Thoughts On The Dead

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

Next Step: Federal Holiday

Sisyphus was a pussy: he didn’t have Cornell. Roll the fucker up the hill every year; you think you’re good and May comes around again, whistling innocently. Here I am, sailor. Let’s dance.

I have no more dances in me.

And then Cornell says DANCE, FUCKER and sticks all of its hydrodicks into you.

At least this year there’s the new box set to talk about, Get Shown The Light. (There’s one  set, with the books and pictures and essays, left at Amazon.) The full set is four shows–May 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, 1977–from the fabled and long-lost Betty Boards. Technically, they weren’t lost: they were in the shed of a chemistry teacher who wanted too much money. By the way, now that they’re safely back in the Vault where they belong and this can’t actually happen and I can’t be implicated: I am deeply saddened by Deadheads’ refusal to heist the tapes.

But if they were stolen, then they couldn’t be remastered and sold by the Dead.


Good argument.

Thank you. I’ve listened to the whole set and Jeffrey Norman, et al., have done their usual brilliant job: one of the draws of the Betty Board for Cornell has always been the huge, but specific, bass; Phil always sounded like he was 200 feet tall and mad at a mid-sized city. Once again, though,  the production team has improved what seemed unimprovable: the sound is massive and immersive, with air all around the instruments

(You can still buy the three-CD release that just has Cornell on it.)

Cornell’s the Best EVAR show that the Grateful Dead played because some show has to be, and why not it? It was more available than other shows back when the Dead existed on cassette tapes and traveled via the mail; it sounded better than most other contemporaneous recordings, causing people (perhaps unconsciously) to listen to it more; it was a more accessible chunk of music than, say, Veneta’s half-hour Dark Star freakout.

So call it number one.

And so a cottage industry has built up around the myth of Cornell: books, documentaries, walking tours. There’s even a section in the Cornell bookstore dedicated to merch commemorating the show. You can buy all sorts of things.

  • Baby onesie with “The DEW, brah” written on it.
  • Take A Step Back: the turn-based role-playing game.
  • Decorative collector’s spoons. (Sold in sets of two only. The first set is okay, but the second is really good.)
  • Betty Board ® surfboards.
  • Scarlet begonias. (Seasonal)
  • Fire on the Mountain hot sauce.
  • For thirty bucks, someone who was at the show will tell you stories.
  • Leroy Neiman prints of Billy in his underwear.
  • Snow globe with Barton Hall and tiny little students coming out of the show.
  • Because it was snowing when they came out of the show.
  • Did you ever hear that before?

Anyway, it’s Cornell Day. Go listen, or don’t. You do you.


  1. Mean, Green, Devil Eating Machine

    May 9, 2017 at 9:43 am

    I sent “Merry Cornell Day” and “Happy May Tour” cards to all the folks on my Cornell card list.

  2. MiddleManneredEnthusiast

    May 9, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    I’m recommending that all Enthusiasts listen to the tragically under-hyped Cornell show from 5/7/80, with the funkiest of Shakedowns and Weir singing “Playing in the Barn” both in the intro and the post-drums reprise, among other assorted highlights.

  3. Luther Von Baconson

    May 9, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    a month prior

  4. It’s so nice of the Internet to make the box set available to everyone on this auspicious day. In FLAC, no less.

    • ….and it turns out somebody wasn’t paying attention and just finished downloading the May 77 set from a few years back. Darn for them.

  5. Luther Von Baconson

    May 11, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    the “Cars Are Getting Ticketed” jam

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