No Left Turn Unstoned (Cardboard Cowboy/The Monster)

Lyrics: Phil Lesh
Music: Phil Lesh

This is a song played a few times in the very early days of the Grateful Dead but then dropped from their repertoire. It is usually known as "Cardboard Cowboy" but it seems to have been variously titled as "No Left Turn Unstoned" or "The Monster."

Phil Lesh made the following comments about the song in a CD issued as bonus material with some copies of his book "Searching For The Sound":

"This song here is one of the first originals that we wrote (or that actually I wrote, 'cause I wrote the words and the music) ... This is known as 'Cardboard Cowboy' but it actually was called 'The Monster,' and I'm not sure why we called it that except maybe it was just so big and ugly and hard to play."
The title "No Left Turn Unstoned" comes from a sign in front of Ken Kesey's old house in La Honda. Bob Weir introduced it under this title in the show on 29 July 1966.
Weir: OK, we're gonna do a song now, the title of the song is "No Left Turn Unstoned"
Lesh: That's an anagram, or is it a calliope?
Weir: A spoonerism
Lesh: A spoonerism, that's it
Weir: It's certainly frivolous
Garcia: A palindrome, that's it
And in an interview with Blair Jackson in Dupree's Diamond News No 28, Spring 1994, there is the following exchange:
Jackson: Have you written lyrics before?
Lesh: Only once, but this [Childhood's End] came out a lot better than that one.
Jackson: Which was ...
Lesh: "No Left Turn Unstoned." [Laughs] It was a truly awful song I wrote for the Grateful Dead during the Matrix era - I think it was '67, maybe '68. It's on a couple of tapes I think. It's so God-awful I can't even listen to it to find out what it was like. [Laughs]
The lyrics are very hard to decipher, and what's below is sometimes just phonetic sounds. Thanks especially to Richard Zadworny for his work on making sense of this. All other help gratefully received.
When the cardboard cowboy dreams in his cornucopia (note a)
Opens up the sky and blows my mind to the corners of
The rainbow bridge unrolling beneath my trembling toes
Leaving me transfixed and raving in the wake of the hammer blow

On my way out of town I stumbled on the shards of a hungry scream
And bubbled up into the backdoor circle, where the power and crystal seems
Transistorized by all [hallows] rangers on the strength of an exit sign
And a paranoid re-entry blanket flies sleeping on a sling shot ride

As my patchwork world unravels, I ramble yes too high
[From the looping antrobus] with his magic meant so [high]
Shining out a masquerade from dawn to alpha plus
Watching mashed potatoes dribble in the heat of reality's earth

[For the intro doom from] running to him
It wasn't ever so
Turns the wall into the sky above me, there is no place to run
(a) the lyrics to the first prt of this verse are set out in this article from the San Raphael Independent-Journal on 19 September 1966. But I hear the Dead singing "blows my mind" rather than "sends my mind" as in the article.

Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     1966 Searching For The Sound (note 1)
      3 Jul 1966 30 Trips Around The Sun
     29 Jul 1966 The Grateful Dead: 50th Anniversary Edition

(1) on bonus CD given away with copies of Phil Lesh's book if bought from Powell's

Note that the David Nelson Band song Fable Of A Chosen One and (I think) the Phish song NICU contain the phrase "no left turn unstoned"

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


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