"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

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Forty years ago today (1972) the Grateful Dead played its final European concert. They returned to Europe in 1974 for seven more concerts, far less than the 24 concerts they played over a month and a half span in '72. The culmination of the '72 shows was a four night run at the Strand Lyceum in London, England.
The Strand was the smallest venue that they played in Europe. All the employees of the venue wore jackets and bow ties and of course spoke in a British accent. They fit right in with the bohemians that were about to descend on the 2,100 seat theatre. So before they played a note of music, Bobby asked, "Good evening. Welcome to here?"
These four shows were the result of the band's hard work in Europe. Several of the band's selection of Europe '72 came from this run, including the complete second LP. In 2001, they released "Steppin' out with the Grateful Dead; England '72", which was a four CD set of music recorded primarily at the Lyceum. It's evident in the recorded music, they were a very confident bunch.
If you think about it, Europe '72 was a sociological experiment. Put a band in a foreign land, with foreign customs, then give them an audience who has never seen or heard most of the songs and see if their spirits can coincide. If you were an audience member who was a fan of their third album "Aoxomoxoa", you'd know one of the thirty songs that they played that night. Plus the studio version of "China Cat Sunflower" and the live version are completely different incarnations of the song. So hopefully you'd pick up on the covers of songs like, "Not Fade Away", "It Hurts Me Too", and "Good Lovin".
Another thing the Grateful Dead was doing, that no other band was doing at the time, was jamming out 30 minute songs. If the Dead played "Dark Star" one night, the next night they'd use "The Other One" as their exploratory vehicle. (Only one show, 5/7/72 features both songs and they were paired there.) And although they explored the cosmos with these songs, they would come out of these songs in different places. Most of the "Dark Stars" would come out running with a song like "Sugar Magnolia", where as "The Other One" would be cooled off with either a "Sing Me Back Home" or "Wharf Rat."
At this point the band was also a three singer band. Pigpen took leads on songs like "Two Strangers in Communion," "Mr. Charlie," "Next Time You See Me" and "Turn on Your Lovelight." All these songs he would sing for the last time on stage here at the Strand Lyceum. 5/26/72 was the last time Pigpen played and sang with the Grateful Dead. When the band returned to the States, they played one show on 6/17/72 at the Hollywood Bowl, which was his last time on stage with the Grateful Dead.
Some of the highlights include the debut of "Rockin' Pneumonia" and the last "Sitting on Top of the World." The "Lovelight" into "Two Souls" is very tight, and it gives an incredible strong breath to the end of "Two Souls". Then the "Uncle John's", "Wharf Rat", "Dark Star", "Sugar Mags", "Comes A Time" is phenomenal. The "Dark Star" features one of those descending jams that would later help connect "China" "Rider" in 73 and 74.

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