Grateful Dead: In the Twilight Zone (1985)

It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition. This is the dimension we call the Grateful Dead.

Imagine if you will, 30 minutes of 1985 Grateful Dead music related to “The Twilight Zone” theme and mood.

With the help of middle-man Merl Saunders, the Dead were hired to create theme and incidental music for the 1985 reboot of “The Twilight Zone.” A soundtrack album was released containing a combination of ominous Dead “space” and cheesier, ‘80s pop moves.

This mp3 mix includes all the “space” passages, plus an edit of studio outtakes, plus three live passages. No cheesy stuff.

“Merl says that the night he sat in during the ‘space’ jam at one of the recent Berkeley shows, ‘we did a bit of the Zone without the theme. It was kind of loose. We’d been in the studio working things about a week, and then all of a sudden I was just up there onstage!’” (Golden Road #6)

According to Garcia, the band recorded enough bits to construct a much larger Twilight Zone space.

“… but what we got [to do] was a collection of little musical inserts called stings and bumpers – you know, little hunks of non-specific music of various lengths that have different moods. One might be a mood like, ‘Don’t open the door,’ or ‘Don’t go up into the attic.’ Or, ‘I’m going to work work, honey. Are you sure you’ll be OK home alone?’ They go all the way from a sort of noncommittal [he makes light, almost playful guitar sounds] to a real ominous ‘Braaaaaagh!” They gave us a huge menu of those – 40 that are like 5 seconds, 20 that are 6.5 seconds, a bunch that they can fade in and out. Then it’s the music editor who actually fits them into the show.” (Golden Road #6)

My assumption is that the 17 minutes from the official soundtrack included on this mix are made up of a slew of these tiny pieces of mood music, edited together. 

31-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Twilight Zone (live 6/21/85)
  • Twilight Zone (live 9/15/85)
  • Twilight Zone (studio outtake edit)
  • Space (live 3/9/85 w/Merl Saunders)
  • TZ Soundtrack: Main Title Theme
  • TZ Soundtrack: Kentucky Rye Pt. 3
  • TZ Soundtrack: Shadowman (edit)
  • TZ Soundtrack: Nightcrawlers
  • TZ Soundtrack: Eye of Newton (edit)
  • TZ Soundtrack: End Credits

The session/demo edit comes from this set of fragments. I found that several of them contain the exact same, main passage (w/some different treatments), so my edit comprises the non-repeating passages. 

If you enjoy the Dead making soundtrack music, you might like:

Grateful Dead: Pouring Light Into Jazzes (1973-1974)

This two-hour mix features a particular zone of 1973-1974 jazz Dead. It’s comprised of some of the most diffuse and drifty “Dark Star” passages of the period, plus adjacent jams that took the same mood into additional territory. 

Common denominators are complex, gentle beauty and Bill Kreutzmann’s amazing drumming.

Soaring-melodic-rock “Dark Star” moments occur very rarely. The first verse of “Dark Star” appears periodically to present the straight melody that solves the Rubic’s Cube happening everywhere else. 

Each track is a continuous, as-played, Dead passage (with one exception that I forget). I’ve chosen start and end points based on the coherent zone I was seeking. I’ve created segues where opportunities presented themselves and faded elsewhere. 

I figured two hours of this trip was enough. It’s the same length as this compendium of Europe ’72 “Dark Star” passages and adjacent jams. The two mixes offer an easy and interesting way to compare and enjoy the two extremes of the mature one-drummer period. 

2-hour mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Dark Star > (12/6/73)
  • Jam After Dark Star (12/6/73)
  • Dark Star (11/30/73)
  • Dark Star (2/24/74)
  • Dark Star (6/23/74)
  • Dark Star (11/11/73)
  • Jam After Dark Star (11/11/73)
  • Dark Star > (10/18/74)
  • Jam After Dark Star (10/18/73)

Errata: The two 12/6/73 tracks are mislabeled as 12/5/73 in the mp3 files.

Cover art: Detail manipulation of Leo Morey, 1934. Used as the cover of the August 1934 issue of the pulp magazine “Amazing Stories.” High resolution image of the original painting courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Grateful Dead Shortlist: Ann Arbor ’89 (April 5, 6)

These were the only shows I ever walked to from my own apartment, and my group had mail-order, 10th-13th row, center floor tickets both nights. I’d seen my first four, lackluster shows in 1988, and I was still a fairly new 1970s-centric tape-head, who considered contemporary live shows to be more good fun than musically impressive.

And then, all of a sudden, I was bar-band distance from two nights of tight, powerful, adventurous, boisterous 1989-1990 era Dead. I couldn’t believe how good they were. I hardly knew how to process the fact that present-tense Dead were great, except that seeing more shows became incredibly important. (The head-scratching gorilla, looking at a Stealie skull, sitting on top of a pile of books, is exactly the right image for me at this moment.)

The only current official release from Spring ’89 is “Download Series Vol. 9” (2006), which features highlights from the two Pittsburgh shows that immediately preceded these Ann Arbor shows.

I’ve been listening to tapes of these shows since the week after seeing them, but a recent “ultramatrix” upgrade to the circulating tapes finally makes the recorded experience punch harder and feel more like the live event I remember. 

Almost 3-hour mp3 mix zipped up here

Disc One (54 minutes):

  • Feel Like a Stranger >
  • Franklin’s Tower
  • Dupree’s Diamond Blues
  • Mama Tried
  • Touch of Grey
  • When I Paint My Masterpiece
  • Bird Song >
  • Promised Land

Disc Two (58 minutes):

  • Let It Grow >
  • U.S. Blues
  • Scarlet Begonias >
  • Fire on the Mountain
  • Samson and Delilah >
  • Cumberland Blues >
  • Man Smart, Woman Smarter

Disc Three (57 minutes):

  • Playin’ in the Band >
  • Built to Last >
  • Playin’ Jam
  • China Doll (>)
  • The Other One (>)
  • Around and Around >
  • Playin’ Reprise
  • The Mighty Quinn
  • Not Fade Away

Editing notes:

  • Where you see “>”, that means the band/tape plays straight through – no edits, no tuning break.
  • Where you see “(>)”, that means I cross-faded an artificial segue to keep the flow going.

Grateful Dead: The China > Rider Jam (mostly 1974)

This mix presents thirteen 1972-1974 performances of the transition jam between “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider.” 

Most selections are from 1974, the bounciest, grooviest year of the band’s history, and consequently the peak year for this jam. As one would expect of 1974, the passage got longer and more hair-raising. 

All the performances followed the same pattern:

  • Transition-introduction (25 seconds)
  • Weir solo (1.5 to 2 minutes)
  • Garcia solo > Feelin’ Groovy jam (variable, the length of the whole jam minus ~2.5 minutes)
  • Approach to I Know You Rider's first verse (10-30 seconds)

The Feelin’ Groovy theme was added to the China > Rider jam in March 1973.

Within the standard frame, variations abound in the individual playing and the collective mesh. Drop the needle into the same sections of many versions in a row, and you’ll be surprised. 

Pried loose from the two songs, the China > Rider jam stands up on its own as part of the bubbling “thematic jam” arc that runs through Alligator, Dark Star, Good Lovin’, Tighten Up, and “stuff that happened after Truckin’ in 1974.” (You'll find more mixes focused on such themes here.)

Different sound board mixes also contribute to the experience of variety. This variable is especially cool for the Weir solo section, where his guitar part syncopates more strongly with with different musicians on different recordings.

I was stuck between two options for this mix: Choose five or six versions, or include too many for any sane person to listen to at one time. I went with too many.

For review purposes, I isolated 28 of the period’s jams (mostly 1973-1974), and then I winnowed them down to 13 for this compilation. 

There was no rhyme or reason to the 28 I started with, except that I tried not to miss long versions. Of course, my picks are entirely unrelated to how well or badly the band played and sang the two songs on either side of the jam. 

Some versions got cut for bad sound or out of tune instruments. Some performances were simply okay. Others were really good, but lacked any great distinction when compared to many other versions. In this last respect, 1973 got trampled by 1974; I started with a dozen versions from each year. 

Anyhow, here are 13 really fine China > Rider jams. 

82-minute mp3 compilation here

  • 72/10/08 (4:44)
  • 73/07/28 (5:27)
  • 73/09/11 (5:56)
  • 74/02/22 (5:34)
  • 74/02/24 (7:00)
  • 74/03/23 (5:24)
  • 74/05/19 (5:23)
  • 74/06/08 (5:17)
  • 74/06/16 (7:36)
  • 74/06/30 (7:54)
  • 74/07/31 (6:26)
  • 74/08/05 (8:18)
  • 74/09/10 (6:46)

Cover art by Mary Poliquin. You can purchase a print here.

Grateful Dead: Skullf*ckery (December 1970)

Here’s a big, happy, fake show curated from the December 1970 tapes – a very brief, interesting, unreleased musical moment.

The “American Beauty” songs are limbered up (LP released the previous month), the band is tilting toward the cowboy/“Other One” statement of their 1971 live album, and there are still two drummers in the band. Hart would leave prior to the March-April, 1971 recording of “Skullf*ck.”

What else is new and interesting about December 1970? 

  • “The Other One” had just started breaking out into true jams in November. It's flourishing in December.
  • “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Around and Around” debuted in November. This "Around" is smoking!
  • “Good Lovin’” was becoming a bigger deal, with extended jamming and episodes of great, free-form Pigpen storytelling. This mix presents the best of all of that.
  • Unique events in the December shows include the only electric “Monkey and the Engineer,” a very rare electric “Deep Elem Blues” (last ’til ’80), the last-ever performance of “Til the Morning Comes,” and the final performance of “Attics of My Life” until 1972. 

Jesse Jarnow pointed me at this month, and I had a fantastic time listening and re-listening to it. I was also primed for it by a 1970 mix from Mr. Completely. 

For this mixtape, I’ve arranged the stuff I really liked into four “sets,” so that it has manageable and coherent listening episodes that scratch particular itches.

While the month’s set lists don’t imply lots of jamming, it’s there, and it’s great. I edited together pieces of multiple versions of “The Other One” and “Good Lovin’” to create giant versions of the month’s big jam songs, without vocal repetition. The “NFA>GDTR” jam almost dissolves. The "Hard to Handle" is involved. There’s even a minute-long “Mountain Jam" that slides into a "St. Stephen" jam. My 45-minute “Good Lovin’” edit is mostly jamming, with just a few stretches of exceptional Pigpen rapping, plus both ends of the song itself. 

4-hour mp3 mix zipped up here (performance dates included in song tags)

Set One (66 minutes)

  • Truckin’
  • Sugar Magnolia
  • Cumberland Blues
  • Dire Wolf
  • Black Peter
  • Friend of the Devil
  • Attics of My Life
  • Easy Wind
  • Til the Morning Comes
  • Casey Jones
  • Brokedown Palace

Set Two (60 minutes)

  • Deep Elem Blues
  • Beat It On Down the Line
  • Me and Bobby McGee
  • It Hurts Me Too
  • Me and My Uncle
  • Hard to Handle
  • Mama Tried
  • Big Railroad Blues
  • Smokestack Lightning
  • Around and Around
  • The Monkey and the Engineer
  • The Frozen Logger

Set Three (66 minutes)

  • The Other One (3-version edit) (23 minutes - one track)
  • Good Lovin’ (5-version edit) (44 minutes - six tracks)

Set Four (48 minutes)

  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • St. Stephen >
  • Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down the Road
  • Darkness Jam > St. Stephen Jam
  • Morning Dew

I’ve also included a considerable amount of stage banter, longer bits as separate tracks, which I haven’t bothered to list above - but it adds a lot of personality to the performances!

The shows are:

  • 12/12 Santa Rosa, CA
  • 12/23 Winterland, SF, CA
  • 12/26-27-28 Legions Stadium, El Monte, CA
  • 12/31 Winterland, SF, CA

Grateful Dorks: Jamming at the Matrix (12/15/70)

This mix simulates a 28-minute live, instrumental jam session by David Crosby, Garcia, Lesh, and probably Kreutzmann - otherwise known as David & The Dorks or Jerry & The Jerks.

This improvisational quartet had its own identity, often quite different in mood and pulse from the Grateful Dead. All the players sound delighted, responding to each other with big ears.

There’s only one live tape, and it’s very much worth your time. (See source note, below.) The point of my edit/mix is to create an extended jam by this band.  I am very grateful to Jesse Jarnow for pointing me at the tape and inquiring if this kind of edit could work.

My edits remove the vocal sections from six songs, while retaining nearly every other second of the music (of those songs). Some excellent non-verbal Crosby vocalizing remains, as well as the final chorus of “Motherless Children.” 

The Dorks played live only four times, all in December 1970: Three official shows at the Matrix (12/15-17) and one unannounced set in San Rafael a few days later. The only known live recording is this one from the 15th.

The Dorks are so nearly an apocryphal band that there is no photograph of the whole quartet on stage together. I made a live band image for the cover art by compositing elements of three photos. The Crosby/Lesh locked-in implications of the fake photo are fully acquitted by the music.

Convention makes Mickey Hart the drummer on this 12/15/70 recording. A photograph makes Bill Kreutzmann the drummer at a subsequent show. Jarnow has scholarly reasons for suspecting that Kreutzmann was the band’s only drummer; my ears agree. (Apologies to Mickey, if I’m wrong!)

Put this in your playlist alongside Mickey & The Hartbeats ’68 and Grateful Airplane ’70, as well as some of this late-summer ’69 bonus-player, curve-ball fun

Dorks 28-minute instrumental/jam edit, mp3 mix, zipped up here

  • Wall Song (3:39)
  • Laughing (7:09)
  • Triad (5:23)
  • Deep Elem Blues (3:13)
  • Motherless Children (4.44)
  • Cowboy Movie (3:57)

Source note:

For this edit, I’ve mostly used the file available for download here, which also includes a rehearsal session tape. (I did not include anything from the rehearsal tape, which is altogether less committed than the live event.) There are variations of the live tape on I had one of those, which I used in a couple of places.

Charlie Christian: Extended Solo Edits (1940-1941)

This mix creates long electric guitar solo edits from multiple takes of Charlie Christian’s performances in the Benny Goodman Sextet. Twenty-five solos are combined within six songs, lasting half an hour.

Charlie Christian, “the genius of electric guitar,” died at age 25 in 1942. He arrived and left just in time to be an extraordinary pioneer in the early 1940s small group scene, which replaced big band jazz with nimbler units, who discovered the way forward.

Christian was spotted by the golden-eared John Hammond in Oklahoma City in 1939, who recommended him to Benny Goodman. Though limited mostly to 15-to-45-second solos in his recordings with the Goodman Sextet, Christian played in all kinds of directions – toward bop, west coast jazz, and Chuck Berry’s blartney-blartney. He’s credited as one of the originators of modern guitar solos.

The document of record is the four-disc, “Charlie Christian: The Genius of Electric Guitar.” It’s great both for Christian and for the Goodman Sextet. The Goodman and Artie Shaw small groups were the  disruptive, post-punk, insect-rock of the early 1940s. Also pop superstars who got their clothes torn off by screaming fans. Elvis and The Beatles didn’t invent that stuff.

My selections for edits are based entirely on there being sufficient takes, and sufficient Christian soloing, to make an edit a worthwhile value-add. Jerry Garcia and Steely Dan listened to Charlie Christian. The history of jazz since 1940 listened to Charlie Christian. You should, too. I’ve made it easy with edits that present him as the featured rock star of the album.

28-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Wholly Cats (6 solos)
  • Breakfast Feud (9 solos)
  • I Surrender Dear (2 solos)
  • Good Enough to Keep (3 solos)
  • Solo Flight (2 solos - the whole song)
  • I Can’t Give You Anything But Love (3 solos)

Grateful Dead: The 2020 Save Your Face Mixes

Save Your Face offered up 30, wide-ranging Grateful Dead mixes for your consideration this year. 

As usual, nearly everything included was unreleased. We touched down in a lot of eras, continued to look for great corners of music you might otherwise miss, and found more ways to create unorthodox Dead listening experiences. 

Click the linked titles, below, to read more about each mix and download it as mp3s if it looks good to you.

Comprehensive Theme-Jam Anthologies

The Mind Left Body Jam (1972-1993)

The Spanish Jam (1968-1995)

The Tighten Up Jam (1969-1971)

Firelike Jams (1968-1979)

The first three of these mixes compile (nearly) every performance of these themes. “Mind Left Body” and “Spanish Jam” are organized into era-specific discs. The "Firelike" mix compiles the pre-1977 history (and one 1979 anomaly) of performances that are obviously, or could be construed as, related to “Fire on the Mountain.”

Composition-Based Albums

The Dead Play Dylan ’94

The Dead Play The Beatles (1983-1985)

Ready for More? (Final Songs - 1993-1995)

Brent Mydland Featuring the Grateful Dead

I assert that there is no better way to listen to the Dead playing Dylan than this 1994 mix. The Beatles covers anthology provides the best case scenario, and it’s a lot more fun that you might expect. The Brent Mydland compilation includes a version of each of his original songs – so you can pretend it’s a Brent album, backed by the Dead. “Ready for More” is a companion to Dave Lemieux’s “Ready of Not” selections, which includes versions that contrast with his picks, because the band’s approach varied over time. 

1968-1970 Highlight Mixes

With a focus on the early improvisational story, SYF carved out a series of unorthodox experiences from the early years, a period we’ll probably settle into in early 2021.

Probably June ’68

Late ’68 Fantasy Set (August to December)

Do Not Step on Alligator (Feb. ’69 jams)

Shortlist: 11/6/70 Port Chester (instrumental edit)

Grateful Airplane (11/20/70)

Fall 1972 Improvisation Mixes

October ’72 Jams (St. Louis)

November ’72 Jams (Texas)

December ’72 Jams (mid-month)

Solo, Duo, and Trio (11/12/72)

These mixes collect fantastic improvisational material from a period when the soundboard mixes were generally terrible. The last mix, above, mines fascinating stuff from a soundboard mix that often isolated Garcia’s guitar, or Garcia and Weir’s guitars on one channel.

May 1976 Rehearsal

On Returning (May ’76 rehearsal)

An edited curation of a bunch of carefully-played, well-recorded songs, plus jamming. Slot it into your library just before the June 1976 live shows.

May 1977 Extended Jams

May 1977 Fire jams

May 1977 Dancin’ jams

Additional May 1977 Edits

The “Fire” and “Dancin’” edits provide continuous instrumental edits of (nearly) every performance of the song from May 1977. Though flowing together, each jam is a separate track, so you can compare and contrast. If you don’t care for the Dead’s arrangement of the song-part of “Dancin’” in this period, you will be grateful for this endless jam-part. The “Additional” mix provides extended or instrumental edits of May 1977 performances of “Brown Eyed Women,” “Sugaree,” and “Peggy-O.” 

Scarlet > Fire ’81

Scarlet>Fire ’81

I asked twitter for year-by-year top “Scarlet > Fires,” and feedback led me to a year I don’t know very well. The resulting mix combines three 1981 versions, one with vocals and the other two as instrumental edits – so the jam swings back and forth for a really long time. 

1987 Mixes

Garcia Sings Hunter/Garcia (September 1987)

Shoreline (October 1987)

I had no idea how fantastically Garcia was singing in 1987. The September “Garcia Sings” mix is all about that. The October Shoreline mix contains more great singing, but is also a broader “road trips” anthology. These mixes go great with this year’s 1987 Dave’s Picks.

1993 Mixes

Shortlist: March 17, 1993 Landover, MD

Shortlist: June 21-23, 1993 Deer Creek ’93

Shortlist: June 11, 1993 Hebron, OH (instrumental edit)

Save Your Face is a super-fan of the best live Dead from 1994. We haven’t found 1993 to have as high a hit rate, song by song, or soundboard mix by soundboard mix, but when it was great, it was great. These three mixes accidentally sit together very well. Two “Dark Stars” and a lot of nice Garcia vocals and instrumental sweetness are included.

1994 MIDI Adventures (cont.)

Refugees from Spaceports

More far out passages from Drums>Space to complement earlier SYF mixes of such stuff.

1993-1994: Terraplayin’ Jams


This mix provides two hours of 1993-1994 “Playin’” and “Terrapin” jams, most of them segued. These two jams were very closely related at the time. The mix includes the only totally successful, full-length-instrumental edit I’ve made of “Terrapin Station.” A big, shiny, modulating groove of late Dead. 

Seattle May ’95

The Last Great Show?

SYF has presented mixtapes of several 1995 shows or runs that demonstrate that there was no steady, show-by-show collapse. Our May 1995 Seattle mix demonstrates that there was a killer night just 20 shows before the end - a truly excellent performance. Was it the last great show? 

Recombinant SYF Mixes

In 2020, we also bundled a couple of earlier SYF mixtape series into the boxed sets they should have been.

February 1973 Improvisational Highlights

These mixes provide a short-cut past an important month’s mediocre song-playing, so you can easily follow the plot of the wonderful improvisational Dead.

March 16-21, 1994 (Richfield and Chicago)

SYF curated these shows in three different pieces at different times. This version bundles them all into the boxed set we were thinking of. 

What Did SYF Post in 2019?

Find out here, in last year's mixtape roundup.

Grateful Dead: Late 1968 Set (August-December mixtape)

This mix combines some of my personal favorites from the sporadic, unreleased late-1968 tapes into a single, two-hour set. If you don't spend much time with 1968, other than the official releases, this is your short-cut expansion pack. 

Every song documented on the tapes is represented, except for “Lovelight” (ubiquitous, boring) “Midnight Hour” (once, messy) - and "Caution" - which got squeezed out based on my picks for similar/adjacent jam zones. 

I have plucked several exemplary passages of the openest jamming the band was doing at the time, so you can spend more time in the zones that gave birth to the "thematic jams" of the future, which would feature such favorite non-songs as "Tighten Up," "Feelin' Groovy," "Mind Left Body," "Phil Jazz Jam," and new locations for "Spanish Jam."

In 1968, that part of the show happened around combinations of jam-after-"Alligator," into/around/might-turn-into "Caution," and "Feedback." "And We Bid You Goodnight" was a common theme at the time. I am still confused about "Mountain Jam" and "Darkness Jam." Are those inside these 1968 jams somewhere? Maybe?

8/21/68 at the Fillmore West has (arguably) the most amazing, continuous open playing of the year – an incredibly fluid 14 minutes that sounds more advanced and effortless than any other, analogous passage. I listened to all of 1968's such passages in a row, repeatedly, with the intention of making a mega-mix out of them. In the end, it was obvious that I should just pick this one and build a fun, imaginary set around it. (@MrCompletely got here way before me. Thank you for the insight.)

The whole 8/21 tape is a great listen for playing, mix/source quality, and consistency. Release-worthy. My only issue with it is that its mix is so perfectly the late-1960s sound and patient-pacing we're already used to (via official releases), that it doesn't shake up your expectations in a visceral way.

The other great, unreleased show/circulating tape of the year packs that visceral punch – 10/12/68 at the Avalon Ballroom. Fast, fierce, and wiry. For this mixtape, I used 10/12 as the foundation, and built around it to simulate a 1968 experience that I think contrasts with the great (though few) official 1968 releases. 

2-hour mp3 mix zipped up here

Disc One (56 minutes):

  • Dark Star (9/2/68 Sultan, WA)
  • St. Stephen > (10/12/68 Avalon Ballroom)
  • The Eleven > (10/12/68 Avalon Ballroom)
  • Death Don’t Have No Mercy (10/12/68 Avalon Ballroom)
  • It Hurts Me Too (12/21/68 Shrine Auditorium)
  • Alligator Reprise > Garcia & Drummers > Jam > AWBYG Jam > Feedback (8/21/68 Fillmore West)

Disc Two (59 minutes):

  • New Potato Caboose Jam (12/7/68 Louisville, KY)
  • Morning Dew (10/12/68 Avalon Ballroom)
  • Jam > (10/12/68 Avalon Ballroom)
  • Feedback (10/12/68 Avalon Ballroom)
  • The Other One > (12/29/68 Hallandale, FL)
  • Cryptical Envelopment > (12/29/68 Hallandale, FL)
  • And We Bid You Goodnight (12/29/68 Hallandale, FL)
  • Rosemary (12/7/68 Louisville, KY)
  • Clementine Edit (9/12/68 rehearsal/audition with new players)

Song-by-Song Rationale:

Dark Star: I chose the 9/2 performance at Betty Nelson’s Organic Raspberry Farm in Sultan, Oregon. I value this version in part because it buries TC’s repetitive keyboard part and elevates Weir’s guitar. That leads to a less-flattened, more springy and sculpted “Dark Star” experience than I find typical of 1968 tapes. Nearly all the 1968 "Dark Stars" are worth your time for Garcia's leadership, and this is also one of my favorites in that respect. Possibly my earliest desert island "Dark Star."

Grateful Dead: Do Not Step on Alligator (February 7-15, 1969)

This mix includes three unreleased versions of the sequence “Alligator Jam > Caution > Feedback” from the month between the Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore West shows that provided most of the material for “Live Dead.” Only one show from this month has been released – "Fillmore East 2/11/69."

I have removed Pigpen’s main vocal sections from “Caution,” which foregrounds the band’s dramatic musical retellings of the familiar tale and makes this a nearly-all instrumental mix.

Though recorded at this time, the album “Live Dead” didn’t include “Alligator > Caution.” This makes sense, given that a live version of the sequence was employed for side two of the earlier album, “Anthem of the Sun.” 

However, while these were old songs by February 1969, they were also zones where unpredictable things continued to happen. They are analogous to the 1970 jams that swung around such themes as “Feelin’ Groovy” and “Tighten Up.” Early 1969 “Alligator” jams played around with “China Cat,” “We Bid You Goodnight,” and “St. Stephen.” (Earlier and later versions went to additional places.)

In addition to these open-and-thematic jams, “Caution” was a very mutable, familiar, heavy jam by 1969 (think “The Other One”), and “Feedback” had hit its glorious peak by 1969 (hence its inclusion on “Live Dead”).

So, maybe we should pay as much attention to early 1969 “Jam > Caution > Feedback” as we do to “Dark Star > St. Stephen > The Eleven.” “Live Dead” captured the latter trio at its organized, elaborate, perfected peak. At the same time, “Alligator Jam > Caution > Feedback” captured the protoplasmic Dead express train barreling through a different series of stations.

70-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Jam > Caution Edit > Feedback (Pittsburgh, 2/7/69) (18:59)
  • Jam > Caution Edit > Feedback (Fillmore East, 2/12/69) (17:14)
  • Jam > Caution Edit > Feedback > AWBYGN (Philadelphia, 2/15/69) (34:13)

Cover art: Saul Steinberg, 1968