Ironing With The Dead

For years I have been fascinated by The Grateful Dead. Psychedelic voyagers, survivors, legends, endless jams, endless highs, Jerry searching for the cosmic note of heaven. Or something like that anyway. As you may be able to tell from previous posts I do like a bit of psychedelia, but more the British pastoral toytown visions of childhood. I like my psychedelia to be “Psychedelic”, far out, strange noises, studio tinkering. And I’ve never really liked the American side of psychedelia, the Doors sound like  bad poetry over a pretentious garage band, Jefferson Airplane is all rhetoric and empty promises, Big Brother and the Holding Company is lumpen blues rock… Sure I love the Nuggets bands and Moby Grape and the Electric Prunes but most of the main SF bands leave me cold.

The live aspect of the Dead intrigues me. A quick glance on Spotify shows hundreds of live shows on there, can they all be so different? There is a jazz like mentality, a commitment to improvisation, to exploring new territory. This is fascinating, but then so are the Deadheads themselves. I remember a very high ranking civil servant in the Stats Office – all suit and tie and briefcase – being a Deadhead and I could never correlate that, somehow. There are databases on the web full of information, taping details, how long a particular solo on “Dark Star” was.  This is peculiar behaviour. And the idea of John Oswald using his considerable skills to create a dream “Dark Star” in “Greyfolded”… That sounds wonderful.

And if I was going to give the Dead a go, where to start? I had tried “American Beauty” before and hated it, and that was their best album. So where next? A live album? There’s so many to choose from. Studio albums? But did the Dead truly capture their essence in a recording studio?  God, this is so hard. And of course there’s the issue of not being there, can the experience of being – well how can I put this… Ok…on drugs make a difference? I’ve never had anything stronger than Tramadol and that just made me puke. (We’ll ignore the time I had an out of body experience while being pumped full of morphine during a lithotripsy session….)

So I set myself a task. I’m going to listen to a Grateful Dead album consistently – but not exclusively – for a fortnight and report back my experiences. I’ll try to listen once a day during that time, with different circumstances – on headphones, on speakers, in the car, doing housework, concentrating and not concentrating. I’ve already started this exercise and I’ve been listening to “Anthem of the sun” for a week already. I hope to write up each album I listen to for every other Friday. I’ll work my way through their released catalogue in chronological order until I got bored or decide whether or not I like the Dead. It may not take long, or it may be interminable. And as I do a lot of laundry the project will be titled “Ironing With The Dead”. It may even get a hashtag. How modern.

See you on Friday!

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1 thought on “Ironing With The Dead

  1. Now that’s the way to do it. As someone who doesn’t ‘get’ the Dead, I should be doing this too, maybe with others I also don’t get.. Zappa, Beach Boys et al. What I did do just now though was cue up 29 live versions of Wharf Rat on Spotify to noodle along in the background and see what happens. It can’t hurt. Can it?

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