Thoughts On The Dead

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

There’s Always One More

Here you go, Enthusiasts: this is my contribution. Previously, there were three pictures of Bobby in various stages of bunnification; now there are four. (I always figure if I haven’t seen a photo, then most haven’t. If that comes across as arrogant, well: consider the topic. It’s like bragging about Magic the Gathering. And plus I didn’t even claim to be the best at it, so it’s like bragging about coming in sixth at a Magic the Gathering tournament.)

The Grateful Dead, Younger Enthusiasts, didn’t do a lot of teevee. Possibly because the first time they were booked on a show, Playboy After Dark in 1969, they ended up dosing the entire building. But it also makes sense: there weren’t too many televised venues for any rock music back then. There was Ed Sullivan in the 1960’s, and the Smothers Brothers for a year or two, but after that the opportunities dried up. Pop stars were all over the dial, obviously, but not rock. Johnny Carson didn’t book bands at all until much later in his run. There was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, and that was about it.

And then, in 1975, came Saturday Night Live. They had rock bands on, good ones and wild ones and sometimes things would go terribly wrong, which was horribly entertaining, and they had very hip taste. Tom Waits was on in 1977, and Sun Ra in ’78. The first four musical guests in ’78 were the Stones, Devo, Frank Zappa, and Van Morrison. (Zappa was actually the host, and that went precisely as well as you’d assume. It turns out that “doing sketch comedy with stoners” wasn’t in Frank’s toolbox; he and the cast hated each other by the end of the week.)

Week five was the Dead. The comedy writers Al Franken (who is now a Senator) and Tom Davis (who is now dead) were massive Deadheads and lobbied Lorne Michaels to book the band. He didn’t want to–the Dead were not very cool at the time, and certainly not Lorne Michaels’ New York-centric version of cool–but one has to believe that Al Franken can wear you down. Lorne must have liked them because he had them back the following year, and even let Billy be in a sketch.

Look:

Told you.

Contrary to Frank’s Zappa’s surliness, the Dead are affable fellows (and Mrs. Donna Jean) and made friends with the cast; Belushi and Ackroyd would do their Blues Brothers routine at Winterland with the band the night they closed the place down.

Phil may or may not have gone to town on Lorraine Newman.

5 Comments

  1. The Central Shaft

    April 20, 2017 at 2:20 am

    Wouldn’t you?

  2. It was hard to find them on TV.

    The 1980 Radio City Music Hall halloween show was broadcast closed circuit, also on the radio. Al Franken/Tom Davis introduced them and did a Kissinger imitation.

    The Tomorrow show was epic.

    Radio you had a better chance, didn’t King Biscuit have some shows, and simulcasts of quite a few others.

  3. There was also Midnight Special.

    Also, Brent seems to have used the time Sheath to bring his ipad to the gig.

  4. Luther Von Baconson

    April 20, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    always liked this. “crappy sound and trippy effects” in my wheelhouse.

  5. Luther Von Baconson

    April 20, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Donut

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