Language In Dead Culture Essay, Research Paper
The culture of Grateful Dead fans is a recognized subculture in American society. The definition of a subculture is a religious, economic, or regional etc. group identified by shared patterns of behavior which differ from those of the surrounding culture (1). The Grateful Dead fans are called and call themselves Deadheads. The Deadhead subculture uses language to express the tone of the culture. The culture is a culture with a strong sense of community. This is tied into the lyrics of the Grateful Dead by their literal meaning and by the symbolizing meanings. The Deadhead community has terms for different segments of deadheads; places at Grateful Dead show; items both outside and inside a concert; and a basic terminology used through out the culture. Each variation has a connotation as to the feel for the culture.
Some basic terminology for Deadheads is tour, head, dye, and show. The first term that should be defined is the name Dead head. The book Skeleton key a dictionary for deadheads describes a deadhead as someone who loves — and draws meaning from — the music of the Grateful Dead and the experience of dead shows, and builds community with others who feel the same way.(2) A Head is another name for a Deadhead but the term is normally only used among the different individuals of the culture. An example of this would be when one deadhead introduces a friend to another deadhead Joe this is my friend Mike, he s a Head.” The term show is another way of saying a grateful dead concert. The reason that heads call the concert a show is because a concert implies listening to music while a show describes the carnival like atmosphere of a grateful dead concert. The term Tour is used as both a noun and a verb by Deadheads. The noun meaning is a list of Dead shows that the band has performed in a given season i.e. summer tour . The verb meaning of the term tour is to follow the band on a given series of shows. A Dye is a Deadheads shirt generally a tie dyed T-shirt.
a feeling of closeness exhibited among Deadheads is by their references to the band members and other functions of the grateful dead in a casual way. The band members (the Boys) them selves are never referred to by their full names and are often referred to by their nicknames. Examples of nicknames given to a member of the Grateful Dead are those given to Jerome Garcia Jerry, Captain trips, The Fat Man, and Papa Jerry. The Grateful Dead business is officially called Greatful Dead inc. which includes Grateful Dead Ticket Sales (G.D.T.S.) and Grateful Dead merchandise (to name a few of the divisions) but dead heads simple call it the home office. Deadheads often refer to Grateful dead members, members’ friends, and long time employees of the grateful dead as The family .
Deadheads are tied to the music of the grateful Dead so much that certain words and certain lines from their songs have been taken and are used in their everyday vocabulary. The term shakedown comes From the song Shakedown Street. The song Shakedown Street talks of a part of town that is run down yet still has a feel and a vibrancy to it Nothin shakin on shakedown street, used to be the hart of town, don t tell me this town ain t got no heart, you just gotta poke around.(3) Shakedown to a head is the part of the parking lot where people are selling things ranging from footwear to food. Shakedown is always located in a different spot at every show. Somehow all the heads who are vending come together and chose a spot to sell their wares, it is never pre arranged but is normally in an area of high foot traffic. The term miracle is in reference to another song called I need a miracle in which Bobby (Bob Weir, rhythm guitar) sings of what he needs in life and proclaims that he needs a miracle. I need a women about twice my height, statues raven dress a goddess of the night, a secret incantation, a candle burning blue, lookin up the sprits, maybe they ll know what to do, and it s real, and it won t go away, oh no, can t get around and I can t run away, I need a miracle every day.(4) The deadheads have taken this term miracle and use it to acquire a ticket for themselves outside a show, preferably for free. The name wharf rat is used when referring to a clean and sober deadhead. The name is taken from the song Wharf Rat the song is a story about a down and out man who promises too get sober and get his life back together. half of my life, I spent doin time for some other fucker s crime, other half found me stumbling around drunk on burgundy wine. But I ll get back on my feet someday the good lord willing if he says I may cause I know the life I m living s no good, I ll get a new start and live the life I should.(3) It is not unusual to see a wharf rat trying to get a miracle on shakedown.
Deadheads are stereotyped as hippie drug users. This stereotype has it s roots in not only the history of the dead but also in the abundance of different types of drugs that can be found in the parking lot and in side a show. The most common drug in the parking lot is hippie crack. Hippie crack is nitrous oxide (N2O) or what is commonly known as laughing gas. The most prevalent kind of drug in side a show is kind bud. This is a reference to marijuana. the term kind while a description of the quality of the drug is also taken from another dead song, Uncle john s band think this through with me, let me know your mind, whoa-oh, what I want to know is are you kind?(3)
Deadheads Are a kin to baseball fans in that they keep track of what songs the boys have played every night of their history, 30 years 2,318 shows, 408 songs played a total of 37,118 times (5). The shows are chronicled within a book called Dead Base which was updated every couple of years during the bands active years. dead heads commonly call this a base. the interesting thing about a dead base is that While the songs are all listed of every show Heads have developed a short of short hand writing to list the songs. An example of this short hand be Casey Jones, Hurts Me Too, Mama Tried, Till the Morning Comes, Dancin, Candyman, Top of the World, Morning Dew, BIODTL, China>Rider, Dark Star> St. Stephen> NFA> GDTRFB> NFA E. Uncle John (5) this is the show that the Dead played on 10-11-70 at Marion Shea Aud., Paterson state col., Wayne NJ (5). A head would understand that the list while including the completely spelled out song titles also includes song titles that only use the first letter of each word in the title, I.e. Beat It On Down The Line, BIODTL; Not Fade Away, NFA; and Goin Down The Road Feelin Bad, GDTRFB. A Deadhead would also recognize which titles were shortened I.e. China, china cat Sunflower; Rider, I know You rider and Uncle john s, Uncle john s band. The other oddity that is presented is the use of commas and greater then signs( when written it s an arrow). the commas represent when a song was completely concluded before the band went into the next song. the greater then symbol represents when a songs were played without a break in between them.
The Deadhead subculture has not only evolved there own language within their community they also have developed their own form of writing style. A non head can easily learned this language and this form of writing but with out the help of a guide the non head would be lost within a conversation between deadheads. Would A non head understand this conversation: Hey Joe have you seen Jim? Yah, Sue I saw him over on Shakedown, on the far end away from those guys selling Hippie Crack. He s looking to buy a Base so he can see the first time the boys played a Sailor> Saint Cool! Did you see any Kind being sold? Nah, but I wasn t looking I m a Rat.
#1 The New lexicon Webster s Dictionary Of The english language: Lexicon Publications, Inc.: Copeyright 1989
#2 skeleton key, a dictionary for deadheads: by david shenk, steve silberman: Main Street Books: copyright 1994
#3 A Box of rain; collected Lyrics of robert hunter: By Robert Hunter: Viking Press: Copyright 1990
#4 Grateful Dead; Shakedown Street: I Need A Miracle written by Bob weir and Bob Barlow: Arista records, inc.: copyright 1978
#5 Dead base 10; The complete guide to the Grateful Dead Song Lists: By john W.