• July 27, 2012
    http://www.dead.net/features/blair-jackson/blair-s-golden-road-blog-shadow-moon-terrapin-station-35
    Blair’s Golden Road Blog—In the Shadow of the Moon: Terrapin Station at 35

    The 35th anniversary of the release of the Dead’s Terrapin Station album on July 27, 1977, got me thinking about that magical year and how—or if—that disc fit into that time, and the ways it represented the Grateful Dead to the outside world.

    First, a little background. By 1976, the Dead’s brave attempt to break away from the music business establishment by starting their own record labels (in mid-’73) and handling their own publicity, booking and travel arrangements, was weighing them down and causing undue amounts of stress. It turns out “hippie business empire” was an oxymoron. But the Dead were successful enough that there was plenty of interest in them from conventional labels, so when they went looking for a new situation, following a semi-disastrous interim distribution arrangement with United Artists, there were several potential suitors (in suits) waiting for them.

    The most appealing was the boss of Arista Records, a successful new label formed by record biz legend Clive Davis. He had desperately wanted to sign the Dead back when he was president of Columbia Records, but couldn’t pry them away from Warner Bros.’ tight contract. He personally courted the band—especially Garcia, whom he admired tremendously (and had tried to sign as a solo act earlier)—and managed to convince the group and their managers that he was the guy who could take them to the next level. Clive believed that lurking underneath that loose, shambling, hippie exterior, lay a chart-topping band with unlimited commercial potential. Delusional? Perhaps. But you gotta love that kind of optimism.

    Clive did have one major request. He wanted the band to work with an outside producer for the first time since the boys ran Dave Hassinger off the ranch back in the early stages of making Anthem of the Sun at the end of 1967. What, are you insane? The Grateful Dead? Amazingly, the band agreed, and after scoping out Clive’s list of potential candidates, settled on producer/engineer Keith Olsen, who was hot in the industry at the moment after making Fleetwood Mac’s eponymous breakthrough album. (He had previously worked with such disparate acts as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Dr. John, and the James Gang.) Olsen and the band hit it off right away, and in the winter of ’77 the band headed down to L.A. to begin recording Terrapin Station at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, Olsen’s recording headquarters.

    A genuinely nice guy and easy-going on a personal level, Olsen could also be quite the taskmaster, and he wanted something from the Dead that no one had ever asked of them—perfection! He toiled with the group endlessly, trying to break them of what he saw as bad musical habits. He had Mickey and Bill orchestrate their parts in a way they never had before—having Mickey play hand percussion mostly, rather than traps—and he made sure every vocal harmony was completely on pitch, every guitar part in service of the pared-down radio-friendly songs. With the exception of the 16-minute suite dubbed “Terrapin Station, Part 1,” no song even reached 6 minutes; two were 3:30 (“Dancing in the Street” and “Samson & Delilah,” which in that era typically ran to about 15 minutes and 7 minutes respectively in concert), and one, “Passenger,” a mere 2:48. It was quite a change from their previous studio album, 1975’s Blues for Allah.

    When the album was released, it seemed quite shocking, especially to those of us who had seen “Terrapin,” “Estimated Prophet” and “Passenger” develop and grow live over a few months (and in the case of “Dancing” and “Samson,” a full year) before the record came out. Not only had the songs been seriously truncated in a clear attempt to gain radio airplay, Olsen also had added innumerable production touches that fundamentally changed the sound of the band: sax and lyricon parts to “Estimated”; horns to the disco-fied “Dancing”; strings and horns to “Sunrise” (Donna’s moving ode to fallen road crew chief Rex Jackson); and a full orchestra and British chorale to the “Terrapin” suite. Most of those extra parts were added to the album by Olsen while the band was touring in the spring of ’77. But the group ultimately signed off on the album, deferring to their producer’s vision and whims.

    I won’t lie—I was horrified at first. I wrote a review of Terrapin Station for the San Francisco Bay Guardian (8/18/77) in which I lauded the album as “the cleanest-sounding record the Dead have ever made” and complimented “the power and instrumental depth Olsen was able to get out of the Dead,” but slammed the “heavy-handed (or is that lead-fisted) production.” “Sunrise” was “buried in symphonic rubble,” the orchestra on “Terrapin Flyer” “churns out a nauseating melody that alternately sounds like the score of a James Bond movie and a soundtrack of a Bermuda travelogue,” and with the appearance of the choir, “Hunter and Garcia’s stunning piece has been slaughtered by an overzealous producer! For the first time ever, the Grateful Dead actually sound pretentious.” (Hey, BJ, mean people suck!)

    The record sold fairly well, though not spectacularly, and certainly not up to Clive’s expectations. The hoped-for “hit single” remained a mirage. It didn’t seem to attract a new audience particularly, and it never gained much traction outside of the Dead world, even with the concession to disco, the glistening harmonies and short songs. It didn’t give a true picture of who the Grateful Dead were, and, as usual, it didn’t fit in with other prevailing pop music trends, from prog rock to new wave.

    In interviews, some of the band members were critical of the album’s grandiose production—particularly Mickey, who was apoplectic about what Olsen did to “Terrapin Flyer.” Bob, however, was so enthusiastic about the recording experience that he immediately went back into the studio with Olsen to make Heaven Help the Fool. I’ve always believed that working under Olsen’s benign whip at least made the Dead a better band, and that the spectacular spring ’77 tour—the first after the studio sessions—is proof of that.

    Once I got over my inflated expectations for what I felt the record should have been, I started to appreciate Terrapin Station on its own merits—as an example of what a producer with big ideas and commercial inclinations could do with an idiosyncratic outfit like the Grateful Dead.

    Recently, after not having heard the album in several years, I gave the disc a serious, headphones-cranked listening, and I came away from the experience quite impressed. It helps that I know much more about both music and recording than I did in 1977, so now I can admire the obvious craft that went into making the album. The precision in the playing doesn’t sound so antiseptic to me; rather, it feels thoughtfully arranged, with great attention paid to mixing different guitar tones within each song (octave divider, envelope filter, half-speed tape manipulation, etc.), varying the percussion track to track, and using keyboards sparingly—mainly organ, rather than piano—just for color, rather than as a constant rhythmic element throughout. The backing vocals are carefully layered with multiple Donnas left, right and center, blending with Weir and Garcia (also doubled or more in places) to create a creamy whole. This was the era of producer Roy Thomas Baker’s audacious and highly influential vocal experiments with Queen (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” etc.) and, of course, Olsen had worked wonders with the stunning vocal trio of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie in Fleetwood Mac. There was no way he was going to wrangle that sound out Jerry, Bob and Donna, but he did succeed in giving their harmonies an appealing commercial glow. He also used different reverbs in creative ways on everything from drums to vocals. It’s a beautifully made record.

    The orchestrations I rather cavalierly derided in my original review sound subtle and sophisticated to me today. (OK, “Sunrise” is still a bit bombastic.) The way the woodwinds and strings smoothly assert themselves at different points in “Terrapin” makes sense from an arrangement standpoint—if you’re willing to accept the notion that this is a studio construction not meant to mirror the way the Grateful Dead sounded live. I still don’t care for the chorale that comes in at the end of the “Terrapin” suite and warbles in the best Queen’s English until the final fade—it’s a bit precious, isn’t it? But on this latest listening I noticed something I’d forgotten: that the song actually concludes the last second before it fades out, with a final sung “Terrapin!”

    I’ve always loved the studio version of “Estimated” (I never had a philosophical problem with Tom Scott’s sax taking the solo after the verses rather than Jerry), and “Passenger” remains one of the group’s all-time hottest rock tracks. “Samson” is a bit compact but still effective, and “Sunrise” beats most of the live versions—Donna was always a strong studio singer. I never warmed to this “Dancing in the Street.” The vocal arrangement lacks punch, and without the incredible instrumental jams that were part of the live versions, there’s really not much to it.

    Terrapin Station remains a singular curiosity in the Dead’s catalog. It’s probably going too far to suggest it’s the Dead’s Sgt. Pepper (Aoxomoxoa fits that better), but it was definitely a bold stab at something unorthodox, a new way of presenting their music not tied to their performance persona. In the process, however, they lost some of their identity and diluted their essence. Still, its excesses were quickly forgiven and forgotten by the die-hard fans who never embraced it. For them, the real “Terrapin” was that one from last night’s show, or maybe the next to be played.

    I always hoped that we’d eventually get to hear some of Olsen’s beautifully recorded versions of these songs stripped of the dross and gloss, but so far he has not assented to letting any of the work tapes leave his studio vault. What was “Terrapin Flyer” like before the flute and strings were added? More like “King Solomon’s Marbles”? Someday, perhaps, well find out.

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The 35th anniversary of the release of the Dead’s Terrapin Station album on July 27, 1977, got me thinking about that magical year and how—or if—that disc fit into that time, and the ways it represented the Grateful Dead to the outside world.

First, a little background. By 1976, the Dead’s brave attempt to break away from the music business establishment by starting their own record labels (in mid-’73) and handling their own publicity, booking and travel arrangements, was weighing them down and causing undue amounts of stress. It turns out “hippie business empire” was an oxymoron. But the Dead were successful enough that there was plenty of interest in them from conventional labels, so when they went looking for a new situation, following a semi-disastrous interim distribution arrangement with United Artists, there were several potential suitors (in suits) waiting for them.

The most appealing was the boss of Arista Records, a successful new label formed by record biz legend Clive Davis. He had desperately wanted to sign the Dead back when he was president of Columbia Records, but couldn’t pry them away from Warner Bros.’ tight contract. He personally courted the band—especially Garcia, whom he admired tremendously (and had tried to sign as a solo act earlier)—and managed to convince the group and their managers that he was the guy who could take them to the next level. Clive believed that lurking underneath that loose, shambling, hippie exterior, lay a chart-topping band with unlimited commercial potential. Delusional? Perhaps. But you gotta love that kind of optimism.

Clive did have one major request. He wanted the band to work with an outside producer for the first time since the boys ran Dave Hassinger off the ranch back in the early stages of making Anthem of the Sun at the end of 1967. What, are you insane? The Grateful Dead? Amazingly, the band agreed, and after scoping out Clive’s list of potential candidates, settled on producer/engineer Keith Olsen, who was hot in the industry at the moment after making Fleetwood Mac’s eponymous breakthrough album. (He had previously worked with such disparate acts as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Dr. John, and the James Gang.) Olsen and the band hit it off right away, and in the winter of ’77 the band headed down to L.A. to begin recording Terrapin Station at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, Olsen’s recording headquarters.

A genuinely nice guy and easy-going on a personal level, Olsen could also be quite the taskmaster, and he wanted something from the Dead that no one had ever asked of them—perfection! He toiled with the group endlessly, trying to break them of what he saw as bad musical habits. He had Mickey and Bill orchestrate their parts in a way they never had before—having Mickey play hand percussion mostly, rather than traps—and he made sure every vocal harmony was completely on pitch, every guitar part in service of the pared-down radio-friendly songs. With the exception of the 16-minute suite dubbed “Terrapin Station, Part 1,” no song even reached 6 minutes; two were 3:30 (“Dancing in the Street” and “Samson & Delilah,” which in that era typically ran to about 15 minutes and 7 minutes respectively in concert), and one, “Passenger,” a mere 2:48. It was quite a change from their previous studio album, 1975’s Blues for Allah.

When the album was released, it seemed quite shocking, especially to those of us who had seen “Terrapin,” “Estimated Prophet” and “Passenger” develop and grow live over a few months (and in the case of “Dancing” and “Samson,” a full year) before the record came out. Not only had the songs been seriously truncated in a clear attempt to gain radio airplay, Olsen also had added innumerable production touches that fundamentally changed the sound of the band: sax and lyricon parts to “Estimated”; horns to the disco-fied “Dancing”; strings and horns to “Sunrise” (Donna’s moving ode to fallen road crew chief Rex Jackson); and a full orchestra and British chorale to the “Terrapin” suite. Most of those extra parts were added to the album by Olsen while the band was touring in the spring of ’77. But the group ultimately signed off on the album, deferring to their producer’s vision and whims.

I won’t lie—I was horrified at first. I wrote a review of Terrapin Station for the San Francisco Bay Guardian (8/18/77) in which I lauded the album as “the cleanest-sounding record the Dead have ever made” and complimented “the power and instrumental depth Olsen was able to get out of the Dead,” but slammed the “heavy-handed (or is that lead-fisted) production.” “Sunrise” was “buried in symphonic rubble,” the orchestra on “Terrapin Flyer” “churns out a nauseating melody that alternately sounds like the score of a James Bond movie and a soundtrack of a Bermuda travelogue,” and with the appearance of the choir, “Hunter and Garcia’s stunning piece has been slaughtered by an overzealous producer! For the first time ever, the Grateful Dead actually sound pretentious.” (Hey, BJ, mean people suck!)

The record sold fairly well, though not spectacularly, and certainly not up to Clive’s expectations. The hoped-for “hit single” remained a mirage. It didn’t seem to attract a new audience particularly, and it never gained much traction outside of the Dead world, even with the concession to disco, the glistening harmonies and short songs. It didn’t give a true picture of who the Grateful Dead were, and, as usual, it didn’t fit in with other prevailing pop music trends, from prog rock to new wave.

In interviews, some of the band members were critical of the album’s grandiose production—particularly Mickey, who was apoplectic about what Olsen did to “Terrapin Flyer.” Bob, however, was so enthusiastic about the recording experience that he immediately went back into the studio with Olsen to make Heaven Help the Fool. I’ve always believed that working under Olsen’s benign whip at least made the Dead a better band, and that the spectacular spring ’77 tour—the first after the studio sessions—is proof of that.

Once I got over my inflated expectations for what I felt the record should have been, I started to appreciate Terrapin Station on its own merits—as an example of what a producer with big ideas and commercial inclinations could do with an idiosyncratic outfit like the Grateful Dead.

Recently, after not having heard the album in several years, I gave the disc a serious, headphones-cranked listening, and I came away from the experience quite impressed. It helps that I know much more about both music and recording than I did in 1977, so now I can admire the obvious craft that went into making the album. The precision in the playing doesn’t sound so antiseptic to me; rather, it feels thoughtfully arranged, with great attention paid to mixing different guitar tones within each song (octave divider, envelope filter, half-speed tape manipulation, etc.), varying the percussion track to track, and using keyboards sparingly—mainly organ, rather than piano—just for color, rather than as a constant rhythmic element throughout. The backing vocals are carefully layered with multiple Donnas left, right and center, blending with Weir and Garcia (also doubled or more in places) to create a creamy whole. This was the era of producer Roy Thomas Baker’s audacious and highly influential vocal experiments with Queen (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” etc.) and, of course, Olsen had worked wonders with the stunning vocal trio of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie in Fleetwood Mac. There was no way he was going to wrangle that sound out Jerry, Bob and Donna, but he did succeed in giving their harmonies an appealing commercial glow. He also used different reverbs in creative ways on everything from drums to vocals. It’s a beautifully made record.

The orchestrations I rather cavalierly derided in my original review sound subtle and sophisticated to me today. (OK, “Sunrise” is still a bit bombastic.) The way the woodwinds and strings smoothly assert themselves at different points in “Terrapin” makes sense from an arrangement standpoint—if you’re willing to accept the notion that this is a studio construction not meant to mirror the way the Grateful Dead sounded live. I still don’t care for the chorale that comes in at the end of the “Terrapin” suite and warbles in the best Queen’s English until the final fade—it’s a bit precious, isn’t it? But on this latest listening I noticed something I’d forgotten: that the song actually concludes the last second before it fades out, with a final sung “Terrapin!”

I’ve always loved the studio version of “Estimated” (I never had a philosophical problem with Tom Scott’s sax taking the solo after the verses rather than Jerry), and “Passenger” remains one of the group’s all-time hottest rock tracks. “Samson” is a bit compact but still effective, and “Sunrise” beats most of the live versions—Donna was always a strong studio singer. I never warmed to this “Dancing in the Street.” The vocal arrangement lacks punch, and without the incredible instrumental jams that were part of the live versions, there’s really not much to it.

Terrapin Station remains a singular curiosity in the Dead’s catalog. It’s probably going too far to suggest it’s the Dead’s Sgt. Pepper (Aoxomoxoa fits that better), but it was definitely a bold stab at something unorthodox, a new way of presenting their music not tied to their performance persona. In the process, however, they lost some of their identity and diluted their essence. Still, its excesses were quickly forgiven and forgotten by the die-hard fans who never embraced it. For them, the real “Terrapin” was that one from last night’s show, or maybe the next to be played.

I always hoped that we’d eventually get to hear some of Olsen’s beautifully recorded versions of these songs stripped of the dross and gloss, but so far he has not assented to letting any of the work tapes leave his studio vault. What was “Terrapin Flyer” like before the flute and strings were added? More like “King Solomon’s Marbles”? Someday, perhaps, well find out.

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The 35th anniversary of the release of the Dead’s Terrapin Station album on July 27, 1977, got me thinking about that magical year and how—or if—that disc fit into that time, and the ways it represented the Grateful Dead to the outside world.

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Great column! What a great line: "Delusional? Perhaps. But you gotta love that kind of optimism." I suppose Davis was expecting the kind of results that Fleetwood Mac got in the late '70s. Can't you just picture Jerry and the band walking up to the stage to humbly receive their fifth or sixth grammy of the night? I can't either.This album, to me, best represents the the oft-repeated idea that you have to see the Dead live, their albums don't represent what they're like in concert. I agree that the outtakes and alternate takes from this album would be very interesting. In particular, I've always wanted to hear Mickey's tympani solo for the title track. I beleive he's been quoted as saying the exclusion of that solo was the most disrespectful thing a producer ever did to him. Finally, great to read some of the old Blair Jackson criticism (ironically, I was just reading Mark Twain's criticism of James Fenmore Cooper minutes ago). It reminded me a little of some of his rather harsh reviews of some Oakland shows from Feb. of '95 (which I agreed with completely). Without the occasional negative commentary, the positives just don't mean as much.
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I was "shocked" and less than inflated by the release of "Wake of the Flood", from Grateful Dead Records, in October of 1973. It was quite a change from "Live Dead, Skull & Roses, Workingman's Dead, American Beauty and Europe '72", all of which I wore out over a span of 3 years from 1971 into 1974. "Mars Hotel" was a better studio album, perhaps my favorite of all. 1975 brought us "Blues for Allah", when the band was on hiatus from touring. I'd heard a few of the "Wake" songs during the winter, summer and fall tours of 1973, enjoying "Eyes of the World" the most. Amazing how the Grateful Dead excelled on stage in front of a live audience, then issued studio work that was not quite as exciting, in my opinion. Record execs must've really been pushing the band hard for more commercially acceptable tunes, as indicated by the truncated play times. Blair's historical account of "Terrapin Station" is very good and a good lead into the future development of the disco-influenced "Shakedown Street". I really do like Sunrise, Passenger and Estimated, as suggested in the article. My first 3 live Terrapin's were in Denver, at McNichols in 1977, then at Red Rocks in 1978, and again in McNichols in 1979. 1978 at Red Rocks, for some reason, stands out.
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He just had to wait 10 years. I never liked any or those Arista studio albums before In The Dark. They get zero play. Brent's songs on GTH are pretty cool.
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I can almost feel the pain and passion you have throughout the evolution of what you describe as a love/hate relationship with the album. Something, that I can only experience through sound or pictures, perhaps eyes. Thank you so much for sharing that experience so candidly. One thing I will say about the album, it's by far one of my favorites at times. All the while it never captures the essence of the Grateful Dead Live. However, I feel and this is from a younger perspective, that the album does capture the true essence of the Grateful Dead. What I mean by the true essence, has to be the raw talent harnessed by Mr. Olsen (ironically Keith or is it?) straight out of the pen. Who else could have pulled that beautiful mess of endless jams into a single diatribe of bliss? Furthurmore, I would have to say that I personally think, after listening to the archive, the Band took a step beyond with that kind of restraint. A step beyond into the stars, they had the essence and could let it just fly. You can hear the difference in their playing live after that album and experience. They became tighter, on a dime, yet lose all at the same time. I can't imagine what else was going on in the background just from books and interviews, but I can imagine how good it must have felt. You eloquently stated part of this theory of mine in your article. Thank you for always guiding me on this journey with history, emotion, and insight.
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I wish cell phones had the penetration they do now when the GD was touring. It would have been so much easier to find people
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thanks Blair..this sort of answers the question about why there has never been a 'Terrapin Naked' release as was done for 'Let it Be'. But can anyone explain how Keith Olsen can 'own' the tapes of the session. The fact that apparently he will not release these tapes also suggests that the expanded edition from 2004 was not remixed from the original tapes, although it does include a credit for mixing as well as some studio outtakes. Care to explain further? Thanks.
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it is also worth noting that the author of the orchestral atrocities on Terrapin had a pretty impeccable track record; admired by Miles Davis and arranger for 'On the Corner; also for the Stones, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Blood Sweat and Tears etc etc. It wasn't as if Olsen was short changing them. Quite then how Buckmaster/Olsen managed to make such a monumental mess of Terrapin I have no real idea. Possibly because their contributions were recorded in London and tacked on afterwards with no direct involvement with the band......
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Arranger Paul Buckmaster does deserve a shout-out. He had done fantastic work with Elton John, of course, and also the haunting string arrangement on the Stones' "Moonlight Mile," one of my all-time favorite songs. AS for the ownership issue, that's a tough one and an ongoing point of contention. I presume that the final completed stereo masters are owned/controlled by Arista, but it's the raw stuff ("Naked," as you aptly put it... I do love "Let It Be Naked"--though I miss some of the cool, funny connective stuff they left off... "Dig It," and such) that is not accessible...
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This album did get a very good push in the record stores, no doubt due to Clive's personal efforts. I remember vividly my first look at the cover of this album in Beacon Records. It was in the middle of a pile (perhaps 10 on a table) of new releases but the railroad/terrapin theme just hooked my attention. Didn't intend to buy the album but was definitely impulsed by the art & marketing. I think Clive did good for the Dead, whatever the reception/review of the album. After buying it I listened to it a lot in the ensuing two months and reviewed it for my college newspaper. I still remember one line from that review. "The song Terrapin Station drifts through your mind like a fine hashish wafting across the room." I think Terrapin Station is one of the great studio albums of the Dead, whatever the technical flaws, and other impressions of the technical crowd. I think there is a point at which you know too much for you're own good and this album is a perfect example. I love the whole thing and wouldn't change a note or an instrument. So there!
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"I never had a philosophical problem with Tom Scott’s sax taking the solo after the verses rather than Jerry" Never wrong to complain about Tom Scott in my view, or, really, about horns on Dead albums. I have to admit that one of my favorite aspects of various guest artistes at shows over the years was getting some horns in the mix.
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Its hard for me to get up much enthusiasm for Terrapin as an album---does any Head actually ever wake up and think, "I want to here the album version of XXX" (fill in any song from the album)? Estimated--hell there are so many great live versions? A 3:16 Dancing?? All we realize from it is that the Dead were always vocally a weak band. Passenger, more or less a throw-away song anyway, occassionally Jerry rose to the occassion and took a hot solo live. Sunrise---does anyone EVER wake up wanting to hear this song (and I am NOT a Donna hater!)? As for the Terrapin suite, well it is interesting to hear the whole thing, but it hardly moves one like great live versions, and the Dead more or less washed their hands of it w.r.t. its final form. For me Terrapin is the first of the Dead albums for which there is basically never any reason to put it on! My inspiration never flows listening to it!
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...for the simplicity in the approach for the album "In The Dark". They went back to their roots which make Workingman's Dead and American Beauty work so great. In regards to the Arista era, Terrapin Station, Shakedown Street, Go To Heaven and Built To Last all sound either over-produced or under-produced to my ears. My opinion is that they were at their best as a live band, and the recordings that have that feel are a more pleasurable listening experience. On the other hand, Anthem of the Sun was a successful marriage of roots and production value.
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Funny you would mention "King Solomon's Marbles." Listening to Furthur's version of the Terrapin suite from Bethel Woods on the 15th, I felt a direct connection to Blues for Allah. It was buried in Olsen's production and never fully realized in performance by the Dead but really emerges in Furthur's interpretation.Your essay brings this to mind as well: How might Olsen's discipline and approach -- and the things the band learned about themselves as they worked with him -- have affected future songwriting?
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'75-'78 was Jerry's last great concentrated burst of songwriting, encompassing the "Blues for Allah" material, the "Terrapin" suite and those solid (and underrated) "Cats Under the Stars" tunes. After that, Jerry's drug addiction appears to hinder his songwriting output, and over the next several years, all we get is one or two songs at a time-- "Althea" and "Alabama," "Run for the Roses," "Day Job," "Touch of Grey," "West L.A. Fadeaway"-- until a couple of post-coma stretches that produce late- period gems such as "Black Muddy River," "Standing on the Moon," "So Many Roads," "Lazy River Road," "Foolish Heart," "Days Between," etc. I agree with you about Furthur's full "Terrapins". Consistently great! Kudos to Bob for encouraging that to happen...
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now we play for Clive." ~ Bob Weir This was the heyday of my youth. My first exposure to Estimated and Terrapin came on 5/28/77. When this album came out a few months later, my first reaction was, "Okay, but they sure sounded better at the show. At least now we've got the chords and lyrics documented so we can try to cover it with the band." Oddly, I've never owned a copy of this recording myself, and if I did I probably wouldn't listen to it much at all. The live shows from that period are so much more compelling. I believe the Official Release history bears this out. Still, I have very much enjoyed Furthur's dusting off of the portions of the Terrapin suite that GD never saw fit to tackle. Hopefully Badger can catch one of those while he's up in the PNW and it might wash that chorus right out of his ears.
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Thanks to Blair for a great article. What I love about this album is the vocal passage during "At A Siding" at the end of Terrapin. When I first discovered the GD, this was one of my favorites. Hunter's lyrics, combined with the instrumental nuances and subtlety of Garcia's voice, create an atmosphere of haunting beauty. Of courseit was later learned this portion was never performed live- except for the (instrumental only) version on 3/18/77. I get the same feeling from At A Siding when I hear live performances of World To Give- the glint of gold in the miner's pan.
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I don't call this a Grateful Dead album, It a Keith Olsen album with the Grateful Dead as musicians. It's Steal Your Face (Money) all polished up. It has almost nothing to do with a Grateful Dead show from the era. This Terrapin does not sound like the encore of the 9/3/77 show (Dick's Picks 15)
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which is to say, very, I admit I would have liked to hear Hunter take the album version of Terrapin, with the At a Siding etc., and see where it went. Not that I'm complaining that he went down the Lady With a Fan path instead, but to me the full album Terrapin-suite lyrics have always been THE meta-statement of what was up with all this. For good or ill!
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I was about 11 or 12 when, in the mid-80s, I "discovered" Terrapin Station amongst one of my older brothers' records. This was a formative age for me, when I was soaking up music like a sponge, mainly from the collections of aforementioned brothers, and figuring out what was good. I loved this album from first listen, and still do. Every minute of it. Maybe I happened on it at the right time, maybe because I was too young to have actually seen them live or to have heard a bootleg or to have pre-formed prejudices about what one of the band's albums should sound like, who knows why, it fast became one of my favorite records of all time. It always mystifies me when I hear all the negativity directed at this album. I understand the complaints about the over-production and the disco-ness of Dancin', but those things don't bother me. They're part of the album's charms for me. From the first chord of Estimated, I find it a wonderfully weird album, something only the Grateful Dead could have turned out. Who cares if it doesn't sound like a live show? It's got mystery, beauty, humor, and yes, bombast--why not?
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11 years 5 months
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Not that any one song would be but I have to say that if I were asked for just 1 to sum up the Dead for me it would be Terrapin. I know lot's of people would say Dark Star & some others as well. But for me...........
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8 years 10 months
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the Dancin' version is nauseating to me. How embarrassing. I do like side two a lot, over-production notwithstanding. "with nothing to believe in the compass always points to Terrapin sullen wings of fortune beat like rain you're back in Terrapin for good or ill again"
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8 years 10 months
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Estimated is fine. Dancin' is playing right now...ick. the live ones are good, some even great, with the jams that are played after the lyrics. Passenger is fine. Samson is one GD song that I have never liked much (extremely repetitious.) Sunrise is ok by me. If Donna could have sung like that all the time at every show, how nice it would have been. (I love you, Donna Jean.) Like i said earlier, i enjoy side two a great deal. Oh, the GD.
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8 years 10 months
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there's jerry playing some hot guitar choir: terrapeeen, ahhahhhaaaaahhh!!! they should have used the monolith vocals from 2001: A Space Odyssey instead. THAT would have been something special.
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8 years 10 months
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sometimes i understand its charms, while other times i find myself asking "why did they release this?" i remember a positive predawn experience with it, Eugene 93, with little red rooster of all songs ("too lazy to crow the day"). proof positive that ANY GD belongs in the GD universe. (still waiting for Wave to the Wind to prove itself, however). right now it sounds pretty fine. another fine example of tasty GD cover art, too.
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11 years 1 month
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Living in and around NYC back when the album came out, one of my fondest memory of Terrapin Station was making sure my radio was on and tuned to WNEW-FM 102.7 every Friday afternoon at 3:00 because for weeks (maybe months) Scott Muni would play Side 2 all the way through. Great kick-off to late 70's weekends. Fondest memory was hearing Hunter play Terrapin Station all the way through (his Jack O'Roses version, solo acoustic) at Town Hall in NYC in Feb. 1980. Stunning and spectacular. Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee opening up was just bonus.
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Me -- I just love the fact that Furthur is adventurous enough to go for the whole shambam live -- and do a fantastic job at what has got to be an amzingly difficult stunt to pull off -- and they do! I love it. Wish the GD did it . . . of did they at one point or another? Take it Furthur, boys!
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11 years 5 months
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GD never did the whole thing; 3/18/77 was the only time they played the cool opening of "At a Siding," but Jerry never sang it live.
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11 years 2 months
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Terrapin Station overall was listenable at first but ultimately not really valued by me, nor were Shakedown and Go To Heaven. They achieved a sound as good as that on Mars Hotel, but such low grade material.... good tracks matched and more by the weak, and there were too many other good records coming out at the same time. So, the Dead's late 70s and 1980 studio records were relegated -- not party music, not as good as the average GD tape stash or the Stones' latest LPs, and not nearly as interesting as new wave and punk. None of these GD LPs grew on me over time. You could, however, make a GREAT disc with a few tracks from each (e.g. Althea) and I am not sure I would use Terrapin side 2. Q: Is there a hot single set from 1978-84 or so that includes Terrapin, Shakedown and Fire On The Mountain? I'd like to hear that one.
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In the futile attempt to explain the GD to non-heads (mind you -- only when asked; I never voluntarily engage in most futlile endeavors or at least I like to think so;-), especially about the GD) -- If ya dig it - great, if not, cool -- more tix for us), one thing that always comes back to me which I try to explain is that the GD is melting pot of virtually all genre's of music --true America in the form of a "rock-n-roll band". "What about classical" I'm often hit w/ to which my response is invariably: "Terrapin Stay-a-yay-shun!" Always considered the live tune classical music done w/ 2 guitars, bass, 2 drummers and keyboard player rather than full-on symphony or ensemble. All the more true for the suite, especially, the album/studio version. BTW -- all the genres which our boys incorporated into their music turned out to be the spring board for me to explore all these gener's of music which, but for the GD drawing from them, I never would gone out and sought out -- like Wagner, bach, Vivaldi, Rahsaan Rolin Kirk, Miles Davis, Coltrane and the complete list of allstars in blue grass/old timey, blues cats like Howlin wolf, etc., Completes the never-ending circle -- the boys bring it in from the source and we go out to the source to see/hear what else the source is all about . . . A True American Melting Pot (and not pot that melts, unless . . . )
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As a younger Deadhead my initial exposure to Terrapin was a little different than most of you. It was the third studio album I got after Mars Hotel and American Beauty, I chose to get it before some of the chronologically earlier albums or the more commercially successful In the Dark, because as stoltzfus said the cover art is awesome (personally it's my second favorite cover art for the studio albums behind only the American Beauty rose). This was in the spring of 2007. By this time the most widely available CD versions all had the bonus tracks on them. So when I think of the Terrapin Station album I always think of Jerry singing the Catfish John bonus track, which for whatever reason resonates with me on a level the rest of Terrapin never quite did.
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6 years 11 months
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That would definitely be awesome to have a stripped down version of the LP without all the orchestration and choir. The world needs to hear Terrapin Station Naked. I like this album much more now than when I heard it for the first time about 20 years ago but the raw version could be one of their best albums if released. Nice write up BJ.
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10 years 7 months
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Terrapin is a romantic and passionate album and definately does stand out from those that came before it. Thanks, Blair, for the insight and retrospective information. It's a good idea to revisit albums we haven't heard for 10, 15 years and absorb it all over again. I would get excited to hear Terrapin Suite with all acoustic instruments, complete with a dusty, sandy Egyptian drum troupe.
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11 years 4 months
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I think the inspiration for the words and music is perhaps far more powerful than the record. I just read that Robert Hunter was inspired by a rare thunder storm in San Francisco. Garcia was driving to the city at the same time was also inspired by the storm and had to turn around to Marin to get the music down. The next day the two met and lyrics and melody dovetailed with perfection. Now take the etymology of the word "terrapin", from the Algonquin word meaning "a little turltle".The Abenaki word is turepe or torope. The Delaware or Lenni Lenape word "tulpe" or turtle. The Algonquin language is shared by many tribes from eastern Canada to the Blackfoot of the northwestern plains to the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Cohuila, Mexico and many tribes in-between. Take the American Indian concept of Turtle Island as the North American continent and one starts to paint a picture of American identity. Throw in the classical sound and the middle eastern feeling of side two of the record and one feels a sense of universal mind. I love to album even with it's imperfections. A last note, Hunter was on a roof at night in the Soho in N.Y.C. days after 9/11 and has a story of playing the song acousticly while a great wind blew, all within view of the trade tower site. My first time hearing the Dead play the song live was at Winterland the following December and was a fantastic experience. Thank you Hunter for a great masterpiece.
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for me. The Dead started the second set with (my first) Samson and Delilah, Ship of Fools, (my first) Estimated Prophet >Eyes of the World > Drums > Good Lovin'. But then with that first Terrapin Station, I was taken aback with it's sheer power & majesty & found my mouth agape and a dumbstruck look on my face as Jerry told their fresh tale of a mysterious oddyssey "since the end is never told, the story teller.." they segued from Terrapin > Playin in the Band > Franklins Tower > China Doll > Not Fade Away > Playin Reprise. Whew... I was floored, the boys surprised me again, stole my face. It took me a day or so to recover. Luckily onto the next show... At Winterland on 6/7/77, that second set, after I was graced with my first Fire on the Mountain in the middle of a Scarlet> Fire>Good Lovin. Later in that set the mystic fable was revealed anew.. Terrapin Station> Morning Dew > Around. That triptic shook me to my core. As Terrapin thundered into Dew, I realized that Phil's bass was compressing the very air pressure in the hall, (Lesh 'chest compressions' sound familiar?), and I had to lean into that sonic gale to maintain my feet and not topple over backwards. And I then recognized that we all were breathing in unison..as one..with Phil's bass,...then with Jerry's guitar urging to us to follow,,, his lyrics beckoning.., along with the rest of the band's furious pleas...and then very walls of that old venue began to ooze, to heave, then to shimmy and shake as the Dead animated that old gal to do her dance with us all that night. I was delighted with the next evening's show on 6/8/77. And who can argue with bliss provided at Winterland during the 6/9/77 show which finished with Estimated >St Stephen> NFA >Drums > St. Stephen > Terrapin (my 3rd) > Sugar Magnolia. What a 'three of a kind' to draw to that summer of '77, I still shake my head in disbelief.. When I listened to the Terrapin Station album a month or so later (tangential story alert here but must stay on topic..no tangents!), sure I was perplexed. But while the vinyl didn't include the same aural centrifuge that this epic sonnet contained live, it was a connection to what the dead had decided to experiment with.. orchestration (?) dynamics (?) cresendo (?), but I could ride with that if that is their bend at this point. But please give me any one of those Terrapins in 1977 to return to when we finally get our time machine fired up. But you can catch Terrapin in the here and now, Furthur's Red Rock's shows have included those complete versions of Terrapin, as well as wonderful complete versions of all movements of Unbroken Chain, both of which have proven transportive for me! And I won't argue with anyone who wants to compare, but I champion the view that we are all lucky to have been on the boarding platform during the arrival of any Terrapin Station, be it a rendition by the Grateful Dead, by Hunter, the Other Ones, the Dead, Furthur, (or catch a Hornsby version of Lady with a Fan, tremendous!!),.......thanks to Blair & all for tickling my synapse to trigger a reminder of those daze, remote and recent, AND THE WHISTLE IS SCREAMING!!!!!!! The truth is realized in an instant, the act is practiced step by step.
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Orobos -- Awesome post. Thoroughly enjoyed your details -- and especially dig the last line -- The truth is realized in an instant, the act is practiced step by step. Apropos in SO many ways. Thanks. Eagle
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The original Dancin' In The Streets on the original vinyl lp version of Terrapin Station didn't include horns but the single version did. I've never been able to figure out why they've used the single horns version on the cd issues.
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11 years 4 months
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My first CD copy of Terrapin was a misprint -- I put it in my cd changer and wasn't paying a lot of attention when that disc came around. It slowly dawned on me that I'd been listening to classical music for 4 or 5 minutes without realizing it. Right jewel case, right track listing on the CD, wrong music. And you thought that the Terrapin orchestration was overblown!
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The terrapin station album was the straw that broke the camel's back in getting me into the dead. After hearing terrapin station come from my brother's room I was hooked and shortly after went to my first show (1/10/79)... Through all these years terrapin still remains my favorite. A few of my favorite live versions: 6/7/77 Winterland 1/22/78 Eugene 7/27/82 Red Rocks 10/28/85 Fox Theatre, Atlanta I would love to see a 5.1 surround release on SACD of both the original recording and a "naked terrapin" version. I'm sure that would generate much interest! Happy Birthday Jerry!!!
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8 years 5 months
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I remember when this album came out, the sticker on it said this would be the GD's Dark Side of the Moon. Well, that didn't happen, had to wait another decade, but still, I loved the album immediatly, especially side 2. Yes, it was overblown and way beyond what the GD were doing live with the song, but at that time I hadn't yet seen a show, and so, my views weren't yet jaded by those experiences! :) About a year ago, my 18 yo son and I had gone for a long drive together, and I stuck the CD in and blasted it. He's heard the album many times, but never in a contained situation where he had nothing better to do than sit back and grok it. At the end of it, he exclaimed, THIS IS GREAT! And, indeed, it was! BTW, if you're into Vinyl, the newly released vinyl of it is the very best copy I've ever heard of the album.
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11 years 5 months
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In 1981, 4 years after the initial release, Direct Disk Labs released a "Super Disk" half-speed mastered version of the LP, mastered from the original master tape. This version is so sonically outrageous when played loud that it is almost beyond belief. It would be interesting to compare this with the new Analog Productions 200g vinyl reissue, cut from the original analog masters (like the Direct Disk Labs LP). I guess this is the version rkeshavan is referring to. I am happy enough with my DDL version and have no plans to duplicate it with the AP version, so I won't be making that comparison.However sonically amazing the DDL or AP versions are, for me there is no getting away from the fact that a couple of songs are not up to par and the production is overbearing. That said, I do enjoy the album and consider it one of their better late-era studio efforts.
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You know that lady with a fan was a bit of a diva really. ‘You can only have me if you get my fan out of the lion’s den.’ Eeesh. Either she was really something or that sailor was very desperate. Having spent some time in Carlisle I suspect the most common reply to such coquettish behaviour might have been ‘You want your fan back, pet. Well get it yourself!’
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10 years 10 months
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Badger soldiers on...
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11 years
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So a terrapin is an animal that spends equal time on land and in water, where a tortoise spends more time in water and a turtle spends more time on land.Not really sure how to interpret that but I always felt that there was some connection to the soldier and the sailor.
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I'd never really given much thought to the fact that Keith Olsen produced the Heaven Help the Fool album. After reading this column I listened to the Terrapin CD for maybe the second or third time in the last decade or so. Meanwhile, Heaven Help the Fool gets pretty frequent play at my house, relatively speaking. I've always considered it a "guilty pleasure" since it's really late '70s pop but I can't help but like it. I'm not sure who decides what gets FM air play but it seems that Bombs Away could have easily been a top 40 hit if it was played on radio enough--or maybe my ears are just too jaded from listenening to so much GD.
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The division of reptiles called 'chelonia' includes all turtles, tortoises and terrapins. Americans (but not Europeans) tend to use the word "turtle" to mean all chelonians. However to be specific, the reptiles referred to as turtles live in or near the water and have adapted to swim by holding their breath underwater. The reptiles referred to as tortoises live exclusively on the land, typically in arid regions. Certain types of small freshwater turtle are also referred to as “terrapins”, but 'terrapin' is more often used in Europe than America, even though the word is of native American origin. In America terrapins are more normally referred to as “sliders”. Confused?
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Tortoises are land animals, yes, my mistake (or reptiles, more acurately). So the tortoise is the soldier and the turtle is the sailor and they find the Lady at a place called Terrapin?
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  • cosmicbadger
    6 years 3 months ago
    indeed
    ..interesting observation that the sailor hero and the terrapin are both amphibious. Unlike the land bound soldier/tortoise, the sailor/terrapin is a reckless romantic. You decide if he was wise. But since sailors notoriously have a girl in every port, I would have thought it would not be necessary to take such risks.
  • rdevil
    6 years 3 months ago
    Gore Vidal
    Very sad about the death of Gore Vidal who is on the short list of this nation's greatest writers. In his wonderful novel, Lincoln, terrapin is mentioned frequentley as a popular dish in Washington DC.
  • rdevil
    6 years 3 months ago
    oops
    Tortoises are land animals, yes, my mistake (or reptiles, more acurately). So the tortoise is the soldier and the turtle is the sailor and they find the Lady at a place called Terrapin?
  • cosmicbadger
    6 years 3 months ago
    Chelonian clarification
    The division of reptiles called 'chelonia' includes all turtles, tortoises and terrapins. Americans (but not Europeans) tend to use the word "turtle" to mean all chelonians. However to be specific, the reptiles referred to as turtles live in or near the water and have adapted to swim by holding their breath underwater. The reptiles referred to as tortoises live exclusively on the land, typically in arid regions. Certain types of small freshwater turtle are also referred to as “terrapins”, but 'terrapin' is more often used in Europe than America, even though the word is of native American origin. In America terrapins are more normally referred to as “sliders”. Confused?
  • cosmicbadger
    6 years 3 months ago
    Return of Jerry Live
    I posted this elsewhere, but I am so excited I had to spead the good news http://jerrygarcia.shop.musictoday.com/Default.aspx http://jerrygarcia.shop.musictoday.com/Product.aspx?cp=640_57727&pc=JYC… AT LAST