February 8 - February 14, 2010
Our first stop this week is at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, where the Grateful Dead were playing their first ever three-night run at the Brendan Byrne Arena. The middle night, 3/31/88, featured a very odd show ending jam, and we're pleased to play it for you here today. The post-Drums sequence of Space>GDTRFB>Miracle>Fantasy>Hey Jude>Watchtower, Knockin' featured a couple of things to note. First of all, check out the gorgeous Space, with Jerry, Phil and Bobby doing all sorts of cool things. The transition into GDTRFB is one of the cleanest I've ever heard, followed by a passionate Miracle into a terrific Dear Mr. Fantasy. At the end of Fantasy, during the Hey Jude coda, Brent and Bobby can be heard doing some outstanding vocal bits. Then one of the strangest bits of late-80s Grateful Dead music arrived: All Along The Watchtower. All I can say is check it out; train wreck narrowly averted, perfectly executed chaos ensues. Also, this encore would end up being the only time the Grateful Dead played two Bob Dylan songs in a row.
Next we have music from the final Grateful Dead show at the Hartford Civic Center on 3/19/90. We have the end of the first set, Picasso Moon, Brown-Eyed Women, All Over Now, Deal. This was the first time I ever saw Picasso Moon live, and although much-maligned, I thought the song kicked butt live, and I was thoroughly impressed hearing it the first time live. A nice, raunchy, rocking end, similar in tone to long-lost closing jams on Passenger. It's a great Deal, too, one of those versions where everyone locks in tightly in the closing jam.
From the same tour, on 3/29/90 at Nassau Coliseum, we have the start of the first set featuring Jack Straw, Bertha, We Can Run, Ramble On Rose, Masterpiece. We've selected this batch of tunes not only because it's really good, but it often gets overlooked due to the presence of Branford Marsalis later in the first set and in the second set.
Finally this week, we have the penultimate (there it is again!) Canadian Grateful Dead concert, held at the current home of the Hamilton Bulldogs (Go Habs!), at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on 3/20/92. I distinctly recall this day being a very cold, crisp, sunny end-of-winter day, and I spent some time in the afternoon visiting the CFL Hall of Fame near the arena. I also remember being in the hotel lobby when the band arrived and checked in, to a huge round of applause by a lobby filled with Dead Heads. From that show, we have Hell In A Bucket, Althea, The Same Thing, Brown-Eyed Women, Mexicali Blues>Maggie's Farm. This latter combination is cool as Mexicali rarely started cold, usually coming out of Mama Tried or Me and My Uncle. These versions of Maggie's Farm with everyone taking a verse were pretty cool, too. Hearing Vince sing his verse in Europe in 1990 was the first time any of us had ever heard Vince's voice on its own.
Be sure to stop by next week when we'll listen to music from 1974 and 1982. Thanks for hanging out, and feel free to send questions or comments to me at the email address below, with the subject “Grateful Dead” to make sure it squeezes through our state-of-the-art spam filters.
I would agree that 1970-1974 overall probably does stand a bit above the other eras of the Grateful Dead, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it towers above the 89-90 era the way Mount Everest towers above the Himalayan foothills. It's probably more like a sand dune at Kitty Hawk. Many times I've read glowing reviews of 70's shows only to order the CD and cringe during a 1/4 the show. The blended vocals were brutal and although Jerry's voice was clear often his guitar solos were high pitched and tinty. Then there's Donna....
In the 90's I often find the opposite. Jerry's voice will often sound like he swallowed an ashtray full of ashes but then his guitar solos with massage my eardrums and bring a smile to my face. IMO the ballads were peformed much better in the later years and since they had such a deep well to draw from then it had the potential to make each show a unique revelatory experience.
Also Bob Weirs singing is superb in the 89- and on era. Sure it was standard for hippie men to diss on Bob, but in my mind the reason for that is the fact deep down they all know that Bob could steal their woman from them at will.
For me there are bits and pieces and wrinkles and creases from all eras that are just as worthy of adulation as any other. My theory is people's favorite eras usually coincide with the point in their life where they were consuming the most hallucinogens. And as the effects of those were off and people move on to real jobs they often find they don't like the band so much. And of course the band has changed so have you but they still continued to play like men to a whole new generation. "Every thing passes every thing changes so just do what you think you should do (Dylan)"
.....the opinions are flying. I find it interesting that while most posters express a favorite era of Dead they all have a detailed knowledge of prior/later eras. So we were all engaged in the music enough to listen at large it would seem. I imagine that most of our preferences are linked to age, first exposure, time spent on tour, access to recordings and shows attended etc. I remember hearing that the boys once said something to the effect of "we are doing what we do....if you like it hang out if you don't then don't hang out. We all hung out so to speak. I would also expect that there were ups and downs during every era. I respect the idea that the Dead (the people in the band) were/are just travelling musicians who existed outside the hype we/deadheads impose(ed) on them. I think if they continued to be inspired, struggle with, be tormented by, enjoy the musical communion they had as a group then hey right on....and on and on and on....Peace all!!!!!! Spent A Little Time On The Mountain, Spent A Little Time On The Hill
Love the debate this has inspired. I think those (like myself) who find far, far less of musical interest and value in the Dead after, well pick your year, are not simply unaware of this show or that, we actually do have a distinct aesthetic sensibility at play. Sometime I worry that folks who think all the Dead's music is great are those same folks who ONLY listen to the Dead. They argue as follows: "all the music I listen to is good--thats why I listen to it, all I listen to is the Dead, so all the Dead's music is good!" This reminds me of those folks on tour back in the day who if you asked them how last nights show was (if you happened to have missed it) would say "It was amazing!", and that was always their answer! (Usually they could not tell you one song that was played, and often the evidence from tapes would strongly contradict their claim). I think, and this is, no doubt in many ways a good thing, we often transport ourselves back to shows in our mind when we hear a recording, and then since we have fond memories of the show, not just the music of the show, and can, in a way relive them, we transfer this value to the music itself. It is GREAT if you can get yourself into a better space/place listening to a show from any year, but it might not be the music that sustains this feeling. There is SO much that I find lacking in the Dead's music in the later years in comparision with, say 74 and before, even if there are moments that shine. It is interesting that someone picked out a late Ship of Fools as a counter example, for me it is song's like this, slower ballads that Jerry sung, that can have a kind of pathos which is extremely affecting, but it is often a reflection of his tired and battered state. I better stop before I go on for ever. Bottom line--give me a dose of late Coltrane before late Dead!
While I appreciate all you do, DL, perhaps a better choice would have been to play the first ever China Doll, Eyes of the World, Here Comes Sunshine, Loose Lucy, TLEO and Row Jimmy all rolled out 37 years ago today.
"That path is for, your steps alone."
Buffalo 7/4/89 was the first show I attended, and I enjoyed it immensely. I bought the dvd and cd when they came out. I still occasionally watch the dvd of Not Fade Away with Jerry and Brent trading licks, very enjoyable. I haven't played the cd in ages, however. Again, the music doesn't resonate for me like earlier stuff. To each his own, though. The Dead probably makes up about 15% of what I listen to, with much of the rest being very different. My tastes are quite varied and continue to evolve. (I've touted the Dead's merits on other sites, like bigtakeover.com, another source of music I've enjoyed immensely.) There was a time when I probably would have purchased Bowel Sounds '72 if they released it, based on my own preconceptions that the band could do no wrong then. Now, I pick and choose what I like, and what I like most clearly tends to run through '74, with many exceptions. In a gross generalization, to my ears in subsequent years the band generally sounded far less inspired and creative. Someone who thinks otherwise is more than welcome to their opinions, and more than welcome to share their reasons. This is art, not math. Ultimately, I've enjoyed so many hours of listening to the band. A great big thank you for making this stuff available for free.
i love that this discussion is going on, too excited to even read all the posts... in fact another page now exists that didn't when i started reading.. can't wait to catch up. so i had an interesting experience where a buddy came by and he was talking up a 94 Peggy-O. We checked out the vid and i was actually surprised at how much he loved jerry's solo. i found it so very thin and whimsical, certainly not the kind of expressiveness i've know from him, even through 95 at times. So then i pulled up a 67 Viola Lee that i love on you tube, and he couldn't stand it. i know the common experience is early dead good, later dead rough, but the elements of autopilot really resonated for that fella. he loved that it was an effortless sound, that in his opinion didn't even begin until 77. i used to be a real stickler for pre-74 myself, but i do play jerry in a dead cover band, and the last year or two i've been visiting David's TS and learning about the 80's and 90's material i had been ignoring. not only listening to clips and reading about folks' experiences (i became a deadhead at 15 the very day jerry died, CNN clip changed my musical life!), but now having played jerry's styles from various eras, i've gained an enormous appreciation for later dead i previously thought impossible. i haven't had the life experience some here obviously have, so not having witnessed their progression, or regression as some see it, i really can't relate to the loss of something once cherished. but someone earlier talked about how they kept reinventing themselves, and i just wanted to reverberate how that point makes them such a sustainable group, whose legacy i strongly believe will continue for many generations to come. so from someone who started at the very end, i gotta say, the music and history of the greateful dead is to be likened to one of the great wonders of this world!!!
To the ones out there that say the band had no feeling in their music in the 80's and 90's watch Truckin up to Buffalo 7-4-89. If you can watch that Ship of Fools and say Jerry had no feeling behind that then I guess I do not understand Jerry.
That is just one thing that popped in my mind post 1980. There are hundreds of shows in the 80's at least through 91 that are amazing!!!!
I confess to being a big fan of the early 70's; however, I did enjoy many concerts from the 80's and 90's. For instance, click on this link and listen to this little jingle. http://ia310812.us.archive.org/2/items/gd1991-09-04.sennME80.wklitz.96192.flac16/gd1991-09-04d2t02.ogg (head phones - turn it up!) Being left center, 3rd row, right in front of Jerry, the band was memorably ON. From 1980, that September-October run of acoustic first set shows was fantastic.
that many of us have been listening to this stuff, virtually daily, for YEARS. Very little objectivity left. whatever GD it is that you are currently listening to or prefer, it beats the snot out of Lady Gaga or Jay-Z or any of the tripe that my beloved wife and mother of my children listens to on VH1 top 20 video countdown. what counts is that the band played it for you right there on stage instead of producing the shleezle out of it in some studio in order to appeal to the masses.
Well I am a 60’s and 70’s guy as well. I listen to a little from the 80’s and 90’s when people I know recommend it, but that’s about it. Well of course folks can like whatever they like! What matters to me more was if the band were happy in what they were doing. For me the best of the Dead was when there was that unconfined joy, freedom, inventiveness and even humour in what they were doing, even when it did not always work. In those later years were they really playing for the joy of it or because they had to carry an ever growing burden of contracts, obligations, habits, material and personal demands? The sight and sound of Jerry standing alone, isolated, fumbling with the words and his guitar are unbearable for me. Actually I hear more joy in more of the 90’s JGB shows than Dead shows. Why oh why did they not take a proper break when Brent died? Now listening to the new 24 bit matrix of 6-23-74...now there was a band beyond description.