Why a weekly blog? Well, for a while now I’ve wanted to have a place where I can talk about music, issues, events and people related to the Grateful Dead and the post-GD world on a regular basis — and also hear what you have to say about this unique and fascinating universe we’re all wrapped up in to varying degrees. Basically, for the past few decades, much of my mind and spirit have been dominated by my interest in the Dead and the many tangents that have led from that incredible source of light and life. Of course, I’ve held jobs that have nothing to do with the Dead, raised two great kids, led what for all intents and purposes is a “normal” life, and listened to thousands upon thousands of hours of non-Dead music. But the Dead have always been at least in the background, and often in the foreground, of my life ever since Live Dead came out in November of 1969 and I subsequently saw my first show at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, March 20, 1970. As Bob Weir sang (of a woman, I presume) in “Lazy Lightning,” “it’s an obsession, but it’s pleasing.”
I suspect most of you have seen my byline around this site on stories or product promos, have read liner notes I might have penned for various Road Trips and other releases, and some may go back to my days as editor/publisher of The Golden Road Dead fanzine, or even further to my years at BAM, the free Bay Area music magazine I worked for between 1976 and 1983. If you went to Pelham (New York) High with me in the very early ’70s, you might’ve read my first-ever Dead review—of the Vintage Dead album.
Regan and Blair on duty
at Red Rocks, 1987
After Jerry died, I spent a couple of years working on the book Garcia: An American Life (published by Viking in 1999), co-produced the So Many Roads box set with my buddies David Gans and Steve Silberman, and also got involved with helping put out posthumous Garcia releases, including the All Good Things box. When Rhino took over the management of the Grateful Dead’s archival release program a few years ago, I signed on to work occasionally for the re-vamped Dead.net website and joined with Vaultmaster Supreme David Lemieux to play a small role in shepherding the Road Trips series.
So, that’s who I am. In coming weeks, I’ll be bringing up various issues connected to the Dead world that we can bat around and (hopefully) have some fun with, I’ll talk about some recent books and films (good and bad) that have connections to the scene, no doubt take a trip or two down memory lane, and we’ll see where it all leads. If there are issues or questions you’d like to see addressed, let me know. Don’t be shy! We’re all friends here…
I can't see beyond the box at the moment, as I'm in the thick of working on a humongo essay for it (boy, has that been fun! And time consuming...). So, I've been listening to little except E'72 stuff for about the past month. I have no idea what they'll come up with next year, but it's gonna be tough to top E72 Complete, to say the least. Fortunately, it's not a competition: '89 vs. '72! I love it all!
But I still manage to listen to other things. I'm quite keen on the forthcoming Robbie Roberston solo album "How to Become Clairvoyant"--very old school, classic RR sound, with lots of Eric Clapton on it. I interviewed Robbie yesterday for an article I'm writing about the album for the April issue of Mix. I've also been digging the new Paul Simon album, which is a return to form for him I'd say, after that rather disappointing collaboration with Brian Eno. Is that PS album out yet? I haven't been to a record store in a while. A couple of weeks ago Regan and I went to one of the Arhoolie Records 50th Anniversary celebrations at the Freight & Salvage club in Berkeley and that was tremendous fun--Ry Cooder was the ostensible headliner; he's one of my all-time favorites and he didn't disappoint, doing a mixture of old songs like "Vigilante Man" along with a hilarious new tune called "No Banker Left Behind." Love that guy! Wish he'd tour more (or at all, for that matter). Hey Rhino guys, when do we get a big, deluxe Ry Cooder box? ;-)
And two nights ago, on Valentine's Day, Regan and I went out to the Rancho Nicasio in rural West Marin County and had a nice dinner and saw one of our favorite local groups, the Baguette Quartette, who play French music from the '20s to the '50s.
So, I try to mix it up. I watched the Grammys... liked Lady Gaga's song; thought Dylan was scary (but dug the Avett Bros.and Mumford et al); wish Eminem would cheer up a bit; liked one of the two Arcade Fire songs... couldn't care less about who won or lost anything, as the choices are almost always lame and disappointing. Not worth investing the energy in that part of it, but I like the spectacle for the most part...
I have a pretty simple hi-fi system, nothing fancy at all: Yamaha receiver, Pioneer DVD/CD player (hoping to upgrade to Blu-ray soon) and Polk Audio tower speakers (which do sound really good). Frankly, I do most of my best listening on a little Phillips portable CD player on headphones. Or in the car. CDs are still my medium of choice. I'll buy FLAC downloads from time to time (mostly Furthur, but also some others, through Wolfgang's Vault, Downloads.com and other places...) and convert them to wav. files and put 'em on CDs. I'm finally coming to terms with the (slight) deficiencies of MP3, but it would never be my first choice. In my other world of writing for Mix and other folks, I'm increasingly getting codes emailed to me for MP3 downloads of new albums, rather than physical CDs (saves them a ton in mailing and manufacturing, of course, so I understand it), and I'm not too thrilled about it... Of course, when you hear an MP3 first (as with an album advance) you have nothing to compare it to. But I've A-B'd CDs with MP3s of the same album and there definitely is a slight but noticeable difference.
Jack Straw, we did go down to Telluride after those '87 Red Rocks shows. At the risk of being Dr. Buzzkill, I'd say that entire Denver-Telluride trip was better as a vacation--i.e. more fun--than as a showcase of great Grateful Dead. None of the five shows really slayed me, but it was a matchless experience, for sure. I'll cherish that Telluride experience the rest of my life.
Thanks to Jeremy for the vivid descriptions of life as an English Deadhead. Sounds like you had some great times! May they continue... I've been buried in the Europe '72 tour, writing some liner notes, so it's great having a little first-person glimpse of that world!
On some other questions:
There is at least one "Front Street Sheiks" tape in the JG vault; the little I've heard is extremely rough, probably not releasable (though I've only heard a bit, as I said).
The Garcia/Grisman live stuff (the masters of which are in the JG vault) is jointly controlled by both camps so would require an agreement. I would love to see some of that come out, of course, and I would think that it will be worked out at some point.
Yes, I could see a late-era JGB release, there are quite a few really good '93 shows and at least one great one from '94 (2/6).
As for a "rational reason" for the paucity of downloads... I can't think of any, but it's not my call...
Finally, there is exactly ONE Reconstruction show in the vault.... but it's a good one!