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.

Nut Hatch - February 1973: The First Three “Eyes of the World” Jams

mp3 compilation here 

43-minutes:

  • Eyes Jam #1 (2/9/73 Palo Alto, CA) (10:22)
  • Eyes Jam #2 (2/15/73 Madison, WI) (9:33)
  • Eyes Jam #3 (2/19/73 Chicago, IL) (12:22)
  • Eyes Jam 2006 (11/8/06 Lesh & Friends recreation) (10:24)

I wish I could take this further, but I don’t have soft copies of the fourth, fifth, or sixth “Eyes.” “Dick’s Picks” #28 picks up the story after that.

The Grateful Dead debuted a whopping seven new Garcia tunes at their first show in 1973, one of them being “Eyes of the World.” 

Obviously, there had been some serious band work between the 1972 New Year’s Eve show and the first 1973 show, such that all these numbers were, more or less, ready to go, and “Here Comes Sunshine” had its whole jam sequence worked out in advance. 

However, the soon-to-be trademark ’73-’74 “Eyes” jam had not been worked out in advance, although the band was clearly determined to make it a jam from the get-go, and the key ideas are already lurking in the first live performance. 

Once it did get worked out, the song’s jam tended to progress through several, fairly predictable stages, until it reached a series of (usually three) synchronized riffs. Sometimes, after those riffs, the band would jam on for a while; more often, they would rapidly dwindle to a transition to a new song.

That jam is under construction across these initial three “Eyes” jams, which are at the same time unlike the “Eyes” jams to come, more wide-open and questing, as you’d expect. 

It’s hard for me to say whether this sounds more like 1972 Dead playing 1973 changes or 1974 Dead going into unexpected, noodle places with a 1973 theme. In reality, it’s the Dead at the dawn of 1973, having fun in a brand-new sandbox that they’re eager to explore – the highest praise I can give this stuff. 

It is impossible for me not to think about the eruptions of “Slipknot” into the band’s 1974 jamming (compiled here) when listening to this evolution of the “Eyes” jam. They are so similar, ultimately, as focused knots of this era’s Dead sensibilities. 

I haven’t figured out the precise origins of the "Eyes" jam's synchronized riff in this material, but it seems like a Garcia idea that Lesh decided to formalize into something discrete and dynamic. Garcia threw it out and meandered through it, while Lesh thought it was pounce-worthy. I'm probably wrong, but the audio evidence is here for you to assess yourself. 

I have added to this compilation what I think is a rather remarkable 2006 appendix to the history of the 1973-1974 “Eyes” jam, and a fine bookend to these early “Eyes” jam explorations. In 2005 or 2006, Lesh invited people to apply to “Phil Lesh University.” As I understand it, he selected two bands from the applicants, asked them what they wanted to play, rehearsed with them for a day, then played an unorthodox show, in which each band got a set. The Garcia figure in one of the bands, Ethan Franzel, wanted to play a 1973-1974 “Eyes,” and he ended up having to re-teach Phil the jam. (Understandable, I guess, since Phil probably hadn’t thought about it since 1974, while fans never forget.) This lucky guy, Franzel, also got to be Jerry for “Dark Star.” The whole improbable show is streamable here

In any case, at the other end of the invention of the “Eyes” jam, we get a remarkably tight recreation of the ultimate structure of that jam, some 30 years after the fact, featuring Lesh, who seems to me to have been the leader of that earlier structuring. 

Update: I contacted Franzel, who had this to say:  "Before the Phil show - maybe a month or two before, right after the bands were set - I spoke with the other guitarist in my set, Greg Fain. We knew when we spoke that it was going to work. Plus we fit into natural roles - I played lead when things were more "jammy" - that's why you hear me taking the lead on the Eyes jam and on Dark Star. We knew what tunes we were playing at that point, and Fain and I wanted to get together beforehand to run the tunes, figure out compatibility, etc. We discovered on the phone that we both - upon discussing the setlist with Phil (ha! That was a great phone conversation, just me and Phil talking about music and spirituality!!) - wanted to do the 73/4 Eyes jam. So we were simpatico from the start, and Phil was amenable. I sent out the chords and the structure to the other musicians so that they would be 100% ready for it when the time came to rehearse. When we actually did it live, the reaction was pretty much what you'd hope it would be - a bunch of Heads grooving on something that they hadn't heard Phil do in a really really long time. I remember telling Phil "that next chord is a C diminished." It was awesome to tell him the sequence! Of course, the first time we rehearsed the riff at the end, in 7/4 time, his fingers instinctively played the harmony part that, as far as I know, he hadn't played since 1974. It was probably the highlight of the whole event. Rehearsing that riff."

The Chicago audio comes directly from Dick Latvala, who sent the show’s second set to me with the note: “Hi John. Thanks for sending me that interchange w/Pig. I decided to record over it with something that is PRETTY NICE. – Dick” 

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.

     

    Improvisation 1972-1974 Vol. 2 (Best of Shortlists Vol. 3)

    Zipped up file of mp3s here

    LP 1 (46 minutes)

    • Jam (Vancouver, BC 6-22-73) (8:28)
    • Jam Inside Playin’ (Seattle, WA 5-21-74) (7:10)
    • Jam > Mind Left Body Jam (Portland, OR 5-19-74) (9:49)
    • Jam > Bass & Drums > Jam > Spanish Jam > Jam (Philadelphia, PA 3-24-73) (20:34)

    LP 2 (46 minutes)

    • Jam > Dark Star (Williamsburg, VA 9-11-73) (9:43)
    • Mind Left Body Jam > Jam Inside Dark Star (Madison, WI 10-25-73) (5:23)
    • The Other One Excerpt (Jersey City, NJ 9-28-72) (11:22)
    • Jam Montage (San Francisco, CA 12-31-72) (14:25)
    • Jam (Berkeley, CA 8-21-72) (5:07)

    Aside from “space” (improv without meter), Grateful Dead improvisations that aren’t directly related to a particular song are rarer than you’d think, even in 1972-1974. 

    Most “Playin’ in the Bands” and “Other Ones” are comprised of space and more-or-less direct exploration of the songs’ themes. “Eyes of the World” jams have a wide dynamic range, but they’re still working their way through the same series of checkpoints, with rare exceptions. Likewise, "Bird Song" and "Scarlet Begonias."  “Dark Star” is the most pliable, a song that is anchored but that is also often a “unique jam” without ceasing to be “Dark Star.” 

    The point of this compilation (and the one that preceded it) is to bring together material that is largely outside of all such song-based frameworks. Pure, spontaneous jamming, with a beat you can dance to.

    I believe that everything (or nearly everything) I distilled for the first improvisation compilation I posted has been officially released within full shows. To the extent that many of those tracks sound like planned compositions, once you choose start- and end-points that isolate them, I'd say the Dead Vault Curators are doing a good job of making the most astonishing material available. 

    This second compilation comes entirely from “shortlists” of single shows that I have previously posted, which means that all of it is unreleased as of June 2017. (So, from my fake album blog's POV, this is “Improv Vol. 2,” but also “Best of Shortlists Vol. 3.”) 

    I have used this opportunity to once again promote a couple of passages of music that I adore, even though I would urge you to go listen to them in context. From May 19, 1974 in Portland, I’ve pulled an exceptionally buoyant jam that includes “Mind Left Body.” From September 28, 1972 in Jersey City, I’ve isolated an extended passage from “The Other One” that is “The Other One,” while also being something else altogether. Both are among my favorite Dead moments. 

    I have also scratched a long-standing itch and combined three improvisational passages from the long, multi-chaptered “The Other One” of New Year’s Eve 1972 that aren’t “The Other One.” 

    As always, tracks have been edited (start and end) to feel coherent and sequenced to provide some continuity – and everything is tagged to stand clearly apart from other “albums”/songs I’ve posted. For the CD burners among you, any compilation longer than 80 minutes is broken into/tagged as multiple "albums." 

    Slipknot '74

    Zipped up file of mp3s here

    20 minutes:

    • Slipknot (out of Eyes 6-20-74) (5:34)
    • Slipknot (inside The Other One 2-23-74) (3:17)
    • Slipknot (within a longer jam 7-25-74) (5:22)
    • Slipknot (inside Playin’ 2-22-74) (4:27)
    • Slipknot (out of Eyes 10-20-74) (1:52)

    Jerry Garcia introduced the “Slipknot” riff into the band’s live jamming five times in 1974, including the first and last shows of the year. These early appearances aren’t “Slipknot” proper, since the band is just doing whatever comes naturally at the time, but there’s some added satisfaction in hearing them all together, juxtaposed with the riffs and jamming modes of several different songs.

    I have kept a fair amount of surrounding material on most of these edits, so the context isn’t lost, and you can hear the riff sliding in and out of the proceedings. So, this isn’t truly 20 minutes of “Slipknot,” but rather 20 minutes of jamming in which “Slipknot” keeps appearing.

    Phil & Ned 1974

    Zipped up file of mp3s here

    70 minutes:

    • September 18
    • June 26 or 28
    • September 14
    • June 30
    • July 31

    This compilation is purely for convenience's sake. I don't often want to listen to a Phil & Ned performance in the middle of Grateful Dead music, but my love of early electronic, minimalist, ambient, Krautrock, and other related music also makes me a fan of Phil & Ned. I quite enjoy 70 minutes straight, and I look forward to gathering together more sometime.

    I am by no means an expert on all of their performances, and I don't think there was any method when I chose these five a year or two ago; I think I just wanted some isolated Phil & Ned. One criterion I did have was that no one other than Phil & Ned appeared. No cameos by Jerry or transitions into Dead Space are included here. 

    (Pulled from released and unreleased shows, at least at the time I made it.)

    Shortlist: June 8, 1974 – Oakland, CA

    Zipped file of mp3s here

    48 minutes:

    • China Cat Sunflower (instrumental edit) (7:14)
    • Eyes of the World (instrumental/extreme edit) (9:35)
    • Scarlet Begonias (instrumental edit) (2:39)
    • Playin’ > Wharf Rat > Playin’ (instrumental edit) (28:30)

    As a whole, this show and soundboard are a fairly rough listen, but when the band is stretching out instrumentally, the sonic sketchiness disappears. As with many shows that I’ve cut down and posted here, we await a crisp, properly-mastered SBD release to learn just how good the mix, the show, and the individual songs really are. 

    What I post often isn’t a comprehensive judgement on the quality of every song from a show, or even the show as a whole; in addition to the performance itself, I’m picky about the mix and any generational degradations of the fan-circulated version that get in the way of my repeat listening enjoyment.

    Anyhow, my pickiness has resulted in serious trimming of this show. I’ve taken all the vocals sections out of everything I’ve pulled aside. I realize that this might just annoy visitors to this site.

    The great thing in this show is the “Playin’” jam, which gets pretty close to legitimate free jazz – and this is one of only two “Playin’ > Wharf Rat > Playin’s” from this period, the other being 11/21/73. It’s pretty satisfying to hear the whole thing as an instrumental. (They may be surreptitiously tuning up as they transition to “Wharf Rat.” There was a lot of tuning during this show.)

    The “Scarlet Begonias” and “China Cat” edits may seem gratuitous, but the playing is very good, and the mix stands up. Without the vocals, “Scarlet” shrinks to the size of “Me and My Uncle!” 

    I went further with “Eyes of the World,” in which the first two of the three synchronized riff moments are train wrecks. I took them out, leaving just the third one, but keeping the two big rushes coming out of the first and second ones. It works surprisingly well.

    In short, I took a butcher’s knife to this show, but at least the result is 48 straight minutes of June 1974 jamming - and they don't screw up the "Eyes" jam.

    Steal Your Voice: Instrumental Versions 1972-1974

    76-minute 192kbps mp3 download (4th edition)

    Vocal-free versions of:

    • Here Comes Sunshine (8:16)
    • Loose Lucy (4:26)
    • Johnny B. Goode (1:41)
    • Promised Land (1:51)
    • Scarlet Begonias (7:10)
    • China Cat Rider (9:16)
    • Big River (2:42)
    • Let It Grow (5:32)
    • Bird Song (9:32)
    • Eyes of the World (7:46)
    • Playin' in the Band (17:57)

    All from unreleased shows, with all original source dates contained in mp3 tags. 

    This compilation is the counterpart to another mix I posted that is comprised of remarkable Grateful Dead improvisational passages that aren't related to any song – that just happened once. In this version, The Dead play their familiar, formal compositions, but they leave out the words.

    The edits here preserve almost every note of the original performances, except the sung sections. Verses/choruses have been edited out and the surrounding musical movements seamed together to keep music flowing without disruption. The only exceptions are the final vocal reprises of “Here Comes Sunshine” and “I Know You Rider,” because only they resolve the songs.

    It's both startling and familiar to hear The Dead working through the changes of all these songs, as if the truck carrying the microphones had been delayed, and they decided to go on with the show. The funny thing is that you already know these songs in this way. How each one starts, how it gets to every verse, and how it leaps out of every verse into an instrumental break that has different rules than the others. 

    I made these edits in order to hear those songs within the songs, performed by a jazzy combo that hardly needs to play the melody straight once, before both bending it all out of shape and guiding it through a structured build and resolution. And indeed The Dead were that band, and this is an imaginary concert they performed in the early 1970s. 

      Shortlist: Improvisation 1973-1974 vol. 1

      74 minutes (10 tracks) of vocal-free improvisation in lossy 192kbps mixtape glory.

      New link: Let me know if it doesn't work.

      The aspect of The Grateful Dead’s record release strategy since Garcia’s death that I’d particularly fault is the failure to secure the band’s legacy as one of the outstanding jazz-fusion explorers of the early 1970s. Ten years ago, I became fed up with poor 1972-1974 vocals, and was tired of most of The Dead’s songs, after 20 years of listening to them a lot. So, I made 10 volumes of nothing but vocal-free improvisational material from 1972 to 1974, and listened to nothing but that for a while. As this blog’s mixtapes indicate, I eventually came back around to the songs themselves, but the improv tapes remain a concentrated thrill. 

      This is the first volume I made, probably the one most focused on spontaneous musical compositions that have no relation to any particular song. Some of this material was subsequently released officially, but whatever the provenance of the sources I used at the time, it’s all crispy. The 11/11/73 material may be sourced from a cassette that Dick Latvala sent me in the early 1990s, when I was sending him tapes of Pigpen outbursts, mostly directed at the sound mixer, that Dick couldn’t find in the archive. We’d argued, first, about whether “Dark Star” or “The Other One” was the ultimate Dead barometer (he insisted on “The Other One” and may have been correct), and then about the merits of the dreamy, drifty 11/11/73 “Dark Star” (the jam following it is on this mix). I loved that "Dark Star"; Dick was meh. I eventually conceded that maybe I was partly in love with the particular vibe of my mid-generation cassette, which I'd clutched tightly to my breast for years. Dick responded by sending me a dub of his reference copy of the whole show; he was a very nice guy. The "Dark Star" was still the song I knew and loved, but so much cleaner, so I guess I accidentally tricked Dick – but he was satisfied to receive in return a tape of Pigpen threatening to cut off the sound mixer’s head and shit in it. 

      Dark Starlets: A Europe ’72 Single-Song Mega-Mix

      This mix is comprised of 21 musical segments drawn from all the “Dark Stars” performed during the Europe ’72 tour. They are arranged into two 64-minute sequences, each of which begins with the song’s intro, and each of which contains a verse. It’s all “forward moving” improvisation, whether on the “Dark Star” theme or farther afield. There’s no “space,” though the segments wind up and wind down from spacey zones, such that The Dead’s development of each musical angle here is respected, and the result feels more or less like a single performance, with ebbs and flows. If you’ve ever imagined a one-hour or two-hour “Dark Star” that never completely spaces out and keeps finding new melodic avenues, this is for you.

      192kbps mp3s sourced from the official Europe '72 box (and reloaded to fix a defect)