I've been listening to the Grateful Dead for over 40 years. What's interesting is that the songs that were my favorites when I was 15 or 16 no longer are -- with just one exception -- my love of the song, Terrapin Station as the band's magnum opus has never wavered!
The first Dead album I bought was a greatest hits album, Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead which they released in 1974 and I bought in ’75 or ’76. It’s not surprising that the Dead songs I first fell in love with were the (pretty wonderful) pop songs which were all on that album. Truckin’, Sugar Magnolia, and Friend of the Devil – all taken from their American Beauty album, and Uncle John’s Band and Casey Jones, from the Workingman’s Dead album.
But what really rocked my world was Terrapin Station, their ninth studio album released in July 1977, during the summer before my Senior year of high school. I fell in love with it instantly and played it incessantly until I went to my first Dead show at Englishtown Raceway, just a few months later.
The website, SongMango.com, has a great article – Dead Best – 10 Top Performances of “Terrapin Station.” There’s a great backstory to the song. Supposedly, Jerry Garcia was driving across the San Francisco Bay on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge during a huge storm when the music came to him. He rushed home to write it down. At the same moment, Robert Hunter sat in his houseboat on the Bay at China Basin and was inspired to write his magical lyrics, starting with, “Let my inspiration flow in token rhyme, suggesting rhythm.” Jerry and Bob got together the next day and the music met the words.
It’s a great article. Check it out. I love that the Terrapin Station from my very first show is on the list!