Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: billy kreutzmann

The Piano Has Been Drinking, But The Piano Player Has Also Been Drinking

keith rhodes forehead

This is Keith Richard Godchaux; it is his birthday today, and he doesn’t show up around here very much. Just a sleepy punchline most of the time, I’m sorry to say, but there’s nothing to hang a character on: he did no interviews and his physical presence on shows caught on camera gives little of his personality away. (When he made it into the film, that is:  he’s almost completely absent from Sunshine Daydream and the Beat Club footage, but he does get some nice shots in The Grateful Dead Movie.) I don’t know if I’ve ever heard his speaking voice. He died in 1980, which is the past but not that past, and nothing remains.

Did they call you Keith, Keith? Godchaux? Cho-Cho? Frenchy? What was your favorite candy? Did you go to church? What was your best subject in school? Did you write Mrs. Donna Jean letters? What did you think about lacrosse?

The rest of them are easy studies, Keith; who the hell were you?

Also: a studio apartment the size of Keith’s forehead rents for five grand a month in San Francisco nowadays.

Greatest Story Ever Traded

Yes, clearly it’s Titanic and Mind-Blowing and Earth-Shattering and Vast and Under-Rated and Over-Rated and Just Exactly Perfect, but the one quality that no one ever mentions is accessible. And 5/8/77 is accessible in spades.

Sure, there’s jamming, but it’s not the Neptunian jazz of ’74, nor the acid-skronk of ’69. There’s no waste; Garcia’s long, liquid lines are building to something, always, and Billy and Mickey have their feet on the gas pedals with a safecracker’s whispered touch–little bit faster here, slower there, bigger now Bigger Now BIGGER NOW and shhhhhhh…

There is command.

The greatest ever? No. not even the best show that week–5/5, with its majestic Sugaree gets my vote–but Barton Hall has something that only Veneta and Egypt also have: mystique. Fame. Perhaps we can’t even make an honest reckoning of that night anymore. Read some Don DeLillo; it’s good for you:

Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the sign started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides — pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.

“No one sees the barn,” he said finally.

A long silence followed.

“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura.  Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”

There was an extended silence.  The man in the booth sold postcards and slides. 

“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender.  We see only what the others see.  The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future.  We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception.  It literally colors our vision.  A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.” 

Another silence ensued. 

“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said. 

He did not speak for a while.  We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film. 

“What was the barn like before it was photographed?” he said.  “What did it look like, how was it different from the other barns, how was it similar to other barns?”

If you heard it today for the first time, would you recognize it as THE GREATEST DEAD SHOW OF ALL TIME EVER? Would the shock of genius, the green flash of recognition hit you, run up your spine, Billypunch the dick of your soul?

If you really did meet the Buddha on the side of the road…would you know it was him?

PS  I have deliberately not linked to the show on the archive because you have it.


They screwed Vince, let’s all agree on that. The sounds they made him use were one thing, but it was the personal stuff that really led to Vince’s failure and eventual demise. Before joining the band, Vince was named Cock Money and combs would snap in two immediately upon entering his thick lustrous mane. On Vince’s first day at Front Street, Mickey shaved him and gave him a loser’s name.

(Try saying it like Jerry Lewis: Vince WELLLLL-nick. Glaben.)

Vince didn’t want to dress like that either, but Jon McIntire would wire his Hawaiian shirts to explode if they were removed. This hurt Vince and he went to the band–except Garcia because he was in the bathroom–and told them that if wearing the shirts was so important to everybody, he would just do it. No C-4 necessary.

So Billy punched him in the dick. (In his defense, Billy hadn’t been paying attention in the slightest and just wanted to punch the new guy in the dick. Now, that was certainly not how Vince read the situation; he cried for 90 minutes. I’m just relaying facts here.)

The sounds, however, were truly the crux of the problem: wheezy, hollow tinklings made by primitive synthesizers. The aural equivalent of watching a clown car get raped to death.

A clown car get…what the fuck is wrong with you? This is the comeback special and you’re talking about Vince and a forcibly penetrated harlequinade? 

Is that not the show business way?

It is not, no. Welcome people back. Maybe a list. An update on your mental health.

Doesn’t the clown rape kinda give a clue about my mental health?

Point taken.

Anyhoo, imagine if someone pulled the bullshit on you that they pulled on Vince: “Here’s your new office and your desk and you know your responsibilities, so I’ll just let you dive right in…oh, that guy? That’s the guy we hired to also do your job. But better. And everyone’s gonna love him more. Oh, and he’ll be able to get away with things you wouldn’t even dare to THINK about.”

Because there were no rules for Bruce. He was allowed to waltz into the house at all hours and turn the basement into his room and  his girlfriend slept over sometimes. So unfair. Listen to the cavalcade of Dark Star teases in this show from ‘Chicago ’91 .

Seriously, if Vince had ever tried teasing Dark Star, Phil would have smacked him with a rolled-up newspaper. And a chair.

Sorry for the disappearing act: I didn’t feel like making jokes, especially not about Billy punching dicks. Tawdry and insignificant, in the face of it.

But time goes on, so more goofy wackiness to come. PLUS the continuation of the Spring ’78 tour run-through! AND special guest blogger Elvis Presley!


Umm…His Man-jesty, the Most Hung and Holy Fourth Degree Black Belt, Tushee Monster Extraordinaire, Elvis Presley.


Billy K. #2

It’s the two sad balloons behind Billy’s right ear that just so perfectily complement that jessuicaince of the insanity in Billy’s eyes.

Ways And Means

How could you go wrong with Keith’s first trip to New York, Pig singing Run Run Rudolph and Billy quite literally speedbagging the prehistorically large dong of a police horse (not pictured)? 12/4/71 from the Felt Forum, which is in Madison Square Garden, which is in New York.

Winter Is Going

A detailed analysis of minutes 11.45-40.30 of The Closing of Winterland (See previous post). We’ll talk about Bobby’s glasses later, I assure you.

11.45  What the fuck, Phil?

12.33  Donna thought it was the Halloween gig and came dressed as a woman ripped to the gills in an awful dress.


14.20  …but she should probably knock it off kinda soon.

16.00  What the sweet potato pie is Garcia doing? Oh my god, I’ve seen that before: that’s MOVING. GARCIA IS FUCKING MOVING. He is no longer in precisely the same spot Parrish duct-taped him to an hour earlier.

17.25, Oh, Mickey, why?

18.50  Garcia is two seconds away from twirling the guitar around his body while Angus Younging across the stage to emotionally bully Bobby. There is only one word, fellow Enthusiasts, for what is going on right now: rock star. Shut up. 

21.40  Mickey is wearing a Dead shirt because of course he is.

22.26  Mickey is just terrifying.

22.48  Mickey just drum-fucked us all with his eyes and mustache, but mostly mustache. 

23.29  We will get to the glasses, Bobby.

24.00  We’re all thinking the same thing, but let’s have some respect, ok.

24.30  Except i cant stop looking at them–oh, thank god, a wide shot.

26.30  Garcia has gone loopy. Now, I know he’s Jerry Fucking Garcia, man…but isn’t anyone else in this band? A certain dickpunching manager of the caddies at Bushwood? Mm, Danny? (You just read that in his voice, didn’t you? Predictable.)

13.05  There he is! Hey, Billy! What’s with the hair, Billy?

32.50  Bill Graham! 

33.15  Sometimes i like it when Bobby talks. Sometimes.

37.10  There’s Phil aaaaaand no more Phil. 

37.44  Keith exists!

40.30  I’ve decided I don’t want to discuss Bobby’s glasses.


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