Uniondale ’81. The last great Dead show?

It seems that somewhere around the fall of 1978, Jerry Garcia started showing signs of wear and tear due to his ongoing love of the persian. He still played many, many tremendous shows before his life would come screeching to a halt, but ill health and a drug-induced slow-down of motor skills caused this immense and energetic musician, this one-of-a-kind talent, to become nearly immobile onstage while his playing grew increasingly sloppy.

They were never the same band after keyboardist Keith Godchaux and singer Donna Godchaux left the band in 1979 and were replaced by keyboardist Brent Mydland. I was never a huge fan of Brent’s stylings –though I recognized his immense talent– but in the early Brent-days especially, there could be a real dynamic energy between band members. Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY on May 9, 1981 is just such an example of this band bringing everything to the table and then some. Just when you thought Garcia might have sunk into a stupor never to return again, he could surprise everyone (including his fellow players) by surging to life with a vengeance.

You can’t listen to this show (and particularly this sbd/aud matrix by Hunter Seamons) and not jump to your feet with excitement and joy. It may well be the tightest and most energized show of the second half of the Dead’s career. The lilting, danceable melodies of MISSISSIPPI HALFSTEP build slowly to a fantastic peak. But that’s just a small taste to whet your appetite. Each song in the first set is better, stronger, than the one before it with Garcia just giving it his turbocharged all! If it weren’t for Brent and a couple of new songs, we would think this show HAD to be pre-1979. But it’s not. By time we get to the opening notes of the first-set closer, CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER->I KNOW YOU RIDER, we know this familiar combo is gonna knock our socks right off our feet. The band simply explodes into their set break leaving the audience breathless and smiling and yearning for more.

The second set kicks off with some newer songs for the era, LOST SAILOR-> SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE. Never have you heard these two songs played with more fervent energy and mastery. The peak in CIRCUMSTANCE is ecstasy-inducing. But it’s the ESTIMATED PROPHET-> EYES OF THE WORLD that will prove to you that there really has never been a band like the Grateful Dead. The mid-lyrics-jam in ESTIMATED goes higher than any other version I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard (and seen) many. Jerry is just pushing the envelope as far as he can take it and the rest of the band is right there with him in tight formation, almost too perfect to be believed. They are soaring! Then the EYES… This is one for the books with rhythms and flourishes completely unique to this version and this version only. It is both Jerry Garcia and the band at their most playful, their most experimental, their most joyous.

The post-drums portion of the second set is tight and beautiful and almost note-perfect. Garcia is happy to take his time and explore the spaces between songs and you can feel him smiling throughout. AROUND & AROUND almost gives way to a JOHNNY B. GOODE that suddenly twists itself into ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT. Even the BROKEDOWN PALACE false start is met with laughter and a sense of joy and humor that only makes you love these guys all the more.

If you feel like hearing the Grateful Dead with Brent in what may be their best, tightest show from this era (or at least one of the top five), I beg you listen to this one. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and do yourself a favor. Play it loud. Real loud.


Uniondale ’81. The last great Dead show?

Weekend Vibe: Grateful Dead MUSIC NEVER STOPPED Feb. 3, 1978

This may well be the single best MUSIC NEVER STOPPED the Grateful Dead ever played. Just bursting with energy. Wholly unique. This is not the world’s greatest audience recording, but you get such a feel for the space (Dane County Coliseum, Madison, WI) and the crowd reaction as to make it more than a worthwhile listen. It’s also a great way to lead into the weekend. I’ve always thought ’78 Dead was underrated and under-appreciated. They were still coming off of the perfection that was most of ’77 and were still far enough away from the demise that set in not long after Brent joined the band in ’79. Jerry was still glorying in the sheer energy of “rocking out” after the beautiful and more mellow sounds of ’76. Early 1978 was full of shows that simply exploded with energy as if all the emotions in the world were being channeled through one band. And what a band… Enjoy.

My link to this song is temporary. If it is no longer active, you can stream or download the entire show (including THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED) on the Internet Archive at:


Weekend Vibe: Grateful Dead MUSIC NEVER STOPPED Feb. 3, 1978

Santorum & The Evil That Men Do

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” –Blaise Pascal.

It seems almost daily that I read another comment or another statement steeped in fear and hatred uttered from the lips of Rick Santorum, self-proclaimed Christian and American moralist. I do, thankfully, realize that Santorum does not represent all of Christianity and its followers, but he does represent a portion of them. Keep in mind, though he is currently at the bottom of the heap, he is still, as of this writing, a GOP presidential candidate in a playing field whittled down to four contenders. This means there is a large enough portion of Americans who share his views, his intolerances, his fears, misunderstandings and judgements of things that, well, any good Christian would normally leave up to God and not assume upon themselves.

Sadly, as Mr. Pascal once pointed out in the above quote, religion has spurned some of the most vile hatred and suffering known to man. And I think it’s rather easy to assess by the goings-on in the world today, that some things have not changed. Unfortunately for any forward-thinking individuals, men like Rick Santorum represent a part of society terrified of change. And, one could easily come to such a conclusion, of themselves.

Part of me feels sorry for men and women such as these since their lives appear to be made up largely of running away and holding on to the past with such desperation as to exhaust themselves of all humanity. Ironic, given that they claim to represent the most compassionate and forgiving of all beings. But this is in words only. Actions tell a very different story. The pain and suffering brought on by men like Rick Santorum is immeasurable, and it is considerable. Make no mistake, lives will be lost while others trampled. All in the name of one who is no longer here to protect his good name and teachings.

The bright side to all of this is that at least Santorum’s particular brand of bigotry is now out there for all to see. And those easily swayed toward his proclaimed “solutions” are no longer hidden from public view to boil and swell beneath the surface. They are out there where we can confront them, and ourselves, in the bright light of day. Good things will come from this in the bigger picture. It’s a step forward. Like a detoxing of the American psyche. We may feel a bit ill while we’re going through it, but hopefully we will come out the other side healthier and happier. If we choose to tackle it.

As for how we got where we are in the first place, well, history is full of men like Santorum. Perhaps the recent study published in the latest issue of Psychological Science explains part of it.

“Despite their important implications for interpersonal behaviors and relations, cognitive abilities have been largely ignored as explanations of prejudice. We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socioeconomic status. Our results suggest that cognitive abilities play a critical, albeit underappreciated, role in prejudice. Consequently, we recommend a heightened focus on cognitive ability in research on prejudice and a better integration of cognitive ability into prejudice models.”

As one who does not believe in God in a traditional sense (therefore a heathen and going to hell in the minds of many), I have always assumed that it took a level of non-thinking to allow oneself to so completely abandon reason and take the words and teachings of the bible and, not only accept them as literal, but to allow oneself to become swayed by the interpretations of such texts by those with ulterior motives. However, I do not believe all who believe in God to be less educated or less intelligent than those who do not. But there is a certain ilk that have always been ready to take to the streets to express their intolerance of others; those who would kill, maim and damage their fellow man in the name of their God. A God of love? A God of vengeance? Which is it, then?

What are we supposed to think when Rick Santorum tells you that contraception is “not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”?

How things are supposed to be. If Mr. Santorum believes this, then he is free to refrain from the use of such tools and activities. But when he believes his beliefs should be law… This should be of great concern. Santorum warns of fascism and socialism and why you should be afraid… But nothing endangers freedom more than men and women who think like Rick Santorum. His beliefs suggest the ultimate form of fascism.

When Rick Santorum tells you what marriage is, he presents it as fact, as indisputable evidence.

“Marriage is what marriage is. Marriage was around before government said what it was. It’s like going out and saying, ‘That tree is a car.’ Well, the tree’s not a car. A tree’s a tree. Marriage is marriage.” 

“It’s like handing up this and saying this glass of water is a glass of beer. Well you can call it a glass of beer, it’s not a glass of beer, it’s a glass of water. And water is what water is. Marriage is what marriage is.” 

“I can call this napkin a paper towel, but it is a napkin. Why? Because it is, what it is.” 

But what Santorum is really saying is that this is what marriage is for Rick Santorum. And therefore it should be for all others. By law. Like it or not, there are those who do not share and were not raised with Mr. Santorum’s limited definition. And we are Americans, no more or less so than he is. Just as Santorum’s God is not everybody’s God, Rick Satorum’s definitions and interpretations are not everyone’s. Nor should they be. That would be similar to asking a nation to publicly mourn the death of their beloved leader, Kim Jong Il, even if they did not, in fact, love him or mourn his loss. And then imprison those who did not either mourn publicly or mourn sincerely. Is that the America Santorum’s followers envision? Because if it’s not, then they best rethink their stance and support of such an individual. Or is that low IQ getting in the way of reasoned thought again?

“[Marriage] is an intrinsic good … we extend certain privileges to people who do that because we want to encourage that behavior. Two people who may like each other or may love each other who are same-sex, is that a special relationship? Yes it is, but it is not the same relationship that benefits society like a marriage between a man and a woman.” 

What he means is that such a relationship does not benefit Rick Santorum. I’ll tell you right now that he does not speak for me. Same sex marriages have benefitted me in my life and my world, the kind of society I want to live in. And it damn well benefits same-sex couples who are (guess what?) members of this society. Again, what doesn’t benefit Rick should not benefit anyone in Santorum’s world view.

“Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, whether it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.” 

Once again, these may be things that Rick Santorum chooses not to engage in, but he is not in a position (no pun intended) –and it is the point of this write-up that he should not be– to tell others what sexual activities they should or should not be doing where two consenting adults are concerned. But Santorum’s answer to that would be:

“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.” 

The truth is that consensual sex in the home does NOT make polygamy or bigamy or incest legal. It DOES, however, allow one (or two or three or four…) to engage in certain sexual activities that some other folks may find startling, offensive and even a little off-putting. It seems, however, that even a healthy and imaginative sex life is off-putting to Mr. Santorum. When you allow a man like this to tell you what you can and can’t do in bed… But Mr. Santorum disagrees:

“The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions — I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society.” 

The world Rick Santorum envisions has more in common with the Crusades than it does with the teachings of Christ. And like many other religious zealots before him, Santorum will fight to ensure HIS way of life at the exclusion of all others:

“The battle we’re engaged in right now on same-sex marriage, ultimately that is the very foundation of our country, the family, what the family structure is going to look like. I’ll die on that hill fighting.” 

Rick Santorum is too mired in his own fears, fear of change, fear of reality, fear of difference, fear of things he wasn’t taught, fear of things he doesn’t understand, fear of the dark and the unknown. And it has turned him into a man mired in hatred and intolerance.

“You can say I’m a hater. But I would argue I’m a lover. I’m a lover of traditional families and of the right of children to have a mother and father. … Isn’t that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?” 

Marriage, he fails to point out, as Rick Santorum sees it. And Santorum’s “logic” is no better than claiming the KKK doesn’t hate blacks, they simply love white supremacy. No, even science, the ground beneath his own two feet, the air he breathes, and the very planet he lives on is not enough to convince Mr. Santorum that the world may not always be the way he wants it to be. The way he so clearly needs it to be.

“I’ve never supported even the hoax of global warming.”

In Rick Santorum’s world, there are no other valid points of view, no other opinions of note, no other interpretations than his own. Rick Santorum would fight to make his beliefs your beliefs. All the while pointing out the dangers of others. And if he gets his way, when the time comes and he has passed from this world, you will mourn his death. Whether you want to or not.

Santorum & The Evil That Men Do

Ben Gazzara – Loved & Remembered

Was deeply saddened to hear of Ben Gazzara’s passing today. I had the pleasure of seeing him speak in person before a screening of HUSBANDS last year. He was both wonderfully eloquent and delightfully indelicate. I couldn’t have loved him more. Here’s a link to my post from back then complete with an audio of the evening’s Q&A. Mr. Gazzara was a treasure. He continues to be so.


Ben Gazzara – Loved & Remembered