Lyrics by Robert Hunter and music arranged by Jerry Garcia. First appearing on Grateful Dead's live repertoire in the summer of 1982 and on their 1987 album In The Dark, "West La Fadeaway" is a bluesy tune about the slimy underbelly of Los Angeles.
The song opens with a steady groove, smoky voices and the scent of cigarettes and cocaine. A bit of fingerpicking is added for extra funk, and Garcia pulls out his fuzz box for some solo improvisation. The lyrics, which rely on the narrator's slang and an undercurrent of sex, suggest that the narrator was looking for a place where he could rent a room for a short time and take part in some shady activities.
The narrator's words can be interpreted as referring to the Chateau Marmont, where John Belushi died from a drug overdose in March of 1982. The band has since been criticized for not mentioning the actor by name in this song, but it does appear to be inspired by his death. It is also worth noting that Jerry Garcia, during the time this song was written, had been burrowing himself deep into his own addiction to drugs, and was known to spend hours in hotel rooms getting high on his own.