Day 104: Stella Blue, 10/14/83

Stella Blue has one of the coolest opening lines in the Dead’s canon, in my opinion. “All the years combine…” can be applied to so many situations. If you take that idea as the call to arms, so to speak, for the song and combine it with the musical presence of the tune it comes across as a very introspective piece of music that allows for thinking and reflection.

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When I think about time conflating, or speeding up (“it all rolls into one”) I’m always amazed at how much time has passed since various life events. It’s been almost 15 years since I graduated high school, but doesn’t seem that long ago. A decade ago I was finishing undergrad, and it’s already been four years since I finished my graduate degree. Of course, having kids makes time fly even further. My eldest son is almost 3 (Whoa-oh what I want to know/Where does the time go?), and my youngest just turned 3 months, but the difference in his motor skills from a week ago is astounding. Kids never cease to amaze. In some respects they’re a lot like the Dead. Some days are diamond, some days are rocks, but taken as a whole it’s a wild ride that’s enjoyable and memorable.

As Jerry starts us off telling us of the conflation of time, it’s clear his voice is a bit shredded. This is not necessarily a bad thing though as it often means and extra-emotive ballad from the big man. The guitar progression is delicately played by both Mssrs. Garcia and Weir. Bobby plays around with some harmonics at times and adds some arpeggiation to mix things up, but always with deft attention to what the song needs.

The crescendo to the bridge adds some flair to this sparse arrangement. The backing vocals sound great and everyone provides their musical input as well. The leads in turn to a Garcia solo, and he takes off for the stars right away. Like a rocket he’s off at a rapid pace, but the fuel quickly burns off and he eases back into the next verse. Cosmic. Another verse is followed by another solo passage and this one does not reach the heights of the previous one, but it does pick up the pace a bit from whence it started. Jerry isn’t setting the world on fire, but his service to the song is impeccable. Bobby contributes an edgier guitar tone which juxtaposes Garcia’s clear tone very nicely. A somewhat rough transition into Sugar Magnolia leaves Stella Blue in the past.

Complete Setlist 10/14/83

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3 comments to “Day 104: Stella Blue, 10/14/83”
  1. A rapid decompression results in a searching introduction as the band tries to get behind Garcia’s lead. The result is a tad speedy, but nicely adorned anyway. The fragile lead vocal is perfect for this song. Nice, icy swells punctuate the first verses. Someone on-stage shouts “Yeah!” after one of them, perhaps distracting Garcia for a second. The bridge hits enormously. The following solo is a soaring display of distortion, feedback and sustain. It is pretty huge. A tightwire turn barely gets us back to the next verse without disaster. Jer is singing for his life here. Love it! Was it just a dream? Nope, it’s right here on the CD. The band wrings the final life out of this version by taking its final whisper up to a big roar. They could have run through those final changes in four-beat chunks like the best versions, but instead settle for a quick turn to “Sugar Magnolia”.

  2. Lunchbox,
    Sorry to say that I have not had the time to post with the start of a new business happening. I must tell you that despite a lack of checking in, there are not many days that I don’t get a chance to check out your efforts. Like you, I have probably have way to much dead music in my collection and despite the fact that this pick is not one that I own, given time I will.
    I kind of equate my addiction to the Dead to the addiction to coffee. Coffee is a great wake up, but the Dead is much more satisfying and longer lasting. Always love a JERBALLAD and Stella is always a reminder of what emotion he could bring to a song he truly loved. As you mention, the lyrics are stimulating to consider and this one is a classic. As a good friend always points out, there are a lot of great jam bands but besides the superb playing by many bands, the Dead had the lyrics that no other Jam band ( if that’s even a fair category to call them) has them all striving for anything close.
    Thanks for the update on your family. Loved to hear all is well and you are cherishing the everyday changes. Enjoy all you can, as you mention High School to know seems like a flash, trust me it only accelerates.
    You do make my day on a regular basis and I truly appreciate all that you share.

    • No worries Joe. Thanks for reading. Do check out DP6. Disc 2 is sublime – Scarlet/Fire followed by Estimated/Eyes. I used to have a cassette in my old van that had nothing but disc 2 on it and it got a ton of play. A solid release all around.

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