Taking the stage with "The Dead" at the Fillmore West concert hall, music promoter Bill Graham introduced the as-yet-untitled song.
"The rock-and-roll song as we know it needs to change," Graham said. "It can't just be three minutes of mindless, three-chord escapism anymore. It needs to be a quarter-century-long odyssey of mystifying 50-chord obscurity. And The Dead will take us there."
"Sun go shinin' on the riverside," added Jerry Garcia, the band's lead singer. "Moon come risin' like a country bride."
The band then began its experiment in tune-elongation, with guitarist Bob Weir launching into a twangy, discursive guitar solo in the home-key of F, which soon flowed into a B-flat seventh chord. Graham estimates that Weir will return the melody line to F early next January.
"You don't just listen to The Dead - you experience them," said Naomi Shapiro, 19, an ardent follower of the group. "Their music is so deep that it has something to offer no matter what you're doing - dancing, eating, sleeping, making love or panhandling."
Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann said the band "consciously seeks a different sound from that of other bands. Collectively, we're familiar with almost every type of music and we've constantly strived to work them into our songs, but there just hasn't been enough time to work all of them into any one particular piece. We finally realized that it would take the next 28 years to do it, and we figured, you know, none of us had anything major going down for that particular time period, so why not?
"With Graham's help," Kreutzmann added, maintaining a beat in 13/8 rhythm to accompany Weir's solo, "we're going to take our ceaseless song on the road in a decades-long series of concerts throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world."
The above is an extract from `Our Dumb Century', a satirical history in newspaper form, edited by Scott Dikkers, and published by Boxtree, pounds 9.99.
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