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

Tag: 1980 (Page 1 of 3)

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.

Hangin’ Over My Head



I’m speechless.

“Here’s what you gotta understand about that strap: that’s professional-grade canvas.”

Which means what?


Sure. Did the giant speaker need to be placed directly above Garcia?

“I would argue your adverb. That speaker is mostly above Garcia. It would clip him, at best.”

Still bad.

“The man’s got quicker reflexes than you’d think.”

It’s like the Sword of Damocles.

“Nah. It’s fine.”

What if there’s wind?

“There shouldn’t be any wind.”

That statement could be taken two ways.

“Choose one. Free country, man.”

Sign Your Name

Hey, Bobby. Whatcha doing?

“I am, uh, enjoying my notoriety.”

Looks like it. The Dead were just the right amount of famous, huh?

“Oh, yeah. You don’t wanna be too famous, otherwise people won’t leave you alone. And, uh, not being famous at all sounds terrible.”

It is.

“Yeah, we were in the Goldilocks zone. Plus, you know, we were locationally famous.”


“Walk in a head shop or onto a college campus? Boom. Famous as hell. Go to, you know, Nordstrom’s and no one had any clue who you were.”

What about now?

“Well, uh, now our fans have Nordstrom’s money, so it’s a bit more of a hassle. I gotta go to Nascar races with my sister-in-law–”

Lilian Monster.

“–now to be anonymous. Folks there thought I was an Oak Ridge Boy.”

Why would they think that?

“I kept singing Elvira.”


“You said it.”

But What’s Really Important…

The green one, obviously, is a VW microbus. I believe Big Red right next to the VW is a Pontiac Firebird made between 1973 and 1978–the rear end only looked like that for those five years–but I can’t see whether or not it’s a Trans Am. (All Trans Ams are Firebirds, but not all Firebirds are Trans Ams.) Brown Betty is maybe a Buick? Could be an Oldsmobile. Possibly a Chrysler.

But what’s the white one? Is it a Volvo? Sucker’s got weird lines to her.

(Oh, yeah, for the newcomers: that fellow is named Harry Mendoza. He played guitar and died.)

There’s Always One More

Here you go, Enthusiasts: this is my contribution. Previously, there were three pictures of Bobby in various stages of bunnification; now there are four. (I always figure if I haven’t seen a photo, then most haven’t. If that comes across as arrogant, well: consider the topic. It’s like bragging about Magic the Gathering. And plus I didn’t even claim to be the best at it, so it’s like bragging about coming in sixth at a Magic the Gathering tournament.)

The Grateful Dead, Younger Enthusiasts, didn’t do a lot of teevee. Possibly because the first time they were booked on a show, Playboy After Dark in 1969, they ended up dosing the entire building. But it also makes sense: there weren’t too many televised venues for any rock music back then. There was Ed Sullivan in the 1960’s, and the Smothers Brothers for a year or two, but after that the opportunities dried up. Pop stars were all over the dial, obviously, but not rock. Johnny Carson didn’t book bands at all until much later in his run. There was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, and that was about it.

And then, in 1975, came Saturday Night Live. They had rock bands on, good ones and wild ones and sometimes things would go terribly wrong, which was horribly entertaining, and they had very hip taste. Tom Waits was on in 1977, and Sun Ra in ’78. The first four musical guests in ’78 were the Stones, Devo, Frank Zappa, and Van Morrison. (Zappa was actually the host, and that went precisely as well as you’d assume. It turns out that “doing sketch comedy with stoners” wasn’t in Frank’s toolbox; he and the cast hated each other by the end of the week.)

Week five was the Dead. The comedy writers Al Franken (who is now a Senator) and Tom Davis (who is now dead) were massive Deadheads and lobbied Lorne Michaels to book the band. He didn’t want to–the Dead were not very cool at the time, and certainly not Lorne Michaels’ New York-centric version of cool–but one has to believe that Al Franken can wear you down. Lorne must have liked them because he had them back the following year, and even let Billy be in a sketch.


Told you.

Contrary to Frank’s Zappa’s surliness, the Dead are affable fellows (and Mrs. Donna Jean) and made friends with the cast; Belushi and Ackroyd would do their Blues Brothers routine at Winterland with the band the night they closed the place down.

Phil may or may not have gone to town on Lorraine Newman.

A Deeper Shade Of Solstice

The Dead played Alaska only once, 6/19,20,21, 80 in Anchorage, which means they played Alaska three times. The shows were in West High Auditorium, which is a high school auditorium that seats 2,000; until 1984, it was the largest hall in the state and the Dead’s appearance there was not a show biz anomaly. Ray Charles and Ozzy Osbourne and Itzhak Perlman played West High Auditorium, too.

I posted the show from the 20th a while ago, so here’s the 19th. It’s a consistent run, and unlike most three-show stints there’s no clear winner, just three big, energetic, and boppy performances. The run would make a great box set, but–of course–it’s not in the Vault. Go listen, anyway: there’s the cowboy song, and the long song, and the song with just the drums, and the song about America, and the song about Jesus.

You don’t actually remember any of this show, do you?

I listened to 6/20 the other day and was going to post that, but I typed it into the “Tag” box and saw that I had already posted it. So I just flipped a coin between the 19th and the 21st. They’re all good.

The effort you put forth is staggering.

The ladies call me the Human Dynamo.

Rock, Band

I’d not seen this shot before. The other more famous and widely-circulated frames from this roll of film, yes, but not this one. Any day, any day at all, you could wake up and meet your true love, or step in front of a Honda, or you might see a picture of the Grateful Dead you’d not before.

There’s always a reason to wake up.


Get out of the picture, Rock.


Spot the Heineken(s).

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