Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: 1977 (page 1 of 10)

Keith’s Left, Keith’s Right, He’s Gone



Why did Keith’s piano move from one side of the stage to the other, depending on what show it was?

“Two reasons.”

Were they shits and giggles?

“Little bit, yeah.”

Why would you do that?

“Gotta find your fun somewhere. We’d put his piano stage left for a few shows, then shift it to the other side, and he’d get so confused. One time, he just sat on a road case and started playing a monitor.”

That is kinda funny.

“Yup. He kept tweaking Bobby’s nipples trying to turn himself up.”

That’s damn funny.

“Certainly was.”

Black And Blues

Hey, Mrs. Donna Jean. Whatcha doing?

“Doin’ mah part, sugar.”

You’re a patriotic American, ma’am.

“Course ah am. Ain’t no one loves America more’n a Southerner.”

Except for those couple years.

“‘Cept f’r them couple years, yeah. Water under the dam, sugar.”

But if water gets under a dam, it destabilizes the entire structure.

“Mama knows what she said.”

California has to be a lot different from Alabama.

“That’s right. Spelled all diff’rent, first of all.”


“Have t’ drive in a diff’rent direction t’ get t’ the ocean.”

That, too.

“Zip code ain’t th’ same at all.”

I meant the cultural markers.

“I gotcha. Well, you know them ol’ Black Panthers?”

I do.

“There’s a reason they ain’t from Alabama, sugar.”

Someone would’ve put a stop to that, huh?

“Multiple someones. An’ a sudden stop, too. Woulda happened overnight.”


“Don’tchoo blaspheme in here.”

Sorry, Mrs. Donna Jean.

My God, A Recommendation?

Yes, you could be listening to the Phoshes from MSG, which is apparently the only venue they play now, but you could also join me in semi-ignoring the Official Band of Journalist Twitter and check out 6/8/77 from Winterland. This was the middle show of the trio that comprises the Winterland ’77 box set and gets far less love than the other two shows, as it has neither a H>S>F and a titanic Music Never Stopped, nor a Scarlet>Fire and a lusitanian Morning Dew. There is a Sugaree, but it’s not in the same league with the late May renditions. 6/8/77 is just a good show, but it’s a good ’77 show, which makes it better than, say, an above-average ’82, though perhaps not as good as a middling ’73.

(Interesting note: there were no good or bad ’72 shows. All of them were uniformly excellent except for the last half-hour of Bo Diddley sitting in (which is why it was left off the Official Release).)

Congratulations Are In Order

Awards are for wieners. This is a fact known by everyone who has never won an award. Are we discussing sprinting? Because awards should be given out in sprinting: one fucker hit the tape first. Boxing, too. The guy who’s not unconscious gets an award. Or contests. Elmira June sold more Girl Scout cookies than Susie May: you have a pre-decided metric or accomplishment, and whoever scores the highest, wins. Hot dog-eating competitions and hunger strikes can both be graded to find the singular “best” and that person or group awarded, yes, absolutely.

But art? An artist asks, What right have you to grade my work? Show me your portfolio, bring me your creations and let me judge you first. And, as a true artist has no rival but himself, he rejects others’ appraisals. The true artist creates his own award.

Hell, fuck art. Entertainment? Get out of my office with that foolishness. Actually: wait, don’t leave yet. Watch me masturbate.

Stop repeating this joke.

It makes me giggle.

It makes the nice people nauseous.

Yes, awards are for wieners, unless you’ve been nominated for one, and we have, so awards are fucking awesome and I love the Grammys. I have come to this revelation today, having learned that we are up for two Grammy Awards.


Yes. We. This is a team effort. Morale is low since Franken.


The Grateful Dead is up for two Grammys, Enthusiasts! Kinda! The Dead never won any of the shiny little doodads–they were never even nominated until after Garcia died–but, as usual, everyone’s favorite choogly band is doing its best work after becoming semi-defunct. The nods are in the categories of Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package (May 1977:  Get Shown The Light, Masaki Koike, art director) and Best Music Film (Long Strange Trip, a bunch of Jews*, producers).

Did you know that the Recording Academy is at the forefront of medical research into tinnitus prevention and treatment? That’s just one of the many charities that the fine folks behind the Grammy Awards fund; others include MusicCares, which helps aging musicians with healthcare bills, and the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which investigates hearing loss and provides low-cost hearing aids for Academy members. It’s like I’ve always said: the guy from the record company is the real hero.

What was that all about?

Those Grammy voters are good eggs. The salt of the earth. They’re salted eggs, man.

Stop kissing the Recording Academy’s ass. 

You’re right. We need to cheat. What if we buy twitter bots and launch a fake news attack on the other nominees?

No. Well, maybe. Who are we up against?

In the Package category, the one to beat is the re-release of the Golden Record they sent up with the Voyager.

The one with Johnny B. Goode on it?


How nice could itHOLY SHIT look at that fucking thing.


That’s tough to beat.

Hey, the May ’77 box comes with a whole book.

Yeah, I read it. I’m going with the spaceship. My God, the paper stock. I would blow that box set.


It’s sexy, man.

You’re getting weird. Odds are better in the Best Music Film category, though. But not great. This is going to come down to one thing.

Don’t say–


–me. No. You have nothing to do with anything. You’re almost irrelevant to yourself.

I will turn the tide in favor of the Grateful Dead. I have a plan.


I will come up with a plan.



*Amir Bar-Lev, video director; Alex Blavatnik, Ken Dornstein, Eric Eisner, Nick Koskoff & Justin Kreutzmann, video producers.

This Way And That

The true depths, the abyssal reaches, that the Dead’s bush leagueosity permeate to are revealed when you realize that they couldn’t even all face in the same direction most of the time.

Nonsense Written Down While Listening To the 5/19/77 Sugaree

  • Like all great American songs, Sugaree is half-original and half-stolen from an anonymous black guy from the 30’s.
  • “Please forget you knew my name” is iambic quadrameter, and also very sad.
  • The first solo.
  • The little shiver in Garcia’s voice when he sings about meeting you at Joo-hooooo-bilee.
  • Sugaree was a tiny little biscuit of a tune when it was born, but it grew into a cake large enough to feed Atlanta. (To use a pastry-themed metaphor.)
  • Playing in the Band got longer by increments, but Sugaree suddenly expanded to nine times its original length in ’76 or so.
  • Although knowing the Dead, they might have just forgotten the ending the first time and decided the song sounded better if you played it for 20 minutes.
  • Or maybe Garcia said,
  • “Hey, guys. Let’s play Sugaree for 20 minutes.”
  • And the guys said,
  • “How?”
  • And Garcia said,
  • “I’ll solo for 18 of them.”
  • And the guys were fine with that.
  • Billy plays these little THRRRP noises on his snare during the pre-chorus.
  • The second solo.
  • Garcia was a sloppy-ass guitar player, and he clammed all the time–half-fingered notes and fumbled frettings–but he rarely played the wrong note.
  • To his credit, he always earned it.
  • Wasn’t like he would start off the solo going DEEDLEDEEDLEDEEDLE.
  • He wasn’t a lunatic.
  • Gotta build up to that.
  • A man’s gotta choogle before he can deedle.
  • The difference between a good Sugaree and an acceptable one is dynamics: there’s only two chords during most of the song, so you’ve gotta get your kicks somewhere other than harmonically.
  • There is no third solo, but there might be one day.

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.

A Religious Holiday

Well, isn’t this nifty? Who says government doesn’t work for the people?

This is, however, the final draft of the document. The first version was quite different; one of the Haight Street Irregulars broke into City Hall and stole a copy so I could share it with you:


WHEREAS the Grateful Dead’s concert at Barton Hall at Cornell University on May 8, 1977, was perhaps the best show they played that week, depending on whom you ask, and

WHEREAS the show has become a local cottage industry, and

WHEREAS on the other hand, you pop Cornell in the tape deck of your Datsun and turn that shit up, and you have a good old time, and

WHEREAS there is no Sugaree or Half-Step, precluding the show from ever truly being the greatest show of all time, and

WHEREAS it was snowing when the students exited the building, and

WHEREAS it has been said many times by many people, the best people, that Cornell was just a tremendous show, a real top show, and probably the best of all time, which is what many, many people are saying

NOW THEREFORE, I, Dan Klein, Vice Chair of the Tompkins Legislature hereby proclaim May 8, 2017, as


WHICH means that all members of the Grateful Dead are eligible for up to 10% off at participating local businesses.

I Am Starting The Backlash

Let me be the first to declare Peak Cornell. (Who else is getting annoyed? Raise your hands in the Comment Section.)


This isn’t another dopey 5/8/77 joke. Look:

Wait: maybe this is Billy Kreutzman, Billy Kreutzmann’s evil fraternal twin.

Older posts
%d bloggers like this: