Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jack Straw - Grateful Dead Song Review

Man, "Jack Straw from Wichita."

What I would give to go back in a time machine to when I clawed the cellophane off of the Europe '72 "double CD" (yes I got into the Grateful Dead at age 17 in 1992) and heard Jack Straw for the first time.

Jack Straw was just instantly like-able, but certainly not because it was a "bubble gum" pop song that climbed into your subconscious with it's catchy melody.  Jack Staw is an epic tale with an extremely cool and original musical structure (music by Weir, lyrics by Hunter).

What imagery this song has!  What great lyrics!

Leaving Texas, fourth day of July
Sun so hot, the clouds so low, the eagles filled the sky...

I'm so partial to the Europe '72 version  I've included a youtube embed of it from youtube below.

A Song That is Eternally Fresh

In the twenty years since I started listening to the Grateful Dead, I've probably heard a hundred or more Jack Straws (mostly opening the 1st set). I can tell you that never once have I fast forwarded  through Jack Straw.  The song is just so pleasing and builds so nicely with such great lyrics and an evolving structure.  It's just perfect, and definitely none too simple.

I've also been known to crank up Jack Straw as loud as it will go when the 2nd jam starts.  This section can really reach great heights (especially for an opener) as Phil drops bombs while Jerry builds the intensity.  When you hear a great Jack Straw with Jerry playing great leads, you just know that the next song is going to be a Jerry song because he is  just 'feeling it' and is going to take over and deliver a stellar 1st set.

That's how powerful Jack Straw is.

The Creative Peak of the Early 1970's

For you Grateful Dead purists who favor the early to mid 1970's dead, I have to hand it to you, this is an extremely exciting period in the band's history.  So many of the songs that came about from 1970-1974 were incredible and became staples of the live show for the remainder of the Grateful Dead's existence . Many of these great songs are like Jack Straw in that they were never even recorded in the studio (Brown Eyed Women, Ramble on Rose, Tennessee Jed), the band was on such a creative tear.

Sentimental Jack Straw Memory

Jack Straw was the last show opener I ever saw (at the Las Vegas Sunday show in 1995). I remember getting pretty emotional for some reason when Jerry and the band walked onstage under the hot Las Vegas sun and started Jack Straw.  In the casinos during the Las Vegas shows,  you could occasionally  hear unsuspecting casino employees paging Grateful Dead characters at some prankster's request: "Jack Straw, please pick up a courtesy phone." It sure was great when the Deadheads took over the Las Vegas Strip, I will never forget those shows.

Jack Straw 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(read my blog manifesto to understand my Grateful Dead background a little more).

1 comment:

Tony Masiello said...

Right on! One of my favs too! I love the interchange in the vocals... and the build up to the ending, when it all comes together, is one of the funnest most energetic songs they ever performed...

Here is one from youtube that I particularly love... A couple of years before my show going started though...