Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: 1979 (page 1 of 4)

That Time Phil Was Fatter Than Garcia: A Half-Assed Investigation

As is by now cliche, the Grateful Dead’s career can be sorted into chapters: Baby Dead, Single Drummer, Double Drummer, Brent, Vince, John Mayer; even the noobiest of noobs knows this. These chapters can be  further broken down: Baby Dead can, like the years that followed–be sliced into Single/Double Drummer, and then Vince be split into Bruce/No Bruce, but the Brent Years can be shaved the finest. There’s Pre and Post Coma, obviously, but there was also a magical and mostly forgotten period towards the beginning of Brent’s tenure: That Time Phil Was Fatter Than Garcia.

We can eyeball it to Fall of ’80, but exact dates for TTPWFTG are unknown as of now.

It couldn’t have lasted more than one tour. This shot’s from 9/6/80 in Lewiston, Maine, which for some reason I thought was the Dead’s only trip up to Massachusetts’ vestigial tail, but they went there a lot. As you can see, Phil had been indulging in Maine’s signature dish, which is a deep-fried plaid hat slathered in mayonnaise. (Phil also broke into Stephen King’s house after the show, as he did at least once during each of the Dead’s visits to the state.)

Speaking of plaid:

We see that in October of the same year, Phil is still a huffalump.

By March of ’81, however, the Lord has reasserted His hand on the wheel, and normalcy reigns once more over the lot, as Phil and Garcia retake their appropriate positions on the Axis of Dead Chubbiness.

Lo, do you hear the winds a-winding? Feel the earth ‘neath your feet, or knees, or whatever you’ve got pressed up against the earth? Are you reeling in the years? Will you one day dandle your tyke ‘pon your knee and teach the old stories, the cruel stories, the lost jewels of birthright? Will you tell your child about That Time Phil Was Fatter Than Garcia? Will you do that for me?

Stop typing.


Do something useful with your life.

Don’t wanna.

Spot The Heineken: Brent Edition

Hey, Brent. Whatcha doing?

“Having a beer.”



We don’t talk much, do we?

“Not really.”

We should work on that. Hey, Phil! I see you back there!

“Pound sand, twerp.”

Pinky Swear

Hey, Bobby. Whatcha doing?

“Thinking about the how life combines cyclicality with a linear momentum.”


“And learning how to play the slide.”

I see. Let’s talk about the first thing.

“Well, I’m in 1979. Problems with Iran. And, uh, you’re in 2020 and the same nonsense is going on.”


“You could even extend your mind’s eye way back. Persia and the West, man. Hoo boy.”

That might be the only fact we know to be true right now.

“Sure, yeah. The frog of war.”

Fog, Bobby. The fog of war.

“Y’don’t say.”

I do.

“That saying never did make any sense to me. I always pictured a giant armored war-toad hopping through a city. Although, that would confuse the hell out of you. The frog of war would produce the same effect as the fog of war.”

Have you always looked like Chevy Chase, or is it just the angle?

“Just the angle.”


On Your Left

Takes a couple seconds to realize what’s wrong with the picture, right?


Opposite Day, as always, was a complete disaster.


“Hey, uh, guys? We wearing our enormous glasses today?”

“Obviously, Weir.”

“Yeah, man. Biggest you can find.”


If you don’t like 9/1/79, then you don’t like the Dead. And if you don’t like the Dead, why are you reading this bullshit? Who am I even addressing here? Ah, screw it: life is pointless.


Which band had the most lefties in it? I can’t think of any with more than one southpaw player. (Not counting natural lefties who learned to play right-handed because left-handed guitars were tough to find and/or more expensive.)

In Which Novelty Rears Its Head

Phil? Fat.

Garcia? Skinny.

Cowboy? Fancy.

Must be 1979. Go listen to 12/5 from the Uptown Theatre in Chicago, the third show of a run recently showcased in the Dave’s Picks series. The He’s Gone is dreamy, y’all. D-R-Eamy. Someone call the nurse, cuz Dr. Eamy is scrubbin’ in.

Are you going to be obsessed with “Dr. Eamy” now?

Yes, I am.

Deform Follows Dysfunction



Can I ask you a question regarding cable management?

“I have no idea what that is.”

Well, you answered my question.

“All right.”

What’s with Phil’s bell-bottoms?

“Got a sixer in each flare.”


“Yeah, well, he was the only one of us who went to college.”


Not Playing Around

11/24/79 was the penultimate (David Lemieux’s second-favorite word) appearance in San Diego, as their 1980 show would be accompanied by Bobby, Mickey, and Rifkin getting hauled off to jail by the cops; the Dead would never return to the coast city.

BUT this time around, the Playing in the Band is so fat. May I describe the 11/24/79 Playing in one word? GLORIOUS.

What about in five words? NO PEPPER IN THIS AREA!

Four words and a number? THIS SHIT’S NUMBER 1, YO.

How about a sound? HHMMMNNNNNgh.

There is also a Terrapin that–for literally every second of its existence–threatens to crumble into pieces. This is some serious Grateful Dead fun, Enthusiasts.

Amazing What Twelve Bucks Will Get You

Apparently, there was more than one roll of film shot at the hooker motel that day, and thank the Jesus for it: the black-and-white shots don’t reveal the depths of the Bush League that marquee sinks to.

“Boss, we’re out of red W’s.”

“Just use the blue one and stop bothering me.”


Phil, is that a falconer’s glove?


Where’s the bird?

“Otis got to it.”

Sounds right.


College shirts: 1

College degrees: 0

(There aren’t even six high school graduates in this shot. Phil, Brent, and Garcia got their diplomas from various Bay Area highs, but I think Bobby and the drummers are without credentials.)


“Ma’am, can you identify the man who stuck his finger up your butt in Radio Shack?”

“Number one.”

“You sure?”

“You don’t forget something like that.”


The marquee. Christ, the shoddiness.

Used To Be The Heart Of Town

We have, Enthusiasts, both answers and questions in front of us.

Most admirers of the Grateful Dead are familiar with this photo shoot, but the specifics have eluded. Where was it taken? When was it taken? How long was it before Billy slugged someone? Was Mickey ever more fuckable? (The responses in order: I’m getting to it; I’m getting to it; less than five minutes; no.)

This picture was taken 4/16/79 at Litchfield’s Bermuda Palms, a motel at 737 East Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael, right near the 101 (which can be seen all the way to the right of the shot). A guy named Whitey Litchfield built the joint in the ’40’s; it was upscale, baby. Teevees in every room playing anti-Japanese propaganda, and a guy in the lobby who would draw a line up the back of women’s legs so it looked like they were wearing nylons. That’s real class.

The motel was part of a complex that included a convention hall, restaurant, cocktail lounge, and even a ballroom originally named the Flamingo. (When you think San Francisco, you think of the huge flocks of flamingos.) Count Basie’s big band played there, and so did Lionel Hampton’s. Lili St. Cyr took her clothes off there, and she only did that in the swankiest clubs. Following the usual trajectory, the ballroom was given over to hippies in the 60’s; they changed the name to (variously) Pepperland and the Euphoria, and all the usual Bay Area suspects choogled on the stage so the kids could get real loose with it.

Entropy checked in. By ’88, the fronds were off the Bermuda Palms and it was a shooting gallery; whores screeched at one another in the parking lot; the ice machines were tragedies. Whitey plastered this on the marquee–the same one that WELCOME GRATEFUL DEAD is on–before abandoning the property.

I have sinned. Please forgive me. I have created a haven for humans. Don’t judge me too harshly.

Lord knows he meant no wrong.

But whither the Dead? Whither? WHITHER?

Stop that.

Sorry. Longtime residents of Marin County (or Enthusiasts with too much time and too much access to Google Maps) will recognize that East Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael right near the 101 is in the vicinity of Club Front, the Dead’s office/rehearsal space. In fact, it’s more than in the vicinity:

So–according to reliable sources–the band was herded around the corner, and then successfully wrangled for however long it takes to shoot a roll of film. Why were they all together, you ask?

Because of this.

Keith and Mrs. Donna Jean’s last show was 2/17/79, and I do not believe that there was a rehearsal with Brent before their departure. (Bad form, first of all, and there is no evidence at all of such a gathering.) While 4/16 may not have been the full band’s first time playing with Brent, it is the first tape we have, and we know that the Dead recorded all of their (infrequent) rehearsals. Was this Brent’s first integration within the Grateful Dead machine? Perhaps.

What we do know–absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt know–is that the pictures taken in front of Litchfield’s were the first commissioned shots taken of the new Dead lineup. Some bands would choose a more professional setting–and by “some,” I mean “literally every single other band that ever existed”–to introduce their new member, but not the Grateful Dead.

No, they went for this:

I have sinned. Please forgive me. I have created a haven for humans. Don’t judge me too harshly.

An Aesthetic



Why must there always be pandemonium?

“Referring to?”

The stage. It looks like a woodworking shop had a baby with a Guitar Center, and then the baby exploded.

“Eh. Band liked it this way.”

How could anyone like this?

“Maybe ‘like’ is wrong. How about ‘The band didn’t give a shit if it looked this way?'”

That sounds right.

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