What’s Wrong with the World

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America Archives

January 22, 2018

Long Strange Trip


Amazon Films has produced a solid documentary series on the Grateful Dead. These guys threw a ton of capital at this. High production values: who knows what the crew and subjects were paid, but I’m guessing it was sizable.

Long Strange Trip will be worth watching for a long time, but probably and in the main, only by those truly interested. For the rest, subjected against their will to someone else’s interest, rest assured that you’re not obliged to watch. You can nap.

So, Long Strange Trip.

One of its great virtues lies in the brutally frank portrayal of the toil of San Fran partying. More than once, a surviving band member weeps openly for the loss of another too early. Why too early? Overconsumption of dangerous intoxicants. Not a huge revelation.

Still, this candid depiction of loss is harrowing. How the producers set, carried out, and accomplished such raw interviews I do not know, but the effect is memorable.

Of course the soundtrack earns its magnificence. Nonstop fine versions of Dead and JGB songs. A notorious Senator (or ex-Senator?) supplies his favorite version of “Althea.” I despise the guy but it’s a damn fine “Althea” rendition. Sleep or perchance to dream.

The highlight of the entire series lies in interviews with the Dead’s tour manager, the wiry Brit Sam Cutler, also (in)famous for his role in the Altamont debacle in 1969. Still lively in his 70s, this dude — whose job it was to corral these miscreants and degenerates & get them playing every night — supplies the series’ finest performance.

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