I trust you have not graduated to victim or the crime. Even Jerry said the chords are all intuitively wrong on that one (paraphrased, so chords may not be the proper word)
it's just a song with dissonant sections. it naturally sounds strange. our minds feel tension from dissonance. we are waiting for some relief something harmonious. it's actually genius.
Jerry Garcia, interviewed by Bonnie Simmons 9/28/89 for a "Built to Last"
JG: I think the first time Weir showed it ["Victim or the Crime"] to me was
when we played with Joan Baez at an AIDS thing in the city, and he -- I lis-
tened in amazement and said "God, that's got pretty angular changes, doesn't
it?" It's fascinating because it defies, almost, any effort to play freely
through 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
angstridden to boot. So 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 of course Mickey 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 --
BS: A polarization tool.
JG: 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. When me and Mickey started working on
it, I'd be sitting there listening and say "You know, I may be going crazy,
but I'm starting to like this..."
BS: I am too. Initially I thought it was one of the oddest things I had
JG: Well, it certainly is strange. It's one of Weir's stunningly odd com-
positions, 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 intel-
ligent in the context has been incredible, but also appropriately gnarly. I
really wanted that part of it to work. I think we did 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 at-
tic. It's like a relative that you -- "God, I hope nobody comes over when
he's eating...." But that's one of the things that makes the Grateful Dead
We've got a handle on it, I think, now, and there's also places for us to
take it. I think it may open up into something truly monstrous. It may
turn into something truly monstrous in the future, and certainly the re-
corded version works.