Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Gamma Delta

A is for Alembic, which is the Philosopher’s Stone. It used to be a magical substance that could turn lead into gold; now it was a workshop in Alameda that turned far, far more cash than you would imagine necessary into guitars that never sounded as good as the Strat he took to Europe in ’72.

B is for Bear, who died not too long ago. He was a wonderful example of the long-held rock belief that rich lunatics were good things to have at hand. He was rather important in America, but his obit was far shorter than Henry Kissinger’s. Perhaps Owlsey should have been a war criminal.EDIT: Henry Kissinger is not dead, but he is a war criminal.

C is for cookie, which is just fine.

D is for Dylan, who was born today. The Dead never did a bad Dylan cover. But when they played together for the Dylan and the Dead tour in ’87, we were reminded of the old axiom about when the Dead have guests: sometimes it’s just another guy to be out of tune. I would link to an example, but it’s bad enough I had to listen to it, you shouldn’t be put through such a thing, you precious little angel-fart, you. Plus, Dylan was just doing what he’d done at all of his live shows since the motorcycle accident: being a dick. Just as when discussing the Dead, you need to remember the band’s Brewster’s Millions-like need to rid themselves of every farthing they made, just as quickly as their little scamp legs would take ’em down to the trolley stop to be horribly rogered brick-style inna pennywhistle, innit? EDIT: What? Let’s try again: just as beneath the Dead’s every action is a foundation of profligacy and decisions made while normal people slept, behind Dylan’s every move is the fact that he is a dick. 70,000 people just paid to see you, sing the fucking song right. Actually, since it was a Dead audience, just make a sincere effort to get it right. That counted, too.

E is for Ethan Killdiver, and he’s a fuckin’ spy and he rules and I’m gonna write an e-book about him and be famous on the internet and everything’s gonna work out, so GET OFF MY CASE, DAD.

F is Fire on the Mountain, of which a great version is this. Yes, I know it’s a ’94, but you should trust my picks by now. Listen to the whole Scarlet>Fire: it’s the last great huge gasp of air before the sadness took over.

G is for grey, as in going. Dignity above all things. Otherwise, you look like that Steven Tyler, that vulgar clown.

H is for Hart, as in Mickey, who is still being allowed to do silliness like this.

I is for Ignacio Mustacheface, which is the name that Bobby signed into hotels under.He would laboriously print the name into the register book and then step back, look at the clerk with happiness in his eyes, and say, “Get it?” And when they never did, Bobby would point to his own face and say, “No mustache, man.” Bobby kept trying that bit out for nine years.

J is for Jews, who are a group of people about whom there are opinions. The Dead are batting .500 as far as Jews go.

K is for KISS, who the Dead must have run into somewhere out there out on Route 1976. I cannot imagine a visit would have gone well. The Dead, on their night off, go down to the local War Memorial Coliseum to check out Gene and Paul and the disposable two. Phil is horrified to find that not only is Gene functionally tone-deaf, but is actually proud of the matter. The conversation ends abruptly with the phrase, “Do you wanna hold the camera?” hanging in the air. Billy and Mickey immediately begin punching Peter Criss, who serendipitously has a Time Sheath through which he can produce KISS drummers from the future. Fellow Enthusiasts! Our heroes are in peril deep! Out of the Time Sheath comes the blonde guy, and the cancer guy, and then Peter Criss again, oddly. And nary a dick went unpunched that day, my friends.

Bobby, however, was oddly quiet. Just talking it all in, it seemed. The next day, Garcia followed him as he left the hotel on foot and went in the nearest drug store. As stealth was his natural state, Garcia went unnoticed as he snuck up on Bobby paying for clown-white makeup and black eyeliner. Garcia looked him in the eye and slapped Bobby in the face, hard. “No!” Garcia yelled. Bobby cried a bit, so Garcia bought him a Hershey bar and that made it a little better. They never talked about it again, but it was the subject of a scholarly article entitled The Last Jack Straw: Slapping Bobby in Public 1976-79 which was presented at an academic conference about the Grateful Dead because apparently that is a thing. (Please invite me to your conference.)

L is for Legate, Latvala, and Lemieux, who are lysergic librarians, anarchist archivists, pranksters of the periodical section, the keepers of the shows, the cartographers of time, the not-misplacers of things. What else is an archivist but someone who knows where to put things? This is a far more arcane art than it seems, especially in the days when things actually existed. It’s making its way onto the computer, being digitized, but a lot of it is still in Thing form. It stil has a smell to it, still has molecules stuck to the tape coughed out of the mouth of a kid at that show.

M is for Mydland and McKernan and memory and mortality and…

More tomorrow.

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