Good Morning Little Schoolgirl

Good Morning Little Schoolgirl

The Grateful Dead were described as ugly and ruffian, with the unlikely oddity of Pigpen as front man. The uniqueness of Pigpen as this character unlike anyone else in the band (arguably unlike anyone else, really) was largely part of the appeal of this act playing the circuit of small bars along the Bay Area’s Peninsula. His presence comes through as a bluesman and showman. The third track on the album, “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” another number pulled from the traditional roots of American blues—was a song to showcase the attitude and showmanship of organist, bluesharp and talking blues riffing Pigpen. Reaching into the American blues archive with Sonny Boy Williamson’s 1937 song, a chart hit when covered by Smokey Hogg, the Dead arranged this for lengthy open jams and lots of Pigpen raps to infuse the rendition with the talking blues tradition. The lyrics expanded to evoke a playfully libidinous and devious guy embodied in this character of Pigpen. On the album the track clocks at 5:45, making it one of the longer songs on the album, yet in performance it would run much longer, so again the translation of what the spirit of the Dead at this time is somewhat warped in studio rendition.

Perhaps one effect of this song is the juxtaposition of one’s natural aversion to the more conservative of consciences with the baser urge to succumb to forbidden sexual desire. That is one level upon which is the song has such impact. The Dead could pull tension from its listener and resolve them in a seemingly magical fashion, inspiring the listener with a newfound attitude. The studio rendering of “Schoolgirl” in its produced simplicity on the album perhaps creates mere hints at such an experience, compared to the spectacle of what one might see if rendered live.

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