Grateful Dead: Firelike Jams (1968-1979) - EXPANDED EDITION

This mix collects Grateful Dead improvisations that have something in common with “Fire on the Mountain.” It also includes a live Diga Rhythm Band performance with Garcia, and an early studio take of a vocal “Fire on the Mountain” by The Marin County Collective, which featured Hart and Garcia. 

NOTE: This is a much-expanded revision of an earlier mix. I have simply revised the original blogpost and linked to the expanded file. Apologies to those who grabbed the first one, but comments on that one got me to this one, so there you go. Special thanks to @MrCompletely, @DeadsoundApp, and @MarkRichardson, without whom…

83-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

Firelike ’68 (10/10/68, Hartbeats) (10:59)

  • Starting with a gentle riff that sounds a bit like the Dave Brubeck quartet noodling Scarlet-into-Fire, this jam mutates into a bop-like exploration of the “Dark Star” melody, before revisiting Firelike territory around the six-minute mark, then wandering off again. I kept the jam intact, since it’s good and organic all the way through.

Firelike ’68 (12/16/68, Hartbeats w/David Getz) (9:17)

  • This is the earliest instance of this kind of groove that I’m aware of. Garcia brushes up against “Dark Star” and ventures into explicit “China Cat” territory.

Firelike ’71 (8/21/71, Mickey’s Barn) (12:08)

  • This jam finds its fire gradually and kicks in hard around five minutes. From the “A Day in the Country” radio broadcast. Players include some combination of Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Ned Lagin, David Crosby, and John Cipollina.

Firelike ’73 (7/27/73, Watkins Glen Jam pt. 2) (5:12)

  • The most famous Firelike jam appeared in the second half of the 30-minute “Watkins Glen Jam.” I edited tight, since everyone knows the Watkins jam.

Firelike ’75 (Blues for Allah rehearsal) (14:04)

  • I had the most terrible tape of this in the 1980s - 100th generation, with more hiss than music - but I loved it. The five minutes preceding my start-point are also cool, but they kind of turn the beat around and pounce decisively at the place I begin. (The Save Your Face mix, “Knot Jazz,” contains the whole thing.)

Happiness is Drumming ’76 (6/28/76, Chicago) (6:31)

Happiness is Drumming ’76 (6/22/76, Philadelphia) (1:57)

  • The Chicago performances is a full-band, full-blown “Happiness is Drumming” – essentially the debut of “Fire.” (The mix, unfortunately, has Keith pretty loud, and he's playing without imagination or swing.) The brief Philadelphia occurrence is just a glancing blow, but in a crazy-fun context.

Firelike ’79 (4/16/79, Brent Mydland rehearsal)

  • This is an actual Scarletfire jam – “Scarlet” improv on top of an almost-“Fire” rhythm bed. 

Happiness is Drumming ’75 (5/30/75, Diga Rhythm Band w/Garcia) (10:56)

  • I decided not to include Diga’s familiar released studio recording of this song (which also includes Garcia) in favor of this long, live take.

Fire on the Mountain 1972-1973 (Melton, Garcia, Hart, Freiberg) (5:09)

  • As far as I can discern, the two versions of the Marin County Collective’s unreleased, Mickey’s Barn, “Fire on the Mountain” (1972 and 1973) are based on the same recording, edited shorter and longer (3:17 vs. 5:09). I’ve included only the longer edit (1973). This is the first recording to include the song’s lyrics, with extra and different words, which are rapped by Mickey Hart. Personally, I’m cool with all aspects of that scenario.

Grateful Dead: The Tighten Up Jam (1969-1971)

This mix compiles 25 performances (two hours) of the “Tighten Up Jam” by the Grateful Dead, including several adjacent “Feelin’ Groovy Jams.” The jam typically appeared in the variable middle of “Dark Star” and as a side-trip prior to the final chorus of “Dancin’ in the Streets.” 

The Dead’s “Tighten Up” is named for its plausible derivation from the song of the same name by Archie Bell and the Drells (1968). “Soulful Strut” by Young Holt Unlimited (1968) has also been suggested as an influence. 

“Tighten Up” could be languid and sweet or fast and fierce. It’s one of the very special, pliable, thematic sub-plots in Dead history. Aside from a 1971 outlier, it was only played during a 14-month period from late summer 1969 to fall 1970.

While being distinctive musically, “Tighten Up” was also just a short reach from other comfortable 1969-1970 zones. The band could jump or creep into it from “Dark Star’s” theme, in the middle of a “Dancin’” jam, out of “Feelin’ Groovy,” or from more open spaces in the music.

Yet, while being very much an expression of that moment’s band, the “Tighten Up Jam” also tilts forward toward things to come. 

It is the era’s “Eyes of the World,” allowing the band to explore jazzy rhythms and chords to a greater extent than nearly anything else they were playing at the time. Though in a different key, it gets very close to “Eyes” at numerous points on these recordings. If the band hadn’t had other ideas about the 1973-1974 “Eyes” jam, you could easily imagine set lists containing “Eyes > Tighten Up,” and vice versa.

Some other points of future-song interest:

  • The second half of the 1/2/70 “Feelin’ Groovy” sounds like it is inventing “Sugar Magnolia,” which doesn’t appear on a tape before 6/24/70 – when it bursts, half-formed out that night's "Tighten Up" jam, inside that night's "Dark Star."
  • The second half of the 9/18/70 “Tighten Up” sounds like it is inventing “The Wheel.”
  • In several of the speedier performances, Garcia leads the band into a place that’s related to the second half of the 1973 Watkins Glenn jam – which is itself close kin to “Fire on the Mountain.” Check out the final minute of 5/6/70 and 4/3/70 (1:25 until nearly the end) for examples.

The first 20 tracks on the mix are the highest-fidelity recordings, sequenced to provide both continuity and variation. The final five tracks are exciting performances that only circulate on lo-fi-but-listenable audience tapes (e.g., Portchester, 6/24/70).

There are no jump cuts or edited segues on this mix; I just managed start and end points for each performance.

111-minute mp3 mix zipped up here, which looks like this:

A note of thanks to my masked collaborator:

This mix would not have been possible without this amazing guide to where to find “Tighten Up” in the Dead’s recordings. I don’t know who “enjoy every (dead) sandwich” is, but they are awesome.

Grateful Dead: The Spanish Jam (1968-1995)

This mix compiles 47 performances of the Grateful Dead’s “Spanish Jam” – which may be every recorded version. Lasting 4.25 hours, the mix stretches from January 1968 to June 1995, nearly the band’s whole career.

The performances are divided into five “discs” of various lengths, which align with the band’s discontinuous engagement with the theme. All performances have been volume equalized and edited to have ear-friendly start and end points.

The disc/track indexing is strictly chronological, except for the 1973-1974 disc, which is sequenced for a better-than-chronological listening experience. If you don’t like that, the song title tags are formatted to enable a full chronological sort.

Multiple members of the Dead have credited Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” album as the band’s source/inspiration. Drop the needle on the song “Solea” around the 9:30 mark to hear why that makes sense.

"Solea" and “Spanish Jam” may share an origin in the widely-recorded composition “Malagueña” by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona. Here’s Lecuona playing it in 1954. Here’s Chet Atkins playing it in 1956. Here’s the Stan Kenton big band playing it circa 1961.

You can follow Dead-scholar trails about the song here, among other places.

The mp3 mix has been divided into four separate downloads, so that you don't have to deal with a single, gigantic file. The two 1980s discs are combined into a single file for downloading. 

Disc One: 1968-1970 (download)

  • Four performances
  • 49 minutes

Disc Two: 1973-1974 + 1976 (download)

  • Nine performances
  • 45 minutes

Disc Three: 1981 (download)

  • Nine performances
  • 41 minutes

Disc Four: 1982-1987 (included with 1981 download)

  • Seventeen performances
  • 79 minutes

Disc Five: 1992-1995 (download)

  • Eight performances
  • 38 minutes

Grateful Dead: Mind Left Body Jam (1972-1993)

This mix compiles 18 versions of the Grateful Dead’s “Mind Left Body” jam from 1972-1974 – plus an appendix of 12 later manifestations (1975-1993). These eras are presented as separate mixes.

(This is version two of the mix, including volume and EQ improvements on four tracks.)

1972-1974 MLB MVP goes to Billy. If you could isolate his drums, you would find so many killer samples.

All performances are provided complete. I created jump cuts in some places, but those are at or after the moment when the theme vanished from the jam. (Preferable to constantly fading out as some other theme begins.)

I created sequences for each disc that help create a listening experience with some coherence and flow. Every MLB had its own tempo, vibe, and attack - bursting or emerging out of somewhere else, on its way to somewhere else.

You can also sort all tracks chronologically. The song title format of the mp3 files is: “MLB (YY/MM/DD).” Chronological isn't an ideal, continuous listening experience, IMO, but it enables you to use the mix as an audio reference work.

The standard written reference work on “Mind Left Body” is here. Worth reading all the way to the bottom! I believe I checked out every version noted in the post, and I only omitted the ones that are barely there.

While it is true that most of the post-1974 performances aren’t full MLB Jams, by early Seventies standards, they also have the benefit of doing different things with those four chords. The 12/30/83 > 10/20/84 > 11/29/81 sequence combines into a pretty thrilling jam, for any era, with MLB cropping up in interesting ways.

Two-hour mp3 mix zipped up here

Disc One: 1972-1974 (63 minutes)

  • MLB (6/28/74)
  • MLB (5/12/74)
  • MLB (11/20/73)
  • MLB (10/17/74)
  • MLB (5/19/74)
  • MLB (6/16/74)
  • MLB (9/14/74)
  • MLB (4/8/72 w/other themes)
  • MLB (12/2/73)
  • MLB (9/21/73)
  • MLB (12/18/73)
  • MLB (11/11/73)
  • MLB (10/25/73)
  • MLB (10/19/73)
  • MLB (7/31/74)
  • MLB (10/30/73)
  • MLB (9/21/72 w/other themes)
  • MLB (3/5/72 inside “Good Lovin’”)

Disc Two: 1975-1993 (44 minutes)

  • MLB (10/18/78 - w/“Mojo" licks)
  • MLB (12/30/83)
  • MLB (10/20/84 - w/other themes)
  • MLB (11/29/81 - w/other themes)
  • MLB (2/28/75 - “Music Never Stopped” rehearsal)
  • MLB (7/16/90)
  • MLB (3/24/90 - “Mud Love Buddy”)
  • MLB (6/8/92 - out of “Corrina”)
  • MLB (3/10/93)
  • MLB (3/10/85 - AUD)
  • MLB (6/4/83 - AUD)
  • MLB (9/6/79)

Grateful Dead: Scarlet > Fire 1981

Here’s a 52-minute slice of 1981 “Scarlet > Fire,” comprising three unreleased performances. The mighty 3/10/81 MSG version is presented in full. Two more are presented as instrumental edits. Segues weave it all into a non-stop experience that goes like this:

Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain > Scarlet Jam > Fire Jam > Scarlet Jam > Fire Jam.

Which is to say three transitions!

I was turned on to these performances by a crowd-sourcing tweet I sent out, because I was on a S>F binge and wanted to check out some unknown (to me) versions from years I don’t know very well. Thanks to all who participated. If people enjoy this, I’ll look into samplers from more years (when I can handle listening to more of these songs again). 

52-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain (3/10/81 - MSG)
  • Scarlet Jam > Fire on the Mountain (instr. edit) (5/15/81 - Rutgers)
  • Scarlet Jam > Fire on the Mountain (instr. edit) (9/12/81 - Greek)

Grateful Dead: May 1977 Dancin’ in the Streets Jams

This mix is a continuous, instrumental edit of the jams from all seven May 1977 performances of “Dancin’ in the Streets.”

Every time the band finishes the synchronized riff section of one jam, they slide right into the beginning of another night’s jam. All dancing, no singing.

The segues are seamless, but I’ve presented the mix as seven tracks, so you can compare the performances. Aside from the first track, which includes the opening of the song, each version starts at the same moment. The final version fades out. All performances have been officially released, except for 5/1 and 5/4.

67-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Dancin’ Intro & Jam > (5/8/77)
  • Dancin’ Jam > (5/19/77)
  • Dancin’ Jam > (5/15/77)
  • Dancin’ Jam > (5/12/77)
  • Dancin’ Jam > (5/22/77)
  • Dancin’ Jam > (5/1/77)
  • Dancin’ Jam (5/4/77)

This mix is a companion to this May ’77 “Fire on the Mountain” jams collection. If you want even more edited May '77 madness, here’s a 12-minute version of “Brown Eyed Women” that includes every one of the instrumental breaks. 


Grateful Dead: May 1977 Fire on the Mountain Jams

This collection provides instrumental edits of every Grateful Dead performance of “Fire on the Mountain” in May 1977. It was still a new song, played only six times prior to these versions.

As an improvisational vehicle, the song had three parts, all with variable lengths and approaches:

  • The introduction, up to the first verse
  • The middle jam, between the two verses
  • The rousing final jam, which led to the “Scarlet Begonias” bookend close

In addition to eliminating the verses and choruses, I’ve also removed the return to the baseline groove that occurred between the middle jam and the second verse, so those solo-driven parts flow together without a slow-down. 

Otherwise, it’s all the music - each performance as a pure jam that reveals the essential differences among them. They range from seven to twelve minutes each. All have been officially released except 5/4/77.

72-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Fire Jam (5/4/77)
  • Fire Jam (5/5/77)
  • Fire Jam (5/8/77)
  • Fire Jam (5/11/77)
  • Fire Jam (5/13/77)
  • Fire Jam (5/17/77)
  • Fire Jam (5/21/77)
  • Fire Jam (5/25/77)

You'll find a mix of May '77's "Dancin' in the Streets" jams here

The Grateful Dead: Terraplayin’ (1993-1994)

Pretend that Spotify recommended this music because you listen to a lot of Khruangbin.

I have smashed together more than two hours of improvisational segments from late 1993 and 1994 Grateful Dead performances of “Playin’ in the Band” and “Terrapin Station.” 

At the time, the approaches to those two songs’ jams were closely related, and together they represent one of the highlights of late, improvisational Grateful Dead. Slinky, fusion-y, blue-green, dance music.

Everything on this mix appeared on previous Save Your Face mixes. I made a rough-cut playlist, and it turned out to be great for everything from snow shoveling to copywriting – a Dead “mood” that both rewards close attention and functions as sophisticated wallpaper music. 

So, I decided to take out the remaining vocals and tidy up the edges. Many of the segues originated on the earlier mixes I pulled from, and I welded a few more things together for this mix. Some edits are good illusions and others will be obvious, but they help create a dramatic ebb and flow of the band's Playin’ dilations and Jam-Out-of-Terrapin concentrations. 

This is what the mix will look like in your music player, if you download the zipped mp3 file. Anything that’s named “Terraplayin’” is an edit of related performances, featuring at least one jam from each song. 

2h13m mp3 file zipped up here

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

Grateful Dead: Knot Jazz (1968-1994)

This is an all-instrumental mix of generally jazzy Grateful Dead. The track list probably explains the premise pretty clearly: repetitious patterns in strange time signatures, structured jams, a family of Phil riffs, various knots that the band would tie and untie. As much as possible, I picked performances that present the motifs and riffs through unorthodox explorations. 

To those, I added some other Dead jazz moods, looking for interesting continuities across the years and songs. The overall goal is a gigantic, surprising jam that foregrounds the jazz/fusion band the Dead sort of were. 

Almost all this music appeared in some form on previous Save Your Face compilations. The exceptions are the 1994 “Terrapin” and “Let It Grow” jams. Nothing here has been officially released to my knowledge. 

140-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

Part 1 (69 minutes):

  • Paging Getz & Gilberto (1975 rehearsal)
  • Clementine instrumental (1/68)
  • Bird Song instrumental (7/27/73)
  • Philo Stomp > Jam (10/24/72)
  • Phil Jazz Jam (7/1/73)
  • Longer than Dirt (1975 rehearsal)
  • Slipknoodle (1975 rehearsal)
  • Early Eyes Jams (2/21>22/73)
  • Eyesknot (6/20/74)
  • The Seven (3/21/70)
  • The Nines (1975 rehearsal)

Part 2 (69 minutes):

  • Help on the Way/Looseknot Jam (1975 rehearsal)
  • Jam (10/19/72)
  • Spanish Jam (3/24/73)
  • The Main Ten (6/19/68)
  • Terrapin Jam (10/19/94)
  • Let it Grow Jam (3/6/94)
  • Let it Grow Horns instrumental (9/26/73)
  • The Music Almost Stopped (1975 rehearsal)
  • Noodle on the Mountain (1975 rehearsal)
  • Another Riff (1994 rehearsal)