Fuck it, I'm Just Going To Steal Other People's Posts Fer a Spell

When It's Done and Over, Lord, A Man Is Jes' A Man

Bar 63, eighth-note 347,942

Through the modern miracle of podcasting, for some months now I've had the pleasure of timeshifting the day's Al Franken Show into my evening drive home. My enjoyment of the show is muted, though. Al's not the most acute interviewer in the world of space and time, and all too often he marshals his guests out of their own particular areas of expertise and solicits agreement with his own hobby-horses. Fair enough; he's not a "pro"; and what he lacks in professionalism he by far makes up for by being, you know, funny.

But Al and I are not destined by the stars to grow old together, I can already foretell.

The problem is musical.

Al's chosen a few snips from the Grateful Dead's catalog as bumpers to play segments in and out, and it's these things that will eventually drive me away.

Habitués of the Jingosphere may have already picked up on the free-floating notion that I bear little affection for the Grateful Dead's self-congratulatory elitist cult, or indeed for Hippieism in general -- having taken the Clash seriously in Bobby Lightfoot's 1979 may have had something to do with it.

I hung with lots of Deadheads in the Seventies -- it was mighty hard to be in a Midwestern college village and avoid 'em -- but after school was over I managed to get Jerry and the Boys into the rear-view mirror while I explored what we all should have been listening to in our formative years instead of that drunken mess "Europe '72": Vintage country, bluegrass, jug-band music, Delta blues, the huge universe of jazz -- in fact, all the musical forms that preceded and influenced the Dead and indeed all of rock music.

So not having availed myself of the Dateful Bread for quite a few years it's a bit of a hardship to be exposed rather relentlessly to a few selected ten-second snips of Jerry Garcia's guitar playing. I have loathed "Terrapin Station" since approximately four seconds into the first time I heard it, and as a particularly bombastic passage from it serves as Al's main bumper, the cause is not helped.

But no, mainly it's the Garcia Thing. With a few notable exceptions, Jerry Garcia was a sloppy, lazy, cliché-ridden mess of a guitar player, who interrupted his boring eighth-note scales only to interject cod-country double-stop bends that were trite when Chet Atkins nicked them from Merle Travis in 1947. Seriously, listen to any Garcia solo and concentrate on the rhythms he's choosing -- ninety percent of the time he's playing nothing but eighth notes:


I can't help but wonder, whenever I hear the passage from "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad" that Franken plays, why that particular edit? Couldn't Al hear the dope-sick, thoughtless reliance on pure muscle-memory that invariably produces the hackneyed guitar playing of a flogger who's so phoning it in he may as well live at Ma Bell's? Can you hear me now? Good!

On another bumper -- don't know the song, sorry -- it couldn't be plainer to this weekend warrior (who has actually once or twice Walked the Walk) that the guy doesn't know what key he's in or what chord is coming next. He noodles, hoping against hope that Bob-n-Phil will hit that tonic A they're hinting at. Whew, they do, but it was touch-and-go there for a second.

OK, so maybe Al just hit a bad patch in his selections. A storied guitarist with Rock-and-Roll Patriot cred like Jerry couldn't have been that awful, could he? I decided to download Skull and Roses from iTunes, just to test the proposition. A 1971 live album over which the band had absolute creative control, right? They could have chosen from a huge number of performances, even edited some together -- it's been done, believe me -- to come up with the bestest representation of their musicianship they could, 'kay?

So... The first song ("Bertha"), the first guitar solo on the record, three bars into it...

Jerry Clams It

He doesn't just clam it, he clams it hard. He clams it with a clam that would make a second-year Mel Bay student wince. Clam Casino. Clam Royale. Steamed Clam with sauerkraut.And you hear those eighth notes? He's gonna do those goddamned eighth notes for another 72 bars, man!Now, please. I love Workingman's Dead. Jerry's pedal-steel playing on "The Wheel" is some of the most innovative ever done, and that song is right up there in the Personal Top Hundred. "Dark Star/St. Stephen" Live/Dead yadda yadda. Dawg Music. No question.





copyright 2007 by Bobby Lightfoot



Anonymous neddie said...

Hey, you stole my shit, cock.

5:19 PM  
Blogger bobby lightfoot said...

Yes, I even stole your complaint.

Be moderner than THAT, gramps.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous cleek said...

heh... i just played Bertha and listened for the third bar in that first solo... OUCH. you (both) are right. clam. he bent that wrong note into a wronger note and ends it with an ugly buzz. never noticed that before.

oh well. it's still a good song to play around the campfire.

8:42 PM  
Blogger EmployeeoftheMonth said...

If you think you caught shit from the Mel S. crowd, boy howdy you best gird accordingly for the inevitable sputtering Deadwads.

10:01 PM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Of course, Ned stole it all from you in the first place, so you're just taking back what's rightfully yours. It's the Circle of (Family) Life (TM)...

12:55 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

I'm probably stealing this comment from myself (too lazy to go back to Ned's post) but...

What does a Dead Head say when he runs out of dope?

"Turn this shit off."

Honestly, I DO like some of their music, but like you, I hated Terapin 4 seconds into it. Unlike their obnoxious fans, I favor their studio stuff. I think their live music sounds like a bunch of tone-deaf high school students jamming to completely different songs in their own private headphone mix. Phil Lesh usually played about 5x as many notes as were ever called for and the drummers couldn't find the beat in a timex. Half the time it sounded like the band was trying to tune-up, but I doubt they noticed that they weren't in tune.

I liked Jerry though. Not so much his guitar playing - I liked him. I still enjoy the studio versions of "Eyes of the World," "Franklin's Tower," and "Ripple" (all songs that Jerry sang.) Never liked Bob Weir's voice or his guitar...

11:08 AM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Yeh, I'd take Jerry back from th' Maw and present it with pretty much anyone on th' charts today as a trade.

Ned and I have punkrockitis is all. You're not allowed to like th' Dead and you're not allowed guitar solos of longer than 8 seconds.

Pure adolescent snobbery.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

I think I'm even less a fan of these guys than those assembled - I don't even know some of the tunes th' Viscount mentioned. I simply could not be bothered to listen to a lot of Dead stuff based on what I had heard and based even more so on the attitude of their unbearable fans.

So, what you said, Bobby, only moreso.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Neddie said...

Har. Coming to this late, but...

If you think you caught shit from the Mel S. crowd, boy howdy you best gird accordingly for the inevitable sputtering Deadwads.

I took a bunch of shit in Comments on the original post. I eventually turned to the twin barrels of Rudeness and Mockery, because Deadheads annoy me so much.

Bobby's right, it's teenage snobbery. But it's snobbery born of real-life experience too -- bunch of fuckin' self-congratulatory pissants.

7:05 PM  

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