“Touch of Grey” -The Grateful Dead
I faced a difficult challenge on this post: The Grateful Dead needed to be played, but they always play such loooong songs! OK, so find a shorter song. Not so easy. My fondest memories of the Dead concerts in San Francisco in the late 60’s include songs that went on seemingly forever…just the band improvising long into the night. They played thousands of concerts throughout their career and attracted a whole set of fans calling themselves “Deadheads” who’d follow them on tour for months on end. The Dead used an innovative sound system developed by Owsley Stanley dubbed “The Wall of Sound.” Stanley said “The Wall of Sound is the name some people gave to a super powerful, extremely accurate PA system that I designed and supervised the building of in 1973 for the Grateful Dead. It was a massive wall of speaker arrays set behind the musicians, which they themselves controlled without a front of house mixer. It did not need any delay towers to reach a distance of half a mile from the stage without degradation.” Yeah…it was some amazing sound alright…I think I’m partially deaf due to this “Wall of Sound”. Owsley was also the master-chemist behind the LSD circulating around The Dead, Timothy Leary, Haight-Ashbury, Ken Kesey, The Merry Pranksters and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests. Amazing group of people.
“Touch of Grey” was released in 1987 on the In the Dark album. It became a major hit, peaking at number 9 on Billboard. A video was made, the Dead’s first, which is rather interesting by today’s standards. The band turns into skeletons jumping around.
My take on this song is the upbeat tempo and message are urging people to keep on truckin’ (to use a phrase of the time). Everybody has issues, obstacles, troubles, heartaches. With a little help from our friends and a good attitude, we can work through the problems. Puts a bounce in your step, a smile on your face and all that.
This mega-group was so talented and prolific, a little piece like this seems silly. One thing I noticed when checking out the “Wall of Sound” was that The Dead permitted people to tap into the sound board and tape the shows. I’d love to hear some of those tapes. Bet they got better sound than we get with our phones at concerts!