Thoughts On The Dead

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

They Got The Guns, We Got The Sideburns

Sunday Funday from the great Voodoonola: eight cleaned-up and synced minutes from Columbia University back in ’68. Fire up the Time Sheath and shut down the campus, maaaaaan.


  1. Fantastic to hear Mickey’s cowbell stylings so clearly after all these years!!

    (Do you suppose the person who shot this footage didn’t understand that the lead guitar sounds were not emerging from Phil’s mustache?)

  2. Also . . . at 3:11, the expression on Billy’s face as he looks Phil-wards is epic in a “I wish I was not playing these drums because I so want to punch you everywhere right now” way.

  3. And Pig’s complexion looks like something I saw in a new photo of the Pluto system this morning. This is all.

  4. This has always been one of my fsvorite things online. Damn! Bobby is just flawless.

  5. A great moment. The Dead had been to town a year earlier and played the Whisky au Go Go, Tompkins Sq. Park, and the Bandshell (!) at Central Park. They were slated to do a bunch of shows at the Electric Circus in early May ’68. But they were in town and were approached by the strike committee. By that time the campus had been shut down for more than a week. Classes were suspended. Over 700 students had been arrested in the”great bust,” which left over 130 injured from beatings and clubbings by police. As it was, Rock Scully had to smuggle the gear into a heavily watched campus using a bread truck.
    The Dead went on to play another free concert in Central Park, and by the time they got to the Circus, the excitement about those shows was somewhat eclipsed by all this other activity.
    Also worth nothing is that as May wore on, hundreds of campuses across the country followed Columbia’s lead and shut down too, and the streets of Paris just exploded. At Columbia, the University agreed to cease its research on behalf of the Defense Dept. (a key student demand) and to abandon plans to build a new gymnasium on city-owned land in nearby Morningside park, to which they offered to provide access to a special “community facility” for limited number of people from the “neighborhood” through a “back door” on the lower level.
    A very different time for all.

  6. So the kid at 7:35, hamming it up or dosed?

  7. We can now see why Mickey wore that hat.

  8. Sir Luther Von Baconson

    October 4, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    mark rudd @ 1:04 groovin’? taking a break from storming Low Library

  9. This clip and Steven’s comment above say more about the Dead’s place in the political and countercultural history of 1960s America than David Browne’s book, which I’m halfway through and super disappointed with.

    • You sure you’re not talking about No Simple Highway?

      • Carol Brightman’s “Sweet Chaos” is quasi-interesting on this stuff. And Voodoonola RULES!

      • Nope. So Many Roads by David Browne. Took it out of the library on the recommendation of a comment hear. Up to 1980, and all I see is a string of anecdotes, a bunch of which seem to be cribbed from already-published sources, notably Hajdu’s articles. Nothing that puts the GD into a larger historical context. I mean, it mentions the Pranksters. but has bugger all to say about why they mattered or anything. Most of what seems new-ish seems to be based on a handful of interviews, and a good chunk of that stuff gets anonymously credited to “a band employee” or “a friend of the group.”

        Browne also has precious little to say about music, besides a totally cliched description of a “Dark Star.” Doesn’t talk much about who they listened to, or get us into the room at big musical moments, like when they were listening to Miles Davis open for them.

        There was a book I started about five years back but had to put down because of work stuff and never picked up again — was it McNally’s? I don’t know, but I recall the first few chapters did a lot to situate the Dead as something the grew out of the Beats. I need to figure out which book that was and get back to it.

        There’s actually precious little writing about music that doesn’t fall into the “collection of anecdotes” trap to actually talk about music as something that unfolds in a particular historical/cultural/aesthetic context without just getting mired in boring musicological analysis. There’s Kelley’s book on Monk, and that book about Sun Ra, but so much of the rest may be fun, but that’s about it…

      • I you read Clapton’s book you would hardly know he cared about music.

      • Also, Browne just wrote that “My Brother Esau” “could have been interpreted as their take on the Cain and Abel saga…” because I guess he stopped reading the Bible a few pages before Genesis 25?

  10. you sure know how to make a girl happy TotD

  11. I went to Columbia back in the 90s (big deal, I know) and went to a viewing of the Columbia Revolt documentary ( only to get a glimpse of the boys in their ’68 form.

    Outside of poor quality bootleg VHS tapes, there was quite a dearth of old video from the band back then…my what a difference 20 years make! Voodoonola, GratefuLSD and the Music Vault are huge time sucks…in the most enjoyable way.

  12. Wow, thanks for that. Having watched it 5 or so times now, I’m starting to love Mickey again. Bobby really was pretty wasn’t he? Anyways thanks again

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