Visions of the Dead

A Movie for the Mind

by Robert Hunter

scene: an ocean. Bubbles appear. As they pop, out of each comes a character or situation from the history of America. Constitution. Elections. Civil War. Depression. World War II, etc. "What was it for?" sighs the wind. Overview of America from sea to shining sea ... forests, mountains and cities constructed of question marks ... a Kennedy half dollar (improbably dated 1962) is flipped in the air & someone plugs it ... it spins and falls on the pavement pouring blood* ... the Haight in frenzied collage, longhairs paddling smiling canoes and swan shaped vessels down an avenue of honey ... police drum band marching down sidewalk beating rhythm with nightsticks ... ominous black panthers crouching on corners of buildings ...

*(while the coin is spinning cut significant assassination footage in at the rate of one entirely different image per frame for however many it takes to fill a space of 5 seconds ... this will make the Manchurian Candidate brainwashing footage look like slow motion)

Truckin' continues as:

Rotating Scene shot from a carousel: Garcia painting a border of frogs around the edges of the Sistine Chapel, Phil dozes in a hammock slung in the tympanic membrane of an immense ear from Heironymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. Pigpen, canoeing on a river of piano keys which runs through the room, opens a bottle of Thunderbird out of which flies a huge dark winged bird which blots out the screen ... in the center appears a pinpoint of light which turns into a bouncing ball accompanying the words "What a long strange trip it's been." The ball explodes, obliterating the screen, which then melts to reveal a face-on marching battalion of Mona Lisas with pushbrooms sweeping musical notes from the pavement into the laps of the audience, under an R. Crumb sun shining from a smiling sky. A banner reads: We hold these truths to be self-evident! We move over to Golden Gate park where the Grateful Dead conclude Truckin' to an audience of freeform dancers (enhanced actual footage, augmented with a light rain of hearts, clubs, spades & diamonds).

Dissolve to Bill Graham, standing on a very pedestrian modern day Haight Street, 1993, dressed in a flowing robe with a large ancient leatherbound book under his harm.

BG: Here's what it looks like today. If you haven't been here in awhile, it might surprise you. But it shouldn't surprise you. This is pretty much the way things are everywhere today. Why should it be any different in the Haight?

pan around the area ... depressing, huh? ...while we
hear voices answer Bill from different parts of the audience, courtesy of surround sound:

Because we had faith in you!
You had everything going for you back then.
We envy your chance ... there's no chance for us!
It's a desert out here!
Why did you let us down?
Why did you drop the ball?
Yeah, yeah, why?

BG: This ball?

He holds a tiny globe of the world. Move in on it as it becomes the actual Earth. Move through the stratosphere and clouds back down to Haight Street to re-establish the tiny globe in Bill's hand.

Bill: Honestly Bozo, if you did drop it, where would it fall?
Weir: (walks by) I'll take that!

He snatches the ball and rolls it down the street --- in the wake of its roll the street becomes the old Haight, colors brighten, the 60's kids walk the street in ecstatic dress, Oracles & Rolling Stone being sold on the street, posters in shop windows, the whole shebang in its most positive aspect. We hear Janis singing Piece of my Heart from one window, Somebody to Love plays from another, Like a Rolling Stone from another. Dolly into a window where Hunter & Garcia are writing a song:

Hunter: How about "Come drive Uncle John's Truck?"
Garcia: That's not quite it. It's a little too, secular­p;
Hunter: Ok, ok, how about ...(pregnant pause) "Come hear Uncle John's jazz records?"
Garcia: That's getting closer, but it's still not a big enough image for what I want this song to say ...
Hunter: Let's see: how about "Come hear Uncle John's Band?"
Garcia: Naah, that's going in the wrong direction ... maybe a little too ... how would you say ...Bravissimo.
Hunter: Probably. So you want something non-secular and big, but not too big, and you want it to rhyme with what?
Garcia: Kumquat.
Hunter: Any particular reason?
Garcia: It came to me in a dream.
Hunter: I won't argue with that, but look, if you'll spot me Uncle John's Band, I'll add Buck Dancer's choice & raise you a crow.
Garcia: I'll see that and raise you a silver mine. Spot me a violin and we can lose the cumquat.
Hunter: But what about your dream?
Garcia: A dream is just a place to stand while you're trying to find your feet.
Hunter: Mind if I use that?
Garcia: No, it might give people the wrong impression.
Hunter: Yeah, dammit, you're right.
Garcia: Never dick with the dream.
Hunter: You said a mouthful!

draw back out of the window & return to the street while Uncle John's Band plays. (work this out in detail) Photo & video montage of early '60s footage (go ape) against a black background which, when finished, proves to be a page of a photo album which closes at the end of the song-collage, proving to be the book Bill carried under his arm.

BG: So what does it all mean?
Mr.Natural (walks by, remarks:) Don't mean shee-it man! (exits)

Voice from audience: Tell us how it all began, Bill!

BG: It didn't begin anywhere in particular. One day it was just here all at once --- but if you mean the Dead, in particular, well I guess a band really begins when you select a name for it. These guys used a dictionary.

Dissove to: Band sitting around while JG opens the Oxford Dictionary.

JG: ...hmm Grapefruit, graph-paper ...that might be nice, Grappling iron...that's got a certain ring...grasshopper, naw, there's enough bands named after insects already, Grateful Dead... now that would be weird ... Graverobber ... yeah, how about the Graverobbers!
Band members: That's it! Yeah! Graverobbers! Too much!

cut to: Managers Danny & Rock, plus JG, Pigpen, Billy K & Phil gathered at Fillmore with BG.

BG: You guys got to be kidding. I ain't gonna put Graverobbers on my marquee!
Danny & Rock: Aw Bill, don't be such an asshole.
BG: You want these boys of yours to work, find a nice name for the band.
Pig: How about: Ice Cream Prophylactic?
BG: Graverobbers I like suddenly.
BK: What was that other weird name in the dictionary?
JG: Grappling Iron?
Phil: That sounds good and hairy. I'd go for that.
BK: No, that other one ...
Pig: Grateful Dead.
BG: Now that's what I mean by a nice name. A nice, cheerful, upbeat image.
JG: I still think Graverobbers ---
BG: Fuck you asshole. You're the Grateful Dead. Now shut up and go practice.


Copyright © 1994
Robert Hunter Personal Archive (
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Cover of Episode 8