Did The Grateful Dead Steal From The Beatles?


I know I wrote about the Beatles yesterday, but I’m on a Beatles kick now so I’m rolling with it.

Here’s something you might not hear often: Help! is my favorite Beatles albumIt’s not their most critically acclaimed (Sgt. Pepper’s) or even their best (Revolver and about 3/4 of The White Album), but for some reason I find myself listening to this album more than anything else. This wasn’t even my first Beatles record – I just naturally gravitate towards this awkward middle child that began the Beatles’ transformation from most popular boy band in the world to most innovative pop band in the world. I have yet to see the movie (I guess that doesn’t make me the biggest Help! fan), so all my thoughts are only related to the music.

It was the album before Rubber Soul, so it’s easy to think that this was their last “bad” album before they made “good” or “real” music. I’d argue that this album, on its own terms, is just as good as anything else they made. This album has everything: rock & roll jams with “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”, cynical pleads for help (pun intended) juxtaposed with sunny guitar pop with the title track, and “Ticket To Ride”, quite possibly their most perfect song. This is also the album with “Yesterday”. George has two songs on here and even Ringo gets to sing, though he doesn’t have any of his own songs on the album (if he did then this would really be the perfect pre-psychedelic Beatles album). With all these different flavors, Help! works considering that all their later album would follow singular modes. For one brief moment, the Beatles were making pop music interesting instead of destroying it, and it pleases the inner popist in me.

To me Help! is also the sound of a band saying goodbye. While recording, they knew that this would be their final boy band album. This was 1965, the year of “Satisfaction”, “Like A Rolling Stone”, and other groundbreaking songs that were changing pop music. All of a sudden the Beatles, with their perfect haircuts and matching suits, didn’t seem like the future of pop music, and they knew it. They were also sick of being a pop band, specifically touring as a unit and getting screamed at while they couldn’t even hear their own songs. Their last tour would only be a year away, and they would soon boldly forgo their given path, but thank God they made my favorite Beatles album before they made better albums.



Anyways, all of that was a set up for this: below is “Tell Me What You See”, one of the lesser known tracks off Help!.

It sounds nice enough, except it reminded me of another song that is more well known…


No. Probably not.

I don’t think that the Dead really stole this song, but you can’t deny that Uncle John’s Band (1970) has a strong similarity to this Beatles song. Both share that loose acoustic strumming and washboard rhythm, and both songs wouldn’t be out of place around a campfire.

I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but it’s always fun to see how similar music can unintentionally be. Also, this was an excuse to write about Help!.