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
13 responses
The link doesn't open...
John, it seems to work for me, but I've re-done the link. See if it works.
Works fine now! As always thanks for the effort you put into the blog...and Happy Christmas!
Cheers! Thanks for trying out our Christmas cookies.
Thanks for the holiday tunes, John. Just strapped in for the opening Truckin' and excited for another four hours of this.
I'm always wary of people messing with Dead shows but this looks soooo good! Thanks for your work, and Happy Holidays everybody!
Not the only electric Monkey and the Engineer. The other is 2/12/89 with Bob Dylan of all people.
These are amazing tapes--wish you would post the full shows!
Ekko, you can stream the full tapes on archive.org or through the player relisten.com.
yeah. but i like to listen on the train. need mp3s.
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