Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
HAVE YOUR DONATION DOUBLED!

If you are able to donate $100 or more for our Annual Fund Drive, your donation will be matched by another generous CounterPuncher! These are tough times. Regardless of the political rhetoric bantered about the airwaves, the recession hasn’t ended for most of us. We know that money is tight for many of you. But we also know that tens of thousands of daily readers of CounterPunch depend on us to slice through the smokescreen and tell it like is. Please, donate if you can!

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Music Never Stopped

by

May 1977. I had just returned from six months in Munich.  Although I had originally flown to Germany just to be with family for Xmas, things turned out differently. I found a job washing dishes in a cafeteria on one of the US military installations in the city. My boss and I drank top notch Munich beer while watching the Bayern Fussball club battle its way into a showdown with the Kiev Dynamo in the European cup. It was during those evenings of football and German lager that I truly began to understand the lure of the game. My brother and I smoked a fair amount of Lebanese red hashish while the Bavarian winter turned to spring. As the month of May opened, friends told me that the Grateful Dead were playing Baltimore in May. I knew I wanted to be there. I was ready for some serious late 1970s freak celebrations.

As it turned out, I made it back to the Baltimore area right after May Day. My send off from Munich were the May Day demonstrations downtown and an afternoon of hashish smoking topped off with a few liters of beer at the Augustinerbräu Keller. A couple days later I boarded a plane headed towards JFK airport in Long Island, NY. The military and police presence at the Munich airport included dogs and commandos with machine guns who ran their magnetic security device over each and every passenger. This type of security was par for the course at most German airports ever since 1972, but was enhanced this particular May because 1977 was turning out to be a year of peak activity from the armed political group known as the Red Armee Fraktion. When I landed at JFK, I sauntered through customs and over to my connecting flight without a problem. The biggest surprise was the five dollars I paid for a pack of cigarettes—a price that seems cheap nowadays but was exorbitant in 1977.51nLu+iHukL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Oh yeah, the Grateful Dead. After settling back in to my living situation in Maryland, I took some of my hard earned money and bought a bunch of LSD on blotter paper. The graphic on the blotter was a drawing of R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural and it was these pieces of paper which would enhance the upcoming Grateful Dead show for me and my friends. As I remember the show, it was fairly long, the music was clean and loud, and the song selection included some rock and blues classics, some Dead tunes from earlier in the decade and three or four songs from their just-released album titled Terrapin Station. When we got back to our place in Silver Spring, Maryland, my friends and I all agreed it was an excellent show (and the acid wasn’t too bad either).

As the years went by, that show would slip into relative obscurity, even among many of the Grateful Dead’s most obsessive fans (Deadheads.) Instead, it would be a show from earlier in that month of May that would end up being ranked as perhaps the best show every played by the band. While I am not one who ranks musical events, the Grateful Dead has thousands of fans who spend way too much time doing so. However, given that the show in question—played on May 8, 1977 in Cornell University’s Barton Hall in Ithaca, New York is listed by the Library of Congress in its National Recording Registry archive; these fans might be on to something.

One of those fans is author Peter Conner, who entered into the world of the Grateful Dead in the mid-1980s and recently had his book on this particular show published by Cornell University Press. Titled Cornell ’77: The Music, the Myth, and the Magnificence of the Grateful Dead’s Concert at Barton Hall, Conner has written a book that is many things. Firstly, it is a song by song analysis of the show; secondly, it is the story of what it was like being a Deadhead in the 1970s (with the view of a teenage fan of the 1980s); and thirdly, it is a look at the Grateful Dead and its thoughts on their history while also serving as a history of the band in the late 1970s. At times, it borders on the obsessive, but that is the nature of a certain number of music fans, especially among those who listen to the Grateful Dead.

It is a fan’s tribute but also an introductory guide to the Grateful Dead. It asks the question occasionally raised about this particular show and its lofty perch in Deadhead circles: is it just because the recording of the show is so good that this show is considered to be of such quality? In asking the question author Conner discusses the source of the recording—a sound engineer named Betty Cantor-Jackson—and the journey the master tapes have taken over the years. In a certain sense, it is a countercultural archaeological tale. There has never been an official recording of the show released. That will change later in May 2017, when the Grateful Dead releases the recording in multiple formats.

Cornell ’77: The Music, the Myth, and the Magnificence of the Grateful Dead’s Concert at Barton Hall is a book about the Grateful Dead by a fan, but it is not a book just for fans. This reader recommends it be read after listening to a recording of the show it describes. It’s up to the reader to choose their refreshments.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
October 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Clinton, Assange and the War on Truth
Michael Hudson
Socialism, Land and Banking: 2017 Compared to 1917
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in the Life of CounterPunch
Paul Street
The Not-So-Radical “Socialist” From Vermont
Jason Hirthler
Censorship in the Digital Age
Jonathan Cook
Harvey Weinstein and the Politics of Hollywood
Andrew Levine
Diagnosing the Donald
Michelle Renee Matisons
Relocated Puerto Rican Families are Florida’s Latest Class War Targets
Richard Moser
Goldman Sachs vs. Goldman Sachs?
David Rosen
Male Sexual Violence: As American as Cherry Pie
Mike Whitney
John Brennan’s Police State USA
Robert Hunziker
Mr. Toxicity Zaps America
Peter Gelderloos
Catalan Independence and the Crisis of Democracy
Robert Fantina
Fatah, Hamas, Israel and the United States
Edward Curtin
Organized Chaos and Confusion as Political Control
Patrick Cockburn
The Transformation of Iraq: Kurds Have Lost 40% of Their Territory
CJ Hopkins
Tomorrow Belongs to the Corporatocracy
Bill Quigley
The Blueprint for the Most Radical City on the Planet
Brian Cloughley
Chinese Dreams and American Deaths in Africa
John Hultgren
Immigration and the American Political Imagination
Thomas Klikauer
Torturing the Poor, German-Style
Gerry Brown
China’s Elderly Statesmen
Pepe Escobar
Kirkuk Redux Was a Bloodless Offensive, Here’s Why
Jill Richardson
The Mundaneness of Sexual Violence
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Choreography of Human Dignity: Blade Runner 2049 and World War Z
Missy Comley Beattie
Bitch, Get Out!!
Andre Vltchek
The Greatest Indonesian Painter and “Praying to the Pig”
Ralph Nader
Why is Nobelist Economist Richard Thaler so Jovial?
Ricardo Vaz
Venezuela Regional Elections: Chavismo in Triumph, Opposition in Disarray and Media in Denial
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
NAFTA Talks Falter, Time To Increase Pressure
GD Dess
Why We Shouldn’t Let Hillary Haunt Us … And Why Having a Vision Matters
Ron Jacobs
Stop the Idiocy! Stop the Mattis-ness!
Russell Mokhiber
Talley Sergent Aaron Scheinberg Coca Cola Single Payer and the Failure of Democrats in West Virginia
Michael Barker
The Fiction of Kurt Andersen’s “Fantasyland”
Murray Dobbin
Yes, We Need to Tax the Rich
Dave Lindorff
Two Soviet Spies Who Deserve a Posthumous Nobel Peace Prize
Rafael Bernabe – Manuel Rodríguez Banchs
Open Letter to the People of the United States From Puerto Rico, a Month After Hurricane María
Oliver Tickell
#FreeJackLetts
Victor Grossman
From Jamaica to Knees
Michael Welton
Faith and the World: the Baha’i Vision
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Kirkuk the Consolation Prize?
Graham Peebles
Beyond Neo-Liberal Consumerism
Louis Proyect
On Gowans on Syria
Charles R. Larson
Review: Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden’s “Bible Nation: the United States of Hobby Lobby”
David Yearsley
Katy Perry’s Gastro-Pop, Gastro-Porn Orgy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail