Day 212: Believe It Or Not, 3/22/90

Grateful Dead Spring 1990 Hamilton 3/22/90 album cover artwork

Believe It Or Not is a song that many might not be familiar with, and for good reason. In terms of released versions there is this one (from a limited edition, pricey box set), and a studio outtake from the So Many Roads box set. Luckily the latter is now available digitally, but the physical set has been out of print for a while.

Therefore, DFAY is pleased to bring this rarity to light for any who haven’t heard it. As far as live performances it only logged 7. Six of these were in 1988. Today’s rendition is the only time it was played in 1990 and was the last time the Dead ever brought the song to the stage.

It’s a really interesting Hunter/Garcia tune because it has this classic country vibe underlying the whole thing that doesn’t jump out at you, but it’s there. As a result it’s a very different tune from a lot of their other collaborations.

This is a song that I think would have been great in the post-drums Jerry ballad slot. The song bandied about the setlist in its brief tenure and never found a comfortable a home. Of course, the ossification of songs in a particular place in the setlist wasn’t necessarily a good thing, but if it cost a good song a spot in the repertoire it’s even worse. It’s hard to really know for sure. Perhaps the band just didn’t like playing it, but Believe It Or Not seems, to me, like a song that had lots of potential and got short shrift.

It takes a few moments to for the song to get its legs under it, but once that happens it slinks along like a country tune with a modern Grateful Dead touch. Brent is on B3 so regular readers will know that I’m happy about that. The band sticks pretty close to the script for this one. It’s got a bridge with what sounds like some diminished chords in it to provide some tension and release with the rest of the tune. Phil moves through the changes a bit more briskly in this section, which ends with a big swirl of sound only to stop on a dime, returning to the mellow verse structure. Jerry tags the final line of the chorus several times at the end, and the band builds up their sound with each pass. The fervor isn’t as great here as one might find in a faster tempo song, but it’s a significant change in dynamics based on what came before. Of course, the plug is quickly pulled at the end of the song. On to the next one.

Complete Setlist 3/22/90

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3 Comments
  1. Funny, I was just thinking of this song the other day. Is this the only “love song” written by Garcia/Hunter? I can’t think of one, at least in the traditional sense. Something like Ruben and Cherise is more of a story than a traditional love song. Anyway, I wonder if Jerry was uncomfortable singing it for that reason.
    Also, I was surprised to see that they played this in 1990. It sounds pretty good to me.

    • Garcia said at one point, I don’t remember when, that If I Had The World To Give was the only time he and Hunter actually tried to write a love song. That may have been stated in the late 70s/early 80s though.

  2. Good call, Lunchbox, I forgot about that song. They only played World to Give three times so maybe Jerry just didn’t want to sing love songs with the Dead. He didn’t seem to have a problem with it in his own band. Shining Star comes immediately to mind.

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