Scarlet Begonias

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Jerry Garcia

As I was walking round Grosvenor Square
Not a chill to the winter but a nip to the air
From the other direction she was calling my eye (note 1)
It could be an illusion, but I might as well try
Might as well try

She had rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes
And I knew without asking she was into the blues
She wore scarlet begonias, tucked into her curls
I knew right away she was not like other girls
Other girls

In the thick of the evening when the dealing got rough (note 2)
She was too pat to open and too cool to bluff
As I picked up my matches and was closing the door
I had one of those flashes I had been there before
Been there before

Well I ain't often right but I've never been wrong
It seldom turns out the way it does in the song
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right

Well there ain't nothing wrong with the way she moves
Scarlet begonias or a touch of the blues
And there's nothing wrong with the look that's in her eyes (note 3) (note 4) (note 6)
I had to learn the hard way to let her pass by
Let her pass by

The wind in the willows playing Tea for Two (note 5)
The sky was yellow and the sun was blue
Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand
Everybody is playing in the heart of gold band
Heart of gold band

(1) Jerry occasionally sang "From the other direction, I was calling her eye"
(2) it often sounds as if Jerry sang "In the heat of the evening when the dealer got rough"
(3) Jerry normally sang sings "the look that's in her eyes", though the original Hunter lyrics are "the love that's in her eye" - and that's what Hunter sings when he does it in concert.
(4) Jerry at least once sang "And there's nothing wrong with the way she caught my eye"
(5) there are a few minor differences between Garcia's and Hunter's version of the lyrics to this verse. Hunter has "... played Tea for Two" rather than "playing"; he also has "Strangers stop strangers" rather then "stopping".
(6) in a solo performance on 8 August 1984, Robert Hunter sang this couplet as "Look all around this whole wide world, find nothing stranger than a Bristol girl." This had puzzled me until I came across a 1978 interview in which Hunter said:
"[Scarlet Begonias] was originally pages and pages long. There was a very, very involved story there. It was like quite a plot. And it finally got honed down to just the basic moves. Which is best. Although there is a ... it was originally called "Bristol Girls" and there's one line in it that I'm using [in my solo shows]. I am adding or changing lines and using old verses that the Dead don't use in some of these songs. ... 'Look all around this whole wide world, never find nothing stranger than a Bristol girl.'"
This was elaborated in a 2004 interview with Blair Jackson:
"[Scarlet Begonias is] about my wife [Maureen]. It was called "Bristol Girls" at the time - "Look all around this whole wide world/ You'll find nothing stranger than a Bristol girl." In the song the character flees - "As I was closing the door ..." But it didn't end [in real life] the way the song ended; I'm still with her. I have to say, that's her special song. [It was written in England] for that girl, really. I was pretty much commuting to England, going over three or four times a year."
Sublime recorded Scarlet Begonias on "40oz To Freedom", with an additional passage inserted in the middle. Thanks to James McCann for help with the transcription.
It was the summer of love, and I thank the stars above
Because the woman took a-lovin' over me
And just to gain her trust, I bought a microbus
Because I sold up all my personal property
A tight tie-dyed dress, she was a psychedelic mess
We toured to the north, south, east and west
We sold some mushroom tea, we sold some ecstacy
We sold nitrous, opium, acid, heroin and PCP
And now I hear the police coming after me
Yes now I hear the police coming after me
The one scarlet with the flowers in her hair
She's got the police coming after me

Well there ain't nothing wrong with the way she moves ...
Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     Studio 1974 From The Mars Hotel   (note n)
     23 Mar 1974 Dick's Picks Vol 24
     14 May 1974 Dave's Picks Volume 9
     19 May 1974 Pacific Northwest '73-'74
     21 May 1974 Pacific Northwest '73-'74
     28 Jun 1974 Dick's Picks Vol 12
     19 Jul 1974 Dave's Picks Volume 17
     29 Jul 1974 30 Days Of The Dead (2022)
     31 Jul 1974 Dave's Picks Volume 2
      4 Aug 1974 30 Days Of The Dead (2018)
      5 Aug 1974 Dick's Picks Vol 31
      6 Aug 1974 Dick's Picks Vol 31
      9 Sep 1974 Dick's Picks Vol 7
     18 Sep 1974 30 Trips Around The Sun
      Oct 1974 Grateful Dead Movie (DVD and CD)
     16 Oct 1974 From The Mars Hotel   (note a)
      9 Jun 1976 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 5
     11 Jun 1976 June 1976 Box Set
     15 Jun 1976 June 1976 Box Set
     17 Jun 1976 Dave's Picks Volume 28
     21 Jun 1976 Download Series Vol 4
     16 Jul 1976 Dave's Picks Volume 18
     25 Sep 1976 Dick's Picks Vol 20
     30 Sep 1976 Live At The Cow Palace (note b)
      1 Oct 1976 30 Days Of The Dead (2021)
      3 Oct 1976 30 Trips Around The Sun (note i) (note h)
      9 Oct 1976 Dick's Picks Vol 33
     31 Dec 1976 Live At The Cow Palace
     25 Apr 1977 30 Trips Around The Sun
     29 Apr 1977 Download Series Vol 1
     30 Apr 1977 Download Series Vol 1
      5 May 1977 May 1977: Get Shown The Light Box
      8 May 1977 May 1977: Get Shown The Light Box (note l)
     11 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     13 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     17 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     21 May 1977 Dick's Picks Vol 29
     25 May 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 1
      7 Jun 1977 Winterland June 1977 - The Complete Recordings
     2 Oct 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 45
     16 Oct 1977 Road Trips Volume 1, Number 2
      2 Nov 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 12
      6 Nov 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 25
     31 Dec 1977 New Year's Eve At The Winterland
      5 Feb 1978 Dick's Picks Vol 18
     18 Apr 1978 Dave's Picks Vol 37
     24 Apr 1978 Dave's Picks Volume 7
      7 May 1978 30 Days Of The Dead (2013)
     11 May 1978 Dick's Picks Vol 25
      3 Jul 1978 July 1978: The Complete Recordings
      7 Jul 1978 July 1978: The Complete Recordings
     22 Oct 1978 Road Trips Volume 1, Number 4 ("From Egypt With Love")
     31 Dec 1978 The Closing Of Winterland (DVD & CD)
      1 Sep 1979 30 Days Of The Dead (2017)
     24 Oct 1979 30 Days Of The Dead (2019)
      1 Nov 1979 Dick's Picks Vol 13
      3 Dec 1979 Dave's Picks Vol 31 (note p)
     30 Dec 1979 Road Trips Vol 3, No 1 (bonus disc)
     30 Aug 1980 30 Days Of The Dead (2011)
     14 Oct 1980 30 Days Of The Dead (2021)
     30 Nov 1980 Dave's Picks Volume 8
     10 Mar 1981 In And Out Of The Garden
      9 Dec 1981 Dave's Picks Volume 20
     31 Jul 1982 30 Trips Around The Sun (note g)
     20 Sep 1982 In And Out Of The Garden
     14 Oct 1983 Dick's Picks Vol 6
     21 Oct 1983 30 Trips Around The Sun
     27 Dec 1983 Grateful Dead Scrapbook (DVD) (note c)
     20 Apr 1984 Dave's Picks Volume 35
      3 Jul 1984 30 Days Of The Dead (2014) (note k)
      3 May 1986 30 Trips Around The Sun
     24 Jul 1987 View From The Vault IV (DVD & CD soundtrack)
     27 Mar 1988 Download Series Vol 5
     31 Mar 1988 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 2
      7 Jul 1989 Crimson, White and Indigo (DVD & CD)
     16 Mar 1990 Spring 1990 (note f)
     22 Mar 1990 So Many Roads (1965-1995) (note e)
      3 Apr 1990 Spring 1990 (The Other One)
     27 Apr 1991 30 Days Of The Dead (2020)
     19 Jun 1991 Download Series Vol 11
      1 Oct 1994 30 Trips Around The Sun
      3 Jul 2015 Fare Thee Well (CD and DVD) (note j)
Phil Lesh and Friends Recordings
     18 May 2006 Live At The Warfield
Dead-related Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     10 Jul 1980 The Ghosts Playing In The Heart Of Gold Band Heart Of Gold Band (note d)
     1990 Box Of Rain Robert Hunter
     31 Dec 2018 Rising Up To Paradise Big Swell
     2003 Live Vince Welnick and Gent Treadly
(Plus live recordings by The Dead, Furthur, Dead & Company, Ratdog, Phil Lesh & Friends etc not listed here. See Grateful Dead Family Discography for a full list.)
Tribute Albums
                 Date Album Recorded By
     1997 Pickin' On The Grateful Dead David West et al
     1998 Blue Light Rain Jazz Is Dead
     1999 Swingin' To The Grateful Dead Steve Marsh et al
     2002 Elecronic Tribute To The Grateful Dead Various (Jun Jun Clinic)
     2002 Buckdancer's Choice Wake The Dead
     2003 Grateful Guitar David Cullen
     2005 Jerry Jams, Jerry Cares Caren Kennedy
     2005 Deadgrass Deadgrass
     2008 Ithica 30 Years Later Dark Star Orchestra
     2009 Yoga Tribute To Grateful Dead Yoga Pop Ups (note m)
     2012 D'Eadphibians D'Amphibiand
     2013 First Reearsals Sycamore Slough String Band
     2013 Harpin' On The Dead Anela Lauren
     2014 Grateful Dead Bluegrass Tribute David Holodiloff
     2015 Twangin' The Dead Matt Rae
     14 May 2015 Dear Jerry: Celebrating The Music Of Jerry Garcia The Disco Biscuits plus Billy & The Kids
     2015 Songs Of Their Own SchwizZ
     2017 Dead Songs Vol 1 Barton Hills Choir
     2018 Cut The Dead Some Slack Stephen Inglis
     2018 Garcia Songbook Joe Craven & The Sometimers
     2019 Sabertooth Plays Dead Sabertooth
Covers By Other Artists
     Date Album Recorded By
     1992 40oz To Freedom Sublime
     1995 Step On It Best Of The Ska Parade Radio Show
     2000 Over The Edge Professor Louie and The Crowmatix
     2003 Live Vince Welnick and Gent Treadly
     2004 Licence To Chill Jimmy Buffet
     2005 Live At Fenway Park Jimmy Buffet (DVD)
     2005 Live At Wrigley Field Jimmy Buffet (DVD)
     2005 The Jason Sinay Band The Jason Sinay Band
     2006 Jewish Pirate Steve Liberman The Gangsta Rabbi
      8 Feb 2006 Live At The Fillmore Grateful Grass
     2007 Boston Jam Party Vol 1 Various Artists
     2010 Blottopia XI Day 2 Mr Blotto
     2011 Live With Butch Trucks Great Caesar's Ghost
     2013 3 Ring Circus: The Bootleg Series: Live At The Palace, Hollywood Sublime
     30 Oct 2014 Live: New York, NY The Infamous Stringdusters (note o)
      1 Oct 2015 Live: Grand Rapids, MI Jackie Greene (note o)
     19 Dec 2014 Live: New Orleans, LA Anders Osborne
      5 Mar 2016 Live: Live Oak, FL Disco Biscuits
(a) issued as a bonus track on the version in the box set Beyond Description (1973-1990)
(b) on bonus disc Spirit Of '76 issued with advance orders from GDStore
(c) DVD included with deluxe edition of the Scrapbook
(d) also on the compilations Double Dose and Heart Of Gold Band
(e) also on the box set Spring 1990
(f) also on the compilation So Glad You Made It
(g) also made available for download in 30 Days Of The Dead (2012)
(h) also made available for download in 30 Days Of The Dead (2011)
(i) also on the compilation 30 Trips Around The Sun: The Definitive Live Story 1965-1995
(j) also on the compilation Best Of Fare Thee Well.
(k) also on 30 Days Of The Dead (2016).
(l) also on the Long Strange Trip Soundtrack
(m) also released as "Lullaby Versions of Grateful Dead"
(n) also released on the compilation The Best Of The Grateful Dead.
(o) The list above includes only one illustrative example of the series of live recordings by these artists. For a full list see the Grateful Dead Family Discography.
(p) also on 30 Days Of The Dead (2018).

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)
          Grateful Dead Songbook Volume 2 (piano arrangement)
          Garcia/Hunter Songbook (vocal line and chords/TAB)


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