Merch. It’s really more important these days than ever. When your music is presumably available for free online, either legally or illegally, you gotta have some sort of additional merchandise for your band to make some extra money off of. If you go see a small band you like, then buy their CD at the merch booth – I guarantee you they will be overwhelmingly excited. Seriously. The Grateful Dead of course, have never been a stranger to merch. They ingeniously incorporated two different predominant logos for the band: the Steal Your Face lightning-bolt skull, and the dancing bear. One kinda scary, one much more inviting, and both iconic symbols for the band. Thus, that’s two versions of everything they can merchandise. But despite all this, the Dead have always had a certain degree of taste and respect with their logo placement. It’s not like you were going to stumble upon Steal Your Face tampons, or Dancing Bear tire jacks. And of course, we all remember when they sponsored the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic Basketball Team. It was another one of those moments where you realized these guys had respect for their fans, their music, and their product, and that they weren’t just gonna smack their logo on a stapler and sell it to you for $40. If I recall correctly, it was in the Rock Scully book where he references a pre-fame Garcia saying that you’ll never find the Grateful Dead doing a “things go better with Coca-Cola” ad.
Well unfortunately Jerry’s gone, and it seems with him has left any self-respect the band perhaps once had. Last year, Rolling Stone printed an article about how the surviving members had declared that in terms of merchandise and advertising, anything was now up for grabs. I guess Bob Weir had seen Bob Marley’s face splattered all over the universe on every product imaginable and decided that was good money the GD crew was letting slip by. As an avid Dead-Head myself, my reaction to this mega sell-out news was at first pretty well received. Hell, I thought the Stealy Converse were pretty cool, and c’mon, who wouldn’t want a GD snowboard? But my opinion changed pretty drastically when my girlfriend stumbled upon this online the other day – Old Navy is selling fake vintage GD t-shirts. Old fucking Navy? Now Old Navy is owned by the Gap, and they’re infamous for selling sweatshop gear made in Korean and Chines owned factories in U.S. controlled territories of Asia, and thus justifying falsely labeling them as Made in the U.S.A. And look at this shit:
Pink sleeves and a pre-faded, fake-vintage logo. Plus a little “79″ down in the corner, just to make it a little faker vintage. Not only does this shirt look incredibly stupid, it’s totally being made by .05 cent an hour workers. This, my friends, is selling out. This is gear intended for the Korean Pop Girl acts who just want something with bright colors that looks “American.” This is my musical heroes no longer caring about where their merch is made, who’s selling it, or what the social and/or ecological ramifications or producing the product are. It’s just a wicked bummer. I still love and respect the guys, but c’mon fellas – isn’t this going a step too far?