Over the past couple weeks I’ve been watching the Grateful Dead documentary, Long Strange Trip.
I still have about half the episodes left. Just got into the band’s playing-the-pyramids phase, which also seems to be when things begin to take a turn for the worse (apparently this was when Jerry really upped his heroin use). I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of 80s and the beginning of the 90s went for the band.
One of my favorite moments from the documentary is during their ’72 tour of Europe. In an attempt for the record company and band to recoup travel, recording, and tour expenses, the whole endeavor was going to be recorded, both as a documentary, and as a live album. Dennis “Wizard” Leonard was stuck inside a mobile recording studio during the whole tour, feeding tape into the machine and checking levels. In an interview, Leonard talks about an incident at the Lyceum Theater show. He had to leave the truck to adjust a mic on stage, leaving the mobile rig unattended. He was going to hustle back to the truck, but as the band launched into “Morning Dew” the Wizard decided to stay on stage and in the moment. He describes Garcia as having tears in his eyes during the song’s solo. Powerful moment. Magic.
Since watching this brief sequence in the documentary, I’ve been listening to the Europe ’72 version of “Morning Dew” on repeat. The song is a post-apocalyptic tune originally penned by Bonnie Dobson about the last man and woman alive in the wake of nuclear catastrophe.
I was never much of Grateful Dead fan growing up, though my folks were fans back in the day. My mom played the Skeletons From the Closet record quite a bit when I was younger, and I remember liking “Sugar Magnolia,” “Casey Jones,” “Friend of the Devil,” and “Uncle John’s Band.” Years later I was reintroduced to their music by Jesse Curry who let me borrow a Best of Jerry Garcia collection, and a lot of Dead songs were on those two discs. We’d even jam a couple of (“Sugaree” and “Loser”). I became a fan.
I don’t know if I’ll ever think of myself as a Dead Head, but I admire the hell out of the passion and joy they derived from making music. And I want to keep digging, plug away at the back catalog. Seems like there’s no shortage there.