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  • Writer's pictureMarkus Brandstetter

MacHead: The Holy Grail of Dave Matthews Band Has Been Leaked after 25+ Years

Spoco2 at English Wikipedia/CC by SA 3.0 ( )

For more than a quarter of a century—since the release of Dave Matthews Band's "Before These Crowded Streets"—"MacHead" has been a myth. Fans only knew of its existence because the name appeared on a setlist in a photo from the studio. Later, producer Steve Lillywhite talked about the song, calling it a "hauntingly beautiful" mix of Paul McCartney and Radiohead (hence the name MacHead). Within the band's fan community, "MacHead" has been a never ending source of speculation. A few select sources and traders had heard it or possessed it—but did not leak it.

MacHead: The Myth that only a selected few got to Hear

It seemed like an elite thing, and although it was speculated the band would include it on an anniversary release, they did not. Whenever Matthews or some band member was asked about it, they more or less brushed it off, saying, "Oh yeah, we might bring it back," or "Yeah, it's that unfinished thing." Once, Lillywhite talked on a podcast about having found the tape, but he wasn't able to share it. It was said to be an unfinished song, a sketch, with improvised lyrics about Lillywhite's tapeworm he caught during the recordings. Even though it was pretty clear it could not be their best work (otherwise they'd have released it/worked on it/developed it), the expectations were kind of… mythological. Still, it seemed we'd never get it.

How "MacHead" Sounds

And a few days ago, there it was—after 25+ years somebody thought, it's time also for the non-elite to have it. I used to be a huge DMB fan (I haven't been for some years now, but still check in with the band's work every now and then) and back then imagined how the day would be when I got to hear it. I thought that I'd celebrate it big time. Instead, I was lying in bed with my laptop, listening to the first few rounds with my laptop speakers.

So there it is, the mythological MacHead. The fact we get to hear it is awesome, but is it better than the song itself? Well, people will give their opinions about that a lot in the next weeks. My two cents: it's rough, of course: it's a sketch. It only shows Dave Matthews on vocals and guitar, Carter Beauford on Drums and Stefan Lessard on upright bass playing. It's still beautiful, especially Dave's vocal ideas. It's also funny, because there's this beautiful melody going and Dave sings, "I wonder what will come out of Steve's butt today. Maybe worms, maybe something bigger than worms, who knows" (remember: the tapeworms!). Yes, it sounds like Radiohead in the mid 1990s. And a bit like McCartney, maybe, I am not too convinced about that. And it most definitely had the potential to be augmented and fleshed out into something big.

I've since listened to it a lot. It brought back memories of really getting into the band, of seeing them live in California for the first time in 2005. Of wondering how this one lost, secret song would sound. I guess now we know. Is it the sensation people made it out to be? No, of course not. But it's a look at a band at their creative peak – and although it would have also been funny if it had remained a myth, I found it really awesome to get to hear it.

PS: I don't want to embed it here because I don't want to get into trouble, but it's easily findable on Youtube.


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