Robert Hunter wrote the Grateful Dead song ‘Scarlet Begonias’ and he said that it is about his wife Maureen. It was originally called ‘Bristol Girls’ and it was a very, very involved story with a plot, but it got honed down to the basics. In the song the character flees from the girl, but Robert is still married to Maureen. He wrote this song in England while he was commuting to England, going over three or four times a year. Jerry Garcia said that this song has a little Caribbean thing to it, which may have come from that Paul Simon song, ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard’, or possibly from some of the Cat Stevens rhythmic stuff on Tea for the Tillerman. It has an acoustic feel with an electric space.
In this song there is this guy that is walking around Grosvenor Square, which is a large garden square in the Mayfair district of London. It is the centerpiece of the Mayfair property of the Duke of Westminster and this guy has a chance meeting with a beautiful woman. It is not yet winter, but it is getting cold. This woman seems too good to be true, and this makes him think that it could be an illusion, but he figures that he has nothing to lose by trying, so he decides to give it a shot. She obviously was not like other girls, as only belly dancers wear bells on their toes. The feature that that he finds the most distinguishing about this girl is the Scarlet Begonias that she had tucked into her curls. He knew immediately they shared a common interest in the blues. Later that evening, they are playing cards and the dealing got rough, but perhaps this card game is a metaphor for a one-night-stand courtship. She was confident in her card playing skills, she was too pat to open, and too cool to bluff. This is when the guy decides that he will not pursue her, so he picks up his matches (cashes in his chips), and he closes the door. He is drawn to this girl, but he gets this déjà vu, he feels that he has dated women like this, he’s done that and been there before, so he lets her go.
He wonders about this feeling, thinking that he ain’t often right, but then again he has never been wrong when it comes to relationships. Most things don’t turn out the way that they do in songs. If you are lucky, you get shown the light and this could happen in the strangest of places if you look at it right. Although there is nothing wrong with this girl, the Scarlet begonias that she wears in her hair, or her love for the blues, or that look that’s in her eyes, something was telling him that she was not the one for him and he was going to let her pass by. He made a bad decision as the universe has turned upside down with, “the wind in the willows playing Tea for Two.” ‘Tea for Two’ is a song from the 1925 musical ‘No, No, Nanette’ and this musical is what caused the Boston Red Sox to trade Babe Ruth to the Yankees. “The sky was yellow and the sun was blue”, which is an altered perception being exactly opposite of the way things should be. Also very unlikely, “Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand”. The Heart of Gold Band is an American rock band formed by Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux in 1980 following their departure from the Grateful Dead.
As I was walking round Grosvenor Square
Not a chill to the winter but a nip to the air
From the other direction she was calling my eye
It could be an illusion, but I might as well try
Might as well try
She had rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes
And I knew without asking she was into the blues
She wore scarlet begonias, tucked into her curls
I knew right away she was not like other girls
In the thick of the evening when the dealing got rough
She was too pat to open and too cool to bluff
As I picked up my matches and was closing the door
I had one of those flashes I had been there before
Been there before
Well I ain’t often right but I’ve never been wrong
It seldom turns out the way it does in the song
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right
Well there ain’t nothing wrong with the way she moves
Scarlet begonias or a touch of the blues
And there’s nothing wrong with the look that’s in her eyes
I had to learn the hard way to let her pass by
Let her pass by
The wind in the willows playing Tea for Two
The sky was yellow and the sun was blue
Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand
Everybody is playing in the heart of gold band
Heart of gold band
Written for 12/16/18 Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday Theme where the prompt is “girls”.