"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, 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

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