Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad - Grateful Dead Song Review

This song is also known as "GDTRFB" (as it was abbreviated on tapes) and is always a treat to hear.

Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad is a really uptempo boogie blues number that usually appeared late in the show (after Space). It  is not  an original GD tune and I can only find the credit for the words/lyrics to "traditional" so it must be a really old song. On Dead.net it states that Jerry learned the song during the cross Canada train tour that was chronicled in the movie Festival Express.

The band played the song from 1970 up through 1995.  During the period that I was seeing shows (1993-1995) this would be considered a somewhat rare treat -  they didn't play it very often.  I got to see it one time (on Saturday night, June 26th, 1994 in las Vegas).

Jerry would sing the verses by himself and the band would join in for the chorus.  In my experience this song is always really consistently delivered, perhaps owing to its simplicity and position in the show (when the band is very warm). Jerry's solos are usually very tightly delivered and sometimes resemble the "flatpicking" guitar style.

The song definitely has that "rock band on the road" sensibility and they make me imagine the years of hard touring and cheap hotels that they had to endure. Lines like this:

Going where the water tastes like wine
I don't wanna be treated this old way

remind me of that sly mischievous Jerry Garcia recurring  theme of having "one foot out the door" because he is "getting no respect" (a la Rodney Dangerfield). Other songs that have this kind of theme are Shady Grove and Cold Rain and Snow.  Of course none of these songs are GD originals so it's obviously a recurring theme in Americana music.

The end of GDTRFB always cuts to a half time instrumental version of the We Bid You Goodnight melody (at least in the late 80s and 90s versions that I am familiar with). That's a really nice little tag-on to finish the song.

Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 8.5

Disclaimer: This is part of my blog that reviews all things Grateful Dead for fun. Music is a beautiful thing because it is so personal and subjective, so keep in mind that this is one man's opinion.

1 comment:

William Colsher said...


I've been enjoying your song posts for some time now - and I think I can add a bit to this one.

The first recorded version of this song was released in 1923 or 24 by a proto-bluegrass harmonica player named Henry Whitter as "Lonesome Road Blues": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L0RUcnbpqI

He put out a *ton* of great material that's still played today including "Wreck of the Old 97" (the first million selling country song) and "Tom Dooley".

Keep up the good work!