THE WAY IT USED TO BE
The way it first was and the way you'd always like it to be:
All you could see in the first 10 rows was bare skin, bare arms, bare chests, bare souls...all moving in one continuous wave with the music. Some people were crying, some were laughing, and some just stood there transported, drinking in the warmth of the sound like sunshine through the pores of their skin and getting very high on that sensation.
I don't often dance at concerts, although heaven knows I often want to, but this particular night about two years ago I couldn't keep still. Everything between my skin and the sound on stage offended me. I had come with three people I kind of liked but never really knew. By the end of the long evening I had probably grown as close to them as I have ever been to anyone. All our defensive layers, as the night moved on, had fallen off like so much dead skin.
There are no longer too many mystical experiences in rock and roll, but any Grateful Dead person reading the lines above will have no difficulty in recognizing the Dead experience. There is no other band in the world that can take you more completely out of yourself and into the stars, the past, the future, and the spirits and hearts of those beside you and in front of you.
It is an unforgettable experience and one that, understandably, you want to repeat as often as possible, hence the string of totally sold-out concerts wherever the group appears.
The way it sometimes is: unfortunately, the band IS human - mere mortals with mortal failings - and there are nights, a great many of them of late, when whatever it is that's supposed to happen, happens so late that only the most loyal and determined fans are there when the blinding moment comes. Other times it doesn't come at all.
If you are one of the unlucky people who missed the Dead at their best, or maybe were until now unaware of their power, I want to recommend to you one of the most beautiful and important albums ever made, "The Live Dead."
The group has made other albums, and good ones, too, but only this almost 2-year-old one captures what I have been talking about. As in the performances, the first of the four sides makes no attempt to seduce you, only to clear your brain of its daily debris, and open it up for what comes next. Side two is unbearably tender. If you're not with the one you love, you find yourself loving the one you're with. Side three is entirely physical. It tells you more than Dr. Reuben ever could, and not in words, either. After all that comes the end, shaken but peaceful.
If you know of any album or any group that does as much for you, I wish you'd tell me and I'll tell the world. That's the kind of information that should be spread around.
(by Lillian Roxon, from the "Top of Pop" column, the Sunday News (New York City), 2 April 1972)