"You analyze me, tend to despise me..."

The Annotated "Hell In a Bucket"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd
Library, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
"Hell In a Bucket"
Words by John Perry Barlow; music by Bob Weir
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission.

Well, I was drinking last night with a biker
And I showed him a picture of you
I said, "Pal, get to know her. You'll like her."
Seemed like the least I could do...

'Cause when he's driving his chopper
Up and down your carpeted halls,
You will think me by contrast quite proper.
Never mind how I stumble and fall.
Never mind how I stumble and fall.

You imagine me sipping champagne from your boot
For a taste of your elegant pride
I may be going to hell in a bucket, babe,
But at least I'm enjoying the ride.
At least I'm enjoying the ride.
At least I'm enjoying the ride.

Now miss sweet little soft-core pretender,
Somehow baby got hard as it gets.
With her black leather chrome spiked suspenders,
Her chair and her whip and her pets.

Well we know you're the reincarnation
Of the ravenous Catherine the Great.
And we know how you love your ovations
For the Z-rated scenes you create.
The Z-rated scenes you create.

You analyze me, pretend to despise me,
You laugh when I stumble and fall.
There may come a day I will dance on your grave
If unable to dance, I will crawl across it
Unable to dance, I'll still crawl.

You must really consider the circus
'Cause it just might be your kind of zoo
I can't think of a place that's more perfect
For a person as perfect as you.

And it's not like I'm leaving you lonely
'Cause I wouldn't know where to begin
But I know that you'll think of me only
When the snakes come marching in
When the snakes come marching in

"Hell In a Bucket"

Written in Cora, Wyoming, August-December, 1982

Musical details:

Recorded on

First performance: May 13, 1983, at the Greek Theatre, U.C. Berkeley. The song appeared in the first set, following "West L.A. Fadeaway", and preceding "Loser". It remained in the repertoire thereafter.

Here's an interesting piece forwarded by a reader:

Subject: Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics : Hell in a Bucket : Variant Lyrics!
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 10:31:07 -0700 (PDT)
From: David Schwarm

Hi David,

Holy cow! You are not going to believe this exchange from rmgd:

>From tnf@well.com Fri Apr 11 10:23:37 PDT 1997
Article: 371095 of rec.music.gdead
From: David Gans 
Newsgroups: rec.music.gdead
Subject: Unused lyric
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 09:59:48 -0800

Steven Finney wrote:

> I posted this a few years ago, but it bears a repeat...I read an
> interview with Barlow (aka "the Barlitos"...to those who know the band)
> many years ago in an English music magazine, and the following was
> one of the original lyrics to "Hell in a Bucket" which Bobby chose
> not to sing...(hey! This could even be taken as an HS reference!)
> "And while you were saying your mantra
> I was humping your very best friend
> And comparing myself to Sinatra
> 'Cause I did it my way in her end".

It's true!  I was hanging out at Weir's a bit in those days, and there
were some gnarly ideas batted around for that song.  Gerrit Graham (who
wrote "Victim or the Crime" with Bobby) was around for some of these
sessions, too.

I was actually able to contribute a little to "Hell in a Bucket": I
suggested to Bob that he change "You imagine me kissing the toe of your
boot" to "You imagine me sipping champagne from your boot."  Barlow
seemed slightly miffed about it, but I'm pretty sure he got over it.


hell in a bucket

Conjures up the line from "St. Stephen":
"Bucket hanging clear to hell..."

The phrase in American colloquial speech is "going to hell in a handbasket."

at least I'm enjoying the ride

One of my favorite "mis-hearings" of a Grateful Dead lyrics came when Alice Kahn, the Bay Area writer, wrote in a review in the East Bay Express that this song was "Police on a Joy Ride."

Catherine the Great

A reference to the Empress of Russia, 1762-1796, who was an intellectual and, as hinted at in the song, a famous libertine.

Hunter also uses her in one of his songs, "Do Deny (Lying Man)":

"I who ate with Kate the Great
On Chinese silver plate..."

When the snakes come marching in

A reference to the spiritual, "When the Saints Go Marching In."
First posted: January 30, 1996
Last revised: May 1, 1997