Monday, November 29, 2010

Grateful Dead Rainforest Press Conference at U.N., 1988

What follows below was sent to me by the publicist for the filmmaker Len Dell-Amico. Follow this link to see the clip of the Rainforest news conference: His blog post is copied below:

11-28-10 LEN'S BLOG -- First posting: December 1, 2010

I became friends with Garcia in 1980 and 1981 during the production and especially the editing of "Dead Ahead," the classic concert film shot at Radio City in New York.

He sent me a board tape in the summer of '84, and this is when I first heard the Weir-Barlow tune "Throwing Stones." What a great and original song, and how amazing was it that a big popular band like the Dead would take on such a serious subject as the destruction of the environment.

A live version of the song was included in the next full-length video I produced for the Dead, which came out in 1987 and was called "So Far." A little-known factoid: Garcia actually co-directed "So Far" with me.

"So Far" went on to become the best-selling concert video of 1988 and it won the American Film Institute's award for best full-length music film of that year.

Also in 1988, Grateful Dead decided to give a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden in NYC to help save the rainforest. They asked me to create visuals that would directly address rainforest destruction, to show on the live reinforcement screens hanging above the stage while they played drums/space/Throwing Stones.

While prepping for that, I met Randy Hayes of Rainforest Action Network and other egg-heads and activists who would be the beneficiaries of the concert, and this is how I first learned about climate change in a serious way. It blew my mind.

Members of the Dead gave a press conference at the U.N. to announce the Benefit and to talk about the trouble ahead and raise awareness of ecological issues.

Ever since then, I have been very focused on the issue of climate change, and I've been able to stay involved through my work with a private family foundation that was started by my father-in-law in the 1990's.

Meanwhile, I had been dreaming about making my own "story" film since I can remember--I went to NYU film school--and when I finally had the time and the means to do it, it was clear to me that my film should be about climate change. But far from being serious, the movie is darkly comic and the story is entertaining because I felt that would be the best way to get the message across. The film is called "Everything Must Go."

Garcia's insightful statement at the U.N. press conference never left my mind over all those years--he was a very smart guy, on top of all his other accomplishments. Of all the problems we face, climate change is such a huge and unknowable threat that it must be seen as a priority. If the earth becomes unlivable for us humans, we certainly can't work on any of our other problems.

I hope you enjoy the film, and I'd love to hear your comments.

Watch this space for further journal entries in the future, and I hope to be adding new and interesting clips from my archive on a regular basis.

--Len Dell'Amico, November 23rd, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weather Report Suite—“Prelude” and “Part I”

In three parts or movements, Weather Report Suite remains one of Bob Weir’s most captivating compositions.  The concepts of “suite” and “prelude” date to the Baroque, and for a rock guitarist the most well-known composer of these would have been by Bach.  In fact, the “Prelude” is based on the “Bourée” from Bach’s Lute Suite no. 1 in E minor (BWV 996).  Weir’s use of two-part counterpoint recalls the two-part texture of the “Bourée,” and the harmonic choices are very similar to Bach’s, with a couple of key exceptions.  The three-note trills in the bass and the guitar solidify the neo-Baroque texture. 
The first part of Weir’s “Prelude” uses chords found in Bach’s with a slightly altered progression—E minor to Am to Bm (Bach uses B major).  The second part of Weir’s begins on C major (the VI chord), and here his piece has an expansive quality lacking in Bach’s tightly wrought movement.  In Bach’s case the second part sticks to the standard modulation to the III chord or G major.  The counterpoint continues in Weir’s, but the real change occurs when he introduces an F chord (bII), which is not from Bach but from the world of Spanish music.  Here Weir develops the idea found in the “Spanish Jam” of the Dead, which is based on Phrygian motives (half-step or in the case E-F; the Phrygian scale contains the notes E, F, G, A, B, C, D)  found in Miles Davis’s 1959 album Sketches of Spain (here’s a YouTube link to a beautiful piece from the album called “Saeta”; note that the scale is transposed down to D Phrygian in this example:  After returning to E minor, Weir strums the G chord, with a quick C chord on the upbeat, which leads to the return of the two-part counterpoint.  Here the F is resituated in a move from D major to the parallel minor which leads to a ii-V7 progression (Dm to G7) resolving to C major.  Weir then ends the prelude with a surprising shift to E major through a series of V-i progressions (note that the dominant-tonic idea is found prominently in Bach’s “Bourée”), B7-Em, C#7-F#m; to get to the C#7 chord the Em becomes a E dominant seventh (with the third or G# in the bass).  To bring us back to the world of 1970s rock, the E major chord (the goal) alternates with the subdominant chord (IV)or A major, which now transitions into the second movement of the WRS.  Note that these two chords function as a kind of instrumental refrain in the next movement.
The second movement of the WRS is referred to, confusedly, as “Part I.”  Weir co-authored the lyrics with Eric Andersen (b. 1943), who was one of the performers who accompanied the Dead on the epic 1970 Festival Express train tour that made its across Canada.  Click on this link ( to see him performing “Thirsty Boots” at the Festival.  A typical folk singer from the late 1960s and 1970s, Andersen’s fashions his lyrics in a sophisticated, earnest, and perhaps “sappy” poetic style.  Indeed the assumed poeticism of “Part I” is unlike anything else in the Dead’s original repertoire.  Weir’s progressions are more straightforward in the second movement, and contain ideas he had already developed in his recent songs from 1972, “Black Throated Wind” and “Looks Like Rain.”   “Part I” turns on the relationship of E to C#m to D and F#m (chords that also figure prominently in the two songs just mentioned).  The chorus of the song, which begins on the lines “And like a desert spring my lover comes and spread her wings,” modulates to D major (via a V-IV progression), and then the D-G chords essentially replicate the E-A chords mentioned above. The final part of the song is a bridge to the third movement, and begins on “Winter Gray and falling rain,” here the two oscillating chords, B-E, recall the dominant-tonic progressions of the “Prelude.”   The final chord progression, played instrumentally, is A-D-C-E; the next movement, “Part II” or more commonly known as “Let it Grow,” begins on the E chord resolving to the Am7 chord. 
For a great version, listen to the first ever full WRS, from Nassau Coliseum on September 8th, 1973 (available on the Internet Archive at  Note that the night before, on September 7th at the same venue, the Dead had played “Let it Grow.”  The WRS would only remain in their repertoire through the final concert run of 1974, played at October 18th at Winterland.  --Stay tuned for “Let it Grow”