Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Can't Win If You Don't Play

phil tie dye singing color 80s

For the life of me, I cannot determine what the worst thing in this picture is: the shirt, the bass, the fact that Phil’s singing? TotD turns to you, the loyal Enthusiast, to judge.

Argue your choice in the comments.

Winner receives a lifetime supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat. Losers will receive an actual San Francisco treat: being priced out of your home while naked homeless people throw used syringes at you during a transit strike.


  1. The worst thing about the bass (that fucker’s headless) isn’t even apparent here, unless you infer it from the bridge.

    What process results in a bass like this? “Say, man, this Steinberger’s great but it just isn’t cheesedick enough for us. What’s that you say? Carbon fiber top?”

  2. I’d have to say that there’s almost nothing “wrong” with a heavily modded Steinberger but, that’s just like, my opinion, Man. I’d bet ya’ that the guts have all been changed out. MilSpec stuff, etc.. Phil’s got “a guy” that does all that stuff for him.

    Smiling while singing is good. The T-Shirt, probably a fan gift, so-so.

    I’d have to go with the wristband (which clearly needs replacing) for the win.

    Don’t bother with the Rice-A-Roni. It used to be good. Now it sucks balls. It’s new jingle goes something like: “Rice-A-Roni, the Oakland Greyhound Bus Station Treat!”

  3. The wristband makes me think of the old ABA basketballs. Phil needs an Afro to complete the look.

    • Somewhere out there…There’s a Halloween photo of Phil with the rainbow Afro wig and a foam stick-on clown nose on. Wearing the wristband.

      Eat your heart out, Hugh Romney.

  4. Can I nominate the glasses as well? Phil and Jerry both went through a period with eyewear that I otherwise associate with rapists, Presbyterian ministers and panelists on The McLaughlin Group.

    They’re almost aviators, which are totally acceptable in context. But they’re not aviators, they’re Kondrackes.

  5. the worst part of the picture: it’s the wedding ring, fuck jill lesh! ha!

  6. The tee is the least objectionable. I don’t think it belongs on a Rock Star, but it would look fine on a fan. As someone else noted, the wristband is fine for, say, Dr.J or Artis Gilmore, but also not rock star. The glasses, yeah, Phil’s lucky he’s not in 3rd grade because a fifth grader would pop him in the face just to see if those things would break. And his facial expression is super dorky, but that’s Phil being Phil.

    The bass, though, that is an abomination in the eyes of God. First off, there’s the surface, that makes it looks a toy you bought for $3 after the show when you were still kind of trippin’ but looks useless after the comedown. The fretless thing, that’s pretty horrible. But, the main thing, the bass is not a six stringed instrument. John Entwistle got away with it, but John was not just the bassist, he was the actual featured soloist in his band. I still don’t like it, but OK, if you are the best person ever to do a certain thing, I can’t really question too much. But Phil didn’t have to play lead guitar; Jerry had that spot wrapped up pretty well. Phil should have just focused on the four strings a bass is supposed to have and kept the bottom nailed down for once.

    • Love Phil’s bass-ing but yeah, he did his best stuff with four strings anyway.

      If someone showed up to jam night – I realize The Grateful Dead are not showing up to jam night and get some leeway here – with that thing they should be properly shamed into coming back next week with a Precision or not at all.

      It was good enough for Jamerson, goddamn it, and it’s good enough for you.

  7. Regarding the finish on the bass: It kind of reminds me of the MOTS (Pearloid) finish on my 1959 Magnatone Lap Steel, which automatically rules out any negative comments from this reader about Phil’s choice of “sort of high tech version of MOTS” for his bass. I kind of suggests the MOTS theme but, in a Syd Meade fantasy C.G.I. kind of fashion.

    In other words: “I like the damn thing.” My Magnatone is a uber-groovy dark emerald green. Kind of a “pneumonic-snot-meets-chrome” sort of affair.

    Some Dudes were meant to be Fat Back, Fender Precision Playing Bassists. Phil isn’t one of those cats. He’s got some pretty wild “spots,” sort of like Morgan Freeman’s cheeks.

    I rest my own wild-assed “spots.”

    • Heh, well said. I don’t really expect my bitchy opinions to work for anyone else. Also, I’ll admit to having lusted after a Rumblefish.

      I decided the finish was CF based on other photos of the same bass that look a lot less MOTS-ey, but could be totally wrong about that.

      This also isn’t my least favorite Phil bass. That’s the EB-3, because I’ve played one.

      • My first bass was a HUGE, pearl white, Kay Western f-hole that got liberated from a Navy Base where my Dad worked. I’m not much of a bass player though.

        And James Jameson? Oh, yea. Duck Dunn, too. Lots of cool bass players out there…

  8. The wristbands. Plural. At least I think so.

  9. Every damn thing already mentioned…and the HAIRCUT!

  10. I am shocked that so many readers already chose the bass. I was going to say the bass, so y’all slow down. I even had the word “abomination” in mind. AND James Jamerson. Jesus. Stop mindreading me. All that is left to say is that you know damn well every scrap of that wood came from a vanishing South American rainforest. If not, I’ll eat my shoe. And those pickups are for smooth jazz yuppies. Forgive me if you are one.

  11. Things would have been so much simpler if the entire band wore really silly costumes from 1960’s T.V. shows (Sitcoms, preferably) every night. You know…Addams Family Night, F-Troop Night, etc., etc..

    Oh. And, all played toy instruments.

    Wait a minute, Ladies and Gentlemen: “The Resident(s) Dead.” “Dead-Vo?” I can see this is going straight down the latrine…

  12. Buck teeth!
    And what happened to his earlobe? Did the aligator that the bass is made out of chase him down and nibble it? Oh well I guess we’ll never know…

  13. Oh and the evil meercat face on his tie-die just below his clavicle.

  14. Really gotta say that the bass is doing it for me. You can totally expect an ugly-ass shirt from Phil, and the wristbands are typical as well. They never seem to leave his skin. But the bass… holy shit, is that ugly.

  15. I’m just worried that when he peels off that sweatband(s) it’ll pull of some of that gorilla fur he’s got growing on his forearms.

  16. Definitely the bass. The tie-dyed t-shirts were always kind of endearing, because Phil is probably the one guy in the band who can absolutely never look anything but silly in tie dye, and also the one guy who wears it most. But he looked sillier in tie dye in the 80s. (Actually he looked like my boyfriend in tie dye in the 80s. Which was also a big mistake. Every time. But did he listen? Nooo.) However, making exactly the wrong clothes choices from a Rock Star standpoint is part of being Dead, and a good part of it, too … really, big hair and lycra would have been a very bad idea … so that gets a pass.

    The wrist bands are glued to his skin; it was an accident that happened many years ago, so be kind to him and pretend you don’t see it.

    The hair and the glasses are only scary because tomorrow they’re going to become hipster ironic.

    But the bass? No excuses. It looks like it if you hold it one way, it’s got a holographic Jesus breaking bread with Elvis, and if you hold it the other way, it’s the skintight pants from the woman in Never Trust a Woman. Which is wrong in so many ways. Phil’s got money. He can afford to up the level of artistry to “just black” or Classy Marin Restaurant Interior or … well, almost anything else. Hello Kitty, even.

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