… from Haight Ashbury to the New York Historical Society. Who would have thought that such a conservative venue would one day house the archives of the Grateful Dead. I guess if you live long enough.
And I did hear yesterday that someone who sits on the board of the NYHS donated a considerable amount of memorabilia to the archives with the caveat that he would be able to house a show here in NY.
If you are a casual Grateful Dead fan I would say this exhibit is probably not for you. It is rather small and unless you have the cult-like knowledge this tribe breeds you might find it a bit boring. Even for the hardcores there may be some level of disappointment at the size of the show.
The exhibit really needed audio headsets, like the Rock Hall uses. The Lennon Show at the now closed NY venue did a great job with this. Having to read each little sign was tedious and the type was way too small on a purple background (oh, sorry, graphic designers can be that way). A kick ass sound system playing live shows would have also been a nice touch. There was some music playing but it was sporadic and the sound kind of sucked.
However, there were some real jewels in the items on display so I will list my faves here , in no particular order (except for maybe number 1 because it is so ridiculous).
1. Boogie ’till you barf bag. (featured above) No, I did not disrespect the rules of the Society by photographing inside the exhibit. But the blogger that did will forgive me for not giving him photo credit and swiping his shot. Since he took the shot sort of illegally I don’t feel compelled to give credit. How’s that for rationalizing.
2. Steal Your Face Yarmulke nothing like a little kosher Jerry.
3. Original Warner Brothers recording contract Typewritten and looking a little bit like a term paper it was cool to see this document.
4. Original handwritten notes and sketches for the Wall of Sound For those who are unfamiliar, this is considered one of the largest sound systems of all time, built exclusively for the Dead and used on tour from 1974-1976.
5. Copies of 4 different Grateful Dead Comic Books Never heard of these and thought they were really cool.
6. Hand painted stage backdrop For the campies reading, this was reminiscent of a color war banner but bigger. It was quite cool, but I was a bit aggravated by the way it was displayed with part of the exhibit blocking the ability to see the entire piece in full view.
Oh and this was a big fave:
7. Dicks Picks binder Dick Latvala was the famous GD tape archivist. Fans were known for tape trading and Dick was the guru of all live show recordings, later releasing a CD series called Dick’s Picks, which was continued even after his death.
Dick kept meticulous notes for each show including set lists and commentary. If you know me, you know I LOVE a good binder. If you visit the NYHS site and click on photo #6 you can see the page for the May 8,1977, Barton Hall, Cornell show. Dr. Jimmy was there and tells me that this is arguably the greatest Dead show of all times.
Sorry to say I saw them at Cornell the following year – which I would like to say was the best show ever – but all I can remember about that show was the rather ‘interesting’ trip I took in the middle of the night to stand on line for tickets, something about albino deer on the side of the road and the rest is a blur.
And that last little anecdote seems as good a place as any to end a post about the Grateful Dead.