The Grateful Dead album “American Beauty” was released in 1970. The album included ten songs, including concert staples like Truckin, Box of Rain, Friend of the Devil, and the third song, Sugar Magnolia,
The album version of Sugar Magnolia is ok, but nothing special. It lasts 3 minutes and 19 seconds, and has a nice groove. But in concert, the Grateful Dead transformed it into an epic show closer. Every third or fourth show, they would end a show with it, with fans dancing in the aisles for every second of the 10-15 minutes that the Dead played it. (The Grateful Dead played a different setlist every night, so this song, and every song, was only played when they felt like playing it.)
Sugar Magnolia is my favorite song. Theresa and I were at a number of shows in the 80’s and early 90’s where it was played, including one New Years concert where the Grateful Dead brought in the new year (1989) with an epic version, with Clarence Clemons guesting on saxophone.
But sometime around 1992, something unfortunate happened. I stopped seeing Sugar Magnolia in concert. It was strange. The Dead would play it either the show before a show that I attended, or at the show after a show I attended. But not at the show I attended.
My friends Alan and Rich started noticing a pattern. They called it “The Sugar Magnolia Rule”. If I was at a show, the Grateful Dead were not going to play Sugar Magnolia anymore.
This has gone on now for 23 years. No kidding. If Alan and Rich attend a show without me, the band plays Sugar Magnolia. If I’m there, no chance.
The Sugar Magnolia Rule meant that I was unlucky. And my bad luck wasn’t limited to the Grateful Dead. It extended to other concerts. Theresa, Alan and I left a U2 concert early. (It was hot, it was very crowded, and we weren’t having a very good time). The next day, we learned that Bruce Springsteen joined U2 for the encore.
An encore that we missed.
The Sugar Magnolia Rule started extending into the sports world, too. If I attended a sporting event, bad things happened.
I attended Super Bowl XXXIX. The Eagles were tied with the Patriots after 3 quarters. They lost the game 24-21.
Theresa and I attended a National League Championship Series deciding game, and watched as the Phillies were knocked out of the playoffs.
I watched the Edmonton Oilers knock the Flyers out of the Stanley Cup finals.
And last year, I attended the NCAA semifinals. Villanova won that game. Heather and I debated about whether to stay or not. We came home for the finals. Since I wasn’t there, Villanova won.
On Saturday night, I attended a concert (Phil Lesh and Friends), and after a gap of about 8,395 days, I saw a Sugar Magnolia.
The Curse of the Bambino is over.
Maybe the Eagles will win the Super Bowl this year.