Author Topic: Why I no longer hate the Grateful Dead after watching Long Strange Trip  (Read 213 times)

mostlymeat

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Movie Review: Long Strange Trip (2017)

A band from Palo Alto trips their way into inventing jam-bandism and a laughably moronic rock and roll cult.

This fantastic 4 hour documentary about the Grateful Dead began streaming at midnight on Friday, so I dutifully began watching it at 12:01. Ever since devoting my late teens to this band I have been searching for a reason why. I've since filed '87-'89 away as "wasted years" and often wonder "what could have been" if I hadn't been driving around with the great mass of unwashed tramps and transients just hoping to hear another great version of "Truckin'", but answers have always eluded me.

After revisting album after album and watching countless other docs and youtubes on this band, Long Strange Trip finally puts it in a perspective I can understand, and for perhaps the first time relieves my shame as it spells out exactly why a young person might get swept up in the hoopla. For one thing, the movie only uses the best of the band's music (which I would generously measure as 2 to 5% of their total output). Jerry sang in tune maybe 10% of the time? And Bob's voice is maybe only slightly more interesting than listening to your accountant sing, but I guess if you play music constantly for 30 years there is 4 hours worth that is very good, and they did a great job digging it up for this movie.

Secondly, the film puts the cult of the deadheads in the context of a feel-good counterculture, which in the '80s was hard to come by. Watching the footage from those years, I remembered that their was no access to youtubes, or news, or any information - if all you had was a copy of Working Man's Dead, some creepy skeleton imagery, and a handful of drugs, who wouldn't want to climb on board?

Unforunately the movie only barely mentions one of the most interesting characters in the Grateful Dead story: Owsley "Bear" Stanley, the genius who financed the band in the early days thanks to his lucrative LSD manufacturing business. If I had my druthers they would make an episodic TV show based on the band when they lived in Watts, when Bear made LSD in the attic and they tripped 24-7 in the riot-ravaged Los Angeles neighborhood. Imagine the hi-jinks!

Check it out if you are into naked hippies, local television news through the ages, or re-framing all of the ideas you have about your own childhood.

buffcoat

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Owsley Stanley, forever etched in (terrible?) marble as Steely Dan's Kid Charlemagne.

I understand where you're coming from about the Grateful Dead. I feel the same about KISS (when I was 12-15) and, er, Ayn Rand for about two weeks freshman year of college.
I really don't appreciate your sarcastic, anti-comedy tone, Bro!

 

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