This is it, Deadheads: the vaults have opened. Many months ago, we promised that we’d be unveiling some Grateful Dead DLC and this week we deliver with a full half-dozen tracks’ worth. And these aren’t just any Dead songs, but six of the most iconic ones there are.
If you’re not a Deadhead, we recommend starting with “I Need a Miracle,” one of their most straightforward rock’n’roll songs—unless, of course, you want to jump in the deep end and get fully psychedelicized with “Franklin’s Tower” or “China Cat Sunflower.” But all six songs will give you a workout with some off-kilter drum parts—after all, they were originally played by two drummers. Not to mention the equally idiosyncratic guitar lines—after all, they were originally played by Jerry Garcia.
“China Cat Sunflower” is the earliest song of the lot, and probably the trippiest as well; bringing Robert Hunter’s free-associative lyrics to the fore. It hails from the landmark 1969 album “Aoxomoxoa,” for which the Dead got their hands on one of the first 16-track recording machines ever invented, and proceeded to push their studio imagination to the fullest. One of the most-performed Dead songs, “China Cat” was one of the album’s more straightforward tracks.
Our next three tracks come from the back-to-back 1970 albums, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty that brought the band back to country/folk basics, and are often considered their two best. Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir’s “Sugar Magnolia” was as straightforward and good-timey a love song as they’d ever done. But it was “Casey Jones” and “Truckin’” that went straight into Dead mythology. The first song mentions a certain substance that hadn’t often been in rock lyrics before (but it’s an anti-drug song, honest!). “Truckin’” is an on-the-road snapshot with some classic blues references and one verse about a real-life bust that hit the band in the Crescent City.
If you associate the Dead with free-form jamming, “Franklin’s Tower” may be an eye-opener: There are some tricky time changes here that it takes a jazz musician (or a Rock Band expert) to master. The song may smack of 60’s psychedelia but it’s actually a mid-70’s track, from the fan-favorite album “Blues for Allah”.
“I Need a Miracle,” from 1978’s Shakedown Street, was a back-to-basics moment. Looking for a hit single, the Dead collaborated with producer Lowell George, leader of the band Little Feat. The title became a catch phrase for Deadheads who would cruise the parking lots hoping to get tickets to a sold-out show. But as you’ll hear, singer/guitarist Bob Weir’s real intent was a lot lustier.
“I Want My, I Want My DLC!”
The songs in Rock Band are only the beginning. Each week we’ll be rolling out more downloadable songs, essential tracks (and sometimes whole albums) from every era of rock history. Check the Rock Band website to find out what’s new.
Tracks will usually sell for $1.99 each; with three-pack specials costing $5.49. (On the Xbox 360, that’s 160 Microsoft Points per track and 440 per three-pack). Occasional special or discounted tracks may cost a dollar more or less.
Downloadable content for the Xbox 360 is available through the XBOX LIVE marketplace. Downloads for the PLAYSTATION 3 version of Rock Band are available through the PLAYSTATION Network Store. In each case, the songs are downloaded onto your hard drive.
If you’re playing solo, you can start rocking right away. For head-to-head or multiplayer online, all players will need to download the song.