Happy Birthday Bob & Ode to John Perry Barlow
Dylan & The Dead, July 6, 1986, RFK Stadium
First time I saw Dylan with my own eyes was at one of these Summer Tour Dead shows in 1986. In the late afternoon, the day before the show, Dave Meade picked my girlfriend, Natascha, and I up in the Back Bay of Boston in his red Audio Quattro Turbo (which he got off the so-called “grey market”). That was a badass car; his other car was also red: an AC Shelby Cobra.1 That was a badass car! But three people wouldn't fit (comfortably) in the Cobra, nor would the cooler full of ice, Stolichnaya, and Heinekens. Meadeso powered all the way to Washington, D.C. Average speed: 100 mph. It was like getting a ride from Chuck Yeager — The Right Stuff.
I don’t know how long it typically takes to get to D.C. from Boston (it’s a long ass drive); but Meadeso got us there pretty fast. So fast, in fact, that we blew by D.C. and into Maryland, when he missed an exit going Mach 2 (we even passed a Maryland State Police car — they’re yellow — and somehow didn’t get pulled over: couldn’t keep up). Popped a U turn; we turned around; and pulled into a quaint little Brownstone in Georgetown just before midnight. Tasch and I hit the sack almost immediately.
Next morning, up relatively early, some breakfast, everyone’s in their requisite tie-dye, and we head to RFK Stadium, which, as I recall, is located somewhere behind the Capitol (you could see it — first and last time for me) in the middle of a full-on tenement, a ghetto, of what seemed to me like endless rows of multi-story red brick buildings. It was depressing. And hot — crazy hot and humid like it gets only in The South. There were throngs of decadent bourgeois Bohemian Dead Heads, mixed with dancing and singing Hare Krishnas (they were always at shows) ringing bells, moving through these projects; and I could see Black people looking at us, skeptically (rightfully), like we were aliens, which of course we were.
Got to the gates, Dave gave us our tickets. I immediately looked for (and found) some LSD (“hits?”) and dropped a Gooneybird (or was it two?) then and there. Ready for GO! Natascha was skeptical, disapproving, as usual. Be careful what you wish for . . . She didn’t drop anything (but me, although that came a couple years later); neither did Meadeso, he was something like a chaperone. Gentilhomme. It (the acid) came on fast and strong, probably because it (the weather) was so hot (over a hundred degrees); there’s that anticipation before the show; and the fact that there were over 100,000 (thanks, John DeNeufville — he’s good with numbers, I’ve heard) people piling into this giant stadium. Talk about exhilaration. Tom Petty & The Heatbreakers were playing already (“American Girl”). You just knew it was going to be a big night.
Gooney Bird blotter Acid (LSD) circa 1986: Hold on to your hat!
I saw dragons in the sky. Circling the stadium. A little menacing at first, then benevolently — it felt like they were watching over me. Breathing fire. The digital thermometer up above the sky boxes read: 103 degrees (Fahrenheit). It was crazy fucking hot. After Petty and them finished their set (Ways to be Wicked?), the Dead roadies — the notorious “Pleasure Crew” — sprayed us, on the floor, with fire hoses. I felt like I’d been baptized (again). Millions of people. It was insane.
The band opened with a standard stadium classic: “Hell in a Bucket” —
Well I was drinkin' last night with a biker
And I showed him a picture of you
I said, "Pal get to know her, you'll like her
Seemed like the least I could do.
'Cause when he's chargin' his chopper
Up and down your carpeted halls
You will think I am dressed up quite proper
Never mind how I stumble and fall.2
Jerry looked tired. He would actually collapse after this show and went into a diabetic coma — almost killed him. And that was the end of that summer tour (sorry, no Red Rocks). But that was after the show. Anyway, there’s the legendary Bob Dylan. He looked like one of my parents friends dressed up for Halloween as a rocker or something kind of stupid. Over the hill, is what I thought.
He was pretty bad. Drunk. Didn’t give a shit. I wasn’t impressed. Jerry, on the other hand, clearly worshipped Dylan. Jer looked like a big, fat kid with a grey beard playing music with his hero. Jerry was checking Dylan constantly — they all were: it was obvious that the band loved backing up Dylan regardless of anything he did. They were his Team. Brent, Bobby, Mickey, and Billy were enjoying themselves, waiting hand and foot (literally) on everything Dylan insinuated. Tom Petty came out, too, in his stove-pipe hat and jammed with the band.
During half-time (intermission) I split from the floor. It was too intense. I’d lost Natascha and Dave during Cassidy (another Barlow classic — probably my favorite).3 I had more or less lost my sense of a coherent self. Somehow I found a skateboard — I have no idea how that happened. But it did. I spent the entire second set skateboarding these smooth looping corridors all around RFK Stadium into the night.
It was like a sauna in there. The music echoed / wafted (vibrated) through the halls for a 360 degree surround sound at all elevations — as I carved S turns for miles. Miles. Surprisingly, those halls (more like cement tunnels — giant tubes) were virtually empty. Everyone (all 100,000 of them “the kids they dance/they shake their bones - ashes to ashes: throwing stones”) was in the stadium. But for me, some security guards, hot dog venders, and cops, who checked me out with equal parts skepticism and wonder. Who is this guy? At one point I heard that distinctive raspy twang, Dylan, but I didn't care . . .
In all truth, I was surfing. Full on. Blowin’ Soul! “Riding her like a surfer riding on a tidal wave — And it’s real/Believe what I say/Just one thing I gotta say: I need a miracle every day”4 It was miraculous! Driving 20 yard bottom turns and wrapping cutbacks like Terry Fitzgerald at Jeffreys Bay. Or something like that. I was free as a bird . . . Flying — “Charging my chopper! — Enjoying the ride!”5 Generally speaking, the Grateful Dead give pretty good advice. Too bad they didn’t follow it themselves . . .
Years later, in Hawaii, I saw Dylan again. I almost didn’t even go due to my prior observation and experience; let’s just say my expectations were rather low. He was playing with his band at Andrews Amphitheater at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. It’s a very small, cozy venue tucked into the corner of campus in the middle of Manoa Valley. Halcyon and intimate, with good acoustics. There might have been 2000 people there; probably less, sitting on blankets, drinking wine and beer, smoking Pakalolo. It was 1997 and Dylan was promoting his album: Time Out of Mind (1997). His band was so tight; so good. They were on fire.
Bob was amazing. I saw and heard The Master. Now I understood (everyone there understood) why Jerry and every other great artist on Earth worships this guy. He’s awesome. Played everything from the album (and more); but it all sounded different. Didn’t sound like it did on the recordings. Dylan is a Genius.
He played what’s perhaps my favorite Dylan song (see footnote #3 below re: “Cassidy”): “Highlands.” And the “Highlands” they played will stay with me forever. Hauntingly beautiful and just so true. Every note, each lyric is Truth. His truth.
Happy Birthday, Bob!
Kamaile Unu Ridge, Waianae Mountains, Westside Oahu
Well my heart's in The Highlands, gentle and fair
Honeysuckle blooming in the wildwood air
Bluebells blazing where the Aberdeen waters flow
Well my heart's in The Highlands
I'm gonna go there when I feel good enough to go
Windows were shaking all night in my dreams
Everything was exactly the way that it seems
Woke up this mornin' and I looked at the same old page
Same old rat race, life in the same old cage
I don't want nothin' from anyone, ain't that much to take
Wouldn't know the difference between a real blonde and a fake
Feel like a prisoner in a world of mystery
I wish someone'd come and push back the clock for me
Well my heart's in The Highlands wherever I roam
That's where I'll be when I get called home
The wind it whispers to the buckeye trees of rhyme
Well, my heart's in The Highlands
I can only get there one step at a time
I'm listening to Neil Young, I gotta turn up the sound
Someone's always yellin' "Turn it down"
Feel like I'm driftin', driftin' from scene to scene
I'm wonderin' what in the devil could it all possibly mean
Insanity is smashin' up against my soul
You could say I was on anything but a roll
If I had a conscience, well I just might blow my top
What would I do with it anyway, maybe take it to the pawn shop?
My heart's in The Highlands at the break of dawn
By the beautiful lake of the Black Swan
Big white clouds like chariots that swing down low
Well my heart's in The Highlands, only place left to go
I'm in Boston town in some restaurant
I got no idea what I want
Or maybe I do but I'm just really not sure
Waitress comes over, nobody in the place but me and her
Well it must be a holiday, there's nobody around
She studies me closely as I sit down
She got a pretty face and long white shiny legs
I said "Tell me what I want"
She say "You probably want hard boiled eggs"
I said "That's right, bring me some"
She says "We ain't got any, you picked the wrong time to come"
Then she says "I know you're an artist, draw a picture of me"
I said "I would if I could but
I don't do sketches from memory"
Well she's there, she says "I'm right here in front of you
Or haven't you looked?"
I say "All right, I know but I don't have my drawin' book"
She gives me a napkin, she say "You can do it on that"
I say "Yes I could but I don't know where my pencil is at"
She pulls one out from behind her ear
She says "Alright now go ahead draw me I'm stayin' right here"
I make a few lines and I show it for her to see
Well she takes the napkin and throws it back and says
"That don't look a thing like me"
I said "Oh kind miss, it most certainly does"
She say "You must be joking", I said "I wish I was"
She says "You don't read women authors do ya?"
At least that's what I think I hear her say
Well I say "How would you know, and what would it matter anyway?"
Well she says "Ya just don't seem like ya do"
I said "You're way wrong"
She says "Which ones have you read then?", I say "Read Erica Jong"
She goes away for a minute, and I slide out, out of my chair
I step outside back to the busy street, but nobody's goin' anywhere
Well my heart's in The Highlands with the horses and hounds
Way up in the border country far from the towns
With the twang of the arrow and the snap of the bow
My heart's in The Highlands, can't see any other way to go
Every day is the same thing, out the door
Feel further away than ever before
Some things in life it just gets too late to learn
Well I'm lost somewhere, I must have made a few bad turns
I see people in the park, forgettin' their troubles and woes
They're drinkin' and dancin', wearin' bright colored clothes
All the young men with the young women lookin' so good
Well, I'd trade places with any of 'em, in a minute if I could
I'm crossin' the street to get away from a mangy dog
Talkin' to myself in a monologue
I think what I need might be a full-length leather coat
Somebody just asked me if I'm registered to vote
The sun is beginnin' to shine on me
But it's not like the sun that used to be
The party's over and there's less and less to say
I got new eyes, everything looks far away
Well my heart's in The Highlands at the break of day
Over the hills and far away
There's a way to get there, and I'll figure it out somehow
Well I'm already there in my mind and that's good enough for now
May 24, 2021 Huelo Hale Paumalu
That same summer, after this show in July, Meadeso and I drove (he drove I should say) to Newport, Rhode Island from Boston. The drive usually takes about 2 hours, a little less maybe. Meadeso got us there in less than 45 minutes. He knew how to drive — like a bat out of Hell. We went 120 mph, hit 150 a couple times. I wasn't even all that scared. Meade had this smile on his face the whole time, the engine roaring, in perfect control. Best part was when we got to our destination, Dave handed me an envelope and said: “Spend it wisely.” There were three $100 bills in the envelope. That was a lot of money for me then (and now). Other than the obvious fact that I had no money in those days (and now); I didn’t know why he gave it to me. I still don’t. But I spent it wisely . . .
Words by John Perry Barlow; Music by Bob Weir. These two brothers from another mother (they went to boarding school together) composed this song on Barlow’s ranch: The Bar Cross, in Cora, Wyoming in 1982. “Hell in a Bucket” was first performed at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California in 1983. It remained as a prominent part of the repertoire thereafter. SEE (or listen): https://www.dead.net/show/july-6-1986
True story: On a flight from San Francisco to Boston in 1987, I was seated in the middle of the plane, which was packed, when this intriguing looking cowboy type comes sauntering down the aisle. He’s got boots on, a vest, a bandanna around his neck; trim beard, eyes all lit up. I knew this cat was cool. He goes back to his seat, last row, the bulkhead next to the toilets. I could hear (everyone could): “I can’t sit here, man! This seat doesn’t recline!” There was a minor controversy, everyone felt the tension; he’s all: “I’m outta here. Get me off this plane.” Just as he passes me, I said: “You can have my seat.” He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Ok. Thanks, man.” Problem solved. I went back to the bulkhead, which is where I liked to sit anyway because you could smoke (which I did then) and I could take one-hits off my bowl in the lavatory without much hassle. Five minutes after take-off, the cowboy comes back, sits next to me (oh yeah, I had two seats to myself — no one wanted to sit back there). He says: “Can I buy you a beer?” I’m like: “Totally.” He sat next to me the entire flight. Never went back to his (my old) seat. We drank at least 6 (or more) beers (Heineken) with him buying. He asked me all kinds of questions: about my life, surfing, music, the Grateful Dead, LSD, girls, school, work (what’s that?), etc. Answering his questions, I did most of the talking. At one point, as we discussed the intricacies of something, he asked: “What’s your favorite Dead tune?” I’m like: “Dude, that’s an impossible question.” He’s all: “C’mon. If I put a gun to your head, what would you say?” For all I knew, he probably was packing a sidearm; he’s a cowboy, after all. I said: “Cassidy.” He smiled. He liked that. And I didn’t even know who he was. I found out a little later when he handed me his card. It said: John Perry Barlow, The Bar Cross Ranch, Cora, Wyoming (I still have it somewhere). John said: “Come see me sometime if you’re in Wyoming. I’ll give you a job on the ranch.” Oh, and he hooked me up with tickets and backstage passes for the next week’s Dead shows in Providence, R.I. Thanks, John Perry! But that’s another story . . . Cassidy: words by John Perry Barlow; Music by Bob Weir (1974). SEE: “The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics,” Annotations by David Dodd, Foreword by Robert Hunter (2005), pp, 224-228.
“I Need A Miracle” — Words by John Barlow; Music by Bob Weir.
“Hell in a Bucket.”