Ed & Lerry’s Grateful Dead Tour Journal: Super Important Side Conversation

Subject: the Dead as songwriters‏

Lerry: One thing that has always bothered me is that the Dead never get the credit that I feel they deserve as songwriters (primarily Hunter/Garcia). They tend to get lumped into some sort of jam band / San Francisco hippie acid rock box, and never really mentioned in the same sentence as some of the finer songsmiths of the era (not to mention “rock” bands).  They do get credit as being a creative live band, but the songs themselves are rarely mentioned.

With that being said, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty always get great reviews, so it is not as if critically they are unable to get some respect. (Blues for Allah, to a lesser extent, gets very good reviews as well.)  So why are they overlooked in this area?

In my opinion, part of the reason why they never got said credit comes down to the fact that Wake of the Flood and Mars Hotel were just OK records.  (Take off your deadhead hat for a moment.)  Some great songs are on both of course, but too much filler and a little too much “democracy” as well. (When Jerry Garcia is in your band, unless you write a REALLY killer song, leave the songwriting to him.)  So, with so much potential, why did these records suffer on this front?  I think it was primarily due to decisions that they made in what they were NOT releasing on them.

Example one → on both Europe 72 and Skull and Roses, both released during the same period, they released new songs that were never recorded, before or after, in the studio.

Skull and Roses- 1971
New songs:
Bertha
Me and my Uncle
Wharf Rat

Europe 72 – 1972
New songs:
Ramble on Rose
Jack Straw
Tennessee Jed
Brown-Eyed Woman
He’s Gone

Solid stuff!  While I think it is rad that they released new songs on live records and never touched them in the studio, I think that those writing reviews have a hard time separating live stuff from studio records.

Example two, Bobby and Jerry both released solo records in 1972 as well with some very solid songwriting.

Garcia – 1971
Deal
Bird Song
Sugaree
Loser
Late For Supper
Spidergawd
EEP Hour
To Lay Me Down
An Odd Little Place
The Wheel

Ace – 1972
Greatest Story Ever Told
Black-Throated Wind
Walk in the Sunshine
Playing in the Band
Looks Like Rain
Mexicali Blues
One More Saturday Night
Cassidy

Solid songs!

So, let’s pretend for a moment that Wake of the Flood and Mars Hotel was comprised of the following songs (basically songs that were in their live set for the remainder of their career):

Deal
Bird Song
Sugaree
Loser
The Wheel
Black-Throated Wind
Playing in the Band
Mexicali Blues
Ramble on Rose
Jack Straw
Tennessee Jed
Brown-Eyed Woman
He’s Gone
Bertha
Me and my Uncle
Wharf Rat
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Row Jimmy
Stella Blue
Here Comes Sunshine
U.S. Blues
China Doll
Scarlet Begonias
Ship of Fools

I’m not saying that they would have sold many more records as they didn’t really play the rock star game, but had they done this, strictly speaking from a songwriting perspective, they would have had 5 very solid records in a row, just like the Stones, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Beatles, etc.  Would this change the credit they deserve, or does the deadhead stigma run too deep?

Ed: Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

Next show: 12/1/73

Previous show: 11/30/73

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: