Grateful Dead Hour No. 59
Week of November 6, 1989
Bonnie Simmons: For one reason or another we seem to have gotten off on
"Victim or the Crime" -
Lesh: Gotten off on it?
Simmons: Can you tell me your version of how "Victim or the Crime" came
Garcia: Well, I think the first time Weir showed it to me was when we
played with Joan Baez at an AIDS thing in the city, and he - I listened
in amazement and said, "God, that's got pretty angular changes, doesn't
It's fascinating because it defies, almost, any effort to play freely
through it. You can't do it. You have to know it, it's that simple. It
has changes in it, and they're very strict, and they have lots of real
dissonant moments. So the angularity of it was fascinating to me, the
tonality was, because it's one of those things where you really have to
stretch to figure out something appropriate to play to add to the tonal
mood of the tune.
The text of it - I don't believe I've ever actually listened to all
the words to it. Ever. I have the gist of it; by now I probably could
recite it if I really had to, but the text of it is more of the same in
a way: it doesn't have a whole lot of light in it. It's very dense, and
it's angst-ridden to boot.
Weir: "Victim or the Crime" I wrote with Gerrit Graham. The chorus came
to me one night, and I sat on it for a couple weeks, looking at it, and
I was down visiting Gerrit - he lives in LA - and I showed it to him and
he said, "Hey, listen, can I run off with this for a night? I'll be
right back with it." He came back the next day, and he had two verses
and a bridge fleshed out from that chorus, and we did a little bit of
hammering on it - hardly any - and then I put music to it, and that
happened, though the music was really pretty damn complicated, it
happened real fast. It happened inside of two hours, I think.
Then we started trying to soften up some of the stuff that we knew we
were going to encounter resistance with, like the J-word. We tried to
come up with stuff like "Patience runs out on the monkey," or then we
tried to take it all the way that direction - "Patience runs out on the
bunny." But none of that worked. Then the whole rest of the song just
wouldn't stand up, because it has an integrity about it that's - you
know, you can't dick with it.
Garcia: It seemed to me when we were starting to record it, in order to
save it from an effort to make it more attractive, I thought that what
would work with the song would be to just go with it, to go with the
angularity and the sort of asymmetrical way it's structured, and play to
expose that. An early possibility that occurred to me was that this
would be an interesting song to do something really strange with.
And this is where Mickey, of course, comes into the picture, 'cause
he's one of the guys that holds down the strangeness corner, and he's
always a willing accomplice in these ideas. So I thought the Beam,
which is an instrument that people feel about about the way they feel
about "Victim or the Crime," the tune - I thought, let's take two of the
things that really have a huge potential for really upsetting people -
Simmons: A polarization tool -
Garcia: Absolutely! - and let's combine them in a happy marriage.
Something that will be a real horror show. And it's turned out to be
strangely beautiful. I really enjoy it, now.
Garcia: When me and Mickey started working on the ending, I was sitting
there listening and I said, "You know, I may be going crazy, but I'm
starting to like this..."
Simmons: I am too. (laughs) Initially I thought it was one of the
oddest things I could ever imagine.
Garcia: Well, it certainly is strange. It's one of Weir's stunningly
odd compositions, but it's also very adventurous. It's uncompromising;
it's what it is, and the challenge of coming up with stuff to play that
sounds intelligent in the context has been incredible, but also
appropriately gnarly. I think we've done a nice job on the record with
it. It works. Whatever it is, it works! I'm real happy with it
because it was one of those things that was like "What are we going to
do with this?" It's like having a monster brother that you lock in the
attic. It's like a relative that you - "God, I hope nobody comes over
when he's eating"...
Simmons: I think you put it in a perfect place.
Garcia: It's something like that... That's one of the things that makes
the Grateful Dead fun.
Phil Lesh: I didn't particularly care for the song for the attitude of
the song when I first heard it, and I was kind of wishing that Bob had
written something new, frankly, for the album. But I have to admit it's
grown on me. It's grown on me, and I've found things to play in it,
whereas first it was a just question of going boom-boom-boom-boom. I'm
beginning to hear the music in it now. So I don't really dislike the
song. I don't quite understand why Bob feels he has to sing this song -
but I'll defend to the death his right to sing it.
And to have us play it, too.
If he can make it stick.
Bob Weir: There is a ponderosity about it that a lot of people consider
pompous, and perhaps it is pompous. There's that part of all of us.
The questions posed in this song are not unique to this boy. If being
pompous is what it takes to actually express this sort of thing - and
you know, it's something I feel and it's something that I kind of want
to take a peek at. It's, as far as I can see, human nature, and I don't
think I'm doing anything intensely meaningful here, but I'm at least
trying to get to something that's maybe a little knottier than Sugar
Garcia: We've got a handle on it, I think, now, and there's also places
for us to take it. So I think it may open up into something truly
monstrous. It may turn into something truly monstrous in the future,
and certainly the recorded version works.