The Dead: In the Twilight Zone

For those keeping count, today’s piece is (gulp) the 666th posted since Zero to 180 began December 12, 2012.  What better way to face down this (meaningless) milestone by paying tribute to a classic television series – and also a musical ensemble – that bravely broke the bounds of conformist thought, intrepid travelers who dared to confront “the fifth dimension.”  No, the band in question is not The 5th Dimension (although, good guess) but in actual fact  The Grateful Dead, who (not everyone seems to be aware) recorded the theme music to the revitalized TV series in 1985:

Opening & Closing Theme – “Twilight Zone”     The Grateful Dead     1985

As Blair Jackson would note in Garcia:  An American Life — “The band and [Merl] Saunders worked out a new main theme, which was a short dissonant burst of ‘space‘ ending in a variation of the original Twilight Zone theme by Marius Constant.”

Merl Saunders (courtesy DISCOGS)Merl Saunders

Dennis McNally would document some of the historical particulars of the Twilight Zone experience in 2002’s A Long Strange Trip:

“Few shows could possibly have been more appealing to the Dead and Garcia, who remarked, ‘Man, I live in the Twilight Zone.’  They leaped at the chance to record their own version of the signature three-note motif that identified the show.  They didn’t stop there.  [Producer Rick] DeGuere and his music director, Merl Saunders, came to a board meeting to discuss the band’s doing all of the music for the show, the ‘stings’ and ‘bumpers’ that set the atmospheric soundscape.  Garcia left the meeting early, announcing that he voted yes.  Lesh was ‘adamantly opposed,’ recalled DeGuere, and the decision was made to proceed without him.

They set to work, and while their music was appropriate and effective, the deal’s business aspects were badly handled, dooming the project to continuous friction among all parties involved.  [Grateful Dead legal counsel] Hal Kant had delegated the negotiation of the arrangement with CBS to an associate, who didn’t know the Dead very well and produced a fairly standard contract.  The head of the music department at CBS [Robert Drasnin, presumably] didn’t like the deal, since he now had no control, which put Merl in the middle of both an unhappy CBS and the Dead.  Very quickly, Mickey Hart took the lead for the Dead in the studio, and proved to have a gift for sound design.  Just as they began, he went into the hospital for back surgery, and ordered that all the necessary equipment be set up in his room.  At first [road manager] Ram Rod vetoed this seeming insanity, but Mickey pleaded, ‘When I wake up, I want to go to work.’  The Demerol he’d gotten for his surgery proved to be aesthetically stimulating, and he produced music for the first four episodes from bed.”

The loss of Phil Lesh, the band member most closely linked to the musical avant-garde, is a notable one.

Composer, Robert Drasnin, as Variety noted in its obituary posted on May 15, 2105, would have a central role to play:

“While head of CBS’ music department in the 1980s, he worked with the Grateful Dead on music for the revived Twilight Zone series, along with scoring several episodes himself.”

Robert Hunter would later recall in his online journal entry for February 4, 2005:

“I’m still grateful that a steady salary for the two seasons The Zone ran
helped make the house payments and put food on the table for our family
of five back when the GD was staggering financially and I was set
running around the country doing low paying solo gigs to support us.
‘Touch of Grey’ was soon to solve that problem.”

Is it merely a coincidence that, just last month, a 1985 Twilight Zone contract between CBS Entertainment and The Grateful Dead — signed by all members of the band — would sell on Ebay for $29,470.70?Grateful Dead Twilight Zone contractIt is curious the extent to which The Twilight Zone ‘reboot’ is under-remembered, given the caliber of talent that went into not only the music but the writing and acting, as well — as pointed out in arts blog Delusions of Grandeur:

“Writers such as Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin, Rockne S. O’Bannon, Jeremy Bertrand Finch, and Paul Chitlik wrote screenplays for the show.  It was directed by many different talents including Wes Craven and William Friedkin.  Many different mainstream stars made their appearance in the series including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Season Hubley, Morgan Freeman, Martin Landau, Jonathan Frakes, and Fred Savage.  The theme music was composed by Jerry Garcia and performed by The Grateful Dead.”

How funny to see the inclusion of a Grateful Dead track – “The New Twilight Zone” – on TV theme compilation Television’s Greatest Hits, Volume 6 from 1996.

Hooterollin Around music blog (an “appendix to Lost Live Dead“) writes a fascinating piece that draws many musical connections between Jerry Garcia and stalwart session guitarist, Howard Roberts, a musician who is best remembered for having played the original haunting Twilight Zone guitar riff.

Zero to 180 cannot close this piece without reminding everyone of that uncanny musical ‘Twilight Zone’ moment:  last July’s discovery of Germany’s The Dead-Heads, who released their debut single in 1966 — just one year after the The Grateful Dead’s official formation!

Grateful Dead (not) Twilight Zone pinballZero to 180’s Gallery of Grateful Dead 45 Picture Sleeves

Given the band’s famous disregard towards commerce, I thought it would be great ironic fun to pull together all of The Grateful Dead’s 7-inch picture sleeves from around the world.  Interesting to see domestic marketing efforts lag behind Warner Brothers’ international arm overseas, as the Dead would not see comparable investments on single releases, curiously enough, until the band’s tenure with Clive Davis’s Arista label, especially after the unexpected success with “Touch of Grey”:

Germany

Grateful Dead 45-Germany-aGrateful Dead 45-Germany-bGrateful Dead 45-Germany-cGrateful Dead 45-Germany-d

Japan

Grateful Dead 45-Japan-aGrateful Dead 45-Japan-bGrateful Dead 45-Japan-cGrateful Dead 45-Japan-dGrateful Dead 45-Japan-eGrateful Dead 45-Japan-fGrateful Dead 45-Japan-gGrateful Dead 45-Japan-h

United States

Grateful Dead 45-US-aGrateful Dead 45-US-bGrateful Dead 45-US-ccGrateful Dead 45-US-dGrateful Dead 45-US-e-promoGrateful Dead 45-US-fGrateful Dead 45-US-gGrateful Dead 45-US-heart

UK (1977)

Grateful Dead 45-UK-a (1977)Grateful Dead 45-UK-aa (1977)

France

Grateful Dead 45-France-aGrateful Dead 45-France-b

Netherlands

Grateful Dead 45-Netherlands-aaGrateful Dead 45-Netherlands-bbGrateful Dead 45-Netherlands-cc

Rear sleeve of German 45 “One More Saturday Night”:  Mini fold-up coffin!Grateful Dead 45-Germany-cc45 above references “neu” Jerry garcia solo 45 “Sugaree” / “Deal” (below)

Jerry Garcia 45-aJerry Garcia 45-bJerry Garcia 45-cJerry Garcia 45-cc

honorable mention:  Colombian EP from 1967

Grateful Dead EP-South Africa-aGrateful Dead EP-South Africa-b

This audio playback format was once considered state of the artGrateful Dead extended play cartridge

While the rare “Good Lovin'” US picture sleeve illustrated above can fetch $75 at auction, you might be surprised by the number of picture sleeves that go for three (and even four) figures.

Toussaint’s Pop Persian Poetry

Browsing 45Cat’s database for 1966 singles associated with Allen Toussaint, my eyes were immediately drawn to an A-side entitled “Omar Khayyam” by The Rubaiyats, issued on Toussaint’s own Sansu label.  As it turns out, the band’s name is inspired by the term for “a collection of Ruba’i”  (as in the Persian poetry form), with the best known example likely being the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

“Omar Khayyam”     The Rubaiyats     1966

The Rubaiyats are, in actual fact, Allen Toussaint and Willie Harper — Toussaint would write both sides of their only single.  “Omar Khayyam” would be a B-side upon initial release in the US in September, 1966 although the two sides would flip (so says 45Cat) with the single’s 1968 release in the UK.

Houghton Mifflin & Company- First edition, 1884 – thanks to Book Graphics!

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam-aaNews Flash!  “Omar Khayyam” made Offbeat’s “Ten Buried Allen Toussaint Treasures” list.

As further proof of the song’s viability:  Vintage Vinyl is offering a special 7-inch release, “Omar Khayyam” b/w “Do Me Like You Do Me” by John Williams & the Tick Tocks – $13.99 (“two collectible Sansu sides back-to-back for the first time … of huge interest to Northern Soul collectors, Mod and R&B fans worldwide.”)  Vintage Vinyl provides the UK history related to this song:

“First played at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel on the UK Action label but originally recorded for US label Sansu in 1966.  This hard-to-find original became a Mod and rare soul classic and has, in recent times, enjoyed a revival on the Northern Soul circuit.”

Rubaiyats 45£45 paid for this 45 in 2010.

Check out this art nouveau-inspired 3rd edition published by Bernard Quaritch in London in 1872 – bound by Sangorski and Sutcliffe of London (tip of the hat to Dartmouth).

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam-bbDid you know of the cursed special “Sangorski Edition” of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam — on Business Pundits‘ list of 15 Weird and Mysterious Books?

“Is it possible for a book to be as cursed as the Hope Diamond?  If so, the Sangorski special edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is.  This book is a work of art in and of itself:  the cover is bound in leather, features a jewel-encrusted peacock on the front, and is emblazoned with gold leaf.  Its designer, Francis Sangorski, spent months designing it, and two years to finish its creation.  It’s a legendary book, both because of the elevated artistry of the book, and the tragedies that seemed to follow it.

Sangorski’s original copy sank with the Titanic.  Before he could recreate it, Francis Sangorski drowned, six weeks after the ship — with the book — foundered in the Atlantic.  Stanley Bray, Sangorski’s partner, spent six years recreating the second copy of the book from Sangorski’s original drawings.  The book was then destroyed in the London Blitz.  It took Bray another 40 years to finish the next copy, which was donated to the British Library after his death.”

The cursed Sangorski special edition

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam-cc“Omar Khayyam” is part of the 2011 compilation:  Allen Toussaint:  The Lost Sessions.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is an enormously influential literary work (650 different editions, translated into over 70 languages, illustrations by 150 artists) whose reach extends into literature, cinema, music. computer games, and television (e.g., 6-episode story arc in The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show about the “Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam“).

Important to keep in mind, though, that Edward Fitzgerald (as the UK’s Telegraph points out) is, in his English translations, “deliberately altering, combining and developing the verses of Omar Khayyam, a 12th-century poet who is remembered as a talented astronomer-mathematician, but not as a great Persian poet like Sadi or Hafiz.  Many of the quatrains attributed to him have been falsely ascribed.”

Music Trivia:  Edmund J. Sullivan’s 1913 illustration to verse 26 of Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam would be famously appropriated by Alton Kelley & Stanley Mouse for a poster advertising a 1966 Grateful Dead concert at the Avalon that, from that point forward, would be known as (though not strictly) “Skull & Roses.”

“South Side Strut”: Grateful Funk

Today’s piece is a birthday tribute to my college roommate, Gavin Martin, who once rescued me from a very unpleasant housing situation, when he advocated successfully on my behalf for a vacancy that suddenly popped up in his much cooler adjoining dorm suite – and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

The Grateful Dead have blazed a path as musical pioneers who imbue their rock music with a jazz sensibility in terms of level of musicianship and a willingness to take risks.  While the Dead may have thumbed their nose at the record industry – rightly so, perhaps – the band was not above releasing a few singles over the years.  I wonder how many Dead fans felt vindicated when “Touch of Grey” unexpectedly hit the Top 10 in 1987, prompting the Dead to release their first ever music video, which enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV.

Howard Wales, who played keyboards on 1970’s American Beauty (most famously, on “Truckin'”) would join forces the following year with Jerry Garcia on a “jazz-rock fusion” album entitled, Hooteroll?   “South Side Strut” would be the A-side of their only and one 45:

“South Side Strut”      Howard Wales & Jerry Garcia (and Horns)     1971

“South Side Strut” would also serve as the album’s lead-off song.

The 1987 CD reissue would remove one song (“A Trip to What Next”) yet add two more (“Morning in Marin” & “Evening in Marin”), while shuffling the running order, thus demoting “South Side Strut” to track #3.  The 2010 CD reissue would retain the same altered sequence as the 1987 edition, thus ensuring that newer generations will fail to appreciate the song’s former exalted status as kick-off track.  The song has never fully recovered.

Garcia & Wales 45

Scientific Americans:  Garcia & Wales OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Fire in the City”: Hendricks & The Dead

Not Jimi, but rather Jon — he of jazz vocal trio, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross.

In 1967 Jon Hendricks and The Grateful Dead composed music for the soundtrack of a Jerry Stoll documentary entitled, Sons and Daughters, in which students from the University of California at Berkeley march to the Oakland Army Terminal in 1966 to protest the Vietnam War.  AllMovie.com informs us that “the youth movement protesting the war contrasts with the many defense plants in the area and the fact that soldiers arrive and depart from the port on a daily basis”:

“Fire in the City”     Jon Hendricks & The Grateful Dead     1967

Gratitude to Hooterollin’ Around for the details surrounding this recording session:

“The Grateful Dead still had one more studio episode prior to recording their first album in Los Angeles.  Soon after signing their contract, they spent some time in the studio working with singer Jon Hendricks on the soundtrack to a documentary movie about antiwar protesters called Your Sons And Daughters.  Hendricks was well-known as the leader of the groundbreaking vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (vocalizing Charlie Parker solos), and Lesh and Garcia in particular were honored to work with him.

The band spent a few days with Hendricks at Columbus Recorders, at 906 Kearny.  Columbus Recorders was a popular studio for commercial work and the like, but it too had a three-track recorder.  The Dead ended up backing Hendricks on two songs, “Fire In The City” and “Your Sons And Daughters,” both released as a Jon Hendricks single on Verve.  However, according to McNally, although the Dead enjoyed working with Hendricks, they were uncomfortable with the overt polemical political stance of the movie and asked that their name be removed from the soundtrack.”

Fire in the City 45 (b)

The Warlocks vs. The Grateful Dead?

Some sources on the web attribute the backing band on “Fire in the City” to be The Warlocks, but this is simply untrue, as credible sources affirm that The Warlocks became The Grateful Dead sometime around November 1965, and this recording on Verve was made in March 1967 – the same month, interestingly enough, as the release of their Warner Bros. debut album.

Note the DJ copy below says “From the American Documentary Films ‘Fire in the City’.”Fire in the City 45 (a)