California Earthquake (Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On)

Lyrics: Rodney Crowell
Music: Rodney Crowell

This was played twice by the Grateful Dead in October 1989 following the Loma Prieta earthquake in California.

There was a California earthquake, in the year of '83
It shook the living daylights out of the Owens County Seat
Not a building still left standing when the dust had cleared away
Just a rumble in the distance all the way to San Andrea

Oh Sherman Buck was driving his old mule into town
When a big one came and shook so hard, that it knocked him to the ground
Lord there opened up a hole so big, he thought his time was up
And it swallowed up that poor old mule and it just missed Sherman Buck

Chorus
California earthquake you just don't know what you've done
We may fall off in the ocean, but you'll never make us run
You're a partner to the devil, but we ain't afraid of him
We'll build ourselves another town so you can tear it down again

Then came the quake of '99 that levelled Mission Creek
The earth was like an ocean churning, with waves of twenty feet
Lord it sounded like a thousand trains were screaming underground
Clean across to San Joachim, they heard that mournful sound

[chorus]

Then came one day the holocaust on San Franciso Bay
[Ninety] miles of walls came down like old Jericho that day
Might near everything the earthquake missed, a holy fire consumed
And left 'em smoke and the ashes of the dreams that can't be ruined (note 1)

[chorus]

Build ourselves another town so you can tear it down again

Notes
(1) There are a number of small variations between the lyrics Garcia sings and those of the original Rodney Crowell version. This line is the most different. Rodney Crowell's version is:
"Just left 'em Holy Smoke and Ashes, what's a dream that can't be ruined"
Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     20 Oct 1989 Built To Last (note 2)

Recordings from dead.net Tapers Section

Notes
(2) issued as a bonus track in the box set Beyond Description (1973-1990)


The Rodney Crowell version is on his first album "Ain't Living Long Like This" (subsequently reissued on CD). A version by Seldom Scene (with Linda Ronstadt singing harmony vocals) is on "New Seldom Scene Album" [REBEL CD-1561].

Note that the song of the same title recorded by The Mamas And The Papas (sung by Mama Cass) is not the same song. That song was written by John Hartford. His lyrics are:
I heard they exploded the underground blast
What they say it's gonna happen, gonna happen at last
That's the way it appears

They tell me the fault line runs right through here
So that may be, that may be
What's gonna happen gonna happen to me
That's the way it appears
They tell me the fault line runs right through here

Atlantis will rise, Sunset Boulevard will fall
Where the beach used to be, won't be nothing at all
That's the way it appears

They tell me the fault line runs right through here
So that may be, that may be
What's gonna happen gonna happen to me
That's the way it appears
They tell me the fault line runs right through here

Mother Nature's got gas, her diet's gone stale (note 3)
See her acid indigestion on the Richter Scale

They tell me the fault line runs right through here
So that may be, that may be
What's gonna happen gonna happen to me
That's the way it appears
They tell me the fault line runs right through here
Notes
(3) Mama Cass doesn't sing this verse, but John Krulish (thanks) tells me it's on the original John Hartford version.



Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography

 


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