David Gans (tnf) Tue 8 Nov 11 09:27
I heard "chain" in the Europe '72 performances.
David Dodd (ddodd) Tue 8 Nov 11 10:52
Pretty sure I used "chain" in the Annotated Lyrics book...of course, I don't have a copy handy at this moment.
coal will turn to gray (comet) Tue 8 Nov 11 19:29
Maybe he meant "change".
Alex Allan (alexallan) Wed 9 Nov 11 04:41
David - you used "range" in the book!
David Dodd (ddodd) Wed 9 Nov 11 13:55
Aha. That's what I get for using Box of Rain as my authoritative text. Always loved the rhyme with "chain."
David Dodd (ddodd) Wed 9 Nov 11 13:55
The not-quite-rhyme. The unexpected end to the couplet.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Wed 9 Nov 11 15:45
there are others of the heteronyms or whatever they're called. things like how in Black Peter the lyric "See here how everything" also suggests "See, hear how everything" and many others like that. Things that are one transitive step away from a more common or likely or expected lyric.
from JOHN RYAN (tnf) Wed 4 Jul 12 07:39
John Ryan writes: I believe Ice Nine refers to Kurt Vonnegut's great book Cat's Cradle, in which a strange, brilliant scientist invents an ultimate weapon, more deadly than atomic weapons, after looking at how cannonballs are stacked. Is this drawing too long a bow for 'their walls are made of cannonballs, their motto is don't tread on me'?
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 5 Jul 12 20:48
Possibly, yes. Of course, Garcia was a fan of Vonnegut and optioned the film rights to 'The Sirens of Titan'. I suspect Hunter likes Vonnegut too, although I don't know that for a fact. The GD publishing company is Ice Nine. I think that those lines in UJB refer to a certain kind of patriotism that values enemies more highly than friends. When we were looking for a boarding school for my daughter, Hannah, I applied a "Vonnegut Test". I would check how many Vonnegut books were on the shelves in the library. Any less than six titles was a fail. I guess these days one might just check for a library.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 5 Jul 12 22:37
You may be right about that. > I think that those lines in UJB refer to a certain kind of patriotism that > values enemies more highly than friends. Well said.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Fri 6 Jul 12 16:49
I never heard it that way. I heard it as a plain sort of statement of toughness and resilience.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Sat 7 Jul 12 20:30
I think the key is that the song is full of "you" and "me" but in those lines it is "their".
*%* (jewel) Tue 10 Jul 12 09:12
I have always heard that line as a lemonade-from-lemons approach to taking the challenges life gives you and building from that an internal structure of strength and self-empowerment and protection. The line introduces the band so I took it as a reflection of the ethos of the band and its followers. That is the "they" in the song, to me. You and me should go see them by the riverside.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Tue 10 Jul 12 20:59
Interesting, I will give that one a bit of a run in the aging biocomputer. I don't quite get how the line introduces the band, though I guess it is linked through the chorus structure.
*%* (jewel) Wed 11 Jul 12 08:18
It is the last line before the first "Come hear uncle John's band" line which is what I meant by it introduces the band.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 11 Jul 12 09:45
I think "Come hear Uncle John's Band" is an exhortation to avoid the sort of people who buid walls of cannonballs and yell "Don't tread on me!"
*%* (jewel) Wed 11 Jul 12 10:32
Oooh - opposite interpretation but makes sense and I like it.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Wed 11 Jul 12 14:47
That is what I have been hearing too. I had that impression long before "Don't tread on me" was adopted by the tea partiers.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 11 Jul 12 15:33
Being a furriner, RObin, you may not be aware that the Tea Party recycled that phrase from the American Revolution.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 12 Jul 12 15:23
Yes, knew that (hence "adopted"). Probably, as a furriner, I am able to more easily see negative aspects of a phrase like that.
David Dodd (ddodd) Thu 4 Apr 13 08:53
Posted on behalf of Jonathan Siegel: I was reading a lovely biography of US Grant last evening (by Jean Edward Smith), and came across references to a minor General named John Sedgwick, affectionately known as "Uncle John". I have long thought the lyrics for the song made repeated references to the Civil War - the "don't tread on me" bit - though originating in the Revolution - was an important motto for the Confederate troops. ... with "walls are built of cannonballs" and other allusions. I believe it was written at about the time of the Dead's early associations with The Band - who were on and off writing pieces related to the Civil War. (Garcia's riffs including Main Ten predate the lyrics by what, 6 months?). Sedgwick died at Spotsylvania in 1864, as Union troops were finally advancing on Lee. As he stood safely at a great distance from the Confederate line, Sedgwick turned to his troops and said that the sharpshooters 'couldn't hit an elephant from this distance'. Just as he uttered those words, he was taken down by a bullet to the head. ("when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door"). He was apparently a real friend to both Grant and Meade. Really even "the rising tide" part could easily enough be an allusion to the Confederacy as a whole. The song began as almost a dirge - a ballad the first few performances, before becoming more up-tempo and perhaps being autobiographical about the Dead, and the metaphorical dangers they faced...
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