Dylan & the Grateful Dead

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

3-9-81 MSG, my first GD show, thirty years ago today




The twang of Garcia’s guitar was exotic. I felt like I was waltzing into a Hawaiian adventure as I found our seats in the 400 section during the "Feel Like a Stranger opener." That afternoon I had convinced two of my misfit high school acquaintances to see the Grateful Dead with me.I was sixteen and the date was on March 9,1981. We didn’t see much, there was six guys on stage but the music was thundering.

After settling into a few numbers, Jerry came through with with the song I desired, "Ramble on Rose." I knew this was the beginning of some magnificent obsession. The Garden rumbled when Jerry sang, “Just like New York City, just like Jericho.” Garcia sang in ragtime and let an ear-splitting solo fly. I found my calling, I’d be rambling with Jerry. It was a differnt story for Tom and Don, the cats who had joined me, they were sound asleep.

"Ramble on Rose" became my favorite song on January 24, 1981, the day I was first bitten by the Dead. It's a night I rememeber oh so well. I was in the Nassau Coliseum watching Islander hockey. The splendid French Canadian, Michael Bossy, became the second hockey player in NHL history to score fifty goals in the first fifty games of the season. Goals 49 ad 50 rifled into the back of the net with less than five minutes remaining in the game. Impressive. But nothing like the jaunt home in the backseat of my friend's Honda Civic.

Seymour cranked Europe 72 on the ride home. I knew some basic Grateful Dead, but this album blew my mind, especially "Ramble on Rose." I was drwan to the weirdness of it all. What other band had songs that sounded like "Jack Straw" or "China Cat?" The next day, I purchased every album in the GD record bin at Tapesville USA, a record shop in front of the Nanuet Mall.

Historical Note: Bob Dylan arrived in New York City on January 24, 1961, twenty years earlier than Bossy’s historic performance, and my acceptance of Jerry Garcia as the center of the universe. January 24th is a day of holy ascension.

“Oh sweet Mama, your daddy’s got them Deep Elem Blues.” We’re back at MSG on 3-9-81. Never heard the song but I was digging the shindig. The second set opened with "China Cat." Garcia stroked his kitty with manic delight. I was lost, his guitar improv was too wild for my adolescent mind. The jam was a work of sheer genius that I could only grasp when I heard it a month later. The band tore up "I Know You Rider:" the jams exploded and Garcia, bellowed "I wish I was headlight on a northbound train," with a furious guitar lick pinned on the train. Rider rolled into an expansive "Samson and Delilah." Estimated lingered in an endless jam which evolved into "Uncle John’s Band." Everything was hypnotic - I was in a haze as I listened to this new musical language. There were Drums, Space and a few more tunes which seemed to take another hour before they landed into "Good Lovin."

This dynamo of show was too much for me to grasp in one bite. The Dead defied musical theory and time, pouring unlimited psychedelic mojo into their performance. A few days after the concert, I better understood live Dead after acquiring a bootleg of Englishtown 77. I would spend the next five years listening to nothing but Jerry. I scrambled after bootleg tapes of any quality.The Grateul Dead could eviscerate any musical barrier. Understaning Dead dialect took skill, but once you were there, there was no going back. It was in your blood. Your lust for their music could never be satisfied, More More More.

3-9-81 Highlights
1. Best China Cat Rider since 1974
2. Second best Feel Like a Stranger (11-10-85 Brendon Byrne Arena #1)
3. Excellent versions of Althea, Estimated Prophet> Uncle John's Band and The Other One
4. An electric Deep Elem Blues

The tone of Garcia's guitar is provocative, one of the most interesting shows to listen to.

I went on to see GD 152 times, and 54 JGB shows...Selah