Friday, February 20, 2009

Broken Arrow - Grateful Dead Song Review

Am I a cheesy guy for loving this song??

Who else is gonna bring you... a broken ahahaharrrrowww (that spelling is my attempt to emphasize the nasal timbre of Phil's voice).

I tallied up all songs I saw at Dead shows and this one is in first place! This song I saw 6 times (and it is tied with So Many Roads and Liberty). I love all of these songs and I'm probably one of the few really hardcore Deadheads who would state that unequivocally. That alone tells you what kind of Dead I like - the later years.

Now I admit, I can see both sides of this argument of which era of the Dead is better because, frankly, if you took a tape of Broken Arrow from the Los Angeles Sports arena in 1994 and played it for a Dead Head in 1977 they would probably try to do something drastic to prevent this outcome for the Dead (ie "Terminator" style of altering the future).... and this might not bode well for Phil making it as far as he has...

And I can also admit that Broken Arrow is... a little cheesy. I distinctly remember talking my friend Josh into seeing the Dead with me and him particularly being disgusted with this song (he pointed out that it is a Rod Stewart song - that's hard to defend- not that there's anything wrong with Rod Stewart...).

But let's talk about what's good about Broken Arrow. It is a very good composition and the Dead played it with a tasteful mature "smooth jazz" approach that I really enjoy. Vince does some nice descending "waterfall" melodies throughout and Jerry uses a guitar effect that sounds like a pitch shifter which is interesting too. The melody is very catchy and romantic. Phil's vocals are always a little unpalatable for me, but it underscores the beauty when Jerry and Bobby back him up periodically in the song:

There you go, ooooh ooooh.

So as a Dead fan who saw Broken Arrow six times, I'm going to go on record as saying I enjoyed every single one I saw. Now, if I had the chance to trade in all six Broken Arrows for one Help->Slip->Frank, would I? Probably (heck I'd probably trade them all for a China Doll - which I also never saw), but it is a cool song nonetheless and I hope to hear Phil sing it when I see them in LA this May. With my history of catching this song so frequently - it's a good bet they'll play it if I'm in the audience.

Broken Arrow Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 7.4

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).


Anonymous said...

The song was actually written and first recorded by Robbie Robertson, of The Band fame. Rod Stewart just showed a knack for finding good songs and probably made Mr. Robertson a nice paycheck. It is a lovely song. Was listening to it just now and found your blog entry. I had no idea The Grateful Dead covered it as well.


E Height said...

I unfortunately never got the chance to see the "real" Grateful Dead; I was eleven when Jerry passed.

I did however get to see Dark Star Orchestra when I was 19 in the summer of 2002 at Navy Pier in Chicago.

Wow, what a great atmoshpere for a show. Outdoor theatre on the lake, summer night, etc etc.

Amoung the highlights of the show were a Drums (which had been an extended version for the fans who didnt get up and turn their back on the band to watch the fireworks) and of course a Broken Arrow. Until that point in time I didn't know that the Dead had ever covered this song.

I had heard the song many a time before by Rod Steward while being carted around in the back of my mom's minivan as child not having any input on the radio. It was amazing to hear a more meaningful, more Jazzy version of the song... which tied the night together perfectly.

GDmike said...

Great image E Height (of the minivan with mom) I have lots of the same types of memories of radio songs from the 80s when I would be cruising with Mom. Thanks for sharing the experience from Dark Star Orchestra too - who would've thought JK the guitarist would become the premier Jerry replacement in The Dead and Further (as he is now) Sorry for the late reply, I was 'locked out' of the blog for close to 3 years for some gmail/google issues (due to user error!),

GDmike said...

OH Cool Tanya, thanks for the heads up. I love Robbie Robertson and The Band! Sorry for the late reply, I was 'locked out' of the blog for close to 3 years due to some gmail/google issues (due to my user error!)

miles said...

i liked it too. ive had my problems with phil since jerry died but this is a good song.

GDmike said...

Yeah, I always listen when it comes on when I'm listening to shows...I like it.

miles said...

my problem with phil is simple. his club 'terrapin crossroads' charges for the shows he streams. and bobby's place 'sweetwater' streams for free. even huge shows like FURTHUR.....

GDmike said...

Don't get me started on the rest of GD post Jerry (stealing Jerry's Doug Irwin guitars which Jerry explicitly willed to him)... I still see the shows when I can but nothing surprises me. Also, why are they holding on to the recordings? So they can slowly release a fraction of them and make $$. I won't live forever - open the vault!