The Grateful Dead: Tones (1969)

Nearly every “Feedback” The Grateful Dead played in 1969 included a gentle, gorgeous section of drones, whines, and knob-twiddling. This mix isolates and combines 14 such passages into a 35-minute ambient album. 

This particular aspect of “Feedback” ought to have its own name, since literal feedback is not the dominant feature, and there is great consistency among the performances. When you put them together, they sound like movements of a single, larger composition... or stanzas in a tone poem.

The mix includes 14 tracks, each labeled “Tones (mm/dd/69).” 

35-minute mp3 album zipped up here

The Grateful Dead: Not the Wild East – Late Summer, 1969

Here are five hours of wild West Coast Grateful Dead from the same month (8/2 through 9/7) as Woodstock. Jesse Jarnow has generously written liner notes for this mix, which was inspired by his show-by-show commentary @bourgwick and refined in conversation with him. His essay is below the tracklist.

Disc 1: A Swell Dance Party (76 minutes)

  • PA: There’s going to be a party
  • Hi-Heel Sneakers (with sax & violin)
  • Minglewood Blues (with Gary Larkey on flute)
  • China Cat Sunflower (with Gary Larkey on flute)
  • Sittin’ on Top of the World
  • High Time
  • Mama Tried
  • Big Boss Man (composite edit)
  • Hard to Handle (three version combo, with violin)
  • Not Fade Away > Easy Wind intro jam
  • Easy Wind (instrumental edit)

Disc 2: A Swell Dance Party cont. (64 minutes)

  • Big Boy Pete >
  • Good Lovin’
  • It’s All Over Now
  • Beat it on Down the Line (w/violin)
  • New Orleans >
  • Searchin’
  • I’m a King Bee
  • Me and My Uncle
  • Dire Wolf
  • He Was a Frind of Mine
  • Seasons >
  • Slewfoot
  • Casey Jones

Disc 3: The Dark Star Variations (58 minutes)

  • Dark Star > 
  • Cosmic Charlie
  • Dark Star (w/sax and violin)
  • The Other One (w/sax and violin)
  • Jam after Caution (w/sax and violin)

Disc 4: The Dark Star Variations, cont. (51 minutes)

  • Dark Star (edit, Hartbeats w/Howard Wales on organ)
  • Jam (Hartbeats w/Howard Wales on organ)
  • Dark Star

Disc 5: Grateful Airplane (Garcia, Kreutzman, Hart, and Jefferson Airplane members) (47 minutes)

  • Peggy Sue
  • That’ll be the Day
  • Johnny B. Goode
  • Baby What you Want Me to Do?
  • Wipe Out > Big Railroad Blues
  • Volunteers Jam

5-hour mp3 mix zipped up here (track dates and personel noted in song tags)

Not the Wild East
Like everything it touched, Woodstock casts an oversized shadow over the music the Grateful Dead made in the late summer of 1969. A terrible set in front of several hundred thousand, Woodstock virtually erases a fertile month in the band’s musical history. Forgotten between the crystalline perfection of the Live/Dead recordings from the spring, and the first glimmerings of the band’s folk-country directions (and the birth of the New Riders of the Purple Sage) is the sound of the Grateful Dead exploding with vivid energy that confounds the usual narrative of the band’s progression from deep space to deep Americana.

The month began with a chain of events centered around what was set to be the biggest music festival of the summer, resulting in a sudden, unexpected platform for the band’s newest explorations. The festival wasn’t Woodstock, but an enormous multi-day affair set to be held in San Francisco: The Wild West. As Michael Kramer has wonderfully documented in Republic of Rock and elsewhere, expectations for Wild West were so big that some in the underground press referred to Woodstock as the “Wild East.”

But Wild West imploded before it could happen, the implosion manifesting in part as a strike by the Light Artists Guild held outside a Grateful Dead show on Jerry Garcia’s 27th birthday. The venue for the Dead show and the picket line was the Family Dog on the Great Highway, the collective’s new venue “at the edge of the Western World” across the street from the Pacific Ocean in the ballroom once known as Topsy’s Roost, inside the Playland-at-the-Beach amusement park. Garcia refused to cross the picket line, and the subsequent negotiations led to the brief life of the utopian Common, practically speaking an ongoing series of loose afternoon hangs at the Family Dog, sometimes including the Dead. One such affair, not circulating as of press time, involved an early-career gig by the New Riders of the Purple Sage and a late-career gig by the New Lost City Ramblers, the pioneering folk act that were a formative influence on Garcia. Alongside the band’s regular gigs at the Family Dog and a small docket of other festivals and appearances, the month yields a virtual box set of raw surprises.

Grateful Dead: Sawmill b/w Seasons of My Heart (Alembic Studios 9/17/69)

This is a fake, studio-recorded, country-and-western single by the Grateful Dead, four months ahead of the recording of “Workingman’s Dead,” at a point when only a few of that album’s songs had entered the live repertoire. 

Captured at an unreleased September 17, 1969 rehearsal session that also included an emphatic effort to play Looney Tunes cartoon music, these are carefully-executed performances of songs that the Dead only played live a few times.

Both tracks are Weir-sung with group harmonies and Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar. Garcia’s first side-band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, played their first shows around the same time. 

7-minute mp3 file zipped up here

  • Sawmill (Horace Monroe, Mel Tillis)
  • Seasons of My Heart (George Jones, Darrell Edwards)

Editing and live performance notes:

  • “Sawmill” is the third of three attempts during the rehearsal. There are three documented live performances, January to April 1970. 
  • There is no complete take of “Seasons” in the studio session, as the band stopped to carefully rehearse the harmonies of the final section. I’ve edited their final attempt (which they approve at its conclusion) onto the rest of the song. There are five documented live performances, August 1969 to February 1970.


The Grateful Dead: Looney Tunes (9/17/69 - Alembic Studios)

The Grateful Dead were many things in the late summer and early fall of 1969, including a band that was very enthusiastic about playing cartoon music, with Garcia on pedal steel some of the time. 

This mix pulls a number of discrete “takes” out of 30 minutes of studio rehearsal recordings and stacks them into a fun sequence. It includes/compresses some fantastic band chatter. They couldn’t stop cracking up with delight and cackling over plans to mount cartoon music attacks onstage. I’ve jacked up the volume on the chatter, so it’s even with the music. 

There are more themes than I could identify, and others so fleeting that they didn't make it into the titles, including Garcia poking briefly at "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." 

22-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Merrily We Roll Along (acapella)
  • Merrily We Roll Along
  • The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down 1
  • Chase Sequence
  • Chatter
  • Cartoon Music (unidentified)
  • Teddy Bear’s Picnic
  • Circus Music (unidentified) > The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down 2 > Cartoon Music (unidentified)
  • Mickey Mouse Club > Popeye the Sailor Man
  • The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down 3
  • The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down 4

Dedicated to Carl Stalling

Thanks to @bourgwick for pointing out this recording. The full rehearsal tape contains much more, completely different material that is worth a listen, some of it tilting hard toward “Workingman’s.” As they play Mel Tillis' "Saw Mill," I can imagine Robert Hunter sitting there and thinking, "I could write a better song about a coal mine!"


Grateful Deadish: Fate Music ’68 (Hartbeats Highlights)

The several late 1968 shows that lacked Bob Weir and Pigpen, and that sometimes added or substituted a guest musician, have always been both a thrill and a disappointment to me. I have compared them to the “Wizard of Oz” poppy field; I periodically run into it joyously, and then it puts me to sleep.

In the course of his chronological 1968 listening journey (in 2018), Jesse Jarnow (@bourgwick) listened to all these shows closely and compiled great notes. Based on those notes, I’ve edited together this 2.5-hour mix. It sure as hell doesn’t put me to sleep; it’s the poppy field I’ve been looking for. Indeed, it often feels more like a lean forward in time by the band, rather than like a bunch of noodly, time-frozen, jam sessions. 

As far as I know, all tracks include Garcia/Lesh/Kreutzman/Hart, with David Getz (drums) and Elvin Bishop (guitar) joining in on some tracks. I’ve made a variety of edits, mostly to establish satisfying start- and end-points, and to remove fatty interludes from extended jams. (David Getz jam part 3 is missing, because I decided it was a debased rock version of part 1.) I also cranked up Garcia's vocals on "It's a Sin," so that they would match the instrumental interludes. Both this and the sung "Death Don't Have No Mercy" are curios that deserve a place on the shelf.

From an editing perspective, I especially draw your attention to the Elvin Bishop track, which is extraordinarily like a chill 1969 Velvet Underground track. The full jam includes thematically almost-unrelated explosions into mediocre rocking out, which return each time to the thematic base, to see what’s changed. I’ve edited it down to that thematic base, and I really like it. The Velvets and the Dead were presumably cultural/musical opposites in the late ‘60s, but they, along with Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, were closer than they thought at the time. If you want to check out my candidate for VU’s closest “Sister Ray” to a 1968-1969 “Dark Star,” listen to the 12/12/68 “Sister Ray” on this mix – performed at exactly the same time as the not-quite-Dead material on this “Hartbeats” mix.

There are also multiple brushes with a fetal “Fire on the Mountain” impulse/chord structure, closer to the 1973 Watkins Glenn jam and the 1975 “Noodle on the Mountain” rehearsal session than to true “Fire,” but also an indication of how long certain ideas incubated in Deadland. In truth, all sorts of Dead themes crop up here and there in this material, regardless of how they are labeled as tracks. 

Whether the band was contemplating kicking Bob and Pig out or just woodshedding, these sessions seem to have been an important proving ground for open improvisation, and, as we all know, the “Live Dead” shows were just around the corner, in early 1969.

2.3-hour 320kbps mp3 mix, derived from FLAC, and zipped up here

  • Fate Music (Garcia intro, 10/30/68)
  • Dark Star jam (10/8/68)
  • Jam w/David Getz 1 (12/16/68 – jazz star)
  • Jam w/David Getz 2 (12/16/68 – space)
  • Jam w/David Getz 4 > (12/16/68 – fire on the sunflower)
  • Jam w/David Getz 5 (12/16/68 – coda)
  • Clementine jam (10/30/68)
  • Jam w/Elvin Bishop edit (10/30/68 – just like sister lou says)
  • The Other One jam edit (10/10/68)
  • Dark Star jam > (10/10/68)
  • The Eleven jam > (10/10/68)
  • The Seven (10/10/68)
  • Death Letter Blues (w/vocals, 10/30/68)
  • It’s a Sin (w/vocals, 10/10/68)
  • The Other One jam (10/30/68)
  • Jam (10/10/68 – another view of fire mountain)
Bonus track: After creating this mix, I made a tighter edit of the track above titled "Jam w/Elvin Bishop edit (10/30/68 – just like sister lou says)," which removes an additional two minutes of mostly cowbell. You can grab that edit separately, below.

The Grateful Dead: To the Eagle Palace (January 1968)

Illustration by Victor Moscoso. Typography by Tom Ford.

A while back, Jesse Jarnow (@bourgwick & jessejarnow.com) suggested to me that there might be a single mega-suite hiding in the fragmentary, unreleased live recordings from The Dead’s tour at the beginning of 1968. On the 50th anniversary of the end of that tour (February 4, 1968), we present our ideal set, based on the extant, unreleased recordings.

Jarnow: 

In late 1967 and early 1968, the Grateful Dead began linking their newest songs into extended suites, resulting in the experimental "Anthem of the Sun" and the double LP "Live/Dead." By the time those albums made it to stores, though, the song suite had already evolved. During the early 1968 winter tour of the northwest, the band brought a multitrack, making recordings that would be used for Anthem, and one can hear them piecing together different combinations of their newest songs, their most psychedelic material yet and – not coincidentally – their earliest collaborations with lyricist Robert Hunter.

"To the Eagle Palace" (title borrowed from Hunter's 1968-'69 "Eagle Mall Suite") posits a seamless path through the band's early 1968 repertoire. Highlighting early drafts (such as "Dark Star" with a call/response Garcia/Lesh intro and a drumless arrangement featuring only hand percussion), forgotten songs (like the lovely Lesh/Hunter psych-jazz "Clementine"), and a few shifting audio fidelities, with edits and crossfades occurring inside song performances as well as within many of the transitions. 

It is a fantasy set, perhaps played on a night tape wasn't rolling. As it happens, it would also fit onto two LPs with even side breaks. LATVALA!

86-minute composite suite here

To the Eagle Palace

  • That's It for the Other One >
  • Clementine >
  • New Potato Caboose >
  • Born Crosseyed >
  • Spanish Jam >
  • Feedback >
  • Spanish Return > Dark Star >
  • China Cat Sunflower >
  • The Eleven >
  • Alligator >
  • Caution >
  • Feedback

Source dates included in mp3 tags.

Hilgart: 

Thanks to @mr_completely for tipping us off that our preferred “Spanish Jam,” which is split between two different sources, required a channel-flip to make the merger of the two halves sound right. And thanks to Jesse for forcing me to cut and re-edit until the result was as just exactly perfect as we could manage. Beyond that, we’ll let our editorial process remain mysterious. Just enjoy this amazing, non-stop, 86-minute tour through the birth of the mature Dead. 



Bonus Track

Cover image by Neil Barrett

The Port Chester 6-24-70 “Dark Star” played straight through

This edit is intended only for people who have already listened to the three-part, 6-24-70 “Dark Star” sequence 1,000 times. 

Everyone else should immediately go encounter it in its full, as-played glory (streamed or downloaded):

DS1 > early Attics > DS2 > primordial Sugar Magnolia > DS3

If you DO know this performance like the back of your hand, then you might enjoy this continuous edit, which eliminates “Attics” and “Sugar Magnolia.” It shortens the full 29:12 sequence to a single 21:20 “Dark Star.”

(Then again, like my friend who gave me a tape of this in 1987, you might scream, "Heresy!")

The gentle intro to “Attics” out of DS1 and the clean start of DS2 make the first edit pretty reasonable sounding. (There’s an errant, loud Garcia note just before “Attics” really gets underway, and I just put the note with which he re-starts “Dark Star” there instead.) The second edit, removing the song-ish part of “Sugar Magnolia,” is seamless.

I’m not casting any aspersions on the justifiably famous and genuinely thrilling sequence; however, “Attics” and “Sugar Magnolia” have become less satisfying uses of my time, over time, while I often wish to return to the "Dark Star." 

An aside: There’s a great discussion of audience-tape-only “Dark Stars” here.