Shortlist: December 28, 30, and 31, 1989 – Oakland, CA

The Grateful Dead played four New Year’s week shows at the Oakland Coliseum in 1989. These shows followed a two-week break and preceded a two-month break. The only material that’s been released from the four shows is a “Space” segment from the 28th, on “Infrared Roses,” a very worthy album.

I previously posted an hour-long mix from the first night of the run with a lot of songs edited into instrumental versions to create an unusual jam sandwich of mostly-Garcia themes. 

This complementary post turns material from the next three nights into a single, jam-song sequence of mostly Weir material, mostly as complete songs. I’ve created segues between all the pieces to provide continuities comparable to when “>” in the set list simply means that there was no delay between one piece and another, just a quick transition or a pregnant pause. 

80-minute mp3 mix here

(I've re-zipped and re-uploaded this file, because someone reported unzipping trouble. I think I just put some forbidden characters in the file name.)

  • Feel Like a Stranger (12/28)
  • The Music Never Stopped Jam (12/30)
  • Estimated Prophet (12/30)
  • Victim or the Crime Jam > (12/31)
  • Dark Star > (12/31)
  • Space (12/31)
  • Drums (12/31)
  • The Other One (12/30)
  • The Other One Space Jam (12/30)
  • Let It Grow (12/28)

“>” indicates unaltered Dead transition

I have a hard time faulting this moment in live Dead history. If you don't listen to it much, I think you should change that. In retrospect, a lot of the music they played during the final Brent Mydland year was better experienced live than on tape, even though the tapes are typically immaculate. By that time, many songs had become crowd-pleasing rave-ups and sing-alongs, rather than musical adventures. There was a jaunty mood nearly everywhere, which was both effective overall and something of a flattener of differences among songs. Fun if you were there – tight, infectiously danceable – but not necessarily an important thing to listen to in 2018. 

However, I’d agree with many others that you have to go back to 1970-something to find as consistently good a jam band as the 1989-1990 unit. These 1989 New Year’s shows might not be worthy of release in full, but you can certainly make a fake album from them that slays. 

When I was going to shows in this period, the anxiety was always about how much of the deep stuff you were going to get – which songs, and how many of them, would fill the slots where the real adventures typically happened. Every show you could manage to get to was so freighted with hope, especially if “they were due for” a big song you’d never seen, or never seen done really well. It’s nice to be far away from those years, able to simply dig through the shows - all now aurally attendable - and enjoy what they played, without the personal drama of shows, if you were a music-centric Head. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 30 years. At the time, it seemed like the future of The Dead was wide open again - a band that was again as fascinating live as they were on old tapes - and I remember how completely devastating it was to learn that Mydland had died, knowing that the wave had probably crashed, again. 

Shortlist: December 27, 1989 - Oakland, CA

Cover art by Neon Park: Detail of "Green Goddess," 1984

I’ll always be grateful that my initial obsession with The Dead happened just as the band’s mid-to-late 1980s nadir gave way to a final, fantastic period of live playing. It makes perfect sense that The Dead have released a slew of shows from Spring 1989 through Spring 1990 – a career sweet spot between the end of the rebuilding period after Garcia’s coma and the death of Brent Mydland. 

I decided to try my Frankenstein editing approach on an unreleased show from this period – taking The Dead’s improvisational temperature by removing a lot of vocals to turn songs into jams and easing transitions that The Dead hadn't already provided. I chose this show at random.

62-minute mp3 mix here

  • Bird Song 
  • Playin’ Jam >
  • Crazy Fingers Jam > 
  • Uncle John’s Jam (>) 
  • Drums (>) 
  • Space > 
  • The Wheel Jam (>) 
  • Morning Dew

Real Dead segue: >

Edited transition: (>)


Pre-Order 1973-1974 Boxed Set

Just in case anyone here isn't on The Dead's mailing list, pre-order has just begun for a boxed set of the band's six shows in the Pacific Northwest in 1973 and 1974, including my beloved 5/19/74. 

• 6/22/73 P.N.E. Coliseum, Vancouver, B.C. 

• 6/24/73 Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR

• 6/26/73 Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA 

• 5/17/74 P.N.E. Coliseum, Vancouver, B.C.

• 5/19/74 Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR 

• 5/21/74 Hec Edmundson Pavilion, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Shortlist: Pyramid Scheme - November 20-24, 1978

I decided to listen to all the Keith & Donna era “Shakedown Streets" (they overlapped for about five months), and it led me to this two-hour mix, pulled from four consecutive concerts. It simulates an almost non-stop jam that would have been nice to hear in Egypt, next to the pyramids and the Sphinx, on a starry night in the Fall of 1978. (The actual Egypt shows were a month earlier.)

Each of these shows featured an unorthodox second set sequence with carefully-crafted connections. “Shakedown Street” was brand new at this point (these are the 5th, 6th, and 7th performances), a second set song that they jammed into and out of. That song and the Middle Eastern motifs running through these shows precipitated some very interesting passages, even managing to pry “Fire on the Mountain” free of “Scarlet Begonias” one of only two times between March 1977 and October 1980. Rounding out this moment in live Dead, I’ve included the exceptionally rare “If I Had the World to Give” (3rd and final performance) and Donna’s “From the Heart of Me,” both featured on the studio album, “Shakedown Street,” released the week before these shows. This mix is very much the opposite of that album.

Two-hour mp3 mix here

11/24/78 Passaic, NJ

  • From the Heart of Me
  • Estimated Prophet >
  • Shakedown Street (instrumental edit) >
  • Ollin Arageed >
  • Fire on the Mountain (instrumental edit)

11/23/78 Landover, MD

  • Dancin’ in the Street (instrumental edit)
  • Playin’ Jam >
  • Egyptian Space >
  • Shakedown Street > Approach to Playin’

11/20/78 Cleveland, OH

  • Playin’ Jam >
  • Shakedown Street (instrumental edit) >
  • If I Had the World to Give
  • Supplication (instrumental edit)

11/21/78 Rochester, NY

  • Drums > Space >
  • Not Fade Away (instrumental edit)

Theme from Summer of ’73 – “The Phil Jazz Jam” (2nd Edition)

Cover art by M. DeNoor 

Repost with improved musical program. Details at the bottom, if you care. 

On the 45th anniversary summer of these performances, a mix ideally suited to any Deadhead’s summer listening. 

The Grateful Dead played live only sporadically in the spring and summer of 1973 – just 15 shows over five months, at only 10 venues. The Dead haven’t officially released anything from this period, that I am aware of, except the spectacular “Watkins Glen Jam.”

“The Watkins Glen Jam” is relevant here, because this mix is also an improbably long stretch of Summer '73 improvisation without more than a passing reference to identifiable songs. 

That summer, an improvisational theme in 6/8 that had been kicking around since late 1972 suddenly became the Dead’s regularly recurring jam, only to die out again in the early fall. It’s almost an extra Grateful Dead song from the period, sort of a relaxed version of Phil’s 1973-1974 “Eyes of the World” riff, leaning forward toward 1975’s “Stronger Than Dirt.” 

For more scholarship on this and other Dead themes, go here.

The accepted name for this theme seems to be “The Phil Jazz Jam,” and I’ve woven together five full-blown summer ’73 performances of it with other outstanding, non-song-based improvisation from that summer. 

The resulting mix is a five-part, early-Seventies “The Other One” from a parallel universe, in which “The Phil Jazz Jam” holds down that position. It’s an imaginary, extra “Watkins Glen Jam,” blown out to more than twice the length, with scads of different areas of exploration. It’s an outdoor, afternoon-into-sunset show in a meadow that you never heard about. It’s the unjustifiably neglected Summer of 1973 Grateful Dead, sending you a postcard from a wonderful place – a place that is not 1972, Spring 1973, Fall 1973, or 1974. 

67-minute mp3 mix here (with all relevant information included in mp3 tags)

  • Phil Jazz Jam (6/24/73)
  • Jam (7/1/73)
  • Jam with Phil Jazz Jam moments (5/13/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam (7/1/73)
  • Jam (6/9/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam > (6/29/73)
  • Jam (6/29/73)
  • Jam (6/30/73)
  • Jam > (6/22/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam (6/22/73)
  • Space (6/10/73)
  • Quiet Improvisation (7/1/73)
  • Quiet Improvisation (8/1/73)
  • Jam (6/10/73)
  • Jam (6/23/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam (5/20/73)

If you want more all-out playing from summer 1973, go here.

What's different in this second version? I've added notable material that I previously excluded because I'd posted it in another context, or because I'd overlooked it.  I've adjusted the track markers to separate every "Phil Jazz Jam" from any additional improvisation that it is attached to. I also fixed a section of one performance where the channels were flipped for several minutes.

Save Your Face Base

Image from Deadbase

The calendar below shows all the dates on which The Grateful Dead played a concert between their Europe 1972 tour and their last show of 1974 (boxed with dot next to the date). This is one of the handmade tools I’ve been using since I decided to finally listen to this entire period, my favorite. I recently recopied it and thought it might interest people who visit this blog. (A heavily marked up Deadbase X and archive.org are my other invaluable tools.)

Green on the calendar indicates a concert recording that The Grateful Dead have beautifully mastered and officially released, in whole or in reduced/curated form. This is a great resource, if you want to understand official releases by concert date.

Yellow on the calendar indicates a soundboard recording that I have posted highlights of on this blog. (If it is not definitively green to your eye, then it is yellow.) Sometimes this means I’ve kept as much as two hours from a single show; sometimes it means I’ve pulled together material from consecutive shows into 80 minutes of concentrated intensity. While I’m not always a stickler for the highest bit rate in my sources, I try to use the clearest circulating fan-master. 

As I’ve said before, my mixes are not meant to fill a FLAC-maniac-archivist’s sixth terabyte hard drive of Dead; they’re meant to be a cassette collection that you can carry with you and easily listen to, without wincing or wanting to skip to the next track very often. Hopefully, lots of them are previews of future, sonically-immaculate official releases. 

One way or another, each post/mix here offers a window into soundboard concert recordings that have not been released and maybe never will be (for a variety of reasons). If you don’t expect to listen to the complete 72-74 recordings in this lifetime, but you also want more 72-74 Dead in your life, all the time, then this jukebox-blog is meant for you. I never thought I’d get anywhere close to the end of this quest – even though it covers barely more than two years – but at this point (roughly 50 shows and 2.5 days of curated results) I believe that it’s becoming a pretty good map of the unreleased territory for anyone who’s willing to let a stranger give them an expedited tour.    

Anyway, this calendar might be the best possible document of what’s on this blog, so far, and where it fits into the gigography and into the officially released oeuvre. I’ll update the calendar and this post as I proceed.

Mixtape: I Spy a Riff

Cover art by Antonio Prohías

If you recognize a few of these songs, you’ll immediately recognize the organizing principle of this mixtape – incessant eighth notes refracted through a Neil Hefti (Batman) and Henry Mancini (Peter Gunn), 1960s pop espionage aesthetic – sometimes bent into surprising permutations. “The Lemon Song?” Yeah, really. HT to Matthew Specktor on that one.

86-minute, mostly-lossless-sourced, volume-equalized 320kbps mix here

  • Broken Days (outtake) – Bob Dylan
  • Brand New Cadillac – The Clash
  • The Lemon Song (edit) – Led Zeppelin
  • Car Song – Elastica
  • Hey Bulldog – The Beatles
  • TV Baby – Magazine
  • No Dark Things – Echo & The Bunnymen
  • Batman Theme – Neil Hefti
  • Candy Apple – Dipstick
  • Peter Gunn (Max Sedgley Remix) – Sarah Vaughn
  • Secret Agent Man – DEVO
  • Planet Claire – The B-52’s
  • Millionenspiel – Can
  • Map Ref 41° N 93° W (alternate version) – Wire
  • Incident on South Street – The Lounge Lizards
  • Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer – Morphine
  • (Drawing) Rings Around the World – Super Furry Animals
  • Rose Garden Funeral of Sores (live) – Bauhaus
  • On Top of the World – Cheap Trick
  • Fried Chicken and Gasoline – Southern Culture on the Skids
  • Happy-Go-Lucky Local (Night Train) – Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery
  • Peter Gunn – Henry Mancini
  • God Save the Queen (instrumental version) – The Sex Pistols


Microdoses: October 1972

When I posted highlights from The Dead’s three October 1972 shows in St. Louis, I noted that the month’s soundboard mixes are more often terrible than good, and that some shows only circulate as audience recordings and partial soundboards.

This post compiles everything from the non-St. Louis soundboards that I feel is worth keeping handy – a meager 73 minutes, including a couple of audience tape segments I added in. When you listen to what I’ve included, you may conclude that there MUST be lots more great and great-sounding material in those tapes; I’ll bet you five bucks that you can’t find any.

(Update: Jesse Jarnow won the $5. He puts the "Dark Star" here in his "very upper echelon," so I've added it to the mix. It is great, but I reluctantly omitted it because I find the loud drums almost insufferable and the nearly inaudible bass a hole in the music. Jarnow's vote tips the scales. Decide for yourself.)

The material I've selected emphasizes a couple of categories: The rarely played quiet songs and the full flowering of Phil’s “Philo Stomp,” an elaborate version of the bass/drum segments that often included the full band. This was the peak month for that elaboration.

This beautifully executed “Attics of My Life” is one of only two performances between 1970 and 1989, the other being 9/27/72. “Tomorrow is Forever” was played only 10 times (all but one from Sept-Nov ’72), and this one falls right in the middle of those. “Sing Me Back Home” is less rare (played about 40 times from ’71 to ’73), though there were only six more after this one. 

I originally posted the first track of this mix by itself, because it seems so extraordinary, and I include it here so it won't get lost, and because it is a beautiful set up for a beautiful "Attics." The last track, from the same show/audience tape, sounds absolutely horrible, but it also sounds like an all-out post-bop jazz frenzy that I'd love to hear more clearly. (Note that this mix does not attempt to document the month's audience recording gold; that's beyond my blog's scope.)

73-minute, FLAC-derived, 320kbps mix here

  • Quiet Improvisation (10-23-72 aud)
  • Attics of My Life (10-28-72)
  • Tomorrow is Forever (10-27-72)
  • Sing Me Back Home (10-26-72)
  • Truckin’ (intro and jam 10-24-72)
  • The Philo Stomp > Jam (10-24-72)
  • Quiet Improvisation (10-24-72)
  • Drums & Bass > Jam > Playin’ Reprise (10-26-72)
  • Dark Star (10-28-72)
  • The Philo Stomp (10-28-72)
  • Jazzy Jam (10-23-72 aud)


Shortlist: October 2, 1972 – Springfield, MA

Cover image: Scan of a faulty Polaroid photo

Springfield was the final stop on The Dead’s September 1972 tour of the Northeast. Afterwards, the band took two weeks off the road (playing a special hometown show in the middle of that break), and then set off for the Midwest.

The Dead have released seven shows from August and September of 1972, which is quite reasonable, IMO, and I’ve posted highlights from four others. 

With this one, as always, my picks reflect how well the particular soundboard mix works for particular songs. In this case, quiet Jerry and loud Bobby is the situation. Some songs work fine, some pop interestingly, and others feel too much like a rhythm section without enough of a unifying plot thread. If I've chosen wisely, you won't experience these issues unless you listen for them. When it works, this is quite a robust soundboard recording, on which all the players are clear.

Points of interest:

  • As far as I can tell, “Greatest Story” peaked in late 1972. Springy on top, throbbing at the bottom, with demented, melting Garcia guitar and that "St. Stephen"-like riff in the climax. 
  • This is the first “Nobody’s Fault Jam” since 1970, establishing its relationship to “Truckin’” for the next couple of years.
  • This is an exceptional “Bird Song," musically, though a bit droopy vocally. Both the playing and the mix make the jammed sections sound almost 1989-1990 to me. I sequenced it between two second set selections to emphasize the dark starriness inherent in a big “Bird Song.” 
  • There are some ragged edges and one big error in this “Morning Dew,” but I Iove it. It’s a little loose, a little delirious, but drama and momentum are intact. When Jerry isn’t ready with the words for the final sung section, I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. 
  • This “Uncle John’s Band” had really feeble verses, but the playing is mighty, so you get an edit. The fade-in is in the source.
  • This isn’t the first time I’ve made an instrumental edit of one of the Chuck Berry tunes, and I should probably make a few more. In between the barky verses, they could really rock and roll. 

60-minute FLAC-sourced 320kbps mp3 mix here

  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • Beat It on Down the Line
  • Truckin’ > Nobody’s Fault Jam
  • Bird Song
  • Jam > Feelin’ Groovy Jam > Noodling >
  • Morning Dew
  • Take a Step Back
  • Uncle John’s Band (mostly instrumental edit)
  • Johnny B. Goode (instrumental edit)


Shortlist: St. Louis ’72 (October 17-19)

This post reduces The Grateful Dead’s three-night stand at The Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri to the length of a single show. They played Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, October 17-19. 

These were the first three shows of a Midwest-to-Texas tour that ran all the way to the end of November. When they started in St. Louis in mid-October, they were coming off a two-week break, during which they played just one show, a benefit for their roadies at Winterland. They certainly seem to have been in fine form out of the gate. 

Fall 1972 is a great period, full of surprises, and these St. Louis highlights are a representative example. 

By the time of these shows, the band had been without Pigpen for four months and was already a different creature, well on its way to 1973 Dead. Melodic improvisational segments unrelated to specific songs are getting more frequent, and they can happen in a lot of different places. Keith is stepping out regularly, contributing themes, leading in more places. Phil and Billy are playing a bass and drums segment in lots of shows, and other band members are sometimes taking part. In October, Phil's solo ("The Philo Stomp") hits its peak. Keith and Billy even jam together in St. Louis, and the three guitarists played this incredible thing in October as well. 

Unfortunately (but don’t worry), the October soundboards – which we have for most, but not all shows – feature some terrible mixes, in which various instruments are too loud or too quiet, in various combinations, such that seemingly good performances are massively annoying and impossible to get inside or to casually ride.

The three St. Louis soundboards are among the best of the month, with lesser imbalances that don’t prevent certain songs from soaring, and that don’t get in the way of the improvisation at all. The 18th's mix is very Weir heavy, but that lends some songs an exciting, spiky kick. 

Anyway, for a month represented by no official releases and plagued by annoying soundboards, here’s a compilation that will please. 

Three-hour, FLAC-sourced, 320kbps mp3 mix here. Each show’s songs are tagged up as separate albums, by date, in the usual way.

Tuesday October 17 (67 minutes)

  • Cumberland Blues
  • Black Peter
  • China Cat Sunflower
  • Not Fade Away
  • Playin’ in the Band
  • Uncle John’s Band
  • Casey Jones

Wednesday October 18 (68 minutes)

  • Don’t Ease Me In
  • Big Railroad Blues
  • Jack Straw
  • Bertha
  • Loser
  • Dark Star (minus space) >
  • Jam > Space > Philo Stomp > Feelin’ Groovy Jam >
  • Morning Dew > Playin’ Reprise (inst. edits)
  • Brokedown Palace
  • One More Saturday Night

Thursday October 19 (57 minutes)

  • Comes a Time
  • Bird Song
  • The Other One >
  • Jam >
  • The Other One > He’s Gone (inst. edit) > The Other One
  • Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down the Road

The only internal edits I have made are:

  • A few pointless minutes interrupting "Dark Star."
  • The sung part of "Morning Dew." (The miraculous transition into "Playin'" is real.)
  • The sung part of the "Playin' Reprise" on the 18th.
  • The sung part of "He's Gone."