Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: jesse jarnow (page 2 of 3)

Pitchfork, No Torches

Thank God, Enthusiasts. You thank Him right the fuck now: get on your knees, or wash your feet, or wrap your forearms in fetish gear; whatever your religion–which is the correct one–tells you to do in order to interface the Most High. Write a card, a tasteful appreciation, to the Lord; use your best pen; not on a legal pad, you classless butt. Thank whichever God does it for you, for I have at last found something to bitch about in this review of Bobby’s new album of cowboy tunes Blue Mountain by the great Jesse Jarnow.

It was tough, I’ll give you that: the review is well-written, and Jobble Jibble–

Stop that.

–knows what he’s talking about, and draws special attention to Bobby’s singing; plus, it’s a glowing, if measured, review for a solo album by a Grateful Dead in Pitchfork. That’s downright subversive. (Don’t worry: The National gets mentioned, because if you write about the Dead in Pitchfork without referencing The National, then someone comes to your house and takes away your new Bon Iver vinyl.)

But I found it.


Maybe you can’t see it. Look closer.




Go read this. It’s the great Jesse Jarnow on Phosh and how they taught the world to noodle dance, and pay extra for camping. It’s from Pitchfork‘s quarterly (Biennial? Bi-annual? Buy anal?) collection of their fanciest writing, and FoTotD Jesse is included; congrats to him.

If you like that, then go buy his book Heads: A Phrase After The Colon at Amazon. I promise that neither the hardcover nor softcover versions of the tome contain typesetting like this:

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 8.12.04 PM

You can’t make it out, but the sentence starting at Mike Gordon’s head calls me a genius. True story.

Heads, Full Of Ideas


I’m going to try to start reading again–books–and I’m beginning with all the stuff I’ve been sent by such lovely people, to whom I’ve been so rude.

It’s not that I don’t want to read their books. I do. But they are so long, even the short ones, and books ask you to concentrate on one subject for hundreds of pages at a time, instead of reading half-an-article  about the lunch habits of a dead dictator, and then enjoying various pornographies, and then looking at pictures of animals doing thing that animals should not be doing. (The cat sits like a person!)

The great Jesse Jarnow’s America: A Psychedelic Biography of my Head is


Not the title?

Close, but no blotter.

Ahem. The great Jesse Jarnow’s Dongs: A Cultural History of Coke Dick should win-

Stop this.

Again? Was I mistaken a second time?

Everyone sees through you.


Be serious.

You’re right. The great Jesse Jarnow’s Fancy Talkin’ About Shady Fuckers was released–

Excuse me.

splish splish

splish splish






Did you just play pitty-pat on the water at the edge of the lake until an alligator ate you and then slid quietly back beneath the surface with your remains?


Suicide in Florida is cheap.

And tempting. Please continue plugging Jesse’s book.

Everybody should go buy it, unless they only have enough money for either Jesse’s book or the Donate Button, in which case they should choose me over him. Otherwise: it’s a damn good read, and I haven’t hit one sentence that angered me yet. It’s funny and smart and Jesse has way more patience for oogie-boogie spirituality than I do, which is good. My version of his book would contain many more passages accusing people of being fuzzy-headed doodlebugs who’d slept (or not slept) on too many motel mattresses and forgot their skepticism under one of them; Jesse does not do this, and that was probably the more fruitful choice.

Heads is also worth the purchase just for the names: travelers on the Map (I’m not telling you what that means; it’s the central metaphor of the book; buy it yourself if you’re so damned curious; stop asking me questions) often adopted the most ludicrous noms d’ergot and the pages drip with them.  There’s Dealer McDope, and Jacaeber Kastor, and the Lord Nose, and Whelming Brine, and Dick FaceBat, and Goa Gil, and the Legendary Marty, and Bilrock 161, and Turk 182, and N. Stan Taneous, and Kosciusko Pulaski, and Big Momma Blurf, and Phreaky Butthole, and Tennessee Dennis the Friendliest Dentist.

(This may be the reason I could not be a mover and shaker in the status game of psychedelia: I would either be unable to play along and just go by TotD, or would get too into the game and start introducing myself as Captain Fuck.)

Anyway, go read the book. Wait, no: fuck that. “Read the book” leaves open the possibility of borrowing it from the library, and libraries are communist scams that teach children that sharing is a good thing. Also, it does not rule out illegally downloading it, or shoplifting it; do not do these things. Just buy the book; what you do with it after that is up to you. Sex stuff is fine, or use it for violence against those weaker than you.

Please don’t use Jesse’s book as a weapon.

You’re right. Just use it for sex stuff.

Tell them about page 212.

Oh, right: tear it out and chew on it ’til the jewels fall out of your eyes.

Good plug.

I’m great.

Sure, champ. Where’s your book?


Coming To Grips With The Oncoming Evening

Once again, Enthusiasts, certain Jesse Jarnows who shall remain nameless have proclaimed my genius.

He said nothing of the sort.

It was an implied proclamation.

No such thing. Proclamation and implication are opposites. You proclaim things at the top of your voice in the public square; you imply things by deliberately not saying the thing you’re saying, and hoping the other person will figure out who you want assassinated.

Still: genius.

The New Yorker has a lot to answer for.


Okay, you’re not allowed to watch TV or go on Twitter tonight.

I have been kicking that idea around. Last night, I thought it would be fun to watch a few minutes of the convention, but it turns out you can’t glance at the abyss.

A little is as bad as a lot.

Yeah. So I can’t do that tonight. And plus I don’t even want to hear about it, or read about, or see Just 19 Awesomely Epic Tweets About The RNC. Remember this poor schmuck?

indy jones swordsman.jpg

Never had a chance.

I envy this man, whose part was cut was because Harrison Ford had diarrhea; I further envy the character, who got shot and died and didn’t have to live through 2016.

Indiana Jones just flat-out murders that guy in cold blood.

Right, he’s the hero, keep up.

What’s your point?

I have two: first, there must be distraction tonight. I gotta find something to do that occupies my attention, because an idle mind is the devil’s voting bloc. Also, I may or may not be accusing Jesse Jarnow of things.


I may.

You shouldn’t.

I may not.

There you go. Any idea on the distraction?

Thinking a Thoughts on a Thing thing.

You okay?

That sentence hurt my brain.

English is awesome. I was gonna do The Last Waltz, but it’s not on Netflix any more.


I was going to say the meanest things about Robbie Robertson.

That would have been fun. Any other ideas?

Just one, but I’m also open to suggestions. That dopey Batman Punches Superman movie is on the Apple TV for five bucks and if someone hates me, I’ll do that.

You’re such a whore.

If I am, I’m terrible at it. Five bucks is very reasonable.

Two extra for ass-fucking.

Did you post a picture of the post in the post?




Charming Mickey*

mickey tongue beam bonnaroo

I knew a boy named Mickey,
Guess you could say he was a drum fiend.

Stop this.

I met him in a hotel lobby,


*Phrase stolen from the great Jesse Jarnow, who is on the West Coast promoting his book Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America, and will be sitting down with Dead archivist Nicholas Meriweather on Thursday to talk about some old band or something. Go see them and ask ridiculous questions and insist that the shit I made up is real.



Mississippi Half-Step Right Up

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 11.24.54 PM

Much like a Armenian woman  an hour into a bikini waxing, the bush remains. The Dead’s league shouldn’t still be this bush: the Dead (Or What’s Left Of ‘Em) are now managed by Irving Azoff, who pretty much runs the music industry, and Young John Mayer must have publicists on 24-hour call.

And yet: the launch of–the .co address belongs to Colombia, by the way nudge nudge sniff sniff–just kinda slithered out today. There was a single article about it, and the article was on Jambase, and I don’t know if that counts.

(Although here is where my Facebook-blindness comes in. I have an accounts over there, personal and for the site, but I don’t get involved; I check it once a week, if that, and never interact with anyone. I did just check, though, and D&C have 120,000 followers; maybe it’s just as effective to announce things on that site as it is to announce them everywhere else combined.)

To sum up the offerings: as of now, the SPAC show is being webcasted (Webcast? Can I get a ruling on the past tense of the word webcast, please?) and the rest of the tour will not be officially streamed, but instead offered in a multitude of audio formats of varying qualities and levels of bullshit for download a day or two later.

Shows may be purchased in the mp3 format, which is pretty good; or as FLAC files, which are what TotD endorses; or in HD Audio, which is probably bullshit; or DSD, which is certainly bullshit. I’ll let you figure out which order they go in, price-wise. (The order I wrote them in.) You can get clever and jam as much information into a signal as you want, but the human ear is only capable of processing so much.

Sadly, the article and the subdued launch of this new venture leaves quite a bit out: there is so much more available to enjoy, and share, and purchase from Dead & Bro.* Luckily for you, my spies on the inside have procured the full list of offerings from this summer’s hottest tour.

  • PONO downloads Shows will be made available in the super-hi-fi format of PONO; each purchase comes with a free lecture from Neil Young about how compressing music robs it of its soul. $59.99.
  • Cam4Billy Whoever Billy’s current Benjy is follows him around with a GoPro, and you can tip Billy to make him do stuff. He has already declared “nothing is off-limits, and there are no safe words.” $9.99 (SD) or $14.99 (HD) a day, plus tokens.
  • Pirated Simulcasts of Phil’s Webcasts The drummers thought it was funny, and they insisted. FREE.
  • John Mayer’s In The Closet Young John Mayer plans on doing some shopping during the tour, and JMITC will be his subscription-only podcast about his latest acquisitions. $9.99 a show, streaming only.
  • Music and Yoga Retreat to Iceland With Oteil and a Rando This one’s an actual thing. $5555.00.
  • VRD&C This is the big one, Enthusiasts: a Dead & Company show in full virtual reality immersion, and they promise that what happened when they Beta-tested it won’t happen again. (Billy paid a computer nerd to insert a tiger charging at the viewer into the feed; it didn’t show up until an hour in, when the test subjects had gotten really into the VR, and more than several had heart attacks. Many more than several.) $99.99
  • Limited-Edition Cassettes Sure, there’s going to be vinyl, but there will also be cassette releases of all the show. They will not be available online, but will instead be sold from a pop-up food truck in Bushwick that will not tell anyone where it is. J-card art by Tony Millionaire. $49.99.
  • The Official Periscope Experience Everything you’ve grown to love from Periscope: a static view from the extreme side of the stage, semi-acceptable sound, yammering idiots, and the battery dying three-quarters of the way through the second set. It will also be shot in portrait mode, and participation in the chat room is mandatory. Plus, you have to pay for it. (A small note: in defense of D&C’s intellectual property rights, non-official Periscopers will be struck with collapsible riot batons. $14.99.


*”Dead & Bro” courtesy of FoTotD Jesse Jarnow, who is now getting on my nerves. First, he writes the outstanding Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America, then he has a beard that qualifies as a face-pelt, and THEN the motherfucker comes up with Dead & Bro. I might have to start accusing that guy of more things.

Tale Of The Taper

taper section mountain jam

Taping is like real estate: location is everything. Some folks like riding the rail, and get off on the band’s faces as much as their music, but not a Taper. Sound’s all jumbled and gloppy for the first few dozen feet, especially if it’s coming from multiple sources; you need a vantage point. There is almost certainly trigonometry involved.

And if the proper patch of dirt is right by the port-a-potties, then so be it; some things are more important than an afternoon of stanky breezes. Get it on tape: this is the code of the Taper. Neither security, nor dead batteries, nor wind, nor rain, nor Parish shall stay me from my appointed duty. Get it on tape.

The great Jesse Jarnow, who was promised a plug for his wonderful book Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America in exchange for the rights to this photo, took this photo. (I now own the rights to this photo.)

Anyway: you see the microphones up at the end of those sticks? The music comes into them and vibrates a little dealie that goes WIBBLEWIBBLEWIBBLE and that vibration gets translated into electricity that goes FWEEEEEEE down the cord and the recorder goes NOMNOMNOM and there you have it: it is on tape.

(There’s no tape any more, obviously, and hasn’t been for a while. The Dead’s Tapers went to digital almost as soon as it was available–Deadheads do tend to be early adopters–and never looked back. That’s NYCtaper in the pic, and here I will admit to being astonished, Enthusiasts. Apparently, recording live sound still requires a specialized, complicated stand-alone device. Now, I didn’t think it was an app, but I didn’t think you needed a separate gizmo; totally thought a powerful laptop could do it. I stand corrected.)

We need more Tapers; let the mic stands bloom, but not like flowers: flowers are delicate and temporary.  Let the Tapers sprout like weeds, everywhere and unkillable and disrespectful to anyone’s needs but their own code: get it on tape. They are history’s first responders, the Tapers. Abraham Zapruder was a Taper.

Record it all, not just the music. Put the seeds in that arctic vault, and bank the panda DNA out in the desert. The film reels go to Utah, into the caves, where it’s cool and dry. Scan the books before they rot, and model the buildings before the sea comes in; we can rebuild Miami Beach, and make it more naked and coked-up. We have the technology.

Get it on tape. There are worse credos to live by.

Higher Deaducation

I’ve never been afraid of admitting I was wrong: in my case, it’s the pragmatic way to approach life, as I am wrong so often that I might as well accept it, learn something, and move on. There will, in fact, be a stream from tonight’s surprise Fillmore show; I linked to it in the previous post and–since it’s on YouTube–I might just toss the sucker over to my big screen and peek in. Maybe I’ll even let you know what I think.

(Anyone there? Send me some pics, so I can stop stealing them from people on Twitter and Instagram.)

But until the show starts, here’s some excellent reading material: the always illuminating Jesse Jarnow reports on the Dead Scholars convention, and Deadology in general. Serious critical study of the Dead has been building for years; the field’s gotten almost large enough to be respectable, due to two facts: one, the Dead and their corpus of work is as worthy of study as any other 20th century artist; and two, there are simply too many academics in this country. I advocate a cull.

Please stop calling for culls.

Are you saying the professorial herd doesn’t need some thinning?

In no way am I saying that. Pointy-headed flibbertigibbets, the lot of ’em. But you can’t call for culls.

Aw. Anyway: it’s a great article; go read it. As usual: I have many grievances. Firstly, Jarnow uses the piece like a whore uses a pee-soaked mattress. He plugs his book, Head: A Biography of Psychedelic America, so relentlessly that you’re tempted to check out the book, or perhaps this glowing review from the New Yorker about it, or maybe even go to the sidebar and purchase the sucker.

(TotD sniffs at commerce, of course.)

But second: as with so much written about the Dead, there’s so much he left out. I refer to this passage:

A whole academic rainbow prisms outward from the Dead’s Steal Your Face logo. There are sociologists, economists, feminists, philosophers, historians, poets, radio hosts and more. Nick Meriwether wishes there were more anthropologists.

Jarnow has merely scratched the surface of Dead Studies, and I will almost certainly accuse his of being in the pocket of Big Dead some time soon, but for now, I’ll just share some Dead-focused academic fields not mentioned in the article.

Ethnomusicology After a five-year study, a team of respected ethnomusicologists decided that the Dead’s music was “not all that ethnic.”

Maritime Archaeology Billy has sunk so many boats that three separate researchers were granted three separate grants to study the situation; only one drowned.

Psephology At the last Dead Scholar’s conference, a guy came in and said “I’m studying the Dead vis-a-vis psephology,” and everyone said, “Oh, really?” Then, they asked him to write the word down, and it did not help. Cool guy, though.

Zoology Was all the road crew human? And: was the road crew all human? There’s fascinating work being done in the field.

Theology Father Seamus O’Seamus has rocked the academic Dead world with his recently-approved dissertation: Five Men Think They’re Jesus, One of them’s Gotta be Wrong: God, the God Complex, and the Grateful Dead.

Philosophy of Music One would think this would be an attractive and welcome member to the Dead Studies family, but it’s just hundreds of pages of “But was that a D minor chord, or a ‘D minor’ chord?”

Indonesian History Not a lot of attention being paid to the Dead by the Indonesian History experts. Gonna be honest with you. Racism? Maybe.

Philology It means something else.

Plus, Enthusiasts, there is a lovely mention–the kids call it a “shout-out”–to TotD in the article; if you’re too busy to read the whole thing, then here it is. You’ll notice a lovely compliment in there from a very big muckety-muck, Sir Nicholas von Meriwether:

The expanded universe reality-show aspect comes to the fore most vividly via the freeform Grateful Dead ahistorical blog known as Thoughts on the Dead.

“Some of it’s absolutely magnificent work,” says Dead archivist Nicholas Meriwether of TotD

I would like to thank Sir Nicholas for those–

Hold it.

–kind words…yes?

Don’t do that.

Do what?

Why does the quote cut off like that?

Paste the rest of it, please.


’s fact-laden kin.

Ah. Changes things.

Just a bit.

Only the meaning.


I can’t even look at you.

Also: the livestream that I posted? Since I started writing, it has been revealed to be some idiot scamming asshole fuckwad troll.

No stream?

Apparently not.

I can’t look at anyone.

This Is Just A Tribute

IMG_4362 3


Don’t do this.


Please. I’m almost certain he was being nice.


Stop yelling.


You’re screaming–for no reason at all, it should be noted–about the great Jesse Jarnow’s review of that catholic tribute to the Dead that a bunch of people no one’s heard of made?


I’m going to ask you why, and if you say “Everybody keeps stealing my choogle,” then I am going kick you in the neck.

Okee dokee. So maybe stop yelling at people. Especially people who send you two copies of their book–the critically acclaimed Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America that you haven’t reviewed yet because you’re jealous of people who have written books.

Please stop telling the truth like that.

If you want to write a book, write a book.

But: it’s hard.

I’d just like to move on.


Are you going to offer any thoughts on the album?

Here are my thoughts: if someone pays me to listen to it, I will.

Reasonable, actually.

Three-and-a-half hours? Kiss my cock and buy a red pen, you self-indulgent dribblers. Do it as a series and release a bunch at a time, or maybe just cut one of the eleven versions of Dark Star; I don’t care, but don’t dump 59 songs on me and say, “Here.”

Also reasonable.

This album is so long you have to go to Bayreuth to hear it.

Well done.

This album is so long that by the time you’re done listening, it’s time for the next generation’s Dead tribute album.


Probably should’ve stood pat. Listen: J.J. does a good job and makes fun of the backing band; he’s the man to listen to about this. If someone wants to give me a short list of the standout tracks, I’ll listen to them, but I’m not wading through this whole thing.

Sure. You should–


ask people…oh, God, what.


You’re yelling again.

Right. But I just came up with another reason to be mad at Jarnow: he made me go to Pitchfork.

I’ll allow it.

We Want The Airwaves

Two pieces of news on this Sunday, Enthusiasts:

  1. Tales from the Golden Road, the long-running Grateful Dead radio show on SiriusXM’s channel 23 hosted by David Gans (co-author of This is All a Dream we Dreamed)and Gary Lambert, will be a FoTotD party today: Jesse Jarnow, author of Heads, and David Browne, author of So Many Roads, will be appearing on the show at 4 o’clock today (Eastern). They’ll be taking calls, and if you’d like to phone in and bring up, say, poop on the bocce courts or magical highways or a sentient PA system, then that would be cool. Even cooler, you could buy all of their books in the sidebar.
  2. TotD will not be covering the Beyoncé album.
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