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


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Joined: May 4 2014
Home Release Not Likely...

Lemieux said there are no plans to release the Beat Club show on home video. "Because we don't own it, it's owned by German TV, it's a big amount of work," Lemieux said. "I'm not saying it's insurmountable, because hopefully some day we will (release it), but certainly not for the next long while, really no plans for at least years to do this as a home video, if ever. So really, this is your shot, this is the one shot for people, it's a one-night only screening."

Joined: Jul 14 2014
Dead at the Movies

Is there ANY chance these shows can get released publicly? I was at the Alpine Valley show that was the subject of the last Dead at the Movies episode and unfortunately can't make this years, but would love to see it. Is there any chance we could possibly expand the View From The Vault series? I think these videos would be BIG sellers. Thank you.

Wharf_Mouse's picture
Joined: Mar 9 2013
RE: no one said that

I would have to give the GD organization the benefit of the doubt; they are doing this [re-issues] for the fans and it's not all about the money. Case in point: The GD could have done what The Who once did and "burned" literally most of their live material, or taken the other approach and keep it [live reels] all locked up forever, never to see the light of day again, which is one scenario which could have easily happened (knowing JG's dislike of hearing his flubbed licks.) Thanks to the more open, democratic approach to [the] band's fans and leadership, a situation worked out in which an abundance of quality material documenting the band has enshrined it's legacy like no other musical outfit I can immediately recall, (save perhaps Elvis Presley,) and the fans are the ones doing the pulling for releases, not the other way around. I also feel the output is a positive roll-model for honest entrepreneurship, not crass, cash-in commercialism (al a KISS). Just my reflection on the OP's contention.

unkle sam's picture
Joined: Oct 3 2008
no one said that

no one said that Blair was owed anything.
no one said that the Band members were the moneygrabbers.
no one said that Blair should be able to make a nice living off of anybody, well alone the band.
sometimes I think that some think that Rhino = Grateful Dead. Nothing could be more wrong.
As far as the remaining band members, didn't they get their payoff when the entire vault thing went down years ago? I do not know the details and I could be way off base here, but Rhino is making all the money, not the band members.
Perhaps this is why we don't get 80's and 90's releases, Rhino would have to pay out more royalties to additional band members? Having to pay for Brent's appearance, or Bruce's or even Vince's would perhaps cost Rhino more cash? Perhaps those that work for Rhino could enlighten us? I'm thinking there are a couple of you on this site so don't be ashamed, confess now, it's ok, you will feel better for it.

:) nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.

Joined: Jul 4 2014
Beat Club 4/21/72

Is there any chance that we could see this performance in UK? The cinema shows sound great for you guys in USA but it would be good to share ... bx

Thin's picture
Joined: Jun 21 2013
"corporate money grabbing team"

Silliest comment of the day: "Maybe once Blair realized he had become an arm of the corporate money grabbing team he decided to leave - I don't know."

Here we go again with the pouty indignation! So let's review the logic here: Blair is owed a lifetime of annual income, yet the band making any income makes THEM money grabbers? By your logic, Blair should be able to make a nice living off the Dead, but the band members shouldn't make a dime off their life's work?

Ya wanna back it up and try to think that through it again?

mpace's picture
Joined: Sep 25 2009
Looks like this would have been a good E72 extra

Maybe, maybe, maybe

Maybe this movie is what was eluded to in the pre release of the E72 box.

Maybe once Blair realized he had become an arm of the corporate money grabbing team he decided to leave- I don't know.

But what I do know is that with Blair's skill for writing it was an easier money grab on a box that under delivered for the hype-

it was not the cost per cd that was under delivered but the fact that there would be all of these extras and because it was limited we better fork up the money now (450 or whatever it was, was not easy especially during one of the worst economic downturns this country has ever seen)- neither claim was true and the customer experience was terrible.

Many had to wait months to get their box, some were not even numbered (mine), and of course the great extras became stickers a xerox book and another nicer book. Oh and I forgot the trunk with the shoddy cd packaging with glue and cd damage… aw memories...

Blair is a great guy; he's personable and fun, but maybe he found himself swimming with sharks and decided to get out of the water...

mustin321's picture
Joined: Aug 12 2011
Garcia Live Vol 4!
Joined: Oct 29 2013
Any Pittsburgher's going to see this and 'nat?

Anyone around the Burgh going to see this? I'm going to the Monroeville viewing. Hope to see some folks.

unkle sam's picture
Joined: Oct 3 2008
I wish Blair was back

Miss him and his insight terribly, but for some reason only the ptb and Blair know, he was ousted from his position and has since disappeared from this site. Boy, what did he do? Who did he piss off? Maybe he had a few words to say to the wrong ear about how things were and they said something like "hey you old burnout, it's my way or the highway" It just a plain shame that he is not here with us anymore, always loved his comments and stories. On a separate note, I just purchased his book "Garcia" on line for 99 cents, can't wait to read it.

What a wonder full show that is only gonna be shown in theatres this year, I would have loved to have seen this show. It is not coming anywhere near my area and I just can't drive 60 miles to see this great snapshot in time of our beloved band.

That being said, why the hate for those that felt ripped off on the Europe 72 box set? I guess they did not have to put up with all the hype of those first few weeks when it was announced that this was finally gonna happen. I suppose they did not get told that it would be a 7200 only release and you had better buy now or never see it again, well alone get to hear this great tour. Perhaps, after plunking down the bread and waiting with baited breath for it to finally arrive, find out that it was not what was advertised, that it was sorely lacking of anything that was promised and that it was not limited to 7200, only the box was limited. Maybe after the hype, lies and disappointment of the release, these people who feel that this release should have been much better, as promised by the ptb deserve a break.
I agree with spacebrother, send everyone who bought the release of the E72 box a free ticket to the nearest theatre that is showing this wonderful show.
Now here's another person who feels let down by the box and if you want to attack me, go ahead, but I will still feel the same.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Get 4/21/72 Bremen