• March 2, 2012
    http://www.dead.net/features/blair-jackson/blair-s-golden-road-blog-finding-spirit-67
    Blair’s Golden Road Blog - Finding the Spirit of ’67

    For the past week-plus, I spent my brisk, daily, hour-long walks around Lake Merritt here in Oakland digging the three mid-February Phil & Friends concerts from the unfortunately named 1st Bank Center in Denver. The shows were fantastic! I had worried that having three lead guitarists—Warren Haynes, John Scofield and Jackie Greene—might make for too thick a stew. And yes, there’s a lot going on pretty much all the time. But somehow it works. Even when it is a cacophonous roar of wailing guitars, it’s a fine mess (as Oliver Hardy used to say).

    Warren and Jackie are two of my favorite singers of Garcia’s songs, and they did not disappoint, as they tackled everything from “The Golden Road,” “New Speedway Boogie,” “Scarlet Begonias” and “He’s Gone” (all by Jackie) to “Stella Blue,” “Wharf Rat,” “Althea” and “Candyman” (Warren). And what a selection of cover songs—“I Am the Walrus” and “She Said, She Said” by The Beatles, The Who’s “Magic Bus,” the old blues "Rollin' and Tumblin'," Traffic’s “Low Spark of High-heeled Boys,” even Clapton’s “Layla”—the last a perfect showcase for all that guitar firepower and Warren’s passionate vocals. Man, I would love to see that band!

    After I had finished listening to that truly wondrous 2/18/12 Phil & Friends show, which opens with “The Golden Road” into a magnificently gnarly “Viola Lee Blues,” I put on the Grateful Dead’s 3/18/67 Winterland show. I’ve been on a ’60s jag of late, listening compulsively to ’66-’68 Dead in preparation for a book I’m writing (it’s a long way off, but thanks for asking). That Winterland concert is probably the best we have from the first half of ’67. It’s the day after their first album was released, and just the third time they’d played that 5,000-capacity venue, which must have seemed so cavernous to a band accustomed to the much smaller Fillmore Auditorium and Avalon Ballroom. There’s raw excitement in all the songs they play, which are all cover tunes except for “The Golden Road” and “Cream Puff War” (neither of which would make it to the summer of ’67). There’s a long, spellbinding “Viola Lee Blues” and a harrowing “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” which unfortunately cuts on the tape before its conclusion. Damn!

    I love all those tunes, but never got to hear any of them played by the Grateful Dead, except for one version of “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” when it came back in 1989. Even though I first saw the Dead in the spring of ’70, I never saw “The Eleven,” “Cosmic Charlie,” “New Potato Caboose,” “Caution,” “Born Cross-Eyed,” “Alligator,” “Mountains of the Moon” or “Doin’ That Rag.” After catching a few versions of “St. Stephen” at my first shows, I heard only one less-than-great one (10/31/83) for the rest of my Dead days.

    I was always disappointed by Garcia’s aversion to playing most songs from the Dead’s early days. Certainly I understand why he found tunes such as “Cosmic Charlie” and “Doin’ That Rag” a bit forbidding—the first because it’s difficult to sing (as he said in interviews), the second because it is so lyrically opaque. In the ’80s he said he thought “Cream Puff War” was embarrassing, and flatly stated he would never play “Golden Road” again because “it belonged too much to that moment.” But, “Mountains of the Moon”? Why ignore “Attics of My Life” for 17 years? As for “Dark Star,” Jerry’s classic cop-out during the fallow years when that song was being ignored—explained to Dead.net’s own Mary Eisenhart in her superb 1987 BAM magazine interview— was: “Really, ‘Dark Star’ is a little of everything we do, all the time. So what happened to ‘Dark Star’ was, it went into everything. Everything's got a little ‘Dark Star’ in it.” With all due respect, Jer, no it doesn’t.

    It’s sad that it took Garcia’s death for us to finally get to hear some of these great songs live. I’m convinced the latter-day Dead could have killed on “Viola Lee Blues,” but for whatever reasons they wouldn’t play it. Too redolent of the still-formative ’67 GD? It’s just a blues tune; a jumping off point for adventurous extrapolations. But thanks to Phil & Friends and Furthur, thousands of people who never got to hear it from ’66-’70 are privileged to experience it now, and it is almost always interesting, exciting and experimental in ways that are completely different than it was during its first era. “Mountains of the Moon” has become a launchpad for some of the most inspired improvisations Phil’s bands have come up with. You see, Jerry was actually quite conservative—rigid even— when it came to his song arrangements, and it is practically unimaginable he would have taken that song in the fascinating directions Phil has.

    “The Golden Road” may be lyrically and spiritually rooted in 1967, but the way it’s been played the last few years—as a joyous anthem that celebrates that time and this time—makes it relevant and a gas to hear and dance to. The Dead never jammed it out the way Furthur and Phil & Friends do; it’s like a new song. “Dark Star” may, as Jerry told Mary, be “a minimal tune,” but it is also a portal to unlimited possibilities and it has flourished in recent years in the hands of many a band that recognizes its value as both a way station and a stepping stone. “St. Stephen” remains one of the truly glorious touchstones of the entire Dead canon—not dated at all; just classic—and “The Eleven” is always a dynamite groove that elevates everyone. How marvelous that we get to enjoy that practically orgasmic moment when the pre-“Eleven” jam finally kicks into 11/4 and hits that next level!

    I love that Phil and Bob have embraced the murky deep end and forgotten spaces of the Dead’s incredibly rich repertoire. “What’s Become of the Baby?” Still not very good, but I appreciate the effort. “Blues for Allah”? Nailed it that first time in Calaveras. “King Solomon's Marbles”? Yeah, baby! A winner everytime. The list goes on, and the plethora of brilliant and creative and cool versions of Dead tunes that have come into the Dead Covers Project reaffirms my belief that these songs will grow with all of us forever.

    Untold thousands of players who aren’t weighed down by ’60s baggage are finding exhilarating new avenues to explore and investing the songs with the distinctive radiance and energy of this time. Right about now, this world could use a little dose of 1967.

    Above: Kelley and Mouse’s poster advertising the Dead’s original fan club, 1967.
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For the past week-plus, I spent my brisk, daily, hour-long walks around Lake Merritt here in Oakland digging the three mid-February Phil & Friends concerts from the unfortunately named 1st Bank Center in Denver. The shows were fantastic! I had worried that having three lead guitarists—Warren Haynes, John Scofield and Jackie Greene—might make for too thick a stew. And yes, there’s a lot going on pretty much all the time. But somehow it works. Even when it is a cacophonous roar of wailing guitars, it’s a fine mess (as Oliver Hardy used to say).

Warren and Jackie are two of my favorite singers of Garcia’s songs, and they did not disappoint, as they tackled everything from “The Golden Road,” “New Speedway Boogie,” “Scarlet Begonias” and “He’s Gone” (all by Jackie) to “Stella Blue,” “Wharf Rat,” “Althea” and “Candyman” (Warren). And what a selection of cover songs—“I Am the Walrus” and “She Said, She Said” by The Beatles, The Who’s “Magic Bus,” the old blues "Rollin' and Tumblin'," Traffic’s “Low Spark of High-heeled Boys,” even Clapton’s “Layla”—the last a perfect showcase for all that guitar firepower and Warren’s passionate vocals. Man, I would love to see that band!

After I had finished listening to that truly wondrous 2/18/12 Phil & Friends show, which opens with “The Golden Road” into a magnificently gnarly “Viola Lee Blues,” I put on the Grateful Dead’s 3/18/67 Winterland show. I’ve been on a ’60s jag of late, listening compulsively to ’66-’68 Dead in preparation for a book I’m writing (it’s a long way off, but thanks for asking). That Winterland concert is probably the best we have from the first half of ’67. It’s the day after their first album was released, and just the third time they’d played that 5,000-capacity venue, which must have seemed so cavernous to a band accustomed to the much smaller Fillmore Auditorium and Avalon Ballroom. There’s raw excitement in all the songs they play, which are all cover tunes except for “The Golden Road” and “Cream Puff War” (neither of which would make it to the summer of ’67). There’s a long, spellbinding “Viola Lee Blues” and a harrowing “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” which unfortunately cuts on the tape before its conclusion. Damn!

I love all those tunes, but never got to hear any of them played by the Grateful Dead, except for one version of “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” when it came back in 1989. Even though I first saw the Dead in the spring of ’70, I never saw “The Eleven,” “Cosmic Charlie,” “New Potato Caboose,” “Caution,” “Born Cross-Eyed,” “Alligator,” “Mountains of the Moon” or “Doin’ That Rag.” After catching a few versions of “St. Stephen” at my first shows, I heard only one less-than-great one (10/31/83) for the rest of my Dead days.

I was always disappointed by Garcia’s aversion to playing most songs from the Dead’s early days. Certainly I understand why he found tunes such as “Cosmic Charlie” and “Doin’ That Rag” a bit forbidding—the first because it’s difficult to sing (as he said in interviews), the second because it is so lyrically opaque. In the ’80s he said he thought “Cream Puff War” was embarrassing, and flatly stated he would never play “Golden Road” again because “it belonged too much to that moment.” But, “Mountains of the Moon”? Why ignore “Attics of My Life” for 17 years? As for “Dark Star,” Jerry’s classic cop-out during the fallow years when that song was being ignored—explained to Dead.net’s own Mary Eisenhart in her superb 1987 BAM magazine interview— was: “Really, ‘Dark Star’ is a little of everything we do, all the time. So what happened to ‘Dark Star’ was, it went into everything. Everything's got a little ‘Dark Star’ in it.” With all due respect, Jer, no it doesn’t.

It’s sad that it took Garcia’s death for us to finally get to hear some of these great songs live. I’m convinced the latter-day Dead could have killed on “Viola Lee Blues,” but for whatever reasons they wouldn’t play it. Too redolent of the still-formative ’67 GD? It’s just a blues tune; a jumping off point for adventurous extrapolations. But thanks to Phil & Friends and Furthur, thousands of people who never got to hear it from ’66-’70 are privileged to experience it now, and it is almost always interesting, exciting and experimental in ways that are completely different than it was during its first era. “Mountains of the Moon” has become a launchpad for some of the most inspired improvisations Phil’s bands have come up with. You see, Jerry was actually quite conservative—rigid even— when it came to his song arrangements, and it is practically unimaginable he would have taken that song in the fascinating directions Phil has.

“The Golden Road” may be lyrically and spiritually rooted in 1967, but the way it’s been played the last few years—as a joyous anthem that celebrates that time and this time—makes it relevant and a gas to hear and dance to. The Dead never jammed it out the way Furthur and Phil & Friends do; it’s like a new song. “Dark Star” may, as Jerry told Mary, be “a minimal tune,” but it is also a portal to unlimited possibilities and it has flourished in recent years in the hands of many a band that recognizes its value as both a way station and a stepping stone. “St. Stephen” remains one of the truly glorious touchstones of the entire Dead canon—not dated at all; just classic—and “The Eleven” is always a dynamite groove that elevates everyone. How marvelous that we get to enjoy that practically orgasmic moment when the pre-“Eleven” jam finally kicks into 11/4 and hits that next level!

I love that Phil and Bob have embraced the murky deep end and forgotten spaces of the Dead’s incredibly rich repertoire. “What’s Become of the Baby?” Still not very good, but I appreciate the effort. “Blues for Allah”? Nailed it that first time in Calaveras. “King Solomon's Marbles”? Yeah, baby! A winner everytime. The list goes on, and the plethora of brilliant and creative and cool versions of Dead tunes that have come into the Dead Covers Project reaffirms my belief that these songs will grow with all of us forever.

Untold thousands of players who aren’t weighed down by ’60s baggage are finding exhilarating new avenues to explore and investing the songs with the distinctive radiance and energy of this time. Right about now, this world could use a little dose of 1967.

Above: Kelley and Mouse’s poster advertising the Dead’s original fan club, 1967.
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For the past week-plus, I spent my brisk, daily, hour-long walks around Lake Merritt here in Oakland digging the three mid-February Phil & Friends concerts from the unfortunately named Bank One Center in Denver. The shows were fantastic! I had worried that having three lead guitarists—Warren Haynes, John Scofield and Jackie Greene—might make for too thick a stew. And yes, there’s a lot going on pretty much all the time. But somehow it works. Even when it is a cacophonous roar of wailing guitars, it’s a fine mess (and Oliver Hardy used to say).

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to 3/18/67 on 3/18/12 - 45 years ago. It's a Sunday now, it was a Saturday then - I'll cheat. I was nine - I'm OK now but nine would be cool again, too. Maybe eight even. Yeah, eight forever. WAIT - don't wanna miss the next five or so years. But I think whatever age you were those were some pretty golden years. Midnight in the Grateful Dead. I'm so glad the foresight was had to provide us with some amazing aural images - keep 'em coming. Maybe a taste of '67 would be good.
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...even though there isn't much '67 in the vault, it seems WRONG to me that there has never been an official release just from that year. Even '66 has gotten more love than '67. I believe 3/18/67 may be in the vault. In fact, Dick Latvala is the guy who turned me on to that show. He's the one who suggested we put that version of "The Same Thing" on the So Many Roads box set that David Gans, Steve Silberman and I put together many years ago.
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My run with the Grateful Dead went from listening to tapes in '85 to seeing the band live from June '87 until the final show in '95. Certainly didn't stay on tour and see every gig, but had a lot of fun during the 8 years I saw them. By far my favorite thing about Phil and Friends and Furthur has been the effort put into re-interpreting classic Grateful Dead songs that I never got to see live. "Golden Road" and "Doin' That Rag" and "Mason's Children" and "Viola Lee Blues" and "Mountains of the Moon" are the songs that make me giddy when I hear them live because I don't have this Garcia template in my head that makes me nostalgic for my "real" Grateful Dead years. I get to hear those songs in a different way than, say, "Althea" where no matter how well it's played I always think of Jerry and some emotion that was triggered hearing him sing it. I was in Broomfield for this recent run and, yes, "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" and "Layla" were a total treat!
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Thanks for mentioning "Mason's Children"! I had meant to but forgot. When that tune pops up it always surprises me (pleasantly) and it's always great. I think Jerry described it as an "almost song" and was unhappy with the lyrics. But I think it's got a terrific riff, and Phil and Co. always take it someplace cool...
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That is a mighty high spirit to live up to. I don't think it's possible. However you can always play to the spirit of right now. I somehow think of that time as very special, when there was a certain innocence still left that allowed people to embrace the smoking crater. Now? We have become very jaded. I think it takes musicians who haven't played this music their whole lives to give it some original kick and take it in truly different directions. Don't get me wrong. The masters are the masters and nobody does it like thems who are old and venerable but the Dead Covers project has sort of blown me away with the different interpretations. Still, what was unveiled in 1967 is unveiled in every single moment and if you can tap into that you come from the source and it doesn't matter if you are young or old -- you can belt it out of the park or shed or whatever venue you choose to play. I, too, like all those old songs and am very glad we have Furthur and P&F around to serv'em up and a fine crop of young'uns to take us in different directions with these tunes.
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The best part of '67 is P I G P E N ! ! ! ! ! oh my good mother of all things Good Morining Little Schoolgirls Pain in My Heart Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) Alligator ! Yeah and all those great blues tunes Yeah 1967 and PIGPEN Whoooooooo
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I wrote to David Lemieux asking for a '67 release when he asked for suggestions for Dave's Picks. Possibly a release of the full Sept 3 show, two songs of which have already been released. He replied (without making any promises) that he had a show in mind. Fingers crossed.
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@scott1129, I saw one 1967 "show" and it was a free concert in Palo Alto at El Camino Park (which is located across the El Camino Real from the Stanford Shopping Center) It was a full day of music from lot's of bands and I was fairly stoned, but what I remember is that the Grateful Dead played Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (the only song I DO remember them playing that day) and they had this awful lead singer that had no voice at all...I didn't see them again until Winterland in early 1973, although I got close at Altamount. In hind sight after listening to some really great recordings from 1967-1972, I obviously had my young 15 year old head up my ass, and I am sorry that I didn't get Pig that first time, because if I had I probably would have become a Deadhead way before 6/9/77 and gone to another 50+ shows...but, hey, I didn't get Elvis until after he was dead...
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When I make mistakes they're usually in print. In 1977, I gave the first Talking Heads album a "D" in the Bay Guardian and said that David Byrne was one of the worst singers I'd ever heard.... So wrong...
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I saw my first show at the Greek in October '67 and saw several Carousel shows after that, including 3.1.69 which was a life changer for me, and the music from that era remains the bedrock of my appreciation and love for the band (with the inclusion of what the Dead did in '72, my other favorite era). I have loved the way Phil has not shyed away from what I call the primal Grateful Dead, pretty much in all his projects since the first Phil and Friends with Kimock. (There was that nice run of Warfield shows in 2008 where they played the first albums start to finish on successive nights....the night I went was "Aoxomoxoa" and "Live Dead"...perfect for me!). In fact, when that music is included in a show, it's my favorite part. I think back to the awesome 2nd set Furthur did on 12.30 that included a nice hunk of "Anthem of The Sun". To hear "New Potato Caboose" pulled off as well as they did it was pretty amazing to me. A big part of it is because Phil is willing to rehearse and get his bands comfortable with the material. I remember the Dead's half-assed attempt to do "Unbroken Chain" late in their career, no comparison to the way Phil's bands have been able to play the song. Something in Garcia was just not interested in doing the work necessary to bring the tunes back to life. (I remember the "they are working on '"St. Stephen' at the soundcheck" false alarm in the '90's.). Maybe it was laziness and lethargy, maybe it was he didn't feel like looking backwards, but the effort necessary to rehearse those tunes to play them right was just not there. Bless Phil for all he has done to keep the band's great catalog alive and vibrant, from top to bottom, bringing what the band discovered and built on so long ago forward to this new day!
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I agree with everything you said, including the remark about "half-assed" attempts at "Unbroken Chain." The GD played that at the last show I ever saw (Shoreline 6/4/95) and I thought it was weak sauce. After the rush of "Wow, they're playing 'Unbroken Chain,' I was like, 'We waited 20 years for this?'" It's never been one of my favorite tunes, but I've gotta say, every time I hear Phil play it, he nails it, and as I've mentioned, I love the instrumental coda that Furthur added...
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Blair's article on the GD and MTV was a nice foreshadow to the All The Years Combine release. Let's hope this current article is a hint to the August Dave's Picks. C'est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.
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mmm.....I've always liked how the Dead moved on from the late 60's stuff. Don't get me wrong- no one loves those songs more than I do, but I think I "get" why they quit playing most of them. The era was just such a special time- it had to be left behind. I'm a hardcore 65-76 Deadhead- my listening habits haven't changed much in 30 + years. About 90% of the Dead I listen to is pre-77 but still my favorite songs from any era are those that were born ( or at least "took off"j) in that era: my fav late 70's- Estimated, Scarlet-Fire, Lazy Lightning-Supplication. My favorite early 80's tune is "Space"!, from then on, the Dylan covers, Bird Song, Cassidy (both really took off in the 80's) Sailor-Saint, Lazy river road, Liberty etc, etc. Most latter-day revivals of the Golden era (65-76) never worked for me. Friend of the Devil is a great exception- I loved all versions all through the years- I've never heard a version I didn't like. Some others- China-Rider, UJB, Let it Grow come to mind. And "Stealin"! I loved the early Dead version but I like the Garcia/Grisman version even better. (Dang, I wish Garcia /Grisman had done "Betty and Dupree"!) Hm- what about PITB and Other one? No doubt, lots of dazzling improvisation on these tunes post 76. But more often than not, a little voice in my head reminds me I could be re-listening to a pre-77 version of those tunes and if I worked hard enough it could even be one I've never heard before....
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Hey Man, I have to say, I rather enjoyed the rescue and revival of Dupree's Diamond Blues In the early 1980's with the full on Wha at Garcia's guitar break. Then a Bob tune, then back to the new West L.A. Fadeaway blues. Kinda like updating the human condition. Seemed to work fine. Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa are always my go to pieces when doing an introduction to the band for a young person. Live Dead for when they are ready to take the next step... Anthem to me should get American Heritage status whatever that may look like. Cheers, shwack in nh
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(and I say this to everyone in general) but there was a certain meme (not that that word was in general circulation yet) in the rumor mills, circa early '80s, that when they played "Golden Road" again it would all be over. This notion was obviously the creation of people who had nothing better to do than make stuff up, but as you may have noticed, sitting in line and hanging out in the parking lot waiting for the shows to start, making stuff up and spreading it around was right up there with vending kind veggie burritos as a cultural staple. The baggage that the songs acquired having absolutely nothing to do with the band was pretty remarkable too. Which of course influences the chemistry when the songs come back.
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Songs get played out. As an artist you have to be true to yourself. Faking his way through "St Stephen" or "Cosmic Charlie" in later years to please the fans wasn't his style and that mindset was part of his greatness. And the fact remains that a lot of those early songs just weren't good songs. Some were embarassing just like Garcia said. For jamming vehicles, in later years they had plenty of good songs that also gave them room to jam. Why play bad songs and jam on them when you don't have to? (Though I suppose someone could debate that too ...not sure "eternity" will go in the Dead.wall of fame for great songs!) If songs were good enough they would usually come back. And that gave everyone a big buzz.
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It is always very hard to glean the reasons behind the basically aesthetic choices of artists w.r.t. their own oeuvre. To my ears, jettisoning much of the early era songs does make some sort of sense (don't get me wrong, I LOVE THEM!). There are a number of reasons that suggest themselves:1.influence of acid in a certain experimental context, both socially and musically. Some of those early songs, and the Dead's approach to them are deeply rooted in that particular world. Of course they could be played in other ways (and some were) but perhaps their very essence, to the band at least, would have been denuded. 2. Changing approaches to ensemble playing/improvising. Many of the early songs are not easily played in open improv contexts, or modal settings. 3. Perhaps they simply were not happy with their sound w.r.t. many of these songs when they did bring them back. Here I generally agree. It is not that they could not play the song form (the blues is the blues is the.....) but in comparison with the earlier versions many of the late versions sound, well, lame (again, to me....and perhaps particularly to Jerry....) Why might this be so? Well, you needn't move immediately to claims of lesser musical talent (although one might want to argue this!), but that the expressive and semantic content of these early songs were no longer in sympathy with the bands headspace. Again you could play them, but they would become different songs altogether. (Think about what it took for Dancin' to return a complete rearrangement, which worked wonderfully, but.... was it ever Harpur's College??) Bla, bla, bla, could go on, but a point related to other things happening on the site at the moment. For me, I rather hear OTHER non-dead related bands (and non simply cover bands) play these early songs. Then the reinterpretations are not judged against a backdrop of the bands own earlier practices. I don't find myself thinking things like "Damm, Bobby used to have such a nice tone on this tune, to voice the chords in interesting ways, to dance in and around Jerry and Phil's lines, but now, just on the beat chunks that don't egg Jerry to new places", etc. and so forth (yes, as always, the usual "others may disagree")." Ok, time to go.....and listen to some Dead! Peace to all. My vote for the song that kept its power and interest the longest through the Dead's long strange trip, whose changes made sense and kept interest--Wharf Rat (there is a question for another post, perhaps).
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My sentiments exactly. You can't go back and you can't stand still. And Blair that line about it taking Garcia's death. To what, hear these "great songs" without Garcia? Jerry knew what he was doing.
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...Jerry had to squeeze in all those vital versions of "I Fought the Law" ...
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The law of which he sang can be applied to one'sexpectations of him.
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we were young and full of spirit, there were a lot of us too, a group mind thing that hasn't happened since, we wanted the world and we wanted it now. Sounds like a great subject for a book Blair, there were big changes during those years, and the music hasn't ever been matched, think about the sounds of those days, Pink Floyd's first, Sgt. Pepper's, Majical Mystery tour, the Dead's first, Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape, Arthur Lee's Love, Airplane's pillow and Baxter's, Steppenwolf, Cream, Hendrix, Procol Harem, too many to list. Add a little LSD and what was happening with the war and the draft and equal rights, man, you've got your work cut out for you. I say bring back all those old tunes, the world needs them. By the way, I thought Jerry's version of I Fought the Law was great, and after the small riot in Orlando in April 94 where we all got gassed leaving the venue, it was like a warning.
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My having seen both Tom Petty and The Clash do it SO convincingly and with SO much passion made the Dead's version sound pretty wimpy. I love the song. A true classic. But frankly, there were times it sounded like Jerry just wanted to rush through it's 2 minutes and 50 seconds or whatever and get the hell out of Dodge...
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Was just like a lot of their songs ...sometimes it rocked sometimes it didn't. I liked it ...was tight musically, and delivered with tongue in cheek irony. Lucy In The Sky...now that I would trade for almost anything else including some of the Deads rubbish from the 60s we are discussing here.
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Another time, another (counter) culture. Maybe that is why some of the songs from that era fell from grace in later years. Much "hippy trippy" stuff from those heady years didn't really stand the test of time. That said, many of the Dead's contributions to that period fared better those of other bands. Also it was the band's formative years and maybe they found that some of their early material didn't fit in with the direction they went in. However, the '60's was a more exciting and exploratory time than any of the decades that followed (remember the '80's - I'm trying to forget 'em!) and in my opinion, the Dead were never more exciting or exploratory that they were in that period. Prove it to all the doubters David - give us some prime/primal '67 to remind our jaded senses what it was all about.
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I would like to highlight the comments of Unkle Sam and Grateful Prof.. Both have points that are extremely valid. Then Fluffanutter comes from another realm! Fantastic! My 2 cents worth is that when the old songs came back, for whatever reason and whatever period of time, they were worthy. If they didn't come back, then, for many of the reasons sited already, there was no justification to do so. Let's look at some of the great comebacks (and there were comebacks within the comebacks -- Like Help>Slip getting reintroduced in 1983 after seven years and then dieing again in 1985, only to be resurrected in Hampton Roads in the epic 1989 shows): Dark Star: Played in a one-off comeback on 78/79 New Years, Shea's in Buffalo in early 79. Again on New Years in 81/82. Again in 84 at the Greek for an encore after a shooting star was witnessed. The true comeback was during the Hampton Roads shows when they were billed as The Warlocks. There were some very good versions during this era but none to match the 45 minute versions in the early 70s Dupree Diamond Blues (Veneta, 1982): As the encore, this came out of nowhere and was truly inspired by Jerry. It became a staple of the first set for the rest of the 80s. Cosmic Charlie: This is a really good example of a song that was not played well when it was originally introduced in 1969 (or around that time) due to the immaturity of the band. But wow! When it got played with Donna on key in 1976 it was truly awesome... check out the Coliseum Arena show from 1976. Death Don't Have No Mercy: The opposite. This song was a MONSTER in the 60s and early 70s and when it came back less than a handful of times there were only one or two that stood out, Shoreline being the best, IMHO. St. Stephen: Ohhh to have been in Hartford or MSG in 1983. I missed it but on really good auds and sbds you can heart the ecstatic rush of the crowd. Hartford was the best and MCCC didn't deserve to be the last, though Phil did have the final word on snuffing out this definitive tune. Black Throated Wind: A favorite of mine. Thoroughly enjoyed hearing every version from E72. Don't know why it went away but was so glad when Bobby brought it back in 1991. It was not shabby. It cooked. Loose Lucy: Came back in 1991 after an 17 year hiatus. There were some very good versions played, but none to match the original intensity from the 73-74 versions. Here Comes Sunshine: It was certainly a trip to hear this again in 1992 but IMHO it should not have come back. Attics Of My Life: A very difficult tune to get the vocals right. The boys are to be credited for every effort to do so but, again, should have been left to rest. Supplication: Came back in a one off, I believe, at the Shoreline in 1994. They had many opportunities after 1983 to bring back both parts (Lazy Lightning was it's lifelong partner) but they could never pull it off in a jam or just standing alone. Don't know what the problem was there. Unbroken Chain: Last on my list because of Mary E's comments and others in this thread about people making stuff up, and, when you hear this song, it will be the end time for days of Grateful Dead. My own personal experience at Providence in 1979, when I was a newbie, and yelling for Unbroken Chain from the first row, is that another young head turned to me and very gravely said: "They will never, ever, ever, ever play this song live in concert." He was so passionate when he said it that his comment just sort of hung there in space. It was like even the band stopped in time and then restarted. It was my weirdest moment EVER at a Grateful Dead concert. The truth, as we now know in hindsight, is that it was never played live in concert until 3/19/95. It was played something like ten times until 7/9/95 and it did indeed signal the death knell of the Grateful Dead. Should it have been brought out? Absolutely. It was fated. Was it good musically? No, it was to be endured. But the studio version is killer when you're peaking! This is just a short list of Grateful Dead tunes that got resurrected off the top of my head. There were many other covers, such as Dylan's Train To Cry, that are in this category. I'm sure I missed a few other Dead songs as well. This idea of the comeback was a quintessential part of being a Deadhead. The more you remembered (and had it right), the more you were truly a Deadhead. I'm not claiming to be an old-school, dead-to-the-core head. I have to thank Deadbase for giving me the dates. I hope somebody enjoyed this stroll down memory lane. It took me over an hour to write this post. happy trails everyone, keep posting!
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Attics for me is a beautifully executed highlight on many late period shows.
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It is always very hard to glean the reasons behind the basically aesthetic choices of artists w.r.t. their own oeuvre. To my ears, jettisoning much of the early era songs does make some sort of sense (don't get me wrong, I LOVE THEM!). There are a number of reasons that suggest themselves:1.influence of acid in a certain experimental context, both socially and musically. Some of those early songs, and the Dead's approach to them are deeply rooted in that particular world. Of course they could be played in other ways (and some were) but perhaps their very essence, to the band at least, would have been denuded. 2. Changing approaches to ensemble playing/improvising. Many of the early songs are not easily played in open improv contexts, or modal settings. 3. Perhaps they simply were not happy with their sound w.r.t. many of these songs when they did bring them back. Here I generally agree. It is not that they could not play the song form (the blues is the blues is the.....) but in comparison with the earlier versions many of the late versions sound, well, lame (again, to me....and perhaps particularly to Jerry....) Why might this be so? Well, you needn't move immediately to claims of lesser musical talent (although one might want to argue this!), but that the expressive and semantic content of these early songs were no longer in sympathy with the bands headspace. Again you could play them, but they would become different songs altogether. (Think about what it took for Dancin' to return a complete rearrangement, which worked wonderfully, but.... was it ever Harpur's College??) Bla, bla, bla, could go on, but a point related to other things happening on the site at the moment. For me, I rather hear OTHER non-dead related bands (and non simply cover bands) play these early songs. Then the reinterpretations are not judged against a backdrop of the bands own earlier practices. I don't find myself thinking things like "Damm, Bobby used to have such a nice tone on this tune, to voice the chords in interesting ways, to dance in and around Jerry and Phil's lines, but now, just on the beat chunks that don't egg Jerry to new places", etc. and so forth (yes, as always, the usual "others may disagree")." Ok, time to go.....and listen to some Dead! Peace to all. My vote for the song that kept its power and interest the longest through the Dead's long strange trip, whose changes made sense and kept interest--Wharf Rat (there is a question for another post, perhaps).
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You forgot to mention the Nassau Dark Star in early 1979, but otherwise got the history correct. Also, Lazy Lightning>Supplication croaked in 1984 on Halloween at the Berkeley Community Theatre in 1984. Just small mistakes. Thanks for taking the time to write that.
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Very interesting historical perspective. One thing i would add as a footnote is that when they brought back "Black-Throated Wind" on the spring '90 East Coast tour, it had MANY different lyrics; it had nearly been re-written top to bottom. But the new approach didn't stick. Ya don't mess with the classics...
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I've commented here several times - will someone please release a Best of GD '67 Live disc?The earliest Dick's Picks/From the Vault are `68, though the Phil Zone double CD has - I believe - at least one '67 track, as does So Many Roads. Maybe Birth of the Dead, which I don't have, has some `67 live tracks too, I dunno. I realize there is likely not too many masters from that era, but surely enough for a Best Of. Blair - please use your influence to try to make this happen.
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My understanding is that other than new material for their LPs, and for the Dylan tour, the Dead did not rehearse much or intensively after their time with Keith Olsen making Terrapin. By the Fall of 1977, they could barely get through Help On The Way (see cringe-worthy version, throwaway Slipknot on Oct-77 Road Trips). When they brought it back in '83, it was mostly novelty value, a few of the Slipknots were good, but nothing like the really deep 76/77 versions. Less detail, less crisp on the changes. Is it safe to say that a rock band that doesn't rehearse much or with discipline can't play challenging composition? When I attended shows with very dedicated musicians in the late 70s and early 80s, they were appalled at the Dead's sloppiness. I didn't care, but now it does seem to drive me back to 68-76 for my own archival pleasures. '77? It's great, but at times it is like an overhopped beer.
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As is often the case, I find myself disagreeing with Dan C. I think there were some outstanding versions of "Slipknot!" in the '80s and into '91. Yes they had a different character than the '76-'77 ones (so did everything else!). But in some ways they were more interesting and intense to me than the '70s versions, and, I might add, perfectly in keeping with the sound of the band at that time. I also disagree with the characterization of that Oct. 77 version as "cringe-worthy." Obviously we're looking for different things in our music.
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"By the Fall of 77, they could barely get through Help On The Way"- This helps explain the 30 minute Scarlet-Fire from 2/5/78- featured on Dick's Picks 18 and among the finest combinations of this medley ever performed. I guess they just got lucky, as bands without discipline often do. Red Rocks 78 is probably another fluke of this unrehearsed lack of discipline. Cape Cod 79- well, you get the point.
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zuck - get the quote right, I didn't say that. Proofread your shit. Help is not Slip. What does a 30 minute jam have to do with rehearsing? 2/5/78 Scarlet = nothing special, it's rushed if not just badly played, go with 5/11/78 or 9/2/78, much better Scarlet Begonias I think. But the Fire may be the reference version, agreed. Be careful, the '78 coked-up at-times-trainwreck Dead is not the place to make a stand on tightness, I don't think so. 7/8/78 is fantastic, no question, it blows me away and I love it. But the plodding Dead shuffle sound, either resulting from Mickey's return, from the coke, or from infrequent rehearsal and bad habits -- it's there on the tapes. Go ahead and listen to all the versions of Help On The Way > Slipknot you can get your ears on. I don't think they could not play THAT music competently by the Fall of '77. Doesn't mean they weren't killing it with all their other magic, rehearsed or not. I loved the Cape shows too (and the 26 hours up and back from D.C.)
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I played that Help>Slip from 2nd Road Trips this eve, and I cringed a few times, again. It's not sharp, that is the best I can say about it. Great Franklin's Tower, then check that Slipknot outro. Ouch, again. While not a throwaway performance, it wasn't played again for awhile, and I am just really struck at how great and extended the signature Blues for Allah music was in the Fall of '76, occasionally in Spring '77, and then not so much and then kaput. I think the style got too muscular at times, but yes I/we loved it and I still do. Dick's Picks 15, 33, and 25, and are touchstone documentary evidence of my life in the late 70s and 80s. In my mind anyway. I want more '76 releases with the BFA suite. We gotta have it.
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Is an example of a song, due to its intrinsic difficulty, that declined rather quickly, we are not talking about a 10 year gradual metamorphosis. Slipknot did loosen up, sometimes yielding a very interesting sonic experience. that "dead shuffle" sound is a good description of the band on off nights. Hey I had a great time at Cape Cod, and enjoyed all the Red Rocks shows (but do recall some really lame Help on the ways.....) That reminds me, time to go listen to Rochester fall of '76, I LOVED that show, had a blast, and I do recall a good Help, and two slipknots! Gotta go, time to listen!
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6/14/76 and 10/3/76 are both dates that appeared before the Dave's Picks logo. More 76 will eventually become a reality. Dick's Picks 33 is one of my favorites. An Orpheum Box would be sweet also...
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If they filmed "The Matrix" at the Orpheum, there would be Morpheus at the Orpheus. Um, yeah
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    Zuckfun
    6 years 8 months ago
    Random
    If they filmed "The Matrix" at the Orpheum, there would be Morpheus at the Orpheus. Um, yeah
  • Default Avatar
    blairj
    6 years 8 months ago
    Alas, I'm pretty sure...
    ... not all the Orpheum shows are in the vault.
  • Default Avatar
    Zuckfun
    6 years 8 months ago
    More 76...
    6/14/76 and 10/3/76 are both dates that appeared before the Dave's Picks logo. More 76 will eventually become a reality. Dick's Picks 33 is one of my favorites. An Orpheum Box would be sweet also...
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    grateful prof
    6 years 8 months ago
    help on the way...
    Is an example of a song, due to its intrinsic difficulty, that declined rather quickly, we are not talking about a 10 year gradual metamorphosis. Slipknot did loosen up, sometimes yielding a very interesting sonic experience. that "dead shuffle" sound is a good description of the band on off nights. Hey I had a great time at Cape Cod, and enjoyed all the Red Rocks shows (but do recall some really lame Help on the ways.....) That reminds me, time to go listen to Rochester fall of '76, I LOVED that show, had a blast, and I do recall a good Help, and two slipknots! Gotta go, time to listen!
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    danc
    6 years 8 months ago
    no flames on this, I surrender
    I played that Help>Slip from 2nd Road Trips this eve, and I cringed a few times, again. It's not sharp, that is the best I can say about it. Great Franklin's Tower, then check that Slipknot outro. Ouch, again. While not a throwaway performance, it wasn't played again for awhile, and I am just really struck at how great and extended the signature Blues for Allah music was in the Fall of '76, occasionally in Spring '77, and then not so much and then kaput. I think the style got too muscular at times, but yes I/we loved it and I still do. Dick's Picks 15, 33, and 25, and are touchstone documentary evidence of my life in the late 70s and 80s. In my mind anyway. I want more '76 releases with the BFA suite. We gotta have it.