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

Tag: 5/8/77 (Page 1 of 3)

Also Gonna Be A “No” From Me, Dog

Casual, or new, readers may notice a lack of Cornell coverage on this site. This is because Thoughts on the Dead is grad-level, baby. We’re above that here, Enthusiasts; you should have covered the fundamentals somewhere else.

I’ve also written about the stupid show for, like, the past seven years and have nothing more thoughts. Search for ’em if you want.

Corona delenda est

Topics I Would Rather Write About Than Fucking Cornell Again

  • Meghan McCain and her stupidity.
  • Bonos’s business partner and his cupidity.
  • That coffee cup that went to the Met Gala.
  • The 38 CD Woodstock box set. (This is a torture device, plain and simple. I’d give up the nuclear codes halfway through the fourth disc or Joan Baez’ first number, whichever came first. The great Jesse Jarnow wrote some of the liner notes, and I’m glad he got paid, but this is not for me. I’m not voting for Joe Biden, and I’m not listening to fucking Woodstock. Come at me, Boomers. Struggle out of your chairs and come at me.)
  • The secret racist history of hula hoops.
  • Anything anyone has to say about Ilhan Omar.
  • Anything Ilhan Omar has to say.
  • Whether or not that runner lady who looks like a guy has a cock.
  • The Internet of Stuff. (It’s like the Internet of Things, but less specific.)
  • Joe Rogan’s podcast.
  • Moutaineering, bouldering, the Giant Slalom, sherpa politics. (Longtime readers will recognize these as topics that FoTotD Nick Paumgarten has covered in the New Yorker. My respect for–and envy of–Nick’s writing skills stand no chance in competition with my fervently-held belief that humans should stay the fuck off of mountains. That is not where we are meant to be. We are not snow leopards; you can tell by our posture. Draw a mountain, sure. Have a romantic picnic at one’s base. Hell, gain 200 pounds and name your band “Mountain.” These are all fine activities. But stay the fuck off the slopes.)
  • The Newt Yorker. (It’s like the New Yorker, but by and for newts. Latest issue features 20,000 words from Masha Geesen on her childhood as a communist newt.)
  • The re-emergence of Avitel Ronell.

You all seem like nice people, except the simpletons who post comments calling me a “soy boy” after I mention what a slapdick the President is, but you need to make your own decisions. Listen to 5/8/77, don’t listen to it, sand your nipples down to nubs: I don’t care.

For those of you desperate to hear a lonely weirdo’s impressions of a semi-defunct choogly-type band’s mid-week contractual obligation: the Search Button is your friend. For those who aren’t: the Donate Button is also your friend.


Next Step: Federal Holiday

Sisyphus was a pussy: he didn’t have Cornell. Roll the fucker up the hill every year; you think you’re good and May comes around again, whistling innocently. Here I am, sailor. Let’s dance.

I have no more dances in me.

And then Cornell says DANCE, FUCKER and sticks all of its hydrodicks into you.

At least this year there’s the new box set to talk about, Get Shown The Light. (There’s one  set, with the books and pictures and essays, left at Amazon.) The full set is four shows–May 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, 1977–from the fabled and long-lost Betty Boards. Technically, they weren’t lost: they were in the shed of a chemistry teacher who wanted too much money. By the way, now that they’re safely back in the Vault where they belong and this can’t actually happen and I can’t be implicated: I am deeply saddened by Deadheads’ refusal to heist the tapes.

But if they were stolen, then they couldn’t be remastered and sold by the Dead.


Good argument.

Thank you. I’ve listened to the whole set and Jeffrey Norman, et al., have done their usual brilliant job: one of the draws of the Betty Board for Cornell has always been the huge, but specific, bass; Phil always sounded like he was 200 feet tall and mad at a mid-sized city. Once again, though,  the production team has improved what seemed unimprovable: the sound is massive and immersive, with air all around the instruments

(You can still buy the three-CD release that just has Cornell on it.)

Cornell’s the Best EVAR show that the Grateful Dead played because some show has to be, and why not it? It was more available than other shows back when the Dead existed on cassette tapes and traveled via the mail; it sounded better than most other contemporaneous recordings, causing people (perhaps unconsciously) to listen to it more; it was a more accessible chunk of music than, say, Veneta’s half-hour Dark Star freakout.

So call it number one.

And so a cottage industry has built up around the myth of Cornell: books, documentaries, walking tours. There’s even a section in the Cornell bookstore dedicated to merch commemorating the show. You can buy all sorts of things.

  • Baby onesie with “The DEW, brah” written on it.
  • Take A Step Back: the turn-based role-playing game.
  • Decorative collector’s spoons. (Sold in sets of two only. The first set is okay, but the second is really good.)
  • Betty Board ® surfboards.
  • Scarlet begonias. (Seasonal)
  • Fire on the Mountain hot sauce.
  • For thirty bucks, someone who was at the show will tell you stories.
  • Leroy Neiman prints of Billy in his underwear.
  • Snow globe with Barton Hall and tiny little students coming out of the show.
  • Because it was snowing when they came out of the show.
  • Did you ever hear that before?

Anyway, it’s Cornell Day. Go listen, or don’t. You do you.

May 8th

The eighth day of May is the 128th day of the year, at least according to the Gregorian calendar. They have May 8th in China, but the Chinese would argue. This is the 2,017th iteration, probably. Neither the Romans nor the Greeks would have called it May 8th: the Romans would have called it “the day before nones, and the Greeks would have called it “that day we invented architecture.”

King Kamehameha I died on May 8th, back in 1819. He was the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The Hawaiian archipelago is like any other place, and has the same history: bunch of warlords ruling little fiefdoms until one guy comes along and conquers everyone else and declares himself king. Kamehameha was basically Hawaii’s Arthur, but he actually existed. Maybe its Garibaldi, whatever. In 1789, two ships, the Fair American and the Eleanora showed up.  A disagreement turned into 100 Hawaiians dead on the beach from cannon fire, and Kamehameha learned his lesson. Everything you need to make gunpowder can be found in abundance on the islands, and rifles could be purchased. His kingdom, unified, remained unconquered for a hundred years until the fair Americans came back.

V-E Day is May 8th, Victory in Europe, and V-J Day would come soon after. Harry Truman’s birthday is also the 8th; that must have cheered him, even with a fat man and little boy perched on either shoulder. (Harry Truman made some tough decisions, and mostly he chose correctly: dropping the Bomb, desegregating the Armed Forces, firing MacArthur before that nutjob started World War III.) Millions poured into Trafalgar Square, and Times Square; people just went to squares. That’s how happy they were.

Speaking of presidents, Zachary Taylor won the battle of Palo Alto today. This was 1846, and the Mexicans were fighting the Americans. (The Americans are always fighting someone, aren’t they?) Palo Alto was a few miles outside of Brownsville, Texas, and doesn’t that sound like a fun place to spend the summer in 1846? Zach would later whompinate Santa Anna and become a national hero; the (semi) modern equivalent is Norman Swarzkopf. Except, as you’ll remember, Stormin’ Norman chose not to be a terrible chief executive who inflamed the secession debate by ignoring it and died.

Edward Gibbon and Don Rickles were born on the 8th; one of those men is much more amusing than the other. Two towering figures of design were born today: Saul Bass and Tom of Finland. Thomas Pynchon and also Peter Benchley; more people pretend to have read Pynchon, but everyone knows the story Benchley told about a shark and an island town called Amity.

Theodore Sturgeon and Robert Heinlein both died on May 8th. Maurice Sendak, too. Dana Plato and George Peppard, who were on teevee in the 80’s, and Nixon’s drinking buddy Bebe Rebozo. Oswald Spengler died on this date, and he is right there next to Pynchon on the list of authors that people pretend to have read.

May 8th is the celebration of the Feast of Arsenius the Great. He was an anchorite, which means he was bricked up into the wall of the church with a just a small opening for food and water and waste. Pointing out that a feast might not be the best way to remember him is a mortal sin. Arsenius had a sister named Afrositty, which is the best name ever.

“Hop in!”


“We’re going to Afrositty!”


Excuse me.


It got strange.

It does that.

Did you have a point, or are you avoiding writing about Cornell?

The second thing.

At least you’re honest.

Only strategically.


A Religious Holiday

Well, isn’t this nifty? Who says government doesn’t work for the people?

This is, however, the final draft of the document. The first version was quite different; one of the Haight Street Irregulars broke into City Hall and stole a copy so I could share it with you:


WHEREAS the Grateful Dead’s concert at Barton Hall at Cornell University on May 8, 1977, was perhaps the best show they played that week, depending on whom you ask, and

WHEREAS the show has become a local cottage industry, and

WHEREAS on the other hand, you pop Cornell in the tape deck of your Datsun and turn that shit up, and you have a good old time, and

WHEREAS there is no Sugaree or Half-Step, precluding the show from ever truly being the greatest show of all time, and

WHEREAS it was snowing when the students exited the building, and

WHEREAS it has been said many times by many people, the best people, that Cornell was just a tremendous show, a real top show, and probably the best of all time, which is what many, many people are saying

NOW THEREFORE, I, Dan Klein, Vice Chair of the Tompkins Legislature hereby proclaim May 8, 2017, as


WHICH means that all members of the Grateful Dead are eligible for up to 10% off at participating local businesses.

I Have No Thoughts On A Book

I was going to, Enthusiasts, I was going to. I tried, and hopefully I will, but not now. I’ll have to write about Cornell in a month–it’s the 40th and the spiffy new Box Set is coming out–and if I write about Cornell ’77: The Music, The Myth, and The Magnificence of the Grateful Dead’s Concert at Barton Hall now, then I might just blow my Cornell wad and then I’ll be dry next month, and dust will shoot out of my word-cock.

What now?

My word-cock. That’s what writing is. Emptying your brain-balls  all over the page via your meaty word-cock, staining it with your essence. This is the first step towards literary immortality.

Would the second step be actually publishing something?


All your friends have published books. Even some of the dumb ones.

I hate you.

It’s mutual. Go back to talking about the thing you’re not talking about.

Right: I have nothing to say about this book. Not that it’s a work-for-hire rush job to capitalize on the 40th that the author admits in the acknowledgements was not his idea. Not that it spends 30 or so pages delving into the backstories of the student committee that brought the Dead to the school that night. Not that one of the two glossy-paged picture sections is just photos of the Cornell campus. Not that a full ten percent of the 200 pages (I did the math) are a “Further Listening” chapter that lists several studio albums you should hear, because someone who just read 180 pages about Cornell probably needs to be told about Blues for Allah.

I’m certainly not going to mention the padding.: the ten pages on the history of audience taping in a book about a show that got famous from the SBD; the chapter on Bear and the Wall of Sound; the extended anecdote about the author’s recent trip to Bobby’s TRI Studios.

Wonder if I could just flip open at random and find padding? Let’s see.

Yup: two pages on the guy who runs Rhino Records

Thank God I’m not writing about this book; there’s nothing to write about. Go to your local library, Enthusiasts, or shoplift this book.

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