Grateful Dead ‘Used To Play For Acid, Now We Play For Clive’ On This Date In 1979
Listen to Bobby Weir alter the lyrics to “Jack Straw” at the Nassau Coliseum 44 years ago today.
By Andy Kahn Jan 11, 2023 • 10:00 am PST
In 1976, the Grateful Dead signed to Arista Records and the following year released their first album on the label, Terrapin Station. The move to Arista came after the band issued a string of albums on their own Grateful Dead Records label, which they launched after starting their career with Warner Bros.
The Dead stayed with Artista through the release of their final studio album, 1989’s Built To Last, and the label also issued the 1990 live album, Without A Net. After the death of guitarist Jerry Garcia in 1995 and the dissolving of the band, subsequent archival releases have been handled in-house.
Clive Davis, who tried to sign the Grateful Dead to Columbia Records when he worked there, formed Arista Records in 1974. Davis recruited the Dead for his label, connecting them with Keith Olsen who produced Terrapin Station in hopes of landing a hit record. Davis would have to wait a decade for the success of “Touch Of Grey” from the band’s 1987 album, In The Dark.
Davis was responsible for signing Janis Joplin to Columbia during his tenure with the label. As head of Arista, Davis built a roster of such talented artists as Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Aretha Franklin, The Kinks, Lou Reed, Eurythmics, Dionne Warwick, Kenny G, Sarah McLachlan, Carly Simon and Daryl Hall & John Oates, among many others.
“Clive was the one suit we weren’t distrustful of,” Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir said in the documentary film, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives. “He had the reputation for having ‘the ear’ you know? The ‘golden ear.’”
Evident of their resilient and ultimately successful relationship, a photo of Davis with the Grateful Dead is featured on the bio page of his official website. Weir showed his affinity for Davis a number of times onstage with the Grateful Dead. Starting in late 1978 and continuing occasionally through 1980, Weir would alter the lyrics to “Jack Straw” to reference the label head, changing “We used to play for silver, now we play for life” to “We used to play for silver, now we play for Clive.”
On a few occasions, Bobby further edited the same line from “Jack Straw,” going a bit further (or Furthur) by singing “We used to play for acid, now we play for Clive” in a nod to the band’s psychedelic salad days. One such instance of that lyric change came on this date in 1979 when the Dead played a show at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
The concert on January 11, 1979, was among the last played by the lineup of Weir, Garcia, drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kruetzmann, bassist Phil Lesh, keyboardist Keith Godchaux and vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux. A little over a month later, Keith and Donna played their last show as members of the band, sharing the stage a final time on February 17, 1979.
The “Jack Straw” with Weir dropping an LSD reference was played as the penultimate song of the first set of the concert at Nassau Coliseum. The band appeared to be in high spirits that night, as evidenced by the shenanigans in the second set when they wished each other happy birthday, despite it not being anyone’s actual birthday.
Listen to the entire concert, including the altered “Jack Straw” below:
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