"If you tell the Truth, you don't have to remember anything"
-Mark Twain
"You realize, of course, that everything I say is horseshit." -Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, December 15, 2012


On this date in 1986, the house lights went down and the band took the stage for the first time in 5 months.  It was the band's longest hiatus since 1975 when they took 8 months off. This was a forced hiatus because of Jerry Garcia's diabetic coma. The coma was brought on by his poor diet, which mostly consisted of chili dogs and Haagen Dazs ice cream.
In July of 1986, Jerry's housekeeper Nora found him moaning on the bathroom floor (remind you of Elvis, anyone). She called an ambulance and he was taken to Marin General Hospital. Unable to correctly diagnose his problem and knowing his drug history, they believed he was having a heart problem. In attempt to revive him they shot him up with Valium, which caused him to go into cardiac arrest. Jerry died there on the table because Valium is the only drug that he was allergic too. However, he hospital was able to revive him.
Even after Jerry was stabilized, he was having difficulty getting enough fresh oxygen into his system. It was a long standing problem he had due to his sleep apnea. Doctors tried to get his then wife, Mountain Girl, to agree to a tracheotomy. Smartly she refused. She figured that Jerry would rather be dead than unable to ever sing again.
Jerry was in the coma for several days and reportedly when he awoke from the coma the first thing that he said was "I'm not Beethoven. I'm not dead yet." MG believed that he said "I'm not deaf yet" but regardless his apparent wit was somewhat there. Although he was fully coherent, the coma scrambled his brain. He knew things but he did know how to do things. So when Steve Parrish brought his guitar to the hospital, he didn't remember how to play it, which not only frustrated him but scared everyone around him. If Jerry can't play, then there is no Grateful Dead. MG enlisted Merl Saunders to come and visit him to help unscramble the musical block in his brain. Merl encouraged Jerry's musical memories and the building blocks gradually started to build as the pieces were all put together.
Jerry was released from the hospital and moved in with MG and the girls. Friends came by to spend time with him and most of them heard him talk about how relieved he was to have broke his habit. His Persian habit was broken by the coma and his perspective on the habit changed drastically. In 75, he would do it in front of friends and tell them "This is what I'm into now." By 86 he would say "the only difference between me and the junky on the street is I play in a Rock band."
Despite the fact that doctors suggested he rest longer, Jerry and the boys couldn't wait to get back on stage and you can download the proceeding show HERE and HERE. Theories on the opener varied immensely amongst the fans; "Black Peter," "Death Don't," or "Dark Star" were all thrown around as possibilities. But, when they took the stage the band raged a tongue and cheek version of "Touch." Fans rejoiced because Jerry was back.

The resounding echo of the "I will get by, I will survive," sent out a ripple joy and happiness throughout the Dead community. Jerry's connection to the song had never been so vibrant as at this moment, as "the shoe is on the hand it fits."
Throughout the first set Jerry seems to be choosing songs for their lyrical wit. "Loser's" storyline doesn't seem to be relevant to his situation but if you break down the lines, this might be the most fitting song of the evening. "Cause I'm moaning low," "Never find another honest man," "Before you let that deal go down," and in recognition of his own morality, "I can tell the queen of diamonds by the way she shines." There is a lot of feeling in the way it's sung. Jerry not only took the 5 months off to relearn guitar but also wrote two new songs that were debuted at this show. The first is "Push Comes to Shove," which features the playful line "And love you till you die." Bobby even gives a little extra emphasis to the line "the dark in between you and me." Then of course there is "Candyman," the lines had never been so potent as on this night, "Hand me my old guitar, pass the whiskey around, won't you tell everyone you meet that the Candyman is back in town."
After the emotional first set, the band decides to lighten the mood with an "Iko" opener. Bobby lights up with a rousing "LL Rain," for which the crowd keys in on Bobby singing, "It's alright cause I love you." The next song debut follows, as Jerry manages to sing all the lyrics but in no distinguishable order. With this debut of "Black Muddy," Jerry had the three songs that he would contribute to the bands next album "In the Dark." Its also ironic that one of the songs that he created after his first death is the last song that he would sing on stage.
As soon as the song ends Jerry starts teasing the next song. Looking for a vehicle that he can cut loose on, the band jumps into "Playin'." Although Jerry was the one who had his brains scrambled, Bobby is the one who has difficulty with the song lyrics on this night. The band drifts off into the oblivion of the night until Jerry ambitiously finds the beginning of "Terrapin." Frankly the early 80's were not a good time for "Terrapins." Some started slow, then got sped up, before loosing the "Whistle is screaming." The one song that I was critical of in my GD Toast post was the "Terrapin," but some of that early swagger is back igniting this "Song of sense and color."
Out of "Space," Bobby completely flubs "Truckin'." Maybe it was the slight "Miracle" tease at the beginning but straight up Bobby flubs it. A graceful "Wharf Rat" leads the way for a spacey "Playin' Reprised" before capping the set with a rocking "Good Lovin'." Jerry and the boys definitely catch a fever because he could "Play his guitar like a bat out of hell."
I remember after Jerry died, listening to the GD Hour when Gans announced that he had a track from a recent Ratdog show that he thought we'd like. My first thought was, "great I like Eternity" but then I started hearing a Jerry chord progression from "Touch of Grey." I had never thought that Bobby or Phil or anyone else would start playing Jerry songs. The pace was a bit slower than Jerry's version but I was digging Bobby singing it. I was recording the show, and after listening back I was relieved because now, "We will get by, we will survive."

I: Touch, CC Rider, Push, BIODTL, Greatest, Loser, Cassidy, Althea, Esau, Candyman, Let it Grow
II: Iko, LL Rain, Black Muddy, Playin', Terrapin, Drums, Space, Truckin', Wharf Rat, Playin', Good Lovin' E: JBG

I'd like to thank my friend Peter White or @pawhite for creating all the images in today's blog. You can follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook. I'll have one more blog before the Christmas announcement. 

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