Grateful Dead

Blair’s Golden Road Blog: “Inch Your Way Through Dead Dreams…”

By Blair Jackson

Based on conversations I’ve had with friends through the years, I’m betting that a bunch of you have had a variation of my most troubling recurring dream: It’s near the end of a quarter or semester in college and I have a huge final exam facing me in an hour. I’m sweating bullets, because for some reason I have not attended one class of whatever course it is. Further, I don’t know where the exam is being given and, to make matters worse, this campus looks completely unfamiliar to me! I spend most of the dream walking haplessly into empty classrooms looking for where I’m supposed to be, or asking passing strangers if they know. I’m in full panic mode now, convinced I have a big “F” in my future, and that’s usually enough to wake me up. Which is a good thing because in the worst versions, I actually find the classroom and then look down at an exam on a subject I know absolutely nothing about—like organic chemistry or a language I’ve never studied. Aaaaugh!

I’m also betting that like, me, you’ve had your share of Grateful Dead dreams through the years. It stands to reason that anything that infiltrates your life to the degree that the Dead have for so many of us will seep into that subconscious/unconscious world. This many years down the line from there even being a Grateful Dead, I still have a couple of dreams a year about seeing the Dead, and because dreams are real when you’re experiencing them, they are often thrilling while they are happening—when they’re not completely frustrating, that is.

When I was in my early 20s, I was way into dreams. Not on the level of analyzing them for meaning—smoking my Freud pipe or putting on my Jung specs—but just for crazy entertainment. I was a bit of a diarist on and off in those days, and I regularly wrote down any dream I could remember as soon as I woke up. I had read that writing down dreams actually promotes remembering them and that was certainly true for me. Reading the chronicle of the dream also allowed me to relive them to a degree.

Alas, it’s so many years since I foolishly destroyed my journals—all that embarrassing self-conscious drivel gone!—that I’ve lost touch with almost all my dreams from that period. Except for one from 1976 in which I was watching TV and seeing John Lennon’s casket lowered into the ground by British soldiers dressed in War of 1812 finery, as Walter Cronkite solemnly intoned something about Lennon’s tragic death. Prophetic? Nah, but it was haunting enough that I never forgot it.

“Sleep,” by Salvador Dali, 1937.

Anyway, my Grateful Dead dreams in the post-GD era (I can’t honestly recall ones I had while the Dead were around, though I know I had several) tend to fall into one of two categories. One is depressingly similar to my dreaded college exam dream. I’m going to a Dead show and I have no idea where it is or how to get there. Maybe I have tickets, maybe I don’t. I remember one in which I was with a whole carful of friends and we were all mystified about how to find the venue where the band was playing. Are we even in the right town? In that particular dream, after many wrong turns and taking bad advice from strangers, we finally got to the place after the concert was over but while the main floor of the arena was still covered in the night’s trash. Yikes!

The cooler dreams are the ones where I actually get to experience a Dead show. Here’s one I had a few months ago that has stuck with me (and inspired me to write this). I’m going to a Dead show at some large but remote outdoor locale. This one is taking place by a small lake surrounded by forests dotted with colorful medieval tents. (It is not a coincidence that I had this dream the night after watching an episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones.) The next thing I know, I’m at the show, dancing on a blanket with some pals, and I’m very excited because the band is playing a new song no one has ever heard before. Garcia is wailing on guitar and he and Brent are exchanging smiles. (Most of my modern Dead dreams are the Brent GD for some reason—probably because I saw more shows by that group than any other configuration.)

Then they play a couple of cover tunes they’ve never tried before and the crowd goes nuts. What songs were they? Well, here’s where it gets strange. During the set break, I’m in one of the tents backstage (oh, I’m so important!), and I see a piece of parchment on a table. I write down the songs with a quill pen. Someone asks what I’m doing and I reply: “I know I’m asleep, so I’m writing down the songs, so that when I wake up I’ll know what they were.” Now, that’s thinkin’ ahead, BJ! And sure enough, I remember writing them down in the dream.

Needless to say, as soon as I woke up in the morning after this dream, I recalled many aspects of the dream, but not whatever I had written down. Take my word for it, though, it was awesome! And this wasn’t the first time I’d had that sort of dream—where I’m determined to remember the uniqueness of a song or a jam … “and it just slips away, when I try-y-y.”

Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering why a smiling Phil Lesh showed up in one of my dreams the other night wearing a worn, very cheap-looking tiger costume, with drawn-on whiskers streaking his cheeks. Muy strange-o!

Any of you folks have Grateful Dead dreams to share?


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Joined: Oct 8 2008

The night before seeing them in Cleveland on 8-26-80, I had a dream in which I was watching them play Sailor/Saint, and they were all wearing tuxedos. I'm pertty sure they played it the following night - sans the tuxes.

Mr. Pid's picture
Joined: Dec 22 2007
I never

brake for hallucinations. It's much more fun to hit the gas pedal instead!

slo lettuce's picture
Joined: Jul 20 2012

"caution: i brake for hallucinations".............great idea but we may need to give the fine folks here at time to install a bigger server for all of the posts flooding in on that one mike e................hehe.

Mike Edwards's picture
Joined: Jun 17 2007

I go to shows in my dreams fairly frequently, but I'm always roaming around outside the venue, or indoors before the lights go down and the music starts, so my Dead Dreams are very much anticipation trips; they're pleasant enough, but always leave me feeling kind of unfulfilled. But I'm not sure if my dreams could equal or surpass what my senses experienced at shows, like 4-18-82 in Hartford, during Ship of Fools, when Garcia's guitar was revealed to be a woman who Jerry was cradling in his arms. As he stroked her long, black hair, her voice rose in song and the thought came to me that her name was Maria. So while dead dreams are fun and all, I find myself even more fascinated by things that I've experienced while awake, but maybe next's week blog will be titled, Caution: I Brake for Hallucinations.

Joined: Sep 11 2007
dream-like, for sure

Last night, I listened for the first time to the 30 minute Caution on the Fillmore box bonus disc, while working alone past midnight. That was an exquisite, 30 minute dream-like experience, stupendous and dynamic, and then a gradual, almost silent dissolving feedback "finale". It's hard to believe that some of this music we enjoy so much could ever really have been played live.

"Seems like a dream
(They) got me hypnotized" thank you BW for that, and may you rest in peace

I don't have any idea how many of us have had the chance to hear this version of Caution, but seriously this seemed to me to be Top 50 all-time stuff. Highly recommended.

gratefaldean's picture
Joined: Jun 22 2007
Reading this

I've suddenly realized that sometime in the past few years I've stopped having the dreaded can't-find-the-classroom, forgot-my-locker-combination, didn't-study-never-even-went-to-class-final-exam nightmares. And this is the prime time for them for me, just before school starts. Finally too old?

I've never had a dream about the Dead though. That I can recall, at least.

8Limbs's picture
Joined: Nov 23 2011
Dream Jam

Jerry and I jammin' on a couple acoustics. He is not quite 40 from the looks of him - possibly '81. We always play Bird Song. I never recall hearing any vocals but man do we ever jam out on it.

I HATE the final exam nightmare. If I would have known back in college that skipping classes would forever haunt me, I might have done things differently.

Joined: Jun 4 2007
I have many 'dead dreams'. But they usually are comprised of

snippits from my memories of being at a show in a small hall (ala KC Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall) from my heavier touring daze in 77/78/79. The crowd is all excited, anticipating, and gabbing up a storm before the show and then the Dead come out to our cheers. They tune up forever and we are all in rapt attentiveness waiting for the song to drop. The music always seems to be 'second half' tunes, such as Estimated Prohpet, etc. At that point my emotions flood in as I relive those moments and as the music swells I levitate into the air, then I hover momentarilly, but then I soar in ecstacy throughout the upper reaches of that hall as a healthy Garcia leads the boys through delights of the day; from to the wonder of "The Wheel' to the intensity of "Morning Dew" or charging into a rousing "China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider" or even more appropriate "Wharf Rat".

It is always a wonderful & energizing dream sequence and upon awakening I am joyful for that remembrance and fantasy, but also have some sorrow or sadness resulting from the drifting and shifting from that sense of joy/delerium back into this reality. There is definately a lump in my throat as the I enter back into this concious world from that fantastic space where time has stretched elastically to transport me back to times cherished. As the Tralthamadorians explained to Billy Pilgrim "it always has happened, it always does happen, and it always will happen".

But if I could just enter into that dream, another space and time, another show, 'just a little bit more'...;o}

The truth is realized in an instant,
the act is practiced step by step.

slo lettuce's picture
Joined: Jul 20 2012
rancho olompali..........

is the only dead dream i've ever had. The only thing i remember was that i was standing off to the side of the "stage" in the backyard, kind of being a wallflower, just taking in everything, when pigpen came over and befriended me. I don't remember anything we said but he was bright purple all over and we both laughed like hell. I do remember he was trying to talk me into "joining the party" ,which i soon agreed to, and was lead immediately to the infamous punch bowl for a drink and the cups were huge. That's where it ended. For some reason, ever since i've read about rancho olompali, i've had almost an obsession with wondering what it would have been like to be there. In "an american life" jer said that ('66) was the true summer of love and that the spring and summer of '66 at olompali was "magic, far-out beautiful magic". Honestly, that is probably the best description of a dead concert ever.......and maybe the feeling i got from the concerts i attended were as close to the feeling at rancho olampali that i could ever hope for.

Joined: Nov 12 2007
I admit I've never had a

I admit I've never had a dream specifically about the Grateful Dead. However,
I once had a dream that I was at the Watkins Glen Summer Jam in July 1973! Unfortunately I do not recall actually hearing music or seeing an actual band.

However I definitely do a lot of DAYDREAMING about the Grateful Dead. I certainly daydream that I was at one of their earliest shows in the Bay Area, with a stereo recorder and a camera, capturing the entire gig for prosterity. I dream I was one of those people hanging outside Winterland (as seen in the "Grateful Dead Movie") anticipating the "final" concert. I daydream I was at Fillmore East in September 1970 watching Pigpen bring the house down with "Turn on Your Lovelight."
I daydream I was at Woodstock listening and recording their set on the free stage!
I daydream I was in downtown Albany by the Knickerbocker Arena during the Spring Tour of 1990, etc. etc. etc.


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