"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."