Grateful Dead

Greatest Stories Ever Told

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. With Grateful Dead lyrics, there’s always a new and different take on what they bring up for each listener, it seems.

- David Dodd

  • I can’t resist proceeding on to complete the “Help / Slip / Frank” trilogy with this week’s post. “Franklin’s Tower” is the most memorable song from my very first Grateful Dead concert, on October 9, 1976 at the Oakland Coliseum, when the Dead opened for The Who.

  • A couple of summers ago, I was visiting New York City with my family. We were at the wonderful Natural History Museum, taking the elevator to an upper floor, and I noticed a message on the brass plate with all the buttons for floors, etc: “Help is on the way,” it said.

  • Once in a while, I like to spend a blog post considering a worthy cover tune. And what is more appropriate for Valentine’s Day week than “Not Fade Away”?

  • Early on in my career as a Deadhead, I remember getting into a conversation with a fellow Deadhead, my minister, actually, who was upset at the time with the band for not banning the bikers from the scene. Never having really been in “the scene,” I was taking the issue on from a purely idealistic, theoretical perspective, pointing about that the Grateful Dead encompass both light and dark, roses and thorns...

  • “Ship of Fools.” Haven’t we all had some time in our lives when we’ve been disappointed in the direction of our efforts? It may have been some strongly-held belief, or a church, or a cause of some kind, or even a nation that has not lived up to our expectations.

  • Steadfastly obscure both lyrically and musically, “New Potato Caboose” presents the work of Bobby Petersen and Phil Lesh, with lead vocals by Bob Weir. It fits right in with all the songs on Anthem of the Sun, with its intricate harmonies, rapid changes in tempo and meter, and other instrumental weirdness. Perfect Phil Lesh composition.

  • t’s a bouncy, bubbling song. It seems to be about one, thing, then blossoms into being about everything. It’s got lyrical motifs aplenty (flowers, nursery rhymes, gambling, shapes, colors, musical forms, precious metals, and more). This song, come to think of it, has it all.

  • There are several original songs in the Grateful Dead repertoire with a one-time-only lyricist. In the case of “Passenger,” the added quirk is thrown in of someone other than the composer singing the song.

  • I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I had been saving “China Cat Sunflower” for a special occasion. Celebrating the start of a new year seems like an appropriate occasion, so let’s look at what is probably my number one desert-island song.

Greatest Stories Ever Told