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Trivia / The Grateful Dead

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  • Artist Existence Failure:
    • Despite the infamous keyboardist curse, only Brent Mydland is a straight example: Pigpen left the band in '72 due to failing health and died the following year, Keith Godchaux left in '79 after his drug use created problems with the band, and died in a car crash the following year, Vince Welneck died 11 years after the band broke up, and TC is still alive. Mydland died after a successful tour, devastating the band.
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    • And of course, Garcia's own essentially killed the Dead. His death also caused the cancellation of the band's 1995 fall tour (tickets for which were already on sale) and ended the sessions what would have been the band's final album.
  • Ascended Fanon: The Dick’s Picks, Road Trips, and Dave's Picks series of audience recordings.
    • The Cornell ’77 show has been a fan favourite since at least the late ’80s, but it only got an official release for its fortieth anniversary. It took so long to release officially because the actual tapes weren’t in the band’s possession until very recently. Actually, a lot of fan favourites were only officially released long after they’d already garnered legend; the band’s August 27, 1972, concert, eventually released as Sunshine Daydream in 2013, is another example.
  • Banned in China: The Dead were banned from performing in certain cities or at certain arenas, not because of the content of their music, but because venues simply couldn't handle the size of the band's travelling Deadhead fanbase. One of the sticking points for some venues was the famous "Shakedown Street" bazaar that fans would set up in the parking lot outside of Dead shows, and where t-shirts, food and drugs could easily be purchased. The Newbie Boom that stemmed from the success of their 1987 "Touch of Grey" single brought an unwanted, violent, party-animal element into their fanbase that also resulted in the band being asked to not play in some cities again. There was also an incident in the 1982, where the Dead were banned from playing at the Boston Garden because arena officials caught the band grilling lobsters on a fire escape before a show. That ban was lifted in 1991, and the band played there regularly until frontman Jerry Garcia's death in 1995
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  • Big Name Fan: Many, from individuals well known only inside the fanbase, to musicians, celebrities and politicians. Among the best known is Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Walton, who was affectionately dubbed “Grateful Red” by other Deadheads. Walton is a particularly noteworthy case of a Big Name Fan because of his intense devotion to the Dead and how he has made their music part of his daily life. He started attending shows in 1967, when he was still in high school and well before he became famous as an athlete. He has attended at least 850 concerts since then, including Dead & Company shows). He also befriended the band, let them stay at his house whenever they were in his neck of the woods and accompanied them to their 1978 concerts in Egypt. He's also written liner notes for some of their albums and often works in references to the band when he commentates on NBA games for ESPN.
  • Black Sheep Hit: “Touch of Grey”. While the song is not very different from their usual style, its success on the pop charts (thanks to heavy airplay of the music video on MTV) led to a huge number of mainstream pop fans attending their concerts; the Deadheads did not like these new fans very much.
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    • In a way, the Cornell ’77 show. It was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry five years before it had even gotten an official release, a testament to how far Keep Circulating the Tapes can go.
  • Creator Breakdown: The final act of Long Strange Trip details Jerry Garcia going through one. Brent Mydland had just died, he was overwhelmed and uncomfortable with the fandom's Creator Worship of him, the Touch Heads and the old guard Deadheads were clashing so violently the police had to get involved, and he had never learned proper ways to deal with all those problems. So he turned to heroin and junk food, rebounded with his first girlfriend (and then later dumped her), and generally let himself go. In 1995, he agreed to go to rehab, but he died of a heart attack at the facility he checked himself into.
  • Creator Couple: Keith and Donna Godcheaux.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Arguably the Trope Codifiers for rock music, as explained on the main page. The band themselves actively encouraged this practice, and it very likely has boosted their sales.
  • Missing Episode:
    • When Jerry Garcia died in 1995, the band was in the middle of recording their fifteenth studio album. The sessions had dragged on for several years, because Garcia was uninterested in working in the studio and he never recorded lead vocal tracks for any of his songs. Bob Weir and Phil Lesh tried to continue work on the record after his death, but by 1999, they had both conceded that there wasn't enough worthy material to merit a release. Among the songs that were to be included were "So Many Roads" and "Childhood's End", both of which had become live staples in the band's final years.
    • "Terrapin Station Part 1" is so titled because lyricist Robert Hunter had written a second part. However, the band never recorded it or performed it live. Hunter did ultimately record a complete version of the song, but it's anyone's guess what the Dead would've done with it had they ever gotten around to it.
  • Name's the Same: The original name was “The Warlocks,” but they changed it when they found out that a band in New York City was also using the same name. That band later changed their name too, to The Velvet Underground. (Who, incidentally, had another case of Name's the Same, since it turns out a pre-AC/DC Malcolm Young was a member of a different band also called the Velvet Underground.)
    • The Dead have put out two different self-titled albums, their 1967 debut studio album and a 1971 live album that is considered to be an important part of their discography. Fans usually refer to the first record by its official name: The Grateful Dead, as labeled on the LP itself and one of the only times that the group has ever used the definite article in their name. The second record is almost universally referred to as either Skull & Roses after the artwork, or Skull Fuck, the name that the band wanted to call the album before Warner Brothers told them to pick something they could actually put on a record store shelf.
  • Old Shame: Although the album cover is one of the most iconic logos in the history of rock music, Steal Your Face is considered the worst live album by the band. The two main criticisms were its poor sound quality, which required studio overdubs, and its emphasis on songs rather than the band’s signature improvisational jamming. It’s frequently referred to as Steal Your Money by fans, critics, and the band themselves. When Rhino Records released two box-sets containing their main studio and live albums, they opted to exclude this album and instead release the separate five-disk Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack to represent that time in the band’s history.
  • One-Hit Wonder: Technically, yes. The band has eighteen Gold records (sales of 500,000 albums), one Platinum record (sales of 1 million records) and two multi-Platinum records (sales of more than 2 million). However, they've only had one song hit the Billboard Hot 100's Top 40, "Touch of Grey", which made it to #9 in 1987. The success of "Touch of Grey" had a lot to do with its quirky music video, the band's first, which made the Dead into unlikely MTV stars. This essay on the band's official website goes in depth into what happened to the Dead scene after the song became a hit.
  • Promoted Fanboy: The "how we joined" story Donna Jean Godchaux likes to tell is that both she and husband Keith were fans of the Dead since 1970, and wholeheartedly believed they would one day play with the band. Then the two went to a Jerry Garcia Band concert, and Donna approached him during intermission saying "I have your new keyboard player. I need your phone number." Garcia obliged, and Keith started rehearsals, and the rest is history.
  • Throw It In!: Alongside improv, this is basically the entire principle guiding their live performances: they never worked from a show-to-show setlist, and had around a hundred songs that they’d play at any given time. While there were configurations of songs that almost always followed one another, there were others that simply flowed organically from what the band felt like playing at any specific time, and there are some shows where you can hear one band member attempting to lead the others into a specific track before giving up (Garcia seemed to have been particularly fond of “Wharf Rat”). 5/7/77, meanwhile, may have been the only time they played “The Wheel” coming out of “Eyes of the World”. Part of what made the Dead such an exciting live act, and a major reason so many people followed them on tour, is that just about anything could happen at one of their shows.
  • Troubled Production: The band clashed with producer Keith Olsen (Fleetwood Mac) over the production of Terrapin Station, disagreeing about Paul Buckmaster’s (Elton John) string arrangements and various other aspects of the production. They also were displeased with Olsen’s demands that they keep performing the same segments repeatedly; as Kreutzmann pointed out, “Our very identity is based on the opposite principle.” Nevertheless, Weir worked with Olsen again for his solo album Heaven Help the Fool later in 1977. Olsen’s production style may also have been a contributing factor to why their 1977 live shows are so highly regarded: the band’s playing was unusually tight at that point, probably because they’d rehearsed a lot more than usual.
  • What Could Have Been: The Dead had a tour planned for fall 1995 after Garcia got out of rehab. Tickets for the shows were already on sale when the tour was canceled when Garcia died six weeks before it was to start. The tour would have included a six night run at the Boston Garden, planned to be the final concerts ever held at the famous New England arena before its demolition. Instead, the venue had no special final concert: The last show there was a concert by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page a few months before Jerry's death.
    • Mike Gordon of Phish was offered a spot in Dead & Company when Phil Lesh decided not to participate, but he had to decline because he couldn't be in three touring bands at once (Phish and his own solo band being the other two). The spot ultimately went to former Aquarium Rescue Unit and Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge.

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