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: Berkeley ’72, Continued – 8/24/72

Zipped up mp3 compilation here

Part 1 (56 minutes):

  • Introduction 
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • Mississippi Half-Step
  • Truckin’
  • Brown Eyed Women
  • Jack Straw
  • Bird Song
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Sugaree
  • One More Saturday Night

Part 2 (55 minutes):

  • Playin’ in the Band (15:09)
  • Dark Star > (13:01)
  • Space > (8:39)
  • Jam > (4:26)
  • Interlude > (1:06)
  • Morning Dew (13:04)
  • Sing Me Back Home (9:56)

Six months ago, when I posted highlight reels of the first two (of four) August 1972 Berkeley shows, I lamented the fact that I wasn’t able to process all four shows into a fake “Road Trips” “boxed set.” 

At the time, I didn’t have access to a SBD of the entire final/fourth show, and I judged the third one to perhaps be so good (performance/mix/recording) that it would become a “Dave’s Picks” release someday.

Six months later, on my birthday, no less, Dave did me one better by dropping the complete fourth show into my mailbox, complete and meticulously mastered! And, boy, it really does cap a fantastic run. 

Since there’s obviously no “Berkeley ‘72” box in the offing, I figured I’d go ahead and post my favorite stuff from the third one, so that the three Berkeley shows that Dave didn’t pick have good representation on this blog. You can make your own bonus disc(s) for “Dave’s Picks #24.” I’m reasonably sure that I haven’t left off anything that is for the ages, from the first three shows.

Context: After taking a week off, and having played only one show in three weeks, The Dead played five shows in seven days, culminating in the famed 8-27-72 Veneta, Oregon performance: San Jose on a Sunday, the four Berkeley shows across the following workweek, and then Veneta the next Sunday. (After Veneta, they took another week off.)

So, the Berkeley stand constitutes almost all of the prologue to Veneta: An extended, Bill Graham-sponsored, small theater, home-town residency for The Dead, in the midst of a very busy year. All things considered, it must have been a chill, comfy week for the band, and the high quality of playing suggests that they were both relaxed and focused over four nights at the community theater – very into it. And then, with only a day’s break, they moved from San Francisco/Bill Graham territory to an open field in the northwest, with their old acid test buddies, at an acid-test-level event. Additionally, the first Berkeley show is also just the 9th show after Pigpen’s last show, so we’re listening to the next phase of The Dead hitting its stride – the initial stage of the metamorphosis into 1973 Dead, two “Wake of the Flood” songs already clicking strongly, and jamming mutating in certain places to fill the Pigpen-song improvisational gaps. 

Would Veneta have been played the same way, if The Dead had come straight off of a random tour of sports stadiums in some region of the U.S.? I have no idea, but the character of Berkeley ’72 certainly seems to support the idea that it was the incubator of that transcendent Oregon afternoon. 

Compared to each of the first two shows of the run, I’ve held onto many more minutes from this one, totaling somewhat over two hours. As Dave noted about the next night, there are a lot of crackling smaller songs in this show, in both sets, and I’ve brought those together for the first part of this mix. 

You can tell that I feel good about the vocal mix of this show’s recording, as I’ve led both “discs” with full-throated Bobby and Donna songs, and I haven’t truncated anything into an “instrumental edit.” Loud Garcia vocals on “China Cat” make all the difference; when he’s quiet, the momentum goes completely out of the song. Group vocal songs, like “I Know You Rider” and “Truckin’,” really benefit from this mix, too. The harmonies go wrong in a few places, as you’d expect, but not so that it distracts from the overall impact of these performances. 

Shortlist: July 26, 1972 – Portland, OR

72-minute mp3 curation here

  • PA #1 (montage) (1:04)
  • Cold Rain and Snow (5:31)
  • PA #2 (montage) (0:50)
  • Sugaree (7:20)
  • Stella Blue (8:12)
  • PA #3 (0:18)
  • Playin’ Jam (9:20)
  • Dark Star > (12:17)
  • Jam > (7:39)
  • Space > (6:10)
  • Space Jam > Dark Star > (4:40)
  • Comes a Time (7:04)
  • PA #4 (1:24)

The “Dark Star”/improvisation sequence is the big deal here. 

The initial investigation of “Dark Star” is a fine one. It falls squarely into the center of the sleepy/aggressive spectrum, getting intense and wandering off course in nice ways. 

The portions I have titled “Jam” and “Space Jam > Dark Star” are amazing. It’s because I feel so strongly about them that I have separated them from the intervening “Space,” which just isn’t in the same category. (My track separations let you skip across “Space” without much of a disruption, if you want.)

“Jam” is not entirely unknown territory for late 1972: Some bass & drums, Keith entering on piano to organize things into a trio, then the guitarists joining to take it into a feisty jam that resembles “The Eleven.” I’d give this the nod over a similar passage from 8-21-72 BCT. 

However, the thing that the band suddenly, steadily builds out of unformed space, about six minutes after the jam described above, is a one-time-only event, as far as I know. It is as if The Iron Giant were reassembling himself, one disconnected gear and limb at a time, a chaotic rhythm of metallic interactions, steadily coordinating themselves, until, suddenly, the giant stands up and stretches, not as Superman but as the Dark Star Reprise. Amazing. Garcia isn’t ready to nail the second verse, but still.

Shortlist: Berkeley ’72 – August 20-21

Folder containing two zipped files of mp3s here

Monday (73 minutes)

  • Introduction
  • Friend of the Devil
  • Sugaree
  • Stella Blue
  • He’s Gone
  • Dark Star >
  • Space >
  • Keith’s Jam
  • Uncle John’s Band
  • Introducing Keith and Donna
  • Playin’ in the Band

Tuesday (70 minutes)

  • Birdsong (instrumental edit)
  • All That Top 40 Shit
  • The Other One
  • Not Fade Away >
  • Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad >
  • Hey Bo Diddley > Not Fade Away
  • Playin' in the Band

Immediately before their famous 8-27-72 performance in Veneta, Oregon (released as “Sunshine Daydream”), The Dead played four shows over five nights at the Berkeley Community Theater (August 21, 22, 24, 25).

It would have been fun to sift all four into a fake road-trip boxed set, but I don’t have a personal copy of the fourth show, and the third one – on the 24th – is so impressively, consistently strong, that you should just go listen to it on archive.org.

So, here’s a shortlist of material from the first two shows, on Monday and Tuesday of that week.

Both shows have a sort of “B+” quality overall, with many songs having little vocal screw-ups or wobbly moments, while still being perfectly fine performances. I didn’t include stuff like that.

Monday (8-21) is the more impressive of the two, with great performances of some “routine” numbers, plus a “Dark Star” sequence that musician Henry Kaiser called out for special praise in a “Deadbase” review a long time ago. The bit I’ve titled “Keith’s Jam,” is delightful and, I think, unique. This is a very early, sweet, and confidently-executed “Stella Blue” (the 8th?), and both it and “He’s Gone” were stand-alone first-set songs this night. This "Friend of the Devil" is the hardest, most fiestily-played version I know. The “Playin’” jam is great. Definitely a show of note, in terms minutes of excellence. 

Tuesday (8-22) presented less gold to me. “The Other One” is long (30 minutes!) and engaging, though without the cohesion and melodic reach of something like 9-28-72. In contrast the “NFA > GDTR > NFA”  is compact and focused, with a "Hey, Bo Diddley" insertion that breaks the momentum a bit, but the novelty of its occurrence and the Garcia soloing that ensues compensate for that! 

The only performance I #@$%ed with is the Tuesday “Birdsong,” which I was on the fence about, due to bad harmony vocals, so I eventually split the difference and included an instrumental edit. 

Shortlist: September 10, 1972 – Hollywood, CA

80-minute mp3 download here

  • Dark Star (20:41)
  • Sing Me Back Home (9:30)
  • He’s Gone Jam (4:57)
  • Truckin’ (12:26)
  • Jam (6:07)
  • Black Peter (8:48)
  • Playin’ Jam (16:47)

This show has a large amount of excellent improvisational playing, which I’ve boiled down to an 80-minute sequence. 

I find most of the vocals hard to listen to on this show, due to some combination of the mix and the distortion in (what seems to be) the best circulating SBD source. It’s also a show with some technical difficulties and some slop.

But these 80 minutes – boy howdy! Great playing from a month of great playing. 

The “Dark Star” is top-drawer, feisty out of the gate and jamming widely before the verse, 20 minutes later. The inspiration and pace don’t flag anywhere else, either. It’s one of those shows where every time the band jumped into jam mode, they hit the ground running and then stayed intent on their course.  

There’s some guest guitar from David Crosby in here. 


Shortlist: November 19, 1972 - Houston, TX

Part 1 (45 minutes):

  • Happiness is Tuning
  • Box of Rain
  • Black Throated Wind
  • Bird Song
  • Sugar Magnolia
  • Tomorrow is Forever
  • Stella Blue
  • Weather Report Prelude Jam

Part 2 (49 minutes):

  • Dark Star >
  • Attack of the 50-foot Phil Lesh >
  • Jam
  • Playin’ in the Band
  • Around & Around

192kbps mp3 download

I used to associate this show with 8/27/72, Veneta, OR. That show is now miraculously a film that confirms everything the music implied. Those sunlit dust motes and naked dancers were always there. If I could use The Grateful Dead time machine just once, I’d go to Oregon.

It is, of course, insane to associate that August day in a meadow with this November night in Houston, TX, inside a venue resembling a concrete bunker. But there are big, beautiful, meandering late 1972 versions of “Bird Song,” “Dark Star,” and “Playin’ in the Band” here, as well as a spirit of conviviality coming from the band that might partly excuse that association.

This was a long show (3h20m), kind of straggly, full of tuning breaks. I think it comes into focus – gets a little more “Veneta” – cut down to about 90 minutes. So, this is my best approximation of my sunshine daydream, leading off with "best of tuning." Don’t neglect “Stella Blue,” and Jerry's vocals that almost sound like they're from "Wake of the Flood." (Had to make a slight edit, due to some missing bars at the beginning, but no big deal. There was also a missing chunk in the middle of the “Playin’” verses, so I took the liberty of cutting to the chase – the main ten onward.) It's worth noting that Phil's bass is way up in the excellent mix and that the vocals are mixed fortuitously, so group harmonies sound good. That mix contributes to a really fine "Box of Rain."

If I could borrow The Grateful Dead time machine for a while, I’d steer it to a nearby 1972 parallel universe where this show was played in a meadow.

Shortlist philosophy: Start with a good soundboard of an unreleased show, and keep only what you honestly want to hear again and again. Be song-agnostic; look for outstanding performances of anything and everything, and reject an average performance of any song, no matter how grand that song’s generic status as a big deal may be. Whatever’s left, edit out the tuning and other delays, and arrange everything into a pleasing sequence. Share the results in lossy mp3 format, in the spirit of the cassette tape trading of my youth, diligently not trying to compete with or annoy Grateful Dead Enterprises, whose property this music is.