Thoughts On The Dead

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

You Win (Again)

TotD makes it a point to never repost a photo, except for the times when I have, either accidentally or on purpose. Some rule, though, are meant to be broken. Almost all the rest of the rules are meant to be enforced selectively based on your race and position in society. Same thing.

phil tie dye singing color 80s

I asked for the worst thing in this photo of Phil and hundreds of thousands–

They can read how many comments each post has.

–MILLIONS of people responded. After filtering out the comments written in all caps, the ones that called Vice-President Biden the n-word, numerous demands for the release of a show from ’83, a few calls for ethics in gaming journalism, and a denial from Mr. Cosby’s lawyers that he ever met the Grateful Dead, a consensus seems to have been reached, with bass and haircut in the lead, shirt and glasses to place, and sweatband for the bronze.

As you know, TotD is for the people. I love my readers and would stand up for them in a court of law if they were ever accused of anything and they gave me money to lie for them: that’s how much I care. All of you–each and every one–are my precious oysters and Big Daddy gon’ do some shuckin’. Slurp y’all up, wash y’all down with a mojito. Refreshing, yes, but still got enough juice in it. Get me all loose for the things she always makes me do.

That got weird. And barely made sense.

MY LOVE FOR THEM MAKES NO SENSE. But it remains. Did you know that before I write one word, I sit and think about what my wonderful Enthusiasts want to hear about? Like, really think: legal pad, list of pros and cons, whole nine.


Sure. Then, I say “fuck ’em” and write 3000 words on KISS or some bullshit but, still: love.

Did you have a point?

Yes: anyone who reads this nonsense regularly is a good person, smart and brave. I would never speak badly of them.

That being said, if you thought the sweatband was the worst thing in the picture, then you are a crazy person. This is not a value judgment: some crazy people are lovely and generous and go on to lead succesful lives and enrich the community, right up until the moment they take their clothes off and run into traffic claiming to be the fourth Kardashian sister, Kanada.

Saying the sweatband is the worst thing about the pic is like saying you don’t like Phil’s head: it’s essential. Part and parcel. It makes its first appearance–this is off the top of my head–in ’76 with any regularity. Deciding to add the sweatband to his stage gear may have been the only thing Phil did during the hiatus.

Phil’s first real fight with Jill was whether the sweatband was permitted during lovemaking. Before his transplant, Phil lobbied hard with the surgeon to be allowed to wear his sweatband during the procedure. The surgeon, who had little patience for rock stars or their shenanigans, countered by volunteering to just take a shit in the incision which, the surgeon explained, would possibly be less lethally pathogenic than the garment designed for the express purpose of sopping up the body fluids of a Grateful Dead. Phil reluctantly agreed, but he wore it long after he had taken off the rest of his clothes.

So, the ‘band is out.

The glasses are, some of you correctly noted, dreadful, but they’re the same massive, frameless Aunt Lillian glasses he wore since he chucked those heavy black-rimmed specs everyone wore in the 50’s.

The problem of the shirt is context: had Phil donned it to, say, putter about in the garden (in addition to the restaurant and touring, Phil is very active in the giant pumpkin-growing community) then that tie-dye would be fine. If Phil were laid up with a stomach bug and had thrown up on all of his other shirts, then that is the perfect shirt. Earthquake? And you grabbed the absolute closest thing at hand in a sheer panic? Then that thing can be forgiven.

But not onstage, man. Plus, the collar is losing all tensile integrity and expanding into what is dangerously close to being a mock turtleneck.

The problem with Phil’s haircut is that he has two of them. There is a clear line of demarcation running horizontally on Phil’s skull. My theory is this: there was a second barber. Hear me out.

As we all know, most of the Dead get their hair cut at the exclusive salon of the transexual tripod tonsorialist, Big-Dicked Sheila. This particular appointment, though, saw Big-Dicked Sheila get called away from the salon (Bobby had gotten gum in his hair again) and her bitter rival in hair, Nick Nameless, finished up the coiffure and botched it to bring shame upon Sheila. (Bobby’s hair was fine.)

It’s not quite a hairstyle. It is, in fact, not quite a bunch of things. It’s not quite a mullet, not quite the Han Solo, not quite a spiky deal.

It’s a mess.

This brings us to the bass guitar. Six string bassists are played by guys who call songs they write “pieces.” Six-string bassists all did magic as kids and can draw really well. They draw a shitload of dragons. Six-string bassists are particular about their cars and have rules about riding in it. Six-string bassists have food allergies.

This particular instrument is a Modulus and it is headless. It is made out of carbon fiber, titanium, vibranium, dark matter, and Brazilian Applewood, which is an endangered hardwood that only grows in the heart of the rainforest, which means a road had to be built (killing god knows how many other, less useful, trees) and a camp for the loggers had to be erected and a shocking number of natives needed to be relocated. (The loggers also went out of their way to slap the natives around for no reason.)

Why any decent man would build a guitar with no head is a mystery: nothing is better without a head. You die without your head. Everyone enjoys getting head. In a sticky situation, you’re advised not to lose your head. It’s important.

Was the head of these guitars removed for the worst reason to do anything: because it was possible? Like creating super-smart sharks or committing war crimes in the name of science, the removal of the headstock from its rightful place and the end of a guitar’s neck was an ultimately nihilistic act. It signifies nothing and has the very same nothingness at its essence. The sign over the door reads ‘No Exit.’

Phil had them inlay a little Stealie in case he forgot what band he was in.


  1. I clearly have too much time on my hands to have read every word of this, and I feel oddly exposed and guilty sending it to you, but the giant pumpkin thing really made me howl. This was a follow-up to some shorter rant about Phil’s wristband. Miss you bro.

    Sent from my iPhone


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  3. Eh, Phil had worse t-shirts. Remember the late seventies when he was all drunk and fat from too much beer and flaunted it by wearing that “Belli Deli” t-shirt constantly? He had a real short haircut then, too. I said to him he looked ready to be a twelve stepper once, he said “What you don’t think I can take twelve steps?” And fell back into his chair. GLORY DAZE

  4. Damn it! I was so convinced that the sweatband was going to net me the “lifetime supply of Oakland-Bus-Station-Roni.” Now, I’ll have to fall back on my extensive collection of weird Top Ramen flavors. All the usual suspects there: Mickey’s Ball Sweat Ramen, Garcia’s Pissed Pants In The Green Mercedes Ramen, etc.. Ew, huh?

    I’ll never enter another contest again. Ever.

    Also, I did have the sneaking feeling that the Headless Ugly Bass was, indeed, a Modulus. I almost asked about it but was just SO focused on the wristband…

  5. And, just for the record…I never have nor ever will claim sanity. It is the marque of a true, tie-dyed-in-the-cotton-blend psychopath.

  6. Wow, I didn’t read any of that but Joe Biden is Dr. Huxtable’s cousin (once removed) and the sweatband better have won.


    You inspired me to write a fictional account of a band called Gift of Death.

    Thank you!


  8. silly rabbit, the worst thing in this photo is Phil singing

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