Let’s Talk About the GRATEFUL DEAD?

So, back when I mentioned that Fugazi’s release of live recordings reminded me of the Grateful Dead, I was 100% convinced I would get brutally mocked – but lo and behold peeps actually requested a post on the Dead! It goes without saying I’m a huge fan, and have been since I was a little kid – but I grew up in New Hampshire and had a weird neo-survivalist step-father that was non-ironically into ‘authentic’ American music – he used to drag us to bluegrass and barbershop quartet concerts all the time! So you could say I was predisposed to like the Dead, but I’m not unique – the band has had a lasting impact on kids up to the present day…

1. The Band

First off, they are old as fuck – they formed back in the early ’60s?!? Coming from the ‘folk’ movement, they started out as a tripped out jug band and morphed into a fairly stripped down psychedelic/blues band. They went through an (excellent BTW) Country Rock phase, an experimental jam band into a dancy rock band. By the ’80s they were an arena rock behemoth! Amazingly, outside of deaths the original members were still in the band until 1995! There’s a huge amount of credit one has to give the various Dead members – Phil Lesh (bass) basically re-wrote how the bass is used in rock, tho we can probably also blame him for Les Claypool, so let’s call that one even…

Jerry Garcia was an amazing musician – in the early 70′s the Dead would play two shows a day, each show having an acoustic and electric set. In between the shows the band ‘New Riders of the Purple Sage’ would play, for whom Garcia sat in on steel guitar with – figure he was playing 6+ hours a day in concert. Like it or not, Garcia basically began the ‘country rock’ (or maybe ‘roots rock’) movement. His dedication to early American folk music really filtered into the Dead’s sound, and impacted an entire generation of musicians.

Outside of pure musical contributions, the band contributed quite a bit to the overall musical culture – the band (or people associated with them) started their own label to distribute records, changed how concerts sounded, started companies obsessed with musical instruments/electronics, spread LSD far and wide, amongst other accomplishments. It may be ancient history, but I see things like the Acid Tests (which the Dead got their start at) as some of the scaffolding that our current popular culture is built on.

2. The Music

First off, nobody listens to the Dead’s studio albums – they may be good to have as ‘reference’ versions, but the Dead fan base is focused on their live shows. The Dead allowed fans to record their shows, and trade them freely among themselves – which really did lead to a ‘lasting legacy’ of their music.

The Dead were really at there best once Garcia teamed up with singer/songwriter Robert Hunter. Hunter was responsible for some of the Dead’s most popular songs, from China Cat Sunflower (srs a psychedelic classic) to amazing Country Rock songs (he was responsible for most of the songs on American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead). For example, check out Hunter’s song ‘Jack Straw‘ – it’s quite complex, with a shifting narrative/perspective and an a (typically Hunter) unresolved ending. Most of Hunter’s songs were quite dark as well.

Check out this rendition of the classic Hunter tune ‘Casey Jones‘, which is so direct, chugging and immediate – and the lyrics are so typically Hunter, bringing us up to the moment of the crash, but never resolving it.

If you actually decide to try listening to some Dead shows, I’d suggest starting with the Dick’s Picks series – Number 8 from Harpur College is a personal favorite. The Download Series and Road Trips are also quite good. Basically any remastered official release won’t disappoint. New listeners may want to avoid the ‘completist’ recordings – the entire Europe ’72 tour for example.

3. The Shows

Very typical parking lot scene

Hands down the Dead had the best concert going experience – mainly due to the parking lot scenes that developed. Most Deadheads would arrive for a show early and set up in the parking lot – which would rapidly become freak magnets… you could easily blow a whole day occupied with mini-adventures; find that dude selling the good weed, get the name of that girl you saw, find those rad home-made shirts to buy, etc. Was fun!

4. The Fans

When you hear about Deadheads you usually hear things like ‘Man, Bill Walton (former NBA player) is a huge Deadhead!’, or ‘Oh, I know this neurosurgeon that followed the Dead around!’, but the fact is, if you have a sufficiently large population there will always be a successful 1% (I consider myself a hxc 1% – steady job and no post-18 arrest record!) In reality tho the remaining 99% are pretty much dirtbags – kinda stuck in this neo-60′s era of hippydom, but always very current in their scummy-ness.

Like a comic version of real life people I know!

Some things I tend to avoid doing with my Deadhead friends: paying for lunch (you’re now the meal ticket!), giving them a ride (you’re the new taxi) or letting them ‘crash at your place’ (you’ve got a new roommate!). Deadheads can be good sources for drugs, but there’s like a 99% chance they will ‘break a little off for themselves’ (AKA at least 1/4 of what you just bought)! They also have this tendency to quote Dead songs – so annoying! Again, Clowes to the rescue:

Dead srs - I know people that talk like this!!

I will say that Deadheads do usually have a pretty good sense of humor about themselves and their musical choices… and they def manifest a pretty mellow attitude towards the way others live their lives. I don’t think I’ve ever argued with a Deadhead over music, and even if they are like super-hippy vegans they usually don’t throw it in your face (see late ’90s sob-core for a counter example!). This MST3K vid is super funny, even to Deadheads!

Just thought I’d mention that I’ve got a huge thing for hippy chicks – sitting around smoking weed with some patchouli smellin’ chick listenin’ to Dead tunes? = my idea of heaven! Also, since I’m a general fuck-up with life stuff in general, I appreciate their overly motherly care and nurturing!


It’s super hard to do any kind of short introduction to the music/culture/scene that is the Grateful Dead – the band had a huge impact, mostly through their obsessive fans. The science of concert recording took leaps and bounds from Deadheads concern over things like ‘source purity’. They pushed loss-less file formats like SHN & FLAC. They’ve had their fingers in lots of places if you know how to look… all the servers at my college were named after women in Dead songs for example! If you’re into it, check ‘em out! Fill the comment section with hate, anger and tales of stupid Deadheads you know! And to close all this out, “It Must Have Been The Roses” is their best song, hands down.

If you want to see something else ‘Old and In The Way’ (ouch) check out my Tumblr!

About King Krakken

I totally 100% percent non-ironically love you.
This entry was posted in awesome shit, bands i like, being old, lolwat, should I even be posting this and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

94 Responses to Let’s Talk About the GRATEFUL DEAD?

  1. Brah says:

    I’m kind of speechless, I was not expecting a 100% serious Grateful Dead post.

  2. Save Parker says:

    All I know about the Greatful Dead is from parodies and the last episode of Freaks and Geeks. Interested to see how the comment section will be for this.

  3. Kvlt times Kvlt measvres says:

    I love 90′s sob-core. And I definitely dig the grateful dead. Though I wouldn’t classify myself as a deadhead. Mucho inner conflict bros.

    • King Krakken says:

      Now you know how I feel!!

      I used to hide my Dead tapes from hxc kids when we would drive to shows… so pathetic! I’m really not some kind of Deadhead or anything, but via ‘what this site is all about‘ I’m kinda droppin’ some strong knowledge on the topic here… rest assured, I’m much more likely to have Xibalba on than the Dead!

  4. lord infamous says:

    great post. my favorite show personally is 5/8/77. true they made a lot of shitty music, but a lot of those early live shows fuckin smoke.

  5. lolwut says:

    as somebody abuses hallucinogens at a pretty alarming rate, i still dont “get” the dead. backed on hippy girls tho.

  6. Jonnyfilth says:

    I don’t see the appeal of dirty smelly hippy bishes, but hey, each to his own.
    You’re the king of the history buffs, Krakken. Solid knowledge.

  7. Brononymous says:

    I’m twelve years old and what is this?

  8. cosk says:

    I know a few people who like the dead and they’re definitely the acid burnout type that haven’t been sober in 12 years. They have hobbies like spinning in circles, needing money from me and sketching me out when cops are around. They also hate most the music i like. Wormrot is like hippie repellent.

    I don’t get the dead so much but whatever….

    I’m interested to see what D has to say on this…

  9. Martin Regnen says:

    Impressive. Can you do a post about how you witnessed the rise of Teddy Roosevelt’s career when you were a teenager?

    • King Krakken says:

      Srs tho – I grew up in rural New Hampshire – thats a min 20 years behind the times!

      I remember the first day at college – walking across campus I heard Steve Miller blasting out of the dorm rooms (this is in 1990) – New Hampshire is a weird place!

      You guys know Sarge isn’t that much younger than me, right? We started going to hxc shows within 6 months of each other (via that radio interview…)

  10. Latinoheat! says:

    Lol relax krakken ur not mr. Burns but i dig this post. My dad was one of those Mexican med students smoking weed yet studying and was all about dinosaur rock ( 60s/70s rock aka “classic” rock) when going thru med skool. I am proud he saw pink floyd n grank funk railroad IRL but I’m always directed to the lullabalooza simpsons episode… He is just a smarter version of homer simpson that watches way too much Mexican soccer lolz ( my fav part in that ep. Was when the gen X-ers [I'm. Looking @ you sgt. D!!!] were moving to the smashing pumpkins and also when they didn’t even know if they were being sarcastic anymore LMFAO). But NEwayz must check out the dead as I don’t know much of cherry Garcia other than being a good ice cream and being that hippy fat mexi guitarist in a pouch outta half-baked via me being a gen-Y early to mid 20s loyal SYWH reader

    • Sergeant D says:

      Many experts put the cutoff for Gen X and Gen Y at 1978, which makes me right on the border. I strongly do NOT identify with Gen X- as this one 21 year old i smashed a while back said, “all they do is drive their fucking volkswagens around and complain.”

      • King Krakken says:

        That said, I know a lot of 20-somethings that drive VWs & complain constantly! I personally don’t identify with ‘Gen-X’ either – I’m sure Sarge can agree with me – I thought shit like Douglas Coupland (author) was way ‘too old’ for me – I picture Gen X peeps generally in their mid-40s at least (and I’m still somewhat far from there!)

        • Nightshift says:

          I was born late December 1980, but I end up having more in common with 40-somethings than people right around my age just because my parents were born in 1944 and 1947 and we didn’t have cable when I was a kid.

    • nustej says:

      Sorry bro, Garcia’s parent’s were immigrants from Spain. Not trying to be a dick, but I love my city & I rep it hard at all times. http://www.sfmission.com/famous/jerry_garcia.htm

  11. God says:

    Hippie chicks = groce via guaranteed BIG BUSH

    • King Krakken says:

      Actually agreed – but there is no way that chick has a big bush… some of them are clued in, trust me!

      • Watt Par says:

        There’s definitely a strong contingent of hippie sluts, just like there are metal sluts. We’ve established that girls don’t actually like things or have hobbies, they just pretend to for attention, which leads to them having the outward appearance of some subculture, but being left with a fantastically shaved vagina, which typically leads to things being inside of them.

  12. jm6g90 says:

    ughhh of all the dad rock bans oyu could have repped it had to be grateful dead.

    It seems every decade one of these sorts of bands with wanky and over indulgent music manages to gather a selection of stoners, nerds and fatties and shoot to bewildering fame; in a way Grateful Dead were the precursor to Rush, Dream Theatre and BTBAM.

    So much do not want, sorry KK

    • King Krakken says:

      Yea – I completely understand! I’m pretty embarrassed by the whole thing myself!! But I think it’s important for people to understand?!? Like you said, they set the theme for lots of ‘music nerds’ to come!

      Plus, I prob would never have written this if I didn’t still see kids walking around in tie-dye shirts, etc. Amazingly they still get fans! Plus, everyone should know that befriending a Deadhead can get you moderately easy access to drugs – and now you have some conversation starters!

  13. Travis says:

    Sadly got into the Dead too late to actually see them, but glad I’m not the only one out there whose iPod moves indiscriminately between ignorant mosh and the Dead. I think I am not a tr00 Deadhead because I most prefer the country-rock era where even the jams remained song/lyric oriented, but whatever. Robert Hunter FTW.

    Also in California there are many pretty girls who like the Dead and maintain proper grooming for those who have Big Bush paranoia. Pretty earth mothers noodle dancing=good times.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Man what the fuck was with that Claypool comment cunt?

    • King Krakken says:

      I had a room mate that would play ‘Sailing the Seas of Cheese’ and whatever Primus put out after that NON-STOP! Would literally cut off Claypool’s fingers if it would stop the noise in my brain!!

      Dat alliteration tho! ‘Claypool comment cunt’ is officially stuck in my head now!

  15. CallPastorJerkface says:

    Unsurprisingly, I loved this post.

  16. Zapato says:

    Don’t forget, Jerry was arrested in Frisco for smoking crack in a car!

  17. Trey Azagthoth's Quake III Clan says:

    Unexpected posts like this one are the thing that really makes SYWH my favorite blog on the internet. Massive respect brah

  18. this was a really enjoyable read (via having several friends who love jam/the dead in general)! i still stand by the fact that “touch of grey” was their only good song, which is a statement that all true dead fans HATE.

  19. Mike C says:

    “When you hear about Deadheads you usually hear things like ‘Man, Bill Walton (former NBA player) is a huge Deadhead!’, or ‘Oh, I know this neurosurgeon that followed the Dead around!’, but the fact is, if you have a sufficiently large population there will always be a successful 1% (I consider myself a hxc 1% – steady job and no post-18 arrest record!)”

    Backed so hard. I consider my self a hxc 1% as well (In college majoring in petroleum engineering, no arrest record, have had the same steady summer job for 4 years now). All my musician friends are complete scumbags though.

  20. nochance says:

    funny. the picture of the hipster yesterday that made the collective internet grunt and shake their head in shame bothered me none, yet the site of a wite with dreads still makes my soul vomit bile with putrid disgust.

  21. Dirty says:

    Good post dude. I hate the band, but it is nice to read something different that doesn’t have to do with Skinny jean wearing rap or metal fgg bands.

  22. nyk3 says:

    Grateful Dead = OG TWINKLE DADDIES?

  23. Matt says:

    I usually take a shot of rageahol when I see a new post on here that isn’t by Sarge, but this is one of the best things I’ve ever read on this site. Not really a Dead fan myself, but I can certainly appreciate the massive impact they’ve had on music on pop culture in general

    One thing though, I wouldn’t sell the studio albums short. Like I said, not really a fan, but American Beauty is one of the all time great classic rock albums. Bar none

    • King Krakken says:

      Thanks bro! Maybe you would like my other posts? Hate to think I make you rage??

      Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty are prob their best studio albums – but any of the live stuff (especially ‘official’ releases like Dick’s Picks) are far superior with the same material! Plus you get to skip some of those ‘experimental’ songs (What’s Become of the Baby?!? WTF??)

      • Matt says:

        I reread this post and actually decided to give The Dead a proper shake as I’ve been on a classic rock kick as of late. Dl’d Dick’s Pick Vol 4, Download series Vol 3, and Live at Fillmore East 1971….and you’re right! The live albums are so much better. This is really good stuff and I gotta give credit to you for helping me discover it.

        Thx bro

        P.S. I’m also with you on Fugazi. Just…not my thing

        • King Krakken says:

          Wow this comment makes me feel great! Glad you got something out of the post… the Casey Jones jewtube video I posted is from the Dick’s Picks Vol 4 – such an awesome version. I think the Dead from ’70 to ’73/’74 are untouchable, but don’t forget to check out their later output – up to ’84 or so!

          I mentioned it in the article, but Dick’s Pics Vol 8 is must listening – get into the opening acoustic set!

  24. Lucifersmile says:

    I used to mock my ex-gf mercilessly for her love of the Dead, then I married a Deadhead. They aren’t that bad though. Still prefer the Band, Gram Parsons or Flying buritto bros, but the Dead aren’t the worst.

    • nustej says:

      Ur dead-on (pun intended) about G.P./Burrito Bros., the Band etc. The reason the Dead had a subculture that developed around them was that they continued as a band into the 80″s giving the hippy’s a focal point past the 70′s. All the better bands broke up & went on to something else…

  25. Dan says:

    That hippie girl makes me rage more than that hipster girl a couple posts before this. Would not buy her crappy homemade Native American jewelry/10

  26. attackmole says:

    Why is there a picture of Jack Sparrow at the bottom of the article?

  27. SirCaresALot says:

    Wood think that Id never see a post like this on SYWH. Good read tho might actually check em out! Also backed on the hippie bishes.

  28. Da scorn says:

    real good post! more of these!

  29. Tim McMahon says:

    What a bunch of crap!
    These guys are druggie losers, nothing about them is positive.

  30. Benj says:

    Get FUCKED with this honky tonkin ass bullshit. Mildly entertaining post with some relevant points but really? It reminds me of the times there were posts about RPGs or wrestling and I was like “huh?”

  31. Always hated the Dead, but I was huuuuuuuuuuge into Phish for a long time, which have basically the same show/fans/atmosphere. When they aren’t preaching about Green Power, recycling, and veganism, it’s fun as shit!

  32. Chinny chin chins says:

    Awesome post, bro. Same boat on the dad dragging me to “roots music” outings as a kid. You pretty much hit the nail on the head in every aspect (minus the hippie chicks, 90% gross me out). Also “must have been the roses” fuckin a.

  33. Fuckkittt says:

    I thank your bravery for this post. The Grateful Dead are given a terrible rep mostly because their fans suck. The band itself were tough, drug heavy, biker/rockers before that shit was even cool.

  34. Void Eater says:

    You’re all a bunch of oldfags. You’re all forgetting the stuff you will hate motto! No breakdowns? Not music.

  35. WULF says:

    Haha I like the posts about RPGS and other non-scene whatever shit. Still, this is definitely my favorite blog on the internet. Not a big Dead/jam fan, but I definitely encourage posts like this! BACKED HARD

  36. jw says:

    What part of NH, bro?

    Keene, here.

    • King Krakken says:

      A few towns outside of Concord. Ive known some bros out in Gilsum… was up there last summer in one dudes yard, gettin high listenen to thosr Badger Balm dudes play softball! Good time!! srs hippy vibe out there. I love Keene… pretty rad place actually, esp when the kids aren’t around…

  37. Isaac says:

    dreads or bush = boner annihilation
    wood smash mnstrm “hippie” chicks who claim to be vegetarian and in2 world peace and stuff tho
    also i know a bunch of rich jewish lawyers who used to follow the dead around lol

  38. nustej says:

    Thanks for this post KK, it takes balls to own up to something this embarrassing. After years of hating the dead (via being a 1st-wave nazi-skinhead) I finally came to enjoy their early to mid-period stuff (i.e. 70′s cutoff-point). I remember when deadheads were still considered a large section of the youth-subculture. I think whigger-ism def. took away a great portion of potential tween deadheads. Most Juggalo’s are one album-listen away from turning hippy, Rainbow-Gathering’s & Juggalo Family gathering’s are practically identical (and awful).

    I saw Black Flag play an all instrumental noodly-stretched-out-jam set (billed as such) @ either the Tool & Die or ATA in ’84 or ’85, so many people just didn’t get it, “WHERE”S HENRY!!!” I pegged Ginn as a Deadhead, nobody believed me. I’ve got so much shit about 70′s-90′s Bay Area stuff it aint even funny.

    Post-Hippy New-age yoga’d-out bitches = 100% dick-worthy. Yoga studios are liked free strip-clubs, u drop some bullshit rap about Eckart Tolle, Kombucha, & a subtle neg & next thing you know ur getting tantric, horizontally (not really).

    • Jonnyfilth says:

      Whats up with you actually writing comments these days? I liked it better when your opinions were conveyed through Gosling memes.

  39. anon says:

    mind = bottled.
    also, i thought of that mst3k skit as soon as you started raving about what a grate musician jerry was (srsly?!), was going to post as comment, then i kept scrolling down and there it was!

    • King Krakken says:

      Yea – it’s been mentioned before – a 100% srs post on the GD blows minds.

      The MST3K skit is funny on a lot of levels – the opening narration is really informed about how Deadheads talk… the meandering solo really is how it sounds to ‘outsiders’, etc.

      Granted I’m a fan, but you have to give credit where it’s due – like his music or not, Garcia was amazingly creative. IMO his best stuff was in the Country Rock genre (this would be Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty era).

  40. SenorPena says:

    KK – congrats on broaching the GD topic – life’s biggest question: what if you don’t know that you don’t know? Enlightenment – what if you find out you didn’t know that you didn’t know?

    As a 60′s teenager – grad in ’72 – the art known as music has blown so many ideologies & doors – I have given up on trying to classify – art is either appreciated or not – no worries if you do not but it limiting to defile someone or classify with a huge brush. GD’s mantra was boiled down to – “are you kind”.

    GOA are Psy Trance has been available for sometime but the use of aural stimulation w/herbal assistance goes back hundreds & even thousands of years. One of the offshoots of GD performances were the whirling dancers – roots come from Sufi whirling dervish – to enter a mental trance. So GD could be considered as one of the groups for opening a door that GOA & Psy Trance has walked thru.

    I congratulate in bringing up the “Dead” – accept or reject – but come on guys – know your where aural roots come from. J. Garcia: “Our music is never counting…One is always Now…whether 7/4, 4/4 time, or whatever- we’re always coming back to the One.”


  41. Jack Straw says:

    Man your really generalizing about the behavior of most Dead Heads. There are idiots all around in every group of people that exists. But a lot of Heads including myself just really really love the music and that’s it. They aren’t all drugged up free loaders. But your right some are. But that’s just my opinion. And by the way I’m only 21 and never saw them live of course, but I saw Furthur last Summer and they Rocked!!! Bob and Phil still Truckin on. Peace.

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