How exactly are Grateful dead 'psychedelic'?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by holyroller, Sep 10, 2019.

  1. dsdu

    dsdu less serious minor pest

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    Game, Set, Match. Case closed.
     
  2. ATR

    ATR Senior Member

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    Baystate
    On several threads asking for a definition of psychedelic music I've said it's whatever you're listening to while under the influence of psychedelics. It's not musical terminology don't you know.
     
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  3. lc1995

    lc1995 Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York
    It's pretty clear IMO that they ditched psychedelia after Aoxomoa. They made a conscious effort to go in a CSNY direction and never looked back.
     
  4. ATR

    ATR Senior Member

    Location:
    Baystate
    I wouldn't say they ditched it completely, and to nitpick Live Dead was released after Aoxomoxoa. But they did go in a different direction with Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. I think even in more lysergic times they were intent on infusing their music with a variety of flavors that included blues, jug band music, folk, traditional, R&B, country, and rock and roll. What changed the band in the 70's, as much as the increased scrutability of Hunter's lyrics and decreased extended jams, was the change in personnel with the death of Pigpen and exits of TC and Mickey Hart. There was also the pivot from acid to narcotics and cocaine and the establishment of the Deadhead cult(ure) that necessitated performances in stadiums and arenas. Through it all they managed to keep some of the psychedelic classics in the book like The Other One, Drums, and I think something they called Space. I checked out pretty much in the early to mid 70's myself. The entire psychedelic thing derived from the acid tests, which we all know and love to recall. You weren't going to recreate an experience like that. Right set, maybe. After '72 or so definitely wrong setting.
     
  5. Trainspotting

    Trainspotting Senior Member

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    Los Angeles
    Just curious, which bands didn't "ditch psychedelia" in the '70s?
     
  6. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

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    Sherwood, OR, USA
    Grateful Dead made a conscious effort to go in a direction of aimless noodling jams.

    (I have a friend who calls the Dead aimless noodling. It's hard to deny that when you listen to their live shows. But I don't really agree with that characterization.)
     
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  7. lc1995

    lc1995 Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York
    They pretty much all did but it was a more drastic change for the Dead who went from full blown psychedelia to full blown folk/country rock.

    And with Tom Constanten's departure, the organ was used much less frequently. Compare that to Deep Purple, where the organ was still a huge part of their sound even in the mid 70s.
     
  8. lc1995

    lc1995 Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York
    I don't even think it took until Mickey Hart's departure. By Woodstock and especially the end if 69, they were headed in that direction already. And Tom Constanten being gone made a big difference because Pig was relegated to congas, harmonica, and singing rather than being a full time keyboard player like in 65 to 68.
     
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  9. ATR

    ATR Senior Member

    Location:
    Baystate
    Everything mattered, everything made a difference. Debating what was most important is arguing how many angels are dancing on the head of that pin. But I suppose debating is what we do here. And Trainspotting's point is also right on. There's a paragraph in Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail about the mood of the country switching from psychedelic to narcotic in the early 70's that I can't be bothered to look up right now, but you can take my word for it that it's there. Anyway photo of Owsley with Garcia upthread says it all. Dead were The psychedelic band. They played the acid tests. End of story as to how they were psychedelic to answer the OP's question.
     
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  10. Trainspotting

    Trainspotting Senior Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Organ per se doesn't exactly scream "psychedelic" though, any more than other instruments, and Deep Purple certainly weren't psych in the '70s even with all that organ. The Dead's country rock phase lasted for two albums in 1970, still sounding lysergically enhanced I might add. They never stopped sounding psychedelic in a live environment either.

    One could make a good case for the Grateful Dead waving the banner for psychedelic music longer than any other '60s band.
     
  11. cartologist

    cartologist Just the son of an Iowa girl

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    MA, USA
    By definition.
     
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  12. jamesmaya

    jamesmaya Senior Member

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    Mudwest, SoCal
    The Dead, Airplane, Quicksilver, Big Brother, CJ & the Fish, etc. - they were all psychedelic bands regardless of the broad musical palette that they happened to draw from. Their commonality was a creative sensitivity that was informed through the psychedelic experience, with music made to take the listener on a trip and blow their mind.

    As Timothy Leary put it, “The authentic priests, the real prophets of this great movement are the rock-and-roll musicians. Acid-rock is the hymns, odes, chants of the turned-on love generation. For the first time in history, teen-agers (our new advanced mutant species) have written their own songs, beat their own rhythm, created their own religion.”

    Those were interesting times.:)
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2021
  13. ATR

    ATR Senior Member

    Location:
    Baystate
    How does the word psychedelic and the feeling of consciousness expansion and loosening of psychological boundaries and ties to the ego attach to a musical genre anyway? Just curious. I have my own idea of what psychedelic music is, but I would say it’s different for every listener who thinks about it and pretty subjective.
     
  14. Deadhead Dave

    Deadhead Dave Well-Known Member

    Location:
    California
    I guess I am rather late to this discussion, and had to join the site just to give my opinion. Grateful Dead albums are largely crap... and thats not just my opinion but theirs as well. Their live shows were where the weirdness lies... to this day.

    But before that, I think there is at least some confusion from the OP. Psychedelic music is what, sir? Pink Floyd? The Doors? And what makes them psychedelic? Because they use a fuzzy guitar sound or weird synthy effects? Well... I beg to differ.
    To me at least, psychedelic music is music that is psychedelic not when you are sitting in your living room or driving your car, but while YOU are indeed in a psychedelic space or mindset. Do you have to take LSD to like the Dead? NO. Not at all...

    ...but do you need to take psychedelics to understand the answer to your question. In short, the Dead are not really that psychedelic... until you take psychedelics and appreciate it. Its literally as if they were playing two concerts: One for the regular folk and one for the trippers... it just happens simultaneously and isnt noticed by anyone. I have taken LSD and mushrooms many, many, many times over the past 33 years... and listened to all kinds of music "psychdelic" and otherwise (for the record, Willie Nelson is probably the farthest from weird you can think of... trust me, weird as ****!!!! Prince, weird as ****. Disco stuff from the 70's, weird as ****.). Pink Floyd and Hendrix seem (to my ears, and many others) to be OVERY produced and too much studio gimmickary just to make it "sound weird" But it feels very predictable and so not weird (for the most part). The Doors? Way, way too dark for me and my crew... but yes, very weird. No doubt. And yes, Strange Days is quite an experience (Horse Laittudes is better though... again, for actual trippers). The Dead? Trust me on this, far exceed the ability of any of those bands (and anyone since) at conjouring a TRUE psychedelic experience... and Garcia was a major perpetrator of the weirdness. His playing takes you on a journey no matter what year the show is from, and his voice vacsilated from a cute elf in his younger years to a grizzly and wise old prospector as he aged. He was special. They all were. But dude, you dont rate psycedelic music sober. Come on. You dont rate a race car driver by having a car show. Pink Floyd is like a psychedelic orchestra... always on point, always recreating the album. The dead are the opposite of that... always reaching, always searching... always trying to get to the next unexplored space... and, not always succeeding. To me, thats the sign of a true deadhead is to not get upset when they dont deliver, but applaude them for taking the chance. Like the tight rope walker at the circus, you dont want to see him fall... and when he does you do not ever doubt his courage, and you still nod your head and clap.

    A friend of mine explained it as closely as anyone I have heard attempt to explain the inexplicable: "When you take doses, its almost as it your ears become like a dogs... able to hear things that really might not be there to the human ear"

    Trust me, put some dog ears on and give it a try... you wont die. And I assure you that you will get the answer you are looking for.

    "I will not forgive you, if you will not take the chance..."
    Terrapin Station
    Hunter/Garcia
     
  15. trd

    trd Forum Resident

    Location:
    Berkeley
    I find it amusing that anyone would have the hubris to declare the Grateful Dead as insufficiently psychedelic. Its kind of cute. Sure thing, sport - whatever you say.
     
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  16. WilliamWes

    WilliamWes Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York
    I know Grateful Dead fans are some of the greatest fans in any medium ever but this is an easy answer - of course The Grateful Dead were psychedelic early on, but they have so many rock songs and jams that could qualify as folk-rock or country rock or straight rock, blues rock - so it's very hard to just qualify them as a total psych band that never made a claim or had fame in any other area. They were great at so many things, it's understandable if some of their most psych stuff -the early stuff after the debut gets overshadowed by some of the more well known songs.

    Another reason is that classic rock radio was more willing to play their other genre excursions besides psych - then again radio always only skims the surface - but it can lead to a non-psych impression for the uninitiated.
     
  17. Archtop

    Archtop Soft Dead Crimson Cow

    I think too many people view terms like "psychedelic" or even "punk" too much from the perspective of a record store placard instead of from the perspective of a philosophical approach. On May 17, 1966, Dylan was being a punk when he confronted his audience and proclaimed "I don't believe you, you're a liar." Does that mean Dylan plays punk music? Well, from the standard social perspective, no; but that's only because people have a mindset about what punk music is and isn't. But music played by someone who is behaving like a punk is, by any rational definition, some form of punk music.

    The same goes for psychedelia. Psychedelic music is played by people who have immersed themselves in that realm. The GD have lived on this plane we all live on but they've also spent plenty of time on another plane that exists within the "turned on mind." Think about it: the GoGD did things live that no other band would rationally do. In the middle of perfectly good jams, they'd randomly float out of tonality into complete anarchy and then back into "normalcy." This is their collective mindset existing on two planes at the same time and being expressed in their playing. This is the band taking the listener out of their comfortable, standard plane of existence and thrusting them (with no choice other than to leave) into a somewhat disconcerting but oddly compelling plane of existence. This is the very essence of what psychedelic means.

    If anyone is game for a really good example, see this Playing in the Band--> The Wheel--> Playing in the Band video from 2/26/77, San Bernadino, CA. If you're up for the whole 24 minutes, go for it, but I want to call attention to a segment from ~8:00-9:00. Start around the 8:00 mark for context. At ~8:23, it's likely Mickey who starts hammering away at a pang cymbal (blame @AxiomAcoustics if I'm wrong :nyah:) and it sort of triggers the band to change planes. Jerry introduces a single note tremelo-picking thing at 8:27 and Phil signals tonality departure at 8:34 with a "blue note" as it were, and you can actually begin to sense the music vortexing at this point. The band is bringing you with them to the other plane in the only way they can (if only for a brief glimpse and a safe return). The vortex continues to swirl until you fall back out of the metaphysical portal (it exists, at least conceptually, but as to actual physical existence, I can't speculate nor do I need to), which Phil slams shut with a glorious triple-stop at 8:56. By the 9:00 mark, everything is pretty much back to normal, only you don't really view where you've returned to in quite the same way (because, if you like this sort of music, you likely have an ridiculously wide grin at this point):



    The reason Grateful Dead had the balls to do this sort of thing is because they knew how to go there and more importantly, they knew how to get back. If this isn't psychedelia, I don't know what is. As Mickey Hart says: "In case you thought I was in the music business, I'm actually in the transportation business."
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2022
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  18. Greenalishi

    Greenalishi Birds Aren’t Real

    Location:
    San Francisco
    The Dead’s approach is psychedelic. Their rhythm. Robert Hunters words. Jerry’s walk. Their feel. When they cover Motown it’s psychedelic. They can’t be anything else.
     
  19. If you have to ask this question, then the answer will not make any sense to you.
     
  20. speedracer

    speedracer Forum Resident

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  21. Trainspotting

    Trainspotting Senior Member

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    Los Angeles
    Of course they're psychedelic. This question was answered a long time ago.
     
  22. Lightworker

    Lightworker Forum Resident

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    Deep Texas
    Relatively Clean Rivers...for sure.

    [​IMG]
     
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  23. 131east23

    131east23 Person of Interest

    Psychedelic music, I can almost hear it in Donovan's music where he introduces the sitar. But I wouldn't say that his recorded music is psychedelic. Even Jefferson Airplane, who I would include as a psychedelic band, I don't always hear the psychedelic signatures in all of their recorded songs. When JA was on stage doing Fat Angel or Saturday Afternoon, that is purely psychedelic, and to me even though I never saw any of these bands live I would venture to say that it is their live shows that distinguish whether they were psychedelic or not. I was listening to Bless It's Pointed Little Head last night and yes, I would say that was psychedelic, even though some songs were delivered pretty straight ahead. With the Grateful Dead, when they are in THAT groove, more than any other band their songs remind of those long Indian Ragas that you can lose yourself in. JA's live version of Fat Angel is very similar to that raga groove and to me that is my definition of psychedelic. I love the live version of Wharf Rat, even with the consistent lyrics and less jamming the 'raga' is there. So, if I had to offer up three examples to the OP, the live versions of JA's Fat Angel, The Dead's live Wharf Rat and of course Dark Star, live. It has to be live. The recorded version of these songs only alludes to their potential as psychedelic masterpieces.
     
  24. Jack_Straw

    Jack_Straw Forum Resident

    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Great example, and I love the fact that you went to '77 Dead for it! (one of their tightest, most "accessible" years, but they still had the goods)
     
  25. bluesky

    bluesky Forum Resident

    Location:
    south florida, usa
    How exactly are Grateful dead 'psychedelic'?

    You had to be there. If you were there ... then you would know why. :)
     

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