Grateful Dead “Workingman’s Dead”

I know less about the Grateful Dead’s discography than about fine wines—totally, exactly, nothing—but I’d like to know more, and I’d like to find a way to like them someday, because I feel like they could be an acquired taste—that is acquired through listening to them—but putting in the time might pay some kind of dividends consisting of a pleasurable knowledge and depth of appreciation. But for now, to me, they still sound like a bunch of annoyingly stoned commune hippies. What a great band name, though!—who was around on band naming day? I can never get a handle on their sound—I can’t pick out individual singers or musicians—its a large band, but they usually sound like just a few people are playing. This record is another one like that—it all kind of blended together like a way too healthy smoothie—the exception being the last song, which is that famous, “Ridin’ that train, high on cocaine,” song, which is named, “Casey Jones”—I never knew that.

The first time I ever heard one of their songs, that I’ve been aware of, was on this early-seventies collection I bought—sold to me by TV commercials—when I was like 11, and it had the song “Truckin’” on it, which pretty much fascinated me, the breezy style of playing and singing, but even more, the lyrics—something about a salt machine, and livin’ on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine. The lyrics are all credited to someone named Robert Hunter, which fascinated me, as he was not a musician in the band. I read somewhere (probably Rolling Stone magazine) that he was the Dead’s lyricist, which seemed so bizarre to me… though, same thing with Elton John and Bernie Taupin, right? But this Robert Hunter, what was he like? I wanted to find out more, but we were a long way off from having the internet, not unlike me here in the “North Woods”—and, in fact, it occurs to me that the perfect scenario would be for the Grateful Dead (I mean, in a perfect world where they were still together and all still alive) to join me here in this cabin and play for about 12 hours straight while I put this old turntable to rest for awhile. I suppose if that happened I’d become either a huge fan or the harshest critic, but I’m guessing they’d all be cool and we’d have a good time and I’d finally gain some crucial insight into this music.


2 Responses to “Grateful Dead “Workingman’s Dead””

  1. 1 J Curtis
    November 15, 2018 at 10:09 am

    Guess what — the Grateful Dead *were* annoyingly stoned commune hippies, which is why they played like that. Apart from their couple of radio-popular songs, which are not all that offensive usually, I have never been able to get into them at all. They were supposedly “psychedelic,” and I *love* psychedelic music, but everything I’ve ever heard by them sounds like boring, uninteresting country music. I have several friends who *swear* to me how great they are if you listen to the right records, and I have tried, but no — they are wrong. One of these friends doesn’t even listen to them while stoned and *still* swears they’re great! They did have a lot of really good record covers, though.
    I actually got to see the Grateful Dead in person one time, at the old Rubber Bowl in Akron, when they toured with Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. It was a great show, because during the Dead’s set I TOTALLY FELL ASLEEP. I only woke up when I realized that Bob had joined them for a version of Maggie’s Farm. Throw away or recycle the vinyl and just frame the covers, I say.

  2. November 22, 2018 at 10:28 am

    I know people who are really big fans, too, and I respect their opinions, but I still haven’t found that magic record or magic moment or magic accompaniment or whatever it takes. I feel like it could have been different had I seen them live, so maybe I just missed the bus. I missed the magic bus, I know that. I missed all the magic buses. But it probably would have never happened for me anyway, because I’ve at best merely tolerated large concerts, and mostly hated them. In fact, any kind of gathering with a lot of people “worshiping” whoever is on the stage just kind of freaks me out. In fact, I don’t even like when people hoop and holler to a band. Okay, I admit it, even mild applause can give me the heebie-jeebies. Still, I feel like if a good friend took a lot of time and loving effort and played me the right albums and the right tapes to the best shows, I could find something to love about the Grateful Dead–after all, they seemed like nice guys and all. But my appreciation will probably never go beyond he second-hand or the intellectual. Even though people sometimes say I LOOK like a Dead-Head.

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