The Grateful Dead will never have a dead-end, proved by eternal Dead & Company tours and the constant stream of merch that’s arrived every summer since the past few years. It doesn’t matter if the trippy tie-dye trend is still relevant, merch boasting The Dead’s inimitable Marching Bears (they’re not dancing!) and skull imagery seems to be still in demand, though the Grateful Dead and Levi’s new drop is exclusively designed to commemorate a memorable moment in Dead history.
Additionally, this year marks 50 years of the band’s landmark double live LP (yes, I know “Touch of Grey” isn’t on it), which inspired a celebratory reissue. Ostensibly released without a title, the album is colloquially known as Skull & Roses, due to its recognizable artwork, and Skullfuck, the intended title: a cheeky reframing of “mindblowing” that publisher Warner Bros. unsurprisingly balked at.
“For the Grateful Dead’s second live album, released two years after its predecessor Live/Dead, the band delivered an equally magnificent, but entirely different, Grateful Dead sound,” said Grateful Dead archivist, David Lemieux, in a statement ahead of the reissue. “Skull & Roses sounds as fresh today as the first time I heard it in 1985, and as fresh as it was upon its spectacularly well-received release in 1971.”
For this capsule, Levi’s has crafted a range of thematic T-shirts and scarves ornamented with some very iconic Dead graphics, logos, and tour dates. Featuring in the collection is a trucker jacket with “DEAD DEAD DEAD” printed on its rear and some 501 jeans patched with Dead imagery are the highlights of the theme, accented with faded indigo hues that embody a more hippy aesthetic.
Though this capsule is a cute nod to an important milestone in Dead history, it invites greater questions of the ongoing appetite for goods branded with its imagery, having already graced everything from sneakers to all manner of gizmos and fan-made treats. One has to wonder if Grateful Dead fatigue will set in if it hasn’t already.
Obviously, Dead Heads aren’t ever going to renounce the inimitable San Francisco band and its jams are as tasty now as they were a half-century ago, but don’t be surprised if mainstream Dead drops slow down after this collection drops in late July. Then again, the past few years have again solidified The Dead as an honest-to-god pop-culture touchstone, so the Summer(s) of Grateful Dead Love may well continue.
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