Grateful Dead

4th Annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up At The Movies - Beat Club 4/21/72

We're brimmin' with Bremen over at! That's right, the festivities surrounding the 4th Annual Meet-Up At The Movies: Beat Club 4/21/72 have started early for us. If you haven't purchased your ticket for this one-night only event featuring the never-before-seen Beat Club studio performance in its entirety, restored from the original broadcast 2” quad video and audio mixed and mastered from the original analog tapes, let us set the scene with the official liner notes plucked from the sold out Europe '72: The Complete Recordings boxed set.

4/21/72 Bremen

All that most of the world knows about the city of Bremen in northern Germany is that once upon a time, long ago, there were these four old animals—a cat, a dog, a donkey and a rooster—who left their farms in the countryside and headed towards Bremen, where they hoped to live out their days as musicians. Oh, wait—that didn’t really happen. That’s the old Brothers Grimm fairy tale, The Town Musicians of Bremen. Fast forward. When the Grateful Dead—which included a few cats, a bird and a pig—hit Bremen in the third week of April in ’72, the city was still a destination for traveling musicians, thanks to a popular television program that emanated from there, called Beat-Club.

Beat-Club was Germany’s first major rock ’n’ roll TV show, on the air monthly (or so) since September 1965 (through the end of 1972). Typically, each program would feature several acts, some shot live in the rather sterile Studio 3 of Radio Bremen, and others appearing on film or video supplied from elsewhere. Basically, everyone who was anyone in rock music in the late ’60s and early ’70s showed up on Beat-Club at one time or another—and so did a lot of acts no one in the U.S. has ever heard of! Typically, a band taping in Bremen for Beat-Club would have a song or two appear on the monthly program a few weeks later, and one suspects that most acts probably came to the studio with a good idea of what song(s) they wanted to highlight, and knocked it out quickly.

Ah, but things were a little different when the Grateful Dead rolled into town with their tie-dyed amps, their entourage of long-haired “family,” and their recording truck parked outside. Maybe the Dead knew that day that “One More Saturday Night” would be the song that would air on the May 27 edition of the Beat-Club program, but they sure didn’t act that way. Instead, after a sound check that included “Loser” and “Black-Throated Wind,” they played a remarkable 80-minute set that mixed short songs with big jamming tunes, including two charged versions of “Playing in the Band,” and a spectacular “Truckin’” > “Other One” sequence that is more than 30 minutes long. That the band could play this well in front of a bunch German TV technicians, rather than their usual sea of swaying and flailing hippies, is amazing. That it was all captured in crystal-clear close-up video is truly a gift from the Gods (and if there’s any justice in the universe, the Gods will someday allow that video to be released commercially).

But even studying the aural document is fascinating. For one thing, the sound is recording-studio-clear, with no venue ambience or crowd seeping into the mics. And it’s not just an ordinary show: Garcia only sings two numbers, Pigpen one, and Bob six. After Jerry casually says “we’re rolling,” Bobby shouts into the microphone, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Grrrrrateful Dead!” and the band kicks into “Bertha,” crisp and energetic, but marred by a couple of lyric flaws. Then comes “Playing in the Band,” which the group pulled out at every stop on the Europe tour, and was great every single night. Jerry is all over the wah-wah pedal during the middle jam, making it growl and cry and squeal. “Mr. Charlie” is just about letter-perfect.

That is followed by our first do-over of the day—a luxury afforded by the fact there is no audience and this isn’t a “concert” per se. About a minute into “Sugaree,” Jerry says, “Hold it, hold it. Somebody played the wrong changes in there” (cough-Pigpen-cough), so they start at the top again. A few tunes later, Bobby halts a second version of “Playing” after he blows the first line: “Some folks trust in treason,” he sings. (It’s not clear why they do “Playing” again, as the first version was excellent. But the one that comes after the flub is even better, with a more intense middle section and much mind-bending bass work from Phil. Maybe they were more warmed-up second time ’round.) The final song-stopping calamity comes on “Truckin’,” after Bob completely spaces his entrance to the first verse, leading to the band hilariously attempting a shutdown of the song that’s all discordant crashing and colliding instruments, like some catastrophic orchestra mishap in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Second time is the charm, though, and the group nails it and kicks off the long and exciting journey mentioned above.

“The Other One” that emerges from a short post-“Truckin’” drum solo by Billy is full of drive and fire, like snorting and snarling horses galloping through Germany’s mysterious Black Forest. But it’s the six minutes after the second verse of “The Other One” that I want to highlight. The band doesn’t seem to have any idea about what, if any, song they might play next (surely they were past their allotted taping time and the German sound and TV crew were wondering whether this jamathon was ever going to end), so the Dead just float from one musical notion to the next. Squealing feedback gives way to a brief lilting jam. At one point Billy clicks into a little groove and the others follow and it develops into one of those lovely passages that feels familiar but isn’t quite—are those hints of “Wharf Rat”? Is “Sugar Magnolia” around that bend? Instead they keep drifting about—Jerry gets into a hypnotic finger-picking pattern at one point—until it all just peters out. There’s a pause and then they suddenly build up one of their big, chaotic endings, which is a mess worthy of the laugh that follows it. And with that, the Town Musicians of Bremen were gone.

—Blair Jackson


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bolo24's picture
Joined: Nov 25 2009
The other thing that struck me (for about the 5000th time)

vir·tu·o·so (vər CHo͞oˈōsō) ______ (1) Jerry Garcia

bolo24's picture
Joined: Nov 25 2009
What really struck me tonight

7 years already logged as the Dead in the spring of 72, yet they were still all so young:

Phil was the old man at 32. Then Jerry - 29; Pig - 26; Billy - 25; Bobby/Donna - 24; Keith - 23.

So much talent at such an early age. Pretty mind-boggling, really.

Then it hit me that my own sons are 33 and 31, and I guess that means I'm older than I thought!

The music keeps me young, though. Bring on the 50th celebrations - I'm ready to shake these ol' bones!

fishpalace's picture
Joined: Nov 12 2008
!Hey now! I drove 125 miles

!Hey now! I drove 125 miles each way on 66 as well!

fishpalace's picture
Joined: Nov 12 2008
What was that ditty?

What was the title of the ditty that Jerry instigated when Bobby forgot the words to Truckin'? It's a classical piece that was used in cartoons to denote a character getting konked on the head or being spaced out. I'm thinking Buggs Bunny or something similar.

Strider 88's picture
Joined: Jun 20 2007

Hell Yeah! I worked most of the day with my crew on the trail then drove the 100 plus miles over to Duke City for the movie. Loved it big time. Met another person at the movie who was also at the Academy of Music three weeks before this was shot. Pigpens last NYC appearance. So after movie lit out on 66 ,drove the 130 miles back west. Will be up at 0500 revelie for work . Workingmans Dead. Never Give A Inch. Jerry -atrics kick ass. Need to form a local of the Gray Panthers. Thank you, loved the movie. That's it for the Other One.

Joined: Nov 1 2010

This sure was a Delight.... I was surprised by the amount of people, I didn't think there'd be more than a handful, but the Grateful Dead brings a crowd no matter where your at, even in the Desert.
This was probably the Best Time I've had in a Movie Theater....the sound was Awesome and the Crowd and Myself had a Good Time.
It was Fun to Hear that others were enjoying themselves as much as myself...we Cheered & Clapped and put a few "woo-hoo's" after each number.

I hope with Next Year being the BIG "50," we'll have a full blown spectacle....
Tonight Was Great!

JonJll's picture
Joined: Jun 22 2007
Meet up

That was the most immersive dead on film I've ever seen. The sound was perfect. It was a serious bobby workshop u could really see the intricacies and nuance of his immensely unique style. The focus on Jerry's guitar work was likewise illuminating gorgeous full out jerry tone using just a strat and a wah. This felt more like dead show than a lotta late 90 shows I was at. So young so healthy so on fire! Anybody who ever dumped on Donna could see how hard she had to push her voice to do her bits
No dumb psychedelic montages faux hallucinatory rigmarole just the music and the sight of The good ol grateful dead!!!!!

JeffGodoy's picture
Joined: Nov 2 2010
Tucson - Fantastic!

That was great!! It was great see and hear PigPen again. This was 72 and he was looking really frail but his voice was still PigPen. I hope whoever has the rights decides to release this. I'll buy a Blu-Ray within the first 10 minutes it's on sale.

Joined: Jun 6 2007
Cell Phones in Theater

Enjoyed the for the cell phone addicts in the audience. The guy two seats away from me watched most of the film through his cell phone screen as he snapped pictures. A woman fired up her phone at the start of each song, I guess she had to text someone about what song was being performed at the moment. And the guy way down in the first row who had his phone turned on throughout the film, shining a glaring white screen at the rest of audience. There were at least a dozen other phones lighting up throughout the evening.

Joined: Jun 23 2007
Glad there weren't more Jerry tunes...

I was crying during the Sugaree.

It's the first Jerry tune I remember hearing through the window pane at my first show (11/10/85). I instantly fell in love with Jerry during it.

So, out of the blue, when the Sugaree started in the movie, it was just so, so sweet and I suddenly felt such a sense of loss and missed Jerry so much again.

Other than that it was wonderful. I really hope they can make it available. All these current audio releases are fine and very well done, but excellent copies of most of them (spring 90, 5/74, etc) are already available. Treasures like this video should be a much higher priority as far as I'm concerned. Nevertheless, thanks to all involved for at least getting it to us for this one special night



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