I’ve noticed how posting something about the Grateful Dead on Dangerous Minds tends to bring out both very pro and very con views about the band, or rather, when you look a little bit closer, their fans.
The fans, the Deadheads themselves, it seems to me, were always the stumbling point for a lot of rock snobs who might otherwise have loved what the Dead had to offer.
I, too, was one of those snobs who turned up my nose at going to see Dead shows many a time (which I now regret) even though I loved them on record. The whole hippie thing felt terribly anachronistic to me, a PiL, Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, Nina Hagen, Residents, Psychedelic Furs-loving kid, during the postpunk era (There was also the factor that I might meet the sort of girls I wanted to meet at, say, a Siouxsie and The Banshees show, but never at a Dead show, if that makes sense). It felt even more dated in the 1990s.
Nevertheless, I’ve been going through quite a bit of a Grateful Dead phase lately, and I’ve found over the years, that this journey always comes full circle for me to their 1977 masterpiece, Terrapin Station. As great as American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead are, Terrapin Station is the one that stands out. It’s truly a remarkable album, but especially the title 16:27 long title track that takes up all of side two.
Have you ever heard it? If not, what are you waiting for? Press play.
“Terrapin Station” is one HELL of an AMAZING song suite, isn’t it? The choir and orchestration—arranged by the great Paul Buckmaster who’s worked with Elton John, Lloyd Cole and on “Space Oddity” for David Bowie—see this song depart from the folk/blues/psych of the Dead’s normal sound for something more akin to say, Yes, Moody Blues or Genesis.
But seriously, what kind of crazy fuckin’ Jerry-hater are you if you can’t dig this???
“Terrapin Station” became a staple in the band’s set list, getting over 300 plays throughout the years, but never the full thing. The most complete live version was performed on March 18, 1977 at Winterland Arena.
This live version, also at Winterland on New Year’s Eve of 1978—the night the venue closed—is a fine, delicately rendered performance, but the majestic studio recording, in my opinion, is still way better. If you happen to be new to this material, start with the clip above then move on to the live versions.