Thursday, February 2, 2012

Days Between - Grateful Dead Song Review

Polished like a golden bowl... the finest ever seen.

This song review is going to really reveal my bias about The Dead (re: Jerry favoritism and preferring late-era Dead).  To me Days Between is "the final masterpiece." 

This song was underwhelmingly received when I was seeing shows, and I've heard some pretty devoted Deadheads state they don't like it.  I find this hard to understand because to me this song is completely original and very moving.  I think when Days Between was originally introduced, the "newness" factor made some Deadheads not like this song - because they'd rather hear a tune that they were more "connected" to.  But to me, all Dead music was new at the time when I heard this song, and it really stands out.

An Original Structure and Spotty Performances

This song has a really original song structure that moves from an opening theme through a building chord progression that comes back to the opening theme after the climax. It's a kind of linear structure that escalates in intensity and there is no traditional verse, chorus or bridge.  Jerry would occasionally solo over the entire chord cycle, but more commonly solo over the opening coda (when it is played at the end).

Since I specialize in listening to '90s Dead,  I've heard most of the versions of Days Between, and it usually is played after Space (or after a more upbeat song that came out of Space). Performances of Days Between were rather varied in the way the band approached it, and some are much better than others.  My favorite versions are the ones that have a pulsing undercurrent from the rhythm section that really builds in intensity throughout the song.  Other times, it was a little listless.  Sometimes Jerry was definitely more "on" than others (like all songs).  When he would take one of the full chord cycles for a solo, it is usually pretty sloppy, but when he would solo at the end (over the opening theme), it usually came off better.  There's a great version of it on a youtube video at the bottom of this blog post - thatnks to roadrunnerismyname for the post.

I think the fact that the Dead were still pretty new to the song (it was in the repertoire for about 3 years  when Jerry died) explains why it was a little inconsistent.  They were still finding their way with this tune.   

The "studio demo" version that is on the  So Many Roads Box Set is decent, but nothing great.   

Hunter and Garcia's Final Masterpiece

In my opinion, as much (or more) credit goes to Hunter on this tune. The lyrics are really special.  There is a sense of nostalgia and wonder throughout the song.   And, as the best art always does reflect life, there is also kind of a dark brooding sense of fear and loss: Summer flies and August dies, and the world grows dark and mean...  

Hearing Jerry sing "When all we ever wanted, was to learn and love and grow" still gives me chills, but I really like lines like this too: "No one knows much more of this, than anyone can see..."  To me it is saying  to not seek answers from anyone else, but just try to make the most of this short window of time we have on this planet.

The Days Between August 1st and August 9th

There's kind of a legend that the "Days Between" August 1st and August 9th have a special significance because Jerry was born on August 1st and died on August 9th.  I always try to observe this time period as much as possible to reflect on the man and the music he created.  The gamut of emotions that this reflection brings are as varied as the range of  themes that are present in Days Between: from wonder to fear. From joy to loss.

Days Between Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 9.9

Disclaimer: This is part of my blog that reviews all things Grateful Dead for fun. 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).


The JB Post said...

Mike, I am so surprised no one has commented on this and I want to say THANK YOU for writing this article. My first time hearing Days Between was when the box set "So Many Roads" was released (I'm a mere 27 years old) and it IMMEDIATELY struck me as one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard. I don't know many fans who are familiar with it, and I've always been curious about the song itself, when it was written, I was thrilled to find your article. Thanks man :-)

GDmike said...

This is really cool, I'm going to put the song on right now. I wish I kept better track of which versions especially great so I could quickly refer to them.

BerthaDog said...

Just Watched "Move Me Brightly" ~ Jerry Garcia's 70th Birthday Celebration on TRI Studios Live Concert Stream and I was especially moved by "Days Between". Love ur Blog about this song... correct me if I;m wrong, but I believe this was a song that The Dead only did Live... and it was not released until after his passing... this song was performed beautifully at this tribute and it will always Move Me Brightly ...

GDmike said...

I watched it too, very cool...