Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dead Air Church: Palm Sunday

In the liturgy for Palm Sunday, regular parishioners play the part of the mob, and well-dressed church-goers shout "Crucify him!" It's quite something to see and participate in. The theological lesson sinks in admirably, as intended: I crucified Him, and so did you.

And so, our countercultural equivalent for Dead Air Church: the Grateful Dead's New Speedway Boogie, their song about Altamont.

And it came to pass in 1969, that there was a free concert given by the Rolling Stones at Altamont Speedway on a cold December night, in which the Hells Angels were "hired" as security. (Note: This is fiercely debated, Sonny Barger claimed they were never technically hired in the conventional sense.) By the end of the evening, Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old black man, would be murdered by "security." This event was captured in the concert documentary, Gimme Shelter, an amazing film.

The Dead were scheduled to play, and ultimately didn't. Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter wrote this song to all who would alternately minimize the event and avoid moral responsibility, as well as to those who would self-righteously judge and second-guess the survivors. It's an amazing song. I've quoted lines here and there numerous times on my blog, but this is the first time I've played the whole thing.

I saw things getting out of hand
I guess they always will.


The relatively new version of this song I've chosen is by an Australian band known as Black Cab, recorded for their 2004 album, suitably titled Altamont Diary. This version gives the song the psychedelic gravitas it so richly deserves. And I really like this video, which puts events in a 60s/70s druggie context.

Black Cab - New Speedway Boogie

[via FoxyTunes / Black Cab]

Don't forget to pick up your palm leaf before you leave, and have a great Holy Week.


ArrogantWorm said...

Wanted to thank you for Dead Air Church, the history, messages and lessons are very good for Sundays.

Also, I love the music =P. I just wish my sound was working.

white rabbit said...

I think the Dead and the Airplane refused to go on with the concert after the killing but the Rollling Stones went on anyway because they had a contract with a film company and didn't want to take the financial drop from pulling out.

Always left a nasty taste in the mouth, that one...

white rabbit said...

nice blog btw - I link you :D

High Priest Of Good Times said...

the killing happened during the stones set. and the kid that got killed had a gun.