Apr 132020

In a private discussion last week with my close personal friends E Pluribus Gergely and Lady Gergely, EPG wanted to know how I could say with a straight face that I liked The Grateful Dead‘s “Sugar Magnolia.” First, I reminded him, I like the song with an associated chuckle, which is how I like 10 of the 11 songs that make up my nearly heroic Dead Dozen playlist on Spotify. There’s nothing wrong with having an associated chuckle over a loved one, is there? Think of the friends and lovers in your life.

Somehow, he brought up “Just What I Needed” and my longstanding beefs with the perfect pop craft of The Cars. He wasn’t satisfied with my equally longstanding belief that the first Cars record is one of the most solid, justifiably hit-packed records of all time. He wanted to know why, if you’ll excuse my French, I’d rather fuck “Sugar Magnolia” than “Just What I Needed.”


  18 Responses to “Kicks: “Just What I Needed” vs “Sugar Magnolia””

  1. Man, I’ve done “JWIN” live with NARBAND and there is nothing to that song. Wasn’t even a lost weekend – only a one niter to me. I’ve never played “Sugar Magnolia” and while she definitely isn’t my type (now “Bertha” on the other hand), she is much deeper and longer lasting

  2. Just for the record, I absolutely and positively did not pose the question in the manner the moderator presented. I have never ever gone out for the evening with the sole purpose of trying to get laid. That’s not me. Again, the operative word is “date”, i.e, dinner, a movie, a drink, good conversation, hopefully more drinks, and hopefully more good conversation. Should more happen, it’d be a wonderful plus. Simply put, that’s not going to happen with Sugar Magnolia. It doesn’t take long to figure out that her head’s all empty: she likes the Dead.

    And God only know where all that nonsense about Ben Affleck, the racist comment, and Shirley Temple comes from. Why not throw in Gary Oldham, 911, and dystopian fiction for good measure? Those references make no sense whatsoever.

    I thought your Miller’s Crossing logic was bad!! Did you discover some new mind altering drug? It’s amazing how much you can learn about a person from a ridiculous hypothetical situation.

  3. No, you were quite the gentleman about posing your question, EPG, before ripping me a new one for even holding my opinion. I reluctantly pulled back the onion peel and “worked blue” here in hopes of opening up a well-needed dialog. I laid out my case, cited sources, and made a peace offering at the end. To deny the Shirley Temple point that I’ve uncovered in those lyrics, however, is unconscionable. That was some solid literary analysis on my end!

  4. Happiness Stan

    It’s years since I heard JWIN and to the best of my knowledge I’d never heard Sugar Magnolia before, unless it’s in the film Grateful Dead Live. I saw that at a movie all nighter after seeing Dylan at Wembley in the eighties, we missed the last train home so it seemed the best thing to do. I took something to help me stay awake before the film before it, watching the rest of the audience sleeping happily around me while the Dead were noodling for what felt like the rest of time I started to wish I hadn’t.

    Ok, so I’ve listened to both of them, I could hum the Cars one afterwards, but a bit hyper and jittery for my taste, when I was younger I had a phase of trying to date spiky rock chicks and it never ended well.

    I wrote the other day about my inability to store anything by the Dead in my memory banks after the last notes have faded, and five minutes later find once again I genuinely cannot remember anything to hum or whistle or anything about it, other than it sounding like what I’d imagine a CSN out take to be like if they’d decided it was too bland even for them. It’s quite worrying, actually, I’ve never considered anyone’s music to be as insubstantial as a gentle breeze in the springtime but there’s nothing I can hold onto anywhere. If the song was a date I’d not be able to even find her at the place we agreed to meet.

    So, neither of them for me, thanks.

  5. general slocum

    Not much question, really. I mean the Cars are singing, characteristically enough, about having “someone to feed,” “wasting all his time”, where the Dead’s love:

    “She’s got everything delightful
    She’s got everything I need
    Takes the wheel when I’m seeing double
    Pays my ticket when I speed”

    It’s no surprise that the kind of band that plays their songs live exactly as they are on the record with no real interaction with the audience doesn’t score as highly in my book as a band where each performance is, by design, meant to be different from other iterations of the same songs another night.

    Happiness, I hear you on that. I can never keep Sugar Magnolia apart from Uncle John’s Band. The Dead should really pay royalties to the I and IV chords, because they got more mileage out of them than would have been thought possible.

  6. Alright, all is well. Good points all around. And Moderator, thanks for the clarification. Know that I’ll once again be looking forward to this Friday’s double date.

    Slocum, don’t want to stray too much from the topic at hand, but I’m definitely in the “wanna see the kind of band that plays their songs exactly as they are on the record,”with the exception that there is real interaction with the audience. I’ve seen too many ” we’re gonna put a twist on this one tonight” performances, and they’ve always been very disappointing. For the record, I never want to hear any other version of Satisfaction that isn’t the one the Stones recorded at RCA’s Hollywood studio in 1965, I’m not a Zappa fan (except for the first three sides of Freak Out), but I can see how something like what he serves up could be appealing to a musician with serious chops. I’m absolutely and positively not that guy. You are. And because of that I accept your argument as totally valid.

  7. Thanks to Happiness Stan and general slocum for the healing they have provided. I laughed so hard at some of Stan’s points that I considered changing my own position on this topic. The point the general makes about paying royalties to the I and IV chords is an early contender for Post of the Week.

    Gergs, our coming Friday session will be a hoot, I’m sure.

    To conserve everyone’s sanity, I’ll try to stop posting Dead-related threads for the next 2 weeks. I trust we’ll all agree that the dialog they’ve inspired demonstrate the kinder, gentler evolution in public discourse that’s taken place in the world since 2016.

  8. Agreed. That said, I’d love to hear your better half’s take on all this, especially since she walked the walk and talked the talk!

  9. Happiness Stan

    EPG, with you on Zappa, We’re Only In It For The Money is the only one I could ever bear to listen to. I had a friend who’d always put Billy the Mountain from some live album on when he was hammered and I kind of got used to it eventually. Even as an out and out Beefheart nut I’ve always resisted Bongo Fury, I’ve listened to some well ropey Magic Band bootlegs but never got around to that one.

    When I looked on YouTube for the Dead track I was presented with the choice of a three minute something studio version or a live one twenty nine minutes long. I hope I didn’t miss out by only listening to the shorter.

    I’m open minded on live stuff sounding like the record, although most of the bands I see tend to stick fairly faithfully to what people are expecting. On the three or four times I’ve seen Dylan he was, fortunately, on good form and I managed to work out what most of the songs were by the time he was halfway through.

    General S, I’ll save Uncle John’s Band for another day if it’s all the same to you, I’m now slightly nervous that one day I’ll find a Dead song which isn’t the aural equivalent of emptiness and then I’d have to start buying their records.

  10. Hi Happiness! Unfortunately, I got stuck seeing Dylan during another one of his “let me try out a new singing voice while you guys play whatever you want,and good luck trying to figure out what song I’m playing” phase. This was probably around 1986 or 1987. It was very, very, very bad. And shortly after that I experienced a “Thank you sir, may I have another moment” when a close friend begged me to go see the Dead with him. After the show, I’m sitting in the proverbial Dead VW van with him and all his friends, and the host, who’s passing around the skull bong, says, “Well, you’ve finally been initiated. Whataya think?” You know where I stand on the importance of truth and sincerity, so I told it like it was. I scratched the back of my neck and quoted Lenny Bruce, “I would have much rather had a constant stream of hot lead poured in my ass via a funnel.”

    I was asked to leave the van shortly afterward. I don’t recall ever hearing from him or any of his friends ever again,

    Happiness, I propose a Rock Town Hall Zoom meeting. Moderator, the word is out. Pandemic be damned! I wanna hang with this gang in their virtual flesh!

  11. Happiness Stan

    Ooh, a convention, that would be jolly.

  12. Happiness Stan

    Sorry, meant to say how unfortunate you caught Bob on an off night, I realise I was lucky and probably wouldn’t risk it again now. And how unfortunate you needed to see the Dead at all. I’m game for most gigs, and since I’ve been volunteering at our local theatre I’ve seen some improbably impressive performances from people I wouldn’t have paid money to see. Recently saw Lulu, who was simply stunning. I’d say I’d be happy if I could dance around with that energy at her age except I wouldn’t have been able to keep up twenty years ago, and her voice has barely changed in sixty years. The only one I drew the line at was UB40, who I’ve seen twice and left me in a state of existential despair on both occasions.

    It would have been a close thing given a choice between the two, but at least I wouldn’t have had Red Red Wine, or anything but a vague memory of being present at music after ignoring the Dead.

  13. Rock Town Hall Zoom meeting? Yes!

  14. Not a big fan of “Sugar Magnolia,” but wanted to mention that after Weir inserted his own line, “Jump like a Willys in four wheel drive,” I think it was, Hunter would no longer do lyrics for him. After that, Weir’s songs were co-written by John Perry Barlow.

  15. BigSteve

    I just wanted to point out that the line “head’s all empty and I don’t care” isn’t specific. It’s often taken as the male singer wanting an empty-headed girl, but it could just as easily read as “my head’s all empty and I don’t care.”

    JWIN sounds great, but it tries too hard to seem edgy. It wouldn’t be the same without that kind of mannered singing, but it’s really just an empty-headed pop song.

  16. 2000 Man

    Man, Just What I Needed would totally be a great date. Drinks ahead of time, she probably sneaks a flask into the theater in her purse and she’s totally okay with just seeing John Wick 3. She smells good and she knows how to work that crazy bra, so you don’t need to.

    Sugar Magnolia smells like patchouli stink and organic asparagus and the movie she picks is the edited Stones 1 Plus 1, with the Stones edited out and just the stuff in between Stones scenes sliced together. She expects you to sneak a doobie in and doesn’t understand why you’re getting tossed out of the movie for smoking. The mightiest struggle will be figuring out how to get her Birkenstocks off without wondering why her feet look as dirty as they would have if she hadn’t worn shoes at all.

    I hate to say it, but you’re doing it wrong.

  17. 2K, that’s fucking funny!

  18. hrrundivbakshi

    I believe I’d actually marry “Up On Cripple Creek.” At the risk of sounding completely crass, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a girl fill out a pair of hippie jeans like that before.


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