#287: Grateful Dead, "Anthem of the Sun" (1968)

In 1967, recording sessions were done in some kind of orderly form—songs had been selected, arrangements had been made, musicians had been hired, studios were booked, artists came, sang overdubs or sang live, we then proceeded to add and sweeten strings and so forth, went into the mixing stage,


and out came a record. I kept a 10-strip of L hidden in the sleeve. One of those summer nights, fresh out of high school, we dropped and drove to Virginia Beach where one of us had a father with a house where no one slept. We only had reason to let gravity guide us to the shore, to lay down in the stars and sand, invited by the sun and the tide, which would breathe us back in morning time. It was chilly, but not too chilly,


an October morning in Palo Alto, 1963—after stealing a couple hours’ sleep, a young man awakes on the floor in the aisle of a closed movie theater, having jimmied the ticket window open shortly before dawn. He stands and walks into the beams of sunlight that frame the lobby door. It’s okay, he’d say if anyone bothered, a buddy of mine sweeps the popcorn and mops the pop here. He woulda let me in, but he got all fucked up


on burgundy and grass last night, ya dig? Now these guys came along and none of that applied! Didn’t have the material ready, went into the studio experimenting with sound—they were like kids in a candy store with all this great equipment. It was all state of the art, you know, and they were availing themselves of it


and going to school on it. On the East Coast, the sun comes up slow. I’ve seen it rise enough times, it’s a watched pot—not the fiery orange peak we’d painted and set fire to in our minds that night. Every day, like moving under water after dark, we can swim deep and swim deeper, believing there’s a surface bound to come before a breath, but the sun is small and pale on the Eastern horizon


and we had lost our sense of pressure. We were dealing with, yes, a counterculture and, yes, a new method of recording, but also there was the element of chemicals involved here, which never had been a factor with the acts we dealt with, or if it had been it certainly was


under control. Enough times, he hustles rent money busking banjo to pay for a room in a friend’s house for a week or two—always space with a short-term open door, always a friend with a friend who doesn’t know what he can afford next week


on either side of the deal. We didn't speak much on the beach there that dawn. It was the leg of the trip where everyone agreed to quietly recede into the low tides of themselves. I have a photograph—one of a small, out-of-focus handful, no one knew I snapped—of three bodies spread out before me, before the ocean, far from each other


in their silence. These guys were stoned, living in a fantasy world, looking so hard


for sounds that may not even be possible. We each weigh our expectations and their realities in our own and only ways. When we finally leave, we step barefoot from the sand


onto concrete. He climbs out the way he came in, straightens his pea coat, covered in dust and lint, sticky with fountain soda and salt water taffy, crusted continent of spit warm with the scent of spilled beer. He lights a cigarette to catch his breath and squints, smiling through the morning fog. However I find him, I hand him the coins he’ll need to ride through the day.


Thank you, he always says. We are going somewhere else and we will not return.

—Doug Fuller