I Just Don’t Know

‘Cosmic Charlie’ is a Grateful Dead song written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter that was recorded on Aoxomoxoa, which was their third studio album released in 1969 and it was originally titled Earthquake Country.  The American electronics company Ampex manufactured and released its new 16-track multitrack recording machine MM-1000 in 1968, and Blood, Sweat & Tears used this to record their second album.  Betty Cantor, Dan Healy, the acid king Owsley Stanley were all consulting engineers on this album along with Ron Wickersham who worked at Ampex as a design engineer.  The Grateful Dead were eager to try it out this new technology because it would double the number of tracks available to them, allowing them to go deeper and experiment with things that no other band had done yet.  This arrived just as they were reaching the apex of their experimental stage in psychedelic music.  The title Aoxomoxoa is pronounced “ox-oh-mox-oh-ah” and it is a meaningless palindrome that was created by cover artist Rick Griffin and lyricist Robert Hunter.

‘Cosmic Charlie’ appeared in concert about 20 times in both 1969 and 1970 till it was dropped from their repertoire at the start of 1971, but it was played again a few times in 1976.  ‘Cosmic Charlie’ with its largely unrelated lyrics may have been written about a Dead Head who was the original space cadet because he took too much acid and was strung out on LSD.  According to Robert Hunter, ‘Cosmic Charlie’ is not based on Charles Bosch, a psychedelic inhabitant of the SF Summer of Love who was one of the characters on the scene in the Haight.  The Grateful Dead may have been giving out advice to their fans, telling them that tripping on acid all the time was making them lose their grip on reality.  They probably didn’t want all their fans to be burn outs with fried brains, but at the same time hoping that they come back whenever their airplane happens to land.  They might be telling this tripped out person to relax and that things will get better for him when he gets back home.  The song mentions “Kalico Kahlia” which is thought to be Calliope the Muse of epic poetry, and chief of the Muses and the mother of Orpheus by Apollo.  Calico could also be a reference to a type of cat.

Cosmic Charley, how do you do?
Truckin’ in style along the avenue
Dum dee dum dee doodley doo
Go on home, your mother’s calling you

Kalico Kahlia, come tell me the news
Calamity’s waiting for a way to get to her
Rosy red and electric blue
I bought you a paddle for your paper canoe

Say you’ll come back when you can
Whenever your airplane happens to land
Maybe I’ll be back here too
It all depends on what’s with you

Hung up waiting for a windy day
Kite on ice since the first of February
Mama keeps saying that the wind might blow
But standing here, I say I just don’t know

New ones coming as the old ones go
Everything’s moving here, but much too slow now
A little bit quicker and we might have time
To say “How do you do?” before we’re left behind

Calliope wail like a seaside zoo
The very last lately enquired about you
It’s really very one or two
The first you wanted, the last I knew

I just wonder if you shouldn’t feel
Less concern about the deep unreal
The very first word is “How do you do?”
The last “Go home, your mama’s calling you”

Calling you
Calling you
Calling you
Calling you

Go on home your mama’s calling you
Go on home your mama’s calling you
Go on home your mama’s calling you

Written for Thursday Inspiration #186 All for Love where the prompt word is know.

7 thoughts on “I Just Don’t Know

  1. I like this song…I listened to it first when I read one of the books that mentioned this one…the name alone made me want to hear it.

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      1. Yea I broke my fever yesterday….I was going to work this morning but I was just too exhausted so I’m working from home today. Thanks for asking Jim

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