Sometime in 1974 I heard a cool tune on WMMR, out of Center City Philly. The song, Sugar Magnolia, from the live album, EUROPE 72.
When I told the friends I hung with at the time, a few of them informed me, they were big fans of what they referred to ‘as the Dead’.
In fact three of my buddies recently attended a concert at the Civic Center they called ‘The Wall of Sound’. Their enthusiasm bubbled from their pores in waves of manic glee.
They immediately secured that very same disk, EUROPE 72 on my turntable. Jack Straw reverberates in my mind to this day. Wow, this is something completely different.
This was a life-changer baby. Once I succumbed to a state of mind loosely defined as ‘a Dead Head’. Not long after, started listening to Bluegrass, Folk, Blues, Jazz and standard Americana. I discovered another world of music with immense possibilities.
I wanted to immerse myself in these fascinating modal signatures. I forgot Elton John, Chicago, Cat Stevens, even Uriah Heep. The Dead trumped them all.
Don’t get me wrong, I still occasionally listened to Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, J. Geils.
What I called pop music with few exceptions never had the same appeal. During this time I still frequented the corner of Castor and Benner, C&B. My friends there, did not buy into the West Coast scene.
They were into rock & roll, loosely defined by Foghat, Aerosmith, Grand Funk Railroad. They showed little interest or respect for the whole sixties movement. Hippies were looked upon as uncouth remnants of a failed experiment. I didn’t see it that way. To me they were noble Patriots who were trying to reinvent our society.
Holding fast to their beliefs, while (bathed) in the shadow of the Industrial-Military-Complex.
Who ridiculed, then misrepresented their message of a cooperative society. Turning those evolved concepts into something jaded and Un-American. Nothing could be further from the truth. The tunes in their repertoire, are, in my humble estimation, wholly American.
The lyrics describe not just the West Coast experience, but uncannily resonates with images of the deep South. The hustle and bustle of New York City, the calm toughness of the Mid-West, the border towns with our Southern neighbor are painted in vivid detail. A poet-singer and virtuoso on guitar by the name of Robert Hunter provided the Grateful Dead with countless glimpses of deceit, valor, humor and karma.
He is an obscure but integral component in the identity of the Grateful Dead.
I had the privilege of speaking with him in the basement of a club called Star’s, located on South street in Philly, during the late seventies.
My impression was a troubadour from a bygone era, finding delight in entertaining alone.
A captivating purveyor of stories, told through music, enhanced by his polished delivery.
He spent a great deal of time in the mid to late sixties with Jerry wrote lyrics for his tunes.
The way he constructs phrases that compliment Jerry’s knack for melodic composure is a cosmic match of their talents.
They first met in the end of the fifties and both left the army about the same time.
Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter were brought together during a brief window of enlightenment.
The U.S. Government tested LSD and other (mind altering substances) on mostly college students in the spring of 1962 around Palo Alto, Stanford Campus.
Hunter was among the volunteers dosed with a new form of psychedelic that increased his creativity as a writer of poetry and ultimately lyrics.
They both realized the life altering insights possible by using this new tool as a path to the truth. They also understood the ramifications. This chemical compound rerouted neuron-transmitters in the brain. They remembered Huxley, Brave New World and all that… This concoction in a sense altered the solid reality they accepted as eternal. Convinced them and many others that anything was possible. They understood that limits, were set by our society. And now they were outside that narrow corridor. This was the grail.
END PART ONE
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