Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

A little advice for on-again, off-again Dead fans like myself - the end of August is a perfect time to turn on again. In fact, even those of you who think you hate the Dead should take a listen at the end of August. Forget Truckin' or Friend of the Devil or any of the ones you've heard a hundred times - ask a Dead fan to let you listen to some Dire Wolf, or St. Stephen. Maybe it won't mean a thing to you, but it's worth the 1 in 100 shot that it'll move you.

I'm not sure what it is about the Dead; I never went to a Dead show and really wasn't into the Dead at any time while Jerry Garcia was alive. But looking back, listening to, say, a show they played in San Francisco in 1969, you can hear this irrepressible hope coming through, but filtered through the knowledge of everything that was about to happen - Altamont, Nixon, Cambodia, Reagan/Bush, and on and on... there's a sadness to it that's almost crushing, but in a beautiful, delicious way.

It's almost as if, listening to Jerry's voice, you can tell that even while everyone hanging on to his improbable star for dear life believed they were starting something, Jerry knew, on some level, that what Dead were really chronicling was the end of something, the death of a very real and vital part of what we once called the American Dream.

Of course this has been said a hundred times, much better than I can write it here in this blog, by people who were there, who experienced it and felt it and know what they are talking about. But it's a bit amazing that something that vague and amorphous can really come down through the generations, just because somebody showed up with a tape recorder.

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In the backwash of Fenario, the black and bloody mire
The Dire Wolf collects his due while the boys sing round the fire
Don't murder me, I beg of you, don't murder me
Please don't murder me...
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We're trying, Jerry. But maybe it's time to try a little harder, for a while.

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