New Speedway Boogie

Album: Workingman's Dead (1970)


  • This was written about the disaster at the Altamont Speedway concert in 1969 when the Rolling Stones hired the Hells Angels to work security. The lyric: "In the heat of the sun, a man died of cold" refers to Meredith Hunter, an audience member who was killed by the Hells Angels. Garcia referred to the concert as "...a nice day in HELL." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Chris - San Francisco, CA
  • According to Blair Jackson in Goin' Down The Road: A Grateful Dead Traveling Companion, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter wrote this as a response to an indictment of the Altamont affair by rock critic Ralph Gleason. Hence the lead-in lyrics, "Please don't dominate the rap Jack, if you've got nothing new to say." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Rich - Gurnee, IL

Comments: 11

  • Brian from Denver, CoSorry, it was '91, not '90.
  • Brian from Denver, CoI saw this song in '90 in at Deer Creek. They played it several times during this period. Probably 10 or so total in the '90s. Phenomenal.
  • Mike from Philadelphia, PaIt was actually Michael Shrieve of Santana who warned The Dead about Marty Balin being punched out.
  • Kevin from Reading , PaThe Dead rarely, if ever, played this song live -- at least not after 1970-71. It's an interesting recording for them, with hand claps and percussion sounds in place of drums.
  • H from Nb, Ma9/19/70 version
  • Dave from Ocala, FlYes, the band name DOES come from the dictionary. The Amercian Heritage, to be precise. They were called the Warlocks until Phil thought he saw a 45 by a band with that name while flipping thorugh singles in the record store where he worked. Later, while smoking DMT, Jerry flipped open the dictionary and there was the entry. In one of the books about the Dead, they discuss it and even reprinted the page from the dictionary from which they took the name.

    In an interview Robert Klein did with Bob Weir and Pete Townshend in the early 80s, Weir describes the term as being a "ethnomusicological term relting to a genre of folk tales as compiled by Sir Francis Child in 1907."

    Also, Hunter MANY times mentioned New Speedway coming out of the Altamont disaster. The Dead were scheduled to play, but when someone came to their bus and said "someone hit Marty (Balin, of the Airplane)!" they opted to stay in the bus and chill. Garcia said he'd had bad vibes all day and had preciously warned Mick Jagger about hiring the Angels as security.
  • Joe from Chicago, IlAmanda - the band name does come from a dictionary, but it's not quite random. "Grateful Dead" is a term for folk tales in which a man pays for the burial of a stranger, then is helped by the ghost later in his adventures.
  • Roundabut1983 from Ithaca, NyTo see a great performance for New Speedway Boogie, check out "Festival Express" (2004) which the documents the 1970 Canada-by-train-festival. Great footage of all memberss of the band, as well as some of the last footage of Janis Joplin.
  • Roundabut1983 from Ithaca, NyThis site is extremely helpful for ALL works by the Grateful Dead,
  • Amanda from Mineral Ridge, Ohi heard that grateful dead got their name of the band by pointing to two random words in the dictionary i dunno tho
  • Jake from Lawrenceville, NjWhile New Speedway Boogie may have some reference to the 1969 murder at the Stone's concert, it originates from a folk song called Speedway Boogie - surprising. The Grateful Dead similarly adapted other folk songs such as the New Minglewood Blues.
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