There was a time when I felt a sort of bemused affection for the Grateful Dead. But after I split with the world's most lovable Deadhead (amicably, natch) I realized that my fondness had been for him, not them. You could say I sobered up musically. The group's famous free-form drum jams and meandering solos often led to long, strange trips, in concert especially, but I never felt transported to a cosmic plane of mystical transcendence, or whatever. Maybe it was my distinct lack of LSD. Or a low tolerance for choogly, midtempo songs that lasted a half-hour. As much as I admire their trailblazing, freak-flag-flying spirit and fusion approach - and what that inspired in artists I do love - I rarely find myself wanting to wander along "Shakedown Street." The Dead faithful who mistook the band's mischievous sense of improvisation as license to swear off personal hygiene or grow dreadlocks - and their equally wiggly descendants - also go in the con column. But the ex? Still totally lovable.
-- Sarah Rodman