I asked [a guy I’d met] when he thought the Dead reached its peak, game to try out a half-formed argument for 1975 or thereabouts.
“Well, I agree with the people who say it was May 8, 1977,” he said.
Take a minute to think of the different levels at which one could answer the question, when did The Grateful Dead peak?
- By album (e.g., Workingman’s Dead)
- By decade (e.g., the 1980s)
- By song (e.g., Touch of Grey)
- By era (e.g., the Pigpen era)
- By keyboardist (e.g., the TC period)
- By year (e.g., 1987)
- By date (e.g., May 8, 1977)
Clearly the specificity with which you answer a question is some implicit sign of knowledge. Ask a layman the height of Mount Everest and you might get “about six miles.” Ask a mountaineer and you’ll get “29,029 feet.”
Sometimes other factors drive specificity. Ask my friend Jon Temple how long he worked at Business Objects and he’ll say “36 quarters.” I say “9 years.” The difference? Jon was in sales and I was in marketing. So specificity can also reflect mentality. (By the way, it’s my 20th quarter at Mark Logic.)
But I loved the Deadhead’s answer because it wasn’t just a precise date — which itself would have been astounding given the band’s 30 years of touring — it was a whole level beyond that:
- Awareness of the existence of
- A group of people who believe it was May 8, 1977
- And concurrence with their opinion
The article goes on to discuss the Grateful Dead’s taping culture and its consequences, which I’ve long believed provides a forgotten roadmap for media companies in dealing with digitization.