• December 7, 2012
    http://www.dead.net/features/blair-jackson/blair-s-golden-road-blog-forgotten-europe-tour
    Blair’s Golden Road Blog: The Forgotten Europe Tour

    By Blair Jackson

    I've long wondered why I almost never hear anyone talk about the Dead's fall 1981 tour of Europe. After all, 1981 was a generally strong year for the band. Brent had fully settled in by then, and though there were no new songs introduced, the best from 1980's Go to Heaven—“Feel Like a Stranger,” “Alabama Getaway,” “Althea” and the combo of “Lost Sailor” and “Saint of Circumstance”—had matured nicely. Substance issues notwithstanding, Garcia played remarkably well all year.

    It's probably not fair to use the uniformly magnificent Europe '72 tour as a point of comparison, but the Dead's other Europe jaunts were pretty darn good, too. The short tour in '74 produced the superb Dick's Picks Vol. 7 from the Alexandra Palace in London, as well as hot shows in Paris and Dijon. And though none of the '90 Europe tour with Bruce and Vince has been released, there were a number of excellent shows that have been widely traded. That was also the only Dead tour of Europe that had a large number of Americans from the U.S. following it from city to city, so there is an abundance of stories about the shows that have been passed around. But fall '81? Not so much.

    The fall tour was actually the Dead's second trek across the pond in 1981. In late April, they bopped over for five shows—four at the intimate Rainbow Theatre in London (where their '72 tour was supposed to start, but didn't), and the last an appearance on the popular TV show Rockpalast (which was shown in large parts of Europe) at the Grugahalle in Essen, Germany. The Essen stop was the reason the April tour happened at all—it was a de facto promo stop for the band, to lay the groundwork and build excitement for a larger tour of Europe in October '81.

    Bootleg copies of the Rockpalast show have been in circulation for many years, but unfortunately it has not found its way to a formal release—despite the fact that DVD purveyors Eagle Vision have been putting out excellent historic Rockpalast shows (Little Feat '77!) for quite a while. The Dead show is most famous for featuring Pete Townshend's interesting, if somewhat uncomfortable, appearance during “Not Fade Away” and “Wharf Rat” during the second set, not to mention the Flying Karamazov Brothers juggling troupe creating all sorts of mayhem during the drum solo.

    This poster for the Dead's concert in Russelsheim used Dennis Larkins' artwork for the band's just-released Dead Set album.

    But I was curious about the fall '81 Europe tour, which began in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Sept. 30, returned to the Rainbow in London for four shows the first week of October, and then moved on to Copenhagen, three cities in Germany—Bremen, Munich and Russelsheim—Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. So, over the past month, I listened to every show, all the way through, in order. I figured there must be a few gems in there, some under-the-radar shows that would have to be released some day.

    The good news is that musically this was a fantastic tour! The band played with tons of energy and imagination. I can honestly say there's not a true clunker show in the bunch, and a few would rate among the best shows of '81. The bad news—and it's very bad news indeed—can be summed up in just four words: The soundboard tapes suck!

    The problem surfaced in the SBD recording of the first show, from Edinburgh. Jerry, Brent, Mickey and Bill sound great, their parts completely clear. The vocals, too, are sharp, if mixed way too high. But wait a second, the Dead weren't a quartet in the fall of '81, were they? Because those four guys are all you can hear; Phil and Bob are missing from the mix! OK, a few times you might notice a little thppp, thppp bass coming through on a quiet passage, and there are points where you can almost imagine that Bob is, if not onstage with the others, perhaps playing along in a room backstage or down the street. Talk about frustrating! Jerry could be (and usually was) shredding, but it doesn't sound whole. It doesn't feel right.

    Unfortunately, most of the tour tapes suffer from the same malaise to different degrees—not enough Bob and Phil. Anytime either of them poke through decently for a song or two it's a revelation and you can fully grok how well the band is playing. But those stretches are rare and even at their best are not up to the mix standards we've come to expect from the Dead. This was driven home to me any time I would play a well-mixed show from any other era after listening to one of the Europe '81 shows—“That's what the band is supposed to sound like!”

    Why did this happen? And why are some other tapes from '81 inexcusably Weir-lite? If you listen to audience recordings of many of these shows (as I did), the instruments and vocals are all audible and seem to be well balanced (alas, Phil is rarely prominent enough for my taste on many audience tapes, but at least he's there). But for some reason, when the recordings were made (by mixer Dan Healy, I presume?), evidently no one bothered to monitor them and make sure what was going on tape reflected what was being heard in the hall. By the last couple of shows—Paris and Barcelona—things are considerably better sound-wise than the beginning of the tour, but still subpar in the grand scheme of Dead tapes.

    Ironically, the best-sounding tapes of the entire tour are from the famous “Oops!” shows in Amsterdam, Oct. 15 and 16. Following the 10/13 show in Russelsheim, the band had originally been scheduled to play a pair of shows in the south of France, but they were rained out, so instead they flew to Amsterdam and played two nights at the Melkweg club (capacity around 500) using rented instruments! The second of the two shows fell on Bob's 34th birthday and is an absolute must-hear.

    It starts with an eight-song acoustic set very much like the ones they played in the fall of '80 at the Warfield Theatre in SF and Radio City Music Hall in NYC. The second set became legendary instantly when the opening “Playing in the Band” eventually meandered into the '60s garage-rock classic “Hully Gully,” and later offered up surprisingly confident versions of “Gloria” (possibly the first since the mid-'60s) and “Lovelight,” which they had not played since Pigpen died. The rented guitars give the music a slightly different sound in places, but it's still Grateful Dead through and through. The set also contains fine versions of “The Wheel,” “Black Peter,” “Goin' Down the Road” and a couple of others. The two sets would fit neatly on two discs (nudge, nudge).

    Now, I know I've devoted much of the verbiage above trashing the sound quality of the soundboard tapes, but I still thoroughly enjoyed listening to the shows, and you might, too. According to Volume II of The Deadhead's Taping Compendium, audience tapes exist for every show on the tour, but not all are represented on Archive.org, so if you're looking for alternatives to the worst SBDs, you may have to dig a little to find them.

    Poster for hastily arranged Amsterdam shows.

    Looking at the set lists, there isn't much to differentiate the Europe shows from most others in the '79-'82 period. But the playing is uniformly strong from the beginning of the tour to the end, and even songs you've heard a million times have life to them. Jerry is on fire and his voice still has some of that '70s sweetness, which dissipated more each year as the '80s progressed. Brent, too, was singing more than growling in those days, and I liked that he was still employing more synth textures than he did later. The “big” songs and combos never disappoint, and Jerry's ballads are stunning. There is also a little carryover from the 1980 acoustic sets, with electric versions of “On the Road Again” and “To Lay Me Down” cropping up here and there. “Lost Sailor” > “Saint” turns up in most shows, but there isn't a lame version in the bunch. The drum solos are exciting and varied, often featuring mega-duels as well as softer passages dominated by the tar (the legacy of Egypt '78).

    Some highlights to look for:

    If the four Rainbow shows (10/2,3,4,6) existed in acceptable-quality soundboards, they would make a killer box, because the entire range of the '81 Dead is very well-represented. On 10/2, there's a strong “Playing” >”Shakedown” > “Bertha” to open the second set. 10/3 has a first-set-ending “China Cat” > “I Know You Rider,” “Feel Like a Stranger” > “Franklin's Tower” to open the second set and a powerful “Morning Dew” out of “Not Fade Away.” 10/4 has one of the tour's best takes on “Let It Grow,” plus a long and flowing “Scarlet” > “Fire” and a “Spanish jam” going into “The Other One.” The 10/6 show was one of just a couple from the tour that I used to own on tape and it's quite inspired, boasting an 11-song first set that opens with “Shakedown Street,” and a second set that includes the rarely played “High Time,” a gnarly and abstract quotation from “Blues for Allah” during “space” (Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat had been assassinated earlier in the day), and then a rather unusual sequence of “The Wheel” > “Sugar Magnolia” > “Stella Blue” > “Good Lovin',” followed by an encore of “Sunshine Daydream” > “Brokedown Palace.”

    The 10/8 Copenhagen show isn't quite up to the Rainbow concerts, but contains a strong pre-“drums”: “Scarlet” >”Fire,” “Playing” > “Terrapin.” The 10/10 Bremen concert features my favorite first set of the tour, with wicked turns on “Shakedown,” an awe-inspiring “Bird Song” and lightning “Let It Grow.” On 10/11, Jerry and Bob hopped over to Amsterdam and played an impromptu seven-song 35-minute acoustic set at the Melkweg which is fun, but not earthshaking. The following night in Munich (10/12) has another long, diverse and well-played first set (ending with “China” > “Rider”) and a second set that probably looks motley on paper, but which goes to some very cool spaces, particularly in the stretch that includes “Ship of Fools” > “Estimated Prophet” > “Goin' Down the Road.” There's another out-there “Bird Song” (as well as “To Lay Me Down”) in the first set of the 10/13 Russelsheim show, while the second set is highlighted by the most developed “Spanish jam” of the tour, another split “Sugar Magnolia,” and one of the strongest versions of “Satisfaction” you'll hear from this band.

    After the Oops! shows in Amsterdam, the Dead tour closed with shows in Paris (a solid “Shakedown,” “Estimated” > “Eyes” and “Morning Dew”) and Barcelona—the only concert Jerry ever played in his father's homeland. That last one is a keeper, too, with a “Jack Straw” > “Franklin's” opener and sublime versions of “Let It Grow,” “Scarlet > Fire” and “Stella Blue.”

    It would be nine years before the Dead returned to Europe.

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By Blair Jackson

I've long wondered why I almost never hear anyone talk about the Dead's fall 1981 tour of Europe. After all, 1981 was a generally strong year for the band. Brent had fully settled in by then, and though there were no new songs introduced, the best from 1980's Go to Heaven—“Feel Like a Stranger,” “Alabama Getaway,” “Althea” and the combo of “Lost Sailor” and “Saint of Circumstance”—had matured nicely. Substance issues notwithstanding, Garcia played remarkably well all year.

It's probably not fair to use the uniformly magnificent Europe '72 tour as a point of comparison, but the Dead's other Europe jaunts were pretty darn good, too. The short tour in '74 produced the superb Dick's Picks Vol. 7 from the Alexandra Palace in London, as well as hot shows in Paris and Dijon. And though none of the '90 Europe tour with Bruce and Vince has been released, there were a number of excellent shows that have been widely traded. That was also the only Dead tour of Europe that had a large number of Americans from the U.S. following it from city to city, so there is an abundance of stories about the shows that have been passed around. But fall '81? Not so much.

The fall tour was actually the Dead's second trek across the pond in 1981. In late April, they bopped over for five shows—four at the intimate Rainbow Theatre in London (where their '72 tour was supposed to start, but didn't), and the last an appearance on the popular TV show Rockpalast (which was shown in large parts of Europe) at the Grugahalle in Essen, Germany. The Essen stop was the reason the April tour happened at all—it was a de facto promo stop for the band, to lay the groundwork and build excitement for a larger tour of Europe in October '81.

Bootleg copies of the Rockpalast show have been in circulation for many years, but unfortunately it has not found its way to a formal release—despite the fact that DVD purveyors Eagle Vision have been putting out excellent historic Rockpalast shows (Little Feat '77!) for quite a while. The Dead show is most famous for featuring Pete Townshend's interesting, if somewhat uncomfortable, appearance during “Not Fade Away” and “Wharf Rat” during the second set, not to mention the Flying Karamazov Brothers juggling troupe creating all sorts of mayhem during the drum solo.

This poster for the Dead's concert in Russelsheim used Dennis Larkins' artwork for the band's just-released Dead Set album.

But I was curious about the fall '81 Europe tour, which began in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Sept. 30, returned to the Rainbow in London for four shows the first week of October, and then moved on to Copenhagen, three cities in Germany—Bremen, Munich and Russelsheim—Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. So, over the past month, I listened to every show, all the way through, in order. I figured there must be a few gems in there, some under-the-radar shows that would have to be released some day.

The good news is that musically this was a fantastic tour! The band played with tons of energy and imagination. I can honestly say there's not a true clunker show in the bunch, and a few would rate among the best shows of '81. The bad news—and it's very bad news indeed—can be summed up in just four words: The soundboard tapes suck!

The problem surfaced in the SBD recording of the first show, from Edinburgh. Jerry, Brent, Mickey and Bill sound great, their parts completely clear. The vocals, too, are sharp, if mixed way too high. But wait a second, the Dead weren't a quartet in the fall of '81, were they? Because those four guys are all you can hear; Phil and Bob are missing from the mix! OK, a few times you might notice a little thppp, thppp bass coming through on a quiet passage, and there are points where you can almost imagine that Bob is, if not onstage with the others, perhaps playing along in a room backstage or down the street. Talk about frustrating! Jerry could be (and usually was) shredding, but it doesn't sound whole. It doesn't feel right.

Unfortunately, most of the tour tapes suffer from the same malaise to different degrees—not enough Bob and Phil. Anytime either of them poke through decently for a song or two it's a revelation and you can fully grok how well the band is playing. But those stretches are rare and even at their best are not up to the mix standards we've come to expect from the Dead. This was driven home to me any time I would play a well-mixed show from any other era after listening to one of the Europe '81 shows—“That's what the band is supposed to sound like!”

Why did this happen? And why are some other tapes from '81 inexcusably Weir-lite? If you listen to audience recordings of many of these shows (as I did), the instruments and vocals are all audible and seem to be well balanced (alas, Phil is rarely prominent enough for my taste on many audience tapes, but at least he's there). But for some reason, when the recordings were made (by mixer Dan Healy, I presume?), evidently no one bothered to monitor them and make sure what was going on tape reflected what was being heard in the hall. By the last couple of shows—Paris and Barcelona—things are considerably better sound-wise than the beginning of the tour, but still subpar in the grand scheme of Dead tapes.

Ironically, the best-sounding tapes of the entire tour are from the famous “Oops!” shows in Amsterdam, Oct. 15 and 16. Following the 10/13 show in Russelsheim, the band had originally been scheduled to play a pair of shows in the south of France, but they were rained out, so instead they flew to Amsterdam and played two nights at the Melkweg club (capacity around 500) using rented instruments! The second of the two shows fell on Bob's 34th birthday and is an absolute must-hear.

It starts with an eight-song acoustic set very much like the ones they played in the fall of '80 at the Warfield Theatre in SF and Radio City Music Hall in NYC. The second set became legendary instantly when the opening “Playing in the Band” eventually meandered into the '60s garage-rock classic “Hully Gully,” and later offered up surprisingly confident versions of “Gloria” (possibly the first since the mid-'60s) and “Lovelight,” which they had not played since Pigpen died. The rented guitars give the music a slightly different sound in places, but it's still Grateful Dead through and through. The set also contains fine versions of “The Wheel,” “Black Peter,” “Goin' Down the Road” and a couple of others. The two sets would fit neatly on two discs (nudge, nudge).

Now, I know I've devoted much of the verbiage above trashing the sound quality of the soundboard tapes, but I still thoroughly enjoyed listening to the shows, and you might, too. According to Volume II of The Deadhead's Taping Compendium, audience tapes exist for every show on the tour, but not all are represented on Archive.org, so if you're looking for alternatives to the worst SBDs, you may have to dig a little to find them.

Poster for hastily arranged Amsterdam shows.

Looking at the set lists, there isn't much to differentiate the Europe shows from most others in the '79-'82 period. But the playing is uniformly strong from the beginning of the tour to the end, and even songs you've heard a million times have life to them. Jerry is on fire and his voice still has some of that '70s sweetness, which dissipated more each year as the '80s progressed. Brent, too, was singing more than growling in those days, and I liked that he was still employing more synth textures than he did later. The “big” songs and combos never disappoint, and Jerry's ballads are stunning. There is also a little carryover from the 1980 acoustic sets, with electric versions of “On the Road Again” and “To Lay Me Down” cropping up here and there. “Lost Sailor” > “Saint” turns up in most shows, but there isn't a lame version in the bunch. The drum solos are exciting and varied, often featuring mega-duels as well as softer passages dominated by the tar (the legacy of Egypt '78).

Some highlights to look for:

If the four Rainbow shows (10/2,3,4,6) existed in acceptable-quality soundboards, they would make a killer box, because the entire range of the '81 Dead is very well-represented. On 10/2, there's a strong “Playing” >”Shakedown” > “Bertha” to open the second set. 10/3 has a first-set-ending “China Cat” > “I Know You Rider,” “Feel Like a Stranger” > “Franklin's Tower” to open the second set and a powerful “Morning Dew” out of “Not Fade Away.” 10/4 has one of the tour's best takes on “Let It Grow,” plus a long and flowing “Scarlet” > “Fire” and a “Spanish jam” going into “The Other One.” The 10/6 show was one of just a couple from the tour that I used to own on tape and it's quite inspired, boasting an 11-song first set that opens with “Shakedown Street,” and a second set that includes the rarely played “High Time,” a gnarly and abstract quotation from “Blues for Allah” during “space” (Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat had been assassinated earlier in the day), and then a rather unusual sequence of “The Wheel” > “Sugar Magnolia” > “Stella Blue” > “Good Lovin',” followed by an encore of “Sunshine Daydream” > “Brokedown Palace.”

The 10/8 Copenhagen show isn't quite up to the Rainbow concerts, but contains a strong pre-“drums”: “Scarlet” >”Fire,” “Playing” > “Terrapin.” The 10/10 Bremen concert features my favorite first set of the tour, with wicked turns on “Shakedown,” an awe-inspiring “Bird Song” and lightning “Let It Grow.” On 10/11, Jerry and Bob hopped over to Amsterdam and played an impromptu seven-song 35-minute acoustic set at the Melkweg which is fun, but not earthshaking. The following night in Munich (10/12) has another long, diverse and well-played first set (ending with “China” > “Rider”) and a second set that probably looks motley on paper, but which goes to some very cool spaces, particularly in the stretch that includes “Ship of Fools” > “Estimated Prophet” > “Goin' Down the Road.” There's another out-there “Bird Song” (as well as “To Lay Me Down”) in the first set of the 10/13 Russelsheim show, while the second set is highlighted by the most developed “Spanish jam” of the tour, another split “Sugar Magnolia,” and one of the strongest versions of “Satisfaction” you'll hear from this band.

After the Oops! shows in Amsterdam, the Dead tour closed with shows in Paris (a solid “Shakedown,” “Estimated” > “Eyes” and “Morning Dew”) and Barcelona—the only concert Jerry ever played in his father's homeland. That last one is a keeper, too, with a “Jack Straw” > “Franklin's” opener and sublime versions of “Let It Grow,” “Scarlet > Fire” and “Stella Blue.”

It would be nine years before the Dead returned to Europe.

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I've long wondered why I almost never hear anyone talk about the Dead's fall 1981 tour of Europe. After all, 1981 was a generally strong year for the band. Brent had fully settled in by then, and though there were no new songs introduced, the best from 1980's Go to Heaven-“Feel Like a Stranger,” “Alabama Getaway,” “Althea” and the combo of “Lost Sailor” and “Saint of Circumstance”—had matured nicely. Substance issues notwithstanding, Garcia played fantastically well all year.

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This is a little off topic, but this article reminds me of a story...There's a glowing review in DeadBase of 9/28/72. It's one of those reviews where upon finishing it, I realized I must hear this show. Ah, the thrill of the hunt. So I obtained a fair copy, and while it seemed excellent, I wasn't nearly as excited as the reviewer in DeadBase. Years later, thanks to the Archive, I heard this show how it's supposed to be heard- the clarity of the instruments, the separation- the deep bass we love. Now I'm able to really hear the excitement within the music. A high quality source can make all the difference in the world. The Europe '81 tour may contain some of the finest music ever performed. But because it wasn't recorded to our standards of excellence, we are left to wonder what might have been...
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Do you think some of the missing Bob could be acquired through a matrix? I haven't bothered yet to check if any are out there, but wonder how well one would stand up in comparison. Perhaps, a little of the Phil Zone might be gained in the process, as well. That's pretty cool you listened to the whole Europe '81 tour. Didn't they play the OOPS concerts after shows in Paris were canceled?
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Like if a tree fell in the woods... Brings up a favorite topic of mine. If you could go back in time to see one show (and only limit yourself to the Grateful Dead if you absolutely must....) Think about it. Robert Johnson, Brahms, Hendrix in London, Coltrane at the Village Vanguard, Jerry at the Matrix... can't record em all, but it sure makes the rest of them that much sweeter.
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The two canceled shows were to be Frejus and Nancy, not Paris. As for the matrixing idea--I know next to nothing about what's involved in that, but it strikes me that the mix on the SBDs is SO unbalanced in most cases that they probably could not be successfully matrixed with aud recordings. I'd like to be proven wrong, however. As I said, the later shows sound better, so maybe a couple of those could be salvaged...
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Wasn't the GD Europe 81 tour triggered by a canceled Who tour, where the Grateful Dead filled in at the last minute? Or am I confusing that with some other sequence of events?
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I honestly don't know, Corry. There was the Dead's canceled '78 Europe tour that was supposed to happen after Egypt and the Dead borrowed some of The Who's equipment for Egypt... But that's probably not what you're talking about... I'm all confuzzled...
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Blair, You should also give a listen to the 3-shows just prior to Europe ’81. As a warm-up for the Fall ’81 European tour, the Dead played 3 shows, in 3 nights Fri, Sat & Sun separated by over 1,500 miles, Vermont- Park Slope, Brooklyn- Lehigh University- Back to Brooklyn- Buffalo- Landover- Brooklyn-Vermont, over really crappy roads, (as we say in Vermont, you can’t get there from here). By far the most miles we ever drove for three shows. The first two, Lehigh University and Buffalo are in my top twenty shows I saw live. Very well played, great energy and great set lists, hopefully the SBD’s don’t suffer the same fate as you described some of the European tapes sound. I have an audience that we made at Buffalo, (been over twenty years since the last listen) and it sounded OK, (we were in the upper level), and now I have the SBD’s of all three and will shortly give them a listen, as soon as I finish my current listening batch, East Coast Fall ’79. I will also give the Europe ’81 shows a spin. Thanks for the insight.
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I'll definitely check those out. I've gotten so many good listening suggestions since I've been doing the blog. I'll give a very late thank-you to whomever it was that suggested, back when I did my "10-show immersion" blog (whenever that was), that I listen to the 11/26,28,29 and 30/80 shows. LOVED 'EM!!
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I've often wondered why they didn't ever play in Australia, Asia or Central/South America. Just not enough following in those places? I know Jerry was supposed to go to Japan with his artwork, but that didn't pan out. Anyone know definitively? Thx.
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Thanks for looking across the pond Blair. It is well known in London that you wait hours for a bus, and then six arrrive at once. So it was with the Dead. In the years after 74 we had the depressing disappointments of the cancellations in 76 and 78. The suddenly , the Dead' play two four night stands in London in the same year and at last I get see them several times . By the way the Spring shows were in late March not late April. . It all blurs into one now, but what a time we had. So much was new to us, we were wide eyed and amazed . They were somehow a more compact and organised outfit than then one we knew from old records and tapes...less wild, less jazzy and spacy. But more funky and consistent maybe. Who cares, the Dead were all over London. Then the bus drove away and we were left waiting in the rain for 9 long years.
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Jerry shreds on the Sugar mags and phil is dropping megatons. The scarlet to fire is killer too. One of my favorite 2d sets of the 80s.
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I looked into my earlier recollection that the '81 tour had something to do with a canceled Who tour, for which the Grateful Dead took their place at the last second. The source for my memory seems to be Rock Scully's autobiography. Now, looking at Dennis McNally's book, it seems that the Dead's booking agent (Richard Loren) had just quit, and Rock handled the European tour (p. 543). So it's the usual thing--some Who cancellations may have been a piece of the puzzle, but how big a piece? Nonetheless, to the extent it was true, it may be another hidden connection between the Dead and The Who (just like the Summer of '75, which Pete Townshend spent in Walnut Creek, CA at a Meher Baba study center). Since the Dead had played with the Who in March '81, they would have been in contact with Who management, so Rock's story isn't so farfetched.
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...much as I like Rock's book, it is factually suspect. Even his co-writer, David Dalton, told me years ago that the anecdote in the book about finding the giant rock of cocaine on display in the German museum wasn't in 72 as stated in the book, but 74, and as I recall, might not have even involved Mountain Girl. In other words, dramatic liberties were taken. I thought it was interesting that Pete Townshend's recent autobiography mentions the Grateful Dead just once (the 76 stadium shows), in passing. No mention of Garcia, however, and nothing about the '81 Essen appearance...
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Not sure if anyone's mentioned this yet in the replies but...the poor quality of the sbd tapes, especially since the sound balance in the room was good as evidenced by the aud tapes, is due to the fact that the tapes are 2-tracks of the PA mix; the PA mix being the sum total of all the deficits in the on-stage sound. Vocals are generally VERY loud in this case as vocals would be completely non-existent without amplification. Anything that can be heard well in the room using only the on-stage amps requires little to no 'boosting' in the PA, so very little of it will be heard on the tapes. Anything not easily heard in the room requires anywhere from some to a LOT of amplification, so it will be much louder on the tapes. The reason Dead sbd tapes are so damn good (generally) is the fact that they spent the time and money to do split feeds even when they were not making a live album. By splitting the signals that are coming off the stage, one can go into the PA and the other can go into a separate mixer/recording device. These signals can be made louder or softer without affecting the sound in the room so a very nice mix can be constructed at the point just before it goes down on tape. This is also why there are mix problems in the first song (or two) on some sbd tapes. We just all oughtta be thankful that they spent the time and money on the personnel, tapes and devices it took to capture all these incredible gigs. The fact that they did it, and did it consistently and in such high quality over so many years, never ceases to amaze. Thanks once again guys.
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9-30-81 : Feel Like A Stranger, Ship of Fools, Samson and Delilah, Never Trust A Woman10-10-81 : Women Are Smarter>Sugaree>Lost Sailor>Saint of Circumstance>Eyes of the World 10-12-81 : Estimated Prophet>GDTRFB>Never Trust A Woman
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I've been telling friends for years that if I could only have one early 80s show in my collection, it would be 10/19/81 Barcelona. I used to regularly use that show as a primer for newbies. The Scarlet/Fire is one of my three favorites (10/20/89 Philly and 11/1/79 being the other two).
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I met up with two home town friends and two college buddies in London in March of '81. Got a phone call in Spain, and I was gone. I made it on a cheap ticket from Salamanca with a sack of oranges, a hunk of cheese, and a few bottles of wine. 30 hours by train, ferry and train! Stayed all four nights, was SO lucky to find floors on which to sleep, and had the time of my life. The Rainbow had maybe 500-1000 people that first night, packed by the third night. Really great, relaxed atmosphere. Haven't heard a note from any of the shows in good sound. But I have contacted TPTB many times to say how much I enjoy the College Park and MSG shows from the Spring '81 tour. Great set lists, especially those with High Time, Bird Song, To Lay Me Down, Sailor-Saint, and Althea. Jerry was on fire (make that two Spring tours in a row)! I also loved the Lehigh show, but I think Buffalo (the one I missed that weekend) was the one. Call me when the time machine is ready.
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Good summary by Craigeyler. I haven't heard the tapes in question, but following what he posted, Phil was probably using a stack onstage which was very powerful and plenty loud enough for the smaller venues in Europe as to not require much reinforcement through the PA. That being said there are plenty of times where plain weird stuff happens and someone won't show up on the tape, outside of that issue. I think of Merriweather Post 84 where Brent's piano is not in the mix for the entire first set... I don't know much about 81 but the worst sounding SBD years for me are 82-84 and 88-89. There are shows in there where the hi hat cymbals and vocals are cranked and everything else is a muffled wash. Truly painful.
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11 years 5 months
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Don't know if anyone mentioned this yet or not, but both nights in Amsterdam are circulating out there on video. Not professional, but highly watchable and extremely enjoyable. It's just great to see as well as hear the boys, particularly in this intimate setting. I'm a big fan of the Dead on video. So many amazing shows out there without official releases despite oftentimes great three-camera set-ups by places like the Capital Theatre in Passaic ('77 & '78 runs) and Duke University in NC (phenomenal '78 show!!!!). In some cases, rights issues are used as the reason for these not being offered as official releases. In other cases, less than perfect video is often quoted as the excuse. But I have to tell you, to be able to watch Jerry doing Pete Townsend-windmills at Duke is worth "putting up" with standard definition, black and white video. THIS takes the music and the history to a whole new level. And the Grateful Dead's body of work is very well represented visually. But official releases still elude us. Heck, the Egypt footage included with the Egypt Box Set was sub-par image-quality wise (and, in many ways, so was the band's playing), but what a thrill to be able to "see" it! There is so much terrific footage out there, certainly FAR more professional than what was released of Egypt. Maybe some day the powers-that-be will truly understand the significance and deep allure of this footage and release as much as possible (again, given the ability to attain the rights to do so). The close-up on Jerry's face during the '78 NC Bertha, Jer's wide grin as his face reflects every note he plays, every emotion that courses through his veins, out his fingers, through the neck of the guitar and out into the hall is magnificent and gives me goosebumps and forces a wide grin of my own each and every time I watch it. Or the Terrapin-> Morning Dew from Passaic '77 just nights before Cornell... Wow...Thanks to the internet, these vids are accessible, but to have them off the original master video tapes mixed with great lossless sound (it's time to start the Blu-ray catalogue folks) would be a Dead Head's wonderland. Here's hoping...
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Barcelona is BY FAR my favorite '81 tape!!!!!! Any time someone says there may be an 80s release I hope for 10/19/81 or 4/23/83 or 6/30/85!The 10/15 and 16/81 Melkwegs would be a really cool release, too. Essen 3/28/81 IS very strong (the Estimated is very powerful!) and is available in excellent sound and on video... PLEASE PUSH DAVE FOR 10/19/81 FOR US!!!!!!! Thanks.
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11 years 2 months
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I think Blair is a bit overly optimistic about this tour, his account of Townshend's contributions as "interesting but somewhat uncomfortable" I think gives the game away. For me, this tour, and the rest of the year, had some moments, but the corner had been turned. Shows would have, at best 20 mins of interesting music. On many nights Jerry just sort of mailed it in (does anyone really think the Rockpalast show is good, or, dare I say it, the Amsterdam shows, BORING!). Bobby's slide playing was often at its most annoying, and while Jerry would still occasionally be present, most nights he was obviously wondering about in his own mind, or half asleep. Wharf Rat jams would be cut short by Bobby firing up Round and Round or whatever, and his vocal "HA'S" were grating. To talk of Jerry "shredding" in a funny way makes the point. Jerry, at his best, was never about "shredding" per se, which to many sophisticated music listeners is a term of derision congering images of Bevus and Butthead playing air guitar. So Jerry shreds, Bobby wails, me, I fall asleep, and wondered if it was still worth travelling around hoping to hear 20 mins of interesting music. Keep this Europe tour, see the sites of Europe instead!
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11 years 6 months
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...You know I love you, man, but I think you're way off-base on this one. With the exception of a comically fast and inappropriate "Eyes of the World" on 10/10/81, I think Jerry's playing throughout the tour is quite amazing, and I love that chances are taken. I contrast that with the recent Spring '90 box which, good and solid as it is, feels very safe and almost rote to me in places, with little care put into transitions, even though the playing is hot... Europe '81 feels like it has some edge and danger to it... But of course YMMV! BTW, it's Jerry himself who cuts short some of his ballads with those annoying transitions into "Around and Around" in a few cases on that '81 tour. I'll never understand why! Clangity-clang-cl-clang! Criminal!
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11 years 2 months
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I'm just kinda playing to rule, you know what I mean. But I learnt much from your book about these years, and they did start taking their toll. I agree the sound on many of the Europe shows makes things hard to judge what is going on. The nature of the Dead's collective improvisations requires a reasonable mix in order to judge what is happening, the whole is more than the sum of the parts, so if you are missing parts, well, the whole is just not there! I will, as always, go back and listen to some shows from this year. As I hope I made clear, I did enjoy a number of shows that year, and hell, must have seen certainly over 20, but the spirit started to drag a bit, at least mine did. Not sure why, I actually am left pretty cold by the German video, and the Milky Weg gigs, as historic as they obviously are. The first shows I saw that year were very early in the tour at the Stanley Theatre, loved them, wonderful To Lay Me Down the first night, and the rest of the show was fun too. Caught Utica, Hamptons, Spectrum, Glen Falls, FIrst 2 nights at Nassau, Cornell "PLaying in the Barn"!, Syracuse, LeHIgh, Buffalo, those are the shows I remember! Some were "hits" some were misses (Utica, Hamptons, Glen Falls). I will try to dig up decent sounding copies of the Europe shows and give them a listen again. Hey, what can I say, I am a cranky guy! : )
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11 years 6 months
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...that the Rockpalast show is hardly earthshaking. I'd still like to see a high-quality release of it, as there is no other comparable video from that era.
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11 years 6 months
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Work got in the way of both these tours; I know I saw three of the shows during the two tours. All in London; I think two in the Spring and one in the Autumn. All of which I hugely enjoyed, all of which, at The Rainbow (not a big place), were, even if sold out, easy enough to move around in, and I spent one right and the front - and squeezed in there. Highlights few spring to mind, tho' Althea and Estimated Prophet hit hard - and Mickey's madness with the Beam I recall well, especially my brother's knees going when he started on the beam. The guy who drove us to that show was going to get us some shrooms. But failed. So a quick drink at a nearby pub, and into the auditorium. I say to my brother - shame we couldn't get any mushrooms, and the guy in front of us turns round - classic Brit hippy with rather lank hair and an old army greatcoat (de rigeur for many years) says "You want shrooms?" and pulls out some baggies of 50 Liberty Caps. Suitably equipped, I do recall we hugely enjoyed the show, but - then this is always true for me - I couldn't remember the set list the next day, nor do I know it now. No way on the level of '72 or even '72; regardless, these shows were a huge shot in the arm. I had naybe 3 or 4 bootleg LPs of the Dead, otherwise we had NO pre-internet idea of what the hell they were up to at all. So some powerhouse rock 'n roll a la Dead was more than welcome after a deathly silence. We'd hoped to see the band after Egypt, and that never happened, and after these shows had to wait another 9 years to see the Dead again. In that light - I loved these shows, and still visit them poor soundboards as they are.
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8 years 10 months
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Forgotten. I always found 1981 to be a great year for the boys. 9-26-81 was a choice send-off. Didn't know about the "Fall 81 Europe Tour" 'til the plane-ride home from Woofalo. That whole "New Wave" thing didn't help the musical/social relevance of us Hippies at the time.
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7 years 5 months
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...Brent was born in Munich, Germany. I thought he played great at the shows in Germany on the '81 tour, and I agree with Blair that you can certainly hear him nice and loud on the sdbds of those shows...
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10 years 2 months
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Yes, please, to my ears, this is the best of the shows from this tour, with Jerry reallly stepping up to lead this nite. I remember hearing the story about Jerry in Spain, where he traveled thru a village there and was able to understand every thing the locals said to him, even tho he knew no spanish.
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6 years 11 months
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It's a great shame that the soundboard tapes are poor. I was at the 4 October Rainbow gig and I didn't so much hear Phil's bass but felt it coming up through the floor. I can't remember not hearing Bob's guitar, but I do recall Jerry's guitar: the notes seemed to hang in the air. The sound altogether was good, a lot better than at Wembley in 1990, but the Arena is notorious for making even the best PAs -- and the band's PA was amongst the best -- sound muddy. It was a great gig, with a 'Jack-a-Roe' surprising us in the first set, and a 'Spanish Jam' appearing out of 'Space' -- very welcome. Could the Essen 28 March 1981 gig be released? As it was broadcast on the wireless, it should be good quality. I had an air-shot tape of it which sounded pretty good.
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11 years 2 months
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that story, unkle Sam, the Dead played in Barcelona, where almost no Spanish is spoken, nor in the surrounding area. Catalonian is the language there. Sorry to be anal, thats my turf! (But the show rocked it all the same!)
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11 years 6 months
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...reminded me that one of the cool aspects of that 10/4 show is hearing the crowd erupt at the mention on "London" in "Jackaroe" and of "Grosvenor Square" in "Scarlet Begonias." Local references were always appreciated!
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6 years 5 months
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Even liked dead set! Reckoning was a no brainer as everyone seemed to love it. early 80's JGB is great too!
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having seen Catalunian onscreen for the first time, being utterly unfamiliar with the language, my immediate reaction before good sense kicked in that was that maybe it was Esperanto, because it was such an interesting and relatively comprehensible mix. (Hey, I'm a comp lit major...) I'd actually like to study it some, it seems like a very cool language.
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out of the Rick Steves Barcelona episode in which he more or less says, no Spanish here! And has very endearing shots of the locals speaking the language, singing kids, etc. This was all pretty much news to me, but as a big fan of regional identity I think it's cool.
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10 years 2 months
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Thanks everyone for the clarification on the language issue, inspired me to do some research, very interesting language and Barcalona sounds like a really cool place.
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and I'd never really heard all this till fairly recently. I'd like to go check the place out too. Also cool is Galicia, where the peeps and the music are Celtic. The things you don't know till you stumble over them...
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A most enjoyable evening and partying afterwords at the Novotel Hotel next to Charles De Gaulle - Paris Airport. As there was a day off (the 18th) before the last European show in Barcelona on the 19th, Bobby was able to properly celebrate his 34th birthday (which was the day before in Amsterdam). He set up a mini stereo player in the hotel lobby but eventually the hotel made everyone go up to the rooms. I was a student in Switzerland and drove up to Paris for the weekend. An interesting coincidence, I ran into Julian Beck, founder of the Living Theatre, in the lobby - he was just staying at the same hotel and had not been to the Dead show, but it was quite unusual to have the juxtaposition of the Grateful Dead and The Living Theatre in the same place!!
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Hello Blair - and all you bloggers.I think it was a great show - my first with the Dead. Two unusual things happened during the first set. The drummers' section did not sound well during the first songs so the show had to be interrupted for 15 minutes or so while the stage people fixed the microphones and things. After that the concert grew to be a party. The music created a friendly atmosphere between people who did not know each other. The audience was seated in the Copenhagen Forum, but spontaneously people moved the rows of chairs forward to fill the gaps and get closer to the stage. Such an experience was probably common stuff in San Francisco, but it sure was not in Copenhagen - then or since.
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6 years 4 months
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I've gotta throw my 2 cents in here regarding the Rockpalast show in Bremen WG in 1981. IMHO this is probably the greatest video I've ever seen of the Dead period. I've pretty much seen everything available in terms of video, and this one is the best. Jerry straight up blows Pete Townshend off the stage. It is just incredible. Here's to hoping someway somehow more 70's videos surface because as someone who only got to see the boys in the 90s it is a real bummmer...
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4 years 1 month
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Thank you for all your interesting stories. I came accros the verb : to grog. I remembered reading Robert Heinlein's Stanger in a strange land and I was very charmed by jour use of its meaning. Peace
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    keepguessing
    1 year 3 months ago
    Sighn of the times
    Thank you for all your interesting stories. I came accros the verb : to grog. I remembered reading Robert Heinlein's Stanger in a strange land and I was very charmed by jour use of its meaning. Peace
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    rooster120
    2 years 2 months ago
    Rockpalast
    I've gotta throw my 2 cents in here regarding the Rockpalast show in Bremen WG in 1981. IMHO this is probably the greatest video I've ever seen of the Dead period. I've pretty much seen everything available in terms of video, and this one is the best. Jerry straight up blows Pete Townshend off the stage. It is just incredible. Here's to hoping someway somehow more 70's videos surface because as someone who only got to see the boys in the 90s it is a real bummmer...
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    CT of Denmark
    3 years 7 months ago
    Copenhagen October 8 1981
    Hello Blair - and all you bloggers.I think it was a great show - my first with the Dead. Two unusual things happened during the first set. The drummers' section did not sound well during the first songs so the show had to be interrupted for 15 minutes or so while the stage people fixed the microphones and things. After that the concert grew to be a party. The music created a friendly atmosphere between people who did not know each other. The audience was seated in the Copenhagen Forum, but spontaneously people moved the rows of chairs forward to fill the gaps and get closer to the stage. Such an experience was probably common stuff in San Francisco, but it sure was not in Copenhagen - then or since.