"It's a rainbow full of sound"

The Annotated "The Music Never Stopped"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd

"The Music Never Stopped"
Words by John Perry Barlow; Music by Bob Weir
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing. Used by permission.
There's mosquitoes on the river.
Fish are rising up like birds.
It's been hot for seven weeks now,
Too hot to even speak now.
Did you hear what I just heard?

Say, it might have been a fiddle,
Or it could have been the wind.
But there seems to be a beat, now.
I can feel it in my feet, now.
Listen, here it comes again!

There's a band out on the highway.
They're high-steppin' into town.
They're a rainbow full of sound.
It's fireworks, calliopes and clowns --

Everybody's dancing.
Come on, children. Come on, children,
Come on clap your hands.

Sun went down in honey.
Moon came up in wine.
Stars were spinnin' dizzy,
Lord, the band kept us so busy
We forgot about the time.

They're a band beyond description
Like Jehovah's favorite choir.
People joinin' hand in hand
While the music plays the band.
Lord, they're setting us on fire.

Crazy rooster crowin' midnight.
Balls of lightning roll along.
Old men sing about their dreams.
Women laugh and children scream,
And the band keeps playin' on.

Keep on dancin' through to daylight.
Greet the morning air with song.
No one's noticed, but the band's all packed and gone.
Was it ever here at all?

But they keep on dancing.
C'mon, children. C'mon, children,
Come on clap your hands.

Well, the cool breeze came on Tuesday,
And the corn's a bumper crop.
The fields are full of dancing,
Full of singing and romancing,
'Cause the music never stopped.

"The Music Never Stopped"

Written Cora, Wyoming -Mill Valley, California, June, 1975 Recorded on

First performance: August 13, 1975, at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco. This is the performance captured on One From the Vault. "Music" appeared in the first set, between "Franklin's Tower" and "It Must Have Been the Roses." In the repertoire ever since.

the music never stopped

A note from a reader:
From: Ivon Katz [mailto:dwale@yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 4:48 PM
Subject: annotation for "The Music Never Stopped"

Dear David:

I've attached the annotation as an MS-Word file. I've done so because it contains formatting not easily done in my browser... Hope it's not a problem.

If you want to post the annotation, let me know. I hope you find it interesting and/or helpful.


Ivon Katz

[editor's note: Here's Ivon's annotation, sans formatting. To view the Word document, follow this link: "The Music Never Stopped"]

Dear David:

The sentence "The Music Never Stopped" appears in a science fiction novel called The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, and it appears in a context which offers striking similarities to the Weir/Barlow song of the same name.

Alfred Bester's novel "The Stars My Destination" (my edition: Vintage, 1996; originally published by Bantam, 1956), is the story of the apotheosis of Gulliver Foyle, a brutish interstellar mechant seaman who, through a series of growth experiences sparked by a desire for revenge, inadvertently changes the course of human history. The story is well worth reading, and unlike much 1950s sci-fi, has not aged badly.

The sentence appears in a passage describing the "Four Mile Circus," an absurd traveling circus under the tutelage of 'Fourmyle of Ceres' (Gulliver Foyle disguised as a nouveau-riche fool).

Here is a slightly edited version of the passage describing the circus (please excuse the length; you'll see why at the end):

This war (like all wars) was the shooting phase of a commercial struggle.... An ominous foreboding paralyzed every home from Baffin Island to the Falklands. The dying year was enlivened only by the advent of the Four Mile Circus....

Early in the morning, a lawyer wearing a stovepipe hat... appeared with a list of camp sites in his hand and a small fortune in his pocket. He settled on a four acre meadow facing Lake Michigan...

Twenty roustabouts jaunted in, each carrying a tent pack on his back. There was a mighty overture of bawled orders, shouts, curses and the tortured scream of compressed air. Twenty giant tents ballooned upward.... the spectators cheered.

A six-motor helicopter drifted down and hovered over a giant trampoline. Its belly opened and a cascade of furnishings came down. Servants, valets, chefs, and waiters jaunted in. They furnished and decorated the tents....

Then, by plane, by car, by bus, by truck, by bike, and by jaunte came Fourmyle's entourage. Librarians and books, scientists and laboratories, philosophers, poets, athletes. Racks of swords and sabres were set up... a fifty-foot pool was sunk in the ground and filled by a pump from the lake. An interesting altercation arose between two beefy athletes as to whether the pool should be warmed for swimming or frozen for skating.

Musicians, actors, jugglers, and acrobats arrived. The uproar became deafening.... Last of all, came the camp followers: wives, daughters, mistresses, whores, beggars, chiselers, and grafters....

At noon, Fourmyle of Ceres arrived….A giant amphibian thrummed up from the south and landed on the lake. An LST barge emerged from the plane and droned across the water to the shore. Its forward wall banged down into a drawbridge and out came a twentieth-century staff car. Wonder piled on wonder for the delighted spectators, for the staff car drove a matter of twenty yards to the center of camp and stopped.

"What can possibly be next? Bike?"
"No, Roller skates."
"He'll come out on a pogo stick."

Fourmyle capped their wildest speculations. The muzzle of a circus cannon thrust up from the staff car. There was the bang of a black powder explosion and Fourmyle of Ceres was shot out of the cannon in a graceful arc to the very door of his tent where he was caught in a net by four valets.... Fourmyle climbed onto his valets' shoulders and motioned for silence.

"Oh, God! It's going to make a speech!"
"It? You mean 'he,' don't you?"
"No: it can't be human."

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen," Fourmyle began earnestly. "Lend me your ears, Shakespeare, 1564-1616. Damn!" Four white doves shook themselves out of Fourmyle's sleeves and fluttered away. He regarded them with astonishment and continued. "Friends, greetings, salutations, bonjour, bon ton, bon vivant, bon voyage, bon -- what the hell?" Fourmyle's pockets caught fire and rocketed forth Roman Candles. He tried to put them out. Confetti and streamers burst from him. "Friends!... Shut up! I'll get this speech straight. Quiet! Friends--!" Fourmyle looked down at himself in dismay. His clothes were melting away, revealing lurid scarlet underwear. "Kleinmann!" he bellowed furiously. "Kleinmann! What's happened to your goddamn hypno-training?"

A hairy head thrust out of a tent. "You stoodied for dis sbeech last night Fourmyle?"

"Damn right. For two hours, I stoodied. Never took my head out of the hypno-oven. Kleinmann on prestidigitation."

"No, no, no!: the hairy man bawled. "How many times must I tell you? Prestidigitation is not sbeechmaking. Is magic. dumbkopf! You haff the wrong hypnosis taken!"

The scarlet underwear began melting. Fourmyle toppled from the shoulders of his shaking valets and disappeared within his tent. There was a roar of laughter and cheering and the Four Mile Circus ripped into high gear. The kitchens sizzled and smoked. There was a perpetuity of eating and drinking. The music never stopped. The vaudeville never ceased. (124-26)

The two sentences in boldface seem particularly relevant to the Dead song. The malaise Bester describes echoes the mood in the beginning of the song ("There's mosquitoes on the river/fish are rising up like birds"). The second highlighted sentence places the song's title in a context that offers fortuitous parallels of, I believe, both the Dead song, and of Dead shows themselves.

Another section of the book, though not relevant to "The Music Never Stopped," describes an intergalactic synesthesia experience, in terms strongly reminiscent of a psychedelic experience. For example:

Motion came as sound to him. He heard the writhing of the flames, he heard the swirls of smoke, he heard the flickering, jeering shadows... all speaking deafeningly in strange tongues. (233)


The feel of wood was acrid and chalky in his mouth, metal was salt, stone tasted sour-sweet to the touch of his fingers, and the feel of glass cloyed his palate like over-rich pastry. (234-5)


He went hurtling along the geodesical space lines of the curving universe …. driven by the miracle of a human mind no longer inhibited by concepts of the impossible.... translating 'i' the square root of minus one, from an imaginary number into reality by a magnificent act of imagination. (235-36)

and still more so:

 	  H             E
 	    E         M   A
      	R     A     S
        	  E C       H
 				T LIKE A
 					   G OF L


Anyway-I hope you found this entertaining. If you decide to post this annotation, or any part of it, please let me know. Feel free to alter it, edit it, or re-write it as you see fit.


Ivon Katz

First posted: October 1, 1995
Last revised: February 3, 2003