Now Playing: The Worst Songs of the Grateful Dead – “If You Ask Me Like I Know You Wont”

by | Feb 16, 2020 | 2 comments

Today’s edition of Talk from the Rock Room, may
cause a bit of a stir. Over the course of 30 years, 13 studio albums, and
countless live releases and compilations, the Grateful Dead curated an
impressive and deep collection of original compositions composed by Jerry
Garcia/Robert Hunter and other band members. Along the way, they also nurtured
and developed one of the most rabid fan bases in all of rock; one brimming with
intrepid travelers, musical jesters and Dead statisticians.

Like any band with that kind of longevity and success, there
have been some musical blunders along the way. Whether it is an error in
creative judgment or a miss in the quality control department, these revealing
moments of weakness by the band can make their fans appreciate them even more
in their fallibility. With such a depth of quality tunes and improvisational
magic at their disposal, we will allow the band these few instances of missing
their musical mark. This list is no way definitive, only a starting point to
explore the strangest and perhaps weakest corners of the Grateful Dead’s
catalog….
“FRANCE,”(SHAKEDOWN STREET, 1978): This number is
someone’s favorite song somewhere, but the banal lyrics and at-the-time
contemporary disco production (talking to you Lowell George!) give the track a
sterile MOR feel that the Dead constantly tried to avoid. Bob Weir gets to
fulfill his slick rock-star fantasies, but it’s hard to believe this is the
same band that created Live/Dead. Co-writer Mickey Hart’s enthusiastic
steel drums and the groovy instrumental fadeout are not enough to save this one
from the circular file.
“KEEP YOUR DAY JOB,”(concert performances, 1982-86): A
Hunter/Garcia song that was eventually removed from the band’s set lists at the
request and angst of their fans, “Day Job” would allow the band to flex their
rock and roll muscles if played well, but not much more. Deadheads took the
not-so-cloak-and-dagger advice of the song to heart and considered it an
unneeded buzz kill when performed live in concert. The combination of a
precarious melody previously mined on “US Blues” and below average lyrics made
this song disappear after only 50 performances.
“TIL THE MORNING COMES,” (AMERICAN BEAUTY, 1970): Nebulous
and uncharacteristically juvenile rhyming couplets are one of the issues with
the one weak track from American Beauty. What sounds like a stale Crosby
Stills and Nash reject must not have set well with the band as they performed
it only a few times in concert, probably based on the difficulty in replicating
the three-part harmonies. Taken in the context of the classic songs making
up American Beauty, the song feels out of place because of its cardboard
cutout construction that no other track on the album has. It’s not that this
song is totally horrible, but more of a reflection of the powerful and classic
songs that surround it.
“SAMBA IN THE RAIN”(concert performances, 1994-95): While it
took years for Brent Mydland’s compositions to make second-set status with the
Grateful Dead, Vince Welnick’s numbers were often featured in the band’s last two years of existence. “Samba in the
Rain,” however, was often too soaked and bloated to fly, as it seemed the
melody was not strong enough to inspire — not to mention that it seemed some
band members never bothered to properly learn the song. Welnick’s festive
on-mic asides and childish exclamations were often uncomfortable and unneeded,
contributing to the sinking feeling of the track.
“WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE,”(IN THE DARK, 1987): When
compared to other Hunter/Garcia creations from the same era, this track is a
weak facsimile of past glories that most if not all contained stronger melodic
ideas. The song had a short shelf life as it was retired from the stage after
1989, having more success as LP filler. The bland repetition of the melody and
unconvincing studio reading add up to making this number just another song.
While it seems strange to call this list definitive, what it
truly does express is how strong the Grateful Dead’s repertoire was while
developed over 30 years. Astonishingly enough, the collected songs of that era
are still paying dividends as countless numbers of former members and a
humorous amount cover bands still dip deeply into the well of Garcia/Hunter, Weir/Barlow
and other band member writes and co-writes. Their catalog speaks for itself and
we will forgive or even enjoy a few of the missteps along the way.

2 Comments

  1. Bob W.

    There are a few more that I feel are weak.

    What's Become Of The Baby – Aoxomoxoa, 1969
    no real melody and weak lyrics

    Here Comes Sunshine – Wake Of The Flood, 1973
    repetitive melody, rather juvenile sing-song sound

    Chinatown Shuffle – So Many Roads (1965-1995), 1999
    seems like a filler song that Pigpen never really gets behind

    From The Heart Of Me – Shakedown Street, 1978
    seems like just an exercise for Donna to show off her singing chops

    Picasso Moon – Built To Last, 1989
    Victim Or The Crime – Built To Last, 1989
    both songs suffer from jagged melodies and cumbersome lyrics

    Way To Go Home – So Many Roads (1965-1995), 1999
    painful to listen to Vince try to inject emotion into this song

    Reply
  2. talkfromtherockroom

    I agree with all of your additions to the list. Except maybe HCS, just because they could jam it out a bit. But the band probably felt the same way as you, as it didn't end up in the repertoire very long before disappearing! Thanks for adding your comments as always Bob!

    Reply

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