Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: 1981 (page 1 of 2)

You Can Go Sleep At Home Tonight If You Can Get Up And Choogle Away

The only good thing about dying young is that you get it out of the way, and then you can go about your business without death hanging over your head; other than that, you should endeavor to become old enough to really and truly embarrass yourself.


This is from 3/28/81 at the Grugahalle in Essen, Germany, which was more precisely West Germany at the time. (“Grugahalle” is a German word that means “My lederhosen have been stolen by dark elves; Helga, bring me my Luger.”) Pete was not planning on sitting in–he didn’t bring his guitar and borrowed one of Bobby’s–and truly could not figure out where the beat was. Whatever he’s doing in the picture above may or may not be part of the reason.

(The great Jesse Jarnow sent me this pic, but we disagree on how to interpret Pete’s furtive, yet incredibly public, gesture. I said he was snooting a little tootski; JJ goes with lighting a jazz cigarette. WHAT SAY YOU, ENTHUSIASTS?)

Seriously: Pete’s got no clue. Watch:

Hey, look: it’s the Flying Karamazov Brothers. (The Trump Administration claims that they have never met with the Flying Karamazov Brothers, which is odd because no one brought it up.)

I posted the second set with Pete, but the Althea in the first set is one of the BEST EVAR.





With thanks to Robin Russell, who is on a tiny island a billion miles away from America, and still managed to find this out before anyone else. Small world.

Check it out.

Blog Post


This is a picture, Word I Capitalize Pretentiously, of the Grateful Dead. They are engaged in numerous foibles, some of a sartorial nature; I will point them out.

Now I say something.

Running joke, running joke, America.



Here’s another shot from the Oops concert, which had its anniversary yesterday.

I’ve been thinking about this since last night: someone needs to explain the thought process behind the borrowed guitars. Phil brought his! Did Garcia and Bobby stop at a music shop and pick out some axes? Did Jim Carroll (writer of The Basketball Diaries and the initial reason the Dead had heard of the Melk Weg) vouch for the instruments?

Did they just not want to carry their guitars? Was that the deal with the roadies, that they wouldn’t even pick up a guitar case? Because PHIL HAD HIS and if Phil could carry his guitar, then the other two could. Were they afraid their expensive, irreplaceable instruments would be stolen? Because that also makes no sense: how could something be safer in another country (West Germany, where they left all their equipment) than strapped to your shoulder?

The Grateful Dead makes no goddamned sense at all.

Happy Accident

We almost missed Oops Day, Enthusiasts. (Well, the second of two: the first night was crap.) The 1981 European tour (the proper fall tour, not the mini-tour from March) is overlooked, mostly because it was under-recorded, which this show tries to rectify all by itself: there is a fine and clear SBD available, and there’s also one of the best AUDs ever made, listenable to even the pickiest of ear. Plus the video, which though not pro-shot, is decent enough for an impromptu gig in 1981.

(Remember, Younger Enthusiasts: it used to be stupidly complicated to film stuff. The cameras were enormous; the tapes were enormous; the batteries were enormous; all three things were expensive as shit. Plus you had to know how to use the gear: it wasn’t like today where you press the red button. I mean, the record button was red back then, too, but you understand me. There were f-stops involved, and white balancing to do. Old video cameras needed to be white balanced every ten minutes, and in four years of hanging around my high school’s TV studio, I never did figure out what the hell white balancing was.

And then–then!–if you wanted to edit your raw footage, you couldn’t do it on the computer; computers did not do that in 1981: you needed an entire suite of equipment which, again, you needed hours of training to work. The only way to do it, other than being really rich and buying the stuff yourself, was to sign up for time at the local public access television station. The past was not just terrible, but an awful hassle.)

Anyway, Garcia and Bobby had taken a day off to go to Amsterdam while everyone else putzed around back in West Germany, but you would have gone, too: Jim Carroll, the poet who wrote the song People Who Have Died, was giving a reading and William Burroughs was going to be there, and also it was Amsterdam. The shindig was at the Melk Weg (a locally-famous rock club, not a hash bar, as in some of the more urban legends) and the Amsterdamians had some guitars, and Garcia and Bobby ended up playing a seven-song acoustic set.

They must have had fun, because they talked the rest of the band into returning a few days later and playing two unscheduled shows; no one brought any gear except Phil, who insisted on his own bass; it looks odd, like a tribute band that didn’t do any research:


And even though that is Phil’s bass, he played it for such a short time that it looks weird, too. Can you spot the one familiar touch? Behind Phil: bigger thing stacked atop smaller thing. Precarious Lee made the trip.

(Garcia and Bobby don’t have their guitars because the road crew had to be relieved of any responsibility before they would agree to go to Amsterdam instead of Paris, like had been planned. Literally every single other rock band that ever existed would not have had this problem because the Dead were the only band that allowed the road crew a vote.)

Rock Scully wrote that this was the Dead’s “last great adventure” and he was right: after this, it was football stadiums and Persian; neither of those things lend themselves to spontaneity. There were the Formerly the Warlocks shows, but that was more of an inside joke than a flight of fancy. No more playing in the park; no more chucking the drum kits onto a flatbed truck; no more extension cords lacing from streetlight to streetlight like laundry lines. Places to go, people to be.

The show’s a good one, with the goofy and off-kilter energy you would expect from men playing borrowed instruments; in fact, they play two sets of borrowed instruments, as they open with the last acoustic set that they would play until the next one they did, which was at some point after this one, because that’s the way the words “next” and “last” work.

Just like it is in 2016, October 16th was Bobby’s birthday in 1981, and the crowd sings Happy Birthday to him to open the night; he thanks them by forgetting the words to On The Road Again. The rest of it is the standard Acoustic Dead repertoire: Bird Song, Cassidy, close with Ripple. Garcia is in fine voice throughout: check out his backing harmonies on Race Is On.

AND LOVELIGHT! YAAAAY! After a nine-year shelving, the rocker came back into the rotation. The Dead had stopped playing the tune because the guy who sang it died; this evening began a still-ongoing tradition of Bobby taking over the dead guy’s songs. The crowd (mostly Americans) goes nuts when the hear the familiar riff from Live/Dead, and Bobby gets all excited and starts yelping, and then Garcia starts going DWEEDLEEDWEEDLEEDEE real loud: it’s a good time. And then the Jerry Weeper and Sugar Mags, and good night, Amsterdam, wherever you are.

After that, it was on to Paris, and then Barcelona, and then Pittsburgh. (You know the European tour is over when you play Pittsburgh.) No more kooky road trips or accidents: what happened happened because it had been scheduled to happen. Everything changes; nothing lasts.

But you can watch the show, or listen to it, or listen to it a different way. Or you could have your own Oops concert, take off and be glorious somewhere you weren’t expected. There’s always a party in Amsterdam, wherever that is. Nothing changes; everything lasts.

Give ‘Em The Old Razzle-Dazzle

band 80s denver

If you asked the best production designer in the world, “Can you make it look like no one gave a shit?” the stage would still look a million times better than this. Any effort or eye towards aesthetics–even if it’s to deliberately fuck it up–would ruin the perfect middle finger that is this haphazardousness.

(Precarious Lee has a cousin named Harold “Hap” Hazard, but I don’t know if we’ll ever hear about him again.)

Rock, Paper, Garcia


You can be someone’s rock, but no one’s made of stone; even if you were, it’s a losing proposition. Rock beats scissors, but wind and water rub rock down to sand and silt. Time beats rock. Time beats everything.

Smoke your cigarettes and skip the barber. Drink your coffee and play the guitar. What else is there to do while time takes you by the hand?

Not So Much Dark As Dim

We may argue (good-naturedly, of course) about the BEST EVAR Dark Star. 10/31/70? The nearly hour-long journey to the center of Rotterdam from the Europe ’72 tour? The out-of-nowhere brilliance of 1/10/79? Cleveland ’72? Cleveland ’73?

If we’re honest: the best Dark Star is the one you’re listening to at the moment.

Unless you’re listening to this one: 12/31/81 from the Oakland Auditorium. Now, I’ve not listened to most of the 90’s Dark Stars because my time on this planet is finite, but none of them can possibly be as half-assed as this version. It is the dictionary definition of “ehh, fuck it.”

The rest of the show is worth a listen (and so is the DS: a bad Dark Star is still fucking Dark Star, maaaaaan), all three sets of it.

WARNING: Joan Baez.

BONUS: the recording I’ve linked to is courtesy of FoTotD David Gans, whose wonderful oral history of the band This is All a Dream We Dreamed can be purchased right over there on the sidebar.

My Best Friend, My Drummer

billy mickey drumz 81


“Yeah, Mick?”

“Whatcha thinking about?”


“Me, too.”


“Yeah, Billy?”

“I was really thinking about pussy.”

“Me, too.”


“Yeah, Mick?”

“When I said I wasn’t thinking about drumming, and that I was thinking about pussy? I was lying. I was totally thinking about drumming. I just said that to sound cool.”

“I know, man.”


Citroen On Top Of The World

jerry citroen swiss 81 guy

Commentator and probably not the dead poet jim carroll informs us that the previous pic–and this nifty one he sent along as well–were taken in Switzerland, which would explain the presence of the Citroen 2CV, which was the Gallic version of the Model T and the Jeep at the same time.

Like the Beetle, it had a small air-cooled engine and could be configured into a bunch of different platforms: this one is the “hippie-lugging” package, I guess.

Also, our younger Enthusiasts should note the spare tire on the roof rack and realize that there was room in the truck for the spare, it’s just that the driver knew without a shadow of a doubt he was going to need it soon enough. Tires used to be made out of semi-chewed Bazooka gum and luck.

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