If You Hate The Dead…

The Grateful Dead’s Legacy of Awful Music

A good summary of the anti-Dead perspective.

On a personal note:  back in the 80’s I found myself in a short,  ill-advised relationship with a neo-hippie chick.  Because I will listen to anything once, I allowed myself to be subjected to a fair cross-section of their live and studio recordings.  What I heard was not one, but TWO drummers who couldn’t keep time (where else but in 60’s San Francisco could two such creatures be found?), a bass player who aimlessly noodles when he should be anchoring the song, meandering guitar solos (see article for a good description of those), silly-sounding harmonies, and songs that were either watered down country–country without the requisite redneck element–or jazz without the requisite improvisational talent.  In short, to my ears, they couldn’t play, sing, or write.  Other than that, great band.

And while it’s true that I was prejudiced because I hate jam bands, it’s also true that I at least respect ones who can play.  I never liked the Allman Bros., but I’m forced to admit their musicianship was top-notch.  Hell, Duane Allman even worked as a session guy in Muscle Shoals.  I believe Jerry Garcia would have been laughed out of the room.

6 Replies to “If You Hate The Dead…”

  1. As the token jam band aficionado, I have to say that I get why people think this way, but I still like a lot of jam bands. Well a few anyway. The studio albums don’t do much for me, but a good live recording does. That being said, I don’t understand how the Dead got as big as they were, and why so many people turned into burnouts and followed them on tour. I’m more of a Widespread Panic fan (yes, I do realize how frat boy that sounds) but those guys can f-ing rock. Their original stuff is good, but the songs they cover are so good. Black Sabbath, Talking Heads, Pink Floyd, Curtis Mayfield, etc etc. And, for the record, I’m not a fan of these long drown out guitar solos. Keep it reasonable. Anyway, I get how this stuff isn’t everyone’s jam, but I dig it. This stuff isn’t in the usual music rotation lately, but I won’t hit the “next” button if Jerry and the boys come up on a playlist…

  2. “They have the worst rhythm section in rock. Their meandering shithead bass player has awful instincts and no help from the band’s two off-time drummers. Neither drummer provides a steady pulse. They take turns falling off the beat and hitting sloppy drum rolls to catch up.”

  3. I went to college in the Bay Area, where it was local ordinance to adore them. One of my roommates – a bassist – raved about them , and played cassette bootlegs constantly.
    They played campus nearly every year. My first impression was “they can’t sing”, and I failed to find anything much redeeming in the whole experience.

    Thanks for this!

    1. Ha ha.

      I did my part for the cause in college, purchasing and frequently wearing a T-shirt that said, “I’ll be grateful when they’re dead.”

  4. You’re welcome. I used to think that the Dead phenomenon wasn’t really about music, that the music was just incidental to the real attraction: communal drug abuse. That view was widely held among Dead haters. There was a joke floating around about a deadhead forgetting to take his drugs and realizing they sucked. But that doesn’t explain the mania for live bootleg tapes. For some people it really was about music, which I do not get at all.

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