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.