There have only been a couple of records that have really caught me off guard on this project: Leon Russel’s self-titled debut, Shane MacGowan’s (R.I.P.) “The Snake” and now the Grateful Dead’s “Workingman’s Dead” – WOW! When I asked Nozomi san what record she had scored from HMV in Shibuya, I did NOT expect her to bust out Workingman’s Dead, a deeeeeeply formative record from my youth. Arguably the Dead’s best studio attempt, Workingman’s is to the equally beloved American Beauty maybe what Rubber Soul was to Revolver, a companion masterpiece, and my favorite of the two. As you may know, it features just 8 songs, Uncle John’s Band, High Time, Dire Wolf, New Speedway Boogie, Cumberland Blues, Black Peter, Easy Wind, and Casey Jones. GOOD GRIEF! What a collection of pure Americana! Plus, this record heavily features the endearing wildcard Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, the short-lived harmonica-playing frontman whose contribution to the Dead I adored, especially on the rambler “Easy Wind” which I must have listened and played harmonica along to a thousand times or more as a teenager. To this day it remains one of my all-time favorite songs. This song transfixed me on the Dead for many years to come after the very first time I heard it and I still consider myself VERY lucky to have essentially run off with the circus at about 16 or 17 in my VW Bus and to have seen the Dead about a dozen times. To say that this record changed my life is not an overstatement at all.
And bless her heart, lovely Nozomi, who was nearly overwhelmed by my surprise, excitement, and enthusiasm for this find! But she had come to know the Dead by way of John Mayer who has helped preserve Jerry Garcia’s guitar legacy and introduce the Dead’s music to a new generation. She was happy for me to identify all the band members on the iconic cover and I was so delighted to share. Nozomi actually works at HMV in Kichijoji and had reserved this copy at the Shibuya branch where I bumped into her. Often in Kichijoji, I’m happy to now know a familiar face at another record store there!
Great to meet you Nozomi! Hope you are enjoying Workingman’s Dead! What has become your favorite song? What about you, reader? Do you love or hate the Dead? What’s your hands-down favorite of their tunes? Did you ever get to see them live? Share your stories and let’s get a conversation going!
More TRS on the way!
Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead
Label: Warner Records – RR1 1869
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue, Remastered, 180g
Released: Aug 2020
Style: Folk Rock, Country Rock, Classic Rock
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