Thoughts On The Dead

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

Leaving St. Paul, Fourth Day Of July

july 78 st paul art

I’m no longer kidding, Enthusiasts: Complete Completely Completed July ’78 (The Complete Recording) is the best thing I’ve ever heard: the sound is astonishingly good, present and bright and not at all like work tapes made at a concert 40 years ago for no real purpose. (Betty Cantor-Jackson is the truest artist in that she was unaware she was creating art. Discuss.) With no exaggeration, there could not be a better live recording made today with all our gadgets and bandwidth; maybe you could equal it, but there’s simply no way to sound any better than this.

The 7/5 from Omaha’s second set is–as I declared before I heard it–the BEST EVAR, and now I’m starting in on the 7/3 from St. Paul; Garcia’s solo in Loser just loosed infected my duodenum with joy, and also subversive political ideas, and now my duodenum has begun a proxy war with my jejunum. I liked Spring ’90 and May ’77 boxes, but neither of them started internecine ideological battles in my belly.

The secret ingredient might be Keith: he’s nimble and light on his feet; he was up and down in 1978, but he was playing like his old self in July. It also might be the drummers, who are here the four-armed, four-legged singular entity that they often were, but also often were not. They’re unbelievable: one will take the fill, or the other one gets it, or sometimes Mickey starts a phrase and Billy does the middle of it and Mickey will put a little grace on it, and all the while the beat pulses forward, loping and hitching.

You say there are better things than the Complete Completitude (July Edition)? Fine, I’ll give you that some things are. Not many, though. True love, I guess; good health. But that’s it and I’m sure about it. In fact, TotD now presents Things That Are Not Better Than The July ’78 Box Set:

  • Food. There is no food that is better than this set because all food, no matter how delicious, becomes doody. The July ’78 box set will never become doody. Winner: Dead.
  • Wall-to-wall carpeting is not better than the ’78 set. Some people prefer their floors to be made of hardwood, or in the case of hoarders, feces and cat corpses, whereas love for this latest set will be universal. Again, the Dead take it.
  • The new box set is better than character actor Stephen Tobolowski. And if you knew how much I respected the work of Stephen Tobolowski you would realize what a huge statement that is.
  • Argon. Oxygen and nitrogen and hydrogen, I will begrudgingly grant glory to. But, argon? Fuck argon.
  • If you do not like being touched, then the box set is better than a massage; if you enjoy being touched, then the box set is better than not getting a massage.
  • Hammocks. Drastically overrated are hammocks.
  • The pasta that looks like little shells. Those things can bite my ass: can’t stab ’em with a fork, and you look like a goon chasing ’em around on your plate. Box set is better. (No Grateful Dead release is better than fusilli. Nothing is better than fusilli. It’s curly and yummy and full of love, and sauce.)
  • Like, 90% of the oral sex you’ve ever received. Sturgeon’s Law applies to head.
  • No set of tennis ever played is better than this set.
  • This box is better than boxing.
  • It follows that the Complete July is better than the Complete Miranda July, even though she has curly hair like fusilli.
  • And we can further conclude that this ’78 is better than old jazz 78’s because we all need to stop pretending to like jazz.

Buy it if you can, steal it if you must, but listen to it.


  1. Robin Russell

    May 15, 2016 at 8:18 am

    And there is more to come.

    Fabricated from purest dreams, by dreamers.

  2. Nothing’s better than Needlenose Ned.

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