4th Annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up At The Movies - Beat Club 4/21/72
We're brimmin' with Bremen over at Dead.net! 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.
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.
However completely deserved and interesting. Bobby sold it and Jeffery Norman was on point. I have already invested in the Branford show and was compelled regarding the new box set. Will have to see. My guess is it will probably sell out before I make the call to purchase. Good thing there was a time lag before I got home from the show, combined with the lack of real urgency or zeal from that 1972 TV set. Compelling sound (Branford x 100 !!!!!) and very nice sales job with the 1990 box set. Really impressive pitch.
I was pleasantly surprised. I honestly didn't think even the Dead could make a studio shoot that absorbing. The sound was amazing, and even in that bland setting the music was tight and energetic. If only the full shows in those beautiful European venues were filmed, and with this much beautiful clarity. It did leave me yearning for more. A highlight for me was Donna. She looked so happy and couldn't stop smiling and grooving even when she stepped back during instrumentals. The audience in the theater was cool and clapped after each song. That's the good. The only bad part was I've never been to a film where so many people were continuously leaving for the bathroom or concession. It was non stop during the whole show, and every time someone opened the theater door it slammed enough to be disturbing. I was a few minutes late and just missed the opening before the actual film started. Can anyone fill me in on what I missed? Was there info about the Spring 90 box?
Thank you to Merrill for showing Grateful Dead at his theatre, and thank you to the folks at Grateful Dead headquarters for making this evening happen. The music was intense and Jerry had serious focus on that night. In enjoyed Bobby's antics and Donna belting out her yells in Playin' in the Band.
See you all August 1st for the Ship of Fools boat cruise of Lake Champlain with music provided by Cats Under the Stars. Smooth sailing to all DeadHeads, in high seas or doldrums.
loved show, totally disappointed in the sound (not loud enough, despite my requests, my son's requests and other patrons request.)
After viewing, much less interested in a release of his show. Still would enjoy it, but far from my most wanted, (many other limited production videos or proshot videos would be in line for my purchase.) Loved many aspects of this, but far from my most desired after viewing it tonight. Not even a close call.
Despite this era being in my wheelhouse, those Alpine shows far exceed this release in production value and interest.
Wouldn't pay a lot for the rights to this from German TV. PBS circa 1970- minus 50 points as far as production value. Dead show plus 100 but on balance, not what I hoped for, at all. Just my opinion, happy for the Jerry and/or Phil shots when the camera persons finally decided to focus on them.
But glad to see it nonetheless.
Teachers open the door, you much enter by yourself.
Went to the show tonight and the theatre had a mess of tech difficulties. The show was interrupted so many times by "lost signal" that the management of the theatre refunded everyone's money. Bummer.. Hope there is another showing cause what we were able to see was great!
So I guess there was no announcement regarding DP11?
that was unbelieveble
I know, it' not even 10 yet but des bones got to get to the mine in the mornin. I wish there was one more song in the show, don't care what, but left a little empty. Had a good time though, went with my baby girl, haven't been to a show with her since PSU 08, the Obama concert. Hope everyone had a good time and get home safe
This movie felt like it was only 20 minutes long because I was hungry for more. Holy Smoke! The sound is incredible in the movie theater. If you have a chance to see a Dead movie in a movie theater, just go! It is awesome. The only negative about this movie was just not enough songs.
This will be the first MUATM with legal pot sales here in Seattle. Will it be sold at the concession stands in the theater I wonder? Nah, probably not.