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.)

Summer ’74 (Best of Shortlists Volume 2)

Zipped up file of mp3s here

LP1: 44 minutes

  • Bertha (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
  • Deal (Seattle, WA 5-21-74)
  • Jack Straw (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
  • To Lay Me Down (Miami, FL 6-23-74)
  • Peggy-O (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Ramble On Rose (Vancouver, BC 5-17-74)
  • Let It Rock (Miami, FL 6-23-74)
  • Casey Jones (Santa Barbara, CA 5-25-74)

LP2: 43 minutes

  • Cumberland Blues (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Dire Wolf (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • It Must Have Been the Roses (Seattle, WA 5-21-74)
  • The Race is On (Vancouver, BC 5-17-74)
  • Tennessee Jed (Santa Barbara, CA 5-25-74)
  • One More Saturday Night (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Ship of Fools (Chicago, IL 7-25-74)
  • Brokedown Palace (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)

(12 of these songs come from previously-posted curations of individual shows, and the other four are new to this blog. All from unreleased shows, as of May 2017.)

This second “best of shortlists” is a little different from the first one. Instead of pulling particularly excellent performances from across 1972-1974, I’ve tried to distill something specific that I like about the middle of 1974.  The performances here come from May, June, and July. 

To emphasize this thing I like, I’ve selected mostly compositions that they started playing when they were the country and western band and the tight Europe ’72 unit. 

By 1974, on the right night, any one of these songs could shed its habituated execution and become a pliable, loping groove, the band locked into a magical zone of easy-going syncopation, inspired detailing, and sweet singing. It’s 1974 Dead at their fluid best, taking full possession of these older “small numbers.” Five players listening intently to each other, and strolling, striding, or bounding across the compositions with patience and joy. 

(The "Sugar Magnolia" on my first "best of" mix would fit right in here, too.)

In pursuit of my goal, I’ve included some songs with minor vocal flubs (“Bertha,” “Dire Wolf,” “Ramble on Rose," "Casey Jones"), but these moments didn't deter the band, so they probably won't deter you.

This mix also features songs that were rarely played during the Spring/Summer ’74 tours: “Brokedown” (once), “Dire Wolf” (twice), “Cumberland” (three times), and “Peggy-O” (four times). This is the only time they played “Let It Rock.”

In short, this is an imaginary 90-minute album of an imaginary mid-1974 first set that I would jump the watchman for, right outside the fence.

Best of Shortlists Volume 1

78-minute mp3 download here

  • They Love Each Other (Philadelphia, PA 3-24-73)
  • Sugar Magnolia (Santa Barbara, CA 5-25-74)
  • Row Jimmy (Chicago, IL 7-25-74)
  • Stella Blue (Berkeley, CA 8-21-72)
  • Friend of the Devil (Berkeley, CA 8-21-72)
  • Mississippi Half-Step (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
  • Sugaree (Vancouver, BC 6-22-73)
  • China Doll (Miami, FL 6-23-74)
  • Scarlet Begonias (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Looks Like Rain (Williamsburg, VA 9-11-73)
  • Ship of Fools (Portland, OR 5-19-74)
  • U.S. Blues (Portland, OR 5-19-74)

It appears that I’ve got twenty 1972-1974 shows “shortlisted” on this blog – totaling close to a day and a half of music! Almost every song performed post-Europe ’72 is represented in one or more versions, though there are some glaring holes and instances where what I’ve got isn’t truly amazing.

This mix compiles what I think are some of the greatest hits of the shows I’ve surveyed so far, in the category of non-jam songs, with a strong slant toward compositions that were new in 1973-1974. 

I will admit that I think that this is a great mix, but it is disappointing that with all the shows I’ve scrutinized, there aren’t more versions of every song contending for greatest hits status. I've been trying to be rather rigorous when I pull stuff aside, but I’d like to be able to say, “That was fucking amazing,” more often.

Perhaps the conclusion to draw from this experience is that there should be more official albums like this mix: “Live Versions 1973-1974.” You can’t choose from among five great “Dark Stars” and six great “Other Ones,” etc. but you can – and probably should – choose from among ten “U.S. Blues” or ten “Mississippi Half-Steps.” With carefully structured songs, either the band (and the recording) shows you everything the song has to offer, or it doesn’t. I think of the band’s performances of each song as a series of “takes”; some takes are bad, some are okay, some are very good, and some belong on the album. 

Hopefully you’ll agree that the takes I’ve compiled here are album-worthy. 

The Final Face (1989/1991)

Update: This post was/is of a Frankenstein show I constructed out of the best unreleased material I saw live and that I have in good recordings. It's from Ann Arbor, April '89, with "Dark Star" from Greensboro, April '91 added in. Since posting it, I regretted the inclusion of a lame "Wharf Rat" and the louder, duller sound of the Greensboro recordings. So, I EQ-ed the "Dark Star" to sound more like the Ann Arbor material – and that sonic matching, plus the deletion of "Wharf Rat," led to a more exciting running order for the second half.

So, edition #2 is a better experience than my original post - and it's as close as I can come to pretending that I saw a 1974 second set. 

mp3 download here

Part 1:

  • Feel Like a Stranger  8:15
  • Brown Eyed Women  4:55
  • Bird Song  13:14
  • Let It Grow 11:41
  • China Doll  6:50
  • Scarlet Begonias >  9:31
  • Fire on the Mountain  12:08

Part 2:

  • Dark Star  12:34
  • The Other One  7:47
  • Playin’ in the Band  12:45
  • Dark Star > Playin’ Jam  7:25
  • Playin’ in the Band Reprise  3:53
  • Not Fade Away  11:25

Original Post: 

Lest anyone assume that this blog implies that I only appreciate a few years of the Dead’s history, here’s an outlier post. I saw live Dead from 1988 to 1993. In there was the final renaissance, from 1989 through Brent Mydland’s death in 1990, with some post-Brent afterglow, before Bruce Hornsby dropped off. 

Of the unreleased shows I saw in that period, Ann Arbor April 1989 seems to be the best - two shows that between them hit a lot of the songs you particularly want to hear, with excellent, extended jamming. These shows were my first exposure to genuinely great in-person Dead music, my previous shows having been creaky-to-okay post-coma affairs. 

The last great live Dead performance I saw was at the other end of their final peak: "Dark Star" on April Fool’s Day in 1991, in Greensboro, NC. The rest of that show was nothing special, but the only "Dark Star" I saw turned out to be one worth pulling aside. Brent's gone, and there wasn't any full recovery from that, but perhaps because "Dark Star" is "Dark Star," and the band was game, and they hadn't played it in 15 shows, this one hits some very fine places, and the slow build to the reprise is quite delightful. More than 15 minutes, all told.

Here I’ve joined together all that material in a pseudo-album format. (Dates/cities included in tags for all song titles.) If these late years are unknown to you, this is a fine introduction to a period that in my mind is not impossibly distant from '77. Once again, we have a tight, enthusiastic, funky, reliable band that likes to lock into a bouncy place and hang out there for a while. If the '89-'91 bounce works for you, you're going to be happy straight through Stranger, Birdsong, Let It Grow, Scarlet-Fire, Dark Star, Playin', and Not Fade Away. 

I'm also of the opinion that Weir's guitar playing - always the decisive spice in the GD mix for me - got increasingly interesting after the '70s, so one benefit of the Dead's final flowering is a band that was as into it as Weir. The SBD mix for most of the Ann Arbor material is excellent, and Weir's playing really shines.

Feedback?

If anyone is downloading and listening to these shortlists, I'd love to hear what you think. I've made these mixes for my own listening pleasure, but if people are enjoying them and want more, I'll keep posting them. 

Now that you can listen to a quality SBD of nearly any show on archive.net, I've long since stopped worrying about preserving unreleased shows in their entirety for myself. And The Dead have released SO many shows that I have no shortage of complete shows that sound great, all mediocrity and repetition intact.

My goal is to avoid listening to a bad-to-average performance of any song more than once or twice, and to listen to very good-to-great performances of songs over and over again. Life is too short.

They played "Row Jimmy" something like 70 times in 1973 and 1974; I want to find and memorize the best 10, which would probably be enough to sustain me for the rest of my life, since I'd also have 10 or more great versions of every other song too - and that's just from 1972-1974.

Ultimately, I think the tyranny of "the show" has limited a demonstration of The Dead's oeuvre, excellence, and achievement since Garcia's death. It's rare that The Dead curate a live release, rather than releasing the entire show – but when they do curate, the result is typically great. At the same time, many Heads (and I was once one of them) still don't want to hear live Dead for the first time, except in the context of the complete show. They wouldn't want to have anything to do with my shortlists, because they deform the show and won't be identical to those parts of the show that they would have chosen as outstanding. 

True, "there's nothing like a Grateful Dead concert." However, there are also eight bajillion recorded Grateful Dead concerts, and there hasn't been an actual Grateful Dead show since 1995 - 21 years ago. There's absolutely no reason to keep treating concerts as though they are inviolable holy ceremonies, especially when you can stream them complete anytime you want. There's no reason to always stack their tunes in ways that mimic their typical placement in set lists. You don't have to alternate Jerry and Bobby songs. You don't have to bury a monumental "Wharf Rat" at the end of three hours of everything that came before it. You can choose your own adventure.

It's good to shake things up and to shave things down; it makes everything fresher to set it in a new context that doesn't follow the same old pattern. There's no right way to look at The Grateful Dead.

Step back from your screen and this swirl will become a 1972 Garcia:

(Image from a fan t-shirt I bought at a show in the 1980s.)

Some of my tape cases.

I've tossed most of the actual tapes, but the cases remain. I cringe to think how much time I spent on these, let alone all of the re-EQ-ing of tapes and copying them. Now you can hear a perfect version of nearly every show on archive.org. Still feels a bit like science fiction to me.