Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brokedown Palace - Grateful Dead Song Review

Faaare ye well, my honey
Fare ye well, my only true love
All the birds that were singin'
Have flown except you alone

Wow, I am beginning to feel like a broken record when I say this is a legendary Grateful Dead song that displays Robert Hunter's work at its finest. I suppose that what happens when you have Box of Rain and Brokedown Palace one after the other in the alphabetical song list.

Brokedown isn't as metaphysical as Box of Rain but instead a much more sincere and poignant love song. It is possibly more impressive that Robert Hunter could put together such an interesting and effective traditional ballad than write about mind bending concepts like "it is a box of rain, I don't know who put it there..." (from Box of Rain).

This song also reminds me of Box of Rain because it doesn't have that really recognizable opening riff - always leaving me waiting until Jerry sings the first line to know for sure which song it is (although, much like Jack Straw - the placement in the set makes the tune pretty obvious no matter how varied the introduction to the piece is).

Yet another thing I would like to point out yet again is that I can't imagine that I really understood what a great song this was in high school when I got that cassette copy of American Beauty. Since I've now said the same about Attics of My Life and Box of Rain it begs the question - what did I listen to on American Beauty back then. The truth is... I don't know if I was really mature enough to appreciate these types of songs at that age...

...But I sure do now. Brokedown Palace is an emotional song for me now more than ever. I am a lot older, a lot more burned out, and a lot has been lost in life (and I have a lot less to lose than before). I now love this tune. It is so fitting that it often ended the weekend of shows. It is kind of a farewell song - the end of a period of life. It may refer to a relationship, a job, a situation, a friendship, but it just has that vibe of a spent person kind of giving up and moving on. There is also that affection for the subject the song is being sung to... which reminds me that so many times in life we are faced with situations that don't work out and it isn't necessarily that we don't want them to, it just wasn't meant to be.

So I hope that makes sense. I enjoy writing about songs like this and all the memories that they bring up for me. Later this year my life will be equal lengths "pre Grateful Dead discovery" and "post Grateful Dead Discovery" (because I was introduced their music at the age of 17, and will turn 34 in a few months. This means that I've spent more of my life as a Deadhead than not (and for only 3 years of my liking the Dead was Jerry even alive!). I've been through a lot since I first heard Brokedown Palace, and god willing I will go through a lot more before I hear it a final time.

Brokedown Palace Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 9.0

: 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).


Sundar said...

Mike, I love your blog. Your interpretations and views of songs are almost always on par with the feelings they evoke in me. And it's even more interesting when they are not on par, because the songs then tend to take new forms and open new avenues within me. Do keep up the good work.

MH said...

That's so nice and you are only the second person ever to comment on my blog... I would like to hear any other views specifically because as you know I always talk with all my Deadhead friends about songs, albums, eras, etc. and one of the reasons I write this blog is to represent the point of view that I feel strongly about.

homegrownvthead said...

this is a beautiful breakdown of that song. truly the song I want at my funeral

GDmike said...

Not a bad idea.