Down So Long

Lyrics: Grateful Dead?
Music: Grateful Dead?

This was sung on at least a couple of occasions by Garcia in 1966. Even though the line "I been down so long it looks like up to me" occurs in many other songs, I suspect this may be a Grateful Dead (probably Garcia) original: I've never found any similar versions by others, and this sounds quite like other early Dead originals.

The book included with the box set "30 Trips Around The Sun" seems to confirm this, saying: "Short-lived Dead original with traditional-sounding chord changes and lyrics inspired by Richard Fariña's 1966 novel 'Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.'"

What I think is an instrumental version of this song circulates as a studio outtake from January 1967 under the title "Lucky Man" or "Lucky Man Jam" (or The Walk).

Hard headed lover, won't you please let me stay all night
If you just let me stay, I think everything's all right
With my shoes in my pockets, eyes on the door
Mama won't you give me the key
I been down so long it looks like up to me

I'm afraid of going but I can't stand standing still (note 1)
The hole that I've been in looks more and more like a hill
In a rowboat on the ocean, swept offshore
I started to feel all at sea
I been down so long it looks like up to me

The candyman is standing with his friends outside my door
There's a hole in the circle and I'm [going down in the floor]
Been told many times, but again my friend, the best things in life are free
I been down so long it looks like up to me

[You gotta have plans] please don't forget my name
'Cause the hand that I got just won't let me win the game
If I had plenty of time [...]
[...] looks like I've started to see
I been down so long it looks like up to me
(1) Alternative: "I can't stand moving but I don't like standing still"

None issued by the Dead. Lots of other artists have recorded songs called "Down So Long" or similar, but none bear any relation to this song. In particular, the Doors' song "Been Down So Long" is completely different.

The Grateful Dead's song was first performed in 1966, not long after the publication of Richard Fariña's book and it may well be that, as noted above, the Dead were inspired by the title to write the song. Richard Farina in turn took the line from a 1920s Furry Lewis song "I Will Turn Your Money Green" and it's always possible the Dead picked up the idea direct from that song. (thanks to Katherine Ames for pointing this out to me)

Further Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography


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