Thoughts On The Dead

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

Thoughts From The Vault

  • I’ve just listened to One from the Vault and I’m at Blues for Allah, so I’m going to listen to Blues for Allah and circle back around.
  • If I just start again, I will not listen to Blues for Allah because it will be late and I will be tired and Blues for Allah is goofy.
  • It is a deeply goofy song.
  • Actually, I don’t suppose it qualifies as a “song,” does it?
  • It’s music, but I don’t know about whether it’s a song.
  • A good deal of it is just re-packaged Space.
  • “Weir, sound like the desert.”
  • “Whaddya mean, Jer?”
  • “I dunno: pretend you’re a sand dune.”
  • “Stop undulating, Bobby.”
  • “I was getting into character.”
  • One from the Vault (hereafter referred to as OFTV) is the recording of 8/13/75 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, which is a tiny place that is still there and open, right down the street from the O’Farrell Theater, which is still there and open.
  • You can look up the O’Farrell yourself, but the short version: two brothers ran a fuck theater, one shot the other; since it was the 70’s and 80’s, there was cocaine involved.
  • At one point, Hunter S. Thompson had moved into the theater.
  • First day of business school: do not let Hunter S. Thompson move into your business.
  • The “Under Eternity” bit of Blues for Allah at the end is Mrs. Donna Jean’s finest hour: she kills it and is genuinely scary – she sounds like an evil muezzin, calling the faithful to prayers…
  • …of DEATH.
  • That would be a great horror movie if everyone involved wouldn’t get stabbed for making it.
  • Nobody’s writing Blues for Allah now.
  • I mean, no one’s really doing twenty-minute suites with giant freak-out sections and one of the drummers playing crickets.
  • But, also not doing any pop tunes about Allah at all, really.
  • Good evening.
  • We welcome you.
  • On behalf of the group.
  • Greatest intro ever, and well-improved for the excision of the Bill Graham’s line about getting paid to do it.
  • No one speaks with Bill Graham’s accent anymore and the world is less for it.
  • Phil makes it.
  • You don’t realize that they;re really doing the old show biz chestnut until Phil responds to his name.
  • The old tricks are old for a reason and then Garcia stabs at those ice pick intro chords as Bill Graham gets out of the way.
  • Would you welcome, please, the Grateful Dead.
  • They almost could have just packed up the gear and gone home after that.
  • That intro is perfect: it’s dramatic, in that there’s a beginning, middle, and end; it’s musical, and not just the band jumping in one-by-one, but in Bill Graham’s Bronx accent; and it’s classic.
  • No boasting about the hottest band in the land; just say the name.
  • Help>Slip>Frank: BEST EVAR or merely HoF?
  • Some people ask themselves, how do I feed the hungry, or cure the sick.
  • I think my question is just as vital.
  • What if you were hungry for a good H>S>F?
  • Or sick of bad ones?
  • I assume that Garcia is playing the Travis Bean, and I’ll state it unequivocably: this is the greatest guitar he ever played, and I stand by that statement until the very instant I next put on a ’72.
  • Franklin’s is one of my favorites, and the versions from 1975 all have this slightly out-of-control feel to them; Garcia sounds almost frenzied on the Lindley Meadows show take, and here, too, he attacks his solos like a drunk man trying to get his money back from a hooker after failing to achieve a sufficient erection.
  • Also, he gets every single word right and doesn’t mix up the verses or repeat any verses.
  • Because he did that constantly.
  • Franklin’s was Garcia’s Truckin’.
  • It’s also one of Hunter’s best songs.
  • I’m sure it’s about something.
  • And yet, it is in no way doggerel or gibberish and hippie-dippie nonsense.
  • It’s as good a lyric as anything he’s ever written, including the concept album he wrote for Quiet Riot called Pick Up the Phone: Metal’s Calling.
  • Everything about the show is weird: the venue, the structure of the sets, the songlist.
  • As always, the facts–as far as we know them–can be found at Lost Live Dead, wherein we learn that the 600-person (or so) joint was packed with radio folks from all over.
  • The Dead had retired, remember, and in the rock world of 1975, 10 months was a long time.
  • They had a new record out and wanted to get it played on the radio, which required giving DJs cocaine and making Program Directors feel important.
  • So, not only was it a small crowd, but also the first non-Deadhead crowd the band had played for in a while.
  • If this Eyes of the World were a van, it would have a dragon with giant tits airbrushed on the side and stop for you when you hitchhiked.
  • Inside, there would be shag carpeting and captain’s chairs and aquariums and a half-court for basketball and a breakfast nook and a conversation pit and a bay window for the cat.
  • The cat’s name is Mouse.
  • On the shag carpet, there is a girl in Jordache jeans and a halter top; there is fringe on the halter top and the strands sway with the curves of the roads.
  • She asks you where you’re going, and hands you a joint; it is powerful and when you close your eyes while coughing, the girl is on top of you with her fangs bared.
  • Stop doing that.
  • Anyway, the Eyes is one of their best, with its sprawling, multi-partite Phil solos and Billy and Mickey are answering each other and chasing each other through time signatures while Garcia covers the top part and Bobby and Keith play the actual song.
  • And Drums.
  • There will always be a Drums.
  • King Solomon’s Marbles is fucking tragic if you think about it.
  • Jesus, listen to them: all six of them nimbly dancing around the beat and hitting every cue, sliding in and out of sections with a Dirk Diggler-esque confidence, throwing the melody from Keith’s Rhodes piano to Garcia and back.
  • It’s jazz-rock that doesn’t suck, so: not jazz-rock at all, but you get my meaning.
  • Alas, this kind of music requires rehearsal, while mid-tempo tramps through Dylan tunes didn’t.
  • Three realities down, there’s a Dead that took this show for itself as a challenge and spent the next decades very differently.
  • Of course, four realities down, there’s a Dead that did the same thing, but their fans hated it and they broke up and now Billy still lives in Hawaii, but under a bridge.
  • You could just play Chick Berry tunes, man.


  1. Yes. Best ever H>S>F. It’s perfect in every way. Especially Garcia’s Franklin’s intro.

  2. >>> King Solomon’s Marbles is fucking tragic if you think about it.

    Try explaining Milkin’ The Turkey to your mom in 1975:–yLwUiw&w=600&h=373

    • Milkin’ The Turkey: See Dirty Jobs where Mike Rowe literally milks the Toms.
      https: //
      (space added to link so it doesn’t embed. Have your breakfast before viewing.)

  3. Agree with nearly everything here, except that Fire was indisputably Jerry’s Truckin’. I don’t think he got all the words right once.

    • Agreed.

      Also I’ve gotta pull for either incarnation of Wolf.

      • I posted some pics from the original LP album on the original OFTV thread here. They appear to be from the sound check, and it’s Wolf. He did switch to the Mesa Mark I for a preamp over the Fender Twin earlier that year fwiw.

    • There were three Travis Bean guitars (details can be found on the various Garcia gear sites). Legend has it that the first one was bought straight off the rack from a music store called Draper’s. Draper’s was on California Avenue in Palo Alto (334 I believe), about a block from the place Jerry was playing (Sophie’s at 260 California, later famous as Keystone Palo Alto).

      The legend has it that it was a Garcia/Hopkins show in September, and the guitar debuted at Sophie’s and then with the Dead at Golden Gate Park later in the month. None of this can be verified. If Jerry was really rehearsing with it at GAMH, it probably isn’t true at all.

      Still a good story though.

      • Thanks for that. I knew there were at least two with different pickups but can’t/haven’t tried to distinguish between them. They both sound like Beans to me; I assume that what I’m hearing is the construction more than the electronics. Also, Jerry.

      • I used to buy strings at Draper’s. They were a lot nicer to young kids than Gryphon was.

  4. OFTV is the finest live recording they have ever produced, perfect in every single way. 1975 is also the most interesting the dead have ever been

    I’ll play this once a month for the rest of my life


  6. Absolutely right about that Travis Bean, and I wouldn’t even qualify that with something about Alligator. TB -> Boogie all day long.

  7. Always been partial to the H>S>F from 2/26/77, myself…but, then again, I’ve never met a Betty Board I didn’t like.

  8. Those first two notes jerry slides into at the beginning of franklins gives me goose bumps every fuckin time. Its shit like that makes Jerry the best guitar player ever. Who else could give you a soul boners with just two notes

  9. I just happened to reread this post, and wanted to mention a couple of things:

    “Blues for Allah” was originally called “Blues for Faisal,” but then King Faisal went and got himself assassinated and the Dead had to change it. That was on March 25, 1975, just two days after the Dead first publicly played it at SNACK Sunday. Coincidence? I think not. Why they went with “Allah” instead of “Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,” I’ll never understand.

    “Franklin’s Tower” is indeed about something: the Liberty Bell or, more specifically, the casting error that caused the crack. Don’t believe me? I give you a scholarly reference:

    I love the OFTV version so much that it is now my ringtone.

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