One evening in August 1995, while I was in Bangalore, India, we received some news that saddened us immeasurably. At the time, I was quaffing a pint at a little pub called Pecos – famed across decades as THE place to go for fine conversation, rock, soggy popcorn and good beer. Jerry Garcia, music icon had passed. Without much discussion, we, the regulars, and the management, downed the shutters mid-afternoon, opened the taps, and put on one jam after another. The night was long indeed.
The Grateful Dead have been a seminal influence in my musical tastes, as well as providing me a “blesh” perspective to counter-culture. The creative elements of this band were brought home to me by the re-released(today, Feb 22,2005 – appropriately enough soon after the demise of HST) DVD “Anthem To Beauty”, part of the Classic Albums series. This DVD is a documentary about the two early albums, “Anthem Of The Sun” and “American Beauty”, and the zeitgeist of the period 1967-1970, source of much fecundity and creative expression.
The video is oddly tinted at times, and the audio is Dolby Digital 2.0, with a weak timbre, but the rare clips, and detailed voice-overs, emotive experential dialogues, make this well worth it for a Deadhead, or most anyone interested in the growth of a phenomenon.
The following are some disjointed notes I took while viewing the film – it would be in keeping with the psychedelic nature of the music to present them as is, rather than in a formalized manner.
Channels growth of supergroup, counter-culture revolution, among and within us, business transformed
a romance about being on the road, about being a young American, creative material sources, life on the road, Dallas with a soft blue sheen, smoking craters in Holiday Inns, fields of wonder, dropped verses, experimental, evolving songs, once written down, psychotomimetic, letting go of the music, additional verses for songs, “Once in a while the music gets into the street/Fifty old ladies bug every cop on the beat’ Phil Lesh – the absence of a bubble, unlike today, creative consonance, congruence with peers, audience came not for the music, or the band, the body politic transformed.”Jerry loved a sad song”,death as a creative impetus,fathers, mothers, “If I had a shotgun/I’d blow you straight to hell”, springboard to wierdness,American Beauty – perfect tape for a desert island, the red rose, Stanley Mouse and Altion Kelly, look at the cover upside down in a mirror,consciousness-expanding, crazy, freaky, hallucinatory, hallucinogenic, mind-bending, mind-blowing, , multi-colored, psychoactive, psychotropic, trippy,1965 – 40 years – the world changed, the beat generation gone, AM to FM to XM,a fustion of blues with bluegrass,doing grass,balmy Bangalore night, the world changing, all night free rock concerts, 4 hour jams, unlimited studio time, peace, meaning, jazz, rock, classical, cheap rent, the Haight-Ashbury scene,”Open season on anything”,“the acid test”,the audience gave the band carte blanche, allowing them to find ‘the form that follows chaos’.kaleidoscopic,chemical implosion in the heart of the soul,mind-changing,”The bus came by/I got in/It was Cowboy Neal/at the wheel of the magic bus”,slashdot,mind-expanding, lost lovers, the talented ones, people in a different realm, sounds from another world,Neil Labute, a ‘man in another dimension’, being ‘in the right place at the right time’, Kerouac’s Howl, “blesh”, Sturgeon’s “More than Heaven”, musical cohesion, “a finger on a hand”, a single finger plucking a single string,”Living in a fantasy world”,combining the sound of “30 minutes of heavy smoggy LA air” with “30 minutes of clean desert air” into a percussion track, sounds that were impossible, a thousand petalled lotus opening up into an anthem of the sun.