Monday, July 27, 2020

"Touch of Grey" by The Grateful Dead

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3207
Date:  07/25/1987
Debut:  77
Peak:  9
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  By 1986, this storied band's future was a bit uncertain. Although they were still relentlessly touring, the Dead hadn't recorded a new studio album since 1980's Go to Heaven. In addition, the health of Jerry Garcia, who was often viewed as the leader of the band, was in decline due to years of drug usage, weight gain, and other issues. It began to affect his stage presence and the band's consistency. Ultimately, the toll of all his issues would push Garcia into a diabetic coma in July of '86. Everything with the band came to a sudden halt. Luckily, Garcia would come out of the coma five days later. His recovery was slow, but with a new lease on life, Garcia was determined to clean up his act and get the band back on track, which included recording a new album. A year after Garcia's coma, the band's twelfth studio album, In the Dark, was released. To promote the album and return of the band, this first single was pushed out. Surprisingly, the song took off and it reached #1 at Rock. It then crossed over to the Pop chart to not only become the band's first Top 40 entry, but their first (and only) Top 10 hit. The tune also did well at AC getting to #15. The hit would help make the album their first to reach the Top 10 (#6). It would eventually sell over two million copies. While this track would be the Dead's last to get on the Pop chart, its popularity helped to introduce the band to a whole new generation.

ReduxReview:  A lot of folks were surprised by this hit including me. I wasn't even remotely a fan of the band. I just didn't connect with their songs and jam bands were definitely not my thing. So when their return was starting to get touted, I just shrugged my shoulders in a "so what" manner. I mean, what could they possible do that would appeal to me? And then this track came out. Whether they were aiming to do something more commercial or not, they came up with one of their most appealing radio-friendly songs of their career. It didn't take me long to hook into the tune. The genial track with its comfortable, lived-in groove and lyrics about aging gracefully sort of swayed me into their corner. Even the production was just right with the muted cowbell and tinkling keyboard adding some sweetness. The video was pretty cool too. While I liked the song, it didn't turn me into a Deadhead. I still can't get into a lot of their music, but at least I can say that I do like something of theirs. It also provided an opening for me to listen to some of their most regarded recordings.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The Dead weren't what you'd call an MTV-ready band. Their eclectic style, merging of various genres, and lengthy jams certainly didn't fit within the era of Madonna and Bon Jovi. They never even made themselves necessarily radio-ready either by trying to write a hit. So it was a bit of a surprise when the more concise, straightforward "Touch of Grey" appeared. Then it was an even bigger surprise when the band shot an actual music video for the tune - their first done specifically for MTV. But the biggest surprise of all was that both the song and the video caught on. The video, directed by Justin Kreutzmann (son of Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann), featured a stage performance by the band, but the members were portrayed by life-sized marionette skeletons. About two-thirds of the way through the skeletons were replaced with the actual band members. It got viewers' attention and became a hit on MTV, which helped the song reach the Pop Top 10.


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