Grateful Dead

Greatest Stories Ever Told - "They Love Each Other"

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!)

“They Love Each Other”

Maybe it’s true everywhere in the world, but the county I live in, Sonoma County, California, is a hotbed of local music. There is a plethora of bands, songwriters, studios, and venues here—ranging through all genres of music, from the all-volunteer symphony The American Philharmonic, to songwriters trying to break through to a larger audience.

A recent discovery for me was a local Petaluma band called The Incubators. No, they are not egg farmers, but their name does pay tribute to Petaluma’s historical role as egg basket to the Bay Area. And no, they’re not a Dead cover band. But they do a couple of Dead-related tunes as part of their regular repertoire, one of which is “They Love Each Other.” (The other I’ve heard is an amazing “Viola Lee Blues.”)

When Chris Chappell, the band’s male vocalist (the female vocalist is Katie Freeman—they both play guitar and write songs) heard I was the author of The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, he immediately informed me that my book was lacking in a couple of places. Most notably, he had unearthed several missing pieces in “They Love Each Other.”

Nothing an author likes more than to be informed of mistakes or lacks in one’s work—no, really! I live for that.

Chappell told me that “Katie and I pored through each version of ’73 to figure out these lyrics - we cover the tune in this fashion, complete with bridge and extra verse...”

Here are the missing verse and the lost bridge as sent to me by Chappell:

Though you're making noise,
Just can't hear your voice,
They're on a dizzy ride and you're cold sober

bridge:
Why can't you believe what I say is true,
Everything I'm saying, Lord, I heard it first from you

Heard your news report,
You know you're falling short,
Pretty soon won't trust you for the weather

And here’s a link to a video of The Incubators performing the full version at The Starry Plough in Berkeley.

Of course, now I see those words included in the Grateful Dead Lyric and Song Finder, and reproduced on dead.net as well…but I am grateful to Chappell for calling them to my attention!

“They Love Each Other” (from now on I’ll use the shorthand TLEO)--words by Robert Hunter, music by Jerry Garcia-- was played at my very first Grateful Dead concert, on October 9, 1976 at the Oakland Coliseum, when the Dead opened for The Who. The acoustics in the big outdoor space weren’t the best (some say they were atrocious, but I liked the echo!), and so I, being unfamiliar with any of the Dead’s songs at that point (I went to hear The Who...), heard the refrain as “They love each other—don’t you concede that it’s true...?” (Walked out of that show a Deadhead.)

Its debut performance by the Dead was quite a bit earlier, on February 9, 1973, at Maples Pavilion, Stanford University. This was another one of those shows where a number of songs were debuted, including “China Doll,” “Eyes of the World,” “Here Comes Sunshine,” “Loose Lucy,” “Row Jimmy,” and “Wave That Flag.” Wow! Clearly, Garcia and Hunter were on a songwriting binge. It was later recorded in the studio for the Garcia solo album Reflections. Much like Weir’s Ace “solo” album, much of Reflections was actually the Dead playing with Garcia, and TLEO is such a case. It was released in January 1976.

The song stayed in the repertoire fairly steadily, though the performance frequency trailed off in the late 80s and into the 90s. They played it for the final time on September 27, 1994, at the Boston Garden.

Lyrically there’s a lot to like about this song, as far as I’m concerned. I like the opening line, with its twisting of Merry Go Round into Merry run around. (And I am starting to be aware that merry go rounds and carousels are a motif in Hunter’s lyrics.) I like the idea that love is like a diesel train—in a couple of ways: one, you won’t know where its been, and two, you better not be there when it rolls over. Trains are, after all, one of the primary motifs of Grateful Dead lyrics. What’s that Phil Lesh quote about “cats, cards, and trains…”?

It’s a self-evident thing, that they love each other. It’s unexplainable. It’s a fine thing. There’s nothing that is lacking—nothing anyone needs to add or do. (That line: “Nothing that you need to add or do”—always loved that line!)

What is a merry run around, though? I guess I picture a playground merry go round, the kind that you run with to get going, then hop onto. “A shove in some direction...” Although, if that’s what it is, then why is it sailing up and down? Hmmm? Can someone answer me that?

The lost verse sings of a “dizzy ride”—once again, sounds like the proverbial playground merry-go-round. So, as usual with Hunter’s lyrics, there’s a certain opacity. Just when you think you’ve got that gold ring of “meaning,” it just slips away. But we try, right?

There aren’t very many straight-ahead love songs in the Grateful Dead repertoire. Usually there is something to regret, or some implied sadness or reason to be careful about love. Or it is just flat-out unreal almost to the point of parody, as in “Sugar Magnolia.” But I think this is one example. Were it not for the verse that is something of a clinker for me: “He could pass his time ’round some other line / But you know he chose this place beside her...” this would be a very sweet song. I mean, what about the girl—you think she doesn’t have her pick of the field, too? Anyway. That aside, it’s a sweet love song, and the chorus is something to sing to your beloved. And “TLEO” is something you might have engraved on the inside of your wedding bands, if you are a Deadhead couple.

Musically, this song is classic Garcia. It has a funny little off-beat thing going on, and the bouncy ascending motif is elegant, simple, and catchy. And I always loved the punchy ending.

Don’t you concede that it’s true?

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jrjanis's picture
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Joined: Jun 7 2007
My wedding song

I learned to like this song long after Jerry passed.... my era was the 80's and 90's so this song was a little slower and just not that great - for me. But recently, with all of the new old shows available I've grown to like it much more.... I even convinced my new wife, who isn't into the Dead, to have our first dance at our wedding to this tune... she likes the lyrics esp "Lord, you can see that it's true". I am truly grateful for the availability of all of the old shows as I'm developing a whole new appreciation for the songs and the band... I was 16 at my first show (MSG 10/12/83) and now nearly 30 years later I'm a wholly different person and like love the Dead all over again for wholly different reasons! :)

Now, how about a Greatest Stories Ever Told for Black Throated Wind?

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Joined: Aug 22 2007
Friend Slow

Jerry had heard a California cover band do a slow version of 'Friend" and liked it. Ughhhh!

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Joined: Aug 22 2007
If It Ain't Broke.....

The original jaunty, Raggae version is such a nice love song. Slowing it down made it sad. Almost never listen to the slow versions. In my opinion, one of Jerry's bad ideas.

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Joined: Jun 23 2007
TLEO

This is a fantastic tune, and it was the first song for my wife & I at our wedding. Love the thoughts and insights here.

marye's picture
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Joined: May 26 2007
so true

It's sort of sporadic, but I've gotten caught up in it a number of times as well, and Syracuse speaks wise words.

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Joined: Jul 15 2010
I don't think it's you.

I don't think it's you. Dead.net seems to have lots of problems. I always try to remember to copy my post, just in case the web page times out. Nothing worse than having to type it twice.

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Joined: Jan 13 2012
Sorry About Dual Posting

Problems somewhere between my PC and Dead.Net -- sorry about that.

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Joined: Jan 13 2012
I think it's a shame that it

I think it's a shame that it lost its bridge, but I don't think that it would have suited the later, slower arrangement. All the same, a nice number however played, and it's good that we have various versions of it on live CDs.

As for faster/slower versions of songs, 'Friend of the Devil' I never really liked when it was played slowly, it didn't work too well for me in that arrangement; 'Loose Lucy' and 'Sugaree' on the other hand I always preferred at a more leisurely pace. I once had a tape containing a 'Loser' from mid-1971 which was rather slower than usual, and was a real gem, but I can't remember the date of it (it also had an amazing 'The Other One', long and febrile but without a 'Me and My Uncle' in it, not sure if from the same day).

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Joined: Jan 13 2012
I think it's a shame that it

I think it's a shame that it lost its bridge, but I don't think that it would have suited the later, slower arrangement. All the same, a nice number however played, and it's good that we have various versions of it on live CDs.

As for faster/slower versions of songs, 'Friend of the Devil' I never really liked when it was played slowly, it didn't work too well for me in that arrangement; 'Loose Lucy' and 'Sugaree' on the other hand I always preferred at a more leisurely pace. I once had a tape containing a 'Loser' from mid-1971 which was rather slower than usual, and was a real gem, but I can't remember the date of it (it also had an amazing 'The Other One', long and febrile but without a 'Me and My Uncle' in it, not sure if from the same day).

Underthevolcano's picture
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Joined: Feb 6 2008
sounds

like a reggae tune to me and has that vibe but softer -i think of Marley's "no Woman, No Cry"..Anyway, regardless, great little tune.

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