"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

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Grateful Dead 50

So word was officially announced today, the core four will reunite for 3 shows in Chicago at Soldier Field. The site of the final Grateful Dead show will host them on July 3rd, 4th, and 5th. These are billed as the final performance by Billy, Mickey, Phil and Bobby. This is also the first time in 20 years that they are using the name The Grateful Dead. So forget about that time in November of 1995, in the St Lawrence dinning hall that CNN flashed a video of the band's Radio City gig and proclaimed that the band released a statement that they would no longer play gigs as the Grateful Dead.
The core four will be joined by Trey Anastasio on guitar, Bruce Hornsby on piano and Jeff Chimenti on keys. A very interesting band for the celebration.
Here are the links you'll need; dead50.comgdtstoo.com, and the video announcement by Trixie Garcia via YouTube. After watching that check out mail order instructions HERE. Then check out this first interview with Trey and Bobby HERE.
I'll be at the shows, its what a DeadHead does, and will try to post reaction and pictures of each of the shows.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Grateful Dead in 1965

In 1965, Pigpen convinced the other members of the Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions to leave behind their acoustic instruments and evolve into an electric blues band. The other members, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Jerry Garcia and Dana Morgan Jr, were all more than willing to participate. Though they went electric, most of their material did not change. Their song repertoire consisted of traditional covers that now became louder.
They lined up a bunch of gigs at a suburban San Francisco pizzeria named Magoo's Pizza Parlor. They played there on a weekly basis then would practice at Dana Morgan's Music Shop. One of these Magoo's gigs was attended by Phil Lesh and his girlfriend. After reconnecting with Phil at the gig, Jerry approached Phil about learning bass and serving as Dana Morgan Jr's replacement, despite the fact that it meant they would lose their practice space. Phil was a trumpet player but was known to have perfect pitch. Phil agreed to join although he thought that he was going to be playing rhythm guitar because of what he was hearing in the Rolling Stones song "The Last Time." There is no record of Jerry asking Bobby, Pigpen, or Billy before asking Phil to join the band. After practicing the bass for a few weeks, Phil played his first gig with The Warlocks on June 18 of 1965 at Frenchy's in Hayward, California, their first gig not at Magoo's Pizza Parlor in Menlo Park. 
While flipping through records, the newest member of the band discovered that there was another band out there that had the name The Warlocks. This New York band lead by Lou Reed, had gotten the name published before the San Francisco Warlocks. So the band without a name had studio time in November as singer Jon Hendricks' backing band. As a bonus they got to record some of their demos after completing his song "Fire in the City." The boys used the temporary moniker of The Emergency Crew for this recording. They decided on the name in the studio. These recordings were put out as the CD "The Birth of the Dead" in 2003, although "Fire in the City" was the B Side for Jon Hendricks in 1966. 
As the legend goes, the band was sitting around throwing different possible band names around, when Garcia took an Encyclopedia Britannica off the shelf. Flipping threw the pages, he focused on The Grateful Dead. It was in the encyclopedia as a folklore of a spirit who karmically repays the person responsible for taking care of their burial. No one else in the band hated the name, but nor did they love it. Yet much like their previous name of The Warlocks, there is a mystical and spiritual energy that surrounds the name. 
Around this time, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters started posting signs around San Francisco asking, "Can you pass the Acid Test?" The band member attended their first Acid Test as participants before being asked to be the musical guest. The band made their first known appearance as the Grateful Dead at the San Jose acid test at Big Nig's House on December 4th, 1965. To say they "played" the Acid Test is being generous. More they brought their instruments, drank the Kool Aid, and let what ever happen for the next 8 hours. If you think about it, the phrase "anything can happen at a Grateful Dead concert," stems from these experiences at the Acid Test. Not only that but the friendships that the band had with the Merry Pranksters, Mountain Girl, Rock Scully, and their soundman Owsley "Bear" Stanley, all originated from the early Acid Test.
Besides the officially released recording, there isn't much recorded history of The Warlocks or The Grateful Dead in 1965. Songs like "You Don't Have To Ask" and "Can't Come Down," the first recorded song by Jerry Garcia, were extremely rough around the edges and therefore abandoned shortly after their conception. Yet in 1965, they chose some of their Jug Band songs that would last all 30 years of the Grateful Dead history and beyond. "Cold Rain and Snow," "Don't Ease Me In," and "I Know You Rider" were all traditional songs that the band played in 1965 that lasted to the final tour in 1995. It's pretty remarkable that the band kept those songs current in their lineup. If you look at Bob Dylan's "30th Anniversary Concert," none of the songs at that show were on his first album. Actually in 1965, the band played two Bob Dylan songs; "She Belongs to Me" and "It's All Over Now Baby Blue." The latter was a song that Jerry sang until February 19th of 1995. 
Although the San Jose Acid Test was the first appearance by The Grateful Dead, the first concert wasn't until December 10th. The band played the Fillmore Auditorium with Jefferson Airplane, Great Society, John Handy Quintet, Mystery Trend, and The Gentleman Band. Bill Graham who put on the Mime Troupe Benefit, was not keen on the new band name and printed the poster as saying; "The Grateful Dead (Formerly The Warlocks)." This would come into play much later on in Grateful Dead history. The band that started as a Jug band over the course of the year, grew into a drug band who appeared in three Acid Tests in December of 1965. All in all 1965, was a period of growth by the band. There was some form of direction that they had, even though it was still immature. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

GD 50

Twenty five years ago, the Grateful Dead rang in the New Years from Oakland Coliseum Arena in fine style. The band is coming off a fall tour which some see as the best tour of the decade. This New Years run picks on this energy and runs with it. The fall tour and this run also saw Garcia do something that he hadn't done in 10 years, he came to stage with a guitar other than the Tiger. Jerry started playing the Tiger on August 4th, 1979 and played it exclusively till the fall of 89. The supped up Wolf made sporadic appearance starting on Bobby's birthday, which would later be released as "Nightfall of Diamonds." The night beforehand Jerry played the Wolf but then went back to old reliable for New Years. Download the SBD of this New Year show HERE.
 Bob Weir comes to the microphone after New Years to joke, "I hear this is the start of a new Dick-aid, I mean decade." A collective grown lets out as the drummer play him a clap. As most are aware, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead and also the 20th anniversary of the loss of Jerry Garcia. The fans have been impatiently pointing fingers at the core four to put their differences aside and dust off those rusty strings one more time. Rumors have been bouncing around but nothing has been confirmed, except from Phil who has put together Grateful Dead retrospectives at Terrapin Crossroads. He is planning to play Grateful Dead material from a designated year for each different night. A cool concept but what about the other three original members. Well last night's season greeting from Mickey Hart might have shed some light on the rumors that have bounced around. In his statement Mickey wrote, "The bird gave me the word. 2015 will be even better. Our long strange trip continues."All DeadHead's know "Bird Song" was written for Janis Joplin, and in the years since Jerry passed, it was common for them to sing "All I know HE sang a little while than flew off." Is Jerry that Bird, metaphorically speaking. We'll be waiting. We'll be ready to fly off.
I: Sugar Mags, Touch, Woman, Big Boss Man, Memphis Blues, Shakedown
II: Countdown, Iko, Victim, Dark Star, Drums, Space, Fantasy, Hey Jude, GDTRFB, T Stones, NFA
E1: Brokedown, SSDD E2: Midnight Hour

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

1940 Xmas Eve

If you don't follow me on social media, then you don't know that I started a secondary site that is a musical companion to the book "Postitively Garcia." It features downloads of all the shows Howard Weiner mentions in the book. All twelve chapters are up there and if haven't gotten yourself a present for Christmas, I strongly suggest purchasing this book to make you holidays Jerry, health, and wise.

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