I don't know now, I just don't know ... if I'm goin' back again.

Posted On: Tuesday - November 26th 2019 8:02PM MST
In Topics: 
  Music  The Dead

Just looking under the topic key, we've only been putting up 3 or 4 Dead songs yearly, not counting the obligatory US Blues on the 4th each year. That's not right.

A new reader of Peak Stupidity had never even heard of this band, but can be forgiven, due to "not bein' from 'round heah". We covered this odd thing in "Classic (rock) Europe.

Anyway, if you're new to The Dead, it may be better to hear a clearer version of one of the shorter songs from the studio first. Although the summer-of-1970 album Workingman's Dead had a more well-known song called Casey Jones about "driving that train, high on cocaine .." this song, the Cumberland Blues has a combination of a historical working-man theme with a bluegrass sound from the origins of the band. It is not a blues song at all, though they've sure got some of that too. This tune is pretty different and not at all easy to sing, which why I'm presenting the version off the album.

Most Dead fans like the live music, as it could have been played many different ways, and Jerry had the longer lead guitar parts when live. That's mostly what Peak Stupidity presents, but here is the studio version of Cumberland Blues with banjo and all. (I don't hear the banjo in the live versions, but YMMV.)

Did you note that the tune does not resolve itself, in musical theory terms, until the last 45 seconds or so? On the live versions, Jerry plays those leads, which take you in a different direction. Still, FINALLY after 5 minutes or more, the song gets back to where it needs to.

From Oakland, California, on the last day of 1982, here is a decent live version. Yes, it's hard to sing, and no, they (especially Jerry) aren't doing a great job on the vocals. It didn't matter - the fat man rocked!

Thursday - November 28th 2019 8:41AM MST
PS: I wish I could have seen them that far back. My first exposure was seeing them play "Alabama Getaway" on Saturday Night Live, of all things. I don't think I was able to go to see a show until 5 years later, but, hey, they still had a good 10 years in 'em even then.

Thanks for all your comments, Ganderson. I figured you'd have to chime in on this one, but I put the song up for a reader I know who has never heard of this band, I mean ... I can't even ...

If that's a good (proto-) "US Blues" I'll post that one on the 4th.
Thursday - November 28th 2019 7:57AM MST
PS I figure I pretty much have an obligation to chime in on these posts, so here goes-
The fat man does indeed rock! His gift for melody is unparalleled in the rock and roll world.

And since you mentioned “US Blues” check this out- a proto-US Blues from 1973, which in my view is tied with 1977 as the band’s best year.

I may have told the story before, but I’m old and you have to indulge me. When I was a junior in high school, In the fall of 1970 I did a report for Mr. Montgomery’s English class: topic? The history of rock ‘n’ roll. The name Grateful Dead kept popping up. Now I fancied myself pretty hip to the music scene, but I’ve never heard of these guys. I was intrigued. They got very little radio airplay, so three dollars in hand, I went down to the local record store and picked up a copy of Aoxomoxoa. I was enchanted by its weirdness. Then I discovered that the band was playing at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. I bought a ticket to the first show, and after it was all over I found myself regretting not getting a ducat for the nightcap. Been hooked ever since. I fell lucky to have seen Pig Pen in the flesh ( they closed with “Good Lovin’) an am very much enjoying the current incarnation- the little skinny guy rocks too!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
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