Q: How about “Ripple”?
A: We were in Canada on that train trip [the Festival Express, 1970] and one morning the train stopped and Jerry was sitting out on the tracks not too far off, in the sunrise, setting “Ripple” to music. That’s a good memory. That was one of the happy times, going on that train trip.
Janis [Joplin] was the queen of that trip. One of my greatest memories is having breakfast with her on the train. She was having Southern Comfort and scotch, and she asked me if I heard that song by Kristofferson, “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down,” and she sang it in my ear. Can you imagine?
Note: Ms. Calder is now some kind of special artist in residence for city of Victoria, i have a snap i’ll add here at some point, really
A few sundry/spontaneous remarks about London Calling, The Clash’s remarkable album, turning 40 as well as a few miscellaneous annotations about The Clash’s canon:
London Calling had the element of surprise as the world (or the record company) had no idea that this eclectic mix of americana, ska, rockabilly, mushy songs, political songs, fun songs, songs recorded in 1 take, a rock drummer playing like Ginger Baker without the prog and the almost alien guitar playing of Mick Jones. No one knew what to expect and it exploded as a secret, delivered mere hours before the EOY deadline.
The double LP was packed in one sleeve (to save label and fans money) and Train in Vain was Mick’s last minute addition (that’s why the mix sounds so different too) with Topper, no Joe or Paul on that track.
More: Interview with The Wailers and others at Komasket Music Fest, near Vernon, BC, Aug. 2010.
As seen at The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, maybe 2014 or 15 or really i can’t recall. (note to self, figure it out man!)
Regarding recently deceased Robert Hunter, so much goodness and inspiration and an unreachable level.
I also feel if one passes without much pain, with most faculties intact, with family/pals at hand and over 72ish, that’s a solid exit. Hunter made 78. Even better with a legacy which will last centuries. My erstwhile doppelgänger member of GD collective as he was the one playing the role i play in my head.
Here’s the Warlocks of Tokyo singing Robert Hunter’s (and others’) songs. Some translated into Japanese. Ole Hunter didn’t like to change a syllable yet feel he’d dig hearing his loquacious poetry crossing language dogma.
More Robert Hunter
Robert Hunter Gave the Grateful Dead Its Voice
By Nick Paumgarten, New Yorker, October 1, 2019
Hunter was born Robert Burns and had a peripatetic childhood, including some time in a foster home. He took the surname of a stepfather. He had a flirtation, in the sixties, with Scientology and a problem, for a while, with speed. He was a seeker, a restless soul, an outsider. A friend of mine, on hearing of Hunter’s passing, told me that, in some ways, by his reckoning, Hunter had been dead all along. The man seemed to know something about death. After Garcia awoke from his coma, in 1986, Hunter had a new song for him, called “Black Muddy River.” Hunter, who rarely explained where his songs came from, told the writer Steve Silberman, in 1992, that the inspiration for it was his recurring dream of a “black, lusterless, slow-flowing Stygian river. . . . It’s vast and it’s hopeless. It’s death, with the absence of the soul. It’s my horror vision, and when I come out of that dream I do anything I can to counter it.” The lone Grateful Dead hit to come out of the post-coma period was a deceptively jaunty number, composed a half-decade earlier, called “Touch of Grey,” which Hunter worked up while suffering a wicked cocaine hangover. Hunter knew that cocaine was diabolical, and identified its arrival on the scene (around the time he wrote “Black Peter”) as the forbidden fruit to their Eden, but he didn’t always abstain. It may be that some of the wistful we-had-something-special-but-now-it’s-gone undertones of Hunter’s post-sixties songs—the golden-era stuff of “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty,” along with a slew of beloved songs the Dead never recorded in a studio, such as “Tennessee Jed,” “Brown-Eyed Women,” “Wharf Rat,” and “Ramble On Rose”—owe something to the regret that gnawed at Hunter over the effects of cocaine on the whole enterprise.
Robert Hunter’s Words Helped Bring Life To The Grateful Dead
Piotr Orlov, NPR, September 25, 2019
Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter on Jerry’s Final Days: ‘We Were Brothers’
The ‘Touch of Grey’ songwriter shares intimate details from the partnership that defined his life: “We were just getting started”
By DAVID BROWNE, Rolling Stone, MARCH 11, 2015
The visionary wordsmith Robert Hunter takes to the stage.
By John Donohue, The New Yorker, July 14, 2014
“One sunny afternoon in London, in 1970, Hunter wrote the words to three magical Grateful Dead songs, “To Lay Me Down,” “Ripple,” and “Brokedown Palace.” He is a lyricist with few equals, and, together with Jerry Garcia, he conjured up the majority of the Dead’s original songs.”
Seeking literary hero to admire? Meet Robert Hunter, primary lyricist for the Grateful Dead, ergo:
Robert Hunter joined the Grateful Dead in the fall of 1967, when he arrived at a rehearsal just in time to write the first verse of the band’s classic “Dark Star.” Though he’d never play onstage, he became not only a genuine band member but its secret Ace in the hole. Though Bob Weir’s words for “The Other One” would endure, most of the band’s early verbal efforts would not; it was Hunter’s work that would elevate their songs from ditties to rich, complete stories set to song. Hunter had fallen into the Dead’s general scene in 1961 when he’d met Garcia in Palo Alto, and he’d played in several of Garcia’s early bluegrass bands. But he’d always thought of himself as a writer — probably a novelist — and it was only in 1967 that he fulfilled his personal destiny, and enriched the Dead’s. He’s gone on to write several books of poetry, and is currently at work on a novel.
* First, a dispatch comes from Paul save her up David Letterman/SNL fame (and a fellow Canadian) riffing about poet/singer/everything Bob Dylan with anecdotes laden with name-drops in context here in Vanity Fair in 2009 (with David Ritz).
Bob Dylan’s Band Camp The legendary maestro remembers a soul-rattling moment with his musical—and religious—guru.
* Next up in a series of dispatch about music/journalism/stories comes connective tissue – so to speak – between Paul Schaffer and Bob Dylan (ha ha, I know)…
Neil Young has transformed himself from album to album, decade to decade, always managing to stay relevant, yet often playing for the future rather than the present.
The most salient example of this is his early 1980s album “Trans” in which he experimented with synthesizers and voice-coders and all of these electro-tools, along with his usual clever song writing and occasional guitars…
I bought the album as a young fella and was a bit confused at first expecting something more like “rust never sleeps”, but soon I understood the importance of experimentation and being true to the sounds you wanted to create (in this case, connecting with his sensory disabled son).
This article by Richard McKenna in We Are Mutants unpacks the project in nuanced detail.
* Completing a trifecta, this dispatch chronicles the life and career (as it were) of an under-appreciated talent, Alex Chilton (see: Big Star, Boxtops and others).
You can “blame“ his erstwhile under-appreciation on poor performing record label promotion departments, being in wrong place wrong time, the usual addictions and malcontents etc. but no mistaking his influence on future musicians who combined his dedication to craft and go-for-broke skills into music which was influenced by, or about, him.
Lindsay Zoladz’s article is also a good reminder to support your local up-and-comers as any of them could be the next Alex Chilton, or rather the first themselves.
December Boy: On Alex Chilton
The late lead singer of Big Star and the Box Tops had a trove of unreleased music unearthed. What can we learn from the gifted, self-destructive genius?