On April 11th, 1972, the United States Conference of Roman Catholic bishops was opened to the press for the first time and 75 reporters turned up to the meeting in Atlanta to hear Cardinal John Krol deliver his speech. In Latin.
The Cardinal told reporters, “We told you we’d let you in. We didn’t tell you what language we’d talk.” Pranksters can be found in the most unlikely of places, it seems.
There were also language issues when the Grateful Dead buses headed up to play the Newcastle-upon-Tyne City Hall on the same day, expecting that it wouldn’t be until they sailed across the North Sea that they’d have difficulty understanding the locals….
Fortunately, music is a universal language.
I’ve picked the rendition of China-Rider from this concert. There’s a tenuous link between the above story and the incomprehensibility of Hunter’s lyrics but, more importantly, it’s another beautiful piece of free-wheeling Grateful Dead magic. It is subtly different to the Radio Luxembourg version I posted here which is, as far as I can tell, down to Billy’s drumming: this version has an almost Latin feel under its myriad tunes. (It’s discoveries like this that justify listening to a whole tour: had I been living in the States in the seventies, I can see how I would have spent large parts of my life following them from town to town.)
Apparently, Eric Burdon’s Mum went to the concert, hoping to find someone in the band or crew who had met him. One of them, Rosie McGee, had spent some time with Eric recently in LA and so she sat with Mrs Burdon in the balcony for a while. At one point, Mrs B leaned over and, inaudible over the music, mouthed the words: “They’re very good, you know.” What better endorsement could any band want?