February 03, 2013

Me And The Dead

(Sparked off by Nick Paumgarten's article on the Dead in a recent New Yorker).

I've never cared much one way or another about the Grateful Dead — nothing of theirs that I've heard ever stuck in my mind or struck me as anything more than lovingly-crafted self-indulgent mediocrity, but nothing they ever did ever struck me as notably terrible, either. They were OK for a song or two, but increasingly tedious or musically invisible after that; they've just never made any sort of deep impression on my musical mind. I'd heard of them in Sydney and London of course, without ever really hearing more than a track or two (enough to know the music just didn't grab me, but not enough to have a strong feeling for what they did or how they did it). When I got here I was given the inevitable cassette or two of poorly-recorded live stuff that not only didn't grab me, but that — over an entire set — bored me senseless, despite the obvious enthusiasm of the people who gave it to me. I wondered if it was just the poor recording quality that spoiled it for me, so I finally got listen to a CD at a friend's party in Berkeley — and all I could think was, is that all there is? And that's been the way it is now for a couple of decades.

Deadheads, on the other hand… Living in Downtown Berkeley at the tail end of the 1980's and early 90's, they were inescapable, a soft young army of middle class searchers in a uniform of hippy, peasant, or proletarian chic (as imagined by those inevitably middle class searchers). It was hard not to have an opinion: they were often literally in your face, and at least once I had to step around a handful of them sleeping on the side of my carport in McGee in the morning as I went to work (and they prepared for a concert up in the Greek, IIRC). Deadhead acquaintances would tell you Dead concert stories, or describe Dead music, and (as Paumgarten alludes to), it usually had all the force of a re-telling of someone else's complex dream: none of the immediacy, all of the bewildering tedium.

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At 7/14/2013 11:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giday Jimmy (Long time no etc) i feel exactly the same way about the Dead's music. Every time i heard a song i was left thinking that i was missing something. I was never bothered enough to double check.
I guess there has to be a section of the community that deifies, or refies mediocrity! gm(syd)

At 7/16/2013 8:55 am, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

Gidday G. (yeah, long time no see...). There's something seductive about mediocrity for these guys — I tend to suspect that mediocrity is its own reward. I dunno.


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