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July 9, 2005 1:19 AM   Subscribe

10 Years Gone - Today marks 10 years since the Grateful Dead played their very last show at Solider Field. While many folks blame Jerry for the decline in quality of performances in the later years, there were many other problems including the instrumentally and vocally challenged Vince Welnick who joined the band after Brent Mydland died in 1990. Fall 1990 through the middle of 1992 was easier to take when Bruce Hornsby was playing with the boys. But after Bruce split things seemed to decline for a number of different reasons. There were still some shining moments, and one of them was the very beautiful "So Many Roads" Garica played at the last show. While this song exposes many of the flaws of the band in the later years, it also shows the degree to which Jerry had given his everything to the music, to this band, and to deadheads everywhere. The end lines "Lord, I've been walking that road..." which aren't done in any other version of the song, as well as Garcia's reference (slip?) in his last tune "Black Muddy River" sung as "Last Muddy River" makes me wonder if Jerry didn't know that this was the end. I still miss the boys very much. Some of the post Garcia ventures were fun, things have never been the same since. "You know our love will not fade away."

some previous similar content in this thread.

posted by Gankmore (56 comments total)

 
I'm not a Grateful Dead fan, but by some strange coincidence someone gave me a ticket and I actually went to that last show in Soldier Field. I never really liked the deadhead vibe, it was a bit too commercial, too manufactured, people trying too hard to embody some ideal that had been lost for decades, if it ever existed at all -- at least at the tail end of it.

But I always liked Gerry Garcia as a person, he seemed to really enjoy life and I also admit that there is something in his guitar playing that appeals to me at some basic level.

I also thought that muscially the show in Soldier Field was pretty bad, but I, like nearly everone else, was so drug-addled that it really didn't matter. In fact, it kind of reminded me of going to a Cubs game at Wrigley field: the baseball sucks but everyone's drunk and having a good time, so who cares?
posted by sic at 2:25 AM on July 9, 2005


Brent Mydland, Keith Godchaux, and Pigpen. Being the Grateful Dead's keyboardist is about as hazardous as being Spinal Tap's drummer! All I can say is I wouldn't want to be in Bruce Hornsby's shoes right now.
posted by jonp72 at 2:50 AM on July 9, 2005


Wow. 10 years already. I had no idea about the recognizant content of "So Many Roads" and "Black Muddy Water." Thanks for the post, Gankmore.
posted by tidecat at 3:42 AM on July 9, 2005


I went to their last show at RFK that year... I'm still in mourning for Jerry. I used to go to two shows a year, every year from 1970 through 1995. I loved watching the people.

Bad Dead joke:
What did the Dead Head say when he ran outta dope?
"What is this crap we're listening to?"
posted by Corky at 4:52 AM on July 9, 2005


Brent Mydland, Keith Godchaux, and Pigpen. Being the Grateful Dead's keyboardist is about as hazardous as being Spinal Tap's drummer! ... posted by jonp72 at 2:50 AM PST on July 9 [!]

Those are the 3 (officially) Dead keyboardists. (ka-boom cymbal crash).

And on a trivial technicality, Vince Welnick himself died in a bathroom just before a gig with Fee Waybill and their band The Metal Corpses in the punk movie Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.

Friend birthday'd me a wonderful photo essay by Jake Blakesberg Between the Dark and the Light chronic'ling roughly 1978 through 2003. Post 1995 pics are like catching up with how everyone is doing after graduation. Flip through the front half and you witness a fast-forward of Jerry's decline.
posted by hal9k at 4:56 AM on July 9, 2005


Part of the adventure of being a Dead fan was ... is ... the potential for any given song to be either truly bad or ecstatically wonderful. Sometimes both. The music is played at the very edge and that can go very badly or very well.

That said, Jerry's decline was a shame; made more painful by the occasional glimpses of what he had been.

Bruce Hornsby is doing very well, thank you. I had the pleasure of seeing him play a solo show a few years back. He's brilliant. Karen and I asked him after the show why he didn't stay with the Dead. He told us that that scene was too set in its ways for him, musically, and that he had wanted to step out and try different forms.

As I type this, I'm listening to So Many Roads from Gankmore's link. There are moments that break my heart.
posted by mmahaffie at 4:59 AM on July 9, 2005


I didn't like their name,
I'm still repulsed by their logo.
It's really very sad.
I've learned, thanks to Napster,
I like their music.
I've learned I would have liked the scene, too.
Life is silly like that.
Dead musicians still tell their tales.
posted by Goofyy at 6:52 AM on July 9, 2005


*blasts an August 1968 "the Eleven" while driving a VW camperbus down rural highways*
*sparks a fatty for the road, passes it to the thread*

*sigh*
posted by schyler523 at 7:23 AM on July 9, 2005


Flashbulb memory. Just like Elvis, just like the Challenger explosion, just like so few other events of my lifetime, I remember exactly where and when I was hearing about Jerry's death. In my office. The 4:00 P.M. NPR broadcast came on. Susan Standberg said exactly one word "Jerry . . ." and I knew all the rest of what she was going to say.

The drug thing was kind of a bummer, but at least he didn't flame like Hendrix, like Joplin, like Morrison. He did have a long mostly distinguished career and led close enough to a normal lifespan that it was not that great a calamity.

Last night I was playing my Dick's picks # 34 from Rochester 1977. It rocks.
posted by bukvich at 7:33 AM on July 9, 2005


This is sad.
posted by stbalbach at 7:40 AM on July 9, 2005


Funny joke, Corky! I have some deadhead friends that will appreciate that if they have not already heard it before.

Actually, I liked their music and I never did drugs, but never would give up everything to follow them everywhere.
posted by sultan at 7:45 AM on July 9, 2005


I saw them maybe 20 times over the years. . .Lesh's memoir points out stuff that should have been obvious. . .they were all sick of one another, and needed to stay on the road as much as they did for financial reasons.

The one memory I have now, from a Eugene show was Weir having a tantrum back stage, smashing his guitar against something, when the signal from it failed during the opening number (Jack Straw) and he had to retire during the middle of the song for a new one.
posted by Danf at 8:02 AM on July 9, 2005


I missed a tag in this post, for those of you on IE, it should have read:

"10 Years Gone - Today marks 10 years since the Grateful Dead played their very last show at Solider Field. While many folks blame Jerry for the decline in quality of performances in the later years, there were many other problems including the instrumentally and vocally challenged Vince Welnick who joined the band after Brent Mydland died in 1990. Fall 1990 through the middle of 1992 was easier to take when Bruce Hornsby was playing with the boys. But after Bruce split things seemed to decline for a number of different reasons. There were still some shining moments, and one of them was the very beautiful "So Many Roads" Garica played at the last show. While this song exposes many of the flaws of the band in the later years, it also shows the degree to which Jerry had given his everything to the music, to this band, and to deadheads everywhere. The end lines "Lord, I've been walking that road..." which aren't done in any other version of the song, as well as Garcia's reference (slip?) in his last tune "Black Muddy River" sung as "Last Muddy River" makes me wonder if Jerry didn't know that this was the end. I still miss the boys very much. Some of the post Garcia ventures were fun, things have never been the same since. "You know our love will not fade away."

Works ok on Firefox, which like the Deadheads, seems to be more fault tolerant.
posted by Gankmore at 8:08 AM on July 9, 2005


I was in Chicago 10 years ago, and that entire last summer tour had a doomed feel to it, from the death threats to the gate crashing and collapsed terrace at the campground in St. Louis--but no matter how sketchy the scene and out of it Garcia was, there was still enough spark on the stage to make it worthwhile--Bobby and the rest of them caught a lot of the slack. As Phil says in his biography, he didnt' want to end the tour with "Black Muddy River" and they came back out for a rare second encore, "Box of Rain," which ends with the words, "such a long long time to be gone, and a short time to be there."

After Jerry passed, our own digaman's piece "The Only Song of God" helped me a good deal. And if I look at the ten years that passed, it's clear that nothing has been lost: there's now a whole universe of bands playing "jazz grammar with a rock vocabulary," exploring new spaces, making strange sounds--some better than others, but the best of them can still take your breath away and make you twirl. As my good friend Walter (first show Munich '74) likes to say: "It's all the Grateful Dead to me."
posted by muckster at 9:05 AM on July 9, 2005


Thanks Gankmore. I assumed this thread would come up on August 9... probably still will ;)

I went to 75 shows between fall 1984 and Spring of 1995. Good times, for the most part. Still miss Jerry, and also miss the scene when it was at its best.

...was easier to take when Bruce Hornsby was playing with the boys...

Well, I don't know what that's supposed to mean, but one thing that should be understood is that the only times the Grateful Dead played with set lists in front of them was when Hornsby was playing. It may have been a mutually beneficial parting. Bruce had The Range behind him, but a lot of things he still wanted to say on his own. The rest of the band may have wanted to go back to playing without a net as they had for 26 years prior, at the time. Who knows.

I am not a huge Welnick fan either (I prefer Keith), but with no disrespect intended, I didn't miss the songs Brent wrote. Great backup singer, but a dark songwriter.

Jam in Peace, Jerry.
posted by terrapin at 9:17 AM on July 9, 2005


ugh
posted by item at 9:49 AM on July 9, 2005


I dislike their music intensely and do lots of drugs.
posted by bardic at 9:51 AM on July 9, 2005


What's sad, stbalbach? The fact that people nostalgic for a band whose music meant something to them? Or that the Dead are gone? What?
Fantastic post, and nice insights on a kinda awkward time for an intermittently brilliant band.
posted by ghastlyfop at 9:52 AM on July 9, 2005


Cool, bardic. Drugs are cool. Thanks for letting us know. What kind of music do you enjoy listening to while on drugs?
posted by ghastlyfop at 9:54 AM on July 9, 2005


Mostly Insane Clown Posse. Some Slayer, when I'm with my girl. The usual.
posted by bardic at 9:57 AM on July 9, 2005


Thought so. You're clever (for an English teacher).
posted by ghastlyfop at 9:59 AM on July 9, 2005


And it's funny. When I'm with your girl, we usually listen to the Dead.
posted by ghastlyfop at 10:04 AM on July 9, 2005


Oh Snap! A hippie just punkd me!
posted by bardic at 10:05 AM on July 9, 2005


How do rich guys' sons get freaky hippy 'tang now that the jam bands are gone? Do they just chat up soiled-looking girls and insinuate that they're holding? I suppose they probably have an opener that seems totally sensitive, too.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:23 AM on July 9, 2005


I'm grateful they're dead.
posted by keswick at 10:27 AM on July 9, 2005


For whatever reason, The Onion's bit about Jerry Garcia's death always had me in stiches. It was just a headline:

"Head Deadhead Dead"
posted by Heminator at 10:57 AM on July 9, 2005


muckster writes "As Phil says in his biography, he didnt' want to end the tour with "Black Muddy River" and they came back out for a rare second encore, "Box of Rain,""

Isn't that the most depressing song in their entire repertoire? The story behind it is even more depressing...
posted by clevershark at 11:23 AM on July 9, 2005


uhm, curley, the jam band scene is still alive and well with bands like moe and widespread panic. plenty of trustafarian 'tang to be had, if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by gnutron at 11:23 AM on July 9, 2005


Rock is dead. Long live rock!
posted by gallois at 11:31 AM on July 9, 2005


Thanks, gankmore.

Those of you snarking, knock yourselves out. You can't touch this. You missed a great piece of Americana and while cynicism may be all the rage, I'm going to fire up the last show and remember some good friends I've lost.

Be mean if it makes you feel better about yourself.

"Do they just chat up soiled-looking girls and insinuate that they're holding"

Where do you come up with this stuff.. do you really talk like this or was Reefer Madness on last night?
posted by cedar at 11:36 AM on July 9, 2005


Soldier Field was much solider then, when I think about it. :)

Hard to believe it's been ten years already though. Good post.
posted by First Post at 11:37 AM on July 9, 2005


Thanks for this post! I have a hard time getting into anything post-1978, so am always glad to hear suggestions of good later stuff.

Thanks also to Mayor Moe, bardic, et al, for the unprecedented insight on hippies and the Dead.
posted by ibmcginty at 11:45 AM on July 9, 2005


i was lucky enough to be in college in California during their last big push and although i was never inclined to follow them on tour like many of my friends did, i heard endless hours of old shows via tapes that theyd play and i got to see them a few times.

and even though it never changed my life directly, i feel blessed that i got to experience a taste of that scene and that phenomenom because no other band is going to be able to match that again in my lifetime.

not even Tsar
posted by tsarfan at 11:47 AM on July 9, 2005


And can't we please retire the notion that you have to be a hippie or on drugs to appreciate the Dead's music? Do you have to be black to appreciate hip-hop or jazz? Do you have to have a mohawk to enjoy punk rock? Jesus, do you have to be German to dig Krautrock?
I am by no means a rabid Deadhead. But if you see nothing of value in the Dead's body of work (and by that I don't just mean their tendency to jump off the cliff in a live jam setting, but their songwriting chops), or at the very least can't recognize why they were musically important, then your musical opinions are invalid. Period.
Yeah, the few Dead shows I saw were pretty much dreadful. But their body of work, taken as a whole, is transcendent.
posted by ghastlyfop at 12:00 PM on July 9, 2005


If Deadheads fans had a nickel for every time some bozo who's never listened to the Dead claims that the Dead sucks...
posted by clevershark at 12:03 PM on July 9, 2005


doh! "Deadheads", not "Deadheads fans".
posted by clevershark at 12:03 PM on July 9, 2005


For the fans -- GDradio.com has a continuous RealAudio feed of Dead goodness.
posted by clevershark at 12:13 PM on July 9, 2005


Just go listen to the real thing. It's called Bluegrass.
posted by nyxxxx at 12:20 PM on July 9, 2005


If Deadheads fans had a nickel for every time some bozo who's never listened to the Dead claims that the Dead sucks...

...they'd be able to afford soap? ;)

Favorite Grateful Dead moment, the Silver Bowl show in Las Vegas. No, not the early ones where they got banned, the later one where they came back anyway.

I was sitting on a huge pile of unused telephone poles facing the stage from the back parking lot, during the half hour or hour long space drum solo. Thunder and lightning everywhere, sporadic rain, drums mixing with the thunder, lightning striking down in and around the parking lot, stuff getting blown all around, people looking nervous.

They break into a cover of The Beatles "Here Comes the Sun". Huge shaft of crepsecular-ray light breaks through the cloud cover, perfectly hitting the stage as though on cue. A rainbow breaks out over the stadium, and from where I'm sitting it's a perfect arc centered right over the stadium. People all over the parking lot are just stopping and staring, cheers coming from the stadium, myself and the people around me just slack-jawed at the timing and gorgeousness of it all.

Some dirt hippy next to me utters in an awed tone, "Woooooah. Jerry does talk to God. Maaaaaan!"

It was that event that convinced me that God must be an A/V nerd and theater tech dweeb with a sick-in-the-head sense of humor.
posted by loquacious at 12:25 PM on July 9, 2005


De gustibus non est disputandum, dude. I've been to Dead shows and had fun, but it had little to do with the music, more with the spectacle. By the admission of many Deadheads, the last few years of their existence were painful musically. I love music, and I've had the misfortune of having to give up on bands that just got extremely lame, despite previous "grateness." It's weird to me how many fans of the Dead sacrificed taste for loyalty. That's lame. Just ask any idiot who's spent hundreds of bucks to see the Stones since 1973.

On a technical side, why did they need two drummers? There music was hardly that complex, and drums/space is hardly a display of technical mastery. Jerry was no slouch on guitar, but jesus, his solos tended to be the same trebly wank-a-thons over and over. Ultimately, these guys just didn't seem to have songs. Nothing sticks for me. And that's just a single opinion, so don't get all summer-of-love indignant on me.

on preview: what nyxxxx said. Jerry's bluegrass stuff is a lot more interesting than the Dead, methinks.
posted by bardic at 12:31 PM on July 9, 2005


Come on, nyxxxx. Some of us like our bluegrass with a psychedelic tinge and a bit of a swagger. Bluegrass was only one of many influences on the Dead's sound.
posted by ghastlyfop at 12:31 PM on July 9, 2005


I would love to know what you were smoking during that show.
posted by cpchester at 12:37 PM on July 9, 2005


Unfortunately I didn't have so much as a cigarette to my name at that point. I was broke. One of those road trips where you take off with a clean pair of socks and underwear, 3 packs of raman and the 76 cents in pennies you scrounged from your desk. I didn't even know I was going to be there until about 10 minutes before I left.
posted by loquacious at 12:58 PM on July 9, 2005


Behind my desk here at work is a full-page pullout from the Philly Daily News the day after Jerry died, a shot taken at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh on June 30, 1995. I was at that show, one of only six Dead shows I went to (I've since seen various amalgamations a couple times), and it contained my favorite Dead moment by a long shot:

My brother, prior to the show, said to me, "You got rain gear?" I didn't. We went to the local five-and-dime where I spent $3 on an el-cheapo poncho. Right before second set, the clouds open up, absolutely pissing on everyone; we stayed high and dry while the band opened up with the Beatles' "Rain."

Meanwhile, the guy and girl in front of us, obviously there on a date, got wetter and wetter, she got madder and madder and I felt so sorry for the dude that I almost offered the use of my poncho. Almost.

The Dead were an experience, no more and no less. Thing that used to bug the shit out of me about Deadheads was the way, after every single show, they were full of effusive praise for performances that often were sub-par. "Man, that was a killer 'Fire on the Mountain,' and I'm thinking, were we at the same show?

But the scene did get really ugly near the end, I remember a show in '92, I think it was, at Star Lake Amphitheatre in Pittsburgh where a buncha head smashed down the gates and barged in for free, and I remember thinking: You're fucking it up for everyone.
posted by kgasmart at 2:05 PM on July 9, 2005


wait a second, wait a second...

Jerry Garcia is dead?
posted by Hat Maui at 2:52 PM on July 9, 2005


Hat Maui: Yeah. You know how to tell? He's lost weight and he smells better.
posted by keswick at 3:24 PM on July 9, 2005


loquacious: I was there for that show too, and it was exactly as you said. The clouds parted, the sun shined and all was cool with the world.
posted by terrapin at 4:32 PM on July 9, 2005


There [sic] music was hardly that complex

Have you even heard The Eleven or Unboken Chain? Just to name a few.
posted by terrapin at 4:35 PM on July 9, 2005


i also was there. slept through a good part of it, which i have been teased about relentlessly ever since.
posted by poppo at 6:43 PM on July 9, 2005


Just go listen to the real thing. It's called Bluegrass.
posted by nyxxxx at 12:20 PM PST on July 9 [!]

Bob Dylan said about Jerry, There's a lot of space between the Carter Family and Ornette Coleman and that Jerry was able to fill all those spaces.

With all due to respect to every legitimate beefs against the band for not consistently flawless over 30+ years (was anybody at anything?), I really find it funny that there's still so much the negativity against the Grateful Dead and deadheads after all these years. I really don't think that scene harmed anybody except folks who dived headlong into it looking for a party not a musical or cultural experience.

Ken Kesey would say in Oakland:


***
"I was in D.C. and when I got the message I thought of two things:
I thought of my son going over a cliff and Bill Graham sending a thousand bucks
to put a thing on the hill that points in all directions in Oregon,
so you can always find your direction from the top of that hill.

And I thought of one more thing, it's a little heavy, but that's what it's about,
Nobody else reaches across the distance and puts your hands on your shoulders about this shit,
I mean, that's the way it's been for a long time, reaching across --
when you guys played Brokendown Palace at that gig,
I knew, Shit, This is the Grateful Dead telling me about my son.
It's as big a time as it gets and old Bill knew it, you know he knew it, he knew it.

And the other thought. The second thought, the warrior thought, the hard thought, the final thought is that we ain't many.
In any given situation there's going to be more dumb people than smart people, we ain't many.

And the second thought was this poem by e.e. cummings

A simple old poem that goes:

Buffalo Bill is defunct
Jesus he was a handsome man
He used to ride on a white horse and shoot clay pigeons
1,2,3,4,5 just like that
and what I want to know
is how do you like your blue eyed boy now, Mister Death?

original text of this poem

Ken Kesey's Eulogy for Bill Graham
October 31, 1991
Oakland Coliseum Arena
In the middle of the Grateful Dead's second set segue from Dark Star into Drums.


***

you can listen to that part here.

or the whole show here.

For those of you that never liked the Dead's sounds (you might want to try a few more of the 2700+ shows they played before I'd make that judgement, but whatevah!), I'd really encourage you to check out Garcia's other work, "Old and In the Way" (Bluegrass!), The Jerry Garcia Band (a wonderful R&B, blues and Motown, coverband not to mention another whole side of Garcia Originals), Garcia Grisman (Bluegrass!), just to name a few.

Hating on Jerry is like hating on Miles or Mozart. It just makes you look silly. Everybody who played music with this guy walked away with the deepest respect. It might be possible you've over looked something brilliant. That is unless your infallible. If it's just not you're thing, great.
There's tons of amazing music I don't like.

But what's the negativity accomplish?

posted by Gankmore at 7:15 PM on July 9, 2005


Jerry died on August 9, 1995; that day was the 50th anniversary of the US bombing of Nagasaki.

Jerry's nickname in the later years? Fat Man.

Nickname of the bomb? Fat Man.
posted by Triode at 9:26 PM on July 9, 2005


Thanks for the post, gankmore, and all the (intelligent, interesting) comments.

The long, strange trip continues in all of us who love the music and the idea of making it up as we go along.
posted by docgonzo at 6:49 AM on July 10, 2005


Where do you come up with this stuff.. do you really talk like this or was Reefer Madness on last night?

While I'll admit not remembering the last time I was near it, I'm fine with marijuana use. It's marijuana culture that irritates me. I like most of the Dead's catalogue enough that I would own some of it, except for my reservations about supporting fake counterculture.

Not all grouchy people are, like, narcs, man. That's what the death dealers want you to think and shit.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:11 AM on July 10, 2005


But what's the negativity accomplish?

Gankmore, as one of the few extraordinarily violent deadheads, it allows me to pummel those who like to harsh my mellow and think that merely because I enjoy the scene and the music I must be a dope smoking filthy hippie.
(Not in person of course. Got the DoD haircut, thousand yard stare, etc.)

My lack of cannabis intake almost got me in trouble at Alpine Valley, some idiots were complaining about how they didn't play - whatever - and going off on how much of a deadhead they were and their encyclopedic knowlege of the songs and running over my enjoyment of a full belly and a wine buzz and I probably would have gotten into something had I not been promised the oral sex.

I see where Mayor Curley is coming from.
There's a difference between being a scenester and simply enjoying what's going on. But those shitting on the Dead should probably go back to jacking off over Jeff Gannon.
Jerry made the music lots of fun, delightful if not joyful even, many a time and for that he will be missed.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:51 PM on July 10, 2005


What's sad, stbalbach? The fact that people nostalgic for a band whose music meant something to them? Or that the Dead are gone?

Yes.
posted by stbalbach at 6:15 PM on July 10, 2005


Nice post Gankmore.

Especially fun to see all the dead-bashers - it's been a while :)

Hard to believe it's been 10+ years since I sat on the lawn at Shoreline and watched the Gyoto Monks chant during Space. I do miss the GD but miss Jerry's band even more. I'm not a very religious person but seeing him all those times at the Warfield was CHURCH...
------------------------------

Thought I heard a blackbird singin'
up on Bluebird Hill
Call me a whinin' boy if you will
Born where the sun don't shine
and I don't deny my name
Got no place to go, ain't that a shame?

Thought I heard that KC whistle
moanin' sweet & low
Thought I heard that KC when she blow
Down where the sun don't shine
Underneath the Kokomo
Whinin' boy -- got no place else to go

So many roads I tell you
So many roads I know
So many roads --
so many roads --
Mountain high, river wide
So many roads to ride
So many roads
So many roads

Thought I heard a jug band playin'
"If you don't -- who else will?"
from over on the far side of the hill
All I know the sun don't shine,
the rain refuse to fall
and you don't seem to hear me when I call

Wind inside & the wind outside
Tangled in the window blind
Tell me why you treat me so unkind
Down where the sun don't shine
Lonely and I call your name
No place left to go, ain't that a shame?

So many roads I tell you
New York to San Francisco
All I want is one
to take me home
From the high road to the low
So many roads I know
So many roads - So many roads

From the land of the midnight sun
where ice blue roses grow
'long those roads of gold and silver snow
Howlin' wide or moanin low
So many roads I know
So many roads to ease my soul
posted by birdsong at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2005


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