Alive to the Dead

I have had a secret crush on the Dead ever since the late 70’s.

I had never heard of them growing up, but in 10th grade a girl I liked a lot who was musically gifted had the album Skeletons From the Closet in her collection. Since then, I always associate this band with her. After she transferred to a different school, I bought the album. Later, in the 80’s, I prided my punk-rock self on hating the free-form hippie vibe of the Dead. (Ever heard Pop-O-Pies cover Truckin ?)

I reviled tie-die patchouli-oil types. But in the back of my mind I felt ashamed because I knew I still liked Uncle John’s Band and Mexicali Blues, so I was a punk-rock heretic and a secret hippie sympathizer. As the years rolled by I still associated the songs on “Skeletons From the Closet” with that girl from 10th grade. It was the only Dead album I was familiar with.

Now I have a daughter of my own who is 8 and I played Uncle John’s Band for her.
She immediately loved it and we like to sing it together in the car. I realized how lovely the harmonies are. I perceived, as if for the first time, the Americana roots behind the tune. I appreciated the tripped-out Biblical imagery, even Tea Party 1776 themes, and I realized what an amazing song it truly is. I discovered other Dead songs that I have learned to love: Eyes of the World and Box of Rain come to mind. I like these songs for the fusion of music with poetic lyrics.

I think the Dead mixed country-rock with Hippie ethos like few other bands. And I believe Robert Hunter’s lyrics can stand on their own as poetry without the music.
I still don’t care for the noodling around on extended jams before religiously adoring crowds of acid-laced freaks, but I have a new respect for the studio-recorded music of the Grateful Dead. I am no longer a bad punk-rocker who has to hide my shameful secret; just another person who loves certain songs by the Grateful Dead.

Well, the first days are the hardest days, don’t you worry anymore
‘Cause when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door
Think this through with me, let me know your mind
Whoa oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?
It’s a buck dancer’s choice, my friends, better take my advice
You know all the rules by now and the fire from the ice
Will you come with me, won’t you come with me?
Whoa oh, what I want to know, will you come with me?
Goddamn, well, I declare, have you seen the like
Their walls are built of cannon balls, their motto is “Don’t tread on me”
Come hear uncle John’s band playing to the tide
Come with me or go alone, he’s come to take his children home
It’s the same story the crow told me, it’s the only one he knows
Like the morning sun you come and like the wind you go
Ain’t no time to hate, barely time to wait
Whoa oh, what I want to know, where does the time go?
I live in a silver mine and I call it beggar’s tomb
I’ve got me a violin and I beg you call the tune
Anybody’s choice, I can hear your voice
Whoa oh, what I want to know, how does the song go?
Come hear uncle John’s band by the riverside
Got some things to talk about, here beside the rising tide
Come hear uncle John’s band, playing to the tide
Come on along or go alone, he’s come to take his children home
Whoa oh, what I want to know, how does the song go?
Come hear uncle John’s band by the riverside
Got some things to talk about here beside the rising tide
Come hear uncle John’s band, playing to the tide
Come on along or go alone, he’s come to take his children home

Counterculture Recounted

Beatniks got hip until hippies got beat
by their own rock’n’roll and by riot cops
as they made love and war in field and street:
spoiled rebel children, psychedelic flops
who thought their youth made them immune
to lies from gods that pipe that tune.

Beatniks leaned first toward hip existential,
breaking out of the fifties mental mold.
Culture’s Petri dish turned pestilential;
drugs, deviance and rebellion: dull as old.
Yet novel did it ever seem
to souls exploited for their dream.

The Hippies took that bongo tea-house scene;
added acid’s naked technicolor:
freak-outs, love-ins, the normalized obscene;
politics of outrage, now made duller.
Impulsivity their passion.
(Sin is never out of fashion.)

Youth’s dissident victory incomplete
they glimpsed on flowery fields of battle
kaleidoscopic visions of defeat:
the psychedelic baby’s death-rattle.
Allen Ginsberg’s perverted freak.
Now reached its Himalayan peak.

Trace back in time this cultural malaise;
the poisoned sources where doubt first enticed.
In retrospect we diagnose their ways:
anti-God, anti-family, anti-Christ.
Oh no, you say; that was just youth—
we had to follow our own truth.

What did we learn in your San Fran cafés
poetically dense in plume-clouds of smoke?
That arty nihilism’s just a phase
and transgression of morals a tired joke.
(The Man will always make a buck
off fools who live to smoke and fuck.)

That mystic idols are not Truth . . .
blown minds will never save a soul;
Faith and Wisdom, both alien to youth,
in child’s-play, play a minor role.

That beats burn out and hippies age;
we’re no wiser for their excess.
Unwashed ravings, Bohemian rage
contain no truths—much less, success.

What did they teach us while tripping and stoned ?
Could it nourish at all, their cosmic brew—
their cult of youth, their dying gods bemoaned,
their howls, their road trips, their breakings on through?

Only this, Daddy-O — now dig my writ;
my be-boppin’ speed rant, my acid rock:
that drug-addled rebels who scrawl half-lit
fumble with a key that cannot unlock.


I wonder sometimes
How Haiku got popular
When it is so DULL


Lost Prophets Regained

Take an harp, go about the city,
thou harlot that hast been forgotten;
make sweet melody, sing many songs,
that thou mayest be remembered.
Isaiah 23:16 (KJV)

Morrison, Hendrix and Janis the J.
(with others lost tripping along the way)
continue to enlighten young stoners,
adolescent existential loners
who hold them as holy and dig their writ
in billows of bong-smoke. Listen to it:
Hendrix and Joplin and Morrison, man
were part of some cosmic, like, master-plan
true prophets—
thus sayeth The Lizard King.
High as kites, their disciples hear them sing
suburban anthems to teen perdition
sirens of drug-addled sixties vision.
pockets continue to empty for discs
while taking somewhat calculated risks.
Should vomitous overdose be esteemed
with visions that actual prophets dreamed?
These anointed cherubs of sad excess
can never illuminate, much less bless
a nation of youth who have lost their way
and can’t even choose which download to play.
Morrison, man—that dude was so profound
he broke on through to that state where I’m bound . . .
Moon-struck drummers, now ghosts of dubious name
live on, in pounding out their spectral fame;
exploding dirigibles flown too high
and blown to pieces in Lucifer’s sky.
Such riffs and licks and solos and visions
should force us to some unkind decisions
wherein we ask how free we really are
when enslaved to a devil’s fallen star.

 Count my syllables.
Behold beauteous imagery.
Smile now—pay later

Alice Makes You Wonder

( inspired by Mustard Seed Budget’s recent posts on celebrites )

“God has a plan for everybody. I look at my life and I think, ‘How is it possible that I didn’t die?’” he said. “God’s chipping away at your life all the time to try to make you more like Him. That’s what a Christian is, a person that’s being molded and shaped all their life. I think the Lord expects you to do your best in His name. I had to struggle a long time about rock and roll. I realized it’s not really the music. It’s what’s being said with the music. So I think you have to be careful of what you’re writing, what you’re representing.”

Vincent Furnier  became shock-rocker Alice Cooper