Shortlist: Watkins Glen – July 27-28, 1973

mp3 compilation here (re-loaded to add a few more minutes of music)

Part 1 (43 minutes):

  • Brown-Eyed Women (7/28)  (4:56)
  • Bird Song (instrumental edit - 7/27)  (11:21)
  • Garcia & Lesh > (7/28)  (1:05)
  • Eyes of the World (instrumental edit - 7/28)  (16:17)
  • Sing Me Back Home (7/28)  (9:19)

Part 2 (43 minutes):

  • Here Comes Sunshine (instrumental edit -  7/28)  (6:41)
  • Deal (7/28)  (6:09)
  • Playin’ Jam (7/28)  (20:26)
  • Nobody’s Fault Jam (7/28)  (2:06)
  • China Cat Rider (instrumental edit – 7/28)  (8:01)

    (Cover image: Luigi Serafini)

    This mix aims to figure out what happened at Watkins Glen, other than the amazing, famous, 20-minute improvisation from 7/27: “The Watkins Glen Jam.” That jam isn’t included here, but it can be found on the official release, “So Many Roads,” and in part on an all-improvisation mix I made and posted here. Among other glories, that jam includes an early, extended trip into “Fire on the Mountain” territory. 

    One show was scheduled at Watkins Glen; two were played. The venue was a racetrack, and the context was “Summer Jam at Watkins Glen,” scheduled for one day, July 28, 1973, featuring The Grateful Dead, The Band, and The Allman Brothers Band. However, so many people had shown up by the 27th that the sound check became a concert in its own right, The Band and Allman Brothers playing a couple songs each, and the Dead playing for 90 minutes. 

    Wikipedia’s got a good article about the festival as a whole, and The Dead have posted a nice tribute to the “sound check,” which includes complete, streaming audio.

    I got intimate with the shows because I wanted to know what kind of other improvisational playing occurred around that epicenter of excellence, “The Watkins Glen Jam.” (Just like you want to hear the August 1972 Berkeley Community Theater shows, because they immediately preceded Veneta, OR.)

    It turns out that there was plenty more stupendous improvisation at these shows, as well as a few highly pleasing examples of more routine songs. By the end of my own listening/culling saga, everything I continued to love came from the 7/28 show, except for one mind-melting performance from the 7/27 “sound check.”

    Two of the jam passages seem notable, beyond simply having great playing:

    • “Bird Song” and “Dark Star” are almost the same song to begin with, but this extraordinary “Bird Song” demonstrates the resemblance to an uncanny degree. 
    • This long “Eyes of the World” jam becomes a real adventure, eventually hitting the synchronized riff five times, including one that becomes a fantastic moment of disintegration and one that commandingly bookends the song. The others are all in the pretty-solid to not-together range, but I don’t think that diminishes the thrill of the whole thing very much. (Is a five-riff “Eyes” a record?)

    SOUND QUALITY/EDITING CAVEATS: There’s a soundboard tape-flip gap during “Bird Song” that I joined up, and there’s a little jog in the “Playin’” jam that has nothing to do with my edits. My soundboard (or perhaps all soundboards?) also suffers from some tape-speed wobbles and warps. You’ll hear those in a couple of places, but mostly they didn’t impact the music I thought was worth pulling aside.


    5 responses
    Hi John, I've long dreamed of getting a huge compendium of unreleased Stones material from late '60s to early '80s, so I was very intrigued to read about your Jumping Jack Flash Drive. I don't happen to know you; but any chance I could send you a flash drive with return postage, and enjoy the results of your assiduous anthologizing? I could make it worth your while by giving you a bunch of top notch unreleased Neil Young. Thank you for any consideration. Sincerely, Jon H. Amherst, MA
    Jon - I've zipped up my remaining studio curations here: Mainly, they fill out the funky-disco Stones story of '75-'81, covering what my "Some Girls Companions" left out, Wood-era-wise. And that's it for my studio selections, based on what circulated seven or eight years ago. Otherwise, my drive contained live material to represent five (I think) moments or tours (skipping sucky '76). The '78 one is on the blog already, and the 1970 Leeds one is now a bonus disc with "Sticky Fingers." Anyway, all you're missing from me is a few live discs. But I'll be curious to know what you think about the linked material above!
    Hi John, Thanks so much for sending me these additional Stones tracks. I've actually heard a number of these tracks before on YouTube, but it's nice to finally have files of them. Do you notice much difference in the sound quality between the original files (presumably wav) and the mp3 files? I guess I have this fantasy that, if one searches around enough, there are better fidelity sources for a lot of these unreleased '70s studio tracks. i.e., More recordings on par with "Munich Reggae": But I suppose the reality is most of these tracks were copied from one cassette to another dozens of times before the digital era even arrived, and that no amount of tweaking can clean them up all that much. Just wish Mick would release a big batch of them mixed straight from the masters, without adding his overwrought contemporary vocals (e.g., "Following the River," ugh). As for the live discs you're referring to, I assume you have the main '72 soundboards (NYC, Philly, TX), and '73 Brussels. After Mick Taylor left, I don't have much interest in them as a live band -- though I do like their studio stuff with Woody throughout the rest of that decade. Anyway, thanks again for sharing your stuff. And please let me know if you ever discover a mythical treasure chest of high fidelity '60s and '70s outtakes! Best, Jon Holcombe Amherst, MA
    Jon, I believe nearly all of my sources came to me as mp3s, though I recall converting and tagging a number of FLAC files, too. I am actually a person who cares about fidelity enough to still be a buyer of factory CDs, but when the source material itself is already degraded, I really don't care if I get a FLAC or a 192 mp3, though 192 is as low as I want to go, since 128 makes any music, no matter how distorted, sound smaller. At the time I compiled these, I did spend some extra time looking for cleaner/clearer copies of the 1975-1979 material that was lo-fi, without luck. As I may have said before, new material/sources have probably surfaced since I made these 7-8 years ago. If I ever find myself able to upgrade his stuff, I will, and I'll post it. Live-wise, you've identified all the stuff I included (TX and Brussels), except for the Hyde Park show and the two I previously mentioned (Leeds and my mix of '78 material). I did pull aside some '73 tour rarities, but the sound was mostly horrific.
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