Going Down So Many Roads Feeling a Little Bit Better Jam

Thanks to things like the Internet Archive and YouTube, the music of the Grateful Dead is widely and freely available online. While the band made about a dozen studio albums together during a roughly twenty-year period of active recording, they obviously are best-known for their live performances over thirty years of touring with the core ensemble and, including various partial lineups, over fifty total years.

A quick search suggests that, the second-most-viewed Grateful Dead YouTube video of a single live song (2.5 million views) is July 9, 1995’s “So Many Roads.” The popularity of this video is readily understandable. The night is recognized as the band’s final concert, and Jerry Garcia would be dead exactly a month later. The song itself appears in the middle of the second set and features a vocal performance from a weak, haggard Garcia that nevertheless translates as pleading, desperate, retrospective, resigned, and soulful over an undeniably emotional twelve minutes. It’s just extremely real. The hindsight of knowing makes it dangerously easy to project external narratives on a captured and preserved moment of the past, but one hardly can avoid the feeling that Garcia is in this moment conscious of his impending departure (cf. Warren Zevon, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” The Wind (2003) (live in studio)), particularly given the dark, desolate, windswept (probably just a stage fan on a hot Chicago night but still) nature of the visual shot of the video.

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“So Many Roads” was a 90s Dead product, debuting on February 22, 1992 in Oakland and appearing regularly in setlists thereafter. Garcia considered the song (auto)biographical:

It’s [lyricist Robert] Hunter writing me from my point of view, you know what I mean? We’ve been working together for so long that he knows what I know. The song is full of references to things that have to do with me . . . .

Hunter is the only guy that could do that. He can write my point of view better than I can think it, you know what I mean? So that’s the kind of relationship we have. And he frequently writes tunes from my point of view that are autobiographical. They’re actually biographical I guess. He’s the one writing them, but even so they express my point of view – and more than that they express the emotional content of my soul in a certain way that only a long-term and intimate relationship with a guy as brilliant as Hunter coughs up . . . . I can sing that song, feel totally comfortable with it.

Although the band performed “So Many Roads” fifty-four times between February 1992 and July 1995, until this week, the only version I could recall hearing was the one from that final night. I don’t think that fact is terribly surprising; as a general matter, mid-90s Dead tapes aren’t exactly in high demand.

On Tuesday, though, I heard a new-to-me version of “So Many Roads,” this one from the Boston Garden on October 1, 1994, and the relative differences are striking. It’s brighter, stronger (even if Garcia’s physical frailties remain noticeable), upbeat, energized, and about half as long as the final version. It also is this week’s Jam:

As the foregoing indicates, I am not an expert in this narrow channel; however, if you only ever hear one performance of this song, it needs to be the July 9, 1995 offering. If you hear two, though, then October 1, 1994 makes for a good and uplifting pairing.

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Sports Law Roundup – 11/18/2016

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I used to write the sports technology roundup at TechGraphs, an internet website that died, and now I am writing the sports law roundup at ALDLAND, an internet website.

Here are the top sports-related legal stories from the past week:

  • Baseball stadium netting: On Wednesday, the trial court dismissed a lawsuit seeking increased fan-safety measures in baseball stadiums, including expanded safety netting behind dugouts and along the foul lines, based on a lack of standing. I previously wrote about this case over at TechGraphs (see here, here, and here), generally discussing the ways in which it– despite the legal weaknesses in the plaintiffs’ position– already was effecting change. Although those legal weaknesses proved to be the downfall of this suit, the court’s ruling was not without its admonitions to Major League Baseball. For example, an early footnote contains this observation: “Why Major League Baseball, knowing of the risk [foul balls pose] to children in particular, does little to highlight this risk to parents remains a mystery.” The order also expressly suggests the possibility that future litigation along these lines may be more availing in other states, where the “Baseball Rule,” which makes it very difficult for fans to recover against baseball teams and leagues, has fallen under attack: “Thus, it is conceivable that, under the right set of circumstances, a plaintiff could obtain the type of relief that plaintiffs seek here. Given the changing nature of both the baseball game experience and the injuries at issue, which are far different from those in 1914, what is a ‘reasonable expectation’ on an ‘ordinary occasion’ is not a static concept.
  • Football painkillers: Attorneys for retired NFL players in a lawsuit against the league alleging that team doctors dispensed painkillers “‘as if they were candy’ regardless of long-term effects” are seeking permission to depose team owners Jerry Jones and Jim Irsay. Outside of football, Irsay, who inherited ownership of the Indianapolis Colts from his father, is known for collecting famous guitars– including Jerry Garcia’s Tiger, Les Paul’s Black Beauty, and Prince’s Yellow Cloud— and having a history of abusing painkillers. The plaintiffs also have amended their complaint to add a RICO claim, which, among other things, introduces the potential for tripling their financial recovery in the lawsuit.
  • NCAA transfer rules: Johnnie Vassar, a former Northwestern basketball player, filed a putative class-action lawsuit against the NCAA, alleging that the rule forcing transferring students to sit out of their sport for their first year at their new school violates antitrust laws. Vassar claims that he attempted to transfer from Northwestern but was unable to do so, because all of his target schools only would accept him if he could play immediately. In recent years, Northwestern has emerged as a cradle of anti-NCAA legal activity.
  • Triathlon death: A wrongful death claim brought in connection with the drowning death of a competitor in the 2010 Philadelphia Triathlon cannot proceed, a Pennsylvania appellate court ruled, concluding that the triathlete knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk of participating in the event when, in the course of registering for it, he executed a detailed liability waiver.
  • Cuban baseball-player smuggling: In a federal criminal case against a sports agent accused of conspiracy to smuggle Cuban baseball players into the United States, the government has listed numerous professional players, including Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu, as trial witnesses. For more on this general subject, ESPN The Magazine’s feature on Yasiel Puig is a must-read.
  • Boxing fraud: The defendants– Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, HBO, Top Rank, and others– in twenty-six lawsuits alleging that they improperly concealed Pacquiao’s shoulder injury leading up to the fighters’ 2015 bout in order to boost pay-per-view sales admitted that the plaintiffs– fans and bars– had standing to pursue their claims, even as the defendants denied that those claims had any merit.
  • Gambling: West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin are asking the United States Supreme Court to review a Third Circuit decision rejecting New Jersey’s attempt to open up sports gambling in its state. The five states, together, filed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey’s cert petition (formal request that the Supreme Court allow them to appeal the Third Circuit’s ruling), arguing that the manner in which Congress has regulated sports gambling is unconstitutional and threatens the balance of power between the federal and state governments. In an unrelated story, daily fantasy leaders FanDuel and DraftKings announced a merger agreement this morning.
  • Secondary football ticket market: Under pressure from state regulators, the NFL agreed to end its league-wide imposition of a price floor on game tickets sold on the secondary market that had prevented the resale of tickets at prices below face value. The agreement does not apply to tickets for the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl, nor does it prevent teams from acting “unilaterally” to enforce price floors, meaning that the practice could continue.
  • Campus police records: The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed a trial court’s dismissal  of ESPN’s lawsuit seeking the University of Notre Dame Police Department’s incident reports involving student athletes, deciding that the ND Police Department is not a “public agency” and thus cannot be compelled to produce the requested materials under the state’s open records law.

Sports court is in recess.

What does Adam Schefter’s publication of Jason Pierre-Paul’s medical records mean for the future of athlete health information?

In the context of yesterday’s Jason Pierre-Paul fireworks/amputation news, my latest post for TechGraphs asks whether the increasing use of wearable sports technology could have negative consequences for athletes, and, further, whether athletes may be effectively powerless to avoid those consequences.

The full post is available here.

The world’s best cover band: Reviewing Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Recordings, by Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia

For two nights in 1973, frequent musical partners Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia met for their regular gig at the Keystone in Berkeley, CA and really locked it in. The full recordings of both nights now are available for the first time in a four-disc box set.

What do we call it when two top musicians– one an icon, one underrated– come together outside the brightest lights and get down to just performing music? As an initial, analytical matter, one can’t help but mention the Traveling Wilburys, but the feel’s all different here. This isn’t a tongue-in-cheek supergroup experiment shrouded in quasi mystery; rather, it’s two professional musicians doing work as such in a Bay-Area coffeeshop. Top-tier talent playing almost nothing but popular and classic tunes: The world’s best cover band.

Continue reading

Silent Film Series: Halloween Edition

Over the weekend, I decided it was time to start transitioning my music listening into the autumnal mode, and rather than go straight to Harvest on the vinyl, I decided to ease into things with Jerry Garcia’s second solo album, a 1974 release known as Garcia (Compliments). The version I have comes from a Garcia boxed set, which means it has a number of bonus tracks appended to those songs that comprised the original release. Like a lot of Garcia’s solo work, there are plenty of cover tunes on this album, and while I generally like the release more than the two-star rating it received from AllMusic, there’s one song in particular that’s stuck out to me since my first listen.

The tune is one of the bonus tracks, an R&B-type cover entitled “(I’m a) Road Runner,” written by the hit-making Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown songwriting team, and first recorded by Junior Walker and the All-Stars in 1965. Of the versions I’ve heard, I like Garcia’s the best– it’s the most complete, to my ear– but Bo Diddley got ahold of it too, and it’s his version that prompted this post.

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Two things you might think would happen in this space are not going to happen. First, this being the continuation of our Silent Film Series, you might expect discussion of a video clip best viewed without sound, since that’s the premise of the Series. Second, this being a post about Halloween, videos, and music, you might expect me to go with this, which, if this was a Friday, is what I would’ve done.

Instead and in light of the above, I’m appealing to the common notion that, on Halloween, things that were dead take on an impressively lifelike quality (e.g., ghosts, mummies, zombies, vampires, etc.), and applying that concept to the notion of “silent” films as I’ve conceived it here. In other words, when a “silent” film takes on lifelike qualities on Halloween, you can hear it as well as see it. In other words, I was watching the selection, below, with the sound on, quickly reached the definite conclusion were the visuals of the sort that would make the clip a good feature in this spot, and then reached the probable conclusion that everyone would like watching it better with the music playing too. In still other words, turn up your volume, and enjoy a minor spectacle of live-action sight and sound:

To what we’re (sort of) listening during the Derby: Stephen Stills and Jerry Garcia

Plenty of people have made good listening suggestions for Derby day (HT: @amention, who also gave us yesterday’s timely jam), but two of the musical selections I most associate with horse racing are strikingly mediocre offerings by two top-tier musicians.

First up is Stephen Stills’ Thoroughfare Gap, a 1978 release that is the lowest-rated of all Stills’ albums on AllMusic. Usually thorough (sorry), AMG’s review is a mere two sentences long: “A rather poor attempt of Stephen Stills’ to adapt to the disco/dance craze. Includes lame covers of Buddy Holly (‘Not Fade Away’) and Gregg Allman (‘Midnight Rider’) along with the semi-hit title track.” Click here for a live take of that title track in which the Texan sounds alternatively tired and British, although his acoustic guitar is expectedly dexterous.

Jerry Garcia’s 1982 Run For The Roses received a few more lines in its AllMusic review, but it really isn’t any more glowing, beginning by noting that it’s the last release for the Jerry Garcia Band and “sadly, it is also Garcia’s most lightweight effort as a bandleader,” and including adjectives like “marginal,” “impotently executed,” “underachieving,” and, with respect to the cover art (pictured above, right), “disconcerting.” Like Thoroughfare Gap, the title track is the best-regarded selection on Run For The Roses. Here‘s a lazy live version from an undated JGB performance.

What’s playing in the background of your Derby party?

Friday (almost) from the road

Yesterday marked the close of the first month in ALDLAND, so it’s time to make like Texas A&M and up the ante.

As promised, this site and its various outlets will be covering college football’s opening weekend live(ish) from Nashville, where Vanderbilt hosts Elon tomorrow night. In that spirit, here’s today’s Friday jam, which happens to include appearances from some folks featured here before (Bruce Hornsby and Jerry Garcia):

Happy birthday, Jerry Garcia

August is the only month in the American calendar without holidays, meaning that it’s a little extra special for those who celebrate birthdays this month. If there ever is to be a commemorative holiday in August, maybe it should be for Jerry Garcia. The music legend was born on August 1, 1942, and he died on August 9, 1995.