Terrapin Station
Composer: Robert Hunter

Terrapin Station is a suite of songs written by Robert Hunter in the 1970's and subsequently amended. The suite described here is as presented in the 1993 edition of A Box of Rain: Lyrics 1965-1993. The first part of the suite was set to music by Jerry Garcia and was subsequently performed by the Grateful Dead. Robert Hunter has also performed the first part of the suite and parts of the second part. Some songs in the second part have not been performed.

In the notes accompanying the suite in A Box Of Rain Robert Hunter wrote:

I wrote Terrapin, Part One, at a single sitting in an unfurnished house with a picture window overlooking San Francisco Bay during a flamboyant lightning storm. I typed the first thing that came into my mind at the top of the page, the title Terrapin Station. Not knowing what it was to be about, I began my writing with an invocation to the muse and kept typing as the story began to unfold.

On the same day, driving into the city, Garcia was struck by a singular inspiration. He turned his car around and hurried home to set down some music that popped into his head, demanding immediate attention.

When we met the next day, I showed him the words and he said "I've got the music." They dovetailed perfectly and Terrapin edged into this dimension.

Part One was for free. A good deal of Part Two, the essential idea, was contained in the first writing, but was too irregular to be easily set. I went through many approaches and versions over the years, having lost the original typescript, attempting to recapture the initial spark and place it in a lyrics context.

The songs in the suite are:

Part 1:

Part 2: The suite as released on the Terrapin Station album includes two instrumental sections which are thought to be the instrumental pieces that immediately precede and follow At A Siding:
  • Terrapin Transit
  • Terrapin Flyer
Instrumental sections named Terrapin and Refrain are also included on the album.

The song Lady Of Carlisle, which was recorded and performed by Robert Hunter, is the source of some of the themes and imagery explored in Terrapin Station.

Hunter amended the suite for the 1993 edition of A Box of Rain: Lyrics 1965-1993 and added additional notes:

It is notoriously difficult to return to the particular space of a spontaneous vision--but I wasn't content with my earlier attempt to complete the Terrapin cycle. Cycle is the key word. The piece seemed to demand a legitimate return to its starting point but just how to accomplish this evaded me. The problem was that I was looking outisde the song for clues when the solution, implicit in Lady With A Fan, lay in plain sight the whole time.

With the following revision, I feel as near as I'm likely to get to the initiating flash, this far removed in time. It's a moot point whether my continuing engagement with the suite is symptomatic of my own attempts to Return To Terrapin, but a feeling of deep relief comes with the sense of finally getting it closer to heart's desire--concluding and adding this annotation just as a good hard storm breaks.

For information about recordings see the entries for the individual sections of the suite.
  album cover

album cover