• August 15, 2013
    http://www.dead.net/features/greatest-stories-ever-told/greatest-stories-ever-told-sugar-magnoliasunshine-daydream
    Greatest Stories Ever Told - "Sugar Magnolia/Sunshine Daydream"

    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!)

    "Sugar Magnolia"

    "Sunshine Daydream"

    Did anyone besides me read the wonderful novel by Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad? There were a lot of quirky wonders in the book, but one that stands out was the quest by one of the book’s characters to find all the big pauses—moments of silence—in popular music.

    She never mentioned my favorite: the space between the end of a live performance of “Sugar Magnolia” and the commencement of “Sunshine Daydream.” It could be a simple countdown, the length of a set, or longer—as when the band waited a week between the two segments so that they could follow the concert they gave the weekend of Bill Graham’s death with the coda a week later at his to open memorial concert in Golden Gate Park. I thought that was breathtaking.

    Everybody’s favorite New Year’s eve midnight tune, “Sugar Magnolia” is mostly a lyric by Robert Hunter, with several verses noted as being Bob Weir’s contributions. The music is by Weir.

    In an interview featured on the Anthem to Beauty documentary, Weir talks about the song’s transition from vinyl to the stage, saying something along the lines of it going from a mellow sort of country-ish tune to a “balls-out rocker.”

    I just participated in the one-night-only screening of the new release of the Veneta, Oregon, concert from 1972, aptly entitled “Sunshine Daydream,” given the atmospheric and other conditions. Apparently, by the time they played the song at the concert, it was too dark to film any more, so the song itself doesn’t appear in the movie, despite the title. But I am very much looking forward to hearing it in context on the CD release coming up, with Jeffrey Norman’s fine remastering that serves the live sound of the band so well.

    “Sugar Magnolia” was released on American Beauty in November, 1970. It was first performed live on June 7 of that year, at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. It was extremely solid in the live repertoire from then on, being played a total of 596 times, with the final performance at their final concert, on July 9, 1995, at Soldier Field in Chicago, where it closed the second set. From what I can tell, that makes it the most-performed original song in their entire repertoire, and only the second most-performed overall, following “Me and My Uncle.” (And not counting Drumz.)

    The New Year’s Eve tradition of playing the song at the stroke of midnight is less than straightforward. Looking at the DeadBase X listings, it appears that it was played every year in which the band played a New Year’s Eve show from 1970 through 1980, but then in 1981 it was missing in action. It reappeared the following year, but in 1985, once again—nowhere to be found! I was at that show, and recall watching Phil Lesh react in horror (mock horror?) as Bobby launched into “Midnight Hour” at midnight, instead of “Sugar Magnolia.” From then on it was hit or miss. A no-show in 1986 or 1987, but back in place in 1988 and 1989. Gone in 1990. Back in ’91. And that was it.

    However, at the Dodd household, you can count on its being played every New Year’s Eve.

    Back in January, I started this series of posts with a piece on “I Need a Miracle,” which bears some similarity, thematically, to “Sugar Magnolia.” (Another song I place in this category is The Band’s “Cripple Creek.”)

    I’ve gotten into a couple of arguments over the years about this song. I have thought of myself as a feminist for a long time, and therefore I think maybe I have over-thought this song, trying to find a way to make it fit into my world-view. And I feel pretty justified in that. I mean, Hunter is no fool, that’s for certain, and he makes it pretty clear that this idealized Sugar Magnolia girl / woman is “just a daydream.” In other words, as I’ve always read the song, he pokes fun at the whole sexist litany of a woman who will coddle her man through everything. But…is that really how it is sung? I think maybe not.

    As always, when you’re dancing up a storm, these considerations are irrelevant. I have more than once been in thrall to a “Sugar Magnolia” of my own, and frankly, we always just grinned our fool heads off at each other during this song—no hard feelings! And when that mirrorball got cranking in Winterland during the song, all bets were off as far as rational thinking went anyway.

    Still, I’d be interested in hearing thoughts about the song along those lines. Anyone ever get into one of those arguments or discussions about the misogynist hippie culture, as evidenced by songs like “Sugar Magnolia”?

    This song is another one of those that contributes to the ongoing motif, running through many songs, of horticultural references. The magnolia is a family of trees and shrubs, particularly associated with the South in the USA, but you can find them all over. And then there are the rushes—often tufted marsh plants. You could stretch the motif to include violets, since she does come skimming through rays colored like that flower (which came first, the color or the flower?). And, of course, she is blooming like a red rose. So that’s four plants in one song—possibly a record of some kind. Oh wait! I missed the bluebell: five plants. And pines! Six! And willows! Seven! Possibly eight, if the tall trees are something other than pines, willows, or magnolias.

    When I wrote the piece about “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away” a few weeks ago, I thought maybe that was the only song about cars. However, there is a car reference in “Sugar Magnolia,” too—the Willys to which she is compared for her capacity to jump. Now, this is one of Weir’s verses, and in the Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, I quote Phil Lesh’s autobiography, Searching for the Sound:

    The tension between Weir and Hunter finally came to a head backstage at the Capitol Theater when, after an argument, probably about Bob’s addition of a line to ‘Sugar Magnolia’—‘[she] jumps like a Willys in four-wheel drive’—Hunter turned all responsibility for Bob’s lyrics over to Barlow, with the words, ‘Take him, he’s yours.’

    But in a way, it’s nice to have that somewhat antiquated car analogy there in the song, and I actually would’ve thought it sounded like a Hunter line, I have to admit. I saw a Willys on the street just the other day in the town where I live, and got to have a fun conversation about it with my son.

    So: feminism, cars, plants, rock and roll…your turn to talk! Or maybe someone has a great story about a particularly insane New Year’s Eve. I’m all ears….

    361326
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

9 years 8 months

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!)

"Sugar Magnolia"

"Sunshine Daydream"

Did anyone besides me read the wonderful novel by Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad? There were a lot of quirky wonders in the book, but one that stands out was the quest by one of the book’s characters to find all the big pauses—moments of silence—in popular music.

She never mentioned my favorite: the space between the end of a live performance of “Sugar Magnolia” and the commencement of “Sunshine Daydream.” It could be a simple countdown, the length of a set, or longer—as when the band waited a week between the two segments so that they could follow the concert they gave the weekend of Bill Graham’s death with the coda a week later at his to open memorial concert in Golden Gate Park. I thought that was breathtaking.

Everybody’s favorite New Year’s eve midnight tune, “Sugar Magnolia” is mostly a lyric by Robert Hunter, with several verses noted as being Bob Weir’s contributions. The music is by Weir.

In an interview featured on the Anthem to Beauty documentary, Weir talks about the song’s transition from vinyl to the stage, saying something along the lines of it going from a mellow sort of country-ish tune to a “balls-out rocker.”

I just participated in the one-night-only screening of the new release of the Veneta, Oregon, concert from 1972, aptly entitled “Sunshine Daydream,” given the atmospheric and other conditions. Apparently, by the time they played the song at the concert, it was too dark to film any more, so the song itself doesn’t appear in the movie, despite the title. But I am very much looking forward to hearing it in context on the CD release coming up, with Jeffrey Norman’s fine remastering that serves the live sound of the band so well.

“Sugar Magnolia” was released on American Beauty in November, 1970. It was first performed live on June 7 of that year, at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. It was extremely solid in the live repertoire from then on, being played a total of 596 times, with the final performance at their final concert, on July 9, 1995, at Soldier Field in Chicago, where it closed the second set. From what I can tell, that makes it the most-performed original song in their entire repertoire, and only the second most-performed overall, following “Me and My Uncle.” (And not counting Drumz.)

The New Year’s Eve tradition of playing the song at the stroke of midnight is less than straightforward. Looking at the DeadBase X listings, it appears that it was played every year in which the band played a New Year’s Eve show from 1970 through 1980, but then in 1981 it was missing in action. It reappeared the following year, but in 1985, once again—nowhere to be found! I was at that show, and recall watching Phil Lesh react in horror (mock horror?) as Bobby launched into “Midnight Hour” at midnight, instead of “Sugar Magnolia.” From then on it was hit or miss. A no-show in 1986 or 1987, but back in place in 1988 and 1989. Gone in 1990. Back in ’91. And that was it.

However, at the Dodd household, you can count on its being played every New Year’s Eve.

Back in January, I started this series of posts with a piece on “I Need a Miracle,” which bears some similarity, thematically, to “Sugar Magnolia.” (Another song I place in this category is The Band’s “Cripple Creek.”)

I’ve gotten into a couple of arguments over the years about this song. I have thought of myself as a feminist for a long time, and therefore I think maybe I have over-thought this song, trying to find a way to make it fit into my world-view. And I feel pretty justified in that. I mean, Hunter is no fool, that’s for certain, and he makes it pretty clear that this idealized Sugar Magnolia girl / woman is “just a daydream.” In other words, as I’ve always read the song, he pokes fun at the whole sexist litany of a woman who will coddle her man through everything. But…is that really how it is sung? I think maybe not.

As always, when you’re dancing up a storm, these considerations are irrelevant. I have more than once been in thrall to a “Sugar Magnolia” of my own, and frankly, we always just grinned our fool heads off at each other during this song—no hard feelings! And when that mirrorball got cranking in Winterland during the song, all bets were off as far as rational thinking went anyway.

Still, I’d be interested in hearing thoughts about the song along those lines. Anyone ever get into one of those arguments or discussions about the misogynist hippie culture, as evidenced by songs like “Sugar Magnolia”?

This song is another one of those that contributes to the ongoing motif, running through many songs, of horticultural references. The magnolia is a family of trees and shrubs, particularly associated with the South in the USA, but you can find them all over. And then there are the rushes—often tufted marsh plants. You could stretch the motif to include violets, since she does come skimming through rays colored like that flower (which came first, the color or the flower?). And, of course, she is blooming like a red rose. So that’s four plants in one song—possibly a record of some kind. Oh wait! I missed the bluebell: five plants. And pines! Six! And willows! Seven! Possibly eight, if the tall trees are something other than pines, willows, or magnolias.

When I wrote the piece about “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away” a few weeks ago, I thought maybe that was the only song about cars. However, there is a car reference in “Sugar Magnolia,” too—the Willys to which she is compared for her capacity to jump. Now, this is one of Weir’s verses, and in the Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, I quote Phil Lesh’s autobiography, Searching for the Sound:

The tension between Weir and Hunter finally came to a head backstage at the Capitol Theater when, after an argument, probably about Bob’s addition of a line to ‘Sugar Magnolia’—‘[she] jumps like a Willys in four-wheel drive’—Hunter turned all responsibility for Bob’s lyrics over to Barlow, with the words, ‘Take him, he’s yours.’

But in a way, it’s nice to have that somewhat antiquated car analogy there in the song, and I actually would’ve thought it sounded like a Hunter line, I have to admit. I saw a Willys on the street just the other day in the town where I live, and got to have a fun conversation about it with my son.

So: feminism, cars, plants, rock and roll…your turn to talk! Or maybe someone has a great story about a particularly insane New Year’s Eve. I’m all ears….

Custom Sidebar

Listen on Spotify

Display on homepage featured list
Off
Custom Teaser

Did anyone besides me read the wonderful novel by Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad? There were a lot of quirky wonders in the book, but one that stands out was the quest by one of the book’s characters to find all the big pauses—moments of silence—in popular music.

dead comment

user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

7 years
Permalink

Honestly, I've never perceived any misogyny in the lyrics of Sugar Mag. As usual, another great column, David. I've enjoyed your Annotated Lyrics book for years.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

10 years 2 months
Permalink

I always thought sunshine daydream had to do with orange sunshine. .
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

5 years 4 months
Permalink

In the late 70's/early 80's I owned/operated a small transport company hauling forest products all throughout Cascadia. All of my trucks were named for a GD song (exception: NRPS "Lochinvar") "Sugar Magnolia" was a 72 cherry-red GMC General truck-tractor with sleeper and deeeeeeeeeeeeluxe sound system. A custom windscreen on the front of the hood proudly proclaimed the truck's name for all to see. SM has always been one of my favourites. Although long aware of the very rare extended version with Jerry's gorgeous pedal steel solo at the conclusion, it wasn't until last January that I actually heard it thanks to a Youtube posting. Currently it is this version that's my favourite as opposed to many stunning live versions. New Year's wouldn't be New Year's without SM blasting from the sound system
user picture

Member for

8 years 1 month
Permalink

Sugar Magnolia/Sunshine Daydream is certainly one of the most reliably satisfying rock-the-house numbers in the repertoire. I'm very surprised to learn there were *any* NYE shows that didn't feature this tune! I never detected “misogyny” in the lyrics. They strike me as pre-feminist in a way, and maybe a bit juvenile, but I don’t hear anything outright negative towards women (as a man, perhaps I have a blind spot...I wonder how women feel about this?) The spirit seems to be one of celebration and gratitude towards a trustworthy female companion. This is a song about a youthful, nature-loving dream girl--sure, she is sexual and she is idealized, but what’s so bad about that? Possibly some theory of feminism intellectual types could construct a counter argument, but I think it would a stretch. The lyrics strike me as having a very strong echo (intentional??) of this number from The Band, which (I think) was released a bit before SM: Up On Cripple Creek Up on Cripple Creek she sends me If I spring a leak she mends me I don't have to speak, she defends me A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one btw, a lyric that also strikes me as “pre-feminist” and comes closer to being misogynist is “I know you rider”, as the term “rider” in that context means something akin to “my chick who f*cks me”. And some of Pigpens’ onstage rambles about women and sex were blatantly objectifying and beyond crude...
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

7 years 9 months
Permalink

In Stephen Yerkey- Cadillacs Of That Color I count eigth plants (if you take all salvias), seven birds and many cadillacs. Not a Dead Song but great Story too. I like GSET a lot!
user picture

Member for

11 years 4 months
Permalink

"We can share the women, we can share the wine..." Now, my wife HATES the Dead anyway, alas. But when she hears lines like that it only confirms here belief that the scene was nothing but another example of women being put in their place or even abused by men. I've tried, perhpaps halfheartedly, to point out that Jack Straw is a character song, not actually Hunter's point of view...after all, Hunter never killed someone and put them in a shallow grave either. Though those opening lines do have the universal ring to them that we Deadheads like to claim for more, uh, edifying lines. I supposed if we don't like the ethos of a particular line we can just give it to the character in the song - very convenient lol. What I really want is to hear MaryE's view, or some of the other women in this site. Right now we're like one of those CNN panels of eight old white guys talking about women's reproductive rights or something... Favorite "pause" beween SM and SSDD coda? Easy - the one on 11/30/77 (filler on DP10). I can still remember the first time I heard that - I was laying on my floor, having listened to the whole show, in that half-asleep hypnotized Dead trance, when SM ended. In my state of mind I thought it was over, then WHAM, a perfectly timed jump into SSDD, scared the shit out of me, in a good way. I especially love how you can clearly hear a woman scream in fright when the band jumps back in (huh, more misogyny, hehehe). Another argument for filler by the way :)
user picture

Member for

11 years 6 months
Permalink

not that anyone should take my opinion as gospel, but a) I *really* like the noted affinity with "Up on Cripple Creek," which I feel like a doofus not to have noticed long ago, and b) "She's got everything delightful/she's got everything I need/takes the wheel when I'm seeing double/pays my ticket when I speed" is one of my favorite lyrics. (Now, do I think a relationship based solely on this is destined to prosper? Uh, no. But it says something cool very neatly.) WRT "we can share the women," in some previous thread I noted a conversation with Hunter in which he noted the strange tendency of people to take that line as a recommendation rather than a beginning of a tragic tale... (Kinda like that thing of the crowd roaring every time Jerry sang "When it seems like this night will last forever..." thereby indicating a complete obliviousness to what was going on in the song...). But the songs take on a life of their own.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

8 years 11 months
Permalink

like gr8fldanielle, I associate it more with orange sunshine (wink wink, nudge nudge) than "got me a hot babe, y'all". sugar magnolia blossom's bloomin' head's all empty and I don't care (heheheheh...far out, man) we can discover the wonders of nature, rollin' in the rushes down by the riverside ("wow, did you ever REALLY look at water striders?") she comes skimmin' through rays of violet (wow, the colors, man) she can wade in a drop of dew (I know exactly what he means) I take me out and I wander 'round (enjoying the world through orange rose colored glasses) Sunshine Daydream: an ode to a certain chemical and its effects, to be sure. now Pigpen's raps could get misogynistic (legs turning red, blah blah) (squeal like a Pig!)
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

8 years 11 months
Permalink

I went to Yakima WA on a business trip this week. Talking with a couple co-workers who commented on "Blurred Lines", a "pop" song that is current. I have never heard it. One guy said it was singing about rape, the other said it was a catchy song that got repeated play on a mix CD during his recent family road trip. I doubt even Pigpen couldn't have thought up this treat: "One thing I ask of you Let me be the one you back that ass to Go, from Malibu, to Paris, boo Yeah, I had a bitch, but she ain't bad as you So hit me up when you passing through I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two Swag on, even when you dress casual I mean it's almost unbearable Then, honey you're not there when I'm With my foresight bitch you pay me by Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you He don't smack that ass and pull your hair like that" Ah, free speech. Of course, back in the early 70s the Rolling Stones gave us "Brown Sugar" and "Starf*cker", and before that, "Stray Cat Blues". Later, "Some Girls" came about... I dropped the f bomb one time at work and caught complete grief. Put it in a "pop" song and you make a million dollars and are heralded as an "artist" (see: Macklemore, cover of current Rolling Stone; Cee-Lo Green's huge hit, which he sang with the FREAKIN' MUPPETS.) I do know mf appears in Wharf Rat. But the GD never promised any hippie chick a destroyed backside.
user picture

Member for

7 years 4 months
Permalink

Thanks Mary, awesome post. I always liked that line a lot too but it always scared me a little too...whatever is making him see double, probably isnt good...but its sung so happily that it sounds innocent. I know its just basically a metaphor for a daydream girl...but ive been there too (maybe not with a dream girl but a buddy or someone else) and looking back on it is a bittersweet feeling. Good to know someone was there to help, bad to know I needed help. We can share the women...I had a friend that first believed the line was "we can the women, we can share but why?" When several people convinced him that he was wrong, he was actually a little upset..questing why the character would want to share. Regardless of the songs context, it is an odd way to start out a song. But Im not easily offended and have never put too much thought into either one of these songs. Im also not a woman...but If a woman wants to be with a guy thats seeing double all the time...thats up to her, right? Or be shared... Ladies, you can share me if you want. Just kidding.
user picture

Member for

9 years 6 months
Permalink

in fact it's been my one of my all time favorites for since my first show in 91. I giggle over the "head's all empty" lyric since it's my ring tone and people tend to stop for a moment if they hear the actual words. As a super busy mom in my mid-40's my head has been known to go completely blank at the worst times so it's completely appropriate. My husband and I met at Shoreline in '93 and got married in Capitola (next to Santa Cruz) in '94. I really wanted magnolias in our wedding but had to settle for the pine trees of the state park and roses... with tie dye of course. Our license plate on the minivan says "Sugar Mag loves Cosmic Charlie". She may be a daydream but she has been a hell of a lot of fun to dance to over the years and I look for her every year at the Civic when the clock strikes 12.
user picture

Member for

6 years 4 months
Permalink

I was fortunate enough to go with my son and spend some time with my parents in central Illinois a short time ago. We were sitting on the front porch early on a Sunday morning, drinking coffee and talking about the old neighborhood. Directly across the street used to exist the most magnificent saucer magnolia tree (google "saucer magnolia" if you've never seen one) I've ever had the privilege to experience in my entire life. It was picture perfect; 20' tall; beautifully round and every spring it would blossom out in a full profusion of the most incredible, huge, fragrant, soft pink and white flower petals that would eventually fall to the ground and blanket her entire front yard for a couple of weeks before turning brown. The lady who lived there used to let me and my brother come over and play in them when we were children. The smell and sight of that tree was nothing short of incredible....so much so that I've never forgotten it. (Every time I hear this song I automatically think of that tree). She eventually passed away and the house was sold. Then a dipshit bought the place, moved in and cut down that one-in-a-million-tree because he "didn't like raking the petals in the spring" :(((( Cue "Loser" I've never seen this song as misogynistic either, mostly because I can't see Bobby as being that way. Just a song that he sings. Love it though. Upbeat and happy :)))) The subject title is what a friend and I used to sing a loooong time ago when we worked 3rd shift at a fast food joint and our supervisor, who was a great looking gal, told us on our first night that we could get fired for two reasons: 1. eating too much of the inventory and 2. bringing in piss-poor weed to smoke...she always had killer bud which, ironically enough, made it really difficult not to eat too much of the inventory. :)))) (God I loved that job!)
user picture

Member for

6 years 4 months
Permalink

love your post and LOVE that van!!!!!
user picture

Member for

8 years 11 months
Permalink

This was a pretty cranking Sugar Mag. but Bob started blowing minds with his aborigine dream rap during the SSDD coda. I wasn't there but I can imagine more than a few heads walking out of the show with their minds a little weirded out! I always loved this song when the band really got in the groove and jammed with it for a few minutes. There was that certain space they got in that I always loved and caught the dance energy like riding a wave.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

5 years 5 months
Permalink

This is a Head Over Heels in Unrequited Love Song This Sugar Magnolia has totally captured the heart of This Lover Boy who can't Sleep at night with his head Swimming over the Delight of Rolling in the Rushes with Her. This Song is an Ode to the Power of a Woman over a Man. Its what makes the World go Round. This Guy may Think she Coddles him and He surely Wants to be Coddled... ( and She may likely Love him and Coddle him Some Day -but make no mistake- Sugar Magnolia is as Liberated as Every Girl Should Be) ...but She's just that proverbial "Gold Ring" that can never quite be attained. As Billy Joe Shaver sings in his song " The Black Rose" "She's Built for Speed with all the Tools you Need to Make a New Fool Every Day" -Yup- I was in Love with a Sugar Magnolia once. I couldn't understand why everyone at her job called her "Bitch" Love is so Blind... it "Covers the Multitude of Sins" Then she grew Tired of me and I Learned the Hard Way. I Love All the Sugar Magnolias. They are the Most Wonderful of all the Wonders of Nature! They get me Twitterpated!! "A Breeze in the Pines and the Sun and Bright Moonlight" What a Great Line. The Breeze and the Sunlight and the Moonlight Always with You Always Beyond You ...at the Same Time! Ain't it Wonderful!!! "Yes Indeed"
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 3 months
Permalink

I believe the line as composed and sung is: - A breeze in the pines in the summer night moonlight - which is better singing poetry than "...and the sun and bright moonlight," as the lyrics page linked here has it.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

5 years 5 months
Permalink

MarkI believe you are correct. Hunter's "Box of Rain" and David Dodd's "Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics" state it the way you did. "Summer Night Moonlight" I always heard it the other way; but this is much better I think too. Its also very interesting that Bob Weir wrote this phrase. Its a truly beautiful expression.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 1 month
Permalink

When "Sugar Magnolia" made its debut in the summer of 1970 at Fillmore West, the song was missing its "Sunshine Daydream" coda. This June debut sounded very shaky and tentative. Not a very auspicious start for this song. However, the August F.W. versions were a bit better. But obviously something was really missing with the song.... By the time September 1970 rolled around, "Sugar Magnolia" grew its coda. "Sunshine Daydream" was first performed at Fillmore East on September 17th. Prior to the New York City engagement, the Dead had been at Wally Heiders in San Francisco, recording their classic 'AMERICAN BEAUTY' LP. Although I've never heard how "Sunshine Dayream" was written, I have always suspected that it was worked out live in the studio, perhaps as a jam. "Sugar Magnolia" on its own just sounded incomplete. A few years ago I asked Bob Weir regarding my theory, but unfortunately he said he did not remember. If I ever meet up with Robert Hunter, I'll ask him the question.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

5 years 5 months
Permalink

Cryptical70...How Cool to be able to ask Bob Weir about a song.How Funny that he didn't remember much! On the Anthem to Beauty Documentary Weir spends a good deal of time discussing the development of Sugar Magnolia/ Sunshine Daydream. Your suspicions are correct! Sunshine Daydream was written by Hunter on the spot in the studio. He handed Bob the page and Bob immediately sang it. The documentary also scans-with no explanations-a hand written page of Sugar Magnolia Lyrics which never made it onto the song
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

I owned two different Willy's Overland station wagons. The 1948 was dark green, original four banger motor. Then I owned a 1950 jeep wagon with a Chevy six cylinder dropped in. Neal Cassady drives a Willy's station wagon in the book "Big Sur" by Jack Kerouac. I used to think Sugar Magnolia was about Weir's girlfriend at the time, Frankie. Not so sure now. Was at the Fillmore East September 17, 1970. Now that's a four night run for a box-set. Acoustic Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, electric set from the Dead to cap the night. It was called "An Evening with the Grateful Dead".
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

5 years
Permalink

There's a section of Gloucester on the north shore of Boston called Magnolia. One of the large summer "cottages" in town was rented on occasion, and according to a former owner it was rented for several months by the Grateful Dead one year when they were playing some east coast venues in the late-60s, possibly the summer of Woodstock. It would be interesting to confirm that. The house faces west, and has the most amazing sunsets imaginable, all different colors, over a cove and crescent beach. Magnolias line the street in town a few blocks away and bloom in the spring. At the time they rented it, there may have still been a massive set of willows on the property, and adjacent to it. In fact, the property has always been called Willowbank. As a writer myself, I know that writing as a group endeavor would have elements that create an amalgam of the contributors that has nothing to do with the experience of any one of them. This song appears to be a true example of that. But it may have been inspired by their experience at Willowbank in Magnolia that summer in the late-60s.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

4 years 2 months
Permalink

I think the song is just about the love and appreciation of nature and all the ways it infuses us with wonderment, restores us, and reconnects us -- and promises to do so in the future. It's a personal experience that doesn't require a lover. This came to me as I sang this song on a beautiful spring day on an unhurried walk through the Appalachians.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

3 years 6 months
Permalink

Was just reminded of this post and the Bill Graham memorial concerts. It would be pretty awesome if they did something similar for the Fare Thee Well shows...
user picture

Member for

4 years 4 months
Permalink

This is the song that made me a Dead Head, specifically, Rockin' The Rhein (4/24/72). There is still no more perfect version in my mind. Here's what I like: * The opening guitar hook - goes on almost a full minute. Unusual. Makes for a nice hypnotic groove. * The backing vocals are top notch (compare to other E72 renditions, except for the May 4th version, which had supplementary vocals added during production, as it was to be used for the original Europe '72 LP). So yeah, the backing vocals are top notch. * Billy's drum fill is not the popular rat-a-tat rat-a-tat on the snare, but rather, the snare-tom-tom decrescendo that goes something like rat-a-tatta-tat dum-dum dum-dum-da, as Billy rolls down the toms. * The "groove" section after Billy's drum fill really catches the spirit of the song, as the main hook is repeated for a few bars, Bobby's Gibson in full bloom, Jerry's Alligator waits a bar or two and then... * Jerry's playing. Soloing - melodic and timely; not too fast, not too slow. No longer soaked in wah-wah polish, it's just exactly perfect (for the wah-wah washing, he turns it on during Sunshine Daydream, so you WILL get some!) His fills and counterpoint to the main riff are nice too. * Keith's piano - solid throughout like you've never heard him - just check him out supporting the "breeze in the pines" verse - playing like he's auditioning for the part! * Sunshine Daydream - Bobby singing it solo is perfect. No Donna. She didn't join in on Sunshine Daydream until after the Europe '72 tour. That is okay with me. I enjoy Donna on a lot, but this is one I prefer without her. * Zehn minuten Nuff Powser!
27 comments
sort by
Recent
Reset
Items displayed
  • KeithFan2112
    10 months 1 week ago
    Sugar Magnolia - Fisher of Men
    This is the song that made me a Dead Head, specifically, Rockin' The Rhein (4/24/72). There is still no more perfect version in my mind. Here's what I like: * The opening guitar hook - goes on almost a full minute. Unusual. Makes for a nice hypnotic groove. * The backing vocals are top notch (compare to other E72 renditions, except for the May 4th version, which had supplementary vocals added during production, as it was to be used for the original Europe '72 LP). So yeah, the backing vocals are top notch. * Billy's drum fill is not the popular rat-a-tat rat-a-tat on the snare, but rather, the snare-tom-tom decrescendo that goes something like rat-a-tatta-tat dum-dum dum-dum-da, as Billy rolls down the toms. * The "groove" section after Billy's drum fill really catches the spirit of the song, as the main hook is repeated for a few bars, Bobby's Gibson in full bloom, Jerry's Alligator waits a bar or two and then... * Jerry's playing. Soloing - melodic and timely; not too fast, not too slow. No longer soaked in wah-wah polish, it's just exactly perfect (for the wah-wah washing, he turns it on during Sunshine Daydream, so you WILL get some!) His fills and counterpoint to the main riff are nice too. * Keith's piano - solid throughout like you've never heard him - just check him out supporting the "breeze in the pines" verse - playing like he's auditioning for the part! * Sunshine Daydream - Bobby singing it solo is perfect. No Donna. She didn't join in on Sunshine Daydream until after the Europe '72 tour. That is okay with me. I enjoy Donna on a lot, but this is one I prefer without her. * Zehn minuten Nuff Powser!
  • Default Avatar
    IdesOfMarch
    3 years 6 months ago
    Fare Thee Well shows
    Was just reminded of this post and the Bill Graham memorial concerts. It would be pretty awesome if they did something similar for the Fare Thee Well shows...
  • A.Cajun.Head
    4 years 2 months ago
    She can dance a Cajun...
    rythm