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Boomer Anthems: Touch of Grey

Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1987, the Grateful Dead released “Touch of Grey,” from the album In the Dark. Peaking at #9, the song was– and remains to this day– the only Grateful Dead song to reach the Billboard Top Ten. Or even the Top 40. Or even the Top 50. (“Truckin’”— the Dead’s highest charting song prior to “Touch of Grey”— peaked at #64.)

June 19, 1987: MTV premieres the video of “Touch of Grey”— a first for the Dead. The video’s concept: life-sized marionette skeletons wearing the same clothes and playing the same instruments as the Dead musicians gradually morph into the actual performers. The video was shot in front of a live audience at California’s Laguna Seca Raceway.

June 24, 2017: The reunion band known as Dead and Company (which teams John Mayer with original Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann) plays at Citi Field in New York. During the performance, a nearby skyscraper synchronized its lights to the band’s rendition of “Touch of Grey.” That skyscraper? The Empire State Building. And no one cursed the glare. — Like Totally 80s

It must be getting early, clocks are running late
Paint-by-number morning sky looks so phony
Dawn is breaking everywhere, light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains, I don’t care ’cause it’s alright
I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

I see you’ve got your list out, say your piece and get out
Guess I get the gist of it, but it’s alright
Sorry that you feel that way, the only thing there is to say
Every silver lining’s got a touch of grey
I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

It’s a lesson to me
The Ables and the Bakers and the C’s
The ABC’s we all must face
Try to keep a little grace

It’s a lesson to me
The Deltas and the East and the Freeze
The ABC’s we all think of
And try to wean a little love

I know the rent is in arrears, the dog has not been fed in years
It’s even worse than it appears, but it’s alright
Cow is giving kerosene, kid can’t read at seventeen
The words he knows are all obscene, but it’s alright
I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

The shoe is on the hand it fits, there’s really nothing much to it
Whistle through your teeth and spit ’cause it’s alright
Oh well, a touch of grey kinda suits you anyway
And that was all I had to say and it’s alright
I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

We will get by
We will get by
We will get by
We will survive
We will get by
We will get by
We will get by
— Jerome J. Garcia / Robert C. Hunter

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • ghostsniper December 7, 2018, 7:28 PM

    Never got into that dead thing. Too many people and nobody was doing very much. Shoulda threw out about 4 or 5 people and told everybody left to start earning their pay. The doo da man was OK but just barely.

  • David Spence December 8, 2018, 7:41 AM

    The Dead were never a “singles” band and Top-40 radio and music awards are generally just salutes to mediocrity. The GD had (and still has) a devoted fan base numbering in the millions, which actually means something. Still for the life of me I cannot understand why a song as catchy as “Uncle John’s Band” never climbed higher than #69.

  • Sam L. December 8, 2018, 10:27 AM

    David, could it be that everyone’s favorite number is 69?

  • Sam L. December 8, 2018, 10:31 AM

    I’ve heard this before, but all I remember is the choruses.

  • pbird December 8, 2018, 1:34 PM

    I didn’t really like them until I was pretty well nearly old. Now I do.

  • Tom Hyland December 8, 2018, 7:24 PM

    I’m older than you guys… maybe by a couple of years even… I’m 62… however, the Grateful Dead were GREAT. In person. I’ll say it again, in person. Concerts that unraveled for 4 hours or more. I drove from Roswell up to Red Rocks to see Joni Michell because she was NEVER coming to Roswell. This was summer of 1979 when she was playing with Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius and Lyle Mays. Joni was amazing. I stayed over in Boulder for one more week because the Dead were going to play Red Rocks the next weekend. Never saw the Dead, nor Joni, until then. The Dead were beautiful. The crowd was beautiful. Roswell is a retirement town, average age 60, and Boulder is a college town, average age 20, and I lived in Boulder the next couple of years. Couldn’t do Roswell ever again after that week. The Dead was a phenomenon, OF THE TIME, and it became truly DEAD when Jerry died. I went down to Albuquerque the middle of July 2018, paid $150 to experience “Dead & Co.” only because several old high school pals cajoled me into attending. It sucked. It’s Bob Weir and six guys from China. Don’t go there. I was down in Albuquerque just a couple of days ago. I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Jerry is dead. Phish sucks. Get a job.” I gave that driver a big thumbs up.

  • Tom Hyland December 9, 2018, 2:08 PM

    The reason Gerard posted this particular Grateful Dead tune was to say he’s actually climbing out of a grave… he’s gonna make it… same reason why Jerry wrote the song. That man had capsized due to health issues and was “grateful” he had friends who loved him and would be pleased to know his attitude was onward and upward. I don’t think this particular post was intended to be a Grateful Dead critique.

  • Phil in Englewood December 9, 2018, 6:35 PM

    Tom Hyland – thanks for your comment. I was able to see the Dead at Red Rocks a few times and had the time of my life; great shows at an amazing venue. The crowd was a joy. Everybody was happy to be there and it showed. Yes, it was being there in person that made it an excellent experience. I’m a couple of years older than you; to this day I feel it was a blessing to have been there.

    “We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.”
    ― Jerry Garcia
    I guess I like licorice…

  • Tom Hyland December 10, 2018, 8:05 AM

    Hello Phil. It’s good to hear from you. I attended all together maybe 7 or 8 Dead shows. Saw them up in Minneapolis touring with Dylan back in 1982. That was my first Dylan show. Back when he could barely sing. What emits from his direction ever after is… I don’t know what it is. I was always fascinated watching the crowd at a Dead show. People in estatic trance… rapture… orgasm… almost like watching porn. I remember this circle of dancers like a Matisse grouping… about a dozen people in the throws of unbridled worship spinning directly in front of Jerry. Though he kept on noodling the guitar he was watching them as curiously as I was. Weird stuff. At the Dead & Co. show in Albuquerque there they were again! Swaying, spinning, holding up their arms and crying. No different than if you went to a tent revival Jesus-meeting outside the city limits. Essentially, I went to Grateful Dead Church… but I don’t believe. I never did. I simply enjoyed seeing the Dead in their prime. One of my high school buddies, Larry, has seen the Dead, or a resurrected variety, over 500 times now. Oh yeah…. Larry BELIEVES. I don’t believe I’m going to spend all of the money left until I die following this musical venue. That bumper sticker the other day said it all.

  • Vanderleun December 10, 2018, 8:20 AM

    Hyland is, dare I say it, Dead On in his commentary. Thanks Tom. I appreciate it.

  • Tom Hyland December 10, 2018, 8:10 PM

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