Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: 1978 (page 1 of 10)

There’s A Band In The Meadow Of Bottomless Time

The Dead sold out in Jersey. This is 9/2/78 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. First show at the new(ish) venue: the Giants used to play at Yankee Stadium, but by the mid-70’s everyone had a car and could drive to a swamp in the middle of nowhere–there was no form of public transportation to Giants Stadium that did not count among its steps “sprinting across Route 22” and people died all the time–so the New York Giants moved to New Jersey in 1976 and still haven’t gotten around to updating the team name or logo. Then the Jets moved in eight years later; they, too, neglected to change their name to the New Jersey Jets. Which is just rubbing our noses in it: I can understand the Giants not wanting to be associated with Jersey, as they are a classy organization, but the Jets–the organization and their fans–are greasy diner trash full of cheap beer and Sopranos reruns.

Giants Stadium (not Giant’s, thank you) was part of a destination-entertainment complex that also included an arena and a horse track. State law mandated that only trotters run; these are the races in which the jockey sits in a wheeled sling directly behind the animal. (When the law was passed, the politicians behind it were quoted as saying, “We weren’t paid off by a lawyer representing an association of trotter-horse breeders. If that’s what you were thinking.”) My parents would take BoTotD there once in a while. Something to do on a sunny day. The horses had wonderful names. I think they let me place bets once I turned 15 or so. No one gave a fuck back then.

Betting any more than two bucks on a horse race makes you a degenerate. Do not question this.

The arena was first called Meadowlands Arena, and then the Brendan Byrne Arena, and then the Izod Center, and then it was lost to the Space Beavers, and then it was the Izod Center again, but the version from the evil Mirror Universe and an entire Ice Capade was eaten, and now it’s abandoned (but secretly still occupied by the Space Beavers). The Nets of basketball played there, and so did the Devils of hockey; they wore startlingly different shoes to do so. Bruce Springsteen played there in the winter, across the parking lot from his summer grounds.

And another highway. These three venues sit in an enormous marsh where there are no buildings at all–the ground is swampy and damp and tough to work on–and they still managed to run a highway in between them. New Jersey invented trolling through civic engineering. The arena did not have enough parking to handle a full house, so the overflow went across the highway to the stadium’s lots. To get to the game, you walked a skybridge over the eight-lane state road. The walls and roof of the bridge were aluminum siding and did not stop the weather or the sound of the cars beneath you. Graffiti was rare.

Anyway, it wasn’t a matter of whether to Dead could draw–almost exactly a year before, they had played to 250,000 paying customers 40 miles up the road–but whether they’d be allowed to at all. The first rock concert at Giants Stadium had only been three months prior: Beach Boys, with Steve Miller opening. The support acts were Pablo Cruise and Stanky Brown, and if you’re wondering whether a character named Stanky Brown will soon be introduced to one timeline or the other: yes, he will. Luckily, the kids were all right and the Dead was permitted to choogle in the marshes.

The show’s the ’78 equivalent of the ’72 Academy of Music run: cash for the upcoming journey, but the Dead gave the kiddies their money’s worth. The New Riders played, and so did Willie Nelson. The band was in the shape it was in for the Egypt trip, but their bowels were most likely far more predictable than when they were actually on the Egypt trip. Everyone was a junkie except for Bobby and Phil (who was a drunk) and Billy’s wrist was broken. Still: the Scarlet>Fire is a hoot.

OR

Precarious?

“Yo?”

Just one question.

“Shoot.”

That rope on the right side of backstage, the one with the brightly-colored pennants?

“It’s load-bearing.”

That was my question.

“It’s actually load-bearing as shit. Kinda the linchpin to the whole stage.”

Gotcha.

Dishdashing Through The Snow

What is this? Olompali?

“You’re funny, man. It’s Egpyt.”

I know. Just messing with you. How you like the place?

“It’s a trip. You know Canada?”

Sure.

“Nothing like that. Like, the total opposite in every way. We just talking you and me here?”

Yes.

“I can’t fucking wait to go home, man. Food’s all weird here. Just try getting a steak sandwich in Cairo. I dare ya.”

What kind of food do they have there?

“Egyptian food, man. Keep up with the conversation.”

Sorry.

“And then once you’re done with the food…”

The bathrooms?

“I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’m not particularly limber.”

Squat toilets aren’t your thing?

“You shouldn’t have to stretch before you take a shit, man.”

That’s true.

I’d Walk A Mile On A Camel

Hey, how’s it going?

“Me, man?”

Not you, Garcia.

“Are you talking to me? Because I have a great story about Coach Wooden and the difference between lava and magma.”

Not you, either, Bill Walton.

“MRRRAAAAAAGHCCCCHHH.”

Not you, camel.

“Is me?”

Yeah. How you doing?

“Okay, mister.”

What’s your name?

“Idir.”

Howdy. I’m TotD.

“TotD? Is not name.”

It’s a nom de plume.

“Okay.”

A pen name.

“Okay.”

You’re just saying “okay” and smiling, aren’t you?

“Okay.”

Awesome. So, what’s the deal with this? You lead tourists around for a living?

“Naam. White people come. Put on camel. Walk around. White people down. Eat. Very exciting them.”

You like your job?

“Is a living.”

Sure.

“Most money on side.”

What do you mean?

“Hashish.”

Right.

“Beard man and friends good customers.”

I bet.

“Who they?”

The Grateful Dead. They’re a band from California. You know what California is.

“Jews and whores on beach.”

Yeah, that’s it. They play choogly music.

“Please. What is jooooguhl?”

Choogle.

“I no can say. Move past.”

Sure.

“Why band in Egypt?”

Because the pyramids are sacred and geomantic power and ley lines and secret histories and the Illuminati.

“Is white bullshit?”

Yes.

“Okay. Why is mustache man punch camel in dick?”

Oh, that’s Billy. He does that.

“Camel get mad.”

I would imagine.

Paint It Bob, You Devil

“People don’t know this, but I am a longtime youth basketball ref.”

You’re not.

“Gotta keep ’em off the streets. No such thing as a bad kid, just one that needs some coaching up. And, you know, no one coaches better than a ref.”

None of that made any sense.

“The kids call me Double Dribble.”

No, they don’t. Why?

“It’s the only rule I’m familiar with. Turns out basketball is complicated.”

Sure. The whistle is for Truckin’, Bobby.

“No, it’s too small. And there’s no engine.”

Not trucking. Truckin’. The song. You enjoy starting it with a blast from the whistle.

“Ah.”

Weird that you didn’t remember that.

“Hey, I don’t remember the lyrics half the time, either.”

Okay. Have a good show.

“We do. It’s, uh, Duke ’78. This is a hot one.”

How do you know that?

“Time Sheath.”

Jesus.

I Spy With My Little Eye…

  • Classic iPod. (Behind Mrs. Donna Jean.)
  • Amazon Echo. (In between Mrs. Donna Jean and Garcia.)
  • Two iPads. (To the left of Billy and Mickey.)
  • Phil’s booty. (Behind Phil.)
  • Precarious Lee’s handiwork. (Bottom left.)

Precarious?

“Yo.”

Is that a humidor?

“On top of the monitor?”

Yes.

“Nope. Ashes.”

Human ashes?

“Yup.”

Whose?

“Don’t worry about it.”

Is that secure? That angle is rather…

“Precarious?”

Exactly.

“It’ll be fine.”

Will it?

“Should be.”

Your words don’t fill me with confidence.

“I duct taped it.”

Oh, well, then it’s fine.

“I know.”

I was being sarcastic.

“I know. Don’t care.”

Tomb

He did not get a pyramid. He could have; pyramids are legal and obtainable, but they are a special order. The funeral director doesn’t have any in stock.

He was not buried at sea, nor in sky. He was not shrouded, dumped, eaten, shit out.

There is no tombstone. No inscription telling passersby of his deeds and affiliations. There is no grave, so teens have nowhere to take acid and fuck and pilgrims have nowhere to pilgrimage.

O, wouldn’t that site be a sight?

They cremated him. The oven is attached to multiple furnaces, as the process requires temperatures of 1,800 degrees. Time depends on body mass. What is left is not the fine powder that characters in movies always wind up throwing into each others’ faces, but a chunky, off-white pile that might be mistaken for cat litter.

Half went in the choppy sea off the coast of Marin County. The other half went in the Ganges, which is holy to Hindus. He was not Hindu.

San Francisco Bay empties into the Pacific; the Ganges into the Bay of Bengal and then past Indonesia and Australia until it, too, reaches the Pacific.

There’s Always One More

Here you go, Enthusiasts: this is my contribution. Previously, there were three pictures of Bobby in various stages of bunnification; now there are four. (I always figure if I haven’t seen a photo, then most haven’t. If that comes across as arrogant, well: consider the topic. It’s like bragging about Magic the Gathering. And plus I didn’t even claim to be the best at it, so it’s like bragging about coming in sixth at a Magic the Gathering tournament.)

The Grateful Dead, Younger Enthusiasts, didn’t do a lot of teevee. Possibly because the first time they were booked on a show, Playboy After Dark in 1969, they ended up dosing the entire building. But it also makes sense: there weren’t too many televised venues for any rock music back then. There was Ed Sullivan in the 1960’s, and the Smothers Brothers for a year or two, but after that the opportunities dried up. Pop stars were all over the dial, obviously, but not rock. Johnny Carson didn’t book bands at all until much later in his run. There was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, and that was about it.

And then, in 1975, came Saturday Night Live. They had rock bands on, good ones and wild ones and sometimes things would go terribly wrong, which was horribly entertaining, and they had very hip taste. Tom Waits was on in 1977, and Sun Ra in ’78. The first four musical guests in ’78 were the Stones, Devo, Frank Zappa, and Van Morrison. (Zappa was actually the host, and that went precisely as well as you’d assume. It turns out that “doing sketch comedy with stoners” wasn’t in Frank’s toolbox; he and the cast hated each other by the end of the week.)

Week five was the Dead. The comedy writers Al Franken (who is now a Senator) and Tom Davis (who is now dead) were massive Deadheads and lobbied Lorne Michaels to book the band. He didn’t want to–the Dead were not very cool at the time, and certainly not Lorne Michaels’ New York-centric version of cool–but one has to believe that Al Franken can wear you down. Lorne must have liked them because he had them back the following year, and even let Billy be in a sketch.

Look:

Told you.

Contrary to Frank’s Zappa’s surliness, the Dead are affable fellows (and Mrs. Donna Jean) and made friends with the cast; Belushi and Ackroyd would do their Blues Brothers routine at Winterland with the band the night they closed the place down.

Phil may or may not have gone to town on Lorraine Newman.

Balloony, Tunes

They ran a tight ship.

OR

It’s past that kid’s bedtime.

OR

Rarest Phil of all: baseball cap Phil.

OR

Could the giant speaker be any closer to Keith’s head? When he died, how deaf you think he was on a scale of one to Mickey?

OR

On New Year’s, Precarious always amused himself by getting the newest member of the crew to look for the “heavy helium” to fill the balloons with.

OR

Seriously, why is Phil wearing a hat?

So Many Rhodes

Precarious?

“Yo.”

What’s the little one on the left?

“Donna.”

Not the little person. The small wooden box on top of the monitor.

“Humidor.”

Obviously.

OR

Keith’s posture can be used to calculate Pi.

Those Daring Young Men In Their Flying Machines

Presented without comment.

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