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

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 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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Russell Schwarz's picture
Joined: Jan 13 2009

A great many park Merry-Go-Rounds are installed with a tilted axis. Which makes you go "up and Down." Love this song. Rekindles the spirit of innocent (young?) love whenever I hear it,

Syracuse78's picture
Joined: Jul 15 2010
All versions of this song

All versions of this song make me want to dance, but the early boppy ones really do the trick.

I wanted this to be the first song at our wedding, but my wife vetoed me for something more traditional, like some Al Jerreau love song. I can't remember what that song was, but it's almost 25 years later and we still love each other, so ha! I got my way after all. :-)

It is interesting how some songs seemed to peak in the beginning of their run, TLEO and Here Comes Sunshine, and others hit their stride after being in the rotation for years, like Sugaree and Not Fade Away.

uponscrutiny's picture
Joined: Jan 18 2010
It sounds like

it could be as simple as children playing in the park as viewed by an adult.
Merry-go-round, sailng up and down on a see-saw and looking for a push on the swings.
He could pass his time playing with the other boys, instead chose to sit next to her on the swings.
Just a thought.

slo lettuce's picture
Joined: Jul 20 2012
elementary school.....

is where we had the closest thing to a merry run around that I know of. Take the merry go round in the above picture and move the center plate where the steel rods connect up to about 12 ft. high. and suspend this on a steel pole in the center. The wooden planks for the seats only exist at the outer edge of the ring - almost a few feet off of the ground and not connected at all to the pole in the center. Now picture how a tether ball sails up and down and around the pole when you hit it. That's just what this thing did. Like a "tether go round". It was big and would hold about 16 kids with at least 2 on the outside shoving and it would go round and round and up and down and was a favorite on the playground. (I only heard this contraption called the "puke swing") Maybe this thing is close?

TLEO often makes me recall the various times in my life when friends would fall in love and things would change. Not for the worse (and sometimes not for the better), but more specifically, things just changed. Sometimes they stayed around and sometimes they moved on for a path of their own. But there was no denying it, no getting in the way, like a diesel train, they're on a dizzy ride and your cold sober ........

mustin321's picture
Joined: Aug 12 2011
I concede

I always thought this song has an odd vibe compared to all their other songs. I love it though, fast or slow, I love every version. I love the slow versions of Friend of the Devil too. However, it did take a while to get used to.

Katapultable's picture
Joined: Oct 30 2012
Damnit, Dave! I always

Damnit, Dave! I always thought that line ''He could pass his time ’round some other line/But you know he chose his place beside her...” was the sweetest line in the entire song. I've always interpreted that line as the male character making sacrifices, like passing on job opportunities or whatever, to be with the one he loves. Am I the only one who that of it that way?

Also, I agree with nhk1231 on the arrangement. The upbeat versions are more fun; danceable, even.

uponscrutiny's picture
Joined: Jan 18 2010
Heard the news report

Wish I hadn't.

dstache's picture
Joined: Sep 10 2007

Elaborating on the sentiments of Poncho and Ajt, TLEO is one of those songs (Here Comes Sunshine is another) which were excellent right out of the gate. I'm listening to Fall '73 right now and almost every version of TLEO is a highlight featuring a superb Jerry solo (11/20 for example, listened to that the other day). I also agree that it lost something over the years, failing to retain the power it initially demonstrated. On the opposite side, to give an example, Sugaree is a song which took a while to develop. The '72 and '73 versions hardly contain a solo. The groove is there, but Jerry hadn't figured out how to solo yet, or maybe he was saving his energy for the awesome jams later in the set. By 1977, Sugaree was a monster.

Joined: Sep 2 2007
TLEO Irony

Am I the only one who caught the irony in the line, "You got to try and see a little further."

Prophetic words!

Joined: Nov 3 2010

PonchoBill is dead on! Love the versions from 73 (3.24.73 especially). And the slower versions just a snoozefest. I have often wondered why this and Friend turned into 8 minute slow songs after the hiatus, what caused that? I have never seen that mentioned in any books about the Dead.


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