Certain Songs #542: The Grateful Dead – “Sugar Magnolia (Paris, 1972)”

Grateful Dead Europe 72 Album: Europe ’72
Year: 1972

I saw The Grateful Dead three times in the 1980s. The first time was in February 1982 at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus with Tim & Larry, though exactly why, I’m not sure, since most of my road trips around that time were to see folks that were higher in my personal pantheon, like The Who or The Kinks or Bruce Springsteen or Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Guessing that Larry, who spent more time than anybody probably should have playing Dead music for me, had something to do with that one.

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Certain Songs #541: The Grateful Dead – “Playing in the Band (Live 1971)”

grateful dead skull & roses Album: Grateful Dead
Year: 1971

How many Grateful Dead live albums are there by now? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Early on, they realized that their ability to take the same song in different directions on different nights was something their fans treasured, and from 1969 – 1973, they released eight discs worth of live recordings.

For most bands, this would have been seen as flooding the market, but for Deadheads it wasn’t nearly enough, so — with the band’s blessing — the taping and trading of shows abounded, which was an awesome community-building (and keeping) concept that probably arose from a combination of understanding fandom and hippie anti-materialism.

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Certain Songs #540: The Grateful Dead – “Friend of The Devil”

grateful dead american beauty Album: American Beauty
Year: 1970

If I was forced at gunpoint to choose my favorite song by The Grateful Dead (and seriously, who would ever actually do that?), it would be the outlaw fantasia “Friend of The Devil,” one of the key tracks on their 1971 classic American Beauty.

I’m definitely not alone in this, of course, and while I don’t really remember “Friend of The Devil” being on the radio in the same way as its contemporaries such as “Casey Jones” and “Truckin,'” over the years, it’s the song that has come to define the Dead for me.

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Certain Songs #539: The Grateful Dead – “Cream Puff War”

grateful dead Album: The Grateful Dead
Year: 1967

I’m not even sure where to begin with The Grateful Dead. So let me start with this: regardless of how I’ve ever felt about their music, I always loved how much they understood and respected their fans.

In terms of creating and fostering a community — especially their deep understanding that fans recording and sharing their shows was the best thing possible for their music — around their music, they were absolute role models, emulated by bands like R.E.M., Wilco & The Hold Steady.

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Certain Songs #538: Grant Lee Buffalo – “The Hook”

grant lee buffalo Album: Fuzzy
Year: 1993

You young’uns who only know Grant-Lee Phillips as the Stars Hollow town troubadour in Gilmore Girls might be surprised that — for a short while in 1993 — Grant Lee Buffalo felt like the most important band in the world.

That’s because of the initial impact of their debut album Fuzzy, which somehow felt like the first album full of what Mike Scott of The Waterboys called “The Big Music” since The Waterboys abandoned the — well, “genre” is far too strong of a word but it’s all I got here — genre with Fisherman’s Blues.

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