Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis

By John Covach; Graeme M. Boone | Go to book overview
do on 'Dark Star' is what the Dead are, that's what they do best. What defines the Dead is 'Dark Star'" (quoted in Bowman liner notes to Grayfolded, [2]; reprinted in "Dark Star: The Legend Continues," 32). Jerry Garcia called the performance released on Live/Dead, "a real good version." See Jann S. Wenner and Charles Reich, "The Rolling Stone Interview with Jerry Garcia and Mountain Girl," Rolling Stone, 20 Jan. 1972; reprinted in Garcia: By the Editors of Rolling Stone, ed. Holly George-Warren ( New York: Rolling Stone/Little, Brown, 1995), 92. Garcia has also praised the continuous medley of songs released on the album ( Dark Star, followed by St. Stephen, The Eleven, and Turn On Your Lovelight), considered as a single musical unit: "In the sense of being a serious long composition, musically, and then a recording of it, it's our music at one of its really good moments" (quoted in Troy, Captain Trips, 125).
6.
There is a studio version, appearing on an early single, which is not well liked by the band ("Dark Star," b/w "Born Cross-Eyed," Warner Bros. 7186 [ 1968]). For a discussion of the single, including comments about it by Jerry Garcia, see Bowman, liner notes to Grayfolded, [4].
7.
Judging by the data presented in DeadBase 4, p. 225, there were 153 performances of "Dark Star" through 31 Dec. 1989 (the chronological endpoint of that edition of the database). Among these, the song opens a set 7 percent of the time (eleven performances) and opens a song list within a set 10 percent of the time (sixteen performances). It closes an encore once and closes a list 5% of the time (eight performances).
8.
John Oswald's recent composition Grayfolded was made electronically by splicing, overlaying, and manipulating parts of one hundred recorded performances of the song. Reaction from the Deadhead public has been enthusiastic but also mixed; some find it to be the "ultimate" or "best" "Dark Star," while others think the opposite, repelled by the thought that the Dead's music could be improved by outside tinkering.
9.
As Bob Weir once remarked, "The tapes always lie." Quoted in Gans, Conversations with the Dead, 182.
10.
While my analysis of this recording will be tempered (at times implicitly, at other times explicitly) by acquaintance with other recordings, I shall nonetheless consider it to be adequate unto itself. Such an approach does impose a certain fixity or finality on this particular performance, and some might reasonably argue that the spirit of the band runs counter to such a stance. This is a point that merits serious consideration, and I shall return to it at the end of this essay. Nonetheless, recordings of the Dead's performances exist and are listened to even studied, to the point of memorization by many fans. It is, to say the least, reasonable to examine these recordings for the structures and meanings that they suggest to the listener, all the more so in the case of highly regarded "classic" instances such as this one. By analyzing this recording in depth, however, I do not mean to suggest that it is more than one rendering of the song. In another essay, forthcoming as an article, I examine sixteen early recordings of "Dark Star" in order to categorize the style, content, and interrelationships of its various episodes across different performances ( "Dark Star: What's the Score?" read at the conference in Honor of Rulan Chao Pian, Harvard University, April 1992).
11.
For transcription in this article, I used a Panasonic SL-PS352 CD player with an Edcor HA 400 headphone amplifier and Koss Pro 4 AAA Plus headphones. Other equipment may cause the music to sound different as to relative loudness of instruments at different moments and even, more frequently than one might think, as to precise notes and rhythms played. Beyond equalization and other matters of high-fidelity sound reproduction, this is due partly to the conditions of the original live recording, including saturation caused by the bass and other instruments, which occasionally clouds the sound. The dynamic indications are simple and are intended only to give some sense of the relative apparent loudness of different passages. In fact, the dynamics depend more on the band as a whole (including percus

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Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Notes ix
  • Notes xi
  • Contents xv
  • Contributors xvii
  • 1: Progressive Rock, "Close to the Edge," and the Boundaries of Style 3
  • Notes 25
  • 2: After Sundown the Beach Boys' Experimental Music 33
  • Notes 54
  • Notes 59
  • Notes 89
  • Notes 111
  • 5: Swallowed by A Song Paul Simon's Crisis of Chromaticism 113
  • 6 155
  • Notes 166
  • Notes 171
  • Notes 206
  • Index 211
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