Restless and Hot

The Grateful Dead song ‘Feel Like a Stranger’ has lyrics that were written by John Barlow and music that was composed by Bob Weir.  This song was released on the Go To Heaven album, their eleventh studio album released in 1980, which was their first album with keyboardist Brent Mydland.  This album went to #23 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and it would be their last studio album for the next seven years.  The Grateful Dead were completely disenchanted with studios, producers, and record company executives, and besides that, they had fulfilled their current Arista contract requirements, thus they preferred to release live albums.  The Dead were flirting with disco at this time and the album’s cover showed all six band members dressed in tailored white disco suits against a white background, which made some people think that it looked like a hippie version of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

In this song the singer feels like a stranger and he thinks that things are gonna get stranger.  The word stranger has two meanings, as a noun it represents someone that you don’t know very well and as an adjective it means something that is unusual, or odd.  John Barlow utilizes the same word in this song, incorporating both meanings and he does this to great effect.  This song was mostly played as a show-opener, and that allowed the Dead to incorporate a powerful jam to start their shows.  The extended jam after the beginning vocals gave Jerry unlimited space to explore a musical direction.  The best description that I read about this song, is that it relates to Bob Weir being up on stage, looking over at Jerry Garcia and wondering what song they are going to play next.  Spontaneity made the Grateful Dead great to see in concert, because they never played the same show twice, and Bob Weir was in many unplanned situations, speculating what song was going to come next.  Although one line in this song doesn’t seem to fit that scenario, “If it’s love then how would I know?”

Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir only planned out two things before each of the thousands of concerts they played, the song they would begin with and the song they would end with and then they would go from there, deciding in the moment what to play next.  The Grateful Dead fell into a pattern of alternating between songs sung by Garcia and followed by Weir songs, but they took a spontaneous and unpredictable approach to playing live, more so than practically any other band, as they did not use a set list drawn up in advance.  They let the pace of the show take them where ever they were going, sometimes it would be obvious what song they would play next, like when deadhead shouted their requests for songs at the band, but most of their choices were spontaneous.  If they were in the middle of a jam, one band member could start playing a new tune and the others might join in, or they didn’t join in, and the music would go in an entirely different direction.  Things became much more formalized after Vince Welnick joined.  The Dead started using in-ear monitors rather than on-stage ones, and by muting the mics, they could talk to each other on stage, without the crowd hearing.  Enterprising deadheads eventually discovered the UHF frequencies and they started to tape record the band speaking to each other on stage.

Inside you’re burning
I can see clear through
Your eyes tell more than you mean them to

Lit up and flashing
Like the reds and blues
Out there on the neon avenue

But I feel like a stranger
Feel like a stranger

Well the music’s thundering
We’re restless and hot
You keep firing glances across the room

And I can’t stop wondering
Just what you got
Get the feeling I’m gonna find out real soon

Still I feel like a stranger
Feel like a stranger
Well you know it’s gonna get stranger
So let’s get on with the show

Yes and the wheel
Gets smoking round midnight
You shoot me a look that said let’s go

Yes and it feels
Just like running a red light
There ain’t no point in looking behind us, no

But I feel like a stranger
Feel like a stranger
You know it keeps getting stranger and stranger
If it’s love then how would I know?

Yes and it’s gonna get stranger
Some things you just know

If this were love then how would I know
(Feel like a stranger)
(Feel like a stranger)
Feel like a stranger
(Feel like a stranger)
It’s gonna be a long hot crazy night
It’s gonna be a long long crazy crazy night)
Yeah crazy night
Silky silky, crazy crazy night
Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is Alone/Confined/Depressed/Isolated/Restless/Solo.

23 thoughts on “Restless and Hot

    1. Deadheads are a crazy bunch, that couldn’t get enough of their favorite group. I used to bring my tape recorder to some of their concerts and we would listen to their songs on the way back home.

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  1. I like the keyboard guy in this. I also see Bruce Hornsby in there with a “mobile keyboard”? It’s a light jamming song and a good starter song for their concerts. There is something organically pleasing to the playing without a setlist in between first and last songs. Sort of like life, between birth and death.

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  2. I always feel like a stranger, especially in a society that is different than me. But it isn’t all too bad, gotta be me and that is all that is important.

    I love the funky bass/guitar part going on in The Grateful Dead song. Is it ok to find it odd to see the band in white disco suits? Especially with their other covers are so totally different.

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