Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #152194  by daleyr
 Thu May 19, 2016 8:42 pm
Ok, so I've visited this site:

It discusses the Hamlet allusion and the reference to Greek mythology. However, I wanted to discuss something that I cannot find on this site, or any other that I have come across.

As we speak, I am a young 22 year old wiper snapper, and an avid Grateful Dead fan. I mostly play their music on my guitar, sometimes Jazz and reggae. My father is a blooded Dead Head, going to concerts in the San Francisco area, mostly in the 80's. Anyway, he told me about this rumor that Althea was originally inspired by a ceiling fan. Haha It kinda makes since; doing acid and looking at a ceiling fan could be really inspiring (looking at anything moving on psychedelics is cool). Granted, upon inspiration, the song evolved into something much more meaningful.

So to support my dad's wild rumor, here are some quotes. The mind sees what it wants to see. Given that, I have interpreted these lines to be as related to a ceiling fan as possible haha I feel like if anything, Althea is the ceiling fan:

"Lacking in some direction" (fans are not of a single vector)
"Althea told me: now cool down boy" (fans cool)
"self centered to the extreme" (fans move about a central point)
"you know this space is getting hot" (when althea is gone, the space gets hot)
"now I'm out trying to catch her" (I thought it was funny to imagine someone, tripping, trying to chase after a single blade with their eyes)
"Can't talk to me without talking to you" (I think about talking into a fan, and you hear your own voice distorted)

Now, I know most of my interpretations are pretty far fetched. Yet, it is kinda interesting to think that an original inspiration could have been to relate a relationship to a ceiling fan.

When I more honestly dissect the song, it seams like it was developed into poetry about a somewhat dysfunctional relationship. Or maybe its about the struggle between free love and an ever lasting love. I think the point is to be a little abstract as to be open to interpretation.
 #152195  by Jimaroe
 Thu May 19, 2016 9:25 pm
I like your "takes" on the lines in Althea. It's one of my all time favorites. Such a cool song (story). You also reference David Dodd and his "Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics" in your link. A great book. I'm sure you know this already, if you've read his work, but there is a reference to a fan (mechanical fan not adoring Deadhead human) with regard to the song Bertha. I also think or remember hearing Robert Hunter confirm the line, "Your friends are getting most concerned" was loosely thrown towards Jerry but I could be off... It's been a number of years since reading Dodd's book.
The cool thing about Hunter's work was that he seems to have guarded much of his personal input and meaning so that the intrepretation was left up to the listener. So, if you think Althea is based on a ceiling fan, hell, maybe it is.
 #152200  by mutant_dan
 Fri May 20, 2016 1:11 pm
I am from your father's era and as I remember the rumor, it was Bertha that was written about a fan.. ... BERTHA.HTM

There has been an oft-repeated story that the song derived from an electric fan in either the Grateful Dead's offices or their rehearsal studios. The fan used to act up and 'walk' around the space. In an interview in March 1978 with Denis McNamara for 92.7 WLIR-FM Garden City, New York for the "Sunday At 9:00" program, Robert Hunter addressed this story:

Interviewer: What about Bertha? Is it true she was a fan? An electrical fan?

Robert Hunter: No, this was after the fact.I don't know where that story ... I think they started calling this fan in the office that would run around and try and catch everyone and cut their fingers off. They started calling it Bertha. But no, this is not true. Bertha, I think, is probably some vaguer connotation of birth, death and reincarnation. Cycle of existences, some kind of such nonsense like that. I wouldn't be surprised, but then again, it might not be. I don't remember.

If you ever see that cartoon drawing with 100 Grateful Dead songs, the fan is Bertha...
 #152226  by daleyr
 Sun May 22, 2016 5:00 pm
Ok, that makes since that my dad had Bertha and Althea confused. Even so, I'm surprised that the rumor was perpetuated for so long; it seems rather far out haha.