• September 5, 2013
    http://www.dead.net/features/greatest-stories-ever-told/greatest-stories-ever-told-fire-mountain
    Greatest Stories Ever Told - "Fire On The Mountain"

    By David Dodd

    Here’s the plan—each week, I will blog about a different song, focusing, usually, on the lyrics, but also on some other aspects of the song, including its overall impact—a truly subjective thing. Therefore, the best part, I would hope, would not be anything in particular that I might have to say, but rather, the conversation that may happen via the comments over the course of time—and since all the posts will stay up, you can feel free to weigh in any time on any of the songs! With Grateful Dead lyrics, there’s always a new and different take on what they bring up for each listener, it seems. (I’ll consider requests for particular songs—just private message me!)

    “Fire On The Mountain”

    “There’s a dragon with matches that’s loose on the town...”

    The Yosemite Rim Fire has me thinking about this song these days. Growing up in California, I have taken for granted that the high country is there for me, whenever I need to get re-charged with a strong dose of natural beauty and wonder. I’ve backpacked in Hetch Hetchy, out of Tuloumne, and up into the High Sierra camps. And now, a good portion of that landscape I love so much has changed for the long term. As climate change becomes more evident through the new kinds of wildfires we’re having throughout the West of late, perhaps we can promote some awareness, through whatever means, even through music, right?

    At a Ventura Fairgrounds show—I’ll have to look up the exact date—I remember the band opening with “Fire on the Mountain” as the hills blazed within sight of the crowd. This is one of those songs, akin to the many weather-oriented songs, that has, for good or ill, come in handy as a ready commentary on reality. (Mount Saint Helens erupted as the band played “Fire,” or so the legend goes. Were any of you there for that one?)

    This is another of those songs with a long and complicated genesis story, perhaps not worth getting into too much detail about here, but the rough outlines at least are important to note. The lyrics, according to Robert Hunter in Box of Rain, were “Written at Mickey Hart's ranch in heated inspiration as the surrounding hills blazed and the fire approached the recording studio where we were working.”

    Hart, credited with the music for the song, recorded a proto-rap version of the song for an unreleased album entitled Area Code 415, recorded in 1972 and 1973. It was also included on a Mickey Hart album entitled Fire on the Mountain, recorded in 1973-74. It appeared as an instrumental entitled “Happiness is Drumming” on Hart’s 1976 studio album, Diga. And it finally began showing up in the Grateful Dead repertoire, sung by Jerry Garcia, in 1977, undergoing a number of variants of the lyrics until it settled into the form that was eventually recorded and released on Shakedown Street, in November 1978. There’s a lot of other detail I haven’t mentioned—possibly worthy of some historian taking it apart piece by piece, but you get the rough idea.

    On March 18, 1977 at Winterland Arena, San Francisco. "Fire" appeared for the first time, closing the first set, following its eternal partner, "Scarlet Begonias." This combination of tunes, which frequently enclosed some wonderful jamming, came to be known as "Scarlet Fire." There were a handful of occasions on which “Fire” appeared without “Scarlet Begonias,” but not many. I count 15 out of the total 253 performances. It remained steadily in the repertoire from then on, and was played for the final time on July 2, 1995, at the Deer Creek Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana.

    The I Ching contains a hexagram, #56, titled variously “The Traveler,” “Travel,” “The Stranger,” and so on. It is represented by the two trigrams of fire and mountain, with fire resting on mountain. I have received quite a bit of mail over the years with convincing interpretations of how this applies or might apply to the Dead, or to the scene, or to world politics, or to the individual spiritual journey of the person writing the email, and truly, I think these are all valid ways of looking at the hexagram, in the context of “Fire on the Mountain.”

    On the other hand, “Fire on the Mountain” is also a line from a nursery rhyme (a frequent source for many lines in Grateful Dead lyrics); a fiddle tune; the title of a book by Edward Abbey, and so on.

    I will tell an embarrassing story on myself — definitely not the greatest story ever told.

    The first time I heard this song was at Winterland in 1978. I spent most of the show up behind the band—one of my favorite places in Winterland. The song was completely new to me, and I wrote about the concert in an article published in my college newspaper, The Cal Aggie, at UC Davis, shortly after the show. In that review, I stated that the band played a new song, and I gave the title as I heard the refrain, which was… “Running on the Balance Beam.” Yes, that is what I heard: “Running, running on the balance beam…” Whew. Not sure at all where that came from. I will blame it on the bad acoustics, for want of a socially-acceptable way to place the blame. It stands as the most egregious mondegreen ever, without the redeeming quality of being close enough to resemble the misheard lyric. And it’s preserved for eternity, or as long as newsprint lasts, in the library at UC Davis, in their bound volumes of the estimable Cal Aggie.

    The song is another in the long line of Grateful Dead cautionary tales — it’s fun to think of what all could be occurring in the song. Given Hunter’s explanatory note about the circumstances of writing the lyric, it could be seen as a pretty straightforward commentary on the bravery or foolishness of making music while a fire is coming at you. But, of course, Hunter re-contextualizes everything on the fly, and wham! — the song becomes something directed, uncannily, at each of us, or at us collectively: how come we’re doing the same old same old when disaster is at hand? Or, the song becomes directed, once again, as discussed in an earlier post about “Wharf Rat,” to Garcia by Hunter. “You gave all you had, why you want to give more?”

    The song’s catchy rhythmic figure is a perfect foil for Garcia’s playful guitar work, as it winds in and out of the beats. The solos between the choruses might find Garcia screaming, dancing, or both simultaneously. And I suppose we were all doing the same, right along with him. And his delivery of the lyrics seemed pretty much deadly serious. The entire performance can seem like a prophet delivering some pretty dire news. And yet, we dance. And dance.

    So, listen up — I think the band is trying to tell us something.

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By David Dodd

Here’s the plan—each week, I will blog about a different song, focusing, usually, on the lyrics, but also on some other aspects of the song, including its overall impact—a truly subjective thing. Therefore, the best part, I would hope, would not be anything in particular that I might have to say, but rather, the conversation that may happen via the comments over the course of time—and since all the posts will stay up, you can feel free to weigh in any time on any of the songs! With Grateful Dead lyrics, there’s always a new and different take on what they bring up for each listener, it seems. (I’ll consider requests for particular songs—just private message me!)

“Fire On The Mountain”

“There’s a dragon with matches that’s loose on the town...”

The Yosemite Rim Fire has me thinking about this song these days. Growing up in California, I have taken for granted that the high country is there for me, whenever I need to get re-charged with a strong dose of natural beauty and wonder. I’ve backpacked in Hetch Hetchy, out of Tuloumne, and up into the High Sierra camps. And now, a good portion of that landscape I love so much has changed for the long term. As climate change becomes more evident through the new kinds of wildfires we’re having throughout the West of late, perhaps we can promote some awareness, through whatever means, even through music, right?

At a Ventura Fairgrounds show—I’ll have to look up the exact date—I remember the band opening with “Fire on the Mountain” as the hills blazed within sight of the crowd. This is one of those songs, akin to the many weather-oriented songs, that has, for good or ill, come in handy as a ready commentary on reality. (Mount Saint Helens erupted as the band played “Fire,” or so the legend goes. Were any of you there for that one?)

This is another of those songs with a long and complicated genesis story, perhaps not worth getting into too much detail about here, but the rough outlines at least are important to note. The lyrics, according to Robert Hunter in Box of Rain, were “Written at Mickey Hart's ranch in heated inspiration as the surrounding hills blazed and the fire approached the recording studio where we were working.”

Hart, credited with the music for the song, recorded a proto-rap version of the song for an unreleased album entitled Area Code 415, recorded in 1972 and 1973. It was also included on a Mickey Hart album entitled Fire on the Mountain, recorded in 1973-74. It appeared as an instrumental entitled “Happiness is Drumming” on Hart’s 1976 studio album, Diga. And it finally began showing up in the Grateful Dead repertoire, sung by Jerry Garcia, in 1977, undergoing a number of variants of the lyrics until it settled into the form that was eventually recorded and released on Shakedown Street, in November 1978. There’s a lot of other detail I haven’t mentioned—possibly worthy of some historian taking it apart piece by piece, but you get the rough idea.

On March 18, 1977 at Winterland Arena, San Francisco. "Fire" appeared for the first time, closing the first set, following its eternal partner, "Scarlet Begonias." This combination of tunes, which frequently enclosed some wonderful jamming, came to be known as "Scarlet Fire." There were a handful of occasions on which “Fire” appeared without “Scarlet Begonias,” but not many. I count 15 out of the total 253 performances. It remained steadily in the repertoire from then on, and was played for the final time on July 2, 1995, at the Deer Creek Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana.

The I Ching contains a hexagram, #56, titled variously “The Traveler,” “Travel,” “The Stranger,” and so on. It is represented by the two trigrams of fire and mountain, with fire resting on mountain. I have received quite a bit of mail over the years with convincing interpretations of how this applies or might apply to the Dead, or to the scene, or to world politics, or to the individual spiritual journey of the person writing the email, and truly, I think these are all valid ways of looking at the hexagram, in the context of “Fire on the Mountain.”

On the other hand, “Fire on the Mountain” is also a line from a nursery rhyme (a frequent source for many lines in Grateful Dead lyrics); a fiddle tune; the title of a book by Edward Abbey, and so on.

I will tell an embarrassing story on myself — definitely not the greatest story ever told.

The first time I heard this song was at Winterland in 1978. I spent most of the show up behind the band—one of my favorite places in Winterland. The song was completely new to me, and I wrote about the concert in an article published in my college newspaper, The Cal Aggie, at UC Davis, shortly after the show. In that review, I stated that the band played a new song, and I gave the title as I heard the refrain, which was… “Running on the Balance Beam.” Yes, that is what I heard: “Running, running on the balance beam…” Whew. Not sure at all where that came from. I will blame it on the bad acoustics, for want of a socially-acceptable way to place the blame. It stands as the most egregious mondegreen ever, without the redeeming quality of being close enough to resemble the misheard lyric. And it’s preserved for eternity, or as long as newsprint lasts, in the library at UC Davis, in their bound volumes of the estimable Cal Aggie.

The song is another in the long line of Grateful Dead cautionary tales — it’s fun to think of what all could be occurring in the song. Given Hunter’s explanatory note about the circumstances of writing the lyric, it could be seen as a pretty straightforward commentary on the bravery or foolishness of making music while a fire is coming at you. But, of course, Hunter re-contextualizes everything on the fly, and wham! — the song becomes something directed, uncannily, at each of us, or at us collectively: how come we’re doing the same old same old when disaster is at hand? Or, the song becomes directed, once again, as discussed in an earlier post about “Wharf Rat,” to Garcia by Hunter. “You gave all you had, why you want to give more?”

The song’s catchy rhythmic figure is a perfect foil for Garcia’s playful guitar work, as it winds in and out of the beats. The solos between the choruses might find Garcia screaming, dancing, or both simultaneously. And I suppose we were all doing the same, right along with him. And his delivery of the lyrics seemed pretty much deadly serious. The entire performance can seem like a prophet delivering some pretty dire news. And yet, we dance. And dance.

So, listen up — I think the band is trying to tell us something.

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“There’s a dragon with matches that’s loose on the town...”
The Yosemite Rim Fire has me thinking about this song these days. Growing up in California, I have taken for granted that the high country is there for me, whenever I need to get re-charged with a strong dose of natural beauty and wonder.
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in our bioregion. Last fall 3 day Furthur Fest played Fire on 9/29/2012 Edgefield, Troutdale, OR. We had been breathing the smoke from the local forest fires all week and even during the shows. Went over big in Missoula in the fall of the year before. Always gets a roar in Portland. Reminds me of the volcanoes especially Mt. St.Helens and the mountains and forest fires of the I region live in; The Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies. First Scarlet/Fire I saw was epic, at my 1st show 2/5/78 Cedar Falls Iowa on Dick's Picks 18. Song of the fire power, song of the dragon.
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I was lucky enough to be at Winterland on 3/18/77 when they broke out FOTM. It was extra special for me because it was the first time I had wandered around to the balcony directly behind the stage and discovered my new favorite spot in the universe - if you could get down to the front rows of the balcony you felt like you were sitting in with Mickey and Bill. Fire was totally unexpected. The jam from Scarlet kept getting further out there, until Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. Fire took us to a totally new place . . . and when they dropped back into the closing of Scarlet, it felt like you were riding a racehorse down the homestretch. What a close to the first set. . . hmm was this the one where Phil announced the set break by saying "We're going to take a snort break. . . " or maybe that was 10/78 at Winterland.All around great show with many other highlights. BTW, for another version of Fire - check out "Jerry Garcia and Friends" on youtube. It's from 2/15/87 where Jerry is playing with Mickey, Baba Olatunji and friends plus Carlos Santana. Big fun!
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...we really muck up this tune! I always heard 'there's a train in Wenatchee that's loose on the town, takes a whole pail of water just to cool it down. ' (still do!)
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Always one of my Favs- loved when Jerry, Bob and Brent did the Fire - Fire- Fire off in rapid succession. Caught one of the 15 non-Scarlet/Fire versions to the best of my recollection. Help-Slip-Fire in Boston 91.
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As well as Fire being sung about 15 times without Scarlet, Scarlet is done at least 30 (and more probably 50) times without Fire. Granted, it was around at least 4 more years to get played. I don't know that the fires being experienced in the West are climate-change related (I'm farther to the left on this issue than most deadheads, just not this thread of it). I've heard deadhead forest rangers, not an uncommon deadhead profession, say that the condition of the forests is the biggest contributing factor, not the temps.. As far as the history of the Hetch-Hethcy there is a lot of bad karma there. The place was bound to burn sooner or later considering what happened around the issues there. ~I wish it for you More than just ashes When your dreams come true ~
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At the start of the second set Bobby stepped to the mike and stated "True to form, she did it again, St. Helens is erupting." (or words to that effect). This was followed by Scarlet-Fire. When we came out of the show, it appeared to be snowing, but it was ash. We tried to find a restaurant across the river to get a bite and cool out, but they were running everybody out, so we had to book it back to Coos Bay. The poor Subaru never ran quite right after that...
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As a novice fan who went to his first show at Alpine 88 and then bought more commercial releases until I could find some tape traders, my first favorite tune was Fire on the Mountain, specifically the Dead Set version. Obviously I have discovered better versions since. Scarlet-Fire remains my favorite one-two punch. So, I get tickets to Alpine 89 and night two second set kicks off with Scarlet (by now I have some tapes and am aware of the Scarlet Fire combo) and expect to get my first Fire on the Mountain. Instead they did a quick turnaround into Sugar Magnolia and still not understanding the rarity of this combo, I was disappointed to miss out on Fire. I got a Scarlet Fire a year later at World Theater. I have gone back and forth on this particular show sequence at Alpine 89. First the disappointment of no Fire, then fine with Sugar Mag. Then I came to appreciate the rare song sequence we caught that night. But then I got a SBD of that show and now I once again feel that I missed out on both a Scarlet jam and Fire. That Scarlet clocks in around 4 minutes and quickly goes into Sugar Magnolia. Listening to that show today leaves me wanting so much more out of Scarlet, including a Fire afterwards. Alas... I know many appreciate that changeup and that Alpine run is amazing, but I can't help but wonder how high a Scarlet-Fire during those three amazing nights of music would have soared. Just my two cents.
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I had a tape of a gig, from the mid-1980s, where the band wondered from 'Scarlet Begonias' into 'Touch of Grey' and then into 'Fire on the Mountain'. Over half-an-hour of real fun. Was anyone at a gig when the lads did this?
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Greek Theatre 7-13-84. Not quite as great as maybe it should've been, but still cool. The "Fire" is really good. I believe they had already done it once before a couple/few weeks earlier, too. What most people remember about 7-13-84, of course, is the "Dark Star" encore. Quite a night all in all..
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Always one of my favorite tapes, Blair. One of those speed Jerry shows, but mine did not have the "Dark Star" encore. My audience tape had some interesting audience talk during Fire-- some dude saying "Oh my God!" or something of that sort. Sounded like he was having some kind of mind melt. I have listened to the Dark Star at archive.org and found it a bit underwhelming as far as Dark Stars go.
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S>T>F was spectacular. Very magical. Dark Star was absolutely amazing. The highest I have ever been. "I peaked at the Greek". Yes, indeed. Having come on board in 82 (first show was awesome), I won the jackpot with this one.
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I always thought the dragon loose on the town setting fires that must be put out was an allusion to Jerry's new problems with heroin. You know, chasing the dragon?
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Tonight I am heading out to Poor David's Pub in Dallas where Forgotten Space is playing so I want to share this story. A While back the Boys got ambitious and brought a Smoke Machine to the Show. It set off the Smoke Alarm and Poor David's had to be Evacuated. We all gathered and waited as a Fire Truck came and sent a Team in to Investigate. Bill of the legendary Bill's Records and Tapes came running out more than a Little Distressed. He shares the building with Poor David, you see, and has an enormous collection of goodies. Finally we all went back inside and "Fire on the Mountain" filled the air...but no more Smoke from the Smoke Machine.
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of a product launch I went to years ago at the Sheraton Palace. It was some technology product, and its proud parents were sparing no expense, having even gotten Leonard Nimoy into the video to promote the space-age theme. Unfortunately we never saw the presentation because, same story--for some reason they thought the fog/smoke machines would add just the right touch. Which they did, if you consider setting off the fire alarms and causing a mass evacuation the right touch.
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The concert you're referring to was Ventura 7/15/85 and yes the hills really were aflame all that week. They actually opened with One More Saturday Night before easing into Fire.
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Not sure if I could blame global warming on the Fires threw out our earth I think the big guy upstairs has his way of needed regrowth and to burn the country side is away of rebirth. Yes it takes many years to grow anew just part of life. Some things come to an end some things need new growth and rebirth. stoltzfus : Wrote of the 79 Fire at Nassua and then again of the march of 81 Fire at the garden, yes those are some very good Fire on the Mountains. I was lucky enough to be at most of the Fire's most have spoke of here in this blog. The First Scarlet - Touch at the Hult in 84 was a novelty then two more times before they brought it to Scarlet Touch Fire on 7 3 84 at one of my all time favorite outside venues. The Starlight Theater in Kansas City one of stops on summer tours. Very lucky to be there for the 3 times they played there. Then they did the Scarlet Touch Fire only one more time at the Greeks during the now famous Dark Star encore show. I gave up my youth to follow the band every where threw all of the 80's. Gave it up because in a way am still paying a dear price for the lost years. Yet I still am lucky because living the life taught me other life lessons. For instance learned to live and let live and to not put pressure on myself.
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Another very hot Scarlet Begonias Fire on the Mountain is from Alpine 8 8 1982. Jerry just smokes that Fire at the end its like a dog trying to catch his own tail around and around he goes till the poor thing gives up. Last 3 or 4 minutes of the Fire is intense. I recall trying to keep up the beat, but my feet couldn't keep up with my brain.
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Is a tune I find most beautifully composed not for the words, but the feeling involved by Jerry's composition. It just invokes fire. The US Forrest professionals I have talked to for many years have all but one predicted the growth of larger and larger fires due to the poor condition of the forests. That poor condition may or may not have been contributed to by higher temps., but the higher temps. argument has just been thrown out the window by the scientifically observed observation that the mean temp. hasn't moved an iota in the last 25 years, averaged out. As as Hetch Hetchy is concerned -- Muir was a famous protector of the place, but his efforts ultimately failed... In 1906, after a major earthquake and subsequent fire that devastated San Francisco, the inadequacy of the city's water system was made tragically clear. San Francisco applied to the United States Department of the Interior to gain water rights to Hetch Hetchy, and in 1908 Secretary of the Interior James R. Garfield granted San Francisco the rights to development of the Tuolumne River.[42] This provoked a seven-year environmental struggle with the environmental group Sierra Club, led by John Muir. Muir observed:[3] Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man. Proponents of the dam replied that out of multiple sites considered by San Francisco, Hetch Hetchy had the "perfect architecture for a reservoir",[43] with pristine water, lack of development or private property, a steep-sided and flat-floored profile that would maximize the amount of water stored, and a narrow outlet ideal for placement of a dam.[42] They claimed the valley was not unique and would be even more beautiful with a lake. Muir predicted that this lake would create an unsightly "bathtub ring" around its perimeter, caused by the water's destruction of lichen growth on the canyon walls,[44] which would inevitably be visible at low lake levels. (You can read the rest if you care to at Wikkipedia)
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I've always thought that there was an interesting connection between Scarlet and Fire lyrically, note "as I picked up my matches" from Scarlet contrasted with the "dragon with matches" from Fire. I think that the jam between the two represents a shift in the clarity of the story and feel of Scarlet into the hazy, uncertain, mythical feel of Fire. One goes from a kind of jazzy almost-love-song and slowly spaces out (lift off?) into the blazing, churning, introspective funk of Fire. You look down and instead of finding the same matches you picked up before, you find yourself soaring over the town breathing fire. Also, and I'm sorry about this shameless plug, I just started a dead-related blog focusing on the experiences of post-Jerry dead heads. you can find it here, and i promise not to mention it again http://bournedead.blogspot.com/
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Actually, it was 7/13/85 (the 15th was a Monday.) That was a great show, we got in during Fire - and the first thing I noticed was the fire on the mountain across the freeway. This band always had some kind of synergy like that. (I remember Cal Expo 1993, when they ended a day long rainstorm with Here Comes Sunshine!)
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Dissapointing you fail to explain the most mysterious of hunter/garcias songs i think this is perhaps the definative dead lyric and it needs breaking down try again.
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I have always thought the song Fire on the Mountain was written about those who follow the band from place to place, or maybe just about the particular night they were playing in general. " There is a dragon with matches loose on the town take a whole pail of water just to cool him down." I took that as the band comes to town and as we all know are smoking hot. Hence just to cool them/him down. " the flames from the stage have now spread to the floor " ?
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Fire On The Mountain has some serious subliminal anti-cocaine messages in it. It doesn't matter whether you believe it or not, they were there for me. One night in 1995, I dosed myself really good, put Shakedown Street on the headphones, and ended a 15 year battle with cocaine addiction. It was a life changing epiphany for me that night.
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When I began collecting bootlegs I would always search out the Scarlet>Fire combo, or any variation there of Scarlet>Touch>Fire. There was one version from Maine back in 79,I think, where as the final solo starts there is a roar of feedback and Garcia just proceeds to shred the solo. It actually sounded like a dragon roaring.
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My buddy dcdave was at Lokin last night and alerted me to the following:-Trey Anastasio joined Furthur for the second half of their Saturday night performance at the inaugural Lockn’ Festival at Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, VA. The Phish guitarist sat in with the band at the end of their highly anticipated Workingman’s Dead show. Anastasio came out for “Casey Jones” and then stuck around for almost an hour as the band jammed into “Bertha,” “Truckin’,” “The Other One,” “Viola Lee Blues” and finally, a “Scarlet Begonias” that played into “Fire On The Mountain.” So it goes, on and on. Anyone catch the show?
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During the infamous Spring tour of 1977 the band aired a live FM broadcast on WNEW (102.7 ... I remember it well...) from The Capitol Theater in Passaic NJ - 4/27/77. Being a high school kid and it being a weeknight - I had no chance of attending the show. So, I tuned-in and had a tape machine spinning. In those days there were no internet archives (heck the internet couldn't have even been imagined...), and tape trading was in its infancy. So, our source for learning what the band was up to or was playing was limited to word of mouth and print (newspaper articles, Relix magazine... etc.). The show - as all of Spring '77 - is outstanding. The band's playing is so inspired and the vocals are impeccable. (Donna Jean naysayers - listen to this tour - she sounds fantastic). The playing on that entire tour is edgy, funky, exploratory, TIGHT. Anyway, I was listening to the show and they opened the second set with 'California' (or so we thought that was the name of Estimated Prophet when hearing for the first time), then comes a real soulful and edgy Scarlet into Fire on the Mountain. What is this stuff? I was blown away... They ended the second set with Terrapin (another newbie) into a Morning Dew that rivals any I've ever heard - including the legendary Barton Hall version. To say I was primed and looking forward to seeing my first ever Dead show on Saturday night 4-30-77 at the Palladium in NYC is an understatement... That is when I stepped on the bus... And, have never gotten off...
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Thinking about Jerry's and Hunter's bluegrass background, there is also a bluegrass standard titled "Fire On The Mountain" as well as the totally different Marshall Tucker Band and Rob Thomas songs of the same name. The original version is a traditional bluegrass fiddle tune dating to at least the early 19th century. According to the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center Traditional Music and Spoken Word Catalog, "The tune seems to be associated with a cluster of playful rhymes and jingles used in children's songs, play-party songs, and courting songs across the early frontier." [http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/loc.afc.afcreed.13035a43/default.html]
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Per National Geographic Magazine, "Yosemite" is Native American for "they are killers". I am an Appalachian Cherokee. Follow the "Trail of Tears" to the left coast. I long to see the great Red Woods. I have been to one New Years run, and can still see the powerful cliffs off the Pacific. I have marveled at the unique trees in Golden Gate Park. Oh how I ramble... Fire is a B to A octave dirge/jam. One can really jam the B to A. Not quite as easily as "A"iko. The lyrics of the fire say to this Cherokee; look you gave it your all, they want more. There is a thin line beyond which; really..could you fake? It IS just more than just ashes when your dreams come true. well. Anywho you will all return to dust. YOSEMITE>They are killers..nuff said
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.... was my first impressionable memory of this song, coming out of Scarlet. I really like this combination, and with the magnificent Red Rocks as the venue overlooking the high plains to the east, it's unforgettable. 5 months later, it sizzled in Jackson MS, too. Jump ahead another 13 years to 9/4/91, and Scarlet > Fire was still lighting up the crowd! The mention, below, of the towering redwood trees along California's Pacific coast was televised last night on National Geographic Wild. A climbing scientist from Humboldt State University spent several months measuring redwoods, climbing up into the tree crown, then dropping a tape, much like my former occupation figuring grain and rice inventories in bins and tanks. The tallest tree found was 379 feet tall!! I'm very glad the Yosemite Rim forest fire is 80% contained, as many old redwoods are threatened there. Check these 2 links out >> http://www.savetheredwoods.org/redwoods/giant-sequoias.php http://yubanet.com/regional/Videos-and-Maps-for-the-Rim-Fire---August-2…
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Now I am a much younger deadhead than all of yall, or at least I would guess considering my first show was Furthur at Allstate two years ago, so I won't bother to talk about the shows I have seen with Fire. However, as an environmental biology major, I just wanted to let you all know that if the fires sweeping yosemite are frightening to you then there is no reason to be scared. Yes the landscape is going to be decimated for a few years, but on an ecological standpoint there is nothing better to recycle the forests nutrients than a wildfire. Most of the energy potential that is existant in the forest is being consumed by the already enormous trees and it doesn't allow anything new to start growing. This is mother natures way of taking out the trash. Although the increasing rates of wildfires due to human activity is a problem that needs to be addressed, and yet we all still go through the same routines. This song seems to be pretty spot-on in face of all the climate-related issues coming our way in the future.
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There were times when I was ready to smash that wah-wah into formless reflections of matter. Tuscaloosa in '77 comes immediately to mind, but there were others. Interminable also comes to mind whenever I think of this song, but I was with Annie, so it worked out pretty well. Bobby was also learning the slide 'round about this time and it was an equally dubious candidate for the appropriate application of aforementioned left-hand monkey wrench.
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I have thought this for many years too. Never even occurred to me that it had anything to do with an actual mountain.In fact, Steely Dan has a song called Time Out of Mind which specifically references the practice of injecting heroin: "Tonight when I chase the dragon, the water will change to cherry wine." Same elements, water and dragon. Lazy Lightning has some pretty druggy sounding lyrics too: "Must admit you're kinda fright'ning/But you really get me high."
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In reply to by Mr_Heartbreak

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Jerry supposedly only liked persian. That is Ca Morphen ate. I had a friend with a serious pain condition who came to USA from a place where persian was common. He kept complaining that the stuff in USA left him constantly looking for more. He never had a free minute from his pain. He said everything but persian was evil. I am a scientist so naturally I started to question his sources and did enough research. Indeed he was correct. If smoking, not injecting, people who take the persian variety are not taking H. They are taking Ca Morphen ate. That is more addictive but the addiction is a once a day thing not a 4 hr repeat and rinse gig. All are bad but some people have enough pain to need it. I wonder if Jerry did not have diabetic neuropathy. He did find out later he had it but could have had it for longer. If that IS so, a doctor with enough experience in pain management may have actually prescribed what he was self medicating all those years. It is a shame that people abuse the stuff. Makes life that much harder for the few people who are in enough pain to actually have a legit reason to use it.

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I have to say (having woken up in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep) that Fire on the Mountain is just a bad dream that will hopefully serve to steer us away from impending disaster. Its about a Long Distance Runner playing music in a Bar in the middle of a Fire that he doesn't even Notice. Then when he does notice all he can muster is a Slow Motion Dash to the Door. He is also as good as Dead... to the Core. He's not just "drowning" but already "Drowned" in his laughter. The thing he enjoys is a total Killer What a Nightmare. I could tell this song is a Dream when the Dragon with Matches appeared. That's just the sort of thing that doesn't exist in the real world...does it?? This has to be a Dream! Have you ever gotten to a point in a dream where you realize its only a dream? There's that sense of Relief to know this isn't really happening. Then you can make a Note to Self to be sure this doesn't happen in Real Life. This is only a Dream The Scarey Dragon isn't so Scarey any more. What sort of Dragon needs Matches any how? Why Can't He Breathe Fire like a Real Dragon?? the last line suggests its a dream and challenges us to benefit from its warning... "More than just Ashes when you're Dreams come True." Who do you suppose the "Long Distance Runner" is? Garcia?...The Band?...a Drug Addict...? I don't know exactly, but whoever he is He is Playing with Fire. Fire can be very destructive when it gets out of control. Its great to view it at a safe distance when its Up on the Mountain. Watch Out that it doesn't come into your House. Fire is also purifying...as has been mentioned in regards to the long term benefit of forest fires. There's lots of other references to fire in Hunter's songs which I find interesting. Like Althea's " Loose with the Truth-Baby its Your Fire-Baby I Hope You Don't get Burnt" well If Mercy's in Business...and I believe it Is....what remains after the Fire will be more than just ashes...it will be the enduring and most valuable and incorruptible elements of life.
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Reading previous comments is fascinating. I never thought of this song as a dream, but that makes perfect sense. The imagery is dreamlike. Jerry intentionally played around with the words here and there, and sometimes frustratingly mixed up what seemed like easy verses to remember once they were established around 1978. The auto-wah could be overwhelming if you didn't surrender to its powers. I never got there with MIDI -- too plastic sounding, trying to be something that it's not. I had not considered there could still be heavy residual bitterness among our native inhabitants. That guy's post is a good reminder of how we got here. His ancestors paid the price (or one of the prices). I do think about the residual effects of slavery, because I live in a very integrated city. How do we get past these things? We're caught in slow motion, for sure. I hope it's getting better. And just for the record, "chasing the dragon" refers to smoking the stuff as it vaporizes and slides across a creased bit of foil, not to injecting it. Ewww.
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say it ain't so.... Sometimes getting "high",like in the lazy lightin' reference, could mean that it just really feels good, "I felt so good it was like being high". Just heard a real good fire from 5-15-81, entire second set is smokin'.
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The version from Diga Rhythm Band is wonderful. Great old album also. I've worked in the mountains most of my adult life and on more than a few wildland fires over the years. My first season with the Forest Service was in Montana back in 1977. That September we were flown from Missoula to Monterey on a DC-3 for a month of mop-up and rehab after the Marblecone Fire of Big Sur. We flew in helicopters all over the Santa Lucia Range and based out of Arroyo Seco for the first two weeks and then at Tassajara Monestary for the last two weeks. At the end of the work season I had the cash to make my way down from Montana to New Mexico then out to San Francisco to see the Dead for my first time since October 1974. It was fantastic to check back in and see Mickey Hart back in the mix. To see the Dead on 12/29/77 and 12/30/77 was absolute bliss. Over the years Fire on the Mountain was a high point of many a Dead concert. In recent years I've been witness to the new mega fires in the west. I've not done any fire related work since 2002 (age limits) as trail work is my real career.(29 years)Some of the bigger fires I've seen this century (as a non fire fighter) have been the Rodeo-Chediski fire of 2002, the Wallow Fire of 2010,the Horseshoe Two Fire of 2010,the Whitewater Baldy Fire of last year and the Silver Fire of this year. Fire scientists are saying these fires show more aggressive behavior then any known in recorded history. So back to the Grateful Dead, A great big happy 70th birthday to Mickey Hart. By the way the book "Fire on the Mountain" by Edward Abbey is a masterpiece of Southwestern literature. The very obscure movie based on the book with Buddy Ebsen as the grandfather is also very powerful. Takes a whole sky of water just cool it down. Monsoons extra big this summer, Hopi friends say more rain than anytime in memory.
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After a blistering Truckin'>Other One>Viola Lee, I figured the show was done, and it was time for a little Phil rap and encore. But instead, the opening notes of Scarlet emerged out of the chaos of Viola Lee (it was 12:45 am for those keeping score). I literally blurted out "Really?" I then proceeded to lose myself in 20 minutes of musical bliss. The band must of exceeded curfew since there was no Phil rap or encore. I was blessed with many great Scarlet>Fires over the years, but 2 that really stand out are 9/2/78 (Giant's Stadium) and 6/18/83 (SPAC).
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I forgot to mention I did two relief stints on fire towers when the lookout personnel were sick. Was on Signal Peak above Silver City, New Mexico for a week back in 1999 and then two nights on Escudilla Lookout above Alpine, Arizona in 2001. Was able to call in several fires to dispatch. Normal procedure is for the lookout to call in fire location by range, township, section number then down to quarter section if possible. Then the lookout names the fire after a nearby landmark, creek, mountain ect. Now and then the lookout can name the fire after a person or other animate object. We used to have a pack-mule named Scarlet on the Gila that I worked trails with for seven seasons. I sure wanted to name a fire the "Scarlet-Fire". While I was on Signal Peak I reread three classic books that some of the story takes place on fire towers. Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac and Black Sun by Edward Abbey. Gary Snyder also did fire lookout work in the early 1950s.
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The name of our Grateful Dead tribute band is: Dragons with Matches. Been around since 2000. I know the lyric is dragon with matches, singular, and since there are 7 of us it should have an 's, yet in-any-case, we love this tune and I love my band. Scarlet Fire... YES please. Long live Grateful Dead music.
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This probably sounds silly, but when I first heard this song(and I'm not super-religious),the main lyric (taken out-of-context) conjured up visions of Moses and the Burning Bush- that was on a mountain, right? Anyone else?
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one of the first times that i really listened to the barton hall fire, i had recently been blazed. i had to put my ear up to the speakers in my car and each instrument was indistinguishable from another. they're like one big machine! i could almost visualize what that musical machine of the grateful dead looked like, pumping out the most funky, exploratory tunes i'd ever heard
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One of the best parts of this sequence for me has been the transition between Scarlet & Fire. In April '77 it's very rhythmic, but weeks later, it becomes very dreamy with Donna humming along (May). Keith quit the organ he used in April and uses the piano to great effect. 77-05-21 Lakeland — first and fav.
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yes, this tune conjured the same vision for me early on. who knows, knowing RH, maybe that was intentional?
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There is fire on the mountain in Tennessee right now. Good vibes and prayers for the Smoky Mountains who are fully living up to their name right now.
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From the Park Staff: Many of you have heard that wildfires severely impacted our beautiful national park and the northern gateway communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Wears Valley last night. While information is still being gathered in the light of day, we know that tremendous destruction has occurred. Hundreds of acres within the park have burned, including areas of Chimney Tops, Mt. Le Conte, Bullhead Trail, and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. As of this morning, GSMNP officials have closed all facilities in the park due to the extensive fire activity and downed trees. GSMA operations at our Sevier County, TN, visitor center locations, our headquarters near Sugarlands, and our mail order department are also closed at this time. Thankfully, we've heard from most of our employees, all of whom are reporting their well-being. We're still waiting to hear about the status of one staff member's home. We are also saddened to report that many long-time friends of GSMA, including local businesses that support us and this park, have lost their homes and businesses. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
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Not sure anyone has ever voiced this interpretation, but I always think of this as another sly slap at Lenny Hart. I know the song came long after the notorious event and "He's Gone" was the more famous (infamous)product. To me the lyrics describe someone who lacks virtue "you say it's a living, we all got to eat", "if mercy's a business I wish it for you", "dead to the core" etc Hunter is ever the master, and interpretation is in the eye (ear) of the beholder. Just commenting on a wildfire always seemed way too simplistic.
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    phi1123
    1 week 2 days ago
    I read that Jerry used "persian" which is not technically H

    There is one miracle I wish would have been around in his time. Subutex. I think every company that produces opioids and every doctor that prescribes them should be required to also provide or produce Subutex or buprenorphine at either the same or cheaper price than other opioids. That saved my friend's life. He was the last person who you would have ever thought would get into drugs. I still remember the day I saw him clean again. He did not have to tell me he had gotten clean, he looked so much healthier and happier that I knew instantly. He said that medicine saved his life, and that he could never have made it to where he was without that medicine. I later read from a wikileaks file dump from a gov server of a certain country that they tried the treatment and were forced to stop by corruption. Their seized opioid profits had plummeted. That document also claimed that the mafias who produce the drugs, tali--- included, fund anti subutex studies and write anti subutex articles. The laws and the damage done to so many innocent people aren't enough to scare them but that little pill can. Another victory goes to SCIENCE!

  • mona
    5 months 4 weeks ago
    St Helens
    Don't know if anyone answered but the band played FOTM at Memorial Coliseum the 2nd time St Helen's erupted. I used it during chemo to remind me to drink lots of water to cool me down. ;)
  • mkav
    5 months 3 weeks ago
    FOTM
    personally, I just liked swaying to it, and loving Jerry's leads...but the rhythm "section" was SO good. I remember one concert in Richfield in early 90s that i felt like even I could have played lead to the rhythm being woven...and I don't play guitar at all.Jerry = genius, but he had some incredible "helpers", and it showed on this song, every time I've heard it.
  • mlesko73
    6 months ago
    Alternate take on Fire
    Not sure anyone has ever voiced this interpretation, but I always think of this as another sly slap at Lenny Hart. I know the song came long after the notorious event and "He's Gone" was the more famous (infamous)product. To me the lyrics describe someone who lacks virtue "you say it's a living, we all got to eat", "if mercy's a business I wish it for you", "dead to the core" etc Hunter is ever the master, and interpretation is in the eye (ear) of the beholder. Just commenting on a wildfire always seemed way too simplistic.
  • liketohike
    1 year 11 months ago
    Wildfire In the Smoky Mountains
    From the Park Staff: Many of you have heard that wildfires severely impacted our beautiful national park and the northern gateway communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Wears Valley last night. While information is still being gathered in the light of day, we know that tremendous destruction has occurred. Hundreds of acres within the park have burned, including areas of Chimney Tops, Mt. Le Conte, Bullhead Trail, and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. As of this morning, GSMNP officials have closed all facilities in the park due to the extensive fire activity and downed trees. GSMA operations at our Sevier County, TN, visitor center locations, our headquarters near Sugarlands, and our mail order department are also closed at this time. Thankfully, we've heard from most of our employees, all of whom are reporting their well-being. We're still waiting to hear about the status of one staff member's home. We are also saddened to report that many long-time friends of GSMA, including local businesses that support us and this park, have lost their homes and businesses. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.