The Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station...

The Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station...
Authored By John Nicholson

For a bunch of acid heads Terrapin Station is on the face of things, unlikely. For a start it’s got Paul Buckmaster strings on it. Not a very acid rock thing to do. But the Dead played by their own rules. Many Deadheads think it’s a poor album, but I disagree. It’s different and has a lovely grandiose theme. It’s not really what you’d expect and is all the better for it
Unusually it was produced by Keith Olson. The first side is brilliant songs like Estimated Prophet, which they play live regularly and expand the sax part with a stellar player, like Winston Marsalis. The sound is recognisable, but the music is less hippy stoner meets country and more jazz. The strings on the title track invest it with a big sweeping quality that I really like. It sounds, at times, like a soundtrack to a western.
It came out in 1977 and was popular. Maybe the orchestrations helped sweeten the deal. Though Phil Lesh thinks it was gliding the lily somewhat. It got to # 28 but the whole 16 minute Terrapin Suite hasn’t been played live. Excerpts are played, obviously without orchestration. Do I know what it’s about? Not a clue. Does the terrapin mean anything? And why a station? Best not think too hard, things will become clearer late at night.
It was the first album for Arista, the next album Shakedown Street was less original and quirky. Though it does contain Fire on the Mountain, which seems to me to be a Dead classic. Terrapin Station may be a brief detour but it takes you to places unexplored.

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