Some songs of the Grateful Dead will take time and several listenings to appreciate. Other songs of them give you the goose-bumps at first listening… Wharf Rat is such a song. The band never released a studio version and the song featured here is from a beautiful cd bootleg called Floating Celestial. It’s the complete recording of the new year’s eve concert of 1991 in Oakland in crisp and crystal clear soundboard quality. The first (and only) new years concert without famous rock-promoter Bill Graham who died that year in a tragic helicopter accident.
It’s these lines that make this song work so good for me:
… I know the life I’m livin’s no good I’ll get a new start live the life I should …
When Bob Mayes and myself followed the band on the german and english concerts in the ninetees, I still remember the gig in the International Congress Halle in Berlin. There were a lot of US DeadHeads present at that concert. Maybe even more americans than european fans. It was a great concert and when the first notes of Wharf Rat emerged I was thrilled! But american fans react very different at the dead’s music and I was really pissed off when they began shouting and yelling at the song’s most sensitive moment…! Now, twenty years further along the way, i realise it’s the same emotion. It’s just another way of showing it… Above is a picture of August West by Jerry Garcia. Below is the YouTube video I made of the song from the ‘Floating Celestial’ bootleg, lyrics included.