We're going to stop into a couple of fine years this week, specifically 1979 and 1973.
Out first couple of stops will be on the excellent 1979 Fall Tour. The tour began, really, toward the end of October, featured the two great shows in Cape Cod, the Philly shows, Buffalo, Nassau, Cap Center and Ann Arbor. Some of these shows, of course, have been compiled into the first installment of the Road Trips series. Brent was already firmly ensconced as a vital member of the band, and this tour solidified his status. After Ann Arbor on November 10, the band took a couple of weeks off, reconvened for three California shows November 23-25, and then began a cool Eastern-Midwest tour on November 29. From the tour opener on 11/29/79 at Cleveland Public Hall, we have this raucous second set opening combination of Shakedown Street>Samson and Delilah. This was a rather common set opener at this time, but certainly nothing to complain about.
Next up is the very next show on the tour, at the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh. As Blair Jackson has aptly pointed out, this was a very interesting time for the Grateful Dead, as they could easily sell out major hockey halls such as the Spectrum in Philadelphia or Madison Square Garden, while at the same time still being able to play more intimate theatres such as the Stanley in Pittsburgh. This had been the situation for quite some time, but this was the tail end of the band's ability to do both, perhaps lasting another year and half before being relegated almost exclusively to the larger arenas. There were, of course, exceptions such as the Hult in Eugene until 1984, Marin Civic until 1984 and Berkeley Community Theatre until 1986, but overall the days of playing small theatres ended around 1981. From the first show in Pittsburgh on 11/30/79, we have the first set closing Dancing In The Street>Deal. There were some mighty Dancing In The Streets played in 1979 (Cape Cod and Buffalo come to mind immediately), and this one is up there. A great mix on the tape, too.
Our final stop this week on our journey through the Fall Tour of 1979 is the second Pittsburgh show, on 12/1/79. This is a tape that has seemingly been in circulation forever, and is definitely a show worth hearing. From the second set, we have the pre-Drums segment of the show featuring He's Gone>Gloria Jam>C.C. Rider. The Gloria Jam, really the only of its kind, is one of the best instrumentals the band would launch into during a year that featured plenty of instrumental improvisation, particularly just before Drums. This is up there with the jam from 5/12/80, 5/6/81 and 3/24/90, and would amazingly run straight into a terrific C.C. Rider, the first-ever version of this tune played by the Grateful Dead (listen to Brent's soulful organ solo!). This has got to be one of the most-confident and competent debuts of any song ever performed by the Grateful Dead. This entire jam is certainly one for the record books. Were there record books for this sort of thing, of course.
We have a bit of an urge to play some 1976 music for you this week, and because there were no shows this week in Grateful Dead history in 1976, we'll head to Dick's Picks Vol. 33 to Oakland Stadium on 10/9/76 to play you a couple of first set Garcia-Hunter classics: Scarlet Begonias, which stretches out to 12 minutes, still diligently searching for a partner that would appear five months later in the form of Fire on the Mountain, and the set closing Sugaree.
Finally this week, we'll stop in and listen to one of the most inspired of the 36 Dick's Picks, Vol. 14 . This was the final Dick's Pick hand selected and seen through to completion by Dick before his passing in August, 1999. And what a Pick! Aside from opening and closing with Morning Dew, it featured four hours of stunning music in between. From the first show of the run, on 11/30/73 at the Boston Music Hall, we have CD One's closing track, Playing In The Band, one of those lengthy versions that runs beyond 20 minutes, typical of late 1973.
Check back next week, same time and place, and we'll have more great music for you from this week in the Grateful Dead's performing history. As always, feel free to email with questions, comments or suggestions.