grateful Dead lyrics, there’s always a new and different take on what they bring up for each listener, it seems. (I’ll consider requests for particular songs—just private message me!)

    “China Cat Sunflower”

    I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I had been saving “China Cat Sunflower” for a special occasion. Celebrating the start of a new year seems like an appropriate occasion, so let’s look at what is probably my number one desert-island song. I mean, if I had to whittle it all down to just one song I could bring with me, this would be it. And in particular the Europe ’72 recording.

    This song opened my ears to the band in a big way. And I have spent many hours with it over the years, never getting tired of it. I don’t tire of it musically, or lyrically. I don’t tire of the interplay between the words and the music. I relish each new dive into this song.

    And I’m not sure why this is. I do remember when it “happened” to me. I was home for Christmas break from college, and a friend and I went shopping for records. She was a huge Deadhead, and I was a neophyte. She told me I should buy the triple Europe ’72 album, so I did. And that night, I put it on my parents’ record player—an old Magnavox console--when they were somewhere out and about, and listened. I lay on the floor of their living room, and stared at the cottage-cheese ceiling, and watched the patterns form and re-form there, to the music that was playing—such a delicate constellation of intertwined guitar notes. I couldn’t believe the intricacy! I couldn’t fathom how it was being done.

    And I don’t think I actually understood very many of the words—they were more like part of the instrumentation, like the poetry of HD Moe that I later came to love because he used words in this way to create a stained-glass verbal image.

    Learning the words took awhile.

    First, I started in the time-honored method of lifting the needle from the groove and setting it back just a bit to try to catch the words. My transcription didn’t get very far using this method. It wasn’t until David Gans published an interview with Robert Hunter in BAM magazine, which included the lyrics to “China Cat Sunflower,” that I had any real inkling what was being sung.

    That said, actually having the words didn’t do that much to clarify anything, and I think that’s just exactly what Robert Hunter would have wanted.

    Hunter’s statements about the song include this, from his lyric anthology, A Box of Rain:

    “Nobody ever asked me the meaning of this song. People seem to know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s good that a few things in this world are clear to all of us.”

    And, from an interview with David Gans, in his Conversations with the Dead:

    “I think the germ of ‘China Cat Sunflower’ came in Mexico, on Lake Chapala. I don’t think any of the words came, exactly-the rhythms came. I had a cat sitting on my belly, and was in a rather hypersensitive state, and I followed this cat out to—I believe it was Nepture—and there were rainbows across Neptune, and cats marching across the rainbow. This cat took me in all these cat places; there’s some essence of that in the song.”

    The song is part of what was a set of lyrics sent by Hunter to the band when they recruited him to be the lyricist for the group. A note on Alex Allan’s Grateful Dead Lyric and Song Finder site says: “Robert Hunter played Saint Stephen>Alligator>China Cat Sunflower>The Eleven>China Cat Sunflower on 18 March 2003 to illustrate how the songs had originally been conceived.”

    The kaleidoscope of imagery in the song does seem fairly clear in the overall state of mind it’s communicating. Hunter referred to the effect as something along the lines of a “glittery image bank,” saying: I can sit right here and write you a ‘China Cat’ or one of those things in ten minutes. How many of those things do you need…?”

    Given that’s true, still—I’m endless fascinated by the selection of images in the song, and the way they play off each other and off of my own state of mind or place of being at any given moment or stage in my life.

    Hunter mailed the lyrics to the band in mid-1967, and by January 1968 the band was performing a medley of songs that included “Dark Star,” “China Cat Sunflower,” and “The Eleven.” The first known live version of the song dates from a Carousel Ballroom performance on January 17, 1968. The song evolved over the ensuing months, including changes in key, tempo, and arrangement, until sometime in the summer of 1969, when it was paired, for the first time, with “I Know You Rider.” Once that pairing became the standard, it was locked in, with the single exception noted in DeadBase being a March 9, 1985 version where it went into “Cumberland Blues.” “China Cat” remained steadily the repertoire, with the exception of the years 1975-1978, when it was played just once, in 1977. Overall, it was performed live 552 times that we know of, making it the fifth most-played song by the band, and number one in songs sung by Garcia. Its final performance was on July 8, 1995, at Soldier Field, in Chicago.

    The song was released in its studio version on Aoxomoxoa, in June 1969.

    Looking at the lyrics as a whole, and comparing them to a kaleidoscope in the effect they have on the mind, I see a range of accessible and yet mysterious associations and cross-references. Maybe it’s a reflection of Hunter’s mind in the self-described “hypersensitive state,” but it works fine for any listener who can picture silk trombones, violin rivers, Cheshire cats peeking through lace bandanas, and crazy quilt star gowns. I see crazy quilts, and lacey patterns, and weaving in and out of everything, cats. No commonality seems to link the imagery, except that they can take us on a journey.

    We see Leonardo da Vinci’s mirror-script, for instance. If you happened to be holding the album cover for Aoxomoxoa in your hand, the mirroring is the theme both of the album’s title and of Rick Griffin’s artwork. Mirrors feature in a couple of early Hunter lyrics, from “Dark Star’s” shattering mirror, to the window-mirror in “Rosemary.” The mirror in “China Cat” is introduced only if you find yourself thinking about the “Leonardo words.”

    As far as the cats go, we have a number of possibilities. First, there’s the China Cat of the title and first line. There’s a whole ceramic artform in Japan, dating to the 17th century, devoted to creating and decorating china cats, called Kutani, in which ceramic cats are beautifully painted. A related version of these cats is called Satsuma.

    Some things just resist logic or understanding—how the particular journey Hunter was on transpired is completely out of our reach, as is that of any one of us taken as an individual. And yet we can share the sense of the experience, understanding that there is something beyond reason, something vast and visual and auditory that is ready to be tapped at any moment, if only we can access that place and state of being.

    I am very happy that Robert Hunter gave it a go. And I’m glad to know that there are those who understand without needing to understand.

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    362251
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

9 years 7 months

By David Dodd

Here’s the plan—each week, I will blog about a different song, focusing, usually, on the lyrics, but also on some other aspects of the song, including its overall impact—a truly subjective thing. Therefore, the best part, I would hope, would not be anything in particular that I might have to say, but rather, the conversation that may happen via the comments over the course of time—and since all the posts will stay up, you can feel free to weigh in any time on any of the songs! With Grateful Dead lyrics, there’s always a new and different take on what they bring up for each listener, it seems. (I’ll consider requests for particular songs—just private message me!)

“China Cat Sunflower”

I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I had been saving “China Cat Sunflower” for a special occasion. Celebrating the start of a new year seems like an appropriate occasion, so let’s look at what is probably my number one desert-island song. I mean, if I had to whittle it all down to just one song I could bring with me, this would be it. And in particular the Europe ’72 recording.

This song opened my ears to the band in a big way. And I have spent many hours with it over the years, never getting tired of it. I don’t tire of it musically, or lyrically. I don’t tire of the interplay between the words and the music. I relish each new dive into this song.

And I’m not sure why this is. I do remember when it “happened” to me. I was home for Christmas break from college, and a friend and I went shopping for records. She was a huge Deadhead, and I was a neophyte. She told me I should buy the triple Europe ’72 album, so I did. And that night, I put it on my parents’ record player—an old Magnavox console--when they were somewhere out and about, and listened. I lay on the floor of their living room, and stared at the cottage-cheese ceiling, and watched the patterns form and re-form there, to the music that was playing—such a delicate constellation of intertwined guitar notes. I couldn’t believe the intricacy! I couldn’t fathom how it was being done.

And I don’t think I actually understood very many of the words—they were more like part of the instrumentation, like the poetry of HD Moe that I later came to love because he used words in this way to create a stained-glass verbal image.

Learning the words took awhile.

First, I started in the time-honored method of lifting the needle from the groove and setting it back just a bit to try to catch the words. My transcription didn’t get very far using this method. It wasn’t until David Gans published an interview with Robert Hunter in BAM magazine, which included the lyrics to “China Cat Sunflower,” that I had any real inkling what was being sung.

That said, actually having the words didn’t do that much to clarify anything, and I think that’s just exactly what Robert Hunter would have wanted.

Hunter’s statements about the song include this, from his lyric anthology, A Box of Rain:

“Nobody ever asked me the meaning of this song. People seem to know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s good that a few things in this world are clear to all of us.”

And, from an interview with David Gans, in his Conversations with the Dead:

“I think the germ of ‘China Cat Sunflower’ came in Mexico, on Lake Chapala. I don’t think any of the words came, exactly-the rhythms came. I had a cat sitting on my belly, and was in a rather hypersensitive state, and I followed this cat out to—I believe it was Nepture—and there were rainbows across Neptune, and cats marching across the rainbow. This cat took me in all these cat places; there’s some essence of that in the song.”

The song is part of what was a set of lyrics sent by Hunter to the band when they recruited him to be the lyricist for the group. A note on Alex Allan’s Grateful Dead Lyric and Song Finder site says: “Robert Hunter played Saint Stephen>Alligator>China Cat Sunflower>The Eleven>China Cat Sunflower on 18 March 2003 to illustrate how the songs had originally been conceived.”

The kaleidoscope of imagery in the song does seem fairly clear in the overall state of mind it’s communicating. Hunter referred to the effect as something along the lines of a “glittery image bank,” saying: I can sit right here and write you a ‘China Cat’ or one of those things in ten minutes. How many of those things do you need…?”

Given that’s true, still—I’m endless fascinated by the selection of images in the song, and the way they play off each other and off of my own state of mind or place of being at any given moment or stage in my life.

Hunter mailed the lyrics to the band in mid-1967, and by January 1968 the band was performing a medley of songs that included “Dark Star,” “China Cat Sunflower,” and “The Eleven.” The first known live version of the song dates from a Carousel Ballroom performance on January 17, 1968. The song evolved over the ensuing months, including changes in key, tempo, and arrangement, until sometime in the summer of 1969, when it was paired, for the first time, with “I Know You Rider.” Once that pairing became the standard, it was locked in, with the single exception noted in DeadBase being a March 9, 1985 version where it went into “Cumberland Blues.” “China Cat” remained steadily the repertoire, with the exception of the years 1975-1978, when it was played just once, in 1977. Overall, it was performed live 552 times that we know of, making it the fifth most-played song by the band, and number one in songs sung by Garcia. Its final performance was on July 8, 1995, at Soldier Field, in Chicago.

The song was released in its studio version on Aoxomoxoa, in June 1969.

Looking at the lyrics as a whole, and comparing them to a kaleidoscope in the effect they have on the mind, I see a range of accessible and yet mysterious associations and cross-references. Maybe it’s a reflection of Hunter’s mind in the self-described “hypersensitive state,” but it works fine for any listener who can picture silk trombones, violin rivers, Cheshire cats peeking through lace bandanas, and crazy quilt star gowns. I see crazy quilts, and lacey patterns, and weaving in and out of everything, cats. No commonality seems to link the imagery, except that they can take us on a journey.

We see Leonardo da Vinci’s mirror-script, for instance. If you happened to be holding the album cover for Aoxomoxoa in your hand, the mirroring is the theme both of the album’s title and of Rick Griffin’s artwork. Mirrors feature in a couple of early Hunter lyrics, from “Dark Star’s” shattering mirror, to the window-mirror in “Rosemary.” The mirror in “China Cat” is introduced only if you find yourself thinking about the “Leonardo words.”

As far as the cats go, we have a number of possibilities. First, there’s the China Cat of the title and first line. There’s a whole ceramic artform in Japan, dating to the 17th century, devoted to creating and decorating china cats, called Kutani, in which ceramic cats are beautifully painted. A related version of these cats is called Satsuma.

Some things just resist logic or understanding—how the particular journey Hunter was on transpired is completely out of our reach, as is that of any one of us taken as an individual. And yet we can share the sense of the experience, understanding that there is something beyond reason, something vast and visual and auditory that is ready to be tapped at any moment, if only we can access that place and state of being.

I am very happy that Robert Hunter gave it a go. And I’m glad to know that there are those who understand without needing to understand.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Custom Sidebar

Listen on Spotify

Display on homepage featured list
On
Homepage Feature blurb
I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I had been saving “China Cat Sunflower” for a special occasion. Celebrating the start of a new year seems like an appropriate occasion, so let’s look at what is probably my number one desert-island song.
Homepage Feature title
Greatest Stories Ever Told - "China Cat Sunflower"
summary
I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I had been saving “China Cat Sunflower” for a special occasion. Celebrating the start of a new year seems like an appropriate occasion, so let’s look at what is probably my number one desert-island song.
Custom Teaser
I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I had been saving “China Cat Sunflower” for a special occasion. Celebrating the start of a new year seems like an appropriate occasion, so let’s look at what is probably my number one desert-island song.

dead comment

user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

Many may argue, and with good cause, that Dark Star is probably the Grateful Dead's seminal work, but China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider on Europe '72, as David said, is what did it for me and, even more than Sugar Magnolia, I wanted to hear it at every concert. Bob's and Jerry's signature riffs are the first things I usually play whenever I pick up my guitar. A true masterpiece that sits right beside Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and White Rabbit in the pantheon of songs that both molded, and as we now look back, defined the psychedelic experience. I suppose to a large extent that the music defined the experience, but psychedelics further refined the sound and music into songs such as this which, if you were to actually sit down and try to write words and a melody to adequately describe, and more importantly, creatively accompany the wonders of a trip on LSD or mescaline, China Cat Sunflower, both alone but preferably with I Know You Rider, is about as close, mind-blowingly friendly and succinct as you're ever going to get. White Rabbit blew down all the doors (with exceptional Grace, I might add), Lucy painted the kaleidoscope landscapes, and the China Cat Sunflower took us "proud-walking jingle" through our imagination from there. Were I to pick one recording to put into a time capsule to epitomize all of the hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations of the entire psychedelic evolution in human consciousness, like the Tao itself, China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider from Europe '72 would be the One, because on that particular night in the City of Light, and with exceptional thanks to Bob and Betty for countless cosmic days and nights with the stereo thereafter, the Grateful Dead, for an oft-described garage band, really nailed it. And that goes for a few other songs on that album as well. I don't know, or maybe it's just because it's the One we Riders of the Rainbow all rode together. Carl Sagan should have thought of that when he was compiling Voyager's album. I'm actually more surprised that he didn't... Hmmm. Wonder if a Dead Head somehow managed to find a way onto that team before the hatch was closed, which would make Cumberland Blues the first contact with whatever lies beyond instead of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto. You just never know when it comes to these kinda things. Triple album couldn't really weigh that much more or less than a gold disc, now could it... ;) (Insert mental picture of Ice Cream Kid here.) Peace.
user picture

Member for

8 years 10 months
Permalink

This song was a product of it's time and was just dripping with psychedelia. It doesn't really matter what the words were or if they made any sense. Some times I think words were included with some songs just because that was the way things were done, when in truth, for certain of Hunter's compositions, Jerry made them irrelevant. This one just screamed with hipster terms. The only historical error of fact was the amount of times China Cat was played solo after Rider was attached for the first time. There were more than a handful of occasions and surely more than the reverse - when Rider was played without China Cat. One example in addition to the one David mentioned is 7/28/88: China Cat>Crazy Fingers>I No U Rider. I can't find more of them at the moment. Not that it matters. Dead trivia. It's endless. In any case, China Cat was a great song with a mostly faithful mate and surely a crowd-pleaser that the Heads never seemed to tire of, despite it's 500-plus renditions.
user picture

Member for

10 years 9 months
Permalink

a wild heady flash a clarion call to new spaces within. I love this song-never tire of it( always like "Cosmic Charley" too but of course "China Cat" to me is not ironic-just a pure blast). A fellow traveler along this path may be Jefferson Airplane's "If You Feel". Heady, cool days indeed perhaps the likes of which may never be glimpsed again.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

Always a crowd favorite... I don't believe I've ever heard a sub par China Cat in concert. It has never failed to get everyone up and dancing. I love the old-school treatment Furthur gives it, with Jeff's organ fills that harken back to Pigpen. And I'm pretty sure that it was Europe 72's China Cat playing on the stereo when I first 'got it' some 30+ years ago.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

8 years 10 months
Permalink

the opening riffs by Jerry and Bobby always put a smile on my face. like B2B says, there are no dud CCSs. Aoxomoxoa's version is awesome, as well. CCS is pure psychedelia. a leaf of all colors plays a golden string fiddle to a double e waterfall over my back. :)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

We should all know the story of the Gordian Knot and how the riddle of its impossible untying was solved by Alexander with a single swipe of the sword. Slice and dice as you might, however, Hunter’s little China Cat Sunflower Gordian Knot can neither be actually untied nor constrained along the line by a singular definition because its nature is intellectual rather than physical: The solution to its riddle can never be found, but it can (as Jimi famously noted) be experienced. You can get inside that knot and crawl around all you like, even take it to another universe or reality all together for alternate opinions, but when you step back outside again the riddle of that little china cat, hopefully without a scratch as in the old days, revealing all and nothing, like the Sphinx, will still be sitting there. No doubt laughing its ass off. Nice work, Hunter.
user picture

Member for

9 years 3 months
Permalink

...and Bobby's transition into IKYR are usually pure bliss for me. I always thought that RH wrote the words during or soon after a LSD trip. For some reason I was under the assumption that not much comprehensive thought went into the words, other than they blended very well together. All together a fantastic psychedelic tune, if there ever was one.
user picture

Member for

7 years 5 months
Permalink

The original Europe '72 version is the one I connected with too, and I have yet to find one I like better. It was recorded on 5/3/72 in Paris, and if I am not mistaken, the live vocal is the one used on the newer box set and individual show release. It's not all that different from the overdub except for a few inflections. It's fun to listen to the new-mix-with-live-vocal because the musical nuances you know so well are there, but in a slightly different context. It certainly sounds more live. I don't know if any guitar parts were overdubbed. In any case they are off-the-charts great. In this modern flood of archival releases it's easy to forget how much better the versions chosen by the band themselves really are. There's a reason they picked them and worked so hard on mixing them.
user picture

Member for

8 years
Permalink

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in 6/1/1967 and included Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, widely believed to be an unsubtle ode to an LSD experience. According to wikipedia: Although Lennon denied [an LSD connection], the BBC banned the song. In a 2004 interview, Paul McCartney said that the song is about LSD, stating, "A song like 'Got to Get You Into My Life', that's directly about pot, although everyone missed it at the time ... Day Tripper", he says, "that's one about acid. 'Lucy in the Sky,' that's pretty obvious. “ I don't know whether or not Hunter was aware of the song Lucy in the Sky when he penned China Cat, but when I first heard China Cat I immediately perceived it as something like the Dead's "response" to Lucy in the Sky and it's LSD connotations. Of course, both songs could have been born independently but based on a similar LSD experiences. (Is it safe to guess at what Hunter’s ”a rather hypersensitive state” refers to?) There's abundant evidence that the Dead, like every one else in 1967, were acutely aware of what the Beatles were up to, so it doesn't seem like a stretch to think China Cat is at least partially inspired by Lucy in the Sky. I don't mean to imply that China Cat is in any way an inferior knock-off of some sort, or that is simply a “drug song”. It is a beautiful and enduring song in it's own right, regardless of how one hears the lyrics. The bubbly and non-threatening tone of China Cat makes it one of the most emblematic “Grateful Dead Tunes”, especially among the early repertoire. Like Dr Dodd and so many others, my primary opening experience with the Dead was the Europe '72 LP, and there one finds China/Rider in full dazzling glory. One for The Ages. PS: Is this a photo of the original China Cat? https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2M62fafyOpWcjEwSFJNc3VGdXc/edit?usp=s…
user picture

Member for

8 years 9 months
Permalink

.
user picture

Member for

8 years 9 months
Permalink

I, recently, along with a handful of other lucky souls, were fortunate enough to hear with our own ears, from the Bard himself, the meaning of the song. At least what he felt was an appropriate response at that moment. I did not ask the question. So, in all fairness it would only be fitting to wait and see if the gentleman who did inquire as to the meaning of the song be given a chance to share it with you.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

7 years 9 months
Permalink

China Cat washes over me like a wave and by the time I come up for air the song is over. I love the 12/29/77 version from Dicks Picks 10, when it appears out of space it is pure joy followed by the triumphant I Know You Rider and the just exactly perfect transition into China Doll.
user picture

Member for

6 years 3 months
Permalink

eternal thanks to Lake Chapala, Mr. Whiskers, Augustus Owsley Stanley and the Cosmos for helping Mr. Hunter to invent CCS. China Cat Sunflower has its own wavelength.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

6 years 5 months
Permalink

This is the tune I turn to if I want a newbie to listen to the music Created by the Dead. The version from E72 was what got me - and still does for me after all these years. And now I love so many versions ....... and I just love it more and more and then some more. There's the Good Loving> CCS > Good Loving from Jan 02, 1970 or is it Jan 03 that I love too. Apart from 500 others. Great tune. Happy New Year folks.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

I had written another piece that I'd thought was kinda nice, but it seems to have disappeared entirely. I'd thought I might sit down and reconstruct the whole thing once again, but like any attempt to nail down an exacting interpretation of China Cat Sunflower, that interpretation was then and this one (or lack thereof) is now, so what could be more appropriate.
user picture

Member for

7 years 5 months
Permalink

My post was also disappeared. It was there, I edited it slightly, now gone. There was nothing negative, profane nor controversial about it.
user picture

Member for

5 years 11 months
Permalink

Wow, great comments as always! I've been thinking about how to synopsize [succinctly] my feelings/reactions to this song and my conclusion is that I can't. I'm the type who can't help but listen to the words (I think we all are in this group), but in this case more than any the words should not be taken out of the context of the song. This is another song like Dark Star that's "always playing somewhere" and is integral to consciousness, or to be less cosmic, to the relationship to our shared experience that the Grateful Dead's music plays on. As Anna rRxia says, the words don't matter; and as Hunter said, how many of these commodities (psychedelic metaphors) do we need? He can write us up another one. The artwork here is a snapshot of a set of images that are always changing but that help us arrive at a shared feeling and an appreciation of our shared consciousness. The (marvelous!) words as written are so multi-faceted as to be meaningless, and could go on forever, perhaps approaching or shying away from meaning constantly. One of my recent experiences with China Cat was hearing DSO perform it in Concord NH: Mattson played the lead riff five or more times before Eaton finally started his rhythmic weave around it. The point is that all of the parts (especially the bass part in my mind) are playing constantly, we just need to tap into it. This is one of the essential Dead songs. This is on the short list we need to give to the next group of aliens (I have no idea what the first group did with the songs and mushrooms we gave them) when they ask about why the Grateful Dead are so important. Of course, having read Lewis Carroll as a youngster may be a key ... hmm.
user picture

Member for

8 years 9 months
Permalink

.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

Since when did we get, or need, a moderator around here? And what's the point of this edit verification? Once we're logged in as us...well, isn't that kinda the point?
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

you've had a moderator since the site launched. however, I'm not removing your posts, a software bug is, and I've reported it. I'm putting things back as soon as I find them.
user picture

Member for

11 years 4 months
Permalink

Thanks to Hunter for the bizarre lyrics and to the band for weaving the music around the words.I too became an instant fan of the Europe '72 vinyl recording, wearing out 3 albums and an 8 track tape. Through the ages, I've become most fond of the versions with the "Feeling Groovy" jam, which began 3/16/73 and ran through 10/20/74. Long live the moderator in the sparkling LeSabre!!
user picture

Member for

9 years 6 months
Permalink

This has always been very special to me. Europe 72, From Vinyl ,about 3 copys to now, it still is,The song is so delicate, so much going on between Weir and Garcia, The opening to CC is about the best intro to a Dead song there is. Weir playing at his best, the version on EU72 box set from May 3 is just awesome. Another grate version is on DP 10 from Dec,77. Happy New Year to One Man
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

And a fine moderator you are, Mary. I know you're out there, but you're so unobtrusive that it's easy to forget. It felt more like we were being censored at the time, so moderator was a poor choice of words on my part. The edit verification thing, however, is a bit tedious and I do question its necessity. Byrd
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

as the software in question is pretty effective at keeping out a plague of spammers (one gets through now and then, but you should see what doesn't...), but lately seems to have fallen into an excess of misplaced zeal. We're working on it, and sorry for the trouble.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

4 years 10 months
Permalink

First, a hefty thanks to David for all he does to keep the band alive, and his annotated lyrics. I have turned to them often. Now, to say that China Cat>Rider is my favorite song of all time is inadequate. No other composition has the power to move me over and over and again. It's mysterious words are like many Hunter lyrics, simply evocative without meaning. It took me a while to grasp how perfectly Jerry turned their poetry by chopping off lines at incongruous points to make the song all the more fascinating. And then there is the music. From the simple, gripping string thump of the intro to the intricate dancing of Jerry's fingers over the frets, to the pulsating climax, in classic Dead style. Like many, I can't explain why CC touches a chord so deep in me every time I hear it. But it does, and for that I am eternally grateful...pardon the pun. Love to all. KenU...
user picture

Member for

4 years 10 months
Permalink

Nothing makes me happier than a China Cat in Europe.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

5 years 4 months
Permalink

If this Song tells us AnythingIt tells us how Brilliant is the Imagination of Robert Hunter ( or maybe its always been his Cat....hmmm ) Then comes the Creative Genius of the Band, especially the Jerry and Bob Interplay that gives this song such Energy and Brings these Images to Life. Hunter's words open up a World of Wonder that , like David says, I Understand that I don't Understand...but its so Fun to Try! Someone said that "Perception is a Projection of the Mind" and I've 'got mine and you've got yours' Robert Hunter has an Amazing Percption China Cat is a Projection of Hunter's Mind. One can only Wonder at what other Thoughts were Racing through his Mind on that Hypersensitive Day that couldn't be put into Words. Robert Hunter's Gift is finding the Words to Express his Thoughts and a Deep Understanding of many many Subjects. (utilizing assonance and alliteration and all that poetic artistry) China Cat is like a Free Flowing Stream of Hunter's Consciousness. I just so happen to be Re-reading Carol Brightman's "Sweet Chaos-The Grateful Dead's American Adventure" In Chapter One she gives an account of Hunter's experience in 1959&60 undergoing the Government's Experiment with "Psychomimetic [Madness-Mimicking] drugs" at the VA Hospital in Menlo, Ca. How would You have liked to be an Observer of that Whole Scene?? Or would you have Dared to be a Participant? Page 21 of the book says this : "During one session, tears had poured out of his eyes, and the clinician asked why he was crying. 'I'm not crying,' Hunter explained. 'I'm in another dimension. I'm inhabiting the body of a great green Buddha and there's a pool that is flowing out of my eyes.' " WoW What a Trip!! Hunter was On the Bus before there Ever was a Bus!!
user picture

Member for

5 years 1 month
Permalink

I'm sure I read an interview with Garcia once where he told of a guy with a tape-recorder coming up to him pre- or post-show and asking what the lyrics to CCS were. Jerry speaks them, the guy says "Thanks" and wanders off.
user picture

Member for

11 years 4 months
Permalink

Whenever the Dead would play China Cat Sunflower it was like an old dear friend appearing out of the crowd. Many exhilarating journeys would fly from that reference. So many great versions starting with the album Aoxomoxoa. In particular I think of 8/27/72 and 12/29/77 as outstanding. And yes the jam from China Cat into I Know You Rider could be downright spiritual in the sense of either spiritual song/music and or spiritual/mystical/religious experience. Another Grateful Dead anomaly situation was the 3/9/85 Berkeley Community Theater version of China Cat played into Cumberland Blues.
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

As you can tell by my handle, I have a special love for China>Rider. I had heard some Dead and didn't understand the great attraction until I bought Europe 72 and first heard Chinacat into I Know You Rider. Not being familiar with Jazz I had never encountered any band who could so seemlessly transition from one song into another. It was hard to tell where one song stopped and the other started. As a young teen this was a revelation for me. I played it for everyone I knew and when the band came around on the next tour I went with my brother and his friends. The rest, as they say, is history. There is nothing like a Grateful Dead Concert. They aren't the best at what they do, they are the only ones who do what they do.
user picture

Member for

7 years 5 months
Permalink

A poster this morning (his post has since disappeared) turned me on to the version from 5/26/72 and I have to say I think it grooves even more deeply than the original E72 version. It's just a tad slower and the singing and playing are more free. Billy is very active at the top, before Bob chimes in. Phil delivers some nice chord bombs in the middle. Weir's outro transition part is not quite as articulated, but the song proper is right up there with my all-time faves now. Check it out!
user picture

Member for

11 years 4 months
Permalink

A Separate Reality Tune; never ever will grow tired of the China Cat. I also had many of the lyrics wrong but not the point of the song. The launch into China Cat by the boys always brought the crowd to attention and off we went.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

6 years 6 months
Permalink

just essence of the Dead. Lyrics are colorful, happy, major chord happy. crazy quilt stargown comic book colors on a violin river? That is major league stuff..then the ikyr. sign me up for life
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

The lyrics struck me as not that odd because they were chosen seemingly for sound and rhythm with the disparate effect created by the meaning as ordered chaos, creating imagery where the imagery abstractly created the narrative rather than providing a nice neat narrative understood linearly. Maybe Schoenbergian, maybe Cagian, maybe a little bit of Borroughs mash up. I don't know perhaps growing up with a post 12 tone piano composer for a grandfather recalibrated me. Certainly there was beat poetry or on the fringes of it that had a similar flavor, with perhaps a bit more linear presentation. My first experience of CCS might be my first experience of GD. In 1973, my little sister's babysitter left a copy of E72 at our house. I found an old record player in the basement and drag it up to my room in the attic, fired it up, waited for the tubes to warm up and put on that side. I wasn't know what to expect and that album changed my life. I had to get a second copy pretty soon because that record player would go 2/3rds of the way through the side and then stick, resulting in some aggravation and damage. Forever I'll hear Tennessee Jed with "My dog he, my dog, he, my dog, he, etc." First time I heard it live was in the September 1979 MSG shows. Never thought I'd ever hear it live, so that was a treat, but I was kind of disappointed that Jerry took over Bobby's riffs in the transition and to my ear didn't do a great job at it. It was a light and lively dance that turned into a heavy lumber. I've always wanted to ask Bobby why that happened. Great, great, song, though. One of the best.
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

I know I'm a little late to this discussion but I wanted to contribute. It took me a few listens to really appreciate China Cat. The lyrics were (and continue to be) such a befuddlement that I didn't really know what to make of the song. But then I was at a show one time and really in the right 'frame of mind' when they played it and it was like having a knockout blow hit me square in the chin. I freaked out over how amazing the song is. It is such an incredible feel good journey. It makes me happy every time I hear it. Even all these decades later I still only remember about half the lyrics because they are so f'n esoteric. I don't care because inserting my made up lyrics as I happily sing along is just so goddamned fun. I love the intricate guitar interplay in the beginning. The transition to Rider is always so cool. The version recorded in the Philly Spectrum featured on Dick's Picks 31 is pretty righteous. Phil's bass playing during the transition is really rad. Greatest Band in the History of the Universe!
38 comments
sort by
Recent
Reset
  • AceCool
    11 months 1 week ago
    Amazing song
    I know I'm a little late to this discussion but I wanted to contribute. It took me a few listens to really appreciate China Cat. The lyrics were (and continue to be) such a befuddlement that I didn't really know what to make of the song. But then I was at a show one time and really in the right 'frame of mind' when they played it and it was like having a knockout blow hit me square in the chin. I freaked out over how amazing the song is. It is such an incredible feel good journey. It makes me happy every time I hear it. Even all these decades later I still only remember about half the lyrics because they are so f'n esoteric. I don't care because inserting my made up lyrics as I happily sing along is just so goddamned fun. I love the intricate guitar interplay in the beginning. The transition to Rider is always so cool. The version recorded in the Philly Spectrum featured on Dick's Picks 31 is pretty righteous. Phil's bass playing during the transition is really rad. Greatest Band in the History of the Universe!
  • Edwin
    4 years 9 months ago
    Literary jazz or maybe 12 tone.
    The lyrics struck me as not that odd because they were chosen seemingly for sound and rhythm with the disparate effect created by the meaning as ordered chaos, creating imagery where the imagery abstractly created the narrative rather than providing a nice neat narrative understood linearly. Maybe Schoenbergian, maybe Cagian, maybe a little bit of Borroughs mash up. I don't know perhaps growing up with a post 12 tone piano composer for a grandfather recalibrated me. Certainly there was beat poetry or on the fringes of it that had a similar flavor, with perhaps a bit more linear presentation. My first experience of CCS might be my first experience of GD. In 1973, my little sister's babysitter left a copy of E72 at our house. I found an old record player in the basement and drag it up to my room in the attic, fired it up, waited for the tubes to warm up and put on that side. I wasn't know what to expect and that album changed my life. I had to get a second copy pretty soon because that record player would go 2/3rds of the way through the side and then stick, resulting in some aggravation and damage. Forever I'll hear Tennessee Jed with "My dog he, my dog, he, my dog, he, etc." First time I heard it live was in the September 1979 MSG shows. Never thought I'd ever hear it live, so that was a treat, but I was kind of disappointed that Jerry took over Bobby's riffs in the transition and to my ear didn't do a great job at it. It was a light and lively dance that turned into a heavy lumber. I've always wanted to ask Bobby why that happened. Great, great, song, though. One of the best.
  • Default Avatar
    williworx
    4 years 10 months ago
    one of kind mind melt
    just essence of the Dead. Lyrics are colorful, happy, major chord happy. crazy quilt stargown comic book colors on a violin river? That is major league stuff..then the ikyr. sign me up for life
  • Charbroiled
    4 years 10 months ago
    I rang a silent bell beneath a shower of pearls
    A Separate Reality Tune; never ever will grow tired of the China Cat. I also had many of the lyrics wrong but not the point of the song. The launch into China Cat by the boys always brought the crowd to attention and off we went.
  • One Man
    4 years 10 months ago
    London 5/26/72
    A poster this morning (his post has since disappeared) turned me on to the version from 5/26/72 and I have to say I think it grooves even more deeply than the original E72 version. It's just a tad slower and the singing and playing are more free. Billy is very active at the top, before Bob chimes in. Phil delivers some nice chord bombs in the middle. Weir's outro transition part is not quite as articulated, but the song proper is right up there with my all-time faves now. Check it out!