The terrible Grateful Dead song “that just sort of happened” to Bob Weir

In live musical performances, the Grateful Dead stands out as an unparalleled force, showcasing a unique blend of raw energy and genuine connection with their audience. The essence of live music lies in the communal experience it fosters, and the Dead’s ability to deliver an unparalleled musical journey on a grand scale remains unmatched. While jazz bars may offer improvisation, the unfiltered musical impact the Grateful Dead brings to a stadium setting sets them apart.

Interestingly, the band’s popularity is centered around their legendary live shows, yet their studio albums have not achieved the same level of acclaim. It’s not that their albums fall short; rather, the Grateful Dead isn’t synonymous with chart-topping singles and albums, despite their undeniable prowess.

There was a fleeting moment when the band decided to dip their toes into the mainstream charts. The outcome, however, resulted in what many consider their weakest album – “Shakedown Street.” Die-hard Dead Heads discredited the album, viewing it as a blatant attempt to commercialize and depart from the authentic sound they cherished. These critiques weren’t mere resistance to change but astute observations, acknowledged by the band over time.

Percussionist Mickey Hart, reflecting on the album in the liner notes for “Beyond Description (1973-1989),” admitted, “We were trying to sell out… Oh, let’s make a single and get on the radio. Sure. We failed miserably once again. I mean, we could never sell out even if we tried, and we tried.”

Predictably, attempting to craft a number one single proved futile for the Grateful Dead, as commercial success was never their primary objective. Their legacy is rooted in providing musical experiences unparalleled by any other group. The inability to churn out chart-topping hits may be a testament to why their reputation remains untarnished.

The lack of a cohesive direction on “Shakedown Street” is epitomized by the track ‘France,’ a song so universally disliked that the band members themselves distance themselves from it. Bob Weir, discussing what he calls “spectacular failures of judgment,” disowns the song, stating, “I didn’t write that one – it just sort of happened. It sure as hell didn’t happen right.”

The fact that ‘France’ has never graced the stage during the Grateful Dead’s marathon live performances speaks volumes. Acknowledging their missteps, the band used the underwhelming album as a reminder of their strengths, reinforcing what makes them beloved: their ability to create musical landscapes and unforgettable experiences that resonate far beyond the confines of hit singles.

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