The Dead’s songs were about the bad section of town, the part that was full of people your mother warned you about because she used to be one of them. The sunny side of the street was always dark in Deep Elem or Minglewood or wherever the hell Stagger Lee was from. 600 pounds of sin doesn’t show up at rich folks’ houses, and if it does, they just have the doorman deal with it.
The music was class-conscious, but fatalist: you know he had to die, don’t you? Don’t we all? None of Springsteen or Strummer’s self-conscious prole worship–the Dead’s protagonists were just ugly roomers in the Mars Hotel, but they knew that there were less rules in the Mission, and none at all when it rained and the cops ducked inside. Down on Shakedown Street, the cops have short memories: there are no long-term investigations; either you get caught or you don’t.