Year of the Dead, well thats it or the other one…

Things have been a little quiet around here. I seem to have not really been able to get my act together enough to write a coherent sentence that was positive. So on the drive this evening as I finally got finished with the three day snow experience that managed to paralyze Portland Oregon but was just a lot of fun to work in I figured out how to end this Year of the Dead for me.

No I never managed to play all the Dick’s Picks albums, or even all of the studio albums. I never managed to go see any of the Dead live although several elements past through town or are appearing soon. I never managed to deepen my appreciation for the 80’s on in any meaningful way. I did however manage to confirm for myself that the albums I really like, I really do like. Also that I can manage to enjoy just about any show recorded from the late 60’s to about 78 and that Donna Jean may be a great singer but she can almost certainly manage to ruin just about any rendition of Playing In The Band she appears on.

img_5987So as I struggled through the frozen landscape of Clackamas County I figured the best panacea was some warm weather music from the Dead. It’s a strange timeless experience traveling on frozen deserted roads, fog rolling across the highway as you struggle up hills and around corners. The best bit about the side roads is that people tend to avoid them, preferring the highly polished major arteries. That are populated by insane people driving all wheel drive nightmares far too fast. Slow and steady is not the by-word for the majority of drivers. Of course the lazy rhythms of the Dead can manage to keep you alive in these circumstances.

As I was working and driving I figured that the best choice was Workingman’s Dead.  Itimg_6041‘s slow paced  blue collar tempos did not cause too much consternation for the passengers as they sat white knuckling the ride to work. High Time relaxed them with it’s familiar pedal steel and strolling bass line. Actually they were having a great time sipping their latte’s and laughing.

I am after all an engaging and fun filled driver. The plea for some Lady Gaga from the young folk in the back was shushed by the grizzled veterans next to them as Dire Wolf taught them what may happen if we broke down and New Speedway Boogie and Jerry and the boys tried to come to terms with the tragedy of Altamont. By the time we got through the whole album on a journey that usually took 25 minutes or so but was stretched to 40 plus by the weather they were singing along to Casey Jones and had the sunny disposition of the Dead convert and no  I did not let them stop at any to the 7 marijuana grows we passed on the way in.

Three days of driving for work, picking up people to make sure the kids were looked after, making hot chocolate with marshmallows, two igloos built, helping four strangers put their chains on and sleeping the sleep of the exhausted all to the dulcet sounds of Jerry and the chaps in their prime. Successful end to the week, however the winter weather warning for tomorrow was not welcome as I would really like a weekend.

So there it is, my year of the Dead, I have not managed to keep track of any of this in an orderly fashion, guess I have a lot to think about for this blogging thing. This thing probably all began with the gift of American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead around this time last year so it’s fitting that it should all end here as well. Not sure if any of this made sense and I never had a schedule and I know there are a lot of records I missed but hey it was my trip and like the last few days it was a fairly strange one.

So these are my last two pictures, the drive home tonight.


I’ll drink your health, share your wealth, run your life, steal your wife. Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.

Oh dearie me it’s the year of the Dead and From the Mars Hotel seems appropriate on a rainy blustery, well typhoon like apparently, Oregon fall day.

N14681802_10209237845377082_5066460783464640496_not much to say but after watching Trump all over the TV I was moved to hear US Blues as that is how it feels right now, the blues have set in. The corruption intrinsic in the current political situation has bubbled to the top and the ideals of peace love and lets all get together in the country are long behind us. It is ironic that the generation of Woodstock are the aging politicians of today.

It’s a beautiful album however, and you should take the time to revel in the lazy daze that is the Dead. I love the bass work on this album, Phil never get’s the dues he deserves, praise is heaped on Bobby’s odd chords and Jerry’s playing but where is the love for the piece that holds it all together.

I want to hear Cheech Marin or Tommy Chong telling everyone that “when they go low we go high,” many apologies to the first lady but come on it’s an opportunity too good to miss

Year of the Dead, part damn it’s hot with the roof off…

So i have been on this journey with the Dead and it’s been awhile since I mentioned Dick’s Picks Vol’s 10,11 and 12. Respectively Winterland Dec 29th 1977, New Jersey Sept 27 1972 and June 26th 1974 Providence Rhode Island/June 28th Boston.

IMG_4935My journey with these three began sometime in May and June and has gone all the way through July. They have flown around 12,000 miles on my iPhone and travelled almost 1,500 road miles in the UK from London to  Liverpool to Carlisle and then as far south as the Cheddar Gorge, from neolithic monuments to massive cathedrals.

Then back in Oregon they have rode up and down the road from home to work for two weeks, until today as I sat with the roof off at a light feeling very hot and the ancient Deadhead in the jeep next to me grinned and named the date of the show I was listening to before the light changed again gave me the thumbs up and shouted I was there.

All along the road the Dead have chugged along with me. Their familiar songs holding me IMG_5106grounded as I cried with my Mum and hugged my Dad at the end of the day. They were also strangely there as we pulled through the debris of a festival to the strange town of Glastonbury to climb the Tor and visit the abbey and commune with the strange pilgrims of the past and visit with the burned out new age wacksters left over from the weekend. But truly nothing can beat Glastonbury for a strange event.

IMG_5154As we left the site of the Uffington White Horse I did the calculation to see if we could make it to the Rollright Stones and it was just too far. I think the picture may have been better if I had a plane to take it from.This was more disappointing as it would have been good to write about that for Bruce. This was a truly sad decision to turn the car north but two more hours driving was more than Michelle could take at the time just to see another stone circle. By this time it was all getting a bit Spinal Tap.

All along the road those 8 or 9 hours of Dead music kept me entertained and Michelle and IMG_5160Ben rolling their eyes until we hit the Kinks. That however is another section of the story. So the shows, from 1972 until 1974 is prime live Dead and I have never heard a bad show, although they must exist. Consistent is the word for this period and it is happy music. The 77 show is a tougher prospect, it’s still a great live show but the Dead are back after a three year break and sound a little harsher, more jaded less Sunshine Daydream and more Jack Straw, it’s hard to place but tangible in the vibe.

So the odd thing is I spent time communing with the neolithic sites of my culture listening to that most American of bands. Touching ancient stones while Jerry and the boys led me along that long strange trip and no substances involved. My son got to walk in the steps of ancient man and he came to terms with an ancient band.

I am not much of a reviewer but if you have a long trip to take you could do worse than the Dead. These 10 or 12 hours are some you may not regret taking in the company of America’s jukebox.

Look out of any window, any morning, any evening, any day…

Damn it’s 4a.m. and I can’t sleep. Maybe because I went to bed at 8:30 last night and I am now rested, the downside of this is that I will be tired again by 8 tonight.

What to do? Of course the answer is brew some coffee and listen to the Dead.

So year of the Dead part?????
Dead in the amI have always associated music with dark smoky bars or concert rooms. The Dead however have a real morning feeling about them.

Especially the American Beauty album. All killer and no filler this may be the Dead’s most satisfying studio album. Some serious Crosby help with the harmonies apparently and the band are tight and Jerry rocks the pedal steel throughout.

Every time I hear this album I am reminded of the deep desire I have to get back to the country and raise goats and organic produce somewhere in the foothills of the Cascades. The album opens up possibilities for the future that are idyllic and somewhat inspirational, so maybe one day you will find me a grizzled mountain man raising hemp, goats and kale in the shade of an old growth fir tree.

The triple whammy of the first three tracks opening from Box of Rain, to Friend of the Devil and ending with Sugar Magnolia may be the most satisfying musical statement made by any band in 1970. Side two has the guitars and mandolins of Ripple the reflective Brokedown Palace and Attics of My Life and ends with the hit Truckin’ which although I have heard it so many times still manages to be an enjoyable listening experience.

Here I am then on a quiet, maybe before the storm of work, Thursday morning .As I gather my thoughts with American Beauty I have to get ready for the day, I almost put the news on but who needs more Trump and Hillary in their lives.

That first line of the album really speaks to me this morning as I prepare myself for another 80 plus degree day here in the Pacific North West as we plunge into a weekend that may get lose to 100 and the climate goes crazy. It may be time to head upriver and soak in the snow melt for awhile and get away from the phone so I can “listen to the river sing sweet songs.”

So here I am now at 5:20 as the grey dawn light comes through the windows. I really think I need to get an outdoor speaker so I can sit on the deck these mornings, this however may annoy the neighbors which is just another reason to get back to the country.

Rock’n’Roll and my turtle dove…

Year of the Dead, a studio moment.

I have mostly been listening to live dead albums but I found a really nice copy of Wake of the Flood the other day and decided that it was worth another shot.

Wake of the Flood was the first Dead album to appear on their own label and the first with the Godchaux’s and the change in sound that brought. Gone is Pigpen and his blues hollering and in is a funkier jazzier sound that has that halting stop start feel to it especially on Row Jimmy. There is also Stella Blue which may just be one of the more beautiful songs by the Dead and the sprawling Weather Report Suite.


It has a less than inspiring cover, not sure what the intention is, it has always appeared a little creepy to me. An old lady with sheaves of wheat near the ocean. I am sure it is supposed to inspire some sort of hippy earth mother idea. As far as I can tell the cover has nothing to do with the music and nowhere is their a picture of the band. There is also the scary crows on the back.

It’s a mournful album and that may be why it was seldom played by Dave as he tried to indoctrinate me into the Deadhead cult. It does however reward with repeated listenings and of course the live versions of some of these songs are legendary.

I think that as I am several months into this that my Dead problem is beginning to mellow a little. Maybe I am getting it, or as Dave may have said “you always did get it man, you just never knew until now.”

Year of the Dead, free from a Net.

Without a Net was the first ever Dead album I bought new. I bought it in a gas station somewhere just north of San Francisco on I.5 in August 1991. Most albums I have bought I can’t place the time and place of buying that well. This one is different as I was on my honeymoon and we were about to enter San Francisco in a beat up Jeep and it seemed like we needed a soundtrack other than classic rock radio as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.

I was desperately trying to find a Moby Grape album with 8:05 on so I could time our arrival as a Skip Spence homage, such are the thoughts of the musically obsessed.

In the end the only appropriate album in the revolving rack was Without A Net, it then became the only album we had for the whole journey, it was played as we approached Universal Studios, whichever Disney franchise we went to and as we got caught on high ground during a flash flood in Joshua Tree, and yes we found Gram Parsons last resting place.

Grateful_Dead_-_Without_a_Net-2It was  played as we drove through the redwoods, and then up Highway 101 on the pacific coast and  as we arrived back in Portland Oregon before flying back to Liverpool at the end of August.

It’s a fine later Dead live album with the at times annoying squelchy synths of Midland and the treated Garcia guitar that has little of the feel or tone of the seventies. It has some lovely controlled jams, some essential songs, Cassidy is brilliant on it as is the ubiquitous China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider section it also has Branford Marsalis blowing for all his might on Eyes of the World.

It introduced me to the work of Traffic outside of Hole In My Shoe as it contains a great cover of Dear Mr Fantasy which led me to root around in the Traffic discography.

The joy of the album for me is obviously the memories that it brings. It was also fun this last two weeks to steep myself in an inordinate amount of nostalgia as I struggled my way from one crises to the next. Over the last few days I have listened to this album three or four times, it is far from my favorite Dead album but as with all nostalgic albums it takes you to a place that is special and comforting and sometimes that is all you need, the other album I have taken solace in is the Pink Fairies, What a Bunch of Sweeties but that is a whole other tale.