"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

Monday, January 14, 2013

I Got A Friend Somewhere

On this date in 1967, the Grateful Dead played the Human Be-In at the Polo Grounds in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In was a event that featured poets and local San Francisco bands of the time. The stage alternated between poetry reading by the likes of Allen Gingberg, Gary Synder and Timothy Leary and bands like Quicksilver, Big Brother, Airplane and the Dead.

The gathering of free spirits and hippies was an eye opening event for the band and specifically, Jerry Garcia. After coming down from 710, Jerry was awestruck, saying "There are so many of us." Later reflecting on the event he said, "It was all the people who were into dope of any sort." This was a much bigger scale event than the Acid Test the band was used to playing.
The dawning of age of Aquarius was clearly upon them as 30 thousand bohemian kids descended upon the Polo Grounds. Owsley was running around the event passing out his new strain of LSD that he called "White Lightning." Timothy Leary preached his "turn on, tune in, drop out" message, which every member of the Dead found to be appalling in its message and tone. They were all graduates of the Acid Test and were weary of his message and the politics of the time. According to Rock Scully, one of the event organizers and the Dead's manager, the only speaker that went over well with the crowd was Allen Ginsberg, who read "Howl" then led a chant of "Let's all breathe together."
This is arguably the biggest moment in the band's history at this point. They were in the process of arguing with Warner Brothers for creative control. They had only played a handful of gigs outside of the state of California, and this was by far the biggest audience yet.  The band nailed it with a potent set that even Dizzy Gillespie found to be "swinging."
The soundboard of this show can be downloaded HERE. They open their set with "Morning Dew." There is an edge to this "Dew." It announces itself as a proclamation that we are here and are radical in a different sort of way. Although Garcia shies away from the dissident political tone of the day, this statement of the atomic dawn amid crashing drums and beating rhythm guitars, channels the angry tone of the day and filters it into a beautiful falsetto. Garcia goes for it twice before breaking for the ending solo, which he crushes. This is the first known performance of "Morning Dew."
The band's musical prowess goes on full display as they move into "Viola Lee" next. There are some errors in this copy of the recording, which is unfortunate. As the band starts its decent, after a lengthy solo, the tape cuts and gets spliced as they start to build a speed jam out of the verse. The speed jam though provides quite the excitement. Just when you think you've reached the edge of the cliff you get strung out on a line that keeps you spinning, then takes you right back into the slow blues jaunt. You'll hear Pigpen call out "wow" and the crowd responds with joy, then he calls out "Sing the last verse." The mics got tampered with so Bobby is very faintly singing in the background till Phil, whose mic works, sings, "I got a friend somewhere."
 The special guest of the evening joins them for the final song of the set. This is the second time a special guest joins the band on stage, but it's the first one I have on recording. Previously, on 7/16/66 Joan Baez and Mimi Farina joined the band on "Midnight Hour." Charles Lloyd comes out and plays the jazz flute, that is before Ron Burgundy immortalized the jazz flute in "Anchorman." The vocal mics are still not being up to par. Pigpen tries singing the first verse but its way down in the mix. The band allows Charles Lloyd to go off. At this time, Lloyd was in between his two most popular albums, "Dream Weaver" and "Love-In." Actually, "Love-In" was recorded about two weeks later at the Filmore in San Francisco.
The Dead let Lloyd go off on flute as he does a mini nonsensical rap during the flute solo. They bebop the end of "Schoolgirl" to close the set. During the set a man jumped out a plane and parachuted into the crowd. Like the Dead's playing at the Be-In the parachute enveloped the audience, as the Dead had started to take a giant step forward into the human consciousness.
Morning Dew, Viola Lee, Schoolgirl*
*w/ Charles Lloyd

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Again James! Educational, Interesting and Fun as usual :)