A Long Way Down

Reena is offering us a situation this week where, “You go down in a lift that doesn’t stop for hours. When it finally opens, what do you see?”  This made me think about ‘Hell in a Bucket’ the Grateful Dead song from their 1987 In the Dark twelfth studio album that is sung by Weir and was written by Bob Weir, John Barlow and Brent Mydland.  The album reached #6 on The Billboard 200 due to the popularity of ‘Touch of Grey’ which peaked at # 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually this album went Platinum.  ‘Touch of Grey’ was the first Grateful Dead song to have an accompanying music video.  The song ‘Hell in a Bucket’ got to #3 on Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and it also reached #3 on the Hot 100.  The video was directed by the longtime Dead Family videographer Len Dell’amico who co-directed the film Dead Ahead, So Far along with Jerry Garcia, and Len also directed the music video for ‘Throwing Stones’.  This is not my favorite Grateful Dead song, but it is my favorite Grateful Dead video, because it is so much fun to watch.

The ‘Hell in a Bucket’ video begins in a smoky bar that was called New George’s located at 840 Fourth Street in San Rafael, which the Grateful Dead rented out.  They all had a lot of fun making this video, as it ended up being a family affair using the drummer’s wife Shelley Kreutzmann, the keyboardists wife Lisa Mydland and Garcia’s third daughter Trixie as dancing devils, all dressed up in high heels and wearing a lot of makeup and some of the crew were dressed as riffraff.  The Grateful Dead office staff played the demons in the nightclub scene, managers and roadies were rioting and dancing in the bar scene, so their entire organization got to be a part of this while Bobby lip-synced the music video.

The video opens up with Jerry Garcia sitting at the bar wearing a red flannel shirt facing the crowd and strumming his beloved guitar named Tiger, which Doug Irwin took six years to make for him.  Jerry looks happy in his shades as he is sitting next to a girl with a tattoo.  The bikers all seem to be lively and you see this girl slap a guy in his face that is playing pinball.  It fades back to Jerry and you see a duck walking around on the bar behind him wearing a leather collar.  As the camera shifts away from him, Bob Weir has a surprised look on his face while he is wearing a lavender Miami Vice blazer.

Bob starts singing and the guy sitting next to him gets smashed in the head with a bottle that knocks him to the ground.  Bob keeps shoving this picture of a girl in the guy’s face, because he thinks this guy might like her.  The girl in the picture (an unidentified actress who to my best guess might be Janet Soto-Mayor Knudsen, one of the bookkeeping staff) has wavy hair and she is dressed up in black leather looking like a dominatrix standing outside these double doors and when they swing open a chopper rides out and continues down a carpeted hallway.  Weir picks the guy up off the floor and someone breaks a wooden chair over his head and then the guy starts fighting with somebody else while the bartender is washing glasses and watching.  Bob is in a different room laying on a canopy bed that is covered with a zebra pattern bedspread and the dominatrix is on the right and above the bed on the wall there is a painting of Catherine the Great.

The girl climbs on the bed and Bob falls onto the floor and she walks up to him putting her leather boots in his face, and as the camera pans up from her boots to her fishnet garter stockings and runs all the way up her body, you get the feeling that some type of S&M bondage scene might happen.  Now the video shifts to what looks like a big old pink Cadillac driving down the street.  The band’s two drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Heart who are known as the rhythm devils are both wearing devil costumes sitting in the front seat with Bill driving and Micky fumbling around with a map, while Bob is sitting in the back seat with the same girl and he is holding a drink.  Kreutzmann holds up the map and it looks like he is directing Billy to HELL.

Back to the bedroom where Brent Mydland is playing a piano in a red and white striped vest and the girl is holding a riding crop standing behind Weir who appears to be tied to a chair with chains and there is a pig sniffing his feet, a goat wandering around and that duck is on the bed.  The girl circles around Bob, Brent checks her out, Bob gazes at the painting and now he is free of the chair.  Bob and the girl circle around the chair and then the picture on the wall changes to a move of naked people with their private parts covered in black tape.  Bob and the girl are both on the bed and he is pouring champagne with a tiger patiently watching.  It looks like they finally reached hell as several pitchforks appear and the devil is dressed in a black robe with a red cap and 4 girls dressed in red start dancing.  Bob pops in singing in front of them still dressed in the lavender blazer and flames are shooting into the air.

Bob is back in the bedroom wearing a yellow guinea tee shirt and the girl knocks him down to the bed with her riding crop.  Back to the Cadillac where Micky pulls Billy across the front seat to look at the map and Bill has to let go of the wheel.  The duck is back on the bar and Bob is showing that picture to it.  A magician is pointing at something, the duck is sitting at the piano and there is a juggler and a guy swallowing fire.  Jerry Garcia is still sitting in his chair at the bar and then Bob is sitting in the back of the car with that dammed duck.  The duck sticks his bill in Bob’s drink and it goes back for a second helping.  Micky is playing with a pitchfork and Bill can’t sit still any longer, so he stands up while driving the car.  Bob is back in the bed with the girl pouring champagne into a glass boot and the tiger has moved to the floor.  Mickey is holding the freaking duck and Bob is in the back seat with the girl.

The pitchforks are all out now in the hell scene and then it goes back to the bar where the girl is wearing sun glasses and looks like she is going to hit somebody with her riding crop.  A guy is holding a small snake and the magician is chatting with the piano player.  Back in the bedroom, the fire eater seems to be enjoying himself and then it is back to the car for a second with Micky still holding the duck and Bob in the back with the girl.  The bass player Phil Lesh makes an appearance in the bar wearing a brown colored scarf around his neck and a girl hugs him and then some other girl reaches out to kiss him.

Back to the car where the duck is sitting on Bob’ lap.  In the bedroom, the pig is moving around in the picture with black tape on its eyes.  In the bar, the duck is back at the piano and the juggler is still doing his thing.  The video shows a Grateful Dead concert with them performing this song on stage, and Bobby is wearing his trademark shorts, before it switches back to the pinball machine in the bar and then the drunk duck is flapping its wings.  Bob Weir had the idea about having a duck in the video, and before they knew it, they had a drunk duck on their hands, as he got pretty hammered.

Well I was drinking last night with a biker
And I showed him a picture of you
I said “pal, get to know her, you’ll like her”
Seemed like the least I could do

‘Cause when he’s charging his chopper
Up and down your carpeted halls
You will think me by contrast quite proper
Never mind how I stumble and fall
Never mind how I stumble and fall

You imagine sipping champagne from your boot
For a taste of your elegant pride
I may be going to hell in a bucket
But at least I’m enjoying the ride
At least I’m enjoying the ride
Yeah at least I’m enjoying the ride

Ahh miss sweetie little soft-core pretender
Somehow baby got hard as it gets
With her black leather chrome spiked suspenders
And her chair and her whip and her pets

Well we know you’re the reincarnation
Of the ravenous Catherine the Great
And we know how you love your ovations
And the Z-rated scenes you create
And the Z-rated scenes you create


You analyze me, attempt to despise me
And you laugh when I stumble and fall
There may come a day I will dance on your grave
If unable to dance I will crawl across it
Unable to dance I will crawl
Yeah, unable to dance I’ll crawl

You must really consider the circus
‘Cause it just might be your kind of zoo
I can’t think of a place that’s more perfect
For a person as perfect as you

And it’s not like I’m leaving you lonely
‘Cause I wouldn’t know where to begin
But I know that you’ll think of me only
When the snakes come marching in
When the snakes come marching in


Ride, ride, ride, ride
At least I’m enjoying the ride
Ride, ride, ride, ride
At least I’m enjoying the ride
Ride, ride, ride
At least I’m enjoying the ride

Written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge 160 – situation about a long ride down on a lift.

17 thoughts on “A Long Way Down

    1. Touch of Grey was their big video with them changing into skeletons, but this one is much more fun. I did a lot of searching to find out who that girl that played the dominatrix was, but in the end I had to take a guess as there was no confirmation of her identity. There were a lot of group pictures of them posted and the names were given below one picture of about 15 of them around this car, but I am not that great at identifying people and I would make a horrible eye witness.

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  1. For once, a Grateful Dead song I knew right away (like so many other bandwagon crashers if you will, i bought the In The Dark album) but I don’t remember ever seeing the video! Fun… and ZZ Top had the girls but they didn’t match the duck!

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    1. This video is all over the place and I had a difficult time describing it because it kept shifting from the bar to the bedroom to the car and even down to hell, but that duck showing up everywhere except in hell is very funny.


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