• May 18, 2012
    http://www.dead.net/features/blair-jackson/blair-s-golden-road-blog-dark-star-crashes
    Blair’s Golden Road Blog - "Dark Star crashes..."

    In my last blog, about audience tapes, I casually mentioned that the “Dark Star” from the 1/10/79 Nassau concert was my favorite of all the post-hiatus (i.e. post-’74) versions. This led to a few people respectfully disagreeing with that position in emails to me. One pledged allegiance to the 7/13/84 Greek Theater encore version, two advocated for the 10/26/89 Miami meltdown, and the fourth listed both 12/31/78 (closing of Winterland, just 10 days before the Nassau version) and 10/31/91 (featuring Ken Kesey and Quicksilver’s Gary Duncan, following Bill Graham’s death).

    I like all those other versions to varying degrees (I saw the Greek one live, so it has a special place in my heart), but each of them is so different from the others. More than any other song in the Dead canon, “Dark Star” was so mutable, one version to the next, one era to the next. So, what one person likes in a “Dark Star” another might not. It’s not like “Scarlet” > “Fire” or “Jack Straw” or “Shakedown Street” where most of us would probably agree on what the best versions are. Do you like your “Dark Star” flowy and dreamy? Spacey and dissonant? Based strongly around the main theme, or exploring odd tangents?

    As I have noted, I am a child of Live Dead. It’s the album that got me into the Dead in late ’69/early ’70, before I saw my first show in March ’70. For me, the “Dark Star” on Live Dead (from 2/27/69, I learned many years later) defined the song for me, and as a result I’ve always had a soft spot for the churning ’69 versions, which can be fairly similar (there are particular riffs and mini-jams they hit in many of them), but which have a certain momentum that I really love. Most of them never break down all the way rhythmically or dissolve into abstract noise. Most are complete unto themselves, with both verses—though the 11/8/69 Fillmore West version captured on Dick’s Picks 16 brilliantly carves up “Dark Star” with inserts of “The Other One” and a proto-“Uncle John’s Band” jam. The short and fast early ones from 1968 don’t do much for me, but by the fall of that year the song is well on its way to becoming the fantastic, elastic, trans-dimensional space vehicle that blasted off in the winter of ’69.

    By the time I saw my first couple of live versions of “Dark Star,” it had already morphed considerably from the Live Dead template. Listen to ones from 1970 and you often find that following the first verse, the song would essentially stop, and out of the nothingness might come feedback, gong flourishes, random guitar blips, bleeps and volume-knob fluctuations, and assorted craziness. Rhythm and melody would soon be re-established and other touchstone jams usually would emerge, such as the so-called “Feeling Groovy” jam and what follows it on the legendary 2/13/70 (Dick’s Picks 4) version.

    The addition of Keith Godchaux’s piano to the mix beginning in the fall of ’71 marks the next major shift in the song’s evolution, and I know many Dead Heads cherish the multitude of versions played from late ’71 through ’74 above all others. Of course that encompasses the 11 played during the Europe ’72 tour, each unique in its own way, and all riveting. (My personal taste leans toward the more rhythmic, less cacophonous excursions— Bickershaw and Rotterdam being my E72 favorites these days.) I love what the piano added to “Dark Star” during this era, and the quintet as a whole had a confidence and swing that drove the song to so many cool spaces. I never get tired of the “Dark Star” from Dick’s Picks 36 (9/21/72 Philly) nor the one from Dick’s Picks 28 (2/26/73 Lincoln, Neb.). And when I and 5,000 others had our minds blown by the “Dark Star” > “Morning Dew” on 10/18/74 (Winterland), none of us suspected that “Dark Star” was about to go on a hiatus that would far exceed the band’s own break.

    The constellation Orion captured by NASA’s Hubble telescope.

    I’ve never heard a good explanation of why the Dead didn’t play “Dark Star” when they returned to the road in 1976. Can you imagine what the versions they might have come up with in that peak year of ’77? Whoa! They brought it back for that final night at Winterland in 78, doled out two in January ’79, and then just two—12/31/81 Oakland and the ’84 Greek one—until it was revived in earnest in the fall of ’89 (released versions include the reintroduction in Hampton, Va., 10/9/89, on the Formerly the Warlocks box set and the one from the Meadowlands in Jersey, 10/16/89, on Nightfall of Diamonds).

    No doubt Garcia’s fascination with the many new timbres and textures he could get out of his guitar because of his electronic MIDI setup was a major factor in his decision to bring “Dark Star” back—it became a natural playground for his sonic experiments. But I’m not sure Jerry ever committed to most of the ’89-’94 versions (it turned up at 31 shows in that period) with the same intensity and purposefulness he brought to “Dark Star” in the late ’60s/early ’70s. That may be in part because in those earlier days there was no formalized “drums” and “space” segment, so “Dark Star,” “The Other One” (and, on occasion, “Playing in the Band”) became the places they could get free-form and weird. On a lot of the late versions, they would play a relatively brief jam around the familiar “Dark Star” theme, and then it would quickly degenerate into “space”—and that “space” usually wasn’t much different from their regular nightly mid-second-set forays. So, in that way, “Dark Star” lost some of the luster it had in earlier eras. Also, I always felt Jerry was vaguely uncomfortable singing it later on; I couldn’t tell you why.

    Don’t get me wrong: I think it was totally thrilling that they revived “Dark Star.” It was always sheer bliss to hear that familiar opening (live or on tape), experience that moment with the crowd, or find the band coming back to it later in the set, if only briefly, or simply playing around the theme and not singing the words, as they did a few times during the Bruce Hornsby era (6/17/91, anyone?). Bruce loved to tease “Dark Star,” and most of the full-on versions he was a part of were very cool. The times Branford Marsalis joined the Dead for “Dark Star” (3/29/90 at Nassau, 12/31/90 in Oakland) were truly dynamic, and nearly every version in the modern era had at least some transcendent moments.

    This far down the line from the end of the Grateful Dead, I still find it instantly transporting to hear that riff played by Furthur or Phil & Friends or anyone who tackles it. It always means we’re going some place unexpected.

    Do you have favorite eras and versions of “Dark Star”? How about post-Jerry? Or do you believe, as some do, that “Dark Star” was/is overrated?

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In my last blog, about audience tapes, I casually mentioned that the “Dark Star” from the 1/10/79 Nassau concert was my favorite of all the post-hiatus (i.e. post-’74) versions. This led to a few people respectfully disagreeing with that position in emails to me. One pledged allegiance to the 7/13/84 Greek Theater encore version, two advocated for the 10/26/89 Miami meltdown, and the fourth listed both 12/31/78 (closing of Winterland, just 10 days before the Nassau version) and 10/31/91 (featuring Ken Kesey and Quicksilver’s Gary Duncan, following Bill Graham’s death).

I like all those other versions to varying degrees (I saw the Greek one live, so it has a special place in my heart), but each of them is so different from the others. More than any other song in the Dead canon, “Dark Star” was so mutable, one version to the next, one era to the next. So, what one person likes in a “Dark Star” another might not. It’s not like “Scarlet” > “Fire” or “Jack Straw” or “Shakedown Street” where most of us would probably agree on what the best versions are. Do you like your “Dark Star” flowy and dreamy? Spacey and dissonant? Based strongly around the main theme, or exploring odd tangents?

As I have noted, I am a child of Live Dead. It’s the album that got me into the Dead in late ’69/early ’70, before I saw my first show in March ’70. For me, the “Dark Star” on Live Dead (from 2/27/69, I learned many years later) defined the song for me, and as a result I’ve always had a soft spot for the churning ’69 versions, which can be fairly similar (there are particular riffs and mini-jams they hit in many of them), but which have a certain momentum that I really love. Most of them never break down all the way rhythmically or dissolve into abstract noise. Most are complete unto themselves, with both verses—though the 11/8/69 Fillmore West version captured on Dick’s Picks 16 brilliantly carves up “Dark Star” with inserts of “The Other One” and a proto-“Uncle John’s Band” jam. The short and fast early ones from 1968 don’t do much for me, but by the fall of that year the song is well on its way to becoming the fantastic, elastic, trans-dimensional space vehicle that blasted off in the winter of ’69.

By the time I saw my first couple of live versions of “Dark Star,” it had already morphed considerably from the Live Dead template. Listen to ones from 1970 and you often find that following the first verse, the song would essentially stop, and out of the nothingness might come feedback, gong flourishes, random guitar blips, bleeps and volume-knob fluctuations, and assorted craziness. Rhythm and melody would soon be re-established and other touchstone jams usually would emerge, such as the so-called “Feeling Groovy” jam and what follows it on the legendary 2/13/70 (Dick’s Picks 4) version.

The addition of Keith Godchaux’s piano to the mix beginning in the fall of ’71 marks the next major shift in the song’s evolution, and I know many Dead Heads cherish the multitude of versions played from late ’71 through ’74 above all others. Of course that encompasses the 11 played during the Europe ’72 tour, each unique in its own way, and all riveting. (My personal taste leans toward the more rhythmic, less cacophonous excursions— Bickershaw and Rotterdam being my E72 favorites these days.) I love what the piano added to “Dark Star” during this era, and the quintet as a whole had a confidence and swing that drove the song to so many cool spaces. I never get tired of the “Dark Star” from Dick’s Picks 36 (9/21/72 Philly) nor the one from Dick’s Picks 28 (2/26/73 Lincoln, Neb.). And when I and 5,000 others had our minds blown by the “Dark Star” > “Morning Dew” on 10/18/74 (Winterland), none of us suspected that “Dark Star” was about to go on a hiatus that would far exceed the band’s own break.

The constellation Orion captured by NASA’s Hubble telescope.

I’ve never heard a good explanation of why the Dead didn’t play “Dark Star” when they returned to the road in 1976. Can you imagine what the versions they might have come up with in that peak year of ’77? Whoa! They brought it back for that final night at Winterland in 78, doled out two in January ’79, and then just two—12/31/81 Oakland and the ’84 Greek one—until it was revived in earnest in the fall of ’89 (released versions include the reintroduction in Hampton, Va., 10/9/89, on the Formerly the Warlocks box set and the one from the Meadowlands in Jersey, 10/16/89, on Nightfall of Diamonds).

No doubt Garcia’s fascination with the many new timbres and textures he could get out of his guitar because of his electronic MIDI setup was a major factor in his decision to bring “Dark Star” back—it became a natural playground for his sonic experiments. But I’m not sure Jerry ever committed to most of the ’89-’94 versions (it turned up at 31 shows in that period) with the same intensity and purposefulness he brought to “Dark Star” in the late ’60s/early ’70s. That may be in part because in those earlier days there was no formalized “drums” and “space” segment, so “Dark Star,” “The Other One” (and, on occasion, “Playing in the Band”) became the places they could get free-form and weird. On a lot of the late versions, they would play a relatively brief jam around the familiar “Dark Star” theme, and then it would quickly degenerate into “space”—and that “space” usually wasn’t much different from their regular nightly mid-second-set forays. So, in that way, “Dark Star” lost some of the luster it had in earlier eras. Also, I always felt Jerry was vaguely uncomfortable singing it later on; I couldn’t tell you why.

Don’t get me wrong: I think it was totally thrilling that they revived “Dark Star.” It was always sheer bliss to hear that familiar opening (live or on tape), experience that moment with the crowd, or find the band coming back to it later in the set, if only briefly, or simply playing around the theme and not singing the words, as they did a few times during the Bruce Hornsby era (6/17/91, anyone?). Bruce loved to tease “Dark Star,” and most of the full-on versions he was a part of were very cool. The times Branford Marsalis joined the Dead for “Dark Star” (3/29/90 at Nassau, 12/31/90 in Oakland) were truly dynamic, and nearly every version in the modern era had at least some transcendent moments.

This far down the line from the end of the Grateful Dead, I still find it instantly transporting to hear that riff played by Furthur or Phil & Friends or anyone who tackles it. It always means we’re going some place unexpected.

Do you have favorite eras and versions of “Dark Star”? How about post-Jerry? Or do you believe, as some do, that “Dark Star” was/is overrated?

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In my last blog, about audience tapes, I casually mentioned that the “Dark Star” from the 1/10/79 Nassau concert was my favorite of all the post-hiatus (i.e. post-’74) versions. This led to a few people respectfully disagreeing with that position in emails to me. One pledged allegiance to the 7/13/84 Greek Theater encore version, two advocated for the 10/26/89 Miami meltdown, and the fourth listed both 12/31/78 (closing of Winterland, just 10 days before the Nassau version) and 10/31/91 (featuring Ken Kesey and Quicksilver’s Gary Duncan following Bill Graham’s death).

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I really love Pig's guiro and maracas touches in the early ones. And the '69 structure night after night kept it tethered while all were at the same time able to be way out. My favorite versions were when Keith came aboard. I just finished listening to 5/11/72 so it's my absolute favorite at the moment. The one from 5/18/72 is up next. Should be a doozy! A '76 or maybe '77 Star does pique the curiosity. "Shall we go? ... "
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I'm a big fan of Dark Star, probably because that's what really got me on the bus in early November 1978, when I purchased Live/Dead. I find it hard to name my favourite but 2-13-70 is surely among them. I'm not that keen on post-74's, other than Dark Star being Dark Star. Since I haven't heard them all I don't know if there's a definitive version out there for me. Being a fan of modern jazz like Charles Mingus and John Coltrane, of the early to mid 1960's, I know what I would really like to space out on. ^^ Micke Östlund, Växjö, Sweden
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I find it impossible to select a "best" Dark Star. I experienced 7/13/84 in person (my own version of winning the GD lottery.) Give me all of them, a month free of responsibilities, and a few other things, and I will praise every single Dark Star. The ones that REALLY stand out, though, are 6/10/73, 11/11/73, 5/11/72, 8/27/72, 7/13/84, and about 200 others.
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Blair, you make a very strong point when you say that the "Live/Dead" version defined the song for you, due to the fact that it was the first version that you heard, before you saw the band perform it live - and you could play it as often as you wanted to. For me this is the case with many songs by many artists that were later covered by other artists. Generally the version I first became familiar with is the version I return to most frequently. "Dark Star" is a bit different in that it was always played by the same band but it was never the same twice. Also, due to the fact that it was played by different line-ups and evolved over many years the variation between versions, particularly from different eras is staggering. Although it is not my favourite version any more, the "Live/Dead" version will always be the definitive version to me as I, like you, heard that version first and heard only that version for years until I heard it lve for the first time at Bickershaw. Luckily for me that was also a great version, but from Europe '72 my favourite version is the Rotterdam rendition. I noticed that these two Europe '72 versions are your faves from that remarkable tour. The "original" "Live/Dead" version will always remain very high on my list simply because I know it so well.
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I hope you had a 40th anniversary Bickershaw party last week!
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Like you, I got introduced to Dark Star in the Live Dead era. I was lucky enough to see a couple of very memorable versions early on, one being the early show of 2/1470 at the Fillmore East which is just the slightest bit less cosmic than the legendary one played the night before on 2/13, and the other being the Holloween show in 1971 which was magnificently documented on Dix Pix #2. I have to agree with your thought that the versions from 1969 which were so melodic, so fluid, with the themes just following one after the next, are my favorite ones. When I was recently reading your story on Mickey's new album he said how much Jerry liked to make noise. Well, it was that noise and the breaks in the melody that held back the majesty of Dark Star later on. I still seek the beautiful versions of the early years. That said, I just downloaded 1/10/79 from Archive on your recommendation and I will give it a close listen this weekend.
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Name the "best" Dark Star? Really? Here's an even tougher challenge: Find a bad version. Most of the songs that they played more than just once or twice you can find a version they hacked up ugly. Let me know if you ever find a butchered DS. Forgive me for not holding my breath while I wait.
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9/19/70. I was in the fourth row center. It was the night after Jimi Hendrix died. It was Dark Star into E=MC squared into Dark Star. Or was it the cozmic relativity train traveling through time & space. The Universe was a giant celestial saddle of the "Big Buckaroo". They paid just tribute to Jimi.Or was it Veneta.It's all relative.
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Does anyone remember the free "Mikel" flyers that would circulate at shows in the early 80's? I got one back then that had a list of "best Dark Stars", according to a european "Dead Head extraordinaire". Over the years, I made an effort to track down everything on that list and I must say it is still my most trusted list of the "best of the best". Whoever made it - well, he or she and I have very similar taste. The list, as I remember it, went something like: 2/27/69, 4/22/69, 6/14/69, 2/13/70, 5/24/70, 6/24/70, 9/19/70, 2/18/71, 4/28/71, 7/31/71, 11/7/71, 12/5/71, 3/23/72, all of Europe '72, of course, but especially 4/8/72, 4/14/72, 5/4/72, 5/7/72, 5/11/72, 8/27/72, 6/10/73, 8/1/73, 9/11/73, 11/11/73, 12/6/73, and 6/23/74.The hardest for me to track down was 7/31/71, so I was delighted it was finally released as a Road Trips. It was worth the wait! Most are justly famous, but a few are underrated, I think. 4/28/71 doesn't show up on many people's lists- I think maybe some think it is famous because of TC's appearance- but really it is an amazing version. The Felt Forum 12/5/71- man, you can really feel Europe '72 right around the corner. 3/23/72!!! This sounds to me like the very first Europe '72 Dark Star- Hey, maybe the first 'E72 Star was played in America! (patriotic feelings.....) I don't understand why 5/4/72 isn't talked about more- to me, it is every bit as magical as 4/8/72, 4/14/72 or 5/11/72. And, not on the list but a personal favorite is Long Beach 12/15/72. I remember reading that Dick Latvala said he didn't think that one was anything too special--this maybe the only thing Dick and I disagree on- the entire 12/15/72 show is out of this world to my ears:) But I love them all, from any year. It was the Dead at their best.
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5/11/72 Rotterdam. That's it. End of discussion. There are what, maybe 10 different jams before the drums and second verse? This one takes you places. Put in some good ear buds and close your eyes. You will be transported.
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The "Live Dead" version is the gold standard, period. Personally, what really makes a Dark Star are the silences, the notes not played, which brings me to the aforementioned 2/13/70. I know I'm blaspheming here but I think that performance is heavy handed. Never really warmed up to it. Check out the 9/19/70 as a prime example of the subtlety that a Dark Star needs to convey that emptyness of space. Incredible! Don't listen to this one in the car. Another good one is 12/11/72 but I was there and may be unqualified to judge. Beyond '74 I just don't care. I vaguely remembe a Garcia interview where he said he didn't know people got so excited about it. Just a couple of verses and improv. Yeah, well.
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skwimite2/13/70 heavy handed? I might agree- after the vocals & space- the jam seems a bit "heavy-handed" to me, too. But the pre-vocals jam and the space.... some of the most lyrical, quiet, beautiful, Dead ever. But we are both in total agreement on 9/19/70!!!
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Two thingsOne Dark star crashes (note a) Pouring its light into ashes Reason tatters The forces tear loose from the axis Searchlight casting For faults in the clouds of delusion Shall we go, you and I, while we can? Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds Mirror shatters In formless reflections of matter Glass hand dissolving To ice petal flowers revolving Lady in velvet Recedes in the nights of goodbye Shall we go, you and I, while we can Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds? Two The only Dark Star that matters is the one your listening to at that moment. If you really love Dark Star . . . Come to Long Beach, Ca on a Friday Night To The Golden Sails Hotel and see Cubensis in the PCH Club for $10 they play a real deal Dark Star and most of the other songs are good, too. Hey Henry, Watch Out For That Dark Star !
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It's the line- This far down the line from the end of the Grateful Dead. And so it goes, the Mona Lisa doesn't end just because the painter finished.
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Winterland, 10/18/74 is personal because I was there (also 10/16 and 10/20). The most transcendent music I ever heard anywhere.I generally prefer 1969 versions (a bit before my time). T.C. seems to me to be an integral part of the mood. I also really like 1970 versions. Jerry goes very far out. That said, Mr. Pid hits the nail right on the head: Is there a bad, or even indifferent version to be found? I haven't heard it yet.
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The day before Blair Jackson posted this blog about the song Dark Star, I had actually listened to the release "Grayfolded" for the first time in several years. Perhaps that is the ultimate Dark Star, all 103.32 minutes of it. Out of the nearly 50 shows I attended between '84 and '95, I saw a Dark Star with first verse vocals only once at Copps Coliseum 3/22/92, and without vocals, or otherwise known as "Dark Star Jam" twice, Chicago 6/22/91 and Richfield Coliseum 9/6/91. I don't know if it's been mentioned yet, but the bonus disc that came with the 2011 Road Trips Subscription has a nice Dark Star from the December 6, 1973 show in Cleveland. It's also one of the longest.
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I think PalmerE has put down most of those early ones that our generation grew up with - especially with the torch bearer from 2-27-69 Live Dead. But I'd like to add a couple that still "make a straight person hallucinate" (as one reviewer put it) which came before 2-27-69. I'd like to point out the ones from 10-12-68 and 2-22-69.Peace and catch you guys up above sometime.
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That was my 3rd show and boy was I taken for a ride. Through the years, that show hasn't gotten the attention/respect I always thought it deserved. Many of my friends preferred 1/20/79 more. I think that Dark Star is quite good but 1/10/79 is better. I also think the transition from Wharf Rat into St. Stephen is amazing. Moving the conversation to modern times, I highly recommend giving the Furthur Dark Star from Atlanta 4/3/11 a listen. This is a self contained 2 verse monster. As with Viola Lee, I think there is a potential advantage to the improvisational energy by putting all the focus on the song itself and not on the upcoming transition.
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I am a self admitted and proud Dark Star Fanatic...I tried to describe Dark Star a non-Deadhead friend and the only way that I could describe it was that it was a song that was never played...it was unleashed. In that light (pun intended somewhat), I have always been a fan of the 1/10/79 Dark Star and the whole show for that matter. Of course 2/13/70 has spacey and then intense moments. I loved it when Dick's Picks 4 was released. I just recently listened to the 12/6/73 Dark Star and I found that to have some really cool moments too. I like the musings and teasing in the beginning of it. Yet, I will say that the 10/18/74 version does something to me. As Jerry builds up to that crescendo of what I can only describe ever increasing sonic booms, it really kicks my butt. Like others have already said, I like them all! Since Dark Star was unleashed by the band, it was always unleashed in a totally unique way every time. Now if I am pressed to pick a favorite, well I Have to date myself. I got on the bus at the proverbial event horizon of the Grateful Dead, circa 94-95, and I only caught a few shows in that era. Fortunate still to have been able to see Jerry play. Since the post Grateful Dead line-ups have been plugging away, I have gone to many different incarnations (Phil n Phriends, Other Ones, The Dead ), always yearning for a Dark Star. I finally got it at the 10/13/08 Penn State Obama benefit gig. However, I got a crazy Dark Star at the Dead reunion tour in 2009at the Washington D.C. show. This is the one where they finished a mini acoustic set, to then play spacey-noise, while the crew was in the tearing down the acoustic gear for the upcoming electric set. Turns out that the spacey noise was actually real space noise as per Mickey's experiments. That continued into Dark Star which had some peak moments only to go into King Solomon's Marbles to Drums/Space to Come Together and then back into Dark Star for the 2nd verse. That whole seamless segment ended up being pretty lengthy, not the best version by any means, but not too bad for a deadhead (me) who always yearned for a version like the ones I mentioned above.
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Here's a cool page on some good Dark Stars. http://www.deadlistening.com/2009/08/listening-trail-dark-star-garden.h… It's not a best-of-list, though 6-14-69 has always been high on my list. 8-27-72 used to be the reigning champ on my list, but i think i have officially listened to it too many times - making it too predictable for my tastes. Almost like a drug, taking it too many times, you start to not feel it as good. But then there's that once in a blue moon, it will hit you strong when it's been awhile. What I really like is discovering a Dark Star that's virgin to my ears.
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Id have to say the miami 89 version crossed the cosmos and was so loud and trippin there were ghosts ufos dead people monsters people from the future devils and angels and rod serling gave us all a ride home through a worm hole.You can bet this ones commin out soon multi track.Peace.
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....Jerry sounds like he's gargling razor blades when he croaks that Miami "Dark Star." There's a very strange "Dark Star" on this new Garth Hudson "The Sea to the North--Collector's Edition" which arrived in my mailbox a couple of days ago. It sort of cuts into a jam in progress and ambles around for a few minutes (5:41 total) and has a couple of the lyric fragments from the song sort of spoken. Odd and not particularly successful in my view... Anybody remember that essay that was going around many years ago analyzing various "Dark Star"s? Was it by Jim Wise or one of the other old guard experts? I seem to recall it broke down a bunch versions and gave names to some of the jams, etc....
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The Dead's spacy yearnings were best served by Keith's presence. Although I agree completely with Blair's take on TC's importance to the epochal 69'sound, it wasn't until I heard a 72' Dark Star than I knew I would be studying this band's effect on my psyche like a religion for the rest of my days. When I think back on my initial exposure to the Grateful Dead, I fondly remember the 'Dead Hour' with the 7/26/72 Dark Star>Comes A Time from the Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon that I became a true believer. If I had just stuck with 'Skeletons' as my initial foray, then I would have never put Hendrix and Zeppelin on the back burner and dedicated every iota of my musical fancies to the 'boys'. The acid angle is extremely important (although I know T.C. abstained) to what the Dead's sound means to me. With the importance of John Coltrane firmly entrenched from their inception, once Miles and 'Bitches Brew' took over the Fillmore in 1970, the ripe, glistening seed of something completely original was awaiting a complementary voice to accompany Garcias foray into the ether of the Acid Rock sound. By 1970, country-rock had replaced the acid underpinnings of the 'Rock' sound, and it would have been understandable for this aspect of the genre to be assimilated completely into the fabric of the sound. But it took Keith completely matching Jerry's fluid chromatic runs in 'Playin, Truckin, Dark Star, and the Other One' to completely make the Grateful Dead as the weird entity we have come to love... It wasn't just Keith' jazz chops, it was his pairing of melodic ideas that melded so well with Garcia's continuation of the development of his sound...Basically, what i'm saying is that the placement of Keith's acid-jazz runs on the aforementioned examples was so integral to what the band was about, that it is almost irrelevant what the other fine players contributed, without Keith cementing the Deads sonic acid explorations, they would be a more traditional Rock and Roll outfit...
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There is something in each one. the 10/31/71 was a revelation when that came out. Europe 72 versions are my favorites by far. the later period ones are nice treats, even that one from Starlake 92 that is like 48 seconds long. :) The Greek version in '84....not surprised they didn't stick with it. Nothing new happened, was no different really than the Estimated and Bird Songs of that era.
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Why hasn't this been released yet? It's impossible for me to pick one favorite Dark Star, but I can narrow it down to 4 versions... 2/27/69 - Live Dead version 2/13/70 - Who wouldn't list this as a favorite? 5/11/72 - Rotterdam is the show from the E72 box I keep coming back to the most, though every Dark Star from this tour is essential listening. 3/29/90 - My personal favorite version currently. I love the be-bop jazz groove they go into at around the 12 minute mark.
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9 years 3 months
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Yes your right blair about miami.I would still love to hear the multi track of that monster space out.
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10-31-71 is pristine. It just sounds like Jerry is totally locked in for the duration of the song, and putting his whole attention into every note. Perfection. At first listen I wanted a longer more freaky meltdown part of it, but nowadays I find it to be pefect as it is. Some of the Stars have brief moments that make them for me. 02-13-70 while great all around has a harmonic Jerry hits at the peak point in the post verse Jam, as they are winding up following the spacey part. It tears the junk right out of your skull. In 10-18-72 (which would be a fine release) it is Kieth's flourishes during the Star>Dew transition that make it stand out. My favorite things though are those 1970 post verse silent bits. On the one from 11-08-70 I can feel the tension in the audience as the weirdness starts to build. Blissful terror almost. I can only imagine what that must have been like of course. 04-24-70 I remember as being a nice 1970 version as well. Like 11-08-70, a listenable but imperfect audience recording. I know most all of the second half of 1970 is missing from the vault, but if there are any gems in hiding it would make a great Dave's Picks (hint hint). I haven't instensely heard any post retirement stars recently, but I think I remember likeing 01-20-79 a lot.
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because I don't know it, but I've noticed elsewhere that when Jerry's voice is at its worst his playing is often at its most stellar.
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9 years 9 months
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I'm extremely partial to the 9/20/90 Dark Star that is broken up by Playin Reprise and precedes what is IMO the best ever Throwing Stones. That one went to some rather dissonant, almost disturbing places.
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No doubt the MSG is a great one, and so is RFK. Those were among the best of the final five years of the song. I always thought of DS as another world that lives in parallel to our world. Only the GD had access to it. the GD would just open a window for us to get an update on what was happening there at that moment.
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The acid angle is extremely important (although I know T.C. abstained)
Wherever did you get that idea?
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I was at the 6/17/1991 show. It was really cool how they teased Dark Star all night long!! I am on the same side as many others. I don't think that there are any bad versions. I do prefer the '69 versions over the E72 versions. Personal preference, no real reasons. The later versons from '89 on were O.K. relatively speaking, but it seemed more of a novelty. The 10/31/1991 version was really nice, though.
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We all find our own contact with the beyond in our favorite Dark Stars. Many that stand out for me, as I suspect for others, have to do with the contexts in which we first heard them, what was going on, how they revealed new musical possibilities to one, and new possibilities period. So the first Dark Star I tripped to means a lot to me, as do others. These days I listen to many in the 72-74 period. But earlier ones often do the trick.2/14/70 is a piece of music I consider to be one of very best examples of telepathic improvisation that exists. Every musical gesture sounds inevitable, as if it could not be other than what it is. Every pause is just the right duration, every change in timbre fits perfectly the melodic development. The band does not so much react to each other as become one. There is a large scale horizontal form that develops that is the best example of the view of great music that has it that the whole is contained in every part. This notion of large scale form being developed through minute attention to "the now" is what I find lacking in the post retirement versions. It just becomes a song, or a hanger to drape some deep space around. It bores me, and I find it hard to listen all the way through any of the late versions. I want to like them, the same way at every show we all collectively tried to will be band to play it. Both Phil and Bobby often simply play the melodic line, or riff behind Jerry, who gamely tries in get them to enter into the communal construction of the tune that is, or was, its hallmark, but they are unwilling or unable. Of course it quick devolves into space, since the band gave up, more or less, the sort of group improvisational creation of new melodies long ago. Greek Theatre, Miami, Nassau, whatever, all just noddling to me!
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Bart Starr passes. Vince takes off his glasses. ......anybody?
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I strongly agree that the one from Live Dead is a sensational version and for a person that doesn't listen to the Dead it can essentially transform one's mindset of the band. The breath taking version from Steppin' Out from 4/8/72 is what did the the job for me and remains one of my favorites. Other versions I find mind blowing are 2/13/70 , 9/19/70, 11/2/70, 4/14/72, 4/24/72, 5/11/72, 9/21/72 and 11/11/73 but if I had to choose one at the moment I would probably go with 4/22/69 at The Ark.
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Bobs birthday show was fun as it a Dark Star sandwich. Being there with the opening notes hoping its not a tease was pretty awesome. It was a great vehicle to drop in and out of chord progressions and notes, and also to truly see the lads work some magic. Work as they had to listen more to each other during this jam and you truly could appreciate the risk and pure joy of seeing where it might go. E 72 with a Me and My Uncle nicely tucked in, or another surprise was awesome. Cheers to Gans Lemieux Jackson for keeping the music alive, and for all of us to drop in to various decades. Slainte Moose
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Dark Star had a natural arch of development from its beginnings up to the hiatus; after that the results were definitely mixed. Personally, I like the 1972 versions the best, they really have a free, jazzy, loose but tight feel that they never really achieved again. I think my favorite is the one from DP11 - absolutely beautiful and amazing. But there are so many great versions from 69-74 it's hard to narrow it down to just one year or one performance. I think there were a number of reasons they put it to bed after they came back - their playing in general starting in 1976 was less free-form, more song-oriented and tighter, and they started to have a more formalized Drums/Space section of their shows, so it made sense to dump Dark Star from that point of view. Also I think they kind of grew out of it, as something of a relic of their early psychedelic days. They had kind of said all they could say with it, and they realized they were never going to plumb those depths or soar to those heights again so they didn't bother. However, you could still catch glimpses of the former glory on versions like 12/31/78. I actually think this is one of the songs they could have permanently put to rest and didn't need to revive in the later era. I think most Deadheads had this notion that they wanted to hear Dark Star but when the band finally revived it there was no way it was going to live up to expectations. I think many songs from their repertoire were put to rest for good reason and never should have been brought back. Also in the late era there tended to be too much noodling around with MIDI effects and not enough songs, and too many forgotten lyrics and blown chord changes and not enough emphasis on tight performance, and then in the midst of all that they would play an extremely mediocre Dark Star and it's kind of like just adding more of an aural mess on top an already messy situation. For example, I find myself listening to the first set of Nightfall of Diamonds fairly often, but I don't listen to the Dark Star as much because frankly I don't think it's all that good. I think if Jerry was an obstacle to bringing a lot of those old songs back like fans wanted it's because he knew they'd outgrown them and they would never sound as good as they did in their heyday.
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Not sure if anyone mentioned this one. MSG(Home of the NY Rangers) Bruce on piano and Branford on sax. Both verses played. If my memory is correct(I was there and have heard the tapes but it has been a while) they actually played the second verse after space and then went back into space(surprise surprise). Have to say i feel fortunate to have seen this show. I was also at the Giants show and still have the vision in my head when they were toying with it just before Truckin. Jerry looking at Bruce, Bobby looking at Jerry, Jerry looking at Bobby and then Truckin emerges. Great show and smiles all around. LETS GO RANGERS!!!!!!
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Would it be too much to say that this song really defines "The Grateful Dead"? I think not. This is the one that brings you to the source, Not every time, not always all the way, but forever going in the right direction. I definitely feel there was a qualitative difference in the TC/Keith versions as opposed to the Brent ones, It wasn't really the keys that made the difference but rather the era in which it was played, Not taking anything away from 12/31/78 thru 10/89, those Stars served as a bridge to the ersatz Stars if 89-94. My favorite for all time will forever be 4/28/71 at The Fillmore East.
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Too young to have ever seen any of the 60' or 70's versions, but still vividly recall the eruption of the crowd on 10-9-89 when Jerry struck those first few notes at Hampton Warlocks show . . . an eruption rivaled only by Jerry's first few notes of Stephen at Hartford 10-15-83. After that, I agree w/ Blair, the tune just never regained its former luster. Oh well, nothin' last forever -- even dark stars crash ;-)
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Thanks Blair, just the inspiration I needed for my day off. Can't play my guitar since I sliced my finger last week. I'm on my fourth Star of the day, so many great choices. Wasn't lucky enough to see any of the amazing 70's but was there on 12.31.90 with Branford. No doubt the highlight of the night for me, New Year's Eve with my future wife and the boys. One of my all time faves is the 2.18.71 Capitol, I can never tire of the jam after Wharf Rat, beautiful indeed.
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lol at the "Bart Starr passes" I read a book about VL and the Packers a few months ago. Oh to be as effective as VL. The thing of it is, is, I am a teacher, and he was a coach. He could dump those who didn't perform. I have to differentiate my instruction. 7/18/72 Dark Star is AWESOME!
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9 years 3 months
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How about 10 12 68 avalon my 5th birthday this ones so cool and i would love a cd of this one.
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11 years 3 months
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Good call Cornbred, on the 10-18-72 Dark Star. I would also respectfully submit 10-28-72. Future release: anything from October '72...(purty puhlease...)
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11 years 3 months
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PS - unless ya'll don't want to release anything from October '72 so soon after the release of Veneta, any day now. I could understand that :-)
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I am partial to 11-11-73 because I always thought that when Mind Left Body Jam was introduced into the jam, it takes the music out of the earthly sphere and into the heavens...
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...in '73. From my recollection, there was a turn to Morning Dew that was nixed in favor of El Paso a la 8-27-72. *edit* After listening, that's a straight up transition into El Paso (Morning Dew comes later, after Eyes of the World).
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  • Charbroiled
    3 years 4 months ago
    Dark Star 69
    The Dark Star's with Tom Constanten are the best in my opinion, listening to live dead night after night with the head phones on in high school was one of the reasons I got into the Dead. There sound changed once he left and the song was never quite as riveting, always appreciated, but did not have the same energy as the late 68 through 69 versions.
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    chillywinds123
    3 years 7 months ago
    Dark Star?
    It was the very last song I needed to overcome as a fan to turn in the ticket. (All in) I thought for quite a long time that the song was aimless and without focus. Come hither young one. Tis the reason. I get it. Thanks guys. Fare Thee Well!!
  • beenwaytoolongatsea
    6 years 1 month ago
    what is dark star
    i do believe that dark star is over rated. it's an over-rated dead song. it was good in the '69 through early seventies period then .... it wasn't good any more. it's not such an interesting song. and in the modern era, hearing phil sing any part of it, in any arrangement, is pain.
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    Little Ben Clock
    6 years 5 months ago
    A few not mentioned which I love
    Some of my favourites tend to slip under the radar a bit:- 28 February '69 - bubbling, brewing, threatening, darker than the previous night - 27 April '69 - maybe one of the last "Fillmore West-style" versions? - 2 February '70 - I've liked this one for a long time...it's so pretty - 24 June '70 - the transition from Sugar Magnolia back to Dark Star is one of my favourite moments of Grateful Dead synergy - 17 September '70 - a monster hiding on a not-very-good tape - 31 July '71 - a standout version in a year of, in my opinion, vastly differing Dark Stars - 20 September '90 - a magnificent post-drumz second set jam In other words, there's no pattern but I to tend to prefer the lyrical, sweeter versions over the cacophonous, dissonant versions. That being said, the 1970 versions with the terrifying periods of near-silence are always good fun!
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    auralworship
    6 years 5 months ago
    Formerly The Warlocks
    I don't have a fraction of the Dark Star compendium in my collection as referred to by countless others above me. I can say the Live Dead is my template. That said, I was at the Hampton Coliseum that night in '89. I disctinctly remember recognizing the version as less inspired than I hoped a 'reunion' might be. That said, I also distinctly remember a very odd but real occurence... the four notes of the intro...doo doot doo dooooo. I literally shot out of my chair, arms thrust overhead, and howling like never, ever, before...clearly several seconds BEFORE my brain actually made the computations to identify it as Dark Star.I have to also say the crowd's response was phenomenal...transcenedent...multi-dimensional. Thanks for asking!