When Video Classics first began to run, we picked songs exclusively from New York City station WNEW’s 1991 and 1996 Firecracker 500, a list of the greatest rock songs of all time. While the list has become a bit dated, and this feature has since moved on, sometimes we like to refer back to the old list, particularly in the case of rather curious listings like this one.

“Touch of Grey” by the Grateful Dead hit #90 in the 1991 list before plummeting to #451 in 1996, one of the biggest drops in Firecracker 500 history. What was behind the sudden falling out of favor? Maybe it was because, unlike many Dead songs on the list, that had been circulating for decades, “Touch of Grey” was released in 1987, thus it was still “new enough” in 1991.

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Perhaps by 1996, it had faded to more of a proper place and brilliance in the constellation of Grateful Dead tunes. Still, it deserves some mention, because as Wikipedia tells us…

First performed in 1982, [“Touch of Grey”] was finally released on In the Dark in 1987, and went to the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, the only song by the band ever to do so… Its video gained major airplay on MTV and featured a live performance of the band, first shown to be life-sized skeleton marionettes dressed as the band then as themselves. The video’s popularity helped introduce the Grateful Dead to a new generation of fans, resulting in the Grateful Dead gaining mainstream attention after years of existing on the fringes of the music scene.

Having watched the video, the Archivist can’t decide if it’s really campy, or really spooky. Why don’t you tell us in the comments section?

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