Grateful Dead – Truckin’…Drug Reference Week

What in the world ever became of sweet jane?
She lost her sparkle, you know she isn’t the same
Livin’ on reds, vitamin see, and cocaine,
All a friend can say is “ain’t it a shame?”

This wraps up Drug Reference Week. Thanks to all for reading and commenting…I hope you have enjoyed it.

This is the first Grateful Dead song I remember hearing. I heard it before I knew who the Grateful Dead were… the line Busted, down on bourbon street, set up, like a bowlin’ pin stuck with me. The line happened in real life for the band.

Every member of the Dead except Pigpen and Tom Constanten (who left the band immediately after the New Orleans incident) was included in the bust, along with several members of their entourage and some local associates.

Along with the others… Owsley Stanley, then a tech for the band as well as a well-known LSD producer…was arrested.

 

Grateful Dead

All of the 19 people caught in the raid were booked for possession of some combination of marijuana, LSD, barbiturates, amphetamines, or other dangerous non-narcotic drugs. It carried a penalty of 5 to 15 years in prison.

New Orleans police seem to fear that their good town will become the next Haight-Ashbury.

After posting bail money, the Dead were almost out of funds. They added an extra show in New Orleans and persuaded Fleetwood Mac to stay for the additional performance as well.

At the gig, a hat was passed around the audience to collect some additional cash for legal expenses. Most of the charges from the New Orleans bust were eventually dropped…but the Dead got a great sound out of the ordeal!

The song was written by Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter, Phi Lesh, and Bob Weir.

Truckin’ peaked at #64 in the Billboard 100 in 1971.

Jerry Garcia: “They had great fun with us, the southern cops. They had just what they wanted: hippies. Oh, boy.”

 

From Songfacts

The ’60s was a time for traveling and discovering your place in the world. Sometimes what you found was an empty existence that just keeps repeating itself day to day. Having to deal with everyday life when you were always waiting for some kind of revelation to expand your consciousness was often depressing. The Grateful Dead sang of acceptance of banality and the drive to continue their search for epiphany.

One verse in particular: “What in the world ever became of sweet Jane, she lost her sparkle. Well you know she isn’t the same. Living on reds, vitamin C and cocaine? All a friend can say is ain’t it a shame.” seems to refer to the endless desperation that overtakes some people. They turn to drugs to provide meaning in their lives. This of course fails and spirals their lives into deeper depression. Drugs are for enhancing a good time spent with good friends. They cannot provide answers to the meaning of life. The previous verse speaks to commonplace usage and the consequences of accepting illegal activities as a normal part of your life. You often get “busted” by the police. 

Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir are the credited writers on this track along with their lyricist Robert Hunter.

The line, “Busted, down on Bourbon Street” refers to an incident on January 31, 1970 when members of the band were arrested in a drug bust that netted 19 people in New Orleans. The group was in town to play two shows at a club called the Warehouse, and the raid happened the morning after their first show at the French Quarter hotel where they were staying. Lesh, Weir and drummer Bill Kreutzmann were all arrested along with crew members and fans of the band who had joined them at the hotel.

The story made the front page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune the next day, and drew national attention, with Rolling Stone running an article on the incident. Owsley Stanley, a Dead associate known for his pioneering work with LSD, was also arrested and labeled the “King of Acid” in the Times-Picayune piece. According to the Rolling Stone article, the band paid for bail and legal fees for all 19 arrested.

Truckin’

Truckin’ got my chips cashed in. keep truckin’, like the do-dah man
Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on.

Arrows of neon and flashing marquees out on main street.
Chicago, new york, detroit and it’s all on the same street.
Your typical city involved in a typical daydream
Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.

Dallas, got a soft machine; houston, too close to new orleans;
New york’s got the ways and means; but just won’t let you be, oh no.

Most of the cast that you meet on the streets speak of true love,
Most of the time they’re sittin’ and cryin’ at home.
One of these days they know they better get goin’
Out of the door and down on the streets all alone.

Truckin’, like the do-dah man. once told me “you’ve got to play your hand”
Sometimes your cards ain’t worth a dime, if you don’t lay’em down,

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times i can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.

What in the world ever became of sweet jane?
She lost her sparkle, you know she isn’t the same
Livin’ on reds, vitamin see, and cocaine,
All a friend can say is “ain’t it a shame?”

Truckin’, up to buffalo. been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow
Takes time, you pick a place to go, and just keep truckin’ on.

Sittin’ and starin’ out of the hotel window.
Got a tip they’re gonna kick the door in again
I’d like to get some sleep before i travel,
But if you got a warrant, i guess you’re gonna come in.

Busted, down on bourbon street, set up, like a bowlin’ pin.
Knocked down, it get’s to wearin’ thin. they just won’t let you be, oh no.

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel;
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.
I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’,
Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times i can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.

Truckin’, i’m a goin’ home. whoa whoa baby, back where i belong,
Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ on.
Hey now get back truckin’ home.

The Grateful Dead

I’ve never been a Deadhead but I am envious of them. Unlike any other band…their music and fans belong in a special class. The fans are joined to an elusive club and a lot of them are really close. The band at one time was so accessible… more than any other band I’ve heard of… They have so much music to pick from…years and years of touring and recording. The band not only didn’t mind fans recording their concerts but set up a special place to record for a time. Led Zeppelin’s manager would have his goons smash fan’s recording equipment for doing that…other bands also.

They did not compromise…they did what they wanted to do and forget the rest. Top ten records? Nah…didn’t need them…didn’t have one until the 80s and still outdrew almost everyone. I’m happy they did have the one in the 80s…Touch of Grey…they really didn’t need it but it made the general public take notice. It was great in the 80s to see a cool anti-rock star Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead chugging away on MTV sounding better than the spandex idiots on the other videos at the time.

For me, I like their early seventies period a lot. Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty (which are two classic albums) From The Mars Hotel and a little later the adventurous Terrapin Station. I mostly like songs that are condensed down…hence why I was never really big on the long jams but I really respect the musicianship that went into them live. They could be playing folk, bluegrass, jazz and then switch on a dime to rock…and make it fit. To me, it was like a huge bus rolling down the road about to go off the cliff at any moment and then suddenly being jerked back on the road before the crash….sometimes it wasn’t but for the most part, it was pulled back just in time.

When Jerry died in 1995 I was sad. I didn’t know a whole a lot about him or the band…though I had their greatest hits in the early 80s…I knew enough to know someone and something special had gone too soon…I also regretted not being on that bus for a small ride anyway.

Songs I like:

Ripple, A Friend of the Devil, Mr. Charlie, Truckin, Uncle Johns Band (which I could listen on a tape loop for eons and eons), U.S. Blues, New Speedway Boogie, Casey Jones, Attics of My Life, Brokedown Palace, Box of Rain, Sugar Magnolia, Touch of Grey, Hell in a Bucket and a Garcia solo Sugaree…

There are many more I’m not remembering…