It was a slow winter day, and I had just left the Anthology Film Archives in New York after a screening of “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein.” It had seemed like a long afternoon, what with the beheadings and the orgies and whatnot. Curiously, Baron von Frankenstein insisted on calling his creature’s nose its “nasum.” Also, he observed that “in order to know death, you have to” — let’s paraphrase here — “know life in the gallbladder.”
I stood there on Second Avenue, more than a little discombobulated.
And then, from an open window, I heard Jerry Garcia singing, like the voice of an old friend. “Dry your eyes on the wind,” he sang.
Garcia’s mother took him to see “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” when he was 6 years old, he once said in an interview. “My father had just died the previous year. That was my first sense that there are things in this world that are really weird, and there are people who are concerned with them. I think that sounds like fun.”
It was fun. And it was 50 years ago today — Feb. 27, 1969 — that Garcia and the Grateful Dead stood onstage at the Fillmore West and recorded the live version of “Dark Star,” a song that is still about as fun, and as weird, as American rock ’n’ roll can be.
Lou Reed, the heart of Andy Warhol’s house band, the Velvet Underground, didn’t have much patience for the Dead. “All those people are the most untalented bores that ever lived,” he said of the San Francisco scene. “It’s a joke.”
But the Velvets and the Dead had a lot in common, and by this I mean more than the fact that they were both originally called The Warlocks. Both liked to stretch tunes out into long improvisations; both had band members (John Cale and Phil Lesh, respectively) with roots in avant-garde music. Cale described the Velvets’ music this way: “It was an attempt to control the unconscious with the hypnotic.” Who else does that sound like?
[For a track list of Jennifer Finney Boylan’s favorite performances of the Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star,” scroll to the bottom.]
“Dark Star,” the Dead’s most hypnotic tune, began with the band rehearsing at the Rio Nido in Sonoma County in the summer of 1967. Listening to the music from the next room, the poet Robert Hunter wrote down its first verse: “Dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes. Reason tatters, the forces tear loose from the axis. Searchlight casting for faults in the clouds of delusion.”
And then, the Prufrockian chorus: “Shall we go? You and I while we can, through the transitive nightfall of diamonds.”
After the lyric, in most performances, the song turns catty-wompus. There is ambient warping and woofing. There is electronic weeping. Sometimes this part of the tune gives way to something else — jazz riffs, dance music, cowboy songs, the ballad “St. Stephen.” You never know what you’ll get.
It’s that uncertainty that I’ve always loved best in the composition, its sense of infinite possibility. Of the nearly 250 times the band played the song live, no two versions are the same. But it’s more than the tune that keeps changing. Usually, the thing that has changed between each listening is me.
I heard it as a young hippie thing sitting in a friend’s bedroom in Merion, Pa. I heard it the night my daughter was born, in Maine. I listened to it this summer as my wife and I, celebrating 30 years of marriage, hiked the Cinque Terre in Italy.
There are versions of it in which the audience is clapping along, like it’s a dance tune. There are versions of it that sound a lot like a half-hour of musique concrete, or as my mother described it, “like someone left the vacuum cleaner on.”
Some nights the band did only the first verse, and things devolved from there. This happened during the very last performance of the song, in fact — on March 30, 1994, in Atlanta.
Now and again I imagine a world in which Jerry Garcia is alive once more, and the band comes together, to finish what they started that night, and we are all young again.
But Jerry Garcia is gone, of course, as is Andy Warhol, as is Lou Reed, and the world in which they created art has been largely eclipsed by commerce. At the gift shop of the Warhol show at the Whitney right now you can buy a set of Warhol-themed skateboards for ,750.
But we still have “Dark Star,” in all its beautiful, terrifying weirdness. Bob Dylan once described folk music this way: “It’s the only music where it isn’t simple. It’s weird, full of legend, myth, Bible and ghosts, chaos, watermelons, clocks, everything. “
If you haven’t listened to the tune for a long time — or if you’ve never heard it — the 50th anniversary today is a good excuse. There are a lot of strange things to uncover in “Dark Star”; ghosts and chaos and watermelons and clocks may be the least of them.
As Warhol’s Frankenstein observed, there are a lot of ways to know life. Music is one of them. Turn and face the strange. It’s fun.
Twelve Classic Performances of “Dark Star” by the Grateful Dead
Before checking out these 12 performances, it’s worth reading Robert Hunter’s lyrics here; this version includes the final coda, never performed live. He composed the first verse lying on his bed, listening to the band in a rehearsal space nearby.
“I don’t have any idea what the ‘transitive nightfall of diamonds’ means,” he wrote. “It sounded good at the time. It brings up something you can see.” The chorus echoes T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
Several weeks later, Garcia requested a second verse. As he wrote it in Golden Gate Park, a stranger passed by. “In case anything ever comes of it,” Hunter told him, “this is called ‘Dark Star.’”
I asked David Lemieux, the band’s official archivist, how he would describe the significance of the song within the band’s catalog. “It’s a song with endless possibilities,” he said, “and in true Dead fashion, they explored every possibility the ‘Dark Star’ musical landscape allowed. Although there are consensus ‘best versions,’ every single performance is worth exploring.”
Here are 12 classic performances, starting with the best known version, performed 50 years ago today. The next three versions were selected by Mr. Lemieux, the rest by me.
1. Fillmore West, San Francisco, Feb. 27, 1969. From the 1969 “Live Dead” album. On the original vinyl, “Dark Star” jammed into “St. Stephen,” and “The Eleven” and “Turn On Your Lovelight.” The live version of the song that began this sequence, “Mountains of the Moon,” was not released until the full four-night run of the Fillmore shows was made available in 2005. Running time: 23:17.
2. Fillmore East, New York City, Feb. 13, 1970. Mr. Lemieux: “This was the first version of ‘Dark Star’ I heard after ‘Live/Dead,’ the highlight of the first box of cassettes I received in 1984. Its melodic upbeat coda is in stark contrast to the primal, psychedelic, orchestrated chaos of 2/27/69 and shows where the Dead were heading. In the age of the Grateful Dead’s foray into Americana, ‘Dark Star’ from 2/13/70 demonstrated that they were still able to pull off improvised, psychedelic/melodic bliss.” Running time: 29:42.
3. Veneta, Ore., Aug. 27, 1972. “On a hot, sunny day near Eugene, Ore., playing in a field to their tribe, the Dead played a ‘Dark Star’ that is about as dynamic as they ever got with this song in this era,” Mr. Lemieux said. “From the smoothness of the opening section of the song to the meltdown, drum-and-bass duet, and its rising-from-the-ashes triumphant return to light, this ‘Dark Star’ is one of the most deep and joyous journeys the Dead ever took.” Running time: 31:40.
4. The Spectrum, Philadelphia, Penn., Sept. 21, 1972. “Similar in structure to 4/8/72, this ‘Dark Star’ has it all, from the psychedelic depths of its earlier incarnations to the jazz-inflected introspective moments, to an ending that is all bouncing and smiles,” Mr. Lemieux said. “It’s versions like this that make me think the band must have even surprised themselves. This is not composed music, but rather improvisation that is as structured as though they’d played this closing a hundred times.” Running time: 37:08.
5. The Family Dog at the Great Highway, San Francisco, Calif., Nov. 2, 1969. Nine months after the “Live Dead” version, the song has become quieter and more reflective. Organist Tom Constanten, known as T.C., is particularly inventive this night; note how he takes the song in a curious direction at about 6:45. Running time: 30:16
6. Fillmore East, New York City, Sept. 19, 1970. This recording begins mournfully. It was the day after the death of Jimi Hendrix. Mid-song, however, things change. Running time: 25:23.
7. Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, N.Y., Feb. 18, 1971. The Dead played a number of legendary shows at this venue; this one jams into the song “Wharf Rat” before evolving again into something later simply described as the “Beautiful Jam.” Running time: 21:42.
8. Wembley Empire Pool, London, April 8, 1972. The band’s spring 1972 tour of Europe was a triumph. This version of the song features the delicate piano of the keyboardist Keith Godchaux. Running time 32:09.
9. Miami Arena, Miami, Oct. 26, 1989. Brent Mydland joined the band as keyboardist in 1979 and gave the Dead a jolt of new energy. This “Dark Star” captures that version of the band, and of the song. Running time: 26:40.
10. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, Calif., Oct. 31, 1991. The band performed on Halloween, in the wake of the death of their friend, the concert promoter Bill Graham. On that occasion, they were joined onstage by the author Ken Kesey, who was himself in mourning over the loss of his son. Midway into the tune, Kesey reads the e e cummings poem “Buffalo Bill’s Defunct.” Running time: 11:06.
11. The Omni, Atlanta, March 30, 1994. The last performance. Garcia sings only the first of the two verses, leaving the song forever unfinished. The weariness in his voice is heartbreaking. Garcia would die of a heart attack 17 months later, on Aug. 9, 1995. Running time: 10:29.
12. No compendium of “Dark Star”s is complete without a version of the original “single” of the song, from 1968. Garcia considered this short version a flop. It’s historically interesting for the banjo riff at the very end, along with the only recording of the lyricist Robert Hunter’s voice on a Grateful Dead record, performing what he called a “word salad” in the final seconds. Running time: 2:44.
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【翌】【日】。 【腊】【月】【廿】【四】，【小】【年】【迎】【春】。 【腊】【日】【才】【过】【又】【小】【年】，【煌】【煌】【银】【烛】【照】【良】【宵】，【全】【新】【的】【朔】【方】，【也】【迎】【来】【了】【一】【年】【一】【度】【的】【小】【年】【时】【节】。 【席】【云】【飞】【一】【大】【早】【就】【从】【朔】【方】【西】【城】【赶】【回】【了】【朔】【方】【东】【城】，【今】【日】【除】【了】【要】【祭】【天】，【还】【要】【祭】【灶】【王】【爷】。 【小】【年】，【并】【非】【专】【指】【一】【个】【日】【子】，【由】【于】【各】【地】【风】【俗】，【被】【称】【为】“【小】【年】”【的】【日】【子】【也】【不】【尽】【相】【同】。 【小】【年】【期】【间】【主】【要】【的】【民】
【中】【年】【男】【子】【有】【些】【鄙】【夷】【的】【看】【了】【一】【眼】【陈】【斌】【道】：“【你】【若】【能】【跟】【我】【一】【样】【修】【炼】，【克】【制】【欲】【望】，【也】【许】【能】【活】【久】【一】【些】。” “【我】【的】【欲】【望】【是】【控】【制】【不】【了】，【可】【是】【你】【呢】？”【陈】【斌】【也】【听】【出】【中】【年】【男】【子】【话】【中】【的】【嘲】【讽】，【当】【即】【毫】【不】【留】【情】【的】【反】【击】【道】：“【你】【来】【这】【里】【帮】【我】【难】【道】【不】【是】【为】【了】【钱】？” “【你】！”【中】【年】【男】【子】【伸】【手】【握】【住】【腰】【间】【长】【剑】，【整】【个】【大】【厅】【的】【温】【度】【都】【好】【似】【降】【低】【了】【几】【分】www761111com“【是】【啊】，【时】【隔】【那】【么】【多】【年】，【那】【些】【有】【关】【的】【的】【人】，【应】【该】【都】【被】【清】【理】【掉】【了】。” 【王】【霸】【天】【有】【些】【失】【落】【地】【说】【着】，【本】【来】【以】【为】【可】【以】【帮】【屈】【楚】【找】【出】【真】【相】，【可】【是】，【眼】【下】，【他】【们】【却】【走】【进】【了】【死】【胡】【同】，【还】【惹】【了】【一】【身】【事】。 “【阿】【爹】，【我】【相】【信】【天】【网】【恢】【恢】【疏】【而】【不】【漏】，【做】【坏】【事】【之】【人】，【肯】【定】【会】【有】【一】【天】【露】【出】【马】【脚】【的】，【况】【且】，【屈】【府】【还】【有】【是】【有】【些】【旧】【人】【在】【的】，【只】【是】，【那】【些】【都】【不】
【离】【开】【了】【小】【商】【铺】【之】【后】，【张】【文】【浩】【就】【接】【到】【了】【夏】【沫】【打】【来】【的】【电】【话】。 “【文】【浩】，【你】【下】【午】【帮】【我】【区】【机】【场】【接】【下】【我】【姑】【姑】【一】【家】，【广】【场】【这】【边】【太】【忙】【了】，【我】【实】【在】【抽】【不】【开】【身】。”【夏】【沫】【的】【声】【音】【很】【自】【然】，【似】【乎】【已】【经】【完】【全】【忘】【却】【了】【昨】【天】【晚】【上】【发】【生】【的】【事】【情】。 “【家】【里】【的】【那】【个】【女】【人】【是】【谁】？”【张】【文】【浩】【开】【门】【见】【山】【的】【问】【道】。 【夏】【沫】【迟】【疑】【了】【片】【刻】，【深】【呼】【了】【一】【口】【气】【之】【后】【说】【道】：
“【是】【招】【兵】【买】【马】，【还】【是】【为】【使】【君】【积】【攒】【实】【力】，【聪】【明】【人】【一】【眼】【便】【能】【看】【出】，【只】【有】【蔡】【将】【军】【鼠】【目】【寸】【光】【罢】【了】。”【一】【个】【清】【澈】【的】【声】【音】【忽】【然】【响】【起】。 “【是】【谁】【在】【大】【放】【厥】【词】！”【蔡】【瑁】【大】【怒】。 【此】【时】【诸】【葛】【亮】【才】【缓】【缓】【走】【出】，【对】【刘】【表】【行】【了】【一】【礼】：“【使】【君】。” 【刘】【表】【见】【这】【少】【年】【风】【度】【翩】【翩】，【也】【是】【小】【惊】【讶】【了】【一】【番】，【于】【是】【问】【道】：“【你】【是】【何】【人】？” 【此】【时】【诸】【葛】【玄】【也】
【灯】【下】【黑】【尬】【笑】【了】【两】【声】，【收】【起】【了】【凤】【凰】【尾】【羽】，【说】【道】：“【咱】【们】【组】【队】【刷】【会】【儿】【怪】，【然】【后】【我】【再】【去】【看】【看】【那】【大】【神】【在】【不】【在】，【不】【在】【的】【话】，【明】【天】【早】【上】【收】【拾】【收】【拾】【回】【程】【了】。” 【风】【念】【点】【了】【点】【头】，【说】【道】：“【好】，【没】【问】【题】。” 【同】【意】【了】【灯】【下】【黑】【的】【组】【队】【申】【请】，【两】【人】【往】【前】【走】。 【木】【屋】【这】【边】【一】【片】【白】【茫】【茫】【的】【没】【有】【怪】【物】，【但】【不】【能】【算】【是】【安】【全】【区】【域】，【因】【为】【地】【方】【比】【较】【偏】【僻】