I’ll admit it, I’m not much of a Grateful Dead fan. I was never introduced to them properly, I believe my first exposure to them was in 8th grade when “Touch of Grey” came out. That’s a fine pop song for radio or whatever, but it did not peak my interest in digging deeper which is kind of surprising because around the same time I was getting heavily into bands like The Beatles, Stones, Doors, etc and you’d think the Dead would be right up my alley but they never took hold. Around my senior year in high school I did acquire a book written by Mickey Hart called “Drumming at the Edge of Magic” and read it with great interest. The book kind of served a dual purpose, on the one hand it gave a brief history of Mickey’s involvement with the Grateful Dead but it also delved into the many ways to create beats and rhythm using methods that date back to ancient times. A very enjoyable book (and accompanying CD, "Planet Drum") but getting me excited about listening to the Grateful Dead, it did not.
In the mid-90s PBS put out a great series on the History of Rock and Roll, in the series there are interviews with Phil Lesh and Jerry Garcia. Their stories were incredible and interesting to hear but again, did not spark interest in getting to know the Dead’s music. By the end of the century I had pretty much given up on ever liking the Dead but I did have a respect and appreciation for what they accomplished and how they accomplished it.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I’m starting on a new painting for the Old Rock House of Mickey Hart. I had gone to the show and got some nice shots of Mickey playing. The music was more aligned with what was on the “Planet Drum” CD and it was really cool to see him play live. So, I tried again with the Dead and with internet sites like Grooveshark and Spotify it was so easy to cue up. I started at the beginning with the first album. The first few songs did not hold my attention so I moved on to the second album, “Anthem of the Sun”, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. Here’s a quick list of other great albums released in 1968 and I’d say “Anthem” is every bit as great as any of these.
“White Light/White Heat” The Velvet Underground “The United States of America” The United States of America “Dance to the Music” Sly & the Family Stone “A Saucerful of Secrets” Pink Floyd “Creedence Clearwater Revival” Creedence Clearwater Revival “Waiting for the Sun” The Doors “Music from Big Pink” The Band “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” The Byrds “Electric Ladyland” The Jimi Hendrix Experience “the Beatles” The Beatles “The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society” The Kinks “Astral Weeks” Van Morrison “Beggars Banquet” The Rolling Stones
OK, I could go on but you get the idea. So I’m late coming to the Dead table but based on just “Anthem of the Sun” I can finally see how they attained legendary status.