The Grateful Dead
Skull and Roses, 1971
The Grateful Dead’s studio output is almost unfit for consumption — by me or anyone else. Despite their extracurricular proclivities, they were just about the whitest, squarest-sounding band in history, and studio sterility did them no favors. As I’ve gotten older though (I’m 33 now), I’ve developed a taste for their live recordings. Onstage they were squirmy, hardly controlled, often downright sloppy. And somehow that lack of discipline is what made them so appealing. Listening to albums like Europe ’72 or Skull and Roses, I sometimes feel like I’m hearing 5 or 7 or 9 dudes each playing in a different band at the same time. It’s the ultimate engagement, music as participation for both listener and band. That whole Deadhead thing makes a lot more sense now.