Monday, March 2, 2009

Candyman - Grateful Dead Song Review

Reviewing Grateful Dead songs that start with "C" has already provided some real gems. Candyman is yet another. Candyman totally rules. This is a song I would categorize with many others as "for Grateful Dead fans only". What I mean to say is that I've never heard anyone besides a Deadhead talk about or play this song. No one ever goes to a party and plays Candyman to get people fired up and I've never noticed anyone ever throwing quarters in a jukebox and playing Candyman either.

I'm really going to sound like a broken record when I point out yet again that when I got American Beauty cassette in high school... there's no way I really liked Candyman. I just didn't have the maturity, life experience, or perhaps just wasn't burnt out enough!

So why do I love it now?

Well, fast forward to a lazy first set of a show on a Thursday night at Shoreline in 1993 and I'm feeling the effects of a variety of things I've imbibed on the road up and in the parking lot. I'm not really in outerspace whatsoever - but more like I'm melting into the fence that I'm leaning up against. I guess you could say I've got a killer body high and I swear I remember that it was still daylight during the first set. The Dead play Candyman and in that state of mind it was just the absolutely perfect mellow rock and roll song with a recognizable intro, a good old fashioned 70's country rock chorus, and of course everyone cheering during some of those great lines:

Good morning Mr. Benson
I see you're doing well
If I had me a shotgun
I would blow you straight to hell

This song is just a great 70s rock tune. This song sounds like a mixture of beer (from a can), quaaludes, and a tour bus. I don't hear music like this anymore (I'm not saying it doesnt' exist - but I don't know where it is being made).

The lyrics are about a shady character and I like that Jerry sings them first person. It reminds me that Jerry was struggling under the burden of his unwanted "sainthood" by the time I discovered the Dead but really he was just a "screwed up" guitarist with weaknesses and a sense of humor like he had always been. Like I mentioned in the Brokedown Palace review, I think sometimes I'm more impressed with Robert Hunter being able to just come up with a simple traditional "folky" or "roots" lyrics like Candyman than I am with the cosmic metaphysical lyrics like The Eleven, China Cat Sunflower, and other psychedelic concepts (but believe me - I love those too).

Jerry always used an interesting effect on the Candyman solo. It is something like a phaser or a chorus effect that has a rapid "shimmering" rate that is pretty unorthodox really but still seems to fit right into the genre.

Candyman is yet another classic from American Beauty and one that I always turn up and listen too when I hear it on a podcast or a bootleg.

Candyman Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 8.8

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).


Matthew Watkins said...

I love the Dead, and I love "Candyman" (especially the slower, later versions). But I was always disturbed by the fact everyone cheered the "Mr. Benson" lines. Why? Jerry's singing (from the perspective of the lowlife character) about murdering someone we know nothing about. And stadiums full of dosed 'heads, supposedly on a love-peace-and-acceptance vibe, pick that out to cheer about. I mean, I can understand cheering "...what a long strange trip its been" or "...once in a while you get shown the light...", but this seems to be on a par with eveyone cheering in Wharf Rat when Jerry sings the word "motherfucker" (oh wow! Jerry just swore!).

On a more positive note, one of the most emotional moments in the Deads history can be heard during "Candyman" on this audience recording:
This was the first show after Jerry came out his coma, and when he sings "hand me my old guitar, pass the whisky round..." there's just a roaring tsunami of approval from the audience - has anyone ever been loved so deeply by so many people in one place at one time? I'm amazed he was able to finish the song.

Matthew Watkins said...

P.S. The file structure's pretty weird for that particular AUD, so if you just want to jump straight to the "Candyman", here's the file you want:

GDmike said...

Ooh I just got chills from merely reading about the the reaction of the crowd after the coma. I will listen to it now. I wish I could've been around at that time.

Candyman is so great - a true first set gem.

Yes, people cheer lines that stand out (like the "shotgun" line) - sometimes for weird reasons. Audience participation is great though - I enjoy hearing it on tapes (especially when people cheer geographic locations "Somewhere in San Francisco....")

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!)

GDmike said...

Dude I've been wrestling with archive for a few minutes trying to hear this and finally I got it working... Listening to the way he sings that line ('hand me my old guitar'... through '..the candyman's in town!') just gave me chills on my entire body thanks for the hookup on this. Ilove they way he says "whiskey" too... so much character!