The New York Times on The Grateful Dead


Last week the New York Times ran a piece dissecting the appreciation/levels/fandom of the Grateful Dead.   Excerpt:

…I asked when he thought the Dead reached its peak, game to try out a half-formed argument for 1975, or thereabouts.   “Well, I agree with the people who say it was May 8, 1977,” he said.   Jimmy was jumping a level on me. There are at least five different levels to how fans talk about the Dead. The basement level concerns the band’s commercially released albums. This is how a lot of interested but inexpert people once talked about the Dead – myself included – in the early 1980s.

So what kind of fan/head are you?   Will you pony up the cash see the “Dead” this summer?

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The Grateful Dead – Birdsong – From the Radio City Music Hall run, 1980

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14 thoughts on “The New York Times on The Grateful Dead

  1. I am definitely laying down the cash for the tour! Last night the Dead rose again in North Carolina and it was an amazing show! They apparently have around 150 songs worked up. Sooo great. It’s gonna be a good tour!!

  2. I saw one of the last Grateful Dead shows with Jerry in Indianapolis, maybe a week or so before he’d died. As a young teenage kid, it was cool to see. I did Further Fest the next year and it wasn’t the same.

  3. Saw them on t.v. doing “Friend of the Devil.” It was Weir, Lesh, and Warren Haynes. Surprisingly good. The vocals sounded better than I’ve heard in years though for me it will always be about the early 70’s bootlegs and then select years from the 80’s when Jerry’s voice was young and oh so brilliant. I think it’s bullshit to say that only liking studio recordings makes you less of a fan because the live shows, while epic in theatrics sucked for so many years in the end. Noodling and Heroin garbage. Plus the harmonies on the records are seldom heard in live settings. It’ll be a slightly tougher decision to sit out this year, I’ll say that.

  4. Cool article. Thanks for posting. I caught 58 shows in my day, including the last one at Soldier Field. I vowed never go see The Dead post-Garcia but was convinced to do sometime in the early ’00s. It was horrible and I even left early. So, no I will be passing on this tour.

  5. Yes indeed– those turn-of-the-70s studio records in some ways just couldn’t be duplicated live. The harmonies, the recording clarity, the pedal steel/ banjo/ mando and such and, yes indeed, some nice and concise arrangements. I go back to them more often than most boots. As to eras, this may put me in a small minority, but give me the Kreutzmann-only years. Billy managed to get on top of and around the beat in such a snappy, swinging way that tended to get buried in the 2-drummer format. I can live without much Dead past ’74, though there are admittedly some gems… Phil and Friends though? They’ve often been the real deal….

  6. If it were w/ Jerry, I’d do it. One of my great regrets was not getting to see the Dead with Jerry before it all ended. A couple years ago, I was lucky enough to see the Dead with Dylan in Atlanta, and while it was pretty awesome, it wasn’t something I’d plunk down 60 bucks to see again. The best part of that night was that during Dylan’s set, it began to sprinkle on us lawn tickets. People starting looking for shelter, and my wife wondered if we should do the same. “Are you kidding”, I told her. “This is goddmamned Bob Dylan.” Maybe in a better economy, I’d have to rethink my position.

  7. I was (fortunate) enough to see the Dead once, 6/18/95 in Jersey with Bob Dylan opening. I say it like that because the music really wasn’t the main attraction for me in my 17-year-old world. I was more consumed by the vast amounts of people doing (it seemed) whatever they wanted to do in the parking lot for hours before the show. But I’ve been listening to the music my whole life, and my enjoyment of live performances of the Dead’s music really came during the Furthur tours of ’97 and ’98. That’s when those songs came to life for me, the touring life became a reality, as I experienced personal freedom and an emotional connection with those songs. Of course, Jerry was not there. The people who drew me into the music were, essentially, Steve Kimock, Mark Karan, John Molo, Bruce Hornsby, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann…So, yes, I will be spending the money to see the Dead next month when they hit the Forum and I will be dancing my ass off to the soundtrack of my adolescence and the lyrics that have guided me in my interpersonal dealings since then.

  8. Was lucky enough to see the boys a few times when Jerry was still alive. My first show was one of Brent’s last (Buffalo ’90). It was a smokin show and supposedly on the short list for an official release. Never got into the Vince/Hornsby sound and stopped going to shows in ’93. I think I’ve seen them about a half dozen times since as either ‘The Other Ones’ or ‘The Dead’ and it’s not the same. If I had the money and the time I might’ve gotten a ticket for one of the Chicago shows. But I don’t and I didn’t. And kudos to the commenter who prefers the years of Mickey’s hiatus, I’m right there with you.

  9. Late P.S to my earlier comment: actually, the best part of the night that in between Dylan’s set and the Dead, Robert Hunter, the storyteller behind so many of their great tunes, came out and did about five songs sans the electric. i had only heard his words, but man! He blew my wife and I away. Did Box of Rain and Rueban and Cherise, and it was completely beautiful.

  10. Actually, Brent’s last show was 7/23/90 in Tinley Park, Illinois. I was there. Saw them 40+ times from 88-95. Always had fun, always enjoyed the show. Will NOT see the Dead. I’ve seen the Dark Star Orchestra, and they do a much better job of recreating that music and that experience than the over-the-hill casino act butchering Jerry’s songs that is currently touring now…

  11. I listened to the second set in Philadelphia on Sirus. It was nice to hear; but It was not the same w/o Jerry nor ever will it again, those days are over. I wanted to go for the experience but my heart said don’t. I’m glad I kept my $100.I’ve experienced the real thing from 87′-94 Spectrum shows – what a blast that can’t be replicated. I would consider seeing Dark Star Orch. thou.

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