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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Thin's picture
Joined: Jun 21 2013
Bremen licensing

Someone wrote: "If there are no licensing objections to its release, then it is a very sad state of affairs".

Sorry - I get frustrated with these kinds of comments…. Do you think the German TV station kept a meticulous vault for 50 years with a stack of fed-ex boxes in case the GD or Hendrix estate calls so they can just ship it to them for free? Seriously?

How can you imply the GD or Rhino are a sad state of affairs? How many other bands release this stuff as regularly and professionally as the dead? Name just one band that even comes close. CSN is FINALLY releasing their first show 40 years later, and with all the fuss, you'd think they put a man on the moon. The Dead figured out how to do it and make it work - they put out anywhere from 5 to as many as 27~ shows per YEAR. They deserve huge credit for that. Can we please be just be thankful that OUR favorite band is the one that figured it out, instead of just pissing on the PTB implying they're incompetent based on limited information?

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
dunno what's behind the scheduling

but since a bunch of us are going to Warren at the Greek on the 1st, this works better for a lot of Bay Areans anyway. Also if I recall correctly there's another good show at Terrapin Crossroads that night.

Joined: Jan 13 2010
fascinating juxtaposition

listening to a lot of Crass, Green Day, Jerry band, and some GD.

interesting mix.

intriguing contrasts.

Joined: Jan 13 2010


Joined: Jun 25 2014

Blair ain't back. His comments are from "the official liner notes plucked from the sold out Europe '72 boxed set".

Joined: Jan 13 2010
BLAIR! Welcome back, cuz.

mawr mawr mawr

Joined: Dec 8 2008

Glad to see you back involved with GD releases and such, again.

Joined: Jan 18 2012
Not on August 1st this year?

I thought it was a bit odd to have the meet-up on July 17th this year as Jerry's birthday is August 1st. I guess they at the helm are keeping us guessing and surprised at what may happen?

Not a big deal, but anyone know why the date was chosen as it is?

I love the dead.

Joined: Jun 7 2007
E72 box set

Never considered myself "entitled" to anything the band has done. I have faithfully bought as much as I could afford and have desired to own. It is simply that the pre release emails and band/Rhino driven hype for the set seemed to make it much more expansive than it turned out to be for me. They sang such praises of this performance in the liner notes and then it cant be found anywhere? Yeah-that makes sense....

Chris Grand's picture
Joined: Aug 20 2012

what i gather from DL's video is that GDP/Rhino does not have a license to release the footage on DVD/etc, and that they tried to do it for E72 and could not

for whatever reason it sounds like the individual/company that owns the the footage is resisting either the idea of releasing it, or more likely, the royalty offer


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