100 VINYLZ: #97 - Steal Your Face 2xLP by The Grateful Dead

(1976, Grateful Dead Records)
The Grateful Dead are kind of like politics in that people who care to have an opinion have a very strong opinion at the far ends of for or against. Plenty folks hate the Dead, and what they term hippies in general, with a passion, full of contempt for anything remotely close to even credit to the Dead for anything, much less musically related. And those into the Dead blindly talk of unfiltered, unhindered creativity that you can't really understand unless you get into it deep enough to truly understand it. I accepted them at a young age because I was really into drugs and drugs and the Dead went hand and hand. There are conspiracies that the CIA was involved in the trafficking of LSD in association with Dead tour for decades, with the death of Jerry Garcia times perfectly with the rise of more pharmaceutical hallucinogenics. I went to my first Dead show in like 1990, with two buddies from high school, both of whom had already graduated. They both had cleared it with their folks; I was still only 17 with one year left and think I mentioned it to my dad the evening before at my sister's softball practice, and he was all bugged up about it, not because he was uptight, because he did far more drugs in his short life than I could hope to touch, but he knew the deal. He knew what was up and shit, and didn't want me doing something retarded like buying up a couple hundred hits of acid to sell back home to avoid having a for-real job.
I can see both sides of the Dead opinion spectrum, probably leaning more towards the hatred than the love, but the truth, like always, is in the grey area in between. I grew up with the influence of redneck hippies who had no pretensions really, more of a Miller High Life/homegrown set than a Newcastle Brown Ale/killer kind bud set. It took a few years of college (okay, a couple weeks) to realize the fucking full of shit suburban fucks who buy into hippie looks and make it embarrassing to have anything to do with anything resembling them. Idealistic chicks driving Subaru stationwagons with VISUALIZE WHIRLED PEAS bumper stickers with their stupid clean-shaven dreadlocked boyfriend in his NORML shirt. But I could still enjoy a Dead show now and then (even getting miracled at a show where everybody I went with didn't get in, got mad stoned and made out with what in hindsight was probably a 14-year-old, and while wandering around completely fucked afterwards trying to find the dudes I came with, realized I was walking fifty feet behind the guy who drove us up there, who was looking for his own ride, but had some shrooms to split with me... perfectly fucked up day), but I couldn't get into that Dead worship bullshit. When Jerry died, man, I didn't really give too much of a fuck.
As for records, Workingman's Dead is probably their best studio album, when Garcia was first exploring his country/bluegrass interests, but they were always more of a live group, being they are the most famous shitty cover band to ever have existed, so Steal Your Face is what I'd consider my favorite, or most personally memorable record. I've probably played Europe '72 a bit more, mostly because it has a version of "Tennessee Jed" which they always played at every live show I ever saw, but Steal Your Face I have associated in my mind of not yet being completely hateful towards hippies and dabbling in hippie vagina crack and laying on a sweaty bed in a shitty apartment with a stoned chick, buzzed on THC together and excited to fuck like fuckers. "Sugaree", "Big River", "U.S. Blues"... I got personal fuck memories to all that shit. It should also be noted that, regardless of how stupid hippies or the Grateful Dead are, if you removed all personal preconceptions from it, the Steal Your Face logo is pretty fucking awesome.
I'm sure there's hardcore Deadheads who have bootleg live shows pressed on vinyl, but that's one of those serious business sub-cultures, where you get into something so heavily it is SERIOUS ASS BUSINESS. No mic dubs but shit straight from the soundboard, and no sharing with you unless you have something to share in return. Man, I've gotten high with dudes like that, with racks and racks of live shows on cassette, pulling out a specific one because "it has the best version of 'Me and My Uncle' you'd ever hear, Jerry was on fire that night man" or some nonsense. The funny thing is, that sub-culture obviously grew with the internet, but then the Grateful Dead shut it down, after decades of letting people tape shows, because they want to slowly release everything as Dick's Picks Volume 329 and on or whatever. The local community radio station has some dudes who have a Dead show on the weekends, and they are all about it, still, even in this age of the crushing corporate marketing of the Grateful Dead. They were never going to perform again, but oh wait, they did for a fucking Barack Obama fundraiser. Fucking bastards.
I will admit to seeing a couple of decent Phil Lesh & Friends shows early on when they did that, but I think part of my enjoyment was he had some hippie dude who looked exactl like Mr. Show's David Cross from a distance who played the pianeys, including a Hammond organ. But once that got popular, the rest of the stupid Dead got involved, chased off most of Phil Lesh's friends, and it was basically the stupid non-Jerry Garcia Dead still.
Honestly, stupid fucking trustafarian hippie types have ruined it so badly for me that it's hard for me to remember the Dead can be non-annoying at times. But on some days - a warm spring Saturday afternoon where there's no obligations except to do serious damage to a cold 12-pack sitting at the picnic table in the backyard, I can drag a speaker out on top of the camper and hook up the turntable and throw on Steal Your Face and still enjoy it. But if someone shows up at the house, I get all self-conscious about it and probably put on a Black Sabbath record or something, just to make sure they know I'm not a pussy.