Day Job was one of the most despised songs in the Grateful Dead cannon. It was vociferously condemned, never released on an official album, and according to the man who wrote the lyrics for the song (Robert Hunter), “was dropped from the Grateful Dead repertoire at the request of fans. Seriously.” Rumor has it that deadheads circulated a petition asking the band to stop. (Another rumor has it that Bob Weir loved the song). It's chorus advised deadheads to:
“Keep your day job/
Don’t give it away
Keep your day job/
Whatever they say…”
Here are my top 5 picks:
Number 5: August 28, 1982, Oregon County Fair Site, Veneta, Oregon - This is the first time the song was played. Imagine it: you are an old-time deadhead who crawled out of some deep Oregonian woodland for the show, enjoying a first set that ends with China Cat -> Rider, one of your favorite tunes of all time, wondering with baited breath during intermission what they are going to open the next set with… maybe Terrapin, maybe Shakedown, hell, for the occasion maybe they’d even unleash a surprise Dark Star… and then Ken Babs, longtime head, one of the original Merry Pranksters (a featured character in Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test fer chrissakes), comes out and addresses the crowd in stentorian tones, stoking anticipation, announcing that “as the tides mount, and the people grow, and the voices are heard, and the sun goes does, the music will go on…”, and then the band launches into this tune. Rumor has it the band was dropping acid for this show. Perhaps it was written backstage during the setbreak in a lysergic frenzy, planned as some sort of cosmic joke.
Number 4: September 24, 1983, Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, Watsonville, California - It’s been 267 days since the last Day Job… they last played it on 12/31/82 (on New Year’s Eve?! For crying out loud…), and you’ve been hoping that it was quietly dropped by the band. But at the end of the first set, right after Looks Like Rain (Christ, can’t a head catch a break?), they bring it back, they bring it back…
Number 3: March 28, 1985, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York - The song has shifted to the encore slot. It bums you out the rest of the night. Here’s a video of the depressing incident:
Number 2: June 14, 1985, Greek Theater, University Of California, Berkeley, California - You’re at the legendary run of shows at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley celebrating the 20th anniversary celebration of the Dead. You and the band have gone through a lot together. They encore with it. You quietly wonder what you’ve done with your life over the last 20 years.
Number 1 - April 4, 1986, Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, CT – Hallelujah, the last one! You wouldn’t know it at the time, of course, but it would be the last time they played it. It closed the first set and bummed everyone out for the entire intermission. If only you had already taken the 10,000 mics of acid which would later allow you to know the future. You could've spread the good news to the others…