Friday, June 28, 2013

Mona Lisa

Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin' to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind

In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane
Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near
She’s delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna’s not here
The ghost of ’lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
How can I explain?
Oh, it’s so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, “Jeeze
I can’t find my knees”
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel

The peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
Sayin’, “Name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him”
But like Louise always says
“Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?”
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain

Kind Tune of the Moment

Wharf Rat, Grateful Dead

Every Deadhead has their favorite big Jerry ballad, and there are many great choices. The cosmic face-melting and anguished cries of Stella Blue. The psychedelic guitar-shredding of Morning Dew. The cathartic howl of Standing on the Moon. The country death-bed lament of Black Peter. The list goes on. And in the last few years of the Dead, when Jerry and the band were really struggling, you could always count on the post-space Jerry ballad to deliver the goods. Those were the highlights of the shows that I saw, including an otherwise terrible show on 7/8/1995 in which Jerry brought down the house with a stunning Visions of Johanna. I didn't attend the next show, but the So Many Roads played that night has since been released on the Dead's box set of the same name, So Many Roads. Those shows of course would turn out to be the last for the Grateful Dead, and the last time we would hear those bittersweet notes and that emotive howl. 

Allow me to make the case for Wharf Rat as the greatest of all the aforementioned ballads. Excerpted from a piece I wrote some time ago:

Of all the Jerry ballads, in my mind this one takes the cake. The music is so well composed, beautiful, almost Dark Star-esque in some passages, and intensely dramatic and powerful in others. The story, and the verses, mirror the music. This is almost a ballad version of A Day in the Life, like two songs mashed together, but intensely related. Two different narrators, telling different stories, yet a profound moment of empathy. The centerpiece of the song being the gospel bridge, with perfect church keyboard accompaniment by Keith, breaking it down for the vocal climax:

But I'll get back 
on my feet someday 
The good Lord willing 
if He says I may  
I know that the life 
I'm livin's no good 
I'll get a new start 
live the life I should

The song finishes off with a jam that finds the band scaling the walls of heaven, busting down the pearly gates.  Dig it!

On this date 22 years ago, the Grateful Dead performed a version of Wharf Rat, which seamlessly drifts in and out of Dark Star for a few minutes. I've always thought these two were cut from the same musical cloth. Dark Star more abstract and otherworldly. Wharf Rat harnessing the psychedelia into an archetypal tale. Check it out for yourself:

When first performed, it was flipped from the version above, appearing in the middle of a Dark Star sandwich. A Dark Star birth, as foretold by the prophets: "He will be the one to lead us to the Promised Land." (A letter from Hunter to the Deadheads, Ch. 1, v. 1).


Giant of the Week

Bill Hicks

A brilliant guy, who also was occasionally funny, particularly early in his career. I can't say that I'm the biggest Bill Hicks fan, probably the main reason being he was just way too angry. And his anger is justified; he's right on pretty much every point. But who wants to listen to an angry comedian? As time went on, and Bill became more disillusioned with life and the idiocy of other humans, he became less of a comedian and more of a preacher talking down to the fools (see also, Bill Maher). A possible consequence of fleeting psychedelic transcendence that isn't translated into fulfillment, acceptance, or irony. But he was a genius, just less so as a comedian later in his life. But you be the judge. The documentary on his life, American: The Bill Hicks story, is a tremendous movie. It features probably my favorite description of the psychedelic experience:

A bit longer clip of that scene is here, check out Bill's description of the psychedelic experience towards the end.


"Because being high, each note, you know, is like a whole universe. And each silence."
- Jerry Garcia to Rolling Stone in 1972

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dancin' in the Streets

Summer's here, and the time is right, for dancin' in the streets

Chicago, New York, Detroit and it's all on the same street

Sunday, June 23, 2013


“Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas ... with the music at top volume and at least a pint of ether.”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Kind Tune of the Moment

Moonlight Mile, Rolling Stones

Of all the great songs the Stones wrote, none may be better than their country inflected ballads: No Expectations, Dead Flowers, Torn and Frayed, Wild Horses, Sweet Virginia, and really too many to name. Right up there at the top of the list is Moonlight Mile. Possibly what makes this the Stones strong suit is it finds them at their most honest and vulnerable. The cliched rock star bravado has been stripped away, as these are the songs written in the early hours of the morning, when all self-consciousness has long since been forgotten. It taps into the ultimate bitter-sweetness of the come-down: a celebration of all that's come before, the breakthrough you've had, and the realization that this feeling is slipping through your hands like so many grains of sand. 

Reminds me of a time spent up all night tripping, and as the sun began to rise, I heard a noise, a "thunk" getting closer and closer, over and over. What the fuck was that?! Suspense, here it comes, then the realization, it was the paperboy. Oh shit, reality. Let me forget about today until tomorrow. 

When the wind blows and the rain feels cold
With a head full of snow
With a head full of snow
In the window there's a face you know
Don't the nights pass slow
Don't the nights pass slow

The sound of strangers sending nothing to my mind
Just another mad mad day on the road
I am just living to be lying by your side
But Im just about a moonlight mile on down the road

Made a rag pile of my shiny clothes
Gonna warm my bones
Gonna warm my bones
I got silence on my radio
Let the air waves flow
Let the air waves flow

Oh Im sleeping under strange strange skies
Just another mad mad day on the road
My dreams is fading down the railway line
Im just about a moonlight mile down the road

Im hiding sister and Im dreaming
Im riding down your moonlight mile
Im hiding baby and Im dreaming
Im riding down your moonlight mile
Im riding down you moonlight mile

Let it go now, come on up babe
Yeah, let it go now
Yeah, flow now baby
Yeah move on now yeah

Yeah, Im coming home
Cause, Im just about a moonlight mile on down the road
Down the road, down the road

A couple versions of the song from artists who also spent a lot of long, glorious, lonely nights on the road, searching for the cosmic salvation, but ending in the country come-down.

Jerry Garcia

The Flaming Lips

The Glimmer Twins


Nothing Ever Happens on Mars

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gatos con Botas de Wilco


What Stage
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
Manchester, Tenn.

Here's Wilco playing a career defining, genre-bending, catalog spanning, superlative exhausting, nice fun show.

01 Poor Places >
02 Art of Almost
03 I Might
04 I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
05 Kamera
06 California Stars *
07 Hesitating Beauty
08 Handshake Drugs
09 Shouldn't Be Ashamed
10 Impossible Germany
11 Born Alone
12 Laminated Cat ^
13 Jesus, Etc.
14 Via Chicago
15 Whole Love
16 Heavy Metal Drummer >
17 I'm the Man Who Loves You *
18 Dawned On Me
19 A Shot in the Arm

Running Time: 1:32:14

* w/ Calexico
^ Loose Fur cover

Enjoy this concert, acting as the "opener" to Paul McCartney, prior to their summer tour with Bob Dylan.


Summer comes and gravity undoes you
You're happy because the lovely way the sunshine bends
Hiding from your close friends
Weeding out the weekends

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day to the DDD Club

Happy Father's Day to all members of the DDD Club. Not Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Not cup size (although I salute you as well). The Deadhead Daddies of Daughters. A few kind videos for your Father's Day enjoyment.

Two Tunes

Love the One You're with & Scarlet Begonias


Love the One You're with

If you're down and confused
And you don't remember who you're talking too
Concentration slips away
Cause you're baby is so far away
Well there's a rose in the fisted glove
And eagle flies with the dove
And if you can't be with the one you love honey
Love the one you're with
Don't be angry - don't be sad
Don't sit crying over good times you've had
There's a girl right next to you
And she's just waiting for something to do
Doo doo doo doo
Turn your heartache right into joy
Cause she's a girl and you're a boy
Get it together come on make it nice
You ain't gonna need anymore advice

Scarlet Begonias

As I was walkin' 'round Grosvenor Square
Not a chill to the winter but a nip to the air,
From the other direction, she was calling my eye,
It could be an illusion, but I might as well try, might as well try.

She had rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes.
And I knew without askin' she was into the blues.
She wore scarlet begonias tucked into her curls,
I knew right away she was not like other girls, other girls.

In the thick of the evening when the dealing got rough,
She was too pat to open and too cool to bluff.
As I picked up my matches and was closing the door,
I had one of those flashes I'd been there before, been there before.

Well, I ain't always right but I've never been wrong.
Seldom turns out the way it does in a song.
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.

Well there ain't nothing wrong with the way she moves,
Scarlet begonias or a touch of the blues.
And there's nothing wrong with the look that's in her eyes,

Wind in the willow's playin' "Tea for Two";
The sky was yellow and the sun was blue,
Strangers stoppin' strangers just to shake their hand,
Everybody's playing in the heart of gold band, heart of gold band.

Third Tune: Black Queen

Pretty badass, youtube says this version is from 83, but from the sound of the band and the venue, I'm thinking it's from 69. Stills sat in with the Dead three times, and played Black Queen with them twice, in 69 and 83. There's also a demo recording of Stills hanging with Crosby and Nash saying he wrote Black Queen for the Dead, and all praising them for being a phenomenal band that just hadn't quite figured it out in the studio yet.

China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Black Peter, Me & My Uncle, Cold Rain & Snow, Mama Tried > High Time, Easy Wind, Dire Wolf, Casey Jones*, Good Morning Little School Girl*, Morning Dew*, Black Queen* > Turn On Your Love Light*, Cryptical Envelopment > Drums > The Other One > Cryptical Envelopment > Cosmic Charlie
* with Stephen Stills.


Minglewood Blues, Tennessee Jed, Me & My Uncle-> Mexicali Blues, Bird Song, My Brother Esau, West L.A. Fadeaway, Maybe You Know, Looks Like Rain-> Touch Of Gray China Cat Sunflower-> I Know You Rider-> Uncle John's Band-> Truckin'-> Drumz-> Black Queen*-> Iko Iko*-> Bob Star-> The Other One-> Black Peter-> One More Saturday Night*, E: Johnny B. Goode*
 * with Stephen Stills.


 Touch Of Gray-> Little Red Rooster, Dupree's Diamond Blues-> Beat It On Down T Help On The Way-> Slipknot!-> Franklin's Tower-> Women Are Smarter-> Playin' In The Band-> Drums-> Love The One You're With*-> The Wheel-> Playin' In The Band-> Throwing Stones-> Not Fade Away*, E: Brokedown Palace
 * with Stephen Stills.