Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Attics of My Life - Grateful Dead Song Review

Attics of My Life

The second bona fide Grateful Dead classic song in the "A" section (the first being Althea).

What can I say about Attics? One of the most beautiful songs ever written. Incredibly original. Very soulful lyrics. It was the song that when I first got that American Beauty cassette in high school, I think I probably fast forwarded right through it after hearing it once.

Now, it ranks as one of the all time favorite songs. I don't know how to describe this song, it really defies categorization in a genre. It seems to be a love song, and it is a slow ballad. I feel that it has an almost Irish quality to it, but I can't really say why. The song is sung in 3 part harmony and I think the Crosby Stills and Nash guys had to help the Dead accomplish this disciplined vocal style. It is just pure soul and it has very abstract, psychedelic lyrics written of course by Robert Hunter.

The lyrics are so great that it is tempting to post them all, but will focus on the "goosebumps" part which I guess you could refer to as the bridge or "B" section (the song has an AABA structure):

In the book of love's own dream, where all the print is blood
Where all the pages are my days, and all the lights grow old
When I had no wings to fly, you flew to me, you flew to me

Then of course after the verses there are additional vocalizations where the band continues to harmonize (ie. "to meeee to meeee-eee") that I find to be really emotional. A great version of this song is the acoustic "Phil Lesh and Friends" show from Berkeley in 1994.
Note that this Phil Lesh and Friends actually was the Dead (as opposed to his post Jerry band of late).

Also note that people who got to witness this song (and this entire show) are critical of it on the message board below the media player in that link. How can these people take themselves seriously? Oh wait, that's basically why I started this blog is to air my (sometimes negative) opinions on the world of the Grateful Dead. Music (and reality I guess) is a beautiful thing because it is so subjective. To each his own.

Attics of My Life Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 9.9

Disclaimer: This is part of my review of every Grateful Dead song from A-Z. Music is a beautiful thing because it is so personal and subjective, so keep in mind that this is one man's opinion (and be sure to read my blog manifesto to understand a little more about where I'm coming from).


Zoooma said...

Hey Now. I just found your blog. Interesting. I'm glad you put that 9-24-94 "Phil Lesh and Friend" in quotes because that wasn't really P&F as it came to be after Jerry died. Also it should be noted that it wasn't truly the Dead as neither drummer was there.

The fact that Attics was brought back in '89 (I believe - Hampton) for the 1st time since '72 (I also believe) adds to its mystique. It was almost brought back in '76, rehearsed with Keith & Donna but never played live. Had it made it back into the rotation, I wonder if it would have been as loved as much as it ended up being loved. In any case, such a great Hunter tune... and soooooooooooo worth also checking out by Hunter (versus by the GD or P&F.)

MH said...

THANKS for stopping by and posting. I haven't heard that '94 tape in a long time but I forgot there was no drummers- thanks for the heads up.

Also, with regard to Robert Hunter... I've heard the occasional CD (maybe two of them) and amongst my friends there was a surge of interest in Robert Hunter after Jerry died (everyone was going to his concerts and I heard a few live recordings).

But I'm largely in the dark on his music. I want to hear more though, I've liked what I've heard so far. My friend recently lent me book "Grateful Dead Illustrated Trip" (I'm sure you know the one) and it chronicles ALL Dead related projects and I swear there were like 100+ Albums mentioned that I had never heard of and knew I would have to get one day - Robert Hunter especially.

... so it is great to know there are still undiscovered gems I can look forward to hearing, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Zoooma said...

Hey Again! If you're interested, I've got a few Hunter shows posted at Inspiration, Move Me Brightly... from '80, '84, '86, '97, and '03. I'm going to post another '03 show within 2 or 3 weeks, one where Robert reminiscences with the crowd about Pigpen. It's one of the best non-musical moments I've ever heard on tape, well, on disc or mp3. Hunter isn't everyone Deadhead's cup o' tea but I think it's amazingly cool stuff! Feel free to stop and by and peruse at your leisure the stuff I've posted.

Garciya later!