Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: he’s gone

Stomp And Circumstance

Listen up, sinners, spinners, and bread-winners because Thoughts on the Dead provides you with the nummies, the yummies, and the head-wind in your tummies with this fresh-as-flesh selection: 10/24/72 in the Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.

Just the second set for this one, and there’s a sound drop-off before Casey Jones, but it doesn’t matter: this one’s about the Stomp. the Philo Stomp, in all its “screwing around with the Quad sound” beauty and drive. This one, though, is not just HoF: it verges–and you might want to sit down or adopt a rescue dog for this revelation–on BEST EVAR.

I said it. EVAR. (Honestly, though: adopt a rescue dog. A lot of people find they don’t know who rescued whom!)

Nine minutes into TOO, Phil starts to stomping, but Billy won’t let Phil Stomp all by himself.

“I wanna stomp with you, Philo!” Billy cried happily.

“Join me, Bill…I mean: Bill-O!”

And they laughed and laughed and then remembered they were professional musicians and shifted gears to what makes this one: Billy lays down a rock solid four-on-the-floor that anyone could follow, and no one else can resist, not Garcia or Keith and then Bobby starts playing one of those giant step chords of his and then Garcia and Bobby lay out for minutes at a time and Phil battles with Keith in the Stompatorium.


C’mon, man. Just tell people about the show. Stop making up words.

Oh, I should just talk straight about the…ahem…”Philo Stomp?”

Point taken.

Then there’s the descent in the Tiger jam and back up into a He’s Gone that will touch your butthole the way you want your butthole to be touched, including “do not, under any circumstances, touch my butthole.” It will teach you the ways of love. And of joy.

Oh, just get it over with.


Good job, sport. 


The Waters Of Lake Minnetonka

2/15/73 in St. Paul: nothing special, honestly. There’s a HoF He’s Gone right up front,a You Ain’t Woman Enough amuse-buche from Mrs. Donna Jean and some adorable harmonies on Here Comes Sunshine, but there’s no big jam–the Phil-led Playing barely makes it to 15 minutes and there’s neither a Dark Star nor an Other One.

But…life is short; listen to ’73. 

Gone To Texas

Hey kids, wanna listen to the best He’s Gone of ’72? And by that, I mean: best of all time, hands down, pencils on desks?

Then listen to this.

11/18/72 at Hofheinz.

Got A Tip

10/12/77 from Manor Downs  (whatever that means) in Texas, which is a state that enjoys the fuck out of itself, tell you what.

We’ve got a rare ’77 He’s Gone. There might be a reason for its scarcity this year; there’s a definite Rashomon thing going on: everyone’s got their own version of the song and they’re sticking with it. Also, their facial expressions are very stylized.

And listen to Garcia play real quiet-like on Black Peter. Real quiet-like Garcia? That’s some good Garcia.

PLUS the only 1977 Nobody’s Fault (marred slightly by an AUD patch up front), and it’s a unique one: Billy and Mickey are playing some mutant version of the Purdy shuffle, Keith thinks they’re doing Not Fade Away, and no one can remember the second verse, so they say ‘fuck it’ and play Iko Iko too slowly.

Steal Your Face Right Off Your Head

It seems like a happy line, and we all gladly shouted along with it every chance we could, but it’s not. He’s Gone is like Loser: the name gives away the punchline. What’s left after you snatch away the flesh is that Good Ol’ Grinning Rictus. The theme’s death; maybe that’s why the damn thing never had an ending, just an elegiac minor-blues trail-off into Drums or Truckin’ or The Other One. No closure for realists: maybe there’s heaven or reincarnation or nirvana, but these are only conjectures. The only verifiable is that he ain’t ever coming back.

He’s Gone was the first Dead song I ever loved, that ever got its talons in me and scratched itself into my soul. There’s that tempo–dreamy smooth–that no other band ever got right. (And, in fact, this band screwed up more than once. Looking at you, the ’80’s.) The chords are simplicity: I-IV-V. There’s a c-sharp minor in there somewhere, but not so you’d notice.

And the lyrics. Simple, almost stark. Barely anything to them: Take one word–one syllable!–away and they fall apart, collapse like a souffle in quake country. Were they about Lenny Hart? Pigpen? You and me, one day? They fit lockstep jigsaw perfect with the rest of the canon’s mythos: that high, cold mountain range only accessible by train ride. Northbound train, most likely. The narrators of the Dead’s songs were always trying to go south, where the wind didn’t blow so strange and the weather suited their clothes.

But all the trains that leave Terrapin Station go northbound.

Check out the great version from the Baltimore Civic Center on 3/26/73 . A gorgeous all-in vocal rave-up into an absolutely smoking Truckin’, PLUS, check out the Weather Report Suite where all of them have clearly forgotten how the rest of the song goes and are just circling around the intro in hopes of someone coming up with a new chord.

Happiness Is A Warm Pun

It’s sequel time here in Fillmore South:

Things I love about the Dead, Part the II

  • When Bobby would say “Thank you,” in that silly high-pitched voice.
  • The end of China Doll where it generally dissolves a little and then Garcia comes in all by himself with the “Take up your China Doll” part, which is really difficult to sing, because the notes are weird AND you have to get the time right, since you’re basically counting the band back in with it AND it’s pitched pretty high, but he got it right far more often than not.
  • The beginning of Truckin’ they’d do sometimes, with the whistles and the snare drums: BRUM-bum BRUM-bum BRRRRRR rum-bum.
  • Occasionally, later in the career, when Bobby would (as is the running gag with both my bloggings and, you know, actual recorded-on-tape reality) forget the lyrics to Truckin’, Phil would start BOMBING away at him and then come in on the next part where they all sing just SUPER LOUD, so clearly seething at the fact that it’s been ten years: learn the words, man.
  • He’s Gone. Not so much on the “Bop bop bop” coda.
  • The jam after Seastones from 6/23/74. Seriously, try to listen to Seastones. Now, on acid. But listen to what Garcia does right after: he plays the sweetest, softest lines, and leads everyone back from the dark place where Ned Lagin touched them.
  • The Baby Dead. The way they would take a riff and just brutalize it, tear it apart and put it back together, mostly the same but weirder for the journey.
  • Their refusal to give in to peer pressure. Often, they would be the only ones in the room who wanted to smoke and bullshit and yell at Bobby for five minutes; the other several thousand people present preferred some form of entertainment. Because, holy god, do these baboons take a long time in between songs. Sometimes for no discernible reason: you can’t hear them talking, nor are they tuning. Were they just wandering around confused for three minutes at a time? It’s not unprecedented: Thelonious Monk did it.
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