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Boomer Anthems: Touch of Grey

Oh well, a touch of grey kinda suits you anyway

Thirty-five 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.

(What’s curious is that, despite the popularity of “Touch of Grey,” I think the song is much less optimistic than people believe. Sure, the chorus says “I will get by/ I will survive,” which is pretty hopeful. But then there’s the line, “Every silver lining’s got a touch of grey”– presumably, a twist on the expression is “Every dark cloud has a silver lining.” So, in that case, the “dark cloud” is bad, and the “silver lining” is good… but the Dead is saying that even that good thing, that “silver lining,” isn’t totally good; it has a “touch of grey”– just a touch, just a little, but enough. So it seems like they’re saying, “Everything bad has some good, but even that good isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But hey, we’ll muddle through.”)  — 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 ABCs 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

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • 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
  • John Venlet July 15, 2022, 7:34 AM

    Never was a Dead Head, and never experienced them in concert, but I did enjoy a number of their tunes. In regards to this tune, “Touch of Grey,” just reading the lyrics, without any music to bolster the mood, so to speak, the words read as a rather despondent poem.

  • Dirk July 15, 2022, 8:14 AM

    Purple Begonias has been my fav for along time, never a true dead head, Always enjoyed their stuff. While away in the mil for 8 years, my friends became stuck on the dead, actually became friends, back stage, party with at their homes or motels, kinda stuff. All they listened to.

    Was disappointed in my friends, I’d spent 8 years seeing the world, one of my biggest joys was and still is The Music of the world. Just thing we cheat ourselves out of a lot of living when we get stuck on only one band, only one car brand, only one rifle, one brand of coffee.

    Life’s about asking why, what’s over that ridge line, asking what others think.

    Life is the journey, with that being said. It’s The Gypsy Kings, music this morning.

    O yea, great morning opener GV, thank you

  • Rev.Bro. Generik Broderick July 15, 2022, 10:33 AM

    This too shall pass. Deahead to the end.

  • Desert Rat July 15, 2022, 10:53 AM

    I recall an afternoon at the Fillmore (they sometmes had afternoon concerts way back when) in SF when Jerry Garcia was on stage alone (it was early and the band’s equipment was set up but it would be another half hour before anything really started. He sat on the edge of the stage holding his guitar and letting his legs dangle. He was chatting with the small crowd and pointing to a new amp he was going to try out before things got started. The amp was about half the size of a suitcase and he had just plugged in and turned it on. He tuned for a moment then strummed a little then he turned the sound up and BLASTED a rif that had everyone in that little crowd standing with their mouths open. He laughed and unplugged, said the amp was pretty good and walked off. No showing off, just a few moments with friends. I was never a Dead Head, though I liked the band, but I have never forgotten that little event.

  • Sid V July 15, 2022, 11:44 AM

    Apologies to any dead fans here, but they are the most overrated band in human history. I hate the dead and their stupid brain-dead worshippers even more. And stench from these people at one of their shows must be unreal.

    • ghostsniper July 15, 2022, 12:50 PM

      sid needs a shot o’ leg

    • Vanderleun July 15, 2022, 3:54 PM

      Spoken by a man no longer able to outrun his own flatulence.

    • RevBroGenerik July 16, 2022, 10:49 AM

      There’s a lotta folks who disdain Jerry and the Boys. I’d wager none of ’em ever been to a show and actually experienced the whole of it. Tales I could tell…But, semi seriously, Sid, I am not stupid, nor am I brain dead and my stench is not Patchuli/Maryjane, mostly it’s coal smoke, WD40 and Hoppe’s #9.Toodeloo. This was an American band through and through and I wave my freak flag high and wide, sucks to be you, trying so unsuccessfully to piss on our parade. Apology not even considered.

  • Callmelennie July 15, 2022, 1:24 PM

    Dont be so sure about being older than the rest of us, Tommy H .. You aint older than me

    I’m not so old that I caught the Dead vibe on my own. I was turned on to the Dead by older bros … man. Actually, I really only dug two Dead songs — “Friend of The Devil” (all time great song) and “Truckin”

    Truckin was just too long and complicated for my short attention span to parody, but I managed a couple of Hall of Yankovich stanzas. These are all about Obamas days as a pothead in Hawaii

    Choomin’ .. up on Mauna Loa
    Been thinking .. you got to go down slow
    Slow down .. or off the road you’ll
    You just keep choomin’ on

    What in the world ever happened to Sweet Ray
    His head was bashed in by a lover who was gay
    A typical death involving a ball peen hammer
    All a Pres can say is aint it a shame

    Choomin’ like the Spicolli man
    Spent a little time o’er in Pakistan
    Some say, “Your grades weren’t worth a damn”
    You just dont let them know .. Oh

    • Vanderleun July 15, 2022, 3:51 PM

      I’m so old I remember Pigpen.

  • Gordon Scott July 15, 2022, 2:15 PM

    Geez, Tom, I graduated Portales High in ’78. I spent some time in Roswell and not just playing football. You, me and Demi must have crossed paths. I was even in Colorado in the summer of ’79, but I was working oil and uranium out in Craig. I never made it to Red Rocks.

    • Tom Hyland July 15, 2022, 4:54 PM

      I graduated Roswell High in ’73. If it wasn’t for drugs I probably couldn’t have survived that square and repressive town. After the Joni Mitchell show at Red Rocks I stayed with a couple of Roswell girls living in Boulder. My first visit to King Soopers grocery about gave me heart failure. So many bodacious beautiful girls… so much youth and hot vibes and life force everywhere that I asked around a couple of graphics shops and landed a position immediately. A sign shop going total screen printing so I finished up their last few painted projects. I attended the Dead show and I’ve never felt such realization ever telling me to change towns, now! There was constant music in Boulder. I saw Taj Mahal, Spirit, Springsteen, Zappa, Metheny, Zevon, Donovan and just about anyone strumming on Pearl Street Mall was good, too. I just couldn’t afford to buy anything there and hated living with roommates. So back to Nuevo Mehico I went. But not Roswell…. Ruidoso and onwards.

      • Gordon Scott July 15, 2022, 5:56 PM

        All right, you’re more my brother’s age. I did get high a couple of times in Roswell.

        Ruidoso, I’d stay at the Ponderosa Courts when I went skiing. I was back there about ten years ago, in April, which is the most dead month, like Paris in August. Everyone is gone, skiing is over, horse racing hasn’t begun.

        I have a good friend, she’s Mescalero and has some land up in Alto. Her dad needed help rounding up cattle up around Sierra Blanca during WWII. There was this German merchant marine crew interned at Fort Stanton. They were allowed a lot of freedom. Her dad asked if any of them could ride, as he needed help.

        Well of course they all said they could, because someday the war would be over and how many Germans could brag they were part of a cattle drive? They got a week of practice and then they were out riding all the little canyons and valleys to get the cows and their calves back to the ranch.

        She had a photo of all of them she donated to the Lincoln County Historical Society. The society knew all about them and could identify them all, astride their horses in a semicircle.

  • Cris July 15, 2022, 3:55 PM

    It really seems like they are enjoying themselves in this video. On the other hand, the one for ‘Hell in a Bucket’ is clearly a Weir project, with the drummers along for the ride. The rest of the band appears to be there due to contractual obligations.

  • Veeze July 15, 2022, 4:33 PM

    Q: What did one Deadhead say to the other after the weed ran out?

    A: “Man, this band really sucks.”

  • bruce kendall July 16, 2022, 6:18 AM

    Scarlet Begonias….

  • Callmelennie July 16, 2022, 6:59 AM

    Tom, if you graduated in ’73, which was 49 years ago, how can you be only 62? I graduated same year and Im 66. And I was a mid November baby, 2 weeks away from the cutoff date. Half my classmates are now 67.

    I’ve been furiously working my adding machine overtime and Im tellin ya .. IT DONT ADD UP! My guess is that you STARTED high school in 1973, at age 13. Now it adds up

    • Tom Hyland July 16, 2022, 1:15 PM

      If you read the dates attached to this thread, Gerard posted this originally in 2018. That’s when I was 62 years old. That’s when I wrote here that I’m 62. I was 13 in September of 1969 when I began my freshman year at Roswell High. Woodstock had occurred only a couple of weeks earlier. That rock ‘n roll phenomenon was all we could talk about. Teenagers make drastic decisions at that age to belong to something… to identify with a movement. To me there were only two choices… become a dope smoking hippie… or a narcotics agent. That’s the only way it looked to me. I was hellbent on becoming the former and I finally smoked some weed on my 14th birthday, December 20th, just as the last waning days of the 60’s were slipping through the hourglass. Rock on, dude.

  • Dirk July 16, 2022, 8:46 AM

    Pig Pen
    Scarlet Bagoinia’s your right.

    After reading this with. Big smile on my mug, I had a thought,

    You get out of Music, What you put into it.
    I love the rhymes, the rhythm, the word structure, the stories behind the musicians, I love music, all kinds.

    Early Traffic, is on here. Blowing thru the stacked Klipsch Cornwalls, 8 ft tall speakers, my version of the Dead’s, Wall of Speakers.

  • Bruce Garrett July 16, 2022, 11:44 AM

    In 1971 I was a student at LSU. I had a 8 track tape player that I used in my car sometime and the rest of the time it played in my dorm room off of a car battery. I was poor and only had 5 tapes. One was Workingmans Dead which I still love.
    David Duke used to stand up beside the Student Union and run his mouth and we shouted him down.
    Nobody wanted to hear his crap. I had hair down to my shirt pockets for 16 years and was NEVER interested in Liberal policies, wanted none of their crap either. It was a best time of my life

    • ghostsniper July 17, 2022, 2:46 PM

      One of the saddest sounds in the world is when the 8track changes tracks in the middle of the toon.
      For some reason I’m thinking of the Santana III tape.

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