Mexicali Blues: debut song by the Grateful Dead's psychedelic poet
Grateful Dead by Herb Greene
Mexicali Blues was first released by Bob Weir, an acclaimed rhythm guitarist, vocalist, and founding member of the Grateful Dead. In fact, as a solo project, the 1972 Ace album can be safely included in the Grateful Dead discography, given that all band members were involved in the studio recording and all of the album's songs have been performed at the Grateful Dead's concerts.
Notably, Mexicali Blues set off a fruitful collaboration between Bob Weir and poet John Perry Barlow who played a crucial role in establishing the Grateful Dead's psychedelic reputation by introducing the band to Timothy Leary. In the 1960s, Barlow was a frequent visitor to Leary's LSD sessions at the legendary Millbrook estate and later claimed to have consumed the substance over a thousand times.
Despite its mischievous major quality and groovy trumpet sections, Mexicali Blues does not at all correspond to the blues genre either in the harmonic structure of its chord chains or in the form of the poetic stanza. Stylistically, the track is more reminiscent of peppy country songs, while the nine-stanza lyrics spin the familiar tale of an American escaping to Mexico after killing a man at the request of his girlfriend.
Listen to Mexicali Blues by Bob Weir:
Curiously, the Grateful Dead initially collaborated with lyricist Robert Hunter, and Barlow was a later addition having been recruited after a feud between Hunter and the band took place at one of the shows in 1971. That evening Weir changed the original lyrics, which infuriated Hunter beyond measure who then angrily invited Barlow to write for Weir saying "take—he's yours".