"If you tell the Truth, you don't have to remember anything"
-Mark Twain
"You realize, of course, that everything I say is horseshit." -Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Grateful Thanksgiving Dead

Thanksgiving is normally a time for people to relax with family and friends and enjoy each other's company. Rock and Roll has never found its place with the holiday, like it has with New Year's Eve and Halloween. According to recent news, the folk icon of this date, Arlo Guthrie, has mentioned plans to support the 50th anniversary of the penning of his Thanksgiving classic "Alice's Restaurant Massacre," a song that is universally accepted by Rock and Roll radio as the anthem for this holiday. To this day, many Rock and Roll radio stations will honor the holiday by dropping the needle on the classic 26 minute song at 12 noon for their audience. 
Rock didn't step into the door of Thanksgiving until four Canadian boys and one American drummer called it quits on Thanksgiving in 1976. The Band played, recorded, and filmed The Last Waltz on Thanksgiving day at the Winterland Ballroom. After the concert, Bill Graham served all that attended the concert a turkey dinner with the fixings. 
This opened the door to other bands to entertain holding a Thanksgiving concert, which the Grateful Dead did for the first and only time in 1978 at the Capital Center in Landover, Maryland. All those that had to skip dinner with their folks were rewarded with a rip roaring night with the Grateful Dead. The band had come back from their failed recording effort in Egypt and put their financial problems aside to rock audiences, culminating with their New Year's Eve concert that closed the Winterland. 
The November run started off with the band's first ever appearance on Saturday Night Live. This set the stage, so they say, for a very good and unique Grateful Dead run. But there were some troubles too, the final night of the run in New Haven was postponed due to Jerry's illness. This was the first time Jerry's health caused a gig to get cancelled. Yet, true to their word, the band came back in January of 1979 to make up the gig. You can download the Thanksgiving feast from a very good FOB transfer by Charlie Miller HERE
As mentioned, this is a rip roaring show who's first set includes the highlight of "Tennessee Jed." The "Jed" is just over 9 minutes long and gets opened in the solo section. Just when you think they are about to kick back into the close, Bobby comes in with slide and they go off on an extended solo. The second set is a highlight in itself. There is a marvelous "Samson" opener and then they follow it up with a soulful "Friend of the Devil," the slowest paced song of the set. 
The disco "Dancin'" starts the band on a string of songs till they end the set. Immediately after they complete the tour-de-funk, Jerry starts "Terrapin." Jerry sings this with a pretty stirring conviction, like a masterful bull rider he throttles the band threw "Terrapin" and into "Playin' in the Band." 
After the smoke clears from the Rhythm Devils, the band starts fiddling with the rare "Ollin Arrageed" without Hamza el-Din, before they layer together a very rare "Space/Shakedown Street."  They had recently played "Shakedown" out of a spacey "Playin'" jam found HERE. "Shakedown" is heavy on the fast rhythm to the point where it almost sounds like a "Dancin' Reprised." The titillating "Shakedown" morphs into a reprise of the earlier "Playin'" before closing it out with "Around and Around."
Jerry Garcia's wit and humor is evaded in the encore selection of "US Blues." I'm sure that offering of peace that the Pilgrims made with the Thanksgiving meal was not so clear to the Native Americans that would soon end up with them old "US Blues."
I: Half Step, Franklin's, Minglewood, Stagger Lee, LL Rain, Jed, Passenger, BE Women, Music
II: Samson, Friend, Dancin', Terrapin, Playin', Drums, Ollin, Shakedown, Playin', Around E: US Blues
Guitar Player magazine circa October of 1978. An interesting quote form the interview, "The first (electric guitar) I played was a Guild Starfire. It's the guitar you hear on the first Grateful Dead record."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rat In A Drain Ditch

For today's showaversary, we go back to the Shrine Auditorium in 1976. The Grateful Dead had come back to touring in June and decided that they were going to shake up the band's growing show size. First they disassembled the Wall of Sound, then they let soundman Dan Healy decide their venues, which is why he book them on in theaters that were catered to live music. This is why 1976 is the only time the Grateful Dead played venues like the Beacon Theater and Orpheum Theatre. This is the final show of this theater tour. The next gig would be on New Years and they would return to the the larger arenas and college sports halls. Download the SBD of this show HERE and HERE.
Some songs really thrived in this theater setting. Some of the best version of songs like "Might as Well," "All Over Now," and "Lazy Lightning/Supplications" came from this year. The crescendo of "Might as Well" was usually bone crushing this year, whereas the two Bobby numbers usually featured sublime energy. Prime example of these examples are prevalent in this first set. 
The second set opens with the combo of "Eyes/Music Never Stopped." Although this combo is smooth and both songs are in the same key, this is the only time the songs were paired together. Quite baffling that they didn't revisit this combo. The only reason I can think of is placement, whereas "Eyes"was primarily a second set tune and "Music" was a first setter. 
"He's Gone" is a song that written about the band's soured relationship with their ex-manager Lenny Hart. Mickey thought that his now preacher father (although he was Jewish) had reformed his scheming ways and could help the band navigate their growing financial business. After several indication like Pigpen's keyboard being repossessed, the band checked the books as Lenny fled to Mexico. The stress bother Mickey so much that he left the band in February of 1971 and in April of 1972 the band debuted "He's Gone." Mickey returned to the band in October of 1974 and this is the first time that Mickey played on the song. Then for only the second time the band used "He's Gone" to segues into "Drums," which would later become a common occurrence. 
A song that saw a resurgence was "Comes A Time." The band seemed to play it fairly regular throughout the year even though they stopped playing it after 1972. It worked and thrived throughout the year to some of those heart wrenching versions in the spring of '77. This one progresses into to a glorious version of "Franklin's Tower." This isn't the first stand alone version, but this is the first time "Franklin's" appeared in a show that didn't have a "Help/Slip" in it. The night ends with the set closer of "Sugar Mags," and then DeadHeads have to wait two and half months for their next gig. 
I: Might As Well, Mama Tried, Row Jimmy, All Over Now, Loser, Minglewood, Bertha, Lazy Lightning, Supplications, Sugaree, Promised
II: Eyes, Music, Roses, Samson, He's Gone, Drums, Other One, Comes a Time, Franklin's, Sugar Mags
Today is my wife and I anniversary and this was her gift to me. As a bonus she said that I can actually hang it on my wall. Awesome!

Monday, October 6, 2014

You Didn't Mean Goodbye

Every once in a while I throw out that an interesting Grateful Dead Box Set would be Europe 81. The band toured there in the Fall of 1981, which was a solid time in Grateful Dead history. The band tightened up some of there sloppy time signatures that plagued some nights in 1980 and was firing on all cylinders. While some of the shows didn't feature many 20 minute jams, the band didn't get lost in some of the more precise tunes.
Now I already featured the Bobby Birthday show from this European tour, where the band borrowed instruments and busted out songs like "Gloria" and "Lovelight." Today's date features a bust out of it's own along with some really clean playing. Download the final Rainbow Theatre show HERE and HERE.
The "Shakedown" opener sets the table for a fluid first set. There aren't may long pauses in between songs like there were in the 70's. The second set opens with a song that was debuted earlier that year in "Woman are Smarter." Wonder what the band reaction was when Bobby brought that song to the table. "He's Gone" is delightful. The band takes their time with the song, which makes it the focal jam of the first half of the set. All the other "Drums/Space" of this run are around 10 minutes long, but at this show the "Space" itself is 12 minutes long. At the four minute mark of "Space," Jerry plays a familiar note progression. The band has not played the tune in six years and only played it three times, but "Blues for Allah" has been dusted off. The band handles it in the abstract, but clearly they are fiddling with the tune. They would only one more "Blues for Allah" jam, in a similar circumstance out of "Space." The next little setlist quirk is the split "Sugar Mags/Sunshine Daydream" that begins after "The Wheel." This is the third of the three that happened in 1981 and all in the Fall. This one is comic because after the "Stella Blue/Good Lovin'," Bobby forgets that they had split up their "Mags." He recovers to rock the English crowd out till "Brokedown" sings them home.
I: Shakedown, Minglewood, Roses, Rooster, Althea, Uncle, Mexicali, Never Trust, Cumberland, LL Rain, Might As Well
II: Woman, High Time, Estimated, He's Gone, Drums, Space, Blues for Allah Jam, Wheel, Sugar Mags, Stella, Good Lovin', SSDD E: Brokedown

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tell Me Why You Treat Me So Unkind

Today we go back 20 years for a gem from the Boston Garden. Now some of you mathematicians may be discrediting this show because it occurred in 1994, to which I say, you are not right. Most DeadHead's discredits anything after 1991, because they don't believe that anything good happened after March 1992 when Bruce Hornsby left the band. Even though summer of 1992, had some good shows like Vegas and RFK, but it was after that summer that doctor's shut down Garcia for the fall and winter tours. Spring 1993, the band came back and debuted new originals for the first time in four years. Even though their was a creative outburst, the band took a step back from their playing style and interaction. So much so that some DeadHeads, like David Lemieux, stopped seeing the band. Garcia's voice tired but in 1994, the band did recapture some of their fire. Personally I'll listen to a show from 1994 over certain years in 80's. If I was to rank all the years of the Grateful Dead, this year would fall in the middle of the pack, somewhere between 15-20th place. Of all the shows in 1994, this might be the best. So download the SBD of the show HERE and HERE.
Regardless a great show is a great show no matter which year it occurred in. I've been listening to a lot of the Spring 90 "Other" box set which was recent release, and if you have, Jerry's voice is very different. Yet there is a certain inflection that is in Jerry's voice. This honest, whole hearted, vocal inflection first comes through on the "Althea," but is more prevalent on the gems "Fire on The Mountain," "Terrapin," "Stella Blue," and the monumental "So Many Roads." This verse sticks out as on of the best version is the song that the band ever played. Last year for the Grateful Dead's 30 song in 30 days, they chose this version because of the effort given by Jerry at the climax of the tune. The night is not just about Jerry, Vince Welnick plays pretty marvelous. The "Big River" electrifies and the little rift that sinks the band into "Terrapin" is titillating. Then each member of the band propels a significant spell of music out of "Terrapin" and into "Drums." At certain moments you can hear each member of the band slowly claim a piece of the jam to themselves and it is great. Now, I don't blame you if you just download the show for the "So Many Roads," but if you give it a chance you'll see that the show so much better than just one song.
I: Help, Slip, Franks, Walkin Blues, Althea, Uncle, Big River, Tom Thumb's, SMR, Promised
II: Scarlet, Fire, Go Home, Saint, Terrapin, Drums, Space, Last Time, Stella, OMSN, E: Liberty

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Head In Sparkling Clover

Today is the anniversary of the second acoustic/electric shows from 1980 that were billed as the band's 15th anniversary tour. The first show was filled with bust outs and this second one has it's own surprises. The bust outs from the night prior are all songs tapped to be part of the acoustic set. The band debuted "Ain't no Lie" and then busted out songs like "Bird Song" (382 shows), "Dark Hollow" (550 shows), "Monkey & the Engineer" (589 shows), "Rosalie McFall" (609 shows), " Been All Around This World" (706 shows), and the beloved "Ripple" which had only been played 10 times by the band. "Ripple" hadn't been preformed since the final Fillmore East show in 1971, which was a gap of 550 shows. 
Download today's Audience version of the show HERE. Five of these songs make a repeat appearance in today's acoustic set but the show starts with the beautiful "To Lay Me Down." A song that was lost by the Hiatus of 1975, and never got back in rotation until here. It's the first "To Lay Me Down" since 10/19/1974, which is a show gap of 311 shows. This is followed up by the biggest bust out of the run of shows. "On The Road Again  hadn't been played since 12/01/1966, a gap of 1128 shows. "Been All Around This World" comes next and its pretty obvious that the band really has figured out their flow in the Acoustic setting. The previous night's set is very disjointed. They take their time between songs to tune up and throw caution to the wind and play. Yet the acoustic set feels like fire side Grateful Dead music. "Bird Song" is still the most adventurous song of the acoustic set. This one leads them into the first acoustic "Cassidy," which is no slouch when it comes to jamming it out. The final acoustic debut of the evening, is "China Doll," which Brent shows off his haunting harpsichord playing. 
The set ends with "Ripple" and this is the one that the band chooses for "Reckoning." Does anyone know the special guest that runs across stage during this "Ripple?" Garcia introduces him right after he sings "Let there be songs to fill the air." Jerry then says, "That's Otis." Otis was Bob Weir's dog, named after the great Otis Redding. He wondered on stage during the performance and the crew coxed him backstage. Otis really exemplifies the evening's feel of being a couple friends just camping it out for the night. There is intimate theater setting, the hollow body instruments and sweet harmonies. The atmosphere is intoxicating. So much so that Bill Graham had drink enough of the cool aid and had the audience toast the band on the final night which you can read more about HERE.
A: To Lay Me Down, On the Road Again, Around This World, Dark Hollow, Rosalie McFall, Bird Song, Cassidy, China Doll, Ripple
E1: Stranger, Sugaree, Uncle, Big River, Peggy-O, Minglewood, Candyman, LL Rain, Jed, Sailor, Saint
E2: Scarlet, Fire, Estimated, Eyes, Drums, Space, NFA, Black Peter, Sugar Mags, E: Brokedown

Next Tuesday there is a new Old and In The Way release called "Live at The Record Plant Sausal." There is also a new GarciaLive due out in October. It is his one and only New Years show with JGB from 1975. Bob Weir and Mickey Hart makes special guest appearances. Also for the Grateful Dead's 50th Anniversary next year, Doug Irwin and Tom Lieber will be making 12 replica of Jerry's guitars, for more info follow this link HERE.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Just One More Thing From Me

Different generations of DeadHead's will talk about fondly about different shows that they caught. The generation above me usually brag about 1989, which was the start of a true renaissance in the Grateful Dead history. The generation before the '89ers brag about being at a gig on this day in 1980, in Lewiston Maine. The famous photographer Jay Blakesberg on his Instagram, (photo at the bottom of the blog) will occasionally release photo's of his friends getting down at this gig because it was a seminal show in the Grateful Dead's history. DeadHead's like him who missed 1977, usually mention this as being their crowning moment with the band.
I met a guy though work who had a dancing bear on the back of his car, he mentioned how when he dropped his daughter off at Cornell, that he made a stop by Barton Hall. Then he went on to tell me how the best show he ever saw was this Lewiston show. Which prompted a whole conversation about the show and my one great disappointment with the show, there is no true soundboard of the show in circulation. But you can find the FOB Charlie Miller transfer HERE.
The show kicks off with two blazing songs, and is followed by one of those versions of "Sugaree" that ranks as one of their best ever. The band gets into the solo of this "Sugaree" early and they come back around and destroy it again and again. Jerry leads the band through the show and the machine gun note laying is on that even on tape the volume of the jam comes through even on the digital copy for all 16 minutes of the song. Jerry's desire to rock it out doesn't only come through on the "Sugaree," but also on songs "Tennessee Jed," "Stranger," and "Rooster." The big twist of the set comes when the band plays the late set "China/Rider." Eleven songs into the set the band shows their first glimpse of winding down the set and yet they still feel the need to cap the set with "Promised Land." Thirteen songs in this marathon set.
The second set opens with a marvelous "Shakedown St," which might not be the longest in their history but has great energy. The band settles into the thick jam and at one point you can hear Jerry give a little giggle at his enjoyment of the groove. The band then takes their time to play some of their new material in "Sailor/Saint" and "Althea." All three songs are just over a year old and have developed in that time. After "Althea" the band cuts loose with a vanishing "Playin' in the Band." Very quickly the "Playin'" jam evolves into a manic spacey jam that "Uncle John's" is the light at the end of the tunnel for. They loose the "Uncle John's" before the ending of the song to a short "Drums/Space." A bit of that 70's funk comes through on this vintage version of "Not Fade Away." This slick song flows through a key change and into an audience appreciated "The Wheel." This allows the  band to finish what they had started with reprises of "Uncle John's" and "Playin'." Still enjoying the atmosphere, Bobby showman, ends the set with "Sugar Mags."
After a thirteen song first set, the boys play a thirteen song second set and cap the show with a double encore. To my memory, this is the last of the marathon two set Grateful Dead shows. It's not the six hour six set show of 5/15/70, but is similar to the 25 song shows of 1972 that would have the band on stage for four hours. To my memory this is the last of the marathon 25 song two set shows. Yes there are the three setters that could equal this song total but after the 15 year anniversary shows the band's first sets got shorter and shorter. So I believe that this is the longest show of the 1980's, which is why this night lives as a special evening in some DeadHead's memories. 
I: Alabama, Greatest, Sugaree, Uncle, Mexicali, Jed, Stranger, Friend, Far From Me, Rooster, China Cat, Rider, Promised
II: Shakedown, Sailor, Saint, Althea, Playin', Uncle John's, Drums, Space, NFA, Wheel, Uncle John's, Playin', Sugar Mags E: Saturday Night, Brokedown

Monday, August 18, 2014

Let There Be Songs To Fill The Air

Today we go back to a pretty monumental show in Grateful Dead history. One where the band debuted four new songs, all of which were on "American Beauty." Yet in the interest, I might mention that none of these debuts may have been their debuts. (Huh?) The only song that we know that they played the night before is "Casey Jones." So all the debuts might have been played yesterday and because the setlist and audio copy is not complete, we might be talking about the second time these four songs are played. Nonetheless download the SBD copy that I have of this night HERE.
In May of 1970, the Grateful Dead officially treated new waters when they released "Workingman's Dead." Although "Dupree's Diamond Blues" and "Mountains of the Moon" where the preformed released on their earlier albums there was still the tinge of psychedelia in the lyrical make up of the songs. "Workingman's" took them out of the "Crazy Kat" and into "the timbers of Fernario." For the first time the band was getting radio success. "Uncle John's Band" was get play on FM radio and reached 69 on the pop music chart dispute the fact that it featured the forbidden word of "Goddamn." The other track that was being played less frequent was "Casey Jones," because there was a blatant drug reverence in the chorus. 
It's important to note that 1970 was the busiest year in their history. Not only did they write and record two studio albums but they played more shows than any other year in their history with 145 shows. 
The acoustic begins with the debut of "Truckin'." In November when an edit version of this song is released as a single, it is their best commercial release to date when it reaches 64 on the top 100 list. That's five spots higher than "Uncle John's Band." In this stripped down acoustic version, the songs upbeat groove is evident but all the piano fills that Tom Constanten plays. The next debut is the song that would be the B side to "Truckin'," "Ripple." It is quite remarkable how the song that is played here is the fully realized version of the B Side. Most songs do not start like that, and take time to mature into the best played version of the song. Like the "American Beauty" album version, the band uses the ending G chord to end "Ripple" and begin "Brokedown Palace." A song that does take time to mature and grow into most-perfect-encore-to-a-show song. Throughout the 70's the band struggles to find placement and comfortably with the song and to the band's credit they don't give up on it the way they did with a song like "New Speedway." The final debut is "Operator." Its why there is only four versions of this song when you hear the crowd clapping along to this song's beat dispute never hearing it before. The set closes with "Cold Jordan/Swing Low Sweet Chariot," two songs that show off the band's vocal abilities and range. I prefer these acoustic set to those of the 1980's. There is something a little repetitive with some of those sets. These sets show how daring the band was then. The acoustic "Bird Song" aside, the band didn't take great leaps. If only they mixed in an acoustic "Fire on the Mountain" at some point.
The electric set is the band flexing their primal muscles. Dick Latvala called "Dick's Picks 4" primal Dead and it is the perfect description for them this year. There isn't the Bobby, Jerry, Pigpen rotation of songs. If they thought it, they played it, and when they stretched it, they really went for it. "Dancin'" and "It's a Man's World" are two of the most monumental reaches from the versions that were being played on AM radio. You might have been able to play the radio version five times before the Dead finished their one. The band filters in two songs that were still developing in "Sugar Mags" and "Attics." Bobby really wants to play "Sugar Mags" and is signaling the intro through the last two minutes of "Cryptical." "Attics" on the other hand is played pretty timidly. The song was usually played this way because it was not in rotation enough. The band then closes the set with their two commercial successes at the time in "Casey Jones" and " Uncle John's." And old school DeadHead criticized the band for encore with "Touch of Grey" at all 6 of the 1987 stadium shows. They have been a band who sent their fans home happy since their primal days.
I: Truckin', Dire Wolf, Friend, Dark Hollow, Ripple, Brokedown, Operator, Rosalie, New Speedway, Cold Jordan, Sweet Chariot
II: Dancin', Next Time, Mama Tried, Cryptical, Other, Cryptical, Sugar Mags, Attics, Man's World, NFA, Casey, Uncle Johns