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."

 

Shortlist: October 9, 1972 – Winterland, SF – The Roadie Benefit

Cover image by Jose Guadalupe Posada

The Dead haven’t released any shows from October 1972, which might have something to do with a lot of soundboards from the month having terrible mixes. That is not much of an issue with this recording, which is pretty well balanced, except for some loud drums and the bass being too quiet sometimes. The really nice thing about this mix is the way it handles harmony vocals.

This was a benefit concert to raise housing money for the band’s roadies. It fell in the middle of a two-week break between the band’s September (Northeast) and October (Midwest) tours. The band seems both relaxed and focused. (They had rehearsed at least enough to learn "Box of Rain.") There are some errors, but there are also pristine renditions of some songs and great stretches of improvisation. 

The fades at the end of “Playin’” and the beginning of “Box of Rain” are in the source tapes. 

100-minute, FLAC-derived, 320kbps mp3 mix here

  • Brokedown Palace
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Sugaree
  • Truckin’ > Bass & Drums >
  • The Other One >
  • Wharf Rat
  • He’s Gone
  • Playin’ in the Band
  • Box of Rain (first time played)


Shortlist: October 27, 1973 – Indianapolis, Indiana

Cover illustration by Luigi Serafini, from "Storie Naturali"

The Dead played this show on my birthday, an easy drive from where I lived at the time. Unfortunately, I was turning eight years old and wasn’t paying attention. But that’s okay, because the gift waited patiently for me to finally unwrap it.

Although this show has escaped The Dead’s generous approach to releasing Fall 1973 recordings, it has as much superb material in it as nearly any of them. 

My curation is built around two uninterrupted pieces of the second set. My arrangement of other songs around those pieces follows The Dead’s lead, when they decided to play a couple of first set songs in the middle of a fantastic second set “Playin’” jam. 

Parts of this show only circulate as audience recordings. The soundboard of everything else captures a rather wonderful mix, but for some reason the frequency spread of the circulating soundboard is all out of whack. It comes across as brittle, shrill, sterile, stabby, insubstantial, etc. I don’t know if this is a feature of the master tape or of a transferring snafu somewhere down the line.

But fear not! I obtained a FLAC file and gave it enough of a re-EQ to turn down the stabby and to bring up the warmth and depth, until it became a fully immersive Fall 1973 experience. Happy birthday.

90-minute 320kbps mp3 mix here

  • Beat It On Down the Line
  • Me and Bobby McGee
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • Playin’ in the Band >
  • Mississippi Half-Step >
  • Big River >
  • Playin’ in the Band
  • They Love Each Other
  • He’s Gone Jam >
  • Truckin’ >
  • Nobody’s Fault Jam
  • Loose Lucy


Shortlist: March 31, 1973 - Buffalo, NY

On the 45th anniversary of its playing, here’s a bookend to the February-March ‘73 material I’ve been posting lately. This is the next-to-last show of the March tour of the Northeast, which began in Uniondale, NY. The final show of the tour (4/2/73 Boston) was released as “Dave’s Picks” #21.

Unless I’m missing something, there’s no released show between 4/2/73 and 10/19/73. Dick Latvala maintained that the band flagged in the middle of the year, and I guess subsequent archivists have agreed. 

There are some obvious flaws in the material I’ve judged best from this show but it’s not for lack of The Dead trying and generally succeeding wonderfully. The sound of the mix/tape is great for instruments and not too hard on group vocals. 

70-minute mp3 mix here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/khddft26pjbfem7/GD%20shortlist%2073-03-31.zip?dl=0

  • Bertha >
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • The Race is On
  • They Love Each Other
  • Mississippi Half-Step (instrumental edit)
  • He’s Gone >
  • Truckin’ (instrumental edit) >
  • Drums >
  • The Other One > Spanish Jam > The Other One >
  • Space >
  • Jam > I Know You Rider
  • Casey Jones

Points of interest:

This is the only instance of “I Know You Rider” NOT following “China Cat Sunflower” between late 1971 and late 1985. The performance of the song itself isn’t fantastic, but the three minutes between the end of “Space” and the first word of “Rider” are noteworthy. They begin a free-form jam (which an audience member recognizes and gets vocally excited about) that morphs into the “Feelin’ Groovy” jam, leading to “Rider.” 

Shortlist: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY – March 1973

Cover art: Detail from Max Weber, “New York at Night”

For their first tour of 1973, The Dead were in the Midwest from the middle to the end of February. After two weeks off, they toured the Northeast from the middle of March through April 2.

The tour started with three shows at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on the 15th, 16th, and 19th, excerpts from which are combined here. These shows remain unreleased.

This run, and the 16th in particular, has numerous excellent “smaller songs,” but the mix posted here is a continuation of the jammy mashups I posted of the February shows

Aside from the edits that are obvious from the track list, the only things I’ve cut out that interrupt continuous Dead performances are two noodly-to-shrieky spaces that offered nothing special and broke the momentum. 

A pretty “Dark Star” that’s not sure how solid it wants to get nonetheless comes to a swelling climax, then gives way to an autonomous six-minute jam, which then slides back into a perfectly executed “Dark Star” verse. Several minutes of unorthodox, wandering around jamming ensues, leading into “Truckin.”

This is one of the earliest performances of “Truckin’” transitioning into the “Nobody’s Fault” jam. 

This 3/15 “Eyes” jam was the sonic rescue mission of this mix. It is easily one of the most involving and successful (and yet unique) of the early performances, but the soundboard of it has many dramatic volume fluctuations. I’ve fixed those pretty well and want to advise you that the performance overwhelms the sonic gremlins that remain. 

The other two 3/15 songs are likewise exceptional. “China Doll” has many exquisite details. “The Other One” is aggressively adventurous and almost becomes a separate jam. The 3/15 soundboard has the drums mixed way too loud, but on “The Other One” and the “Eyes” jam, this is a plus, and it doesn’t impact “China Doll.” 

77-minute mp3 mix here

  • Dark Star (3/16) >
  • Jam (3/16) >
  • Dark Star (3/16) >
  • Jamming Around (3/16) >
  • Truckin’ > Nobody’s Fault Jam (3/16 > 3/19) > 
  • Drums (3/19) >
  • The Other One (3/15) >
  • Eyes of the World (intro & jam 3/15) >
  • China Doll (3/15)
  • Morning Dew (3/16)

Shortlist: Midwest Tour, February 1973 (part two)

This post completes my jam-centric reduction of February 1973 Dead shows. Boy, they were playing great. 

I posted highlights of Palo Alto (2/9) here.

I posted a mashup of Madison, St. Paul, and Chicago (2/15, 2/17, 2/19) here.

This third installment presents material from Champaign-Urbana, IL (2/21 & 2/22) and Iowa City (2/24). 

The next two shows, the last of the February tour, are documented on Dick’s Picks #28 (Lincoln, NB & Salt Lake City on the 26th and 28th).

86-minute mp3 mix here

  • Truckin’ > Bass & Drums (2/21) > 
  • Eyes of the World (2/21 > 2/22) >
  • China Doll (2/22)
  • Playin’ in the Band (2/22)
  • Dark Star (2/22) >
  • Space (2/22) >
  • Bass > Feelin’ Groovy Jam (2/24) >
  • Sugar Magnolia (2/24) 

Shortlist: Midwest Tour, February 1973

This mix combines performances from The Dead’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th shows of 1973, in Madison, WI, St. Paul, MN, and Chicago. If I do say so myself, the result is mighty. "Bertha" starts smoldering around :38 and ignites at 1:20. It doesn't let up after that for more than 100 minutes. 

After five weeks off, The Dead started 1973 with a stand-alone show in Palo Alto, CA on February 9th. On the 15th, they began an eight-show tour with concerts in the wintery, upper Midwest. Nothing from this tour earlier than the 26th, in Lincoln, Nebraska, seems to have been released.

This mix pulls from those initial Madison, St. Paul, and Chicago shows, but it is also a companion to the mix I made from the year-starting show in Palo Alto (which has the greatest early “Eyes”). Together, these two mixes are my early ’73 Road Trip – the first four shows of the year in digest form. 

From a historical documentary POV, these early ’73 shows look exciting because they unleash seven new Garcia songs and a fun cover sung by Donna. From an aesthetic POV, not many performances of those new songs are worth hearing repeatedly. The really amazing parts of these shows are elsewhere. If you look in the right places, the band was extremely hot out of the gate in '73.

107-minute mix here (source dates included in mp3 tags). 

  • Bertha (5:22)
  • Here Comes Sunshine (instr.) > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider (16:45)
  • Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down the Road > Not Fade Away (14:06)
  • Dark Star (11:42)
  • He’s Gone (14:11)
  • The Other One (18:55)
  • Playin’ in the Band > China Doll (20:35)
  • Birdsong (instr. 6:24)