May 30 - June 5, 2011
Welcome back to the Tapers' Section, where this week we have a nice span of 20 years of Grateful Dead music, 1971 to 1991.
Our first selection this week is from the Berkeley Community Theatre on 8/14/71, the first of a two night run of shows presented by Bill Graham. After the Fillmore West closed in July, 1971, BGP had Winterland as the primary concert venue in the Bay Area, but Bill did continue to put on shows in cool places like BCT. From this fine show we have second set music, featuring Truckin'>Other One, Me and Bobby McGee, Sugar Magnolia, NFA>GDTRFB>NFA, Johnny B. Goode, Uncle John's Band. There is a cut at the end of GDTRFB as it heads into NFA.
From five years later, on the comeback tour in June, 1976, we have St. Stephen>NFA>St. Stephen>OMSN, US Blues from the final night of the tour on 6/29/76 in Chicago. This tour saw the return of St. Stephen, absent since late-1971.
Our last stop this week is on 8/18/91 at Shoreline, where we have the entire first set of this mighty fine show, featuring. Hell In A Bucket, Jack-A-Roe, CC Rider>It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry, BIODTL, West LA Fadeaway, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Stagger Lee, Johnny B. Goode. These shows, featuring Bruce Hornsby on piano, featured loads of surprises, including a first set Dark Star and a Scarlet>Victim>Fire on 8/16 and a cool second set opening sequence on 8/18.
Be sure to stop by next week for more tracks from the vault. Thanks for stopping by this week, and as always, we encourage you to write to us at the email address below with questions or comments, and please include “Grateful Dead” in your subject line to make sure we get your missive.
The prof is not necessarily wrong in his comparison of the Grateful Dead to the decline of an empire in history, but I think a more valid comparison is to the arc followed by a given culture or movement in art history. Briefly, a culture (ie: Greek) or movement (ie: Impressionism) is born in response to a creative spirit that demands to be expressed; that passion exceeds the ability of the artists to adequately express it (primitive stage). Later, the artist develops skills that allow that spirit to burst forth exuberantly with a fresh intensity (for the Grateful Dead that would be the late '60s. Ultimately, that spirit leads talented artists to skills that match the creative spirit that gave birth to their movement; this is called a "golden age" (early '70s). This combination tends to blossom with brilliance and beauty through what can be called a "classic period" (late '70s). This level just cannot be maintained, and inevitably leads to art created "in the manner" of the golden age, but lacking the original spirit and freshness (early '80s). Eventually there comes stagnation, complication, fragmentation (late '80s), and even attempts to branch out are just losing the way. Ultimately, it must end. This is a pattern repeated all through the history of art.
What I have to say in support of the Grateful Dead's career arc, is that their music of the later periods may not hold up in comparison to their earlier work, but compared to the music that was taking place around them, they were still bearing the torch of creating live music true to their roots, rather than commercial pap true to the market, which is where lots of rock went to before it died. I personally never went to see them after 1985, but I give then a world of credit for carrying on. I have now seen Furthur several times, and had a great time dancing to some of the greatest songs ever played. Is is like 1973? No, what is? But it is still pretty freekin good.
~ I'll meet you some morning in the sweet by and by
8/18/91 has a great set list. Train to Cry...Stagger Lee...JBG to end the first set??? I'm there.
anything pre-80 is going to please me more than later GD. however, when I look at it right (or listen to it right), later GD is plenty fine.
around and around we go on this topic.
Tell Furthur to get their tie-dyed pants up here to Washington state, please. Last year was AWESOME.
to two drummers!! : )
Thanks, prof. I appreciate your candor. And I do agree with you in a general sense about a downward turn, performance-wise, in later years, corresponding to health and lifestyle issues, the grind of touring, "stadium blues," etc. I guess I'm just hyper-conscious of trying to nurture that open-ness and curiosity that the band's music embodies for me and which I feel the music has sparked in me personally, and perhaps am over-sensitive to the kinds of criticism that I've too often heard non-Heads heap on the band, concerning Jerry's health or drug use or whatever.
It is the music that counts, though, and I appreciate the honest dialogue, and share your view that all opinions should be/are welcome. And you're right that the comment board format necessitates generalized statements.
In that spirit, I hereby declare that two drummers are better than one!
Gorgeous jams in The Other One!!! Phil sounds great and is hitting all the right spots to shore up this jam that goes in a few different directions, but lands perfectly back into the verse. Wow, good stuff!!!
I have to agree with grateful prof. I don't believe he is whining about David's posting every week of free music, which David does not have to do, rather than observing what was happening to the band. We all have our favorite periods of music, and we all can disagee what is the best era. Doing something for 30 years takes a toll on everyone involved.
Make that 6/29/76.
for your thoughtful and gentle comments. I do not prevent space for others opinions (how could I, and I would not want to!), only those in charge of the site could do that! I assume your desire, which I share, and which is admirable, is for there to be space for all opinions, including mine! As for sweeping generalizations, well, it is a blog post, no one want essays, and all we ever do is say well "I like this, not that". The Taper's section does allow, indeed invite, comparative judgements. I have found shows, late shows, that I like, via this site, and posts by those like yourself. Do I "hear" a general arc to the Dead's music, which tends towards diminshed interest after a certain point, yes. Perhaps you do not, that is fine and good. I try to listen harder, I hope you do to!
all about your prejudices, dead-wise, prof. We hear about them every week.
I just wanted to point out that it's a bit of a bummer (but only a bit) to come to the taper's section with an open mind and open ears every week for whatever David chooses to share and an interest in what people have to say about the music, the opinions, etc., and to inevitably find a post bemoaning in a sweeping, generalizing way, and in terms of self-congratulatory certainty, the imperfections of Dead music past a certain year.
It really has nothing to do with what years or what shows I like personally. I might agree with you most of the time, I don't know.
One of the things I love about this band, its music, and its history is the riches--different people find different things to appreciate in different years, setlists, lineups, what have you. Sure, there are shows out there, maybe even whole years, I don't care to return to often, if ever, but I don't disallow the possibility that somebody might find something they really like there. Having an open mind, to me, means making space for those "other" opinions and experiences that don't closely resemble our own.
I'll rest my case there. As usual, David, thanks for the selections.