December 31, 1985
FM broadcast KFOG-San Francisco - national radio broadcast - national TV broadcast - Bill Graham rides in on a giant birthday cake - The Neville Brothers, then Baba Olatunji opened
Set List:Not Fade Away
Touch of Grey
Tons of Steel
Dupree's Diamond Blues
Brown Eyed Women
Let it Grow
Man Smart/Woman Smarter
Ship of Fools
Playin' in the Band
Not Fade Away
Not Fade Away
Turn on Your Love Light
Previous Show« Oakland Coliseum Arena - December 30, 1985
Attendees of this show
This was the concert that was featured in the movie "So Far" (released in 1987), which was interspersed with clips of the band playing in a Marin County rehearsal studio.
At the stroke of midnight, Bill Graham came out dressed as Father Time and riding atop a huge birthday cake float that also had a dozen or so large muppets dressed as skeletons, Baby New Year, and other characters related to the New Year's theme. Bill threw freshly cut red stem roses from the top of the towering cake out into the audience as it made its way from the back of the coliseum to the stage through the thick crowded floor. As the cake float "docked" up next to the stage, the muppets and Bill Graham walked off of the float and onto the stage to join the band. Balloons were released from nets strung up on the ceiling of the coliseum, and all this was accompanied by the Dead wailing away on stage. It was quite the production!
The opening was the Neville Brothers who were joined by Babatunde Olatunji, who had opened for the Dead the previous night.
As an after thought, I remember that everyone who had sent away for tickets to this show (and therefore had given their names and addresses to Grateful Dead Productions) later received a post-card in the mail later from the Grateful Dead, wishing them a Happy New Year. The cover of the postcard showed the old Rembrandt painting of "The Masters", except the members of the Grateful Dead's faces were superimposed over the original Rembrandt painting's faces. I treasured this card, but unfortunately it was stolen along with some valuable personal affects about ten years ago.
I found the original Rembrandt that the above-mentioned postcard was patterned after:
This painting is widely known as "The Dutch Masters", or "The Cloth Guild". The Grateful Dead greeting card superimposed the faces of the band over the original painting's faces. It was very cool... Perhaps someone has a copy of this card and would post it to this page...
The fledgling USA network broadcast the second set of this show live at midnight Pacific Time - Three A.M. on the East Coast. I have the original VHS which I taped that night and still watch it every New Years. It featured the great Bill Graham Extravaganza with commentary by Bill Walton, Ken Keesey and Father Guido Sarduci - "It's Rasputan, no FDR." Guido: "No, I think it's Jerry Garcia." Other than the great Midnight Hour, Suguree and Throwing Stones - the best part of the tape is the Mary Lou Retton Everready battery commercial.
OK here it goes. Riding a 40 foot cake with a bucket of roses a fire extinguisher and a flame proof skeleton suit can be difficult. Try it with 20,000 people screaming at you with enhanced synaptic activity, add some pyrotechnics and you may be in for the ride of your life. Dancing on stage next to Garcia in a sea of bouncing balloons as the band whips out a ripping midnight hour might just crack your egg. An advanced sense of adventure is needed to attempt this activity. Been there done that...now where did I put my clothes?
Watched the show last night - the tradition lives!
Are you the dude (red head band) that was the last guy to leave the stage with a karate kick when the band broke into Sugaree?
My one & only New Years show...man, I had a good time.
"hey, there's Kesey!"
Was totally into the Neville Bros. at the time too, so a major bonus.
I bet I still have that Rembrandt postcard someplace...
I didn't really know what was going on this night...wonder why....but I have some great pictures really up close of the cake and the balloons and will post them as soon as I find a free minute. I do remember the "Midnight Hour" that was really great after anticipating that moment for 4 months!
I can totally remember Baba Olatunji chanting "The Grateful Dead is Love" He also spent a good part of the night walking the halls... This was one cat that was one of us.