- Awesome Music: Have their own page.
- Archive Panic: In addition to a strong 13 studio releases, the band has hundreds of live albums – and thousands of bootlegs. They are the most thoroughly documented rock band in history.
- Base Breaker:
- The band’s discofied single version of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ “Dancin’ in the Streets”. Live performances of the song from the same era are still well loved, probably because the jamming that Deadheads love is still present then.
- Donna Jean Godchaux’s live vocals can be this as well. Her performances on their studio records from the time period are generally pretty well loved, but some listeners feel she was off-key in some of the live shows.
- Paul Buckmaster’s (Elton John, amongst others) string arrangements on Terrapin Station. They’re sometimes considered to clash with the songs themselves, and the band members themselves didn’t like them; Garcia in particular complained that the rhythms of his arrangements for the title suite clashed with the song’s rhythm: Buckmaster and producer Keith Olsen “changed it from a dotted shuffle to a marching 4/4 time”. The song was never performed in its exact studio configuration live, though the first three movements (with an extended instrumental coda) stayed in rotation until the band’s dissolution. “Terrapin Transit”, “At a Siding” (with no lyrics), and “Terrapin Flyer” were performed once (on March 18, 1977 at Winterland, San Francisco); the final segment, “Refrain”, was apparently never performed live.
- Rock critic Robert Christgau speculated that one of the main reasons the May 8, 1977 show at Cornell University is so loved is that it has no “Drums” or “Space” section. This is arguably a case of Christgau’s Bias Steamroller showing itself, as there are plenty of well-loved Dead shows that have one or both of those, but he may be correct that its lack of either of these is one reason it’s gained a cultural cachet beyond Deadheads.
- Broken Base: As could be expected given the band’s massive discography, there are disagreements about almost every aspect of their output. They rarely get as heated as a lot of other Internet arguments, but almost every release in their canon has its defenders and its detractors, and you’ll also find disagreements about which band members were best in which positions in the band, when they were at their best, and even which songs were best in which performances.
- Covered Up: A lot of listeners probably know songs like “Not Fade Away”, “Mama Tried”, “Morning Dew”, and “Turn On Your Love Light” better from the Grateful Dead’s live cover versions than they know them from the original artists (in these four cases, Buddy Holly, Merle Haggard, Bonnie Dobson, and Bobby Bland, respectively). “Morning Dew”, in a rare case of a song being Covered Up by two separate artists, was also performed by Jeff Beck on Truth (with Rod Stewart on vocals!), though it probably doesn’t help the fame of Dobson’s version that she didn’t record a studio version until 1969, by which point Beck and the Dead had both already recorded theirs. Also notable is “Me and My Uncle”, written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas and actually the song the Dead performed most often in their concerts, with 616 known performances. Phillips didn’t even remember writing it, as he had been incredibly inebriated at the time; the first commercial recording of the song was by Judy Collins, who had recorded Phillips making it up on the spot and then recorded her own performance. The Dead apparently learned it from Curly Jim Cook. Phillips would later joke that every time a royalty check for the song came in, he would regain a little of his memory of writing it.
- Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: “Comes a Time”, a gorgeous Garcia/Hunter ballad that also doubles as a Tear Jerker.
Been walkin' all mornin', went walkin' all night
I can't see much difference between the dark and light
And I feel the wind and I taste the rain
Never in my mind to cause so much pain
Comes a time when the blind man takes your hand
Says, "Don't you see?
Gotta make it somehow on the dreams you still believe
Don't give it up, you got an empty cup
That only love can fill, only love can fill, only love can fill"
- Dork Age:
- Fans generally don’t speak too highly of 1978’s disco-influenced Shakedown Street, which is a borderline case of Fanon Discontinuity. The previous year’s Terrapin Station, which also had some disco influence, is more warmly regarded, though still considered a flawed effort. Most songs from both albums are much more highly regarded in live performances, and indeed, 1977 in particular is regarded as one of the band’s golden ages in live performance, with several candidates for Best Show Ever appearing that year. This may be at least partially because Terrapin Station producer Keith Olsen insisted that they rehearse its material repeatedly until they could play it flawlessly; while they understandably chafed at this, since they had a reputation for never performing songs the same way twice, it probably also resulted in their live performances from the era being tighter than usual. 1980’s Go to Heaven is also sometimes considered part of the band’s studio Dork Age.
- Dylan & the Dead is rarely spoken of by fans of either artist; sometimes it’s even considered the worst release by either of them. Oddly, they’re considered to have had much better performances together than the versions that appear on the album, so it’s not clear why those particular recordings were selected. However, even it still has its defenders.
- Ear Worm: As innovative as their music was, it wouldn’t have had the lasting impact it had if so much of it hadn’t been so catchy. The big hits like “Touch of Grey”, “Truckin’”, “Casey Jones”, “Sugar Magnolia”, and “Friend of the Devil” are obvious contenders here, but even the extended jam pieces like “Scarlet Begonias” -> “Fire on the Mountain”, “Dark Star”, “That’s It for the Other One”, “Turn On Your Love Light”, “Not Fade Away”, and others have plenty of catchy moments.
- Their arrangement of “Big River” is somehow even more infectious than Johnny Cash’s original.
- Epic Riff: Again, a veritable goldmine of them; indeed, their epic riffs are often the main reasons their songs are ear worms. (“Terrapin Station” alone probably has about five of them.) Not just on guitar, either - bassist Phil Lesh certainly could contribute his share as well (the bass line on “Truckin’” is probably just as much an Epic Riff as the guitar is). And for that matter, some of their drum patterns are pretty much Epic Riffs too - when Hart and Kreutzmann come out of a drum solo to go into “Not Fade Away”, you’ll know exactly what song is coming up before any of the other instruments come back in.
- Face of the Band: Jerry Garcia, no matter how much he insisted that he wasn’t. In fact, after Garcia died, the remaining bandmates toured a few times as The Other Ones before changing their name to The Dead.
- The band’s first “face” was founding keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who not only acted the group’s spokesman, but was responsible for their early musical direction and sang lead on their most accessible early songs. By 1969, the band’s movement away from the blues and R&B sounds that McKernan preferred towards country and folk resulted in Garcia and Bob Weir jointly overtaking him as the band’s leaders (his growing drinking problem didn't help things either).
- Garcia began to eclipse Weir as the band's sole face around 1972, but according to the documentary The Other One, Weir believes that what really cemented it was the popularity of “Touch of Grey”. Not only did Garcia sing lead on the song, but he was also a natural on camera, was the group’s most visually distinct member and he gave the best interviews of any of the band members.
- Weir has been the face of the surviving band members since Garcia died, as he is the band’s best-known surviving lead singer (though Lesh also sang lead on a few songs) and he continues to have an active solo career.
- Fridge Brilliance: “Friend of the Devil” was introduced as a fast-paced bluegrass-influenced tune on American Beauty. By the mid-’70s, it was retooled with a much slower reggae arrangement. The first line of the chorus is, “I set out running but I take my time”; the song evolved in the exact same way.
- Ho Yay: Arguably, anytime Donna sings along with the male vocalists on a love song, since they're basically all directed towards women.
- It's Popular, Now It Sucks: The surprise success of “Touch of Grey” was a mixed blessing for the band and longtime Deadheads who were known for their peaceful, mellow hippie attitudes with nothing seriously bad happening at shows to…Maybe this video will explain it a little better. As a result, many longtime fans took out their disgust on the song itself, which was previously a well-liked concert favorite for years before the band recorded it. This has largely subsided since Jerry Garcia died, and the song now has a much better reputation, but it isn't uncommon to find older fans who do not like "Touch of Grey" or the In the Dark album.
- Mainstream Obscurity and Pop-Cultural Osmosis: If you have to name a cult rock band they are perhaps the best example, due to their fanbase even having a special nickname (“Deadheads”) and many of them religiously attending their concerts. They are also most people’s idea of hippie music. Yet, when all of that is said and done: other than “Touch of Grey”, how many songs or albums can you name by this group? That’s right, the Grateful Dead are actually more famous as an iconic hippie band, stoner band and/or concert experience than for their songs or albums.
- Most Wonderful Sound: The band's harmonies, particularly by the time of American Beauty, frequently qualify as this.
- Newbie Boom: “Touch Heads”, the fandom name for those who became fans of the band because of the success of “Touch of Grey” in the late ’80s.
- Nightmare Fuel:
- “What’s Become of the Baby” probably ruined a rather large number of LSD trips back in the day.
- "Blues For Allah," especially the second movement "Unusual Occurrences in the Desert." The dissonance continually grows throughout the piece, becoming a chaotic whirlwind (or sandstorm, as the case may be) of dizzying instrumental mayhem.
- The Scrappy: Vince Welnick, the last keyboardist often saw himself as this, especially after he was excluded from several of the post-Garcia reunion concerts. This may have been his depression manifesting itself.
- Signature Song: Almost certainly “Truckin’”, although “Box of Rain”, “Casey Jones”, and “Touch of Grey” also have strong claims. If we consider their live output separately from their studio work, “Dark Star” is probably the signature song of their live repertoire.
- Sweet Dreams Fuel: Some of the band’s folk material probably qualifies – “Attics of My Life”, for example.
- Tear Jerker: Have their own page.
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: At times, their music could get this way. “What’s Become of the Baby” and some live versions of “Feedback” (which is mostly Exactly What It Says on the Tin) are good examples.