New Life for the Dead
What Shall We Say, Shall We Call It By A Name?
Phil Lesh readily acknowledges that he was the driving force behind junking The Other Ones moniker in favor of calling the group The Dead. “The feedback I get about the name change,” Phil tells me, “is that a lot of people are really excited about it and the general tenor of the responses is, ‘What took you guys so long?’ I’m personally excited about it because, even though it’s a compromise, it’s the perfect solution. It says, ‘This is who we are,’ and it still give the proper amount of respect to Jerry’s memory. That group will always be the Grateful Dead. This is something a little different, but still in that line.”
The move has outraged and offended some Deadheads, who view using even part of the old name as tantamount to sacrilege, and who see the switch as merely a clever commercial ploy—there’s little doubt that “The Dead,” with the resonance of nearly 40 years of history behind it, is a more salable commodity than “The Other Ones” could ever be. But let’s face it—they are The Dead. It’s their name to use, and judging by the seriousness with which they’ve been approaching their music since reuniting last year, they are honoring a noble tradition—even as it evolves before our eyes—not besmirching it. Bob Weir is the only one of the Core Four who has made any noises about the name change, but as Phil says with a laugh, “I guess Bobby forgot we had a meeting and he agreed on it.” Adds Mickey, “That’s just Bobby stirring things up. He’s a prankster. I was at the meeting where he agreed, too.”
The downsizing of GDP was no laughing matter, however. Again, the perception among some of those let go is that the move was instigated by the Leshes, but in fact the restructuring was ultimately endorsed by all four Grateful Dead members.
“This was not something we entered into lightly; far from it,” Phil Lesh says. “It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. Because all of theses people were friends and most of them have been working with us for years and years, some of them for most of their lives. But it’s something that had to be done because we just couldn’t keep going the way we were. Sales were down about 50 percent and the overhead was tremendous; it was impossible. So in order to keep anything going at all, we had to perform major surgery.”
“It was difficult but it had to happen,” says Mickey. “We can’t pretend it’s like the old days anymore. These are different times and it’s a different economy. In the Grateful Dead we’ve always tried to do everything ourselves and there have been times when we’ve done it well and times it’s gotten us into trouble. There are people who can do it a lot better than us, so we’re going to them now.”
Adds Bill Kreutzmann: “What we did was make it like every other company across the board. We had to shrink everything because the music industry is really hurting. And we also wanted to focus on our best asset and that’s being a band and selling music, not just merchandising.”
Bob Weir’s viewpoint is a little different: “I don’t like it at all—letting go people who gave us their sweat and their hearts and souls. If we’d been able to make Bandwagon happen, everything would be different. That was going to be a way to pump up the volume of GDP and we wouldn’t have had to lay off all those people and we would have been in a vastly more profitable position. But we couldn’t make it happen, so in a sense what went down was unavoidable. But it’s a real shame. I am not happy about it.”
And a final word on the matter from lyricist and sage Robert Hunter, always a keen observer of the Dead scene: “To quote Woody Guthrie: ‘Life it or not/things ain’t so hot/when you haven’t got the do-re-mi’. To their humanitarian credit, the guys [in the band] hung on to GDP long after common sense dictated otherwise. Is there a way to fire a bunch of long-term employees gracefully? I doubt it.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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