"Its sounds have all ruptured, it sounds just like glass"

The Annotated "Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd
1997-98 Research Associate, Music Department, University of California, Santa Cruz
Copyright notice; © 1995-2000 David Dodd

"Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues"
Words by Robert Petersen; music by Phil Lesh and Brent Mydland
Halfway past cool on Monday for the sight of her
Rode in town while he built afar [a fire?] with the riders and then the poor
Hot damn, it's a mother's day, don't you all look fine
Promenading down long car ocean, yes it's mine and it's sniffing white

They got poets, shuckers and godzilla's 'round
Mother's sweet little frozen no suit
We got Speed Racer and his archaic as words Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues

Bringin' all the mares hide in your cabs, honey now loosen your load
You belong to this has-no-name, what I
I remember some chicks from the sciz would come along and sit and squeeze too
Silly says, I say it once, for you it's cold steel and slow
Its sounds have all ruptured, it sounds just like glass
Suspect out in the corners, sounding verse and kickin' ass
I felt the city have a narly, don't make the 6 o'clock news
Speed Racer and the band here playing

As I recall I went for the window, but I never did get me there
Hit me hard with his hickory stick was the last thing I saw, met you
Drag me down and tangle, you carry the charges if you feel
Pray for the day that one yourself, but then figure we'll lick a few

But when I try to look up, don't want to let me loosen your load
Here alone take this grenade for me, well I

The fore runner radiates wild help up far now, gun ships pass so far
Pass me a vote, silly, and how we did it all over
Did it all over, did it all over the road

We got broads, suckers and guys in this jail mother sweet little frozen no suit
We got Speed Racer and his archaic am words Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues

"Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues"

Only performance: March 27, 1986, at Cumberland County Civic Center, in Portland, Maine. "Hamstrung" appeared in the first set, following "Minglewood" and preceding "Bertha".

Thoughts on the song from Christian Crumlish

Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues

(as transcribed from a tape of 3-27-86, Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland, Maine, the only performance of this song-more dubious guesswork in italics)

Halfway past cool, clear Monday to the side of the room,
Rolling down Wild Hair Boulevard with the rising of the poon.
Hot damn! It's Mother's Day. Don't you all look fine?
Promenading down the long carwash, passing snipes and sniffin' wine.

We got poets, shuckers, and godzillas
Ground by the sweep, little frozen, no soup.
We got Speed Racer and His Arcade Androids,
Revolutionary hamstrung blues.

Say, now mama may I tighten your cap?
Now honey may I loosen your load?
You hold on to this hand grenade, while I...

I remember some chicks from the shit club,
Coming on to Silly, squeeze toe.
Silly says, "I'll say it once.
For you it's cold steel, and slow."

I'm standing by the rupture,
'Mid chairs and flying glass.
Silly smack dab in the soma,
Shouting verse and kicking ass.
Back then, the sweep-you hopped the 90,
Don't make the six o'clock news.
Speed Racer and the band kept playing...

[instrumental break]

As I recall I went for the window
But I never did get clear
Henry Hawkins' hickory stick
Was the last thing I saw that year

Drag me down to the tangle, you carry the charges, if you please.
Hey, 30-day up on my shelf or a feeling we meant to be
Mama may I tighten your cap?
Your honor let me loosen your load
You hold on to this grenade for me, while I...

The full moon irradiates Wild Hair Boulevard now.
Dumbshits talk so bold.
Reminds me of old Silly, and how we
Did it all over...
Did it all over...
Did it all over the road.

We got poets, shuckers, and godzillas
Ground by the sweep, little frozen bowl soup.
We got Speed Racer and His Arcade Androids
Revolutionary hamstrung blues.

[...and straight into Bertha]

I always heard that line in the chorus as "We got poets, shuckers, and Godzilla's grandmother/Sweet little frozen no soup," which is troubling. I'm not much more satisfied with my current reading, but it's based on some guesswork and perhaps my growing understanding of what the song is about. My surmise from some of the language is that it's from the point of a hobo in a sort of psychedelic barbary coast situation. References to what I hear as "the sweep," and hopping the 90, which I assume is a train. Of course I may be way off, but this fits with some of Petersen's life story and writings and the appeal to Brent would be easy to see. In a way, it prefigures Picasso moon with an almost cyberpunk macho feel.

No soup might also be "no suit."

Speed Racer and His Arcade Androids is clearly the name of a band.

"I remember some chicks" is sung as "I remember some ass" by one of the two vocalists, I believe.

Instead of "standing," possibly "stranded by the rupture."

I used to hear it as "Henry Hawkins' hickory stick," and now it honestly sounds more like "Anemone Hawk and his hickory stick" or "an enemy…." These phonetics of the recording could come from Phil and Brent singing out of synch? Is Henry Hawkins a figure from American literature or folklore?

The Japanese tinge to the lyrics brings to mind Buckaroo Banzai, Elvis Costello's Tokyo Storm Warning, even Godzilla's appearance in Pynchon's Vineland.

On the soundboard from the stage chatter you can hear someone yell "Have fun," and someone else say "Hey Weir Weir are you going to do that song?"

They teased the frst few bars of Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues at the show previous to the breakout before opting not to play it, as I mention in my review of that show in the upcoming third edition of the Deadhead Taping Compendium (Owl/Holt, 2000).

Speed Racer

A 1970's cartoon character, still apparently alive in the strange world of anime. Another page dedicated to Speed Racer is here
DeadBase code: [HAMS]
First posted: November 30, 1996
Last revised: May 24, 2000