Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Greatest Cover Songs #623
NFA, GD, ATX, 71

Speaking of my previous failures at blogging, I once wrote on the Grateful Dead's 11/15/1971 show in Austin, TX [streaming]. Good show. Besides being a Texas show, it's known mainly for two things: the first-set "Dark Star > El Paso > Dark Star" [tracks 9-11] - a pretty crazy combination. That's a psychedelic trip into the cosmic void, enveloping a Marty Robbins tune... (~26 min)

But we're here to listen to the "Not Fade Away" [track 23 ff.], a pretty common Dead cover. One of a few Buddy Holly signature tunes, it was also an early Rolling Stones chestnut. The Grateful Dead trade a little of the Bo Diddley beat for something a bit more tribal, but typically use it as a launching pad for... something.

Buddy Holly
Here they break pretty far away, introduce bits and pieces of other Dead songs ("China > Rider"), delve into some high psychedelia, rave on, conjure a deep pulsating jam, then clear out down the folky road, and finally bring it all back to Buddy Holly again (~25 min). Within just a few years, even the Grateful Dead wouldn't still be jamming this way anymore, but this is what it was really all about: free-form, unpredictable, symbiotic interplay that makes the improvisation sound rehearsed. Not everyone's bag, I can dig it.

The Rolling Stones
Actually, I just realized looking at the setlist, that it's a cornucopia of covers. "BIODTL" is Jesse Fuller. "El Paso." "Me & My Uncle" was written by Papa John Phillips. "Me & Bobby McGee" was written by Kris Kristofferson, popularized by Pigpen's buddy Janis Joplin. Hank Williams' "You Win Again." Buddy Holly... and the interpolation "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" is an early-20th century Traditional. It's been covered by lots of people, including Woody Guthrie. And of course Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," wellspring of rock-n-roll!


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