May 23, 2023Liked by Thomas Bevilacqua

Disclaimer: I'm not a Deadhead; just a musician who has in travels had brushes with the tribal phenomenon that is the Dead's perpetually regenerating fandom.

The thing about "Touch of Grey" is, it's kind of a product of its time; which is to say, a small shiny thing sported by the then-Blob-swelling Nostalgia Industrial Complex who took over rock and roll and began the 30-year process of fencing out the Present and Future from 60-80% of the business infrastructure of the culture. It's a comfy little pillow handed off to the aging-Boomer demographic, that lacked anything that could be said to have made the Dead special in its prime: the improvisation, the dynamic reach and color of their 1970s music, the celebratory air about their culture as a band and fandom. It's a song that has given up, for a demographic that had given up on anything resembling novelty or excitement. It's good they had a hit at so late a date for quotidian human business reasons, yes; but it doesn't measure on any scale as high enough to be in a posited 'Pantheon' of the Dead's works. Not even nearly 35 years of selective hindsight can raise "Touch of Grey" that high; it's a pale diluted trickle that the Business tried to pretend was straight from the river.

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I think everything you say there makes a ton of sense and yet I still kind of love the song (and somewhat without irony too). It was written and performed first in 1982 and I wonder if it was recorded then if it might have been saved from its "comfy little pillow"-ness and been more akin to "Feel Like a Stranger" with a more 80s sound but not this major thing/almost an albatross.

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I think you both make valid points and would offer a 3rd. Touch or Grey has mass appeal, which naturally brought new fans to the band.

There is a tendency for longtime fans to not like that (in the same way fans of,say, Pearl Jam hated it when the backwards hat crowd found their sound). It feels like something is being taken away or co-opted.

That’s admittedly a coarse analogy, but I think it fits. Either way, it’s a great song and hard not to sing along to.

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