Friday, October 14, 2005

Dead's lyrics live in annotation

From the Oregonian:

Dead's lyrics live in annotation
Friday, October 14, 2005
JEFF BAKER
The Grateful Dead first performed two songs with thunder and lightning imagery, "The Wheel" and "Lazy Lightin'/Supplication," at a show at the Paramount Theater in Portland on June 3, 1976.
Many a Deadhead knows that interesting piece of trivia, but how many know that a line in the chorus of "The Wheel" -- "If the thunder don't get you, then the lightning will" -- echoes a line from Merle Travis' country classic "Sixteen Tons" ("If the left one don't get you, then the right one will").
Robert Hunter, who wrote the lyric, and Jerry Garcia, who sang it, probably knew it, and now everyone who reads "The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics" (Free Press, $35, 480 pages) knows it, too. They'll also see a comparison between Hunter's lyrics and his "Lay of the Ring" from the "Eagle Mall Suite," and read some notes about the wheel in Roman mythology and the Bible, and learn a little about the robin, the bird that shows up in the line "Round, round, robin run around."
And if they look up from the lyrics to the page they're printed on, they'll see an illustration by Jim Carpenter, a Eugene artist who worked with annotator David Dodd to make the book come alive. More than 200 of Carpenter's illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book, from the literal (a cog and wheel on "The Wheel") to the outrageous (a sleeping Samson is oblivious to Delilah, who's about to trim his stringy locks in "Samson and Delilah," another song that was first performed at the Paramount in 1976).
"Some of the songs really lent themselves to a drawing," Carpenter said. "Some are so abstract, there's no chance. I just looked for a place to stand and tried to keep rolling."
Carpenter is a sculptor and maker of musical instruments who previously worked on another Grateful Dead book, "The Water of Life," with Alan Trist of Ice Nine Publishing Co., the Dead's publishing arm. Carpenter took some samples to the Dead's headquarters in San Rafael, Calif., "and they let me go."
"I had a lot of freedom to do whatever I wanted," he said. "It was a lot of work in a short amount of time, but very rewarding. Ideas are like rabbits; once you have a couple, they start popping up everywhere."
Carpenter's beautiful cover illustration refers to a drawing by Stanley Mouse, who created many of the Dead's iconic images, in its use of a skeleton, a jester and a crow. The book contains color plates of illustrations by Mouse and Alton Kelley as well as two by Carpenter (for "Friend of the Devil" and "St. Stephen") and two by Tim Truman.
The information in the book comes from Dodd, whose day job is being the city librarian of San Rafael, Calif., and whose obsession is the Dead. Dodd set up a Web site called "The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics" 10 years ago that he writes was "the first to use hypertext to annotate any kind of literary text." He began receiving e-mail from Deadheads and incorporating their comments into the Web site. The book "is the result, though perhaps not the end result. . . . I hope the margins are big enough for readers to add their own notes."
Why not? Who knew that William Howard Taft's campaign slogan was "Smile, smile, smile" (a line from "He's Gone") or thought about the character in Vladimir Nabokov's "Pale Fire" named Stella Blue, the same name as a famous Garcia/Hunter song? The possibilities are endless.
Dodd and Carpenter will sign copies of their book at 4:30 today at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St., Eugene. Those who buy a book will receive a bookmark created by Carpenter.
At 8 tonight, the Dark Star Orchestra ("the best Grateful Dead cover band on the planet," according to Carpenter), will perform at the McDonald Theatre, 1010 Willamette St., Eugene. Dodd and Carpenter again will sign copies of their book, and those who purchase a book can buy a Dark Star Orchestra CD for $10.
Jeff Baker: 503-221-8165; jbaker@news.oregonian.com

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