In the realms of hip legend, astral pleasures, rock and roll and business as usual, the Grateful Dead stand higher than any other veteran American rock band.
They began in San Francisco forming into an electric rock blues/country band at a time when America was waking up to the reality of the transition from beatnik style to ‘hippie’ consciousness. The Grateful Dead were the prime movers of that transition in the musical field. Alerted to the potential of the ‘new rock’ by bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, they took the evolution of that form several steps further by opening up traditional structures and standard ‘tight’ rock forms with extended improvisation unconnected to jazz, and an acute sense of what it took to move people deeply.
They were, in fact, exploring virgin territory and they were monumentally successful. Today you can ask any reasonably enlightened follower of rock about his or her first experience of a Dead concert and receive a reply couched not in terms of how good it was to boogie, but how staggering it was to come suddenly upon an experience of such great sensual power. The Dead had learned how to conceive and perform a music which often induced something closely akin to the psychedelic experience; they were and are experts in the art and science of showing people another world, or a temporary altering (raising) of world consciousness.
It sounds pseudo-mystical pretentious perhaps, but the fact is that it happens, and it is intentional. The consciousness altering power of a very good rock band is one considerable part of what rock means; what sets the Dead apart from other members of the rock elite (an obvious example being the Rolling Stones) is that they have always used their power; carefully, to spread positive energy.
Their sound is unique, completely unmistakable, something soft and lustrous even at its most hard driving moments. It owes a great deal to years of electronic fiddling which have culminated in the most polished, custom-fitted and dynamically ‘clear’ sound system in current use. They are perhaps the most technically proficient and musically integrated band in the world, and it shows in their frequent concerts and on Europe ’72.
-Patrick Cann (The New York Times, 3/11/73 )
I prefer playing live for sure, just as an experience, it’s definitely richer, mainly because it’s continuous. I mean, you play a note and you can see where it goes, you can see what the response is, what the reaction is. It’s reciprocal. In a studio, you can also do that, but you’re doing it with the other musicians. When you have a group of musicians in a studio, it’s not unlike having a room full of plumbers. I mean, what we might be interested in as musicians and what we’re doing might not relate to anybody else. That’s the difference.
One of the best things about this digital version of my book, is the opportunity to correct things. The photo credit for this page is Sunshine Kesey who was 9 years old in 1973. It’s possible she took this photo, her Dad gave her a camera, but she may have just given it to us for the book. I’ll get around to asking her soon, meanwhile if anyone has info on this picture of Jerry, Donna & Phil please let us know. -Jerilyn
Photo Credits: Sunshine Kesey