What music pops into your head when Spring rolls around?
The joy of watching sprouts come out of the ground and the unexplainable feeling you get after the long New England winter never fails to stir my musical soul. In recent years, I’ve found the Grateful Dead popping up a lot more than they used to; which was never. When I was younger, I could never understand what people saw in that outdated bunch of pot smoking oldsters. The didn’t rock at all; they didn’t even look like rock stars, and occasionally their music sounded like, gasp, folk music! I remember when I was in college and they came to UMO. I looked out my Dunn Hall (“Corbett Sucks!!”) window at the Alfond Arena, packed with whirling dervishes feeling some connection to this band that just didn’t friggin’ rock at all! I didn’t get it.
Years went by. My friend Mark and I learned (he better than I) to play music on real instruments and thus to turn what we had been listening to into some sort of reality (certainly in some cases, mercy would have been served had this not been so). Mark, flexing his musical muscle, suggested at one point that the band play some Grateful Dead songs. I reluctantly agreed, figuring I could put up with anything for a while and we played “Don’t Fade Away” - and perhaps others that have vanished from my memory of that time. It had a groove, I’d give it that. At times, I enjoyed playing that funky drum part, but like the Cat that Walks by Himself, I told no one.
More years pass. I buy my first house ever in the wonderful township of Post Mills, Vermont. Shortly after I move in, I throw a little party and Mark comes up for the weekend. Saturday morning, we do our Thetford, Vermont duty and run down to the recycling center during the three hours a week that it’s open. Well lo and behold, over by the junk shed is a big pile of records… I check them out. There are some good ones and they seem in decent shape. Faster than you can say “Jack Robinson” they are hoisted into the back of the Jeep and home they go. That same weekend, I stopped at a typical Vermont yard sale as I think I see some records. I do. They are in good shape. I pay and hoist.
Later on – and I mean it: I still haven’t got through all these records – I discover a bunch of Grateful Dead records – and I mean all the classics – amongst this pile ‘o vinyl. I check them out, but quietly and in the privacy of my own home. One fine Spring day when Meg is visiting and we’re doing some yard work outside, she suggests some Dead on the stereo (it might have been “Europe ’72”). It proves to be highly effective.
Over time, the Grateful Dead have grown and grown and grown and grown on me. I appreciate the honest delivery. The non-picture perfect presentation. The earnestness. In short, I appreciate the involvement with the music: I could play with these guys and it would sound good! Well OK, not good but, OK. They felt the music, took the risks, and every once and a while would just blow your mind.
So for me the Spring makes me pull those records out – to toss on the “Hundred Year Hall” that my brother (a repeat offender at the RFK court of the Dead) bought for me in Santa Cruz, to fire up the “Scarlet Begonias / Fire on the Mountain” Ithica medley that emerged from the Napster years, and to just sit down and grooooove to “Terrapin Station”, the first song Meg brought to play on my new Aerial 10T’s so many years ago. It just feels right to me.