What your favorite Dead song says about you.

Pop, jazz, and classical.
April 29 2009 7:05 AM

Dead Reckoning

What your favorite Grateful Dead song says about you.

(Continued from Page 1)

"Wharf Rat": Back when you were in grad school at Cornell finishing up the coursework for your literature Ph.D., you had this great riff about how the structure of "Wharf Rat" mimicked that of Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"—an unreliable narrator relaying a tragic tale through a second, ostensibly reliable narrative voice. At this point, your buddies typically ducked out, ostensibly to pick up another sixer of Genesee.

Yearbook quote: "I got no dime, but I got time to hear his story."

Advertisement

"Truckin' ": You're a poser. Sorry, but you are.

Yearbook quote: "What a long strange trip it's been."

"Touch of Grey": The Dead's only mainstream hit. The song made the Billboard Top 10 in 1987, though you first heard it at a show in '86, shortly after Jerry returned from his diabetic coma. Today, you're a senior partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, with more than a touch of gray about the temples. But during that year between college and law school, you apprenticed at Garcia, Lesh & Weir, LLP. You recall the experience with fondness, though also with regret. A few years ago, your name was bandied about when a prestigious judgeship opened up. Knowing, however, that there were lingering questions regarding June 16-18, 1987 (the Ventura County Fairgrounds shows)—questions for which you had no good answers—you quietly withdrew your name from consideration.

Yearbook quote: "I will get by. I will survive."

"Help on the Way"/"Slip Knot"/"Franklin's Tower": For you, it's less about individual songs and more about the band's talent for transforming one song into another. You experience a wave of euphoria when "China Cat Sunflower" blossoms into "I Know You Rider." You've got a tape with a killer "Saint of Circumstance"/"Ship of Fools." You're still hunting for that great "Lazy Lightning"/"Supplication." Sadly for you, no such thing exists.

Yearbook quote: "If you plant ice, you're going to harvest wind."

"Sugar Magnolia": You favored blouses made from tapestry cloth that revealed as much back as possible. The smell of patchouli preceded you by several yards. Sometimes you and your friend Willow would weave wildflowers into bracelets and give them away to concertgoers. You were a fixture outside the late '70s shows and got into a good many of them, despite never actually purchasing a ticket. Once inside, you twirled. You twirled with abandon.

Yearbook quote: "We can discover the wonders of nature, rolling in the rushes down by the riverside."

"St. Stephen": You're the outrageously dirty young fellow—with the white-boy dreads and the benign but distant gaze—outside the Hartford show who inquired of me, "Hey, man, do you want to pour some of your beer into my beer?" Apologies again for declining, but I just wasn't getting anywhere near your cup.

Yearbook quote: "One man gathers what another man spills."

"Dark Star": You consider any Dead song that clocks in at less than 20 minutes a frivolous ditty. You believe the band was never the same after Ron "Pigpen" McKernan died in '73. You don't own a Dead T-shirt, but you own several Dead tattoos, including a terrifying Steal Your Face skull on your forearm that renders you unemployable in several service-related fields. You don't own a motorcycle operator's license, but you frequently operate motorcycles. You're familiar with the effects of PCP; you've done a little time. You can't believe what's become of the Haight. You, my friend, are the genuine article.

Yearbook quote: N/A. Didn't finish high school.