If you love the Grateful Dead, don’t bother reading this article. You already know this week’s DLC songs by heart, and you can probably enlighten us on, say, when the definitive live version of every song was played. We know how devoted Deadheads are, and we love you for it. Besides, you’ve probably downloaded all the songs already.
But if you don’t love the Dead, listen up: It wasn’t all about free-form jams and epic guitar solos. They covered a lot of musical ground, and so does our second package of Dead classics. Here we’ve got the Dead doing psychedelic garage rock, reggae, backporch country…and yep, even three-minute rock songs with hooks. If we told you that “Cold Rain and Snow” was by some bratty garage band, you’d probably believe us: Hailing from their very first album, it has that rough rock’n’roll sound…and yes, that snotty kid doing the lead vocal really is Jerry Garcia. Now take that sound and shake it up with some psychedelia and you’ve got “Doin’ That Rag,” one of the most upbeat numbers from the Dead’s kaleidoscopic Haight-Ashbury period. Ask your parents for more details on that one.
Moving up to the early '70s, “Uncle John’s Band” is one of the most iconic of all Dead songs. But don’t let that scare you away, it’s also a gorgeous folky number with the best damn harmonies the band ever did, some of Robert Hunter’s most cosmic lyrics to ponder, and a nifty acoustic riff in the midsection. This song has always rated high in the “I thought I hated the Dead, but that one’s an exception” category.
The three remaining songs come from the later stages of Dead-dom. “Fire on the Mountain” comes from 1978’s Shakedown Street, on which they did their best to have a hit single. They didn’t get one (yet), but this reggae-flavored song became a live favorite and one of the most-covered Dead songs; we’ve even seen the David Letterman band play it a few times. “Don’t Ease Me In” is a traditional folk song that the Dead played in the early days but didn’t get around to recording until 1980—by which time they’d turned it into a frisky rocker with a bit of a new-wave feel (well, it was 1980). Wrapping us up is “Hell in a Bucket,” the only song in the batch by rhythm guitarist Bob Weir and the Dead at its raunchiest. Just the thing you can use to get wired up for the band’s upcoming reunion tour.