mp3 compilation here
- Eyes Jam #1 (2/9/73 Palo Alto, CA) (10:22)
- Eyes Jam #2 (2/15/73 Madison, WI) (9:33)
- Eyes Jam #3 (2/19/73 Chicago, IL) (12:22)
- Eyes Jam 2006 (11/8/06 Lesh & Friends recreation) (10:24)
I wish I could take this further, but I don’t have soft copies of the fourth, fifth, or sixth “Eyes.” “Dick’s Picks” #28 picks up the story after that.
The Grateful Dead debuted a whopping seven new Garcia tunes at their first show in 1973, one of them being “Eyes of the World.”
Obviously, there had been some serious band work between the 1972 New Year’s Eve show and the first 1973 show, such that all these numbers were, more or less, ready to go, and “Here Comes Sunshine” had its whole jam sequence worked out in advance.
However, the soon-to-be trademark ’73-’74 “Eyes” jam had not been worked out in advance, although the band was clearly determined to make it a jam from the get-go, and the key ideas are already lurking in the first live performance.
Once it did get worked out, the song’s jam tended to progress through several, fairly predictable stages, until it reached a series of (usually three) synchronized riffs. Sometimes, after those riffs, the band would jam on for a while; more often, they would rapidly dwindle to a transition to a new song.
That jam is under construction across these initial three “Eyes” jams, which are at the same time unlike the “Eyes” jams to come, more wide-open and questing, as you’d expect.
It’s hard for me to say whether this sounds more like 1972 Dead playing 1973 changes or 1974 Dead going into unexpected, noodle places with a 1973 theme. In reality, it’s the Dead at the dawn of 1973, having fun in a brand-new sandbox that they’re eager to explore – the highest praise I can give this stuff.
It is impossible for me not to think about the eruptions of “Slipknot” into the band’s 1974 jamming (compiled here) when listening to this evolution of the “Eyes” jam. They are so similar, ultimately, as focused knots of this era’s Dead sensibilities.
I haven’t figured out the precise origins of the "Eyes" jam's synchronized riff in this material, but it seems like a Garcia idea that Lesh decided to formalize into something discrete and dynamic. Garcia threw it out and meandered through it, while Lesh thought it was pounce-worthy. I'm probably wrong, but the audio evidence is here for you to assess yourself.
I have added to this compilation what I think is a rather remarkable 2006 appendix to the history of the 1973-1974 “Eyes” jam, and a fine bookend to these early “Eyes” jam explorations. In 2005 or 2006, Lesh invited people to apply to “Phil Lesh University.” As I understand it, he selected two bands from the applicants, asked them what they wanted to play, rehearsed with them for a day, then played an unorthodox show, in which each band got a set. The Garcia figure in one of the bands, Ethan Franzel, wanted to play a 1973-1974 “Eyes,” and he ended up having to re-teach Phil the jam. (Understandable, I guess, since Phil probably hadn’t thought about it since 1974, while fans never forget.) This lucky guy, Franzel, also got to be Jerry for “Dark Star.” The whole improbable show is streamable here.
In any case, at the other end of the invention of the “Eyes” jam, we get a remarkably tight recreation of the ultimate structure of that jam, some 30 years after the fact, featuring Lesh, who seems to me to have been the leader of that earlier structuring.
Update: I contacted Franzel, who had this to say: "Before the Phil show - maybe a month or two before, right after the bands were set - I spoke with the other guitarist in my set, Greg Fain. We knew when we spoke that it was going to work. Plus we fit into natural roles - I played lead when things were more "jammy" - that's why you hear me taking the lead on the Eyes jam and on Dark Star. We knew what tunes we were playing at that point, and Fain and I wanted to get together beforehand to run the tunes, figure out compatibility, etc. We discovered on the phone that we both - upon discussing the setlist with Phil (ha! That was a great phone conversation, just me and Phil talking about music and spirituality!!) - wanted to do the 73/4 Eyes jam. So we were simpatico from the start, and Phil was amenable. I sent out the chords and the structure to the other musicians so that they would be 100% ready for it when the time came to rehearse. When we actually did it live, the reaction was pretty much what you'd hope it would be - a bunch of Heads grooving on something that they hadn't heard Phil do in a really really long time. I remember telling Phil "that next chord is a C diminished." It was awesome to tell him the sequence! Of course, the first time we rehearsed the riff at the end, in 7/4 time, his fingers instinctively played the harmony part that, as far as I know, he hadn't played since 1974. It was probably the highlight of the whole event. Rehearsing that riff."
The Chicago audio comes directly from Dick Latvala, who sent the show’s second set to me with the note: “Hi John. Thanks for sending me that interchange w/Pig. I decided to record over it with something that is PRETTY NICE. – Dick”