Fare thee well now let your life proceed by it’s own design…

It’s been awhile since I really wrote anything so here goes…

1984 I was 18 and my dad had decided that he couldn’t live with me anymore, for all sorts of valid reasons mostly to do with his health mental and physical. I am sure I was not an easy teenager and he saw an opportunity to teach me a lesson and make me grow up a little. So he packed me off to college to live in the dorm.

Dorm life was not easy for an only child with odd shall we say social skills, that however is for another day.

Eventually like my dad the college decided that I should not live in the dormitory anymore as it was better for everyones health, mental and physical. They did however graciously say I could stay a student but had to live somewhere else. This was predominantly because of the strange, diverse and unusual friends that would inhabit my room on occasion and the loud music recorded and live that would emanate from the open windows of my room.

All of this led to a year of couch surfing and the transient student life, which is not as romantic as it sounds when your only income beyond student grants was a dog walking gig and bar keep in the pub that I promptly drank my wages away at. In my deranged 18 year old mind I was walking out in the steps of Kerouac, Dylan, Harper, Young, Thompson, Ginsberg, Cassidy and any number of counterculture heroes that I could think of, the difference was they had talent beyond consumption of substances and being able to convince any number of lecturers in English, Drama and Theology I knew something of what I was mumbling.

When everyone was done with me and I was looking for a friend there was Dave.

Dave had spent an afternoon in the dorm, decided it wasn’t for him and promptly found a cheap flat opposite Sefton Park somewhere around Victoria Rd. It was not a really pleasant place but it was not in the dorm, I helped him with the rent, he let me keep my few belongings there, predominantly the records and books and crash on a mattress we kept leaning against the wall in the hallway. There was a gas fire and he shared the kitchen and toilet with the ground floor, pretty typical student fare, There was a stoop we would sit on and play records through the window, we would take turns with the neighbors and the street resounded with punk, reggae, psychedelia and the contemporary post punk, pop music of our time as well as soul, country and folk and a whole slew of stuff that I was not aware of the name for.

That was the place I was sat one sunny afternoon when Dave put The Grateful Dead Reckoning on the turntable and I was simultaneously disappointed and enchanted. Disappointed because I really wanted the Grateful Dead to be a truly hard rocking psychedelic noise fest, instead Reckoning is a gentle stroll through the Dead’s acoustic set in 1980. It has more in common with any number of gentle folky country albums from the 70’s than the apocalyptic roar I was hoping for. It was however truly astounding. It’s maybe not the Dead’s best album but every song is a classic and played with conviction, Jerry’s voice is fragile and strong and his picking is spot on. It really is the closest to a greatest hits album available at the time before the days of the endless playlist. It is as I said enchanting and to be honest a lot of fun. It is also in the summer sun a truly danceable album and any number of afternoons were spent dancing along to Reckoning with the neighborhood freaks and weirdos as we played football and Daves recent conviction that basketball was the game we should get behind.

These days I can appreciate the Dead for what they are America’s jukebox, dance band for the twirlers or whatever you feel like, but every now and then I just want them a little closer to a psychedelic noisfest, I will just have to get that need met elsewhere I suppose.Reckoning however takes me back to those sunny days near Sefton Park dancing to the Dead, Toots and the Maytels and Echo and The Bunnymen and drinking cold beer on the stoop and warm beer in the bar.

5 thoughts on “Fare thee well now let your life proceed by it’s own design…

  1. Wonderful Neil – the Dead have always been a massive disappointment to me for exactly the reasons you articulate so well here. Not a patch on Blitzen Trapper.

  2. There must be hundreds of people, across the globe, who projected their own fantasies onto the name “The Grateful Dead”. I was one, too. But unlike you and 1537, I was delighted with the meandering psychedelic folk-rock blues of the early material and the jazz inflected mid-70s albums.

    I still reckon ‘Live Dead’ nails American psychedelia perfectly, while I recommend sampling ‘Greyfolded’ for a very strange long trip. It’s not, strictly speaking, a Dead album, but it is the Dead performing.

    Very enjoyable piece, Neil.

    1. I truly love the Dead especially when they get their groove on, especially Disco Dead, I just wish they were called like Peaceful Pipe or Lazy Slumbers, that name is too good for a stoner jam band.

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