New Potato Caboose

Lyrics: Bobby Petersen
Music: Phil Lesh

In his book "Searching For The Sound", Phil Lesh says this song came from:

"a little thing I had pecked out on the studio harpsichord when we were at RCA for our first album - which later, with some lyrics from my mad beatnik college buddy, Bobby Petersen, became New Potato Caboose... It didn't spring into being all at once, but rather amalgamated itself over time, with small but crucial contributions from the whole band. Pig added a celesta part to the intro, Jerry a melodic phrase for the verse, and Mickey a glockenspiel riff and a very important gong roll. Bob sang lead on the song, since I wasn't ready to try singing leads yet."
Last leaf fallen, bare earth where green was, bone (note 1)
Above Madonna, two eagles hang against a cloud (note 2)
Sun comes up blood red
Wind yells among the stone
All graceful instruments are known

When the windows all are broken (note 3)
And your love's become a toothless crone
When the voices of the storm sound
Like a crowd
Winter morning breaks, you're all alone

The eyes are blind
Blue visions are all a seer can own
And touching makes the flesh to cry out loud
This ground on which the seed of love is sown
All graceful instruments are known
(1) a sheet of lyrics in Pigpen's handwriting offered for auction in 2008 has this line as "... bare earth where green was bone", as above. The lyrics in the "Anthology" songbook are "... bare earth where green was born". I think on careful listening that it is "bone" rather than "born" but it's hard to distinguish.
(2) the lyrics in the "Anthology" songbook are "Black Madonna, two eagles ...", but it doesn't sound like what the Dead sing. I had thought that the recordings sounded like "Above my doorknob ..." but the Pigpen handwritten lyrics mentioned in the note above have it as "Above Madonna, two eagles ...", and on closer listening I think that's what the Dead sing. It seems this may be a reference to a stained glass panel of two eagles and a cloud set in a door in the Dead's house - and it could be that the eagles were above an image of the Madonna, though above the doorknob would also have made sense.
(3) on at least one occasion (22 November 1968) Bobby sang "When your fingers all are broken.

Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
      1967-68 Anthem Of The Sun (note 3)
      4 Aug 1967 30 Days Of The Dead (2010)
     22 Oct 1967 Anthem Of The Sun (2018 bonus disc) (note 5)
     10 Nov 1967 30 Trips Around The Sun
     30 Jan 1968 Road Trips Volume 2, Number 2 (bonus disc)
     14 Feb 1968 Road Trips Volume 2, Number 2
     24 Feb 1968 Dick's Picks Vol 22
     17 Mar 1968 Download Series Vol 6
     24 Aug 1968 Two From The Vault
     24 Jan 1969 Aoxomoxoa (2019 bonus disc)
      1 Mar 1969 Fillmore West 1969 - The Complete Recordings
      8 Jun 1969 Fillmore West 1969 - The Complete Recordings (note 2) (note 4)
      4 Jun 1999 Love Will See You Through (Phil Lesh & Friends)
      3 Jul 2015 Fare Thee Well (CD and DVD)
(2) released on the bonus disc issued with advance orders
(3) New Potato Caboose features on the Ralph Gleason DVD "West Pole", but this is just some video effects set to the studio version from Anthem of the Sun.
(4) also on 30 Days Of The Dead (2015)
(5) also on 30 Days Of The Dead (2011)

Further Information
For an online discussion of the lyrics to this song see the
deadsongs.vue conference on The Well.
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For information on references in the lyrics see David Dodd's Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics
For David Dodd's discussion of this song on see Greatest Stories Ever Told
For online chords and TAB see
For sheet music, see:
          Grateful Dead Anthology Volume 1 (piano arrangement)


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