It was June 23rd, 1995. My Rider and I had just decamped from what would be our last run with the Mighty Grateful Dead, their last tour before dumb ol’ Jerry’s demise on August 9th. I was exhausted after all the driving back and forth through the Berkshires to Albany from my little city by the Connecticut River. But, as dawn broke over my home, I had to write. The following is that explateration retrieved from the archives.
What you gotta understand with this Grateful Dead situation, you know, that musical outfit, is that it is weird. It’s just a weird situation. You got a posse of mainly homely guys, a couple of the gang now truly dead.
One of those dead guys was so ugly that he scared Satan himself when he showed up with a note from Saint Peter beggin’ the Lord of Darkness to please take the fellow off his kind hands in exchange for an unlimited supply of Ripple and Southern Comfort and all the charcoal briquets The Devil might wish for in an eternity of unspeakable cruelty and sodomizing dead people with hot pokers. Ol’ St. Pete even threw that Joplin girl into the deal. He was fond of Janis, and she could sing, but our Minister of The Pearly Gates was desperate to get that Pig Pen guy out of his house and figured that nasty-ass Lucifer deserved her bibulous attention, anyhow.
Whatever. The rest of the crew, except for that lovely and long legged lady was not so charming. She, of course, could bend your ears quite well with that wail from beyond the grave. Hoo-boy-howdy! But, look at the rest of those beasts. You got a kid with giant hands, digits like a gorilla’s, who makes a noise with a guitar that sounds like Quasimodo busting up the bells of Notre Dame with a jack hammer one minute, and the next it’s an ear shredding racket akin to a locomotive skidding off the rails into a gully full of roiling lava bubbling with titanium spikes and human skulls.
Then there is that freak, the nine fingered guitar player that doesn’t seem to know any discipline at all. Right when a song gets solid and almost surpasses his ability to fuck up the lyrics with that singing soundin’ like a teenager going through the voice change or finger nails on the chalk board, well… he takes the whole thing to pieces and ruins everything in all possible ways. This guy has destroyed more good songs than most folks could write in a lifetime. One after another just melts away into the next that melts away itself or gets blown up and on and on and on. That shaggy monster seems to never have met a tune to be content with. He treats notes like a cat worries a mouse.
Oh, speaking of tunes… what is that lyric writer going on about? Craziness! One minute he’s prattling on about something that I think might be from the bible, maybe not, and the next we got some bums on a locomotive yelling at some underwater green guy on their way to see a fellow who might be dying or not while a lady with ribbons in her hair is laying behind a broken window in a bed of clover with a cat from China. Yeah, and there are tigers and soldiers in a campfire with a sailor torn loose from the axle of a paper canoe full up with alligators and gypsies. Man, can you just write a simple story, or are we supposed to figure all this out ourselves?
Now, the sound guy of many years, prior to his incarceration for violating every law of G-d and Man, was a mad chemist who excelled at unraveling his own DNA. Yes, there are ugly rumors that drugs may have been involved this Grateful Dead Enterprise®.
Anyhow, there’s also that guy on the bass. He plays it like it’s either a trombone or the detonation of an atom bomb. The drummer is an eight-armed dragon that eats its own tail and never seems content to rest in that endeavor. The guys on keyboards, the ones without the sense to flee before their hides are aflame, reliably self-combust after a few years in that seat. It’s a hideous sight, but the fans keep paying to see the conflagrations.
Yes. It is a weird situation. Unaccountable, really. There is no satisfactory explanation for its duration nor the satisfaction that their growling, howling, moaning, often confusing, oddly inspiring even while lilting and off-angle tilting, bone jiggling, giggling, skull eating, mind melting, soul mending, back breaking and healing strangeness imbues upon children of all ages over so many years. Yes. Although the band has left and gone, nobody has noticed, not at all.
Res Ipsa Loquitor,