Thoughts On The Dead

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

The Dead Sell Out

When did Phil stop drinking? Because this is from before that. I think it’s ’85; that shirt combination was one of Garcia’s favorites in ’85.

OR

“So it’s me and Mydland and Jer. and we’re singing or something.”

“Okay.”

“But then the camera pulls to out reveal we were on a monitor.”

“I don’t think there’s a special effects budget.”

“We’ll figure it out. Anyway, now we’re in the studio and you read the copy or whatever and Billy sits there and dicks around.”

“Right.”

“But then the camera zooms out…”

“I’m listening.”

“And I’m sitting there, too!”

“I don’t get it.”

“I was in the teevee monitor.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And then I’m sitting next to you.”

“You can always sit next to me, buddy.”

“Weir, I just fucking can’t with you today.”

OR

There are (at least) three schools of thought about the Grateful Dead’s business acumen, two of which are wrong and believed by others, and one of which is correct and obviously belongs to me. The first is that the organization was made up of apple dumplings with scrota full of glitter and hugs; men and women who cared nothing for the material and did it all for the fans, and for the music. Maaaaan.

The second take, the revanchist take, the contrarian take, is that the Grateful Dead were visionaries of commerce and communication. That their early-adopter stance towards technology advanced the industry as a whole, and that their intuitive use of branding led to memetic penetration of the teenage mind via ballpoint drawings of Stealies on desks and backpacks, and then you’re gonna hear a rap about how tapers either built the internet or were the internet. Run from these types.

The truth is that the Dead did all the same bullshit the other big bands did, but–due to congenital bushiness of their collective league–they almost always fucked it up. They tried hard to be big stars, and they worked diligently at pushing merch; they played Lovelight for 45 minutes at the biggest gig of their life, and they made commercials like this.

Go watch that bullshit again. I demand it. You must. I’ll wait.

CASUAL WHISTLING

Did you see that bullshit?

Did Precarious Lee write this script? What is for sale? “Projects and products.” What is that, Grateful Dead? You literally could not be less specific. “Projects and products” encompasses actions and objects. You’re basically saying “We have nouns and verbs for sale.”

Also: calling back? Younger Enthusiasts, before the internet there were far fewer ways to buy stuff. You went to the store. Other than that, you had catalogues. You wrote the company, usually longhand, having been taught both the proper format for a business letter, and enclosed a check or money order in the envelope. Mailed it off and then waited. There was no app to obsessively check the status of your package, so there was joy in the surprise when it arrived.

After a while, you could call an operator and order out of the catalogue.

By ’85, you could also shop on teeevee. Call the number on the screen, give ’em your credit card number, and they’ll send out your Ab Weasel. (The Ab Weasel was an actual weasel that bit you if you stopped doing sit-ups.)

And that was it. There was no “call you back.”

So: the customers had no idea what they was buying, and–even if they wanted to put their money down on sight-unseen merch–needed to wait for you to get back to them?

Good work, Grateful Dead. Proud of ya.

3 Comments

  1. This was broadcast at the very end of the ’85/’86 New Year’s Eve show (famous in our house for Jerry’s drool in Sugaree). I called about half an hour later. No answer.

  2. The line was busy. Still haven’t gotten call waiting?

  3. That is absolutely fantastic, ‘and we’ll get back to you’!!!

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