Grateful Dead, American Beauty (1970)
In high school, they were the favorites of the stoner crowd, but when I checked out some of their music expecting to find it trippy and weird and drugged out, maybe like Pink Floyd or something, I was surprised to find it... well, just kind of boring. And then in college, all the 'heads with their shoeboxes full of live cassettes with the spiky, hand-written setlists and cryptic notations (GDTRFB > NFA, Scarlet > Fire), the endless jams wailing out of dorm windows... at a time when I was diving deep down the rabbit-hole of college radio, discovering the Replacements and Husker Du and Sonic Youth, the Dead just seemed anathema, and definitely personas no grata with the college DJ crowd. Plus all that omnipresent, in-joke iconography, the dancing bears and the skulls and roses and lightning bolts and turtles... It was just too impenetrable.
But at some point in college, I heard the Dead in the right frame of mind -- and let's just leave it at that -- and I've been a passionate fan ever since. And while I started with the live shows, the most serious Dead fans always saying the studio didn't do them justice, I eventually gained an appreciation of their studio work as well. Aoxomoxoa is great; Wake of the Flood is great; Blues for Allah is (the lethargic title suite aside) pretty great.
And, of course, American Beauty. Probably one of the most played albums in my collection.
I don't have anything new and different to say about this tremendous album, so instead here is a series of short video clips from the late great Freaks & Geeks (Judd Apatow's tragically short-lived series), in which Lindsay (a young Linda Cardellini), searching for identity, is introduced to the album -- and decides to blow off math camp to get on the bus. Perhaps the finest depiction of a passion for music (any music) ever captured on a television show: