Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: grateful dead funny (page 1 of 2)

Box Set Nitties

Themed box sets are the wave of the future, mark my words. Enough with these pedestrian groupings, lumping together shows merely because they appeared consecutively in the timestream.

How primitive.

One could argue that the shows have become free from temporality now, so far away from the piss-and-shit smell of the actual reality of “a show.” An Event, a thing to be done, gone to, waited on, hoped for, remembered fondly and dearly and well. Strip away the context, and we’re left with just the text–only the music remains.

So why, then, are our box sets still chained–enthralled!–by the simian processes and demands of time? We need to see the Dead’s career from above and follow the threads that link performances from across the years, even decades. Here are a few that the band have been working on:

TC: Secret Hero? It barely filled a CD, so this project was shelved and the money diverted to fund a cobbling program to help inner-city youths overcome the lures of drugs, gangs, and chickenheads by learning how to make TC’s fancy little booties. The project was a failure and resulted in multiple deaths.

Billy’s Got His Dick Out Randomly, but regularly, Billy would play the show with his dick out. You could look, you could not look.Billy didn’t care: it was muggy or something, his hog wanted some air, and Billy was a fucking American–what are you gonna do about it? This 25-CD package was to include the infamous 1973 show in St. Louis when Billy’s dick took his own dick out, and everybody freaked right the fuck out, because, honestly: what the fuck, Billy? We will not have your forays into infinite masculine regression up in this muhfuh, if you please.

January ’78: It’s Bobby Time!  Those three or four shows in wich Garcia lost his voice, Bobby lost his mind, and we lost our patience. There’s only so many Mexicali Blues in a row a man can bear.

The Complete Wagner’s Ring Cycle by Phil and Ned  12 discs of atonal, non-synchronous, apathetirythmic (that’s when you know where the beat is, but you don’t care) musiqúe concrete loosely alluding to, obliquely referencing, and distinctly ignoring the text of Wagner’s multi-evening magnum opus. Sometime in August of ’73, Phil and Ned shot way too much crystal meth and did all 16 hours at once and the fall-off from beginning to end is rather severe. At one point, Phil audibly wanders out of the studio and has to be lured back in with candy. 

GD: The Tahoe Tweezer by the Grateful Dead Like, nine or ten discs of the Tahoe Tweezer on repeat. The packaging is a plain cardboard box containing a poorly Xeroxed photo of Phish with Garcia’s head taped over all four of theirs’. It’s both disconcerting and telling how far through the decision-making process this idea got before falling by the wayside.

Having Fun Onstage With Bobby The yellow dog joke! The deer poaching joke! The clever asides, wisecracks, and japes! That weird Okie accent he does for no reason sometimes! Two full discs of him ending songs with ‘THANK you!’ in that high-pitched voice. It was scheduled to be released last July, but Bobby locked himself in to TRI Studios for three days and immediately upon getting free, locked himself out. Then he soured on the whole project, which is a shame because the gold lame suit he had ordered from Nudie Cohen had cost $45,000.

Egypt ’79, ’83, ’84! During the Heineken Years, Phil would occasionally just refuse to believe they weren’t back in the Land of the Pharaohs and mostly people just rolled with it, except for when, at one of the ’83 shows, Phil saw a swarthy guy backstage and screamed, “GET DOWN, ANWAR SADAT!’ and tackled the poor hairy bastard. Covering five mostly-well played shows that take place mostly in desert cities, although the ’84 was in Maine, which worried people, but amused Billy because he’s awful.

I Tune, You Tune

Oh, goody: they’re re-releasing all the official albums for iTunes. This marks the 22nd straight format I haven’t given a shit about Go To Heaven in.

I can understand why they keep doing things with these albums, these weak sisters: paper-thin footnotes the vast majority of them. They’re product. Nice art. Everything’s already done, and if you’re a record company guy, well, those deck chairs won’t rearrange themselves, will they?

But they made shitty albums. Even their greatest studio record American Beauty wasn’t near the league of the great and important rock masterpieces of the time. Maaaaan.

There was no such thing as a grateful Dead “song”. There was the tremendous Sugaree from Lake Acid, but there is no “Sugaree”.  None is more or less true than any other. Some, however, much longer than the others, and as we’ve discussed, there is no such thing as too much Sugaree. There was a “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”: it was the last song on Let It Bleed, which is the Stones best album. There’s the bit with the French Horn and then the choir sliding into that dissonant seventh chord right before Charlie Watts tumpTHWACKtumpTHWACKs right into the double-time vamp as the children resolve the chord and that’s a fucking SONG. Maaaaan. Every other version, live or whatever, is just a comment on that actual “song”; not all renditions are equal.

One of the reasons for the Stones (among others) producing albums that maybe could almost sorta stand up as art for quite a while, but not the Dead was that the Stones records were made by two, maybe three guys. Mick, Keith, Glyn Johns in the Rolling Truck Mobile Stones Thing. A lot of people played the songs, but the record? That was two guys. The drummer was not allowed anywhere near the console. Bill Wyman once wandered in the control room, and Mick was rude to him until he left. Those Brits!

In the Dead, however (it seems like when you’re comparing the Dead to standard business or musical practices, the phrase “In the Dead, however” gets used a lot), the aggressive equality practiced onstage backfired in the studio.

This sort of thing doesn’t get Dark Side of the Moon made:

mickey studio

Shortest Story Ever Told

In honor of the manly and earthy-smelling website Reddit, Thoughts on the Dead presents Scary Two-Sentence Stories.

  • Did you enjoy the chimichangas? Dammit, Garcia just locked himself in the only bathroom.
  • Billy’s right behind you. That means you’re right in front of him.
  • Hi, guys. Oh…hi, Ned.
  • We’ve traced the call! Bobby’s shorts are INSIDE THE HOUSE.
  • My pills rolled under the bed. Lend me your lighter.
  • Mickey collaborated with that deaf lady who plays percussion barefoot on a three-hour all-snare symphonic interpretation of his recent colonoscopy. The album WILL be released.
  • And when I woke up in the bathtub full of ice, ‘Call 911, your liver has been removed,’ was written on the mirror! Oh, yeah: that was Phil: he eats livers.
  • Hey, has anyone seen my slide? Oh, here it is!

Sands Of Time #3

bill graham egypt

Bill Graham was halfway through a deal to rename it “Bill Graham Presents Bill Graham’s The Sphinx,” put a barrel of apples by the door, and have the Sons of Champlin open when it was time to go home.

Asked And Answered

bobby slide sillyface

At last the truth can be told, though the heavens may fall.

Bobby’s initial career as a slide player was marred by a disastrously timed coincidence: for most of late ’78 through spring ’82, Bobby would occasionally lose Object Permanence. He would be onstage and his ears would ring and vision narrow, and:

“HEY! I’m playing slide! Or maybe I have a glass finger! Maybe I’m a mutant with a shitty power! I hope I’m a mutant, I hope I’m a…HEY! Look at all those people out there! How did they get in my living room? I should fuck some of them! How about that one right…HEY! Look at those guys! I’m in a band! Why do we have two drummers? That seems like more trouble than it’s worth, especially since one of them seems to be punching people in the…HEY! I’m playing slide!”

And so on.

P.S. The sad thing is, I’d really enjoy writing a column over at And then I feel the need to write things like this.

And It’s All The Same Street

I’ve been to Chicago only once; they have a zoo in Grant park which is both free and seamlessly incorporated into the park. You’re taking a walk, not bothering anyone, and all of sudden you realize you’ve been looking at tapirs for five minutes. There is also a restaurant called the Billy Goat Tavern that the “Cheezburger cheezburger” sketch was based on and the burgers are so good that for hours afterwards, I was purposely belching just to retaste them.

And I went to the top of the Sears Tower, because it’s the law.

My connection to the Windy City is, I’m trying to get at, slight and superficial at best. Which is why the choice to listen to every single Dead show (within certain stringent, yet highly arbitrary limits) ever played in Chicago confuses me.

We begin with 12/3/79 at the Uptown Theater. (What a wonderful name: it grounds you in place and lifts you up simultaneously, poetry by excision…plus, none of that excruciating use of the British spelling bullshit. Theater is an American invention, and for that matter, so is the English language.  Fuck England. Y’know why? Because it’s Friday night and I’m home eating fried chicken and blathering on semi-nonsensically about a band led by a man who married a woman named fucking Mountain Girl. I can’t decide whether I’m a fox or a hedgehog when it comes to bad decisions: have I made one big awful choice, or millions of tiny horrid one? At least I have my chicken.)

A show without much acclaim, from a year that gets very little attention, in a city that at first glance looks like it was more immune to the charms of our favorite drug-soaked gibbons than other cities.  They played Boston, an exponentially smaller city, the same number of times; Philly, an exceptionally smelly and pointless place, more.

Maybe it was the relative dearth of colleges. Maybe the Dead made the (entirely righteous and Godly) decision that if these pork-infused Chicagoans insisted on calling that gooey tomato abortion ‘pizza’, then they were people to have no truck with. Maybe it was the fact that the Picasso sculpture used to have a dick before a certain someone punched it off. These are all logical and historically plausible reasons, especially the thing about Billy. The entire day before, he could be heard muttering darkly, “Modernist bullshit. Its eyes are like the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible. I’m gonna punch it in the dick.”

Anyway, check out the propulsive Jack-A-Roe, slathered in Brent’s Fender Rhodes (the shag carpet of musical instruments). Compare the warm, friendly sound to Keith’s BLOCK CHORDS OF DOOM during the his last years with the band. (They’re actually even quite notable as early as Fall of ’77, the entirety of wich I recently finished listening to. Sweet sweaty Christ, I need a woman in my life. Or a tapir.)

You’re So Young And Pretty

jerry phil young drug things


“We are young!”


“And on drugs!”


“And we have collected things!”


Come To See Me Last Night #4


“Thanks for filling out the application for the job with Phil & Friends, Trey, but I see you didn’t fill in your blood type. I really need to know what…where are you going?”

Come To See Me Last Night #3


Nice poker face, Bobby.

Come To See Me Last Night

billy al franken


One of these men is a United States Senator now. The other has punched a United States Senator right in his dick.

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