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)
Roxon had a regular "The Top of Pop" column of rock music news & reviews in the Sunday News from 1971 until her death in 1973.ReplyDelete
Given the date, you'd think she would write about the Dead's recent Academy of Music shows in late March '72 - but no - she just says their recent shows are disappointing with fewer great moments, and instead falls into a reverie about a show she saw in 1970; without even mentioning their new live album, she raves about the two-year-old live album.
This also stands out for being possibly the most gushing newspaper review of the Dead I've seen from that era, at least in a mainstream paper. She makes that old show sound like the most transportive experience of her life, something that can never be recaptured.
And which show was it? The Daily News interviewed her in their 8/29/70 issue about her Rock Encyclopedia (the first book of its kind, I think, published in 1969).
"Reflecting on all that has happened since publication last Nov., she told us, 'If I had to do it all over, I would change it quite a lot. First, I'd call it "Rock 'n Pop." Then, instead of referring to "groups" I would say "and friends." Groups, as they were, will never be quite the same...'
"Speaking of one group of friends, namely 'The Grateful Dead,' Lillian admitted that 'I tended to underestimate them. I've seen them perform from 12 to 6 in the morning without a break. They're the greatest. In fact, I could write an encyclopedia on them alone.
'Do you know one of my friends named her little boy after two groups - The Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane. She called him Grair.'"
(Mary Engels, "She Rolls With the Rock," Daily News 8/29/70)
I'd speculate she caught one of the Fillmore East "midnight" shows in July 1970. It's too bad she didn't go on to write another book about them!