The Storied Songs of Bob Weir
As Furthur tour continues, we take another look look at our August 2005 issue for this conversation between Bob Weir and Dennis McNally. Earlier in the week we posted Owsley “Bear” Stanley’s Southern California Sojourn with the Grateful Dead.
In the spring of 2005, Bob Weir sat down with Grateful Dead biographer Dennis McNally to discuss the history behind some of his most revered compositions…
“Brother Esau” is a song that I guess you ended up not liking and I’m not sure why because I think it’s a really good song. What was wrong it?
“My Brother Esau” the lyrics were opaque. I mean, at least for me, not so for other people, I don’t understand what it is I’m singing there. I worked and worked and worked on it, and I still couldn’t understand the point that I was fucking making.
I thought I knew.
I know vaguely, but… but the lyrics are too obtuse. I know it’s basically… it was an attempt to bring a biblical reference to an era where in American…
Cane and Abel.
It was Sons of Isaac, right? Esau and Jacob. And you know, they went in very different directions. One of them basically ran himself into a wall. And the reconciling of Esau and Jacob was the biblical precedent for what was happening in American society at the time. We tried to encapsulate that but I don’t think we quite got it. I know what we were going for but I didn’t feel like the lyric was exactly ringing that bell. It seemed to me like when I would sing the song, we could nail it. Musically, I loved playing it.
That’s what confused me. Since you put it away, there was something obviously something you didn’t like but you guys would play the hell out of it.
You know, I would consider, and I may do this working with Barlow in trying to refine the lyric a bit so it does say what… there’s more to be added to that story anyway because the story is happening again.
Precisely. The visions of Vietnam haven’t gone anywhere.
The visions of Vietnam haven’t gone anywhere and there’s that element coming back from the Gulf War and over the top of that there’s red versus blue America. So there’s that to be addressed and I wouldn’t mind bringing that back or reworking it or something… “Esau Revisited” or something like that and really refining that a bit so that it… It doesn’t have to be understandable as long as it rings the bell. Poetry doesn’t have to be understandable. In fact, it’s probably better when it’s not but who’s to say? But it does have to ring the bell.
When you’re onstage delivering this stuff, you go into another state, you really do. I’m not the guy you see onstage or the guy who shows up in pictures or in the mirror. I get into a sort of a hallucinatory… I won’t say hallucinatory. I get into a place where I see stuff from onstage that I don’t normally see. That’s where I live a great deal of my life. And in this case, and in other cases too, when the song is over I see stuff. I see neon question marks lighting up over peoples’ heads. (taking on voice of someone in the crowd) “What was it that I just heard?” People who were paying attention. I may be projecting that, it may be all in me or it may be actually happening, regardless rather than hearing the song in my head go “ding-click,” I know they got it, I never got there with “My Brother Esau.”
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Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
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