There is a Grateful Dead song from the very early days called ‘The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)’. In all honesty, it’s not really a keeper and I suspect that much of its continuing appeal resides in its pretty cool title, plus the fact that it is Track 1, Side 1 of the band’s first (studio) album. There’s a lot more detail for the aficionados here.
So what? I hear you chorus. Well – laboured analogy alert – ‘Golden’ is associated with fifty, right? So, on that basis twenty-five is halfway to gold. And today it is exactly twenty-five years since the bus came by and I got on,
And what’s the trip been like, this past quarter of a century?
After this first show I went out and bought every official release I could lay my hands on. They kept coming in a steady stream, so that’s a lot of shelf-room even without the limited-edition box-sets. Yes, I admit it, I’ve got it bad. Then the blessed advent of MP3 and that great social service archive.org really unleashed the collecting bug. My spreadsheet – yes, spreadsheet, sad bastard that I am – tells me that I’ve now got at least part of no less than 866 shows sitting on my hard drive (and two separate external back-ups – I’m not going through all that again).
866? Tip of the iceberg; the official total is 2,317. Even for the so-called ‘completists’ that’s an unrealistic target, as there are some early shows that are well-documented but of which no known recording exists (although who knows, one day….).
Personally, though, I’m not after the full set – or even necessarily everything that’s available. That’s because some tapes (although they’re obviously not tapes any more) are, to put it politely, not of the highest audio quality. Frankly, if I wanted to hear something similar, I could just turn up the volume on an old cassette deck, chuck it down the well along the road and listen to that while being dive-bombed by a squadron of bluebottles.
But yet…no, snap out of it, boy. There are still plenty of shows that I’ve downloaded but not yet got around to hearing. Just to give a completely random example, while searching on Youtube for some concert video to feature here, I happened on this; it’s absolutely mind-blowing.
I looked the show up in that fount of all wisdom ‘The Deadhead’s Taping Compendium’. They reckon it’s right up there among the best-ever, and I wouldn’t argue. Then I looked on my spreadsheet. It’s there; I’ve got it; I’ve had it since 2010 and never got round to listening to it before. Blimey. Who knows how many more aural treasures lay undiscovered in my own cache, let alone all those that I’ve not yet stumbled across?
So maybe there’s more than a cool title to that throwaway little ditty from 1967. After all, do the lyrics not say:
“Nobody’s finished, we ain’t even begun.
So take off your shoes, child, and take off your hat.
Try on your wings and find out where it’s at.”
– Grateful Dead: ‘The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)’
And that’s the great thing about being on this Golden Road – you never know what’s round the next corner.
But I can’t wait to find out.