J. K. Rowling and the Sexual Revolution
"Peak Post-Conciliar"

Night of the Living Deadhead

I copied this from a Facebook post which didn't give the source, and it  was too funny not to share. I have discovered just now that it's by Asher Perlman and appeared in The New Yorker

DeadheadIn case you don't recognize it, the logo on the guy's t-shirt is the Grateful Dead's. Originally it was Phish's, but I think it's much funnier with the Dead's. In my circles Phish does not occupy the same position, either culturally or musically, as the Dead.

After laughing--LOL in fact--I'm moved to reflect on the brevity and fickleness of fame and fashion. In the late '60s and for some time afterward (till punk arrived, maybe?) nothing could have been more hip than the Grateful Dead. Now...well, the cartoon tells the story: the bald head, the unfashionable shorts, the vaguely tentative quality of the figure, suggestive of age and physical fragility, the disdain of the others (the guy vaulting over the bar is a great touch). And Jerry Garcia has been dead for almost thirty years. 

I hesitated about my title, thinking that surely that the pun has been over-used. But a quick search turned up only this instance


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

After I saw this on Facebook I drove past a father and very small child. The very small child was wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt. Of course at that age children don't really control what they wear, but the juxtaposition between that reality and the cartoon still made me laugh.

I had a college roommate who would use a 5 CD changer to play the same Dead song from 5 different bootlegs in a row. Maybe my hair metal listening is a symptom of PTSD?


I heard someone only a little older than you describe a reaction to a radio station's Grateful Dead hour that was not too far from the reaction of the people in this cartoon, or yours. Reaching frantically to change the station.

I am not now and never have been a Deadhead, btw, but I do like some of their stuff quite a lot. Mostly released before about 1972.

I could not tell you the name of even one of their songs. I am sure I must have heard them, though.

I have this persistent idea that they have something to do with Ben & Jerry's, but I know that's wrong.

I don't have an opinion of the Living Dead, but I am quite fond of Ben and Jerry's.


Stu, re coincidences on the side of the road, we were listening to a book by Michael Perry while on our way to Birmingham last week. He was talking about the Elvis phenomenon, and I realized we were in Tupelo.

Then later, he was talking about country yard art, specifically cardboard cutouts of little boys relieving themselves, and I looked at the side of the road, and there was a man ...

“Something to do with Ben & Jerry’s”

Ha! It’s very funny that you think that. The reason is probably that B&J have, or had, a flavor called Cherry Garcia.

It’s not at all surprising that you’re not aware of any of their music. They were almost never heard on ordinary pop radio and in general were not that commercially successful as recording artists. Unless you personally knew about them and liked them, or had friends who listened to them a lot, you wouldn’t have heard them. I think classic rock stations play “Truckin’” sometimes. Maybe.

"Truckin'" is the only Dead song I know anything about. And I was into a lot of classic rock in my youth.

I used to have many, many friends who were Grateful Dead fans, but it never quite stuck to me. For some reason I have always like the song Ripple, though.

The guy vaulting over the bar is quite the inspired touch.

Very good judgment on your part. Ripple is a great song.

Robert, whether Truckin really belongs in the classic rock category is debatable. I'd say the Dead in general don't. There was a conversation about that here not long ago. There's a difference between "classic rock" and "rock classic." :-)

Let us consult the oracle:

"Classic rock is a radio format that developed from the album-oriented rock (AOR) format in the early 1980s. In the United States, it comprises rock music ranging generally from the mid-1960s through the mid-1990s, primarily focusing on commercially successful blues rock and hard rock popularized in the 1970s AOR format."


The only Dead song that I know is the one that has the words "I will get by..." in the chorus. No idea when it dates from. I vaguely remember some joke about the Dead's music sucking unless you're high.

I was a devoted AOR listener until the late 70's, when I discovered punk and new wave. My interest in the former increased and in the latter correspondingly decreased until by the time 84/85 rolled around I was barely listening to AOR anymore.

The cartoon reminds me of a similar phenomenon in karaoke: the guy or gal who inevitably decides to sing "American Pie."

Correction: interest in the latter increased and former decreased.

I think that is from "Touch of Grey", Rob.
Janet - LOL!
Never really understood the entire Dead phenomenon. Figured people that smoke a lot of pot might be able to explain it to me when they are coherent. ;-)

There’s nothing especially weird or “psychedelic” about most of the Dead’s music! Not after about 1970 or so. Listen to American Beauty, the album that includes both Ripple and Truckin’. If it came out today it would be called Americana.

Yes, "I will get by" is from Touch of Grey, which I think was their only charting single. Or high-charting, anyway.

To any Dead fans reading this: did you know that Dark Star was released as a single? In 1968:

'The single, to quote Phil Lesh, "sank like a stone." Of the 1600 copies that made up the original shipment in 1968 by Warner Bros., only about 500 actually sold.'


It was on YouTube at one time, may still be. Very interesting if you know the song and its place in the jam band side of the Dead. It tended to last 20+ minutes in live performance. Not to mention the psychedelic side, in the lyrics if nothing else. "The transitive nightfall of diamonds," etc.

Okay. Lets just say I was into 60s and 70s rock and pop. But, as you point out, Grateful Dead isn't really rock or pop. Jugband music.

Jugband ?!? Now that’s nonsense—sorry. I didn’t say they weren’t rock or pop. They were definitely rock, sometimes folk-country-ish. They covered Buddy Holly and Merle Haggard, for instance, among many others. I meant they weren’t “classic rock” in the sense of what’s typically played on self-described classic rock radio stations. Maybe that sense should be capitalized: Classic Rock.

Garcia may have played in a jugband sort of group before the Dead existed. Maybe that’s where you got the idea.

Even though I enjoy old fashioned guitars plugged into old fashioned Marshalls from 1969, I’d rather put sewing needles into my ears than sit through a GD album. Yuck. I’m totally down with a 30 minute Deep Purple jam, however.

That makes me wonder if you actually have sat through a Dead album. I mean, I get not liking their music. I don't get hating it that much. With a couple of exceptions (Aoxomoxoa!) there's really not much of their music that's strikingly different from any number of other bands. Out of their 22 officially-released albums, only the first 4 fit the image of long jams and the hippie-psychedelic stuff. After 1969, that stuff was pretty much gone from their records, at least the ones I've heard, starting with two mostly acoustic albums in 1970.

I get the feeling that a lot of the reactions to the Dead are really more about their audience and druggy image than the music itself.

I can imagine a long Deep Purple jam being pretty good. They're not generally to my taste but they were really good musicians.

There is only one thing worse than the Dead. Deadheads.

The Deadheads that I know are all into the live stuff and not the studio albums so much. And they tend to like other jam-bands as well.

I think that's part of the definition of Deadhead. You aren't allowed to be one unless you've been to multiple shows, preferably demonstrating a willingness to travel a long way to do so. I don't think anyone who only knows their officially released albums qualifies.

I meant to say last night: Matt, I think your last comment is sort of a half-QED of my point that the reaction is more about the fans and the cult than the music. At least as much, anyway.

The only GD songs I know anything about are Truckin' and Casey Jones. Both of them are pleasant musically. Where they fit in with music genres, etc., I have no idea really. I can see them as being related to Americana. It also sounds a bit like skiffle.

Aside from the fact that I find the Dead boring, no one in the band was particularly good at their instrument. In a time period when people were writing new rules, they seemed to be treading water. Like Vanilla Fudge. (I know that’s a low blow)

Sure, my experience with Deadheads colors it. I blame them collectively for Phish, Dave Matthews etc.

Deep Purple and Led Zep didn’t need to stretch their songs to 30 mins, but at least they had the chops to do it!

Finally, as a guitar collector, I find Garcia’s tastes in guitars abhorrent after he abandoned Gibson and Fender.

I'm sure you're right. Any old band could certainly have held their own jamming with the Allman Brothers.

I know we are supposed to worship Duane Allman, but man, his slide guitar was sharp all over Layla. Buy a tuner…or an ear.

Tuner wouldn't necessarily help with slide.

Personally I think Layla and that whole album are over-rated. ABB's own stuff is way better.

I think I'm roughly a decade younger than Mac, and it's interesting to read this discussion. I didn't start listening to music seriously until about 1975 (I was 14) and at that time was mostly into AOR and prog. There were some hard rock tracks that made it into the Top 40 at that time, so even if that's what you listened to you were bound to hear some from time to time.

Oddly though, the AOR stations didn't play a lot of stuff by "older" bands except for warhorse tracks. Consequently I knew many of those bands only by their "hits," and my knowledge of the music that came out between, say, 1968 and 1973/74 is pretty limited. Which is fine, because in listening to it now in my dotage I find I don't like it much. ;-) I'm far happier with the by-ways of the 80's and early 90's.

Which brings up another point. I know several guys who are in their late 30s/early 40s who are very much into music and quite eclectic in their tastes. They like classic rock, which I imagine was their parents' music, and they like various things from the 90's forward, depending on their individual tastes, but to a man they seem to have completely missed the 80's, other than the commercial stuff. They know 90's "alternative" very well, but don't seem to be aware that an 80's "alternative" even existed. I find that very interesting.

I guess I wouldn't know it existed if I hadn't had a couple of single friends in the '80s who were very into music and supplied me with tapes. I was tending to give up on pop music by the mid '70s, when the artists I'd liked so much in the late '60s had declined into mediocrity. And I hated most of what I heard of the most actually popular music of the '80s. But when I did a desert island list here way back in 2007 a large proportion of the music was from the '80s.


I can think of a lot of music from the '80s that I liked a whole lot but didn't make it onto that list. The Cure's Disintegration, for instance. Some other 4AD stuff. Etc. Paul Simon's Graceland.

The '90s seemed pretty threadbare to me. I was and still am puzzled by grunge. It didn't seem new and exciting to me. It reminded me of mediocre '70s hard rock.

Shoegaze was mainly a 90s thing, but I wasn’t aware of it till much later.

I'm definitely heavy on the late 60s and early 70s when it comes to my favorite albums, with 1972 seeming to be a really great year.
Last night I watched a movie recommended to me called Jesus Revolution, which I enjoyed. I recommended back to my friend Father Stu. They are both currently on Netflix and worth watching. I've watched Father Stu twice.
Both are based on real people with I'm sure much poetic license involved by the filmmakers.

I never liked grunge much, but I think it was something of a reaction against the overproduced and polished stuff that dominated the mid-to-late 80's. Kurt Cobain made it no secret that he was influenced by the noisier 80's bands like The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. I was already familiar with that stuff when grunge hit the scene so I never really saw anything new or great about it. But I imagine that for younger people who'd only heard mainstream 80's music grunge must've sounded like something out of the blue. I have a friend who was in high school in 1991 when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came out, and says that he had never heard anything like it. He still likes a lot of 80's music, but it's mostly the standard stuff -- nothing really below the radar.

Rob- I’m 43 and I know the 80s back to front. My Dad was /is a frustrated musician, so I was exposed to more than the average kid. I discovered music via MTV in 1989 and loved the hard rock and metal of the time. I picked up the guitar just in time for good guitar playing to go out of style. My guitar playing lead me backwards to he decade when guitar playing grew by leaps and bounds. Eventually I went to music school which lead me into what the studio musicians had been doing for decades. This exposed me to the pop of the 80s. Yes, I went to seminary eventually, but I still have a music room. It’s half Les Paul’s and old style Marshalls and half pointy 80s guitars and the early midi rack gear that made the sounds of everything from Def Leppard to Janet Jackson happen in that time period. Just as Mac.

" I have a friend who was in high school in 1991 when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came out, and says that he had never heard anything like it. "

I've heard similar things. I just don't get it. Led Zeppelin. Black Sabbath. Bad Company. I mean, Nirvana doesn't sound just like those, but it's not night-and-day different, either.

"gear that made the sounds of everything from Def Leppard to Janet Jackson happen"

Alas. There was so much more interesting music being made in the '80s. It wasn't necessarily brilliant or striking in the guitar department, but in overall musical interest. Possibly relevant: I hated Van Halen, the band, though Eddie's playing was interesting.

Stu, I've heard Father Stu recommended by others. Maybe I should check it out.

Off-topic, in the realm of check-it-out: a Netflix series called Kaleidoscope. It's a heist story of the sort that critics call "stylish," but with many twists. It stars Gian-Carlo Esposito--Gus from Breaking Bad--in a much more sympathetic role. And Rufus Sewell, the always-interesting British actor who played Obergruppenfurher John Smith in The Man in the High Castle.

Sure, lots happened in the 80s. I like the roots rock that Springsteen and Melencamp made happen. I like the new breed of country guys like Steve Earle. I like the pop that used tech like Duran Duran. I like the college scene with The Replacements. I just happen to prefer hairspray and spandex.


In my experience a 43 y.o. who knows 80's music backwards and forwards is a rarity, the exception thereby proving the rule.

I couldn't stand Van Halen either. To me the guitar work was literally the only interesting thing about them. I don't recall exactly when they arrived on the scene, but in the mid-to-late 70's when I was in high school my favorite bands were probably Kansas, Yes, and Boston. Never cared much for either Zeppelin or Rush, due to not liking either lead singer's voice.

I read someone say recently, I forget where, that the surprising thing about Nirvana wasn't their music per se, but the fact that it caught on so quickly and made it into the mainstream. That makes a good deal of sense to me.

"the guitar work was literally the only interesting thing about them"

Exactly. To someone for whom rock in general had at least aspired to greater intelligence and artistic aims than commercial pop, bands like VH were sort of a betrayal. They even looked like gorillas. I'm pretty sure they appeared in the late '70s. I had long had a love-hate relationship with popular music, and bands like them and the other hard rock bands of the time really tipped the scale toward the hate side. The aspect I didn't like had been there all along but it really took over with '70s-'80s hard rock.

I didn't much care for prog when it appeared. Thought it was pretentious and over-complicated. Later on I changed my mind and now like Yes, KC, and others quite a lot.

Are you calling me strange, Rob?

Mac and I tried to see King Crimson but then the world ended in 2020 just in time to cancel the show.

I regret not going to see Nightwish.

As much as I disliked 70s and 80s hard rock, I disliked 90's rock even more. I was rather indifferent to Brit Pop -- didn't hate it but didn't care for it much either -- but the stuff that came after grunge I thought was just terrible for the most part. I pretty much ignored it all until the later 90's when I heard OK Computer which, while I didn't really like it entirely, I could at least respect. I think The Verve's Urban Hymns came out around that same time, and I liked that one too.

From about 1993 to 1998 I was listening mostly to alt country and Americana.

I don't think I heard enough '90s rock to have much of an opinion, but I certainly didn't hear much on the radio that I liked. If Britpop was mainly Oasis, it was way over-rated. The '90s were when I discovered Sinatra and the Great American Songbook--again, thanks to a friend sending me tapes, and later cds.

The 90s? The Dark Ages.

Shoegaze. Trip-hop. Slowdive. Portishead.

In the UK in terms of BritPop it was mostly the "battle" between Oasis and Blur -- I wasn't much impressed by either, or by most of the lesser lights of the movement.

Besides trip-hop and shoegaze the 90's also produced some good "indie pop" (at least that's what it would be called nowadays) -- The Sundays, Belle & Sebastian, Lush, Innocence Mission, Ocean Blue, Cranberries, etc.

I never heard Blur, as far as I know, until recently--they've put out a new album and a local radio station has been playing a single from it. It's ok....

Lush is a band I want to hear more of. I have a best-of and the tracks I like best are from their first album or two.

All three Lush LP's were just reissued -- I picked up the first two. The third one is more Brit Pop oriented and I don't care for it much. Really like the first two though. They're one of those bands that I missed at the time for whatever reason.

Apparently there was a big division in England in the 90's between the Oasis fans and the Blur fans. Wasn't so pronounced over here, as Oasis seemed to get a lot more attention.


Was that meant for Oasis and Blur, or the other stuff mentioned just prior to that? If it's the former, well, I can't take too seriously the judgments of someone who likes some of the stuff you like. :-)

If it came out between 1992-2000, 🤮🤮🤮. Whitesnake towers over Oasis. They fight less, too.

Is Radiohead considered "shoegaze", Rob?
I'm stuck in the 1960s and 1970s and more concerned with Hackney Diamonds. Octogenarian rock! :-)

No, Radiohead was never part of that scene, as far as I know.

There were (and are) lots of shoegaze bands, but the big three originators, so to speak, were Ride, My Bloody Valentine, and Slowdive (none of which really sound like one another). They all date to around 1990, give or take a couple years.

"If it came out between 1992-2000...." I hope that just means that there's a lot of music you didn't hear. If not, then your taste is worse than I realized.

Stu, if you go to YouTube and search for the three bands Rob named, you'll probably get a fairly good picture of what shoegaze is. Personally I rate MBV (and I think Rob concurs) way below the others though that seems to be a minority opinion. I think you're more likely to like Slowdive than the others. Wistful and noisy.

Well, let me save you the trouble: this is one of the defining songs of Slowdive:


There are a few MBV songs that I really like, but on the whole, no -- I don't think of them as highly as the others (while certainly granting their talent and influence).

Here is a favorite Ride song, and the first "shoegaze" song I ever remember hearing. This would have been in 1990, long before I heard that term, and possibly before it was even coined:


And here's a good example of something current, masterfully pulled off "distantly" during COVID:


Of the three tracks linked to above, the last one conforms most closely to the sort-of-textbook idea of shoegaze: a haze of loud distorted guitars and distant vocals, yet melodic. That band, by the way, Blankenberge, is Russian. The guitar player sort of looks it, doesn't he?

That Ride song doesn't even seem all that shoegaze-y to me, though I like it. Man, they were kids!

I could say the same about the Slowdive song. There are others which are closer to the textbook sound.

Yeah, at the beginning there really wasn't a "textbook sound." The common points seemed to be loud, layered guitars, soft vocals, and drums less out front and more in the background. Obviously you could apply that in a number of ways.

I read an interview with one of the guys from Ride, and he said that when they first went into the studio and tried to explain the sound they wanted the producer, or maybe the engineer, just couldn't get it. Iirc, he couldn't understand why they wanted the drums so far behind the guitars in the mix.

" I hope that just means that there's a lot of music you didn't hear."

That's what I always say to people who claim that all 80's music was bad: "If you think it's bad you're listening to the wrong stuff!"

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)