"New Speedway Boogie" as written by Jerome J. Garcia and Robert C. Hunter....
Please don't dominate the rap, Jack
If you've got nothing new to say
If you please, don't back up the track
This train's got to run today

I spent a little time on the mountain
Spent a little time on the hill
Heard some say, "better run away"
Others say, "better stand still"

Now I don't know, but I been told
It's hard to run with the weight of gold
Other hand I have heard it said
It's just as hard with the weight of lead

Who can deny? Who can deny?
It's not just a change in style
One step done and another begun
And I wonder how many miles?

I spent a little time on the mountain
Spent a little time on the hill
Things went down we don't understand
But I think in time we will

Now I don't know, but I was told
In the heat of the sun a man died of cold
Keep on coming or stand and wait
With the sun so dark and the hour so late

You can overlook the lack, Jack
Of any other highway to ride
It's got no signs or dividing lines
And very few rules to guide

I spent a little time on the mountain
I spent a little time on the hill
I saw things getting out of hand
I guess they always will

Now I don't know, but I been told
If the horse don't pull you got to carry the load
I don't know whose back's that strong
Maybe find out before too long

One way or another, one way or another
One way or another, this darkness got to give
One way or another, one way or another
One way or another, this darkness got to give
One way or another, one way or another
One way or another, this darkness got to give


Lyrics submitted by itsmyownmind

"New Speedway Boogie" as written by Robert C. Hunter Jerome J. Garcia

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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New Speedway Boogie song meanings
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  • +1
    Link(s)I don't know (lol) but I think the song is a bit of a challenge to the answers that the younger generation was getting from the establishment. The issues and causes that were adopted by the bands and musicians at that time were more noble in many cases than a single concert event. The meaning of this song seems to go beyond a single event at a free concert. The message applies to many eras and time periods as we could say it applies to the Civial War Era as well as it applies to the 1960's / 70's.

    In 'my time' the meaning of New Speedway Boogie, subjective as it may be, relates to condition of the Country, including the mistrust and skepticism among the younger generation towards the establishment. The war in Viet Nam, the national political debate on social issues, cultural revolution, civil rights protests, the women's movement, assassinations, and other events and causes of that time could be considered part of the 'Rap'. We were on a freeway of enormous potential, information boom, space exploration, medical advances. The potential was unlimited for the idealistic youth but the idealists didn't trust the 'establishment' to do the right thing in regards to all of these potential benefits to the human race. The youth were inclined to believe that the establishment would simply exploit the masses and exploit the scientific and social advances to their benefit.

    The 'rap' could be the national debate or the development of political agendas. In my day "rap" referred to discussion, debate, even on a national level. "If you got nothing new to say' then don't dominate the national debate or political convention and try to get your party's nomination based on the good ole boy mentlality. In particular, attention is drwan to the Viet Nam war as some men are profiting i.e. "the weight of gold" while others are dying from "the weight of lead" bullets.

    Not sure what the mountain is but it may be a reference to an individual interest or the interest of a subsection of the general population and or their various causes. The Hill sounds like a reference to Capitol Hill. Ironically, a mountain is larger and more imposing than a hill, hence the wishes of the electorate should be more important than the interests of the politicians and the lobbyists (military industrial complex as it was known at the time) on the Hill.

    Some say run away, it's so rotten that it's full of disease and can't be saved...just get out (of DC or the country) while you can. Others say stand and fight for change.

    "Who can deny" that Bobby Kenedy and Martin Luther King (and for that matter John Kennedy all the way back to '63) were not just a change in appearance and rhetoric (style). These leaders had substance and advocated real change. They threatened the establishment even though the Kenedy's were part of it so to speak. Their causes had substance. They were genuine. We made some progroess (one step done) as a country through thier leadership and the support of the causes they embraced, but how long will it take to finish what they started and include other casues that needed to be advanced (wonder how many miles) especially after two of them had been recently assassinated.

    Things went down we don't understand. It sounds like the "Things" he refers to are assassinations of leaders such as Martin and Bobby, and the reason for the war in Viet Nam which was an unpopular war, and the riots and demonstrations that were put down with lethal force whehter right or wrong it seemed like an 'attack' from the govenrment against it's citizens. Students had been killed at kent State (not sure if that occured before or after the song was written).

    "But I think in time we will" - know the truth and the motivation behind some of the actins of the government as we were all very skeptical at that time. The CIA and FBI were unaccountable...the defense contractors were making fortunes off the war...the song suggests that in time the facts behind the war and the actions of the CIA, and the assassinations and other 'mysteries' may come to light. It takes the high road by not demanding the truth at the time or calling for an investigation, but rather reminding any potential perpetrators that in time the truth by God will come to light.

    "You can't overlook the lack Jack of any other highway to ride". To me this says that there are no political or economical alternatives. Twop parties, both in bed together, manipulating the general population...promoting consumerism and materialism. There are no other highways to ride..no other political parties to support. Compare this with the lyrics from "On the Border" by the Eagles. "cruisin down the center of a two way street...wondering who is really in the driver's seat. All of a sudden along comes big brother; says son you better get on one side or the other". Align yourself with one of the two ideologies, the left or the right, but don't go and start your own highway (party).

    "I don't know what I been told in the heat of the sun a man died of cold". It's hot in Viet Nam but it's cold and lonley when you're thousands of miles from home fighitng in an unpopular war. I wouldn't want to die like that...being killed in a viscious war by a viscious enemy who had every right to try to keep the perceived invaders out. Cold in the sense that the war wasn't fought with any apparent effort to win territory and to hold onto it, but it seemed apparent at the time that it was for the benefit of the 'military induystrial complex". It was hard to determine whether to suypport the effort agianst the spread of communism or to challenge the motives behind the war.

    Thees are the things that were getting out of hand...assassinations, demopnstrations, racial tension, race riots, a country torn apart by an unpopular war which seemed only to benefit the war profiteers and the corrupt politicians, violent demonstartions from the '68 Democratic Convention in Chicago...Watts...woman's movement...marhces on Washington...integration in the south...civil rights demonstrations...riots...violence...it was as close to a revolution as it has ever been since 1776. And it involved many causes, not just one fight for freedom and democracy such as the 1776 revolution.

    "One way or another...this darkness got to give". Things can't go on like that forever. Eventualy something is gonna blow. It was a dark time in the nation's history. Young people agitating for change which wasn't coming fast enough or was being deliberatley sabotagoed by the agents of government. Pandering and lip service from politicainos. The establisment was trying to hold on to a way of life for which it had fouhgt and died in great numbers, i.e. two world wards and Korea. And the lessons of war profits was well known in America since the Civil War. It was hard for the older generation to accept the changes 'proposed' by the younger generations...breaking down traditions and social mores. It must have seemed to the older generation that the younger generation was reckless and carefree, too idealistic and not practical enough and irresponsible. They were reluctant to give ground on social and economic issues as well as civil rights. Fear, mistrust, ignorance. And the 'well established', such as the very rich and the very politically connected, and the beneficiaries of all the unfair tax laws, and political connections were most reluctant to give up any of the advantages they held.

    Well, that's one person's interpretaion. That's what the song means to me. It brings back a lot of memories good and bad, of a time that was a real turning point in American history. Some things changed for the better and some for worse as a result of the demonstrations and the riots and the opposition to the war, and so on. We learned to support our troops becasue it's not their fault if they are sent to fight an unpopular war intended only to benefit special interests. We learned to open government although it's still too closed in many ways. And so on. This song points out the struggle and the mistrust between the establisment and the younger generation that was coming up with the hope of having a more open more trustworthy, noble leadership. In reality, I'm not so sure that many of the leaders who were ahead of the various causes and movements were any more noble than those already established. The song seems to ask the questions or pose the notion that we don't understand what's behind some of the political decisions and the nation's policies but we will find out eventually. And it challenges the idea that war can boost the economy; at what cost...the cost of those dying a clod lonely death in a hot, humid country...from the wieght of lead. It accommodating in that it merely suggests that maybe the establishment isn't so bad, since all generations must go through these same challenges. It offers alternate points of view but doesn't jam them down our throat. Subtle in a way that only the Dead could pull off. A great tune, a political commentary, and as someone noted, you can apply it to a single concert or you can apply it to the state of the nation at the time it was written, or you could apply it to a lot of different eras throughout history. Some say the Dead lyrics are vague. They seem to speak clearly to me most times but to copy a phrace ' beauty is in the eye of the beholder' and likewise the lyrics could mean a lot of different things to a lot fo different listeners.
    nofriendon December 14, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song can be explained in three words "altamont free concert
    tenneseejedon March 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMost of Robert Hunters lyrics don't necessarily "make sense." in that the story they tell is personal to the listener.

    There are exceptions of course, Casey Jones and Playing in the Band come to mind.

    But in this song the Grateful Dead all but put out a press release of their reactions to the fiasco at Altamont.

    No one ever said it would be easy.
    Durangoon May 12, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentcan someone enlighten a younger dead fan about the Altamont "fiasco".

    thanks and peace
    bottlerocket88on June 03, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis apparently was Hunter S. Thompson's favorite Dead song.
    JohnnyLurgon July 06, 2010   Link
  • 0
    Lyric Correction
    Now I don't know, but I been told it's hard to run with the weight of gold,
    ALL DEPENDS* I've heard it said, it's just as hard with the weight of lead.

    Who can deny, YOU CAN'T* deny, it's not just a change in style?
    ONE SAID AND DONE* and another begun and I wonder how WE MADE* these miles.



    SunshineSprNovaon August 22, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentP.S. If the horse don't pull you got to carry the load...to me it means, if the leaders don't lead you got to take matters into your own hands. The writer questions whose strong enough to do that (whose back's that strong) as it is an nearly impossible job to redirect an entire democratic country of so many diverse interests.
    nofriendon December 15, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commenteveryone always mentions altamont, but I actually think this song is more talking about politics of the 60s and sorta the anti- counter culture attitudes, civil rights movement, etc. I could be way off the mark, but it just has that sorta feel to it.
    PTCGAZon December 12, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn my opinion, as touched upon by by previous comments, this song is a collaboration of everyones life, not just specific generations.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Everyone has an innate sense of morals, virtues and what not. Everyone may need a reminder. from time to time, but people need to learn their own lessons on their own. After a certain point, people don't need to be remind again, just taught another lesson at the time. Allegedly, there is a time and place for everything.

    Everyone has been on mountains, be it emotions or others, everyone has been high. Everyone has been on hills, that usual level of life which normal people cruise on.

    It's been said it takes everything to make a kingdom. It has also been said, it takes everything to just get by.

    Often people get caught up thinking about their own and others standards of where they are in life. There are so many outside influences that you don't even know where to being thinking.

    Everyone thinks the have experienced the strongest and weakest of all feelings/emotions/thoughts/. No one can really prove what life's all about, not even the deepest philosopher; but hopefully one day we will.

    Sometimes we see the people we are most envious of fail so brutally. After seeing such "failure" with so many resources. Do we find contentment with where we are at currently, or risk any drastic possibilities? Have we gone too far to go either way?

    You can't base where you are in life by others, no can you base theirs. Just because you view someone in a certain way, you have no idea where they are in life. Even if you walk a mile in someone else's shoes, you've only just changed the shape of the insole.

    Everyone thinks the have experienced the strongest and weakest of all feelings/emotions/thoughts/. Most people expect life to always be a mountain.

    If everything you desire in life isn't delivered to your doorstep, you need to get out and find it. You should never expect life to be easy, you have to work for it.

    One way or another, things will get better.
    Brapon July 19, 2013   Link

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