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.

10 responses
Can't wait to listen. Noticed a typo: in the section about how "all the jams follow the same basic pattern", it mentions approaching the first verse of Goin' Down the Road (instead of the first verse of I Know You Rider)
MHF, thanks for the heads up!
Wow.......Thank you, thank you, thank you..
Love it, great job! Is the date in the first track correct?
Brad, yes that date's correct! Were you surprised? A best-of mixtape from that show, including the complete China> Rider is here:
Thank you and Happy New Year, John. 8:50pm in the lockdown northern beaches of Sydney listening to this marvel as the sun sets. Just referred my 18 year old daughter to your email with the description and she gets it. Look forward to sone radical mixes in 21.
Michael, it is so cool to hear about my mixes making someone happy at a specific place and time. This mix is a lot to put on a non-Head, though! In the car the other day, my daughter (21) said, "The Grateful Dead... always noodling... always noodling..."
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