We examine how the Grateful Dead classic “Brokedown Palace” forms a hidden but powerful song suite with “Ripple,” the preceding song on American Beauty, with guests Bob Weir, pianist Howard Wales, longtime Dead publisher Alan Trist, historian Nicholas Meriwether, and musicologist Mike Hamad, plus a search for Pigpen’s cat.
By Jesse Jarnow
“Brokedown Palace” was the second of three sets of lyrics Robert Hunter wrote during a monumental day in London in May 1970, staying at old friend Alan Trist’s flat in South Kensington, explored in depth during our “Ripple” episode. Andrew McGaan posted a beautiful meditation on the song recently.
Historian Nicholas Meriwether is one of the movers behind the Grateful Dead Studies Organization, who publish the scholarly journal Grateful Dead Studies. More information about upcoming meetings of Grateful Dead scholars.
Musicologist, artist, and journalist Mike Hamad creates beautiful visualizations of music by the Dead and others, viewable at Setlist Schematics.
Along with his work with Jerry Garcia on Hooteroll? and Side Trips, Volume One, Howard Wales has a deep solo discography that you can dig into at Bandcamp.
The Grateful Dead’s occasional songwriting pseudonym McGanahan Skjellyfetti was a reference to Kenneth Patchen’s The Memoirs of a Shy Poronographer, a joke of Pigpen’s. We are investigating whether Pigpen also had a cat of that name. Please contact us with any leads.
The Grateful Dead’s Ice Nine Publishing was named by Robert Hunter in a reference to the mystical substance in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Ice Nine’s Alan Trist explained that the I Ching hexagram used in the logo--also an idea of Hunter’s--means “gathering together changing to holding together,” which might also describe the mystical substance of Ice Nine in Cat’s Cradle.