Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why The Grateful Dead will out-last all its members

In last week's New Yorker Nick Paumgarten devoted many thousands of words to the legacy of the Grateful Dead. He's particularly interested in the way Dead fans collect soundboard tapes. It's almost twenty years since the band ceased to exist but the tape trade is stronger than ever.

For all their apparent disavowal of anything "straight", the Grateful Dead are the most outstanding example of the triumph of brand in rock music. They're far more impressive in this respect than Rihanna or One Direction or even Pink Floyd could ever hope to be.

The Grateful Dead's name is 80% of the reason for their astounding longevity. Its associated logos and decals are worth another 15%. Only 5% of what they're about is in the music. Nobody listens to the music without having first of all bought into the idea of The Grateful Dead and the idea is all in their name.


  1. Though that doesn't put them in a party of one.

  2. I once saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac

  3. I always wanted to like them, probably because of the name and the image but found them tedious. Lol Creme strangely mentioned them on stage when I saw 10cc back in the 80's. He said "they're dead, we're grateful"

  4. Which is good because the music is terrible.

  5. Spot on. There was a record shop where I grew up that I was terrified to go into because it was full of scary people and loads of Grateful Dead records. I remember well the time I built up the courage to go in there, enthralled by Talking Heads bootlegs I couldn't afford and ended up buying two Grateful Dead live albums because that seemed to be what was expected in that shop. As a young teenager I was instantly and inadvertently captured by the brand you describe. Now, I find them rather sweet and while I never cared for the tape trading world, these days I do enjoy the albums a lot.