Blair’s Golden Road Blog—A ’60s Psychedelic Sampler Playlist
By Blair Jackson
Don’t get me wrong—I love 1970s Grateful Dead. It’s the decade they made their greatest albums, introduced most of their coolest songs (both originals and covers) and played hundreds of their finest shows. Just look at the number of official releases of ’70s Dead concerts—it dwarfs any other decade.
But when the good folks at Rhino recently asked me to contribute a Spotify playlist for “Grateful Dead Week” (coinciding with the announcement of the GD Spring 1990 box), I decided to shine my light on ’60s Grateful Dead. After all, the Dead were the greatest psychedelic rock band ever — quite frankly, no one else is even close—and they made some of their most exciting, challenging and mind-blowing music in the late ’60s. That’s the band I fell in love with, through Live Dead, in the fall of ’69, and I’m still hooked on that era’s fearless, no-holds-barred musical explorations.
Spotify, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is an online digital music service that offers about 15 million tracks by thousands of artists on both major labels and big and small indies, either free (within certain limits) or by different levels of subscription. Access to Spotify requires integration with Facebook or Twitter, but beyond that, using it is easy. Spotify has a customizable “radio” function, and also allows users to set up and share their own playlists. The Warner Music Group (and its Rhino subsidiary) has developed a close relationship with Spotify, so nearly every regular commercial release in the Grateful Dead catalog can be found there—live, studio, compilations—plus all 36 Dick’s Picks, the complete, hard-to-find Download Series, and such cool discs as Rare Cuts & Oddities, the 5-CD So Many Roads (1965-1995), Fallout From the Phil Zone, Grayfolded, To Terrapin, Crimson, White & Indigo and lots more. OK, it doesn’t have the 10-CD Fillmore West 1969 (but it does have the 3-CD condensation of it), the 73 discs of Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings, or, at the moment, any of the Road Trips series, but considering the scope of what they do have, it seems unfair to be greedy about it. A handful of special Dead playlists can be found through The Warner Sound app.
The 10 tracks I’ve selected for my playlist exemplify the Dead’s searching ’60s spirit. You can find your sweet songs, concise jams and fun country numbers elsewhere. Most of this is hardcore, melt-your-face-right-off-of-your-head stuff; ragged harmonies and scarily electric interplay. Turn it up! It’s in chronological order except for the two L.A. Shrine shows.
For what it’s worth, if Road Trips releases had been available, I would have chosen the “New Potato Caboose” > “Born Cross-Eyed” > “Spanish Jam” from the 2/14/68 Carousel Ballroon show (Vol. 2, No. 2) and “He Was a Friend of Mine” from the 5/24/69 Big Rock Pow-Wow release (Vol. 4, No. 4).
1. “I Know You Rider” (Avalon Ballroom, SF, unknown date in 1966). This first came out in 1970 on a fine unauthorized LP called Vintage Dead. Its lone appearance on CD is on the box set So Many Roads: 1965-1995. It’s a nice example of how the early Dead electrified old folk material and made it their own. Those of you who only know the post- 1969 versions of “Rider” will be interested to see how different it was earlier.
2. “Viola Lee Blues”(Dance Hall, Rio Nido, CA, 9/3/67). Right before the band traveled to L.A. to begin work on Anthem of the Sun, they spent a week or so in the redwood-shrouded Russian River enclave of Rio Nido, honing their new original songs and also playing a couple of gigs in the tiny dance hall there. “Viola Lee Blues” was the Dead’s main improvisational vehicle during this period, and this 23-minute marathon, which seemingly goes a million different places, with crescendo after crescendo, shows the Dead at their jammiest. Alas. the beginning of the tune does not appear on the surviving tape. This track is from the re-mastered/expanded edition of the Dead’s first album, The Grateful Dead.
3. “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” (Kings Beach Bowl, Lake Tahoe, CA, 2/24/68). One of the real crowd-pleasers of many a late ’60s Dead set was their snaky and sensuous reading of this old blues number, featuring Pigpen on lead vocals and harmonica. This version comes from a winter ’68 show in a bowling alley in Lake Tahoe, and can be found on Dick’s Picks Vol. 22. The Dead could be a first-rate blues band when they wanted to be, though it never was their main emphasis.
4. “New Potato Caboose” (Shrine Auditorium, L.A., 8/24/68). This Phil Lesh-Bobby Petersen tune, sung by Bob Weir, was perhaps the most compositionally interesting number on Anthem of the Sun, which had recently come out when the L.A. show represented on the 2-CD set, Two from the Vault, took place. Phil completely takes over the first half of the long instrumental break following the main song with a breathtaking bass assault, while Jerry dominates the back half of the jam. Stunning!
5-6. “Alligator” > “Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)” > “Feedback” (Shrine Auditorium, L.A., 8/23/68). When Dick Latvala was tasked with putting together the aforementioned Two from the Vault, he originally proposed including a third disc, containing this sequence, recorded the night before the Shrine show above. But, believe it or not, in those early days of the Dead’s archival releases, they weren’t sure they could market a three-CD set, so Two from the Vault stayed two discs. It wasn’t until the release of the re-mastered Anthem of the Sun in 2001 (originally as part of The Golden Road: 1965-1973 box set of the Dead’s Warner Bros. albums) that these fantastically psychedelic tracks were formally released. (Sorry, I don’t count “Feedback” as a “song.”)
7. “That’s It for the Other One” (Fillmore West, SF, 2/27/69). Killer version of the Anthem suite (containing “Cryptical Envelopment” and “The Other One”), from the same night as the “Dark Star” > “St. Stephen” on Live Dead, and played with that kind of intensity. It first appeared on Disc Two of So Many Roads: 1965-1995 and subsequently (newly mixed) on Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings.
8-9. “Mountains of the Moon” > “Dark Star” (Fillmore West, 3/2/69). The acoustic “Mountains of the Moon” (from Aoxomoxoa) is beautiful and delicate and then segues seamlessly into an epic “Dark Star” that is nearly the equal of the Live Dead version from a few nights earlier. The ’69 versions of “Dark Star” remain my favorite of any era. These tracks appear on the 3-CD Fillmore West 1969 (culled from the 10-CD Complete Recordings mentioned above).
10. “Turn on Your Lovelight” (Fillmore West, 11/9/69). Gotta have a “Lovelight” on here, because not only was it Pigpen’s big showstopper, it gave the other musicians a chance go down all sorts of cool avenues, from R&B riffing to much weirder stuff. This final playlist selection is the bonus track on the truly magnificent Dick’s Picks Vol. 16, which features the entire 11/8/69 show plus this one song from the next night. (You owe it to yourself to hear then entire second set of 11/8, which is incredibly trippy from beginning to end.)
What—no “St. Stephen”? No “Eleven”? No “Cosmic Charlie”? Sorry, not this time. Happy listening!***
Now let’s see your lists! Get creative and share 10 or 12 Grateful Dead tracks with us. They don’t have to be thematically linked; they could just be songs you like. But if you want to pick “12 Killer Tracks from the Europe ’81 Tour,” or “The Best of Frost Amphitheatre, 1982-1989” or even “My 10 Favorite Versions of Row Jimmy,” go to town and have some fun!
If you guys like the 11/30/73 Weather Report Suite>Dark Star>Eyes, I think the Weather Report Suite>Dark Star>China Doll from Missoula, Montana is right up there too.
Great Charlie Miller version here... http://archive.org/details/gd1974-05-14.sbd.miller.114462.flac16
... on that 11/30/73 sequence. One of my most played, too. I also adore the "Here Comes Sunshine" on that release...
Great posts here! I'm inspired to go back and listen to the songs/sequences that folks are putting up here. Here's my own list, with the caveat that these kinds of exercises, for me, are somewhat random, totally subjective, and may change tomorrow. I've chosen all commercially released stuff, except for the last, because my cassette collection is long gone and I rarely dig into my stacks of dvrs anymore, since there are so many commercial releases. Here we go, chronologically:
1) That's it for the Other One, Carousel 2.14.68, RT 2.2. I'm a sucker for historically significant performances, and I just love this full "Other One" with the first ever Cowboy Neal verse a few days after his death. The energy is top notch, even if the performance is rough around the edges.
2) Mountains of the Moon, Fillmore West 2/27/69, Fillmore Box. For the same reasons that many others have mentioned. Jerry's voice sounds so pure here!
3) I Know You Rider, Harpur College, 5.2.70, DP8. The acoustic stuff helped draw me in when I was in college, and I about wore this cassette out. Still my favorite "Rider" ever. I still get goosebumps when Jerry sings the verse, "I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log...." Chills.
4) Ballad of Casey Jones, She's Mine, Katie Mae, Fillmore East 5.15.70, RT 3.3. For one, these songs are rare, and like the above selection, these acoustic 70 shows are favorites. (Sidebar: this RT release is the best case AGAINST bonus discs. Luckily, I ordered when it came out, but it's a travesty that this concert was split up and that those who ordered late miss out on a big chunk of the show).
5) Jack Straw, Europe '72. Only because this is the song that hooked me for the first time, 18 years old, listening to a friend's vinyl copy in my dorm room. "We can share the women, we can share the wine. We can share what you got of yours, cause we done shared all of mine" !? Hell yes! This lyric on this release made me a deadhead for life. Love at first listen.
6) Weather Report Suite>DS Jam>Eyes>Sugar Magnolia, Boston Music Hall 11.30.73, DP 14. I've probably listened to this Dick's Picks release more than any other. With Donna sick for these shows, it's just the quintet playing flawless music. Also my favoite tour. (wish I wasn't 2 yrs. old at the time).
7) St. Stephen>Eyes>Let it Grow, 6.9.76 Boston Music Hall, RT 4.5, I love this whole Boston run--it's one of my favorites. Mellow, but with an underlying fire.
8) Sugar Magnolia>Scarlet>Fire, Winterland 12.31.78, Closing of Winterland. I know these versions aren't the best of all time, but for me, this show captures the perfect party atmosphere of the Dead in '78. Sometimes sloppy, but damn they're having fun!
9) Help>Slip>Franklins, Hampton, 10.8.89, Warlocks Box. The roar from the crowd, the full, late '80s Dead sound, the pristine sound of the recordings--these all color my choice here. Plus, I just got this a few months ago and have been listening to it alot.
10) Terrapin>Drumz>Watchtower>SOTM>Around>Good Lovin', Tinley Park, Chicago, 7.23.90 (Brent's last show), unreleased. TOTALLY subjective in this selection. My second show (I also got into the first of the run), 19 yrs old, under the influence of a little square of paper or two, I GET IT! Life, the universe, the Grateful Dead! It's all so clear now! When I finally downloaded this show 12 or 15 years after the fact, I was disappointed in the performance, but when I was there it was life changing.
I'm gonna start by checkin' out that 6/6/70 alligator; not sure I've even heard that show; or if I have it on tape, I never got it digitally and I've forgotten it completely.
That 6/9/77 H-S-F was originally going to be on So Many Roads but we decided it took up too much real estate and dropped it. Needless to say, I was delighted when it popped up on the Winterland 77 box...
Another great blog to get our wheels turning and give us all some food for thought mr. Jackson. You are correct when you say the dead are the greatest psychedelic rock band of all time, and I don’t think anyone else even comes close. Someone had mentioned pink Floyd as close before, but I’d have to disagree, as Pink Floyd’s songs are too structured to be psychedelic. To me, structure, and especially a rigid adherence to that structure, and psychedelics have never gone hand in hand. I love Floyd, and watching “the wall” was the first thing I ever did while the first time I ever found myself thick in the pudding, and to say it had a profound effect on me would be an understatement at the least. I credit my love of Floyd from back in the day with giving me the patience and desire to listen to 20 min plus songs, and therefore getting me curious about the Grateful Dead. Once I heard them and realized that their 20 min long songs were being improvised live (while on acid themselves), well, my love for Floyd kind of took a back seat.
Anyway, music right? That’s what this blog response is about, so let’s get to it. A psychedelic grateful dead mix showcasing the band’s raw, explosive, floaty, and beautiful psychedlia…hmm, where to begin?
4/21/69 – dark star->st. Stephen-> the eleven-> lovelight. As someone mentioned before, just throw a dart at a calendar of the month of april 1969, and you’ll get something special. The first of a wonderful 3 night stand at “the ark” in Beantown (hey dave thinking about shows for the next releases, you could do worse then starting here) have the boys in all their ’69 power and glory.
12/11/69 – alligator->caution; a half hour plus of scorching, searching jamming
2/11/70 – dark star->Spanish jam-> lovelight. Duane allman sits in with the band for this jam, and melds beautifully. It oozes psychedelia…any fans of DP 4, or 2/14/70 (I assume that’s everyone whose reading this blog), should check this out.
4/15/70 – cryptical->drums->jam->drums->the other one->cryptical->dire wolf. It’s the “jam” in between the drums that makes this so special. It’s rare, I’ve never heard anything quite like it on any other show, and it’s pure PRIMAL explosive grateful dead. I think dave had this up as “the jam of the week” a couple of months ago, and deservedly so.
6/6/70 – alligator->drums-> JAM-> lovelight. This may be the most psychedelic jam I’ve ever heard, for fifteen minutes the band rips, tears, and floats through the ether only to explode back out of the goo into a smoking lovelight. I cannot say enough about how good this jam is.
2/18/71 – dark star-> wharf rat (1st time played)-> “Beautiful Jam-> dark star-> me and my uncle.
The “beautiful jam,” at least that’s what it was appropriately titled on the “so many roads” box set almost hurts to listen to it’s just that beautiful
5/11/72 – dark star, dark star, dark star->sugar mags->caution->who do you love->truckin’. Good god does this get out there. I imagine the walls of the club were sweating liquid acid this night.
8/27/72 – playin’ in the band. My favorite of the ’72-’74 versions of this song as it reaches such a scorching conclusion
9/21/72 – dark star->morning dew. this is my personal favorite grateful dead show of all time. For about 50 minutes that band plays through multiple soundscapes of floating intensity. Jerry is just searching through this entire thing, his guitar is like the beacon of a lighthouse’s shining light stretching over the pitch black sea, shedding light on areas as up to now were unseen. The final ten minutes after a brief foray into space is an explosion of psychedelic Americana bliss, a groove that’s existed forever but was just coaxed into audible existence for a fleeting moment, and we’re all the better for having heard it.
12/31/72 – truckin’->the other one-> morning dew. Once again, for close to an hour the dead take off for the outer reaches of psychedelic beauty and terror. It’s a jam like this that makes me think the dead are the sound of space and interplanetary travel. In space no one can hear you scream, but they can hear the boys jamming, and this is part of the soundtrack.
I could go on, and on, and on, but I’m going to stop here, because if not I’ll soon be describing every show from November and December 1973 and the summer of ’74. Well, I hope you fellow bloggers like my suggestions, and check ‘em out if you haven’t heard them yet, because I think they’re worthy of making it to the mix tape…which reminds me, I think this may have to be a 2 cd compilation as I don’t think they make 360 minute cds yet.
Oh, one more before I go:
6/9/77 – help->slip->franklin’s tower. I think that this half hour plus of music is a high-water mark in western art, nothing more, nothing less.
Hmmm . . . I went to my first show 5/11/81 in New Haven -- Last show 10/2/94 in Boston. Vast Bulk of shows in 80's; trailed off in 90's -- didn't dig the scene in the 90's. Still go to every post Jerry stuff I can, though. Anyway, In no particular order:
(1) Playin' > China Doll (Hartford 10-15-83 . . . not for the faint at heart or mind);
(2) Revolution (Lake plACID 10-17-83) (ps this fall 83 tour was fantastic IMHO);
(3) Space>Love the One You're With (w/ Stephen Stills, Meadowlands, spring '83 I forget the date -- singing not exactly Luciano Pavarotti but the energy was blew the roof off the joint -- gotta have the space w/ it -- awesome. Mickey the Maestro);
(4) Masterpiece (NYE 88/89 -- Bob & Jerry almost flub the end verse and turn it into an almost barbershop duet ending -- magic out of a mistake -- only the GD can do that. Clarence Clemons was cool on Wang dang Doodle>West LA Fade Away too);
(5) Eyes w/ Branford (but that's already on Fallout);
(6) Space> Stephen (also Hartford 10-15-83 -- yep, the space must be included in its entirety to get ya mind right and ready for the Stephen. I really like '83 for some reason);
(7) She Belongs to Me (Providence R.I. 4/4/85 -- first one I believe -- first set, no less);
(8) Space>Aiko (UVA @ Charlottsville, VA 9/92 -- this whole 2nd set smokes, flubs & all -- Miracle>Bertha to close 2nd set -- nice, ESPECIALLY Jerry's lyrical flubs -- reminds us we're all human and in imperfection lies the possibility of better than perfection -- the GD are proof positive of this -- yep, again, speace must be included in this one -- which isn't really space so much as a guitar duet between Bobby & Jerry, then the drums fill and phil drops a BOMB brining it all together -- my audience copy has this chick screaming at the most opportune times yet not interfering w/ the music at all -- it's actually perfect and kinda funny/cool in a twisted way -- ok, I went off on tangent, sorry. My Bad -- what # am I up to now?);
(9) Space>wheel (Lehigh, PA - Stabler Arena, 9-25-81 -- Might as Well freakin smokes as well -- whole show does, really -- oops, tangent again);
(10) San Fransisco Earthquake (Iforget which one in 1989 that was just . . . I dunno, I ain't got the words)
One Deadhead's top 10 above -- ask me tomorrow and I guarantee, the list would be different. ;-)
Stay cool, All
Having pondered over Blair's choice for the past couple of days - I finally figured that, keeping the basic premise the same, I wouldn't change Blair's list, except for one - having "The Same Thing" from 3-18-67 in place of 'schoolgirl'.
But the other posts have terrific compilations as well - gives you great ideas about personal compilations CDs. But choices do change from time to time - just as my favourite VLB currently is the one from 4-21-69.
............. I mailed it in the end ............
No particular order, except for # 1 & # 12, which tie for first : )
1. Not Fade Away -> Mason's Children -> Caution -> feedback
(2/14/70) DkP4 (really the whole run starting with Alligator ->)
2. space -> Truckin-> I Need a Miracle -> Morning Dew > Lovelight
3. Dupree's -> Mountains of the Moon -> ChinaCat -> Doin That Rag
4. Mason's Children -> Lovelight
5. Dark Star -> Sitting On Top of the World -> Dark Star -> Me and Bobby McGee
(10-21-71) DvP3 (new/instant favorite SOTotW)
6. Truckin' -> The Other One -> Eyes of the Word -> Morning Dew
(2/28/73) DkP 28
7. Help On the Way -> Slipknot! -> Franklin's Tower -> Estimated Prophet -> Eyes of the World -> Do It In the Road
8. Playing In the Band -> drums -> The Wheel -> space -> The Other One -> Stella Blue -> Playing
(10/10/76) DkP 33
9. The Golden Road -> New Potato Caboose
(5/05/67) unreleased (talk about your essential psychedelia....)
10. High Time -> He's Gone -> Spoonful -> Comes a Time -> Lost Sailor -> drums
(11/01/85) DkP 21
11. Alabama Getaway -> The Promised Land
(12/26/79) DkP 5 (really just wanna draw attention to this Alabama/off the hook)
and couldn't forget ~
12. Blues For Allah -> King Solomon's Marbles -> drums -> King Solomon's Marbles -> Blues For Allah
(3/23/75) Beyond Description bonus disc (deserves wider release)
My comment was intended as a joke. Perhaps more of an inside joke among tape collectors/traders.
According to a "Tapers' Choice" (63 folks with 1,000+ hours) poll listed in the book - "Deadbase XI - The Complete Guide To Grateful Dead Song Lists" by John W. Scott * Mike Dolgushkin * Stu Nixon, 2/13/70 (which contains the 90 minute sequence of Dark Star>Other One>Lovelight) is ranked third place only behind 8/27/72 and 2/14/6 as favorite tapes.
Since the rules are flexible, here's a list of 10 of my favorite unreleased songs or song sequences (in perfectly random order):
10/21/73 Playin-Half Step-Big River-Playin
10/18/72 Playin-Dark Star- Morning Dew-Playin
10/29/77 (all of it) Let It Grow
5/26/73 He's Gone-Truckin-Other One-Eyes-China Doll
4/8/78 Half Step
4/12/78 US Blues