Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Music for Spring

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 When I was younger, I could never understand what people saw in that outdated bunch of pot smoking oldsters.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.

Ah Spring!


  1. mmmmmm Fine spring days create the urge to blast Handel's Water Music and lately (GASP!) Tim Hardin, Jesse Winchester and Judy Collins singing Dylan. Fondest Spring music memories are of Kevin and I riding around in the old Honda with the top open singing along with Randy Travis. These are but a minute few of the many many illustrations which cause me to believe I am actually adopted :>) Rock ON!

    Ty, you write

  2. I want to follow up to this post with some other thoughts but I'm right with you: Water Music is one of the things that pops into my head!

    Rainy here again - maybe we need a rainy day music post!

  3. The first time I was introduced to the Dead, I was on a class field trip to Plymouth Mass. My most most musicly incline buddy, who has a collection of CD's that would rival yours(in numbers)had Skeletons In the Closet and I borrowed it for about 20 miles. I gave it back, wondering what all the fuss was about, thinking it was boring and that I couldn't even understand the lyrics. Years passed before Sammy reintroduce the Dead to me. It slowly grew on me once I started to apreciate the content in most of the songs. So, like you Ty, I despised and now love the Dead. Not quite as much as Sammy or Rod, but I love em. My "morning song", which is somewhat similar to "spring music" has changed from Dire Straits "Walk of Life" to "Shakedown Street". Very few people my age jam to the Dead...give them time.
    Love Kevin

  4. alas no adoption jokes or GASP folkie comments!

  5. you all are related to mr. brown so perhaps you know him better than i do...but, having gone through the era of so-called classic rock with him, i find it absolutely astounding that ty has come to like the Grateful Dead.

    oh, and the other Dead tunes we attempted (with varying degrees of success) were:

    Easy Wind
    Alabama Getaway

    uh...i think that's it.

    very nice post ty.

  6. "Alabama Getaway" I remember now. "Easy Wind" ... reminds me of Beck and beans but nothing else.

    What fun that was.

    I'm still jealous you're in Portland... I want to hear about your haul.

  7. Anonymous5:15 PM

    I enjoy this commentary... you folks might like the podcast called Closet Deadhead, which I produce... visit haven't played Easy Wind or Alabama yet... maybe soon, though ;-) -- Sam Whitmore