Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: Pigpen (page 3 of 17)

M.I.T As Well

When dunces give you that “Jerry didn’t want it to be about politics, maaaaaaan,” jive, just remind them the Dead were literally the house band of a student riot. This is 5/6/70 on the Kresge Plaza at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The band was scheduled to play the next night in the gym, but when the kids took the campus in protest of the National Guard murdering four Kent State students, the Dead agreed to provide the soundtrack; they were hidden in the back of a bread truck and smuggled onto the site. (It looks like they didn’t bring Pig’s organ.) It was cold–May in Boston can get wicked chilly–and they had more trouble keeping their guitars in tune than normal, but the set’s got a crackly and wired energy; Dancin’ in the Street is the highlight, which makes sense given the context.

Garcia didn’t do politics because he was terminally passive-aggressive, but the Grateful Dead always chose sides, and it was always the side you’d expect.

The Return Of Phil And The Phoxes

Enthusiasts, let’s solve a puzzle. We’ve done it before. The timeline of Garcia’s unfortunate 1969 mustache? Done. Who actually booed Seastones in Germany? (The Americans.) What caused the Civil War? Slavery.

It’s more complicated than that.

Only if you’re a historian or a racist.

Yeah, okay.

But now, Enthusiasts, we come to our greatest challenge ever. Our Apollo Creed, our Clubber Lang, our Ivan Drago, our whoever-Rocky-fought-int-the-fifth-and-sixth-ones. Perhaps some of us shall not survive. Perhaps all of us will not survive. If so, it’s been an honor lying to you.

But we must soldier on. I call to the Four Winds! I call to Nicolantheum von Meriweather in California, and David Lemieuxrphy’soilsoap in Canada, and Corey from Lost Live Dead in the Comment Section! Hear me, Deadbase editors and amateur rockologists! Are you out there, two specific women from Minnesota who should be in their late 60’s by now?

Please help me.

Please help me.

What the fuck is this bullshit?

I posted this photo years ago, and christened the band Phil & the Phoxes; to be honest, I didn’t even notice Pigpen standing behind the amplifiers. Found it on Google, slapped it on the blog, made my wee funny, and moved on with what I’m euphemistically referring to as “my life.” But here it is again, risen from the collective subconsciousness of Deadheads everywhere, and contemplated by the great Jesse Jarnow.

This is what he has to say about it:

Except, that is, for one intriguing photograph by Tom Berthiaume. Dead bassist Phil Lesh sings at center stage, and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan leans on the band’s amps at the rear. Seated at the drum sets, however, aren’t Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, but two fashionably dressed young women, more mod than hippie. A call to Berthiaume several years ago yielded nothing more than the memory that the photo was almost definitely taken between the evening’s early and late shows, and not during the performance itself. Beyond that he remembered nothing.

So: who are they and why were they allowed to sit and Billy and Mickey’s kits? (One would imagine that this action generally led to a sudden and vicious thrashing.) They don’t look like they came with the band–they’re clean–and they also don’t look like they came for the band; that is most certainly not what groupies looked like in 1970. Neither of those haircuts should be in the same room with the Grateful Dead, let along onstage playing the drums behind Phil.

(Let’s just note what Phil looks like, accept it, and push forward. Also: I think the ol’ Pig is birddogging Tig Notaro on the right.)

So here’s the question, Enthusiasts: what the fuck? Let’s solve this. Then, world peace.

Pic Of A Pic Of A Pig

Oh, Garcia, no. You are not a pirate, Garcia. Put them boots inside them trousers. Your buckle does not swash like that, Garcia.

So Immaculately Frightful

Would you walk a mile for a Camel?

“Would? I have! Rather take my bike, though.”

Did any of the other guys have a motorcycle?

“Motorcycle!? Half that bunch can barely walk! Wouldn’t trust none of ’em on no motorbike!”

Any of them even try?

“Phil did once. Fell off!”

Phil fell off the bike?

“No! He fell off the sidewalk walkin’ to the damn thing!”


“The ol’ Pig never seen the like. Man just toppled right over. Looked like an ostrich on a newly-polished floor!”

Anybody else?

“Billy figured out to work the bike, but then he drove into a high school cafeteria.”

He did that on purpose.

“You think the Pig don’t know that!?”

Y’know, you really shouldn’t smoke.

“Why? I might die young?”


“The Pig don’t tell no lies.”

No, he doesn’t.

We’re A Two-Gong Band

“How many cables do we need, Precarious?”

“All of them.”


“All of them.”


“Put everything we own on the stage.”



They must be playing one of their bibbledy-boppidy songs that Pigpen can’t understand, because look how sad he looks with that stupid tambourine.

Once You Pop

This is 6/18/67 at the Monterey Fairgrounds. I don’t know if I’ve listened to it; I will now, though. This show was the Monterey Pop Festival, legendary for its unlegendariness (at least as far as the Dead goes). The Boys were scheduled in between The Who (beginning a long inter-band relationship) and Jimi Hendrix (beginning his and Bobby’s best friendship); both acts put on high-volume shows punctuated by instrument destruction, arson, and explosives. In the face of such showmanship, the Dead countered by standing there and playing Viola Lee for 14 minutes.

They also refused to be filmed for the movie, which gives them a perfect record for avoiding being in iconic Rock Films: Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Gimme Shelter. Dead missed ’em all by thaaaat much.

Caption Contest

Whatcha got?

Photographic Evidence

When the shutter opens it lets light into the camera. Just for a split second, maybe less. The lens focuses the incoming light onto a small square of plastic that has been treated with chemicals, which is called film. The light interacts with the chemicals and leaves an image. If another drop of light hits the film before it is processed, it will be ruined forever.

In a darkroom, you essentially reverse the process: now you blast light through the film, and onto a piece of paper which has also been treated with chemicals. You then take this paper and dunk it in several tubs of poison. You need to get the order of poisons right, and the timing, too. Otherwise, the picture will be ruined forever.

And after all that, you have a photograph.

But sometimes, just sometimes, a hair will fall into the works and be caught in the negative and live forever as a spectral addition to the picture, a thin and unerasable reminder that human beings make art with their hands.


How many tambourines does one man need?

Big Pig On Campus

Good God.

“Whatchoo jawin’ about!?”

You’re a mess.

“The ol’ Pig’s like an unmade bed. Sloppy and invitin’!”

You look like you’re 28 and just got thrown out of the Navy.

“Always been a mature sort. My mama said my first words were, ‘Flop out that titty, woman! Pig’s got a thirst!'”

That is both very mature and not mature at all.

“Even babies get the blues! Can’t do nothin’ but make pee-pee on yourself! That sorta thing’ll bring ya down.”

Babies got it rough. You remember any of these kids?

“Made it with Michele!”


“She’s weird-lookin’, but so’s the Pig! An’ she got it where it counts.”

Brains? Personality?

“She had an ass like a lifeboat!”


“I would hold onta it for safety!”

Weird. What about the guys?

“Fuck them guys.”

Right answer.

“The ol’ Pig’s got nothin’ but!”

I know.

Sometimes The Dead Aren’t Dead, But Sometimes They Are

“How come the ol’ Pig ain’t in no storylines?”

What? You serious?

“Heh. Nah, I’m jus’ playin’ with ya. The Pig ain’t no actor. I play my blues and drink my wine.”

And whiskey.

“Don’t forget the beers! Gotta have you a sixer or two in icebox case a friend who don’t drink stop by!”

Pig, there’s alcohol in beer.

“Not enough t’ matter!”


“What’s goin’ on out there? Women takin’ the day off?”

Yeah. It’s called “A Day Without Women.”

“Day without women!? Sounds like a day without sunshine! They withholding their favors from the menfolk? Sounds like a Spartan idea.”

No, it’s not Lysistrata, Pig. It’s not a sex strike.

“Women got it rough in this man’s world! Out there holdin’ it down all day, and keepin’ it up all night!”


“Look at how ev’rybody treats the lady in the Dead! Cruel and unusual to her, folks is!”

Mrs. Donna Jean?

“Nah, the new one.”

Pig, I can’t have this conversation with you again: John Mayer is not a girl. He is a pretty man.

“He ain’t a girl?”


“Then what’s he doin’ right now?”



Men do the laundry now, Pig.

“You talkin’ abut Mr. Lee down at the Wash & Fold?”

Please stop being from the past.

“Can’t help it. Stuck here.”

We’re all stuck here, buddy.

“That’s the truth! All ya can do is find yourself someone to love up on. Play the radio too loud and fuck ’til dawn!”

Excellent advice.

“Lemme ask you something, Mr. Writer Man. Anybody still remember the ol’ Pig?”

Can’t speak for everyone, but I’m listening to you sing right now.

“How’s that band o’ mine sound?”

Like someone cut the brakes on God’s Cadillac.

“Ha! Yeah, I like that. Hey! Don’t be spending too much time with the dead. You’ll start gettin’ used to it.”

I like that.

“All right.”

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