Tuesday, October 05, 2010

My Missed Opportunity with The Grateful Dead

A few days ago I posted about a Counting Crows show that I went to. One of the songs that they played as a cover of THE GRATEFUL DEAD'S "Friend of the Devil". As they played the song I started to reminisce about a lost opportunity that I chalk up to naive youth.

When I was in college I DJ'd at the local radio station. I was the Program Director for a spell so it was my job to build the schedule and find dj's to fill the hours we were live. This also meant that I often had multiple slots to fill myself. One day I was in the office and this older guy walked in. He introduced himself and said he was an adjunct professor in the math department. I was a bit skeptical to say the least. First off, most of the school was unaware we even had a radio station. Second, he was dressed in a ratty t shirt, shorts and Birkenstocks (I have a great memory for these sorts of encounters). Anyway, he said he was interested in picking up a show where he could play some of his favorite music. Ever desperate not to be on the air for 6-10 hours every other day, I agreed to give him an evening slot after my show.

The next week rolled around and sure enough the guy (whose name I forget) showed up wearing a similar get up and slinging a bag of tapes around his shoulder. He had little clue how to operate any of the equipment so I gave him a quick once around the building and set out for the evening. I never even stopped to ask what music he was playing.

The next week he returned, same bag and same blank, yet serene expression. This time I asked him what was on his playlist for the evening. "The Dead" he said, as if that was the only conceivable answer. "Really, never really heard to much of their stuff", I replied. (It should be noted that I am clearly a moron and if I had a time machine I would now go back and punch college me in the jejunum.)

After a couple more weeks, the professor started coming in a little earlier. He would dive into his bag and fish out a tape with scribbling on it. Usually a location and a date. "Try this, I think you will like it." he would say, almost as if the tape was some form of narcotic. Again, moron college me would take the tape, not listen to it and most likely record over it with some crappy college band that no longer exists. (I will now take a moment to let you the reader mentally join in the commensurate ass kicking I deserved.)

What is the moral to this story. Well, clearly the professor knew something about me that I didn't. That my musical landscape was very small and lacked depth and character. Also, that had a been smarter I would have realized that these tapes were bootlegs he had recorded of all the time he had seen the Dead and he was sharing a piece of himself with me. Maybe he thought I would enjoy these tapes. Maybe he thought I wasn't just like every other poser, indie rock kid (although I was). Maybe he just thought they kicked ass and he wanted to share. Maybe he was just a bit weird from all the drugs and the math problems he had done and didn't really know anything about me at all. In any case, I regret not saving any of those tapes. Not because I ever really fond a love for THE GRATEFUL DEAD, but because I might have had I given them a chance...

Here is a link to a live performance by THE GRATEFUL DEAD in 1979 courtesy of the outstanding blog Troubled Souls Unite.

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