Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

You Live in a World Without You

Jerry Garcia once said something like, “You have to remember that we live in a world without a Grateful Dead.”

It’s an interesting perspective. When you are the Grateful Dead, you are known to millions and adored by many. You are an object in the world of your fans and followers.

But in your own world, there is no corresponding object.

The eye that sees cannot see the eye that sees (or something like that).

Whenever you are having a hard time dealing with someone, remember that may themselves have a hard time understanding how their actions, their words, their appearance are perceived. Being inside everything they do, they are unaware of what it looks like from the outside. They live in a world in which they do not exist.

Same goes for you.

“Flowers” on MOG

I am listening to Flowers by the Rolling Stones on MOG.

I have never owned this album and, although I have yet to hear a song I haven’t heard before (I’m on “Let’s Spend the Night Together“), I feel like I’m hearing it for the first time. It’s pretty amazing.

The first thing that hits you is the bass. It’s way up front and in the stereo mix a galloping, insistent presence.

There’s also a dark noisiness—the blunt organ, the shattered drums, the jumpy, rawly harmonized vocals—that makes this thing seem both straightforward and experimental.

More interesting to me than the music—”Lady Jane” is a weird anticipation of the Grateful Dead (“Rosemary,” “Mountains of the Moon” on AOXOMOXOA) and Depeche Mode (“One Caress” on Songs of Faith and Devotion))—is the fact that I’m listening to music on MOG.

I’m sure others have written this elsewhere (if there were only a way of searching the Web to find out if anyone else has posted anything about MOG), but there is a “dream come true” quality to MOG that I can’t get over: almost any music I think of, I can listen to at will.

After a lifetime of listening to music as chosen by others, in the case of radio, or to the extent that I could access its recorded form (I include mp3 or other rips of albums to be essentially the same thing in a different recording medium or, more accurately, encoding), I am now plugged in to a vast, explorable library of music.

I must say it means that I haven’t used iTunes in going on two weeks.

And that my burgeoned cd collection seems even more archaic than ever.

As long as we have electricity and connectivity and a robust information infrastructure—and are not being attacked by government forces or rebel militia—this is how recorded music (and all recorded media?) will be consumed henceforth.

Eric Clapton & Concrete Abstraction

3677353847_fd9462898c_mListening to this Derek and the Dominoes boot is like eavesdropping on the dream of a drunkard.

I can imagine being at the show and perceiving it in the same befuddled way as it is presented in this recording: blurred, remote, and overwhelming. In other words, for all its distorted obscurity here we actually get the real thing itself, the event as it must have unfolded in the delirious ears of those present.

Akin to a lot of Dead audience tapes, the main thing you can hear is the guitar with everything else melting into a gray (or in the Dead’s case, “day-glo”) sludge. The lo-fidelity of the recording makes the performance densely abstract; you get the sense of the music’s general contours, its velocity, its trajectory, but your bewildered mind has to fill in the details.

Except, of course, for that guitar, the one identifiable, concrete element around which the otherwise chaotic noise organizes itself.

There are moments in Eric Clapton’s playing where I’ve said to myself, “That’s why people dig Clapton,” and some of those moments can be found in this ancient maelstrom’s aural whorl. These are the moments when the legend and hype of Clapton (his abstraction) take on solid form and exercise an uncanny, even mesmeric, force.

(Oddly enough, I don’t believe these are the same moments that Clapton appreciates in his own playing, but what of it? There’s no accounting for taste.)

I draw your attention to the following instances of Clapton’s concrete abstraction as worthy of further study: “Had to Cry Today” and “Sea of Joy” from Blind Faith; “Deserted Cities of the Heart” from Live Cream, Volume II;  “Roll It Over” and “Pearly Queen,” from Rainbow Concert; and, if you can find them, any Cream bootlegs from their 1967 tour (like this one from Detroit’s Grande Ballroom).

Clapton was hardly God, but at times He was close enough.

Image Courtesy of deadheaduk.

Hero-Worshiping Guitar Player

3684432700_f0789345b6_mWhen I was in college, I played music with a fellow named Tony Benoit. (If you’d like to read the text of an insightful and thought-provoking/action-recommending speech he gave on why we have environmental problems, you may do so now.)

We had a lot of far-ranging conversations about truth, life, art, girls, etc., but of the many things he said to me over the years, the one that stuck in my mind’s craw was the following rebuff, apropos of what I can not now recall, “That’s because you’re a hero-worshiping guitar player.” My friend had therewith hit a certain nail on it’s undeniable head and to this day I dwell on the implications of that sobriquet.

At the time, he was probably talking about my tendency to obsess about Jerry Garcia who was, in his way, my hero. Of course, I also idolized other guitar players, Jimi Hendrix, for example, or Jimmy Page, but Garcia meant something in particular to me at the time.

I had seen the Dead a bunch of times, and I had seen Jerry’s solo band here and there, so he was actually a living person to me (though, when he was playing at Frost in 1982, his ashen pallor had a from-the-grave-ness about it). But beyond that, I, like many of my Deadhead brethren and sisthren, saw in the band, and the figure of Garcia in particular, the living embodiment of a kind of ideal. While the precise contours of this ideal are lost in a vivid purple haze, broadly speaking I would define it as an ideal, not just of freedom, but of a willingness to use that freedom to explore the outer reaches of conscious human experience.

I think, however, Tony wasn’t just talking about my ongoing idolatry of rock stars like Garcia or Dylan or Neil Young. Instead, he was highlighting a more deeply ingrained part of my developing personality. If I admired someone for being extraordinary, and, frankly, I admired Tony in this way, I would see that individual as somehow essentially different from me and consider the qualities that made them uniquely special effectively unattainable.

Tony was trying to wake me up from this delusion. He was trying to remind me that people like Jerry, or, frankly, himself, were ultimately people just like me (or if they were different from me, they were no more different than everyone is from everyone else). As he told me once, “You know, if you could get into someone’s head and live there for awhile, I think you’d find that it’s pretty much like being in your own head.” (Of course, he also said, “When I die, I’ll finally get over this hang-up that I’m different from everything else.”)

Nowadays, while I still admire folks famous, not-so-famous, and downright unknown, I no longer place them in an aspirational realm forever beyond my grasp. No, I appreciate them in their “thusness” and don’t turn this thusness into a self-esteem-withering condemnation of my own thusness.

So, thanks, To(ny).

Image Courtesy of Αλεξάνδρα.