Living With the Dead, or, My Favorite Kind of Necrophilia

The diehard fans now call them “The Days Between,” after a song written during the group’s final years of existence and never recorded in the studio. It was only played live, the only way most people ever wanted to hear their music.

Jerry Garcia would have been 70 this year; he was born August 1, 1942. And he in all likelihood would have been stepping onto a new stage, his feet planted on a Persian carpet, guitar at the ready. But he died seventeen years ago today, August 9, 1995, itself exactly one month after the Grateful Dead encored with their elegiac songs “Black Muddy River” and “Box of Rain” at what was destined to be their final concert, right here in Chicago at Soldier Field.

It was a full house, and that is something which might surprise people of our generation: for the final decade of their existence, the Grateful Dead was one of the only bands in history to be a guaranteed sell-out at any arena and stadium. They couldn’t play smaller concerts; the demand was far too great. In 1991, for instance, they played NINE shows at Madison Square Garden and turned people away. For those who only know the Dead from the skull and roses, the multi-colored Teddy bears, and the classic video for their only top ten single, “Touch of Grey” (which I ate up as a kid every time it was on VH1), their appeal might be hard to understand. Even harder because the Dead are a very foreboding band to get into. It took me a long while.
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“Can You Play ‘Karmic Dream Sequence #1’ Again?” and Other Sentences People Probably Never Said. (Part II of II)

I. “Hey, man, I’m selling my guitar so I can play the electric jug.”


Thinking about the early Bee Gees records reminded me that they were far from the only musicians to decide in 1967 that it was time to step up their ambitions. On both sides of the Atlantic, new and established acts alike could not help but hear the innovation happening around them. It was more than Sgt. Pepper and Revolver: the painstaking beauty of the Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds, the increasingly elaborate and emotional wordplay of Bob Dylan’s electric albums, and the fearless, avant-garde experimentation of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention on Freak Out! all helped to expand the definition of what pop and rock were capable of. And in 1967, there were no nationally-televised prime-time singing competitions, no radio conglomerates; was marketing, but marketing was new and willing to take chances. An artist could push the boundaries and get major-label deals and mainstream exposure.


The results were some terrific albums like those of the Brothers Gibb…and a lot of mediocre and just plain bad material. There’s only so many “electronic masses” and sound collages and electric jug bands a person can absorb without going insane.

Yes, complete with an ELECTRIC FREAKIN’ JUG! See what the guy on the far left is holding? Do you SEE THAT? Who thought this was a good idea?!

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Horizontal Ideas from a City on the Black Sea (Part I of II)

Two memories from my childhood came to mind when I heard that Robin Gibb had died in May.


First, my parents’ laughter as “Stayin’ Alive” or “How Deep Is Your Love” came on the car radio and a four or five year old Andrew proudly declared that this was the BeeGees with a very hard G. I was conscious of the Bee Gees even that young. Say what you like about them, there was a stretch of several years when Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb, and their solo brother Andy as well, were inescapable in every part of the globe, and that gave them a permanent, ubiquitous place in pop culture, veering on the scale from the mostly ridiculed to the mostly respected. That ubiquity makes it harder to believe that the Bee Gees are now truly no more, as only Barry remains with us from the Brothers Gibb.


As we all remember them…

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