Grateful Dead

June 6 - June 12, 2011

Tapers Section By David Lemieux

Road Trip to the Rockies, ’73 Style!

It’s been a while since we’ve dipped into the uniformly magnificent fall of 1973 (the epic Winterland 1973: The Complete Recordings came out three long years ago), and we’ve never put out a Road Trips from that year, so it’s high time we did! And you’ll have a high time getting lost in the majesty and mystery of Road Trips Vol. 4, No. 3, which consists of the entire November 21, 1973 concert at the Denver Coliseum spread across two-and-half discs, and then an excellent sequence of tunes from the second set of the previous night’s Denver show (11/20/73)!

Colorado has been fertile Grateful Dead Territory since the band’s first foray at the short-lived Denver Family Dog in 1967, and by the time 1973 rolled around, the group had built a large and loyal following there the old-fashioned way—by playing killer shows! Y’know, we often talk about the deluge of great tunes that came into the Dead’s repertoire during that fabulously fecund 1969-70 time period, but from the summer of ’72 through the summer of ’73, there was a veritable psychedelicornucopia of wondrous new Dead tunes introduced, including a handful that appear on this edition of Road Trips: “Here Comes Sunshine,” “Mississippi Half-Step,” “Weather Report Suite,” “They Love Each Other,” “Stella Blue”; each a classic in its own way, and indicative of some of the exciting new directions the Dead’s music was heading.

All of those except “They Love Each Other” turned up on the Dead’s exceptional Wake of the Flood album, released in mid-October 1973. It was the band’s first studio record since American Beauty three years earlier, and also the maiden release on their own Grateful Dead Records label, so they were way jazzed to be out there on the road digging into their recent tunes, several of which proved to be fine jamming vehicles and were instantly popular with the group’s ever-growing fan base.

The first set of 11/21/73 is a rock-solid and varied collection of tunes, including several “western” numbers (“Jack Straw,” “Me and My Uncle,” “Mexicali Blues”), a lovely “Brokedown Palace” (remember when that could turn up almost anywhere in a show?), a lilting and crystalline “Here Comes Sunshine” and a beautifully developed “Weather Report Suite”—already a monumental song after just three months!

The second set is where the fireworks really go off, however. It’s dominated by a spectacular hour-long medley that begins with “Half-Step,” segues into “Playing in the Band,” travels 715 miles due south for a little gunplay in “El Paso,” dips back into the “Playing” jam for spell, then into a superb “Wharf Rat,” back to a dynamic “Playing” reprise, and is topped off by one of the best versions of “Morning Dew” from this period. Nice! There’s plenty of show after that, too, with “Truckin’” rolling into a rare “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” then “Goin’ Down the Road” and “Saturday Night” as the rockin’ capper. “Uncle John’s” is the perfect anthemic encore.

Filling out Disc Three is a meaty triumvirate from 11/20 consisting of “Truckin’,” a typically convoluted and exciting “Other One,” and then a lovely “Stella Blue” that ends this Road Trips on a particularly poignant note.

As always, there is a CD booklet containing an essay about the show and period photos, and sonically this is certain to meet (or exceed) your expectations—once again it has been mastered to HDCD specs for maximum punch and clarity.

To see the complete song list for the three discs and to order this satisfying slice of Rocky Mountain Dead, click here.

- Blair Jackson

Note: Subscribers to the Road Trips series will receive their exclusive Bonus Disc with the mailing of this Denver set.


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Joined: Dec 15 2008
I was there ( plus ramblings on 84-87)

I remember these pre-coma shows very well. I was about 15 yards back on the floor, they had no seats of course. I was flabbergasted the next night, on 7-7-86 the final pre-coma show, when they opened up with Ramble on Rose and then I think they went into Minglewood. On a good night they could rock those songs, but opening a show with them, and at a stadium show? Really strange vibe and song choice.
Then( continuing with 7-7-86) they do Baby Blue mid first set. Having seen about 50 shows at that point I had seen my share of train wrecks (and incredibly stellar shows too, my favorite being 10-18-84) but nothing came close to that. Dylan wasn't even in the right key, and they just kept on playing. At that point I began to enjoy the show from a historical perspective because it was uniquely "off", and this was a huge audience. Jerry may have left the stage prior to the song, and when he came back on, he gave Dylan a knowing look like he felt bad, a "Doing my best despite" look.
Dylan wore a lot of leather during those shows if I remember correctly, despite the heat. The heat was bad enough that a 17 year old kid like me almost passed out so how the band- and particularly Jerry-managed was beyond me.
Then they did a Playing. I think that was the time Parish refers to when Jerry split the stage mid-jam. Turns out he had to relieve himself, but I guess he couldn't, something to do with his diabetes. As I mentioned I was very close to the stage. I was very familiar with the typical routine of which members would leave the stage and when, and it was unprecedented that Jerry would just split mid jam at this earlypoint in the set.This furthered the intrigue and sense of history for me.
A little backstory on my perception of Jerry's health: my first show was 83 and Jerry's health was always a huge concern. It wasn't a side topic, it was always a main focal point for heads then, and it was very hard to reconcile the fact that the same guy in front of us was, only 7 years earlier, full of energy.What a huge transformation he underwent between 78 and 83! In 84 he was nearly immobile and completely unkempt ( but his guitar playing was at times incredible). He was kind of like a combination of a shaman, guru, guitar genius, historical figure, and bigfoot- and I was in awe of him!
He was the center of the band's and the crowd's universe and he was in such sorry shape, it was amazing they continued and didn't do something. Kind of like when you have a family get together and one of the people is really, really "out there" but no one addresses it at all. How he made it through 84 up until his arrest is Golden Gate Park is a medical miracle.
Back to this show, during Playing, when Jerry abruptly left the stage, Bob and Phil did their best to do some jamming w/o Jerry- and in fact it was pretty cool to see them wing it like that-and then Jerry came back on and went right in Terrapin.
Then Jerry went into a coma and it seemed like the whole way of life was in jeopardy.
I'll tell you what, when Jerry came back to the East Coast after the coma in 87, that first tour was INSANE. The crowd on the East Coast was constantly at near pandemonium level on many nights due to sheer joy that the band was still in existence.
Jerry carried himself completely differently post-coma, at least for a couple of years (I only saw a couple of shows with Bruce and never saw Vince). In 83 and 84 he was often immobile, huge, super long grimy hair, and stared at the floor. Mind you I am not saying this as a put down, I was actually very impressed with his outlaw look. After the Golden Gate arrest in early 85 he got a very short haircut and put on even more weight, but seemed more together.
The band had picked up a lot more energy in 85- super short set lists- but he was still in poor health and usually didn't move too much. As 85 wore on, he seemed to get better and more alert, with 86 seeming even better in terms of alertness. But when he came around after the coma, he was a completely different person, and it was a one of the thrills of my life to see him like that after nearly losing him and my greatest passion, which was going to shows.
He radiated energy and confidence and was all smiles. His playing was in top form. One show that I saw in Hampton 3-27-87 where they opened with Alabama->Greatest and then closed the set with Music Never Stopped, Jerry's playing was MONSTROUS. I have not heard a good copy of that show, even on the archive, but I would love to. God that was a great show! Please release 3-27-87 David!

Joined: Nov 1 2010
foolish heart

that jam towards the end of the 88 LSD foolish heart is splendid. jam o the week for me

SaintSteveg's picture
Joined: Nov 19 2008
bad day at RFK

I think the '86 RFK show w/ Dylan & Petty was the last time I saw Jerry and the band live in person. It was not a happy day. I was actually more excited to hear Dylan than the Dead, since I'd heard them dozens of times and him very seldom. The sound was awful; I didn't even know what songs Dylan was playing. The Dead did nothing for me that day, though it doesn't sound that bad here. Jerry of course was not well, the day was oppressive, the stadium not comfortable, it was not a typical lighthearted Dead crowd, and on top of it all, my marriage was falling apart though I was not yet grasping it. If the Grateful Dead were the soundtrack to most of my young adulthood, this concert was sort of the grim transitional music to darker scenes to follow.

~ I'll meet you some morning in the sweet by and by

Joined: Aug 25 2008
Ahh... that was a long day!

The only Ventura show I saw was this one. Then we sped back to Hollywood to see Frank Zappa
at the Palace that night. Which come to think of it was probably my last Zappa show.

Joined: Jun 4 2007
Re: Penultimate

One more thing....that triple CD in conjunction with the original "Made in Japan" LP reflects "every single note" of Deep Purple's Japanese tour in August 1972. Two Scooby snacks for anyone who can identify what pivotal Grateful Dead show took place this same month.

Joined: Jun 4 2007
Re: Penultimate

PS: Check out the link and album. You won't be disappointed!

Joined: Jun 4 2007
Re: Penultimate

Ha, until very recently I too thought Penultimate was a synonym for Ultimate, just like iamagonzo, so I can empathize. I was called out on Facebook when I posted this:

"Forgive me, please. I've posted a link to this album before. But it is phenomenal. The intensity and sound quality is the best r'n'r ever. I love the Dead, the Who, the Stones, Tuna, Progressive name it. But the Machine Head lineup was the penultimate."

Sometimes you just have to say D'oh and admit you are Completely Wrong, as I did then and now LOL!

Joined: Jun 4 2007
Great Edition of Tapers Section

All three of these years are highly under represented on the official release side of things, though it was awesome that Road Trips: Vol 4, Number 2 brings a teaser taste from '88.

The '84 Ventura sounds great. A show I haven't really checked out before, and would love to see released.

Though the Summer '86 tour was a dark time for Jerry, there was good music played. The Alpine Valley shows I attended that year were pretty decent. For being an off time, Jerry still sounded light years better during this tour than he did anytime during '94 or '95.

Laguna Seca '88! Why haven't these shows been released yet? This run is just screaming boxed set.

More from these years please!

Gr8ful Dean's picture
Joined: Apr 25 2009
RFK 86

It was obvious Jerry was hurting at these shows. Both sets of the 7/7 show almost fit on one 90 minute tape. Only 5 songs in the first set! When they opened with Ramble on Rose I thought I missed the beginning of the show. Jerry blood was like mud.

Joined: Jun 5 2007
'86 RFK Shows

Ahhh, my very first shows. What a life changing experience I had there at RFK fact I haven't seen my face since then.....stolen right off o' my head!!!

I remember sharing a humongous cocktail with some folks I sat next to. I got the last sip and discovered about 20-30 pieces of paper at the bottom. I thought "that's weird", little did I know the weirdness was only beginning. I remember thinking for a while that everyone there was wearing one huge tie-dye with about 60,000 sleeve holes.

I was a total newbie at the time and it made it that much better. There was no internet back then and I didn't know a thing about the Dead, the scene or anything but a handful of songs I found on a record. Those songs led me to a universe I had no idea existed at the age of 16.
I thought I was going to a rock concert and ended up boarding a space ship...or was it a pirate ship....maybe it was a space ship driven by pirates.....or a pirate ship driven by space-men. Like I said, there was a lot of paper in that drink.

Mr. Lemieux, thank you so much for bringing these memories back by sharing this music.


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