The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dylan and the Dead

A fruitful collaboration.

While killing time waiting to meet with my addiction councilor the other day, who should come up and introduce himself to me than the popular Springfield Republican columnist Tom Shea!



What did we talk about? We talked about writing, as well as politics but you just can't talk very long to Tom Shea without the subject turning to music. He was full of praise for the Grateful Dead, especially for the important role he felt they played in the revitalization of the career of Bob Dylan. Shea is a huge Dylan fan.

Observers were surprised when Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead teamed up for some major tours together in the 1980's. While they both came up pretty much at the same time in the mid-60's, Dylan and the Dead were not true musical contemporaries. The Dead were all about psychedelia, and Dylan never really had a psychedelic period. He did some crazy word-play that was very much in tune with acid consciousness, but musically Dylan never sounded trippy, which made the Dead seem an odd choice for Dylan to use as his band.



But as Dylan has recounted in his autobiography and elsewhere, his bond with the Dead was more personal and inspirational than musical. He formed a close personal friendship with Jerry Garcia, but more importantly the Dead helped Dylan overcome the fact that he was pretty much burnt out artistically at that point in his career. Years of personal trauma and drug abuse had left Dylan alienated from his own muse, unable to put himself in the mindset to perform his own songs with any passion. Working with the Dead, who were great admirers of Dylan and whose free form improvisational style gave Dylan the freedom to do musically anything he wanted, enabled Dylan to revive his spirit and make a major creative comeback.

When Garcia died in 1995, Dylan paid Garcia the highest public complement he ever made to another musician. He said that Garcia had "understood what it was like to be me" and coming from one of the 20th century's most mysterious figures, that was very high praise indeed.

Here's a ticket stub I saved from when I saw Dylan and the Dead.



One thing Tom Shea asked me about was whether I saw anyone on the scene in Springfield who could be considered as someone who might transform Springfield for the better in a big way. I was saddened to realize I could not. I suppose a Tim Rooke mayoralty would be a good thing, but I'm not sure I consider Rooke (below) a transformational figure.



Maybe that special someone who will bring back the glory that was once Springfield is a person not yet known, but who will rise from the streets to inspire us all. If so, I hope they will make their presence known soon.

For decades this tower atop one of the buildings from the former state hospital complex in Northampton looked down upon the city from hospital hill.



The other morning I passed where they have just completed tearing that building down, and found the tower lying on the ground in the morning mist.



These cuffs in the window of the Hampshire County Courthouse make it clear that not all who enter that building do so voluntarily.



Northampton is a very queer friendly community and some households want to make that very clear.



7 comments:

Mary E.Carey said...

Great post and video from Paolo. Love the photo of the tower lying in the mist.

Don said...

One interesting footnote to the Dead/Dylan collaboration--around 1989, Dylan began occasionally sitting in with GD, content to play rhythm guitar even while Weir sang on Dylan's own tunes, and word is that Dylan asked to join the band as a full-time member. In what had to be an awkward refusal, Lesh, reportedly, wisely nixed the idea.

Tim said...

Tom,

As I'm sure you know, there is no easy way to explain the Grateful Dead to someone unfamiliar with the sound. To be sure, they started out as a psychedelic sounding band, but by 69-70 they were headed in a different direction. Off center, organic country rock? Something like that. Whatever it was, The Byrds, and Dylan were mining is the same musical territory. To me the collaboration was totally natural. Weir and Jerry always did Dylan tunes.

Tommy said...

Thanks Mary.

Don, you always have the obscure detail when it comes to the Dead!

Tim, I agree that the union seemed natural, at least as far as Deadheads were concerned, but much of the music press was baffled by Dylan's choice.

Tim said...

And mostly everybody else was baffled by the Dead, which made the whole thing wonderfully enjoyable to me somehow.

Mark T. Alamed said...

Awesome shot of the tower in the mist, Tom.

Anonymous said...

Searching for the sound-
What set of the Dead featured the most Dylan tunes? Which Show?
If Dylan was on stage- then which non Dylan/Dead set etc.?
This Question was inspired by a set list from last week's KOPN Dead Pod. The show was 12/30/90 featuring Bruce Hornsby and the first set had Maggie's Farm & Stuck Inside of Mobile. I always liked Dylan but it was my immersion in Dead that locked Dylan to my soul.
So, I would appreciate the heads-up on the trivia.
BTW-
Best-weirdest Dylan cover ever?- Bert Parks singing Maggie's Farm in a movie which had Marlon Brando and that kid from Ferris Buehler.
A youtube search for this song rendered a scary/funny version of McCartney's "Let Him In" by Bert Parks during a Beauty Pageant but no Maggie's. You'll have to go rent the movie.
Answer to heliosity@aol.com