Thoughts On The Dead

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

Perhaps They’re Better Left Unsung

It wasn’t like roulette, you see. The casinos have made fortunes since they installed those immaculately legible tote boards listing the numbers that have landed previously in red with big ol’ tempting empty spaces in between and they’ve been raking cash in because your dumb ass has evolved to think 15 is gonna hit because it’s due. It makes sense to believe that present events are based upon past observation: that’s why people instinctively shielded their crotches whenever Billy came around, for al the good it would do them. Billy was like Gretzky: he could always find your five-hole.

But just as it is a logical fallacy to think that the rules of real life apply in the casino, it is also a mistake to think that Hoyle has any say over the world. (It’s called the Ludic fallacy, which I know because it is one of those facts that gets lodged in my brain instead of, say, how to find love.)  So, why do we forget that about the Dead? Why do we lionize certain shows only to ignore the rest of the week? These men were, appearances to the contrary, human. They had good runs. But the forest is invisible but for the trees, especially when some trees are, y’know, Barton Hall or Red Rocks. They suck up all the light.

Talking about the Dead is to talk about overshadowing. Garcia overshadowed the rest of the band, Mickey’s overkill overshadowed Billy’s light touch, ’77 and ’73 overshadowed all the other years, and Vince’s playing overshadowed the charitable work he did as a participant in the saddest Make-A-Wish event ever. Even Vince knew enough to be embarrassed.

We let ourselves think the greatness appeared as weird happening, crepuscular beams from a murky sea. Not so. 5/19/74 is rightfully well-regarded, especially the raging Truckin’>Mind Left Body jam. but listen to the very next show, 5/21/74 at UCLA the University of Washington* where they proceed to pull out a GODDAM 45 MINUTE PLAYIN’. Give the kids some Robotussin, shoot the dog and LISTEN to this thing, to the peaks and valleys that spring like Zeus out of inchoate spaciness one after another. (And, since it’s a GREAT matrix mix, listen to the appreciative audience cheer every twist and turn. Listen to ’em ROAR for Donna in Playin’. hell, listen to Donna!

Yeah, 2/14/70 is historic, but 2/11 is better. Yes, 1977 was THE year, but y’know: ’78 kicks more ass than an avowed lover of kicking ass who had spent his last dime to enter an ass-kicking contest in an attempt to win enough money to open his own business, a high-end Ass-Kickery.


*Thanks to a comment by an Esteemed Enthusiast, the location of the 5/21 show has been amended to note the actual location. For his Sherlockian abilities, he will receive a lifetime supply of Bobby Weir’s Shorts Shorteners. Shorts too long? Shorten ’em with Shorts Shortener!


  1. 5/21/74 was at University of Washington, not UCLA. Details, details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.