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Billy DeLyon

Standing on the Moon

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The last of that special class of aching ballads written by Garcia and Hunter, ‘Standing on the Moon’ is at once one of the Dead’s barest and most beautiful compositions, a sparse and subtle wonder which allows its listener to drink in and appreciate every note.

              “I’m real happy with that song,” Garcia told The Galvin Report just before Built to Last was released.  “I wanted to do a song that was as minimal as I could make it.  To me, minimal means that everything is pure in terms of the chords and motion.  Everything is basically three-note triads.  There are no extended chords.  There are no suspensions from one chord to another.  It’s just the way the melody moves.  The narrative is so straight-ahead.  They lyrics are so transparent.  I wanted people to hear the song the first time it plays.  I don’t want you to have to listen over and over again to get it.  Every once in a while, Hunter writes lyrics where you don’t change a thing.  They’re just perfect.  This is one of those tunes… I got the lyrics whole from Hunter.  I didn’t have a melody, nothing.  So I sat down and fooled around with it until it evolved into something that seemed to work for me, emotionally.”

              The song’s perspective of looking at the blue orb we call home from the dry climes of the moon is reminiscent of Barlow’s line “A peaceful place, or so it looks from space,” from In the Dark’s ‘Throwing Stones’.   But in lieu of that song’s vitriol, ‘Standing on the Moon’ favors an appreciative outsider-looking-in type of poetry in passages like, “I see the Gulf of Mexico / As tiny as a tear / The coast of California / Must be somewhere over here.”  By the time the track ends, it has run the gamut of the human experience by touching down everywhere from a war-torn El Salvador to the band’s peaceful homeland of San Francisco, California.

              Performed a total of 75 times, the song often appeared toward the end of the Grateful Dead’s set lists.  Introduced during the same February 5, 1989 show as Mydland’s ‘We Can Run’, the song’s last appearance came at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 30, 1995.

 

Excerpt from: What a Long Strange Trip – Stephen Peters

If you ever come across this book I highly recommend it. 

 

Thoughts, Comments…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpEsFYwVdmQ

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I agree that Standing on the Moon is one of the true heartfelt  "aching ballads", as you say, of the later years that Garcia and Hunter produced but as far as holding that slot for the "last" of that class created by the two guys...I think Days Between is the one. And So Many Roads also is in that class (in my opinion) and emerged between SOTM and Days Between. 

Thanks for starting the this interesting and thoughtful thread.

 

Some years back there was a thread here analyzing Days Between and I was struck by someone's comment (can't remember who said it) that Days Between was the last true "art" created by Hubter and Garcia.

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I’m with days between especially given the Weir treatment and DSO treatment. Furthur killed that song even with Bobby on vocals. I don’t say that much by the way. Bobby doing Jerry doesn’t always do it for me. But the days between...

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SOTM and Days Between are both really great - I wish Jerry had a little more time to get Days dialed-in.  Those lyrics are about as heavy as anything Hunter ever wrote... 

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The lyrics are so beautiful. The GD versions seem to hint at the true beauty of the song but not full capture it. However JK and DSO did this song serious justice. Those versions are beautiful. I already stated I loved the Furthur versions. 

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38 minutes ago, Mason's Child said:

I’m with days between especially given the Weir treatment and DSO treatment. Furthur killed that song even with Bobby on vocals. I don’t say that much by the way. Bobby doing Jerry doesn’t always do it for me. But the days between...

Bobby singing Days Between is probably the #1 highlight from the 6 Dead & Co shows I've caught...really powerful stuff

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I think Jerry got decent mileage out of Days Between, given the circumstances (most versions were in the last 18 months of his life and we all know what that entails).  Although Oakland December '94 (12-10?) gives a good dose of what it could have been. 

 

Problem is there might not be a single version that nails the lyrics verse for verse.  There are great readings of individual verses scattered about, but never one where all 4 came together flawlessly.

 

In any event, Days strips Standing of the title of last great ballad.

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7/7/89, JFK Stadium, Philly. My one and only witnessing of Standing on the Moon. I saw Bobby sing it with Dead and Company, when They first started up, maybe five shows in. It was a different venue but literally the same exact spot. Kinda cool. 

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The greatest Standing is Cal Expo, 6-10-90, but it must be played via Sean Weber's spaced Schoeps omni recording for full appreciation. And loud, on a big system.  Literally takes you right back to a summer Sacramento evening..

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13 hours ago, Greg from Chestertown said:

7/7/89, JFK Stadium, Philly. My one and only witnessing of Standing on the Moon. I saw Bobby sing it with Dead and Company, when They first started up, maybe five shows in. It was a different venue but literally the same exact spot. Kinda cool. 

I was at that show. Surprised we didn't run to each other Greg.

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While this is nothing more than a tally of opinions, I sometimes visit this site when I’m keyed on a song to find versions that I might want to sample for myself and am not already aware of.

 

Wanted to share it (again) here for awareness.

 

HeadyVersion - SOTM

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2 hours ago, John A said:

The greatest Standing is Cal Expo, 6-10-90, but it must be played via Sean Weber's spaced Schoeps omni recording for full appreciation. And loud, on a big system.  Literally takes you right back to a summer Sacramento evening..

I was at that show...loved the Cal Expo shows back then. I was looking forward to hearing your opinion of finest SOTM so thanks for posting this as it wasn't on my radar...will give it a listen.

 

It's been fun to listen to a number of highly rated ones in the past couple days,,thanks to this thread sparking my curiosity. Was surprised to discover a highly rated version at another show I was at, 8/21/93, which was an otherwise not so memorable show...although the Indigo Girls opening for those Eugene shows was ideal. It's an excellent version but not my top yet. 

 

I get the sense there are two different tracks of opinions that are drawing peoples' suggestion of the finest SOTM that Jerry played. Basically guitar work vs. unusually passionate vocals. Many versions have both but I'm really specifically digging the versions where Jer is practically screaming,,"I'd rather be with Youuuu...I'd rather be with YOU!" without holding back anything--just hanging it out, way out on a limb.

 

Its such a fine song and inspiring to see/hear the level of passion and emotion Jerry was capable of putting into it.

 

thanks again for this thread, Billy

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2 hours ago, John A said:

The greatest Standing is Cal Expo, 6-10-90, but it must be played via Sean Weber's spaced Schoeps omni recording for full appreciation. And loud, on a big system.  Literally takes you right back to a summer Sacramento evening..

Right on John,,upon a close listen I can get behind your assessment here. While Jerry doesn't go off completely full throttle on "I'd rather be with YOU!" to the degree that he does in a few other versions,,,,I have to agree that this is indeed an utterly exquisite listen. And more than others I've heard, it feels like the entire band is 110% all in from start to finish in addition to Jerry holding the lyrics down particularly delicately and sweetly.

 

i don't remember one bit of it from the actual show so thank you for the transport back in time and space. 😎

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The 6-10-90 is not one of those extended Jerry vocal flourish versions.  Just a generally perfect reading followed by an inspired guitar solo.

 

The '93 Eugene version has perhaps the most intense guitar eruption of the year.  I recall him being almost sideways as he lit into his strings.  Jeff Silbeman and I made an outstanding recording that day, which I finally transferred last year.  Check out that Standing:

https://archive.org/details/gd1993-08-21.141530.S2.FOB.AMS.ST-250.Silberman.Ammons.Noel.t-flac1648

 

Plenty of folks did tweaky stuff when recording the Grateful Dead, but using an open reel 4-track Nagra 24 bit digital deck to facilitate an ambisonic capture (which encodes a full 360 degree soundfield using all 4 tracks)?  That's gotta take the cake! Hearing those recording on a properly set up ambisonic playback rig was just ridiculous.  That said, even this conversion down to 2 channels is pretty damn impressive.

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57 minutes ago, John A said:

The 6-10-90 is not one of those extended Jerry vocal flourish versions.  Just a generally perfect reading followed by an inspired guitar solo.

 

The '93 Eugene version has perhaps the most intense guitar eruption of the year.  I recall him being almost sideways as he lit into his strings.  Jeff Silbeman and I made an outstanding recording that day, which I finally transferred last year.  Check out that Standing:

https://archive.org/details/gd1993-08-21.141530.S2.FOB.AMS.ST-250.Silberman.Ammons.Noel.t-flac1648

 

Plenty of folks did tweaky stuff when recording the Grateful Dead, but using an open reel 4-track Nagra 24 bit digital deck to facilitate an ambisonic capture (which encodes a full 360 degree soundfield using all 4 tracks)?  That's gotta take the cake! Hearing those recording on a properly set up ambisonic playback rig was just ridiculous.  That said, even this conversion down to 2 channels is pretty damn impressive.

 

Love It!!

John we are very lucky to have you around this community...

Your GD knowledge, technical capabilities and general contributions around here do not go unnoticed.

Enjoy the Warfield shows, man!!

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2 hours ago, John A said:

The '93 Eugene version has perhaps the most intense guitar eruption of the year.  I recall him being almost sideways as he lit into his strings.  Jeff Silbeman and I made an outstanding recording that day, which I finally transferred last year. 

Holy Crap!  Jerry clearly had something to get out of his head and his heart right there - wow!

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On 2/3/2019 at 8:47 PM, Island Bro said:

I agree that Standing on the Moon is one of the true heartfelt  "aching ballads", as you say, of the later years that Garcia and Hunter produced but as far as holding that slot for the "last" of that class created by the two guys...I think Days Between is the one. And So Many Roads also is in that class (in my opinion) and emerged between SOTM and Days Between. 

Thanks for starting the this interesting and thoughtful thread.

 

Some years back there was a thread here analyzing Days Between and I was struck by someone's comment (can't remember who said it) that Days Between was the last true "art" created by Hubter and Garcia.

ole robert hunter was quoted as saying that " days Between is the one song that reminded him of the band " more than any other ...which i found sweet to the core..

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On 2/3/2019 at 5:22 PM, Billy DeLyon said:

The last of that special class of aching ballads written by Garcia and Hunter, ‘Standing on the Moon’ is at once one of the Dead’s barest and most beautiful compositions, a sparse and subtle wonder which allows its listener to drink in and appreciate every note.

              “I’m real happy with that song,” Garcia told The Galvin Report just before Built to Last was released.  “I wanted to do a song that was as minimal as I could make it.  To me, minimal means that everything is pure in terms of the chords and motion.  Everything is basically three-note triads.  There are no extended chords.  There are no suspensions from one chord to another.  It’s just the way the melody moves.  The narrative is so straight-ahead.  They lyrics are so transparent.  I wanted people to hear the song the first time it plays.  I don’t want you to have to listen over and over again to get it.  Every once in a while, Hunter writes lyrics where you don’t change a thing.  They’re just perfect.  This is one of those tunes… I got the lyrics whole from Hunter.  I didn’t have a melody, nothing.  So I sat down and fooled around with it until it evolved into something that seemed to work for me, emotionally.”

              The song’s perspective of looking at the blue orb we call home from the dry climes of the moon is reminiscent of Barlow’s line “A peaceful place, or so it looks from space,” from In the Dark’s ‘Throwing Stones’.   But in lieu of that song’s vitriol, ‘Standing on the Moon’ favors an appreciative outsider-looking-in type of poetry in passages like, “I see the Gulf of Mexico / As tiny as a tear / The coast of California / Must be somewhere over here.”  By the time the track ends, it has run the gamut of the human experience by touching down everywhere from a war-torn El Salvador to the band’s peaceful homeland of San Francisco, California.

              Performed a total of 75 times, the song often appeared toward the end of the Grateful Dead’s set lists.  Introduced during the same February 5, 1989 show as Mydland’s ‘We Can Run’, the song’s last appearance came at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 30, 1995.

 

Excerpt from: What a Long Strange Trip – Stephen Peters

If you ever come across this book I highly recommend it. 

 

Thoughts, Comments…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpEsFYwVdmQ

I've always loved the different perspectives that the lyrics evoke

On 2/4/2019 at 12:09 PM, Tea said:

SOTM and Days Between are both really great - I wish Jerry had a little more time to get Days dialed-in.  Those lyrics are about as heavy as anything Hunter ever wrote... 

I always wondered what a studio version of days and so many roads would have sounded like, only because I do like the sotm studio version

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I love SOTM but Days just brought me to tears. Truly magical stuff. 

 

It hurts when DSO plays Days and I miss it. I don’t feel that way about Standing. Just my feelings I know. It may be that Days is a little rarer but I don’t know. Something about it just takes me places. 

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HelpFrank - there is a studio version of Days Between.  It was from the sessions for the unfinished final album, and it was released on the box set called "So Many Roads (1965-1995)".  So if you're really wondering what a studio version would sound like, seek that out.

 

(Spoiler alert:  actually, I'd recommend that you don't bother,.  The live versions, such as they are, are more emotional and moving.)

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