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

Grateful Airplane: November 20, 1970 (Rochester, NY)

This mix isolates astounding material from a jam session featuring Garcia, Weir, Kaukonen, Casady, Kreutzman, and Hart. The music circulates as an audience recording along with the rest of the Dead’s show that night.

(Late-breaking scholarly adjustment! Casady is not present. All bass is Phill Lesh.)

Thanks to Jesse Jarnow for passing on his massive enthusiasm for this performance, which was unknown to me. I'm crazy about "Jam 3," which is very 1968-1969 Mothers of Invention at the start and gets very 1968-1969 Velvet Underground at later points.

33-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Cartoon Music (1:12)
  • Bluegrass Jam (1:26)
  • Jam 1 > (11:36)
  • Darling Corey > (5:04)
  • Jam 2 (2:56)
  • Jam 3 (11:08)

Editing notes:

  • I cleaned up starting and ending points where you don’t see “>.” Some tracks just cut/faded, in or out, on the source tape.
  • I combined two segments titled “Tuning” into “Cartoon Music.” The Dead spent a lot of rehearsal time in September, 1969 exploring cartoon themes and scheming to unleash them on live audiences. Save Your Face mix here. This show is the first place I’ve noticed them actually playing them on stage. Can you point me at others?


Grateful Dead: Probably June 1968

If you scroll through Relisten for archive.org shows from May and June 1968, you’ll find very little. There’s one very nice sound board mystery tape dated May Zero, two dodgy audience tapes, and a great tape dated 6/19/68 that is actually 2/19/69.

But wait, there’s more June 1968! 

There’s a big compendium on archive.org (archived as 12/31/68) that includes three unique sound board segments of 1968 music, all of which Light Into Ashes/Dead Essays has dated as June 1968 (or possibly May), probably from the Carousel Ballroom. 

This post’s mixtape curates those three segments into a single June 1968 set. It provides a handy, robust, good-sounding mid-1968 listening experience to fit between the year’s early months and August, for which there are several good tapes, including the one used for “From the Vault 2.”

Two edits add some extra value. 

  • “St. Stephen” was brand new at this point, and I’ve extended the version I chose with the jam segments from two others, so you can really settle into the early approach. 
  • The good take of “Cryptical Envelopment” sandwiched an “Other One” on which the mix went to hell partway through – so I edited the two halves together into a seamless, stand-alone “Cryptical Envelopment.”

Great versions include "Dark Star" and "Alligator > Caution."

84-minute mp3 mixtape zipped up here

  • PA: Please Return the Scratcher
  • Dark Star >
  • St. Stephen (3 version edit) >
  • Cryptical Envelopment (parts 1 & 2 edit) >
  • New Potato Caboose >
  • Alligator >
  • Drums >
  • Alligator > Caution Jam >
  • Caution
  • The Other One
  • Lovelight
  • PA: Some Asshole with a Tape Recorder

Source notes:

This mix sources the three undated (June) shows on the compendium tape as follows:

  • Source 1: Dark Star > St. Stephen
  • Source 2: The middle of the St. Stephen edit, The Other One, and Lovelight
  • Source 3: The end of the St. Stephen edit through Caution

All the segues (“>”) in the mix/list above are actual band segues. Some volume fluctuations have been corrected and a tape gap or two healed up.

Cover art: Rick Griffin

Grateful Dead Shortlist: November 6, 1970 - Port Chester, NY (electric jams edit)

This is an instrumental edit of most of the big electric jam sequence of a great show that only exists as an audience recording.

The uncut sequence is 56 minutes. This 39-minute version edits out a drum solo and all the vocals from “Good Lovin’,” “Alligator,” “Not Fade Away,” and “Caution.” The only vocals that remain are on “Goin’ Down the Road.”

All the band’s original segues between songs remain, except for a fake edit to get from the “NFA” reprise to “Caution.”

If you have enjoyed Save Your Face’s adventures into song-free improvisation from other eras, here’s a new one to try – Fall 1970 Dead out in the wide open spaces for 40 minutes straight.

And if you are put off by the audience sonics of this era, you may find that the removal of vocals makes them work better.

39-minute mp3 file zipped up here. Instrumental unless otherwise noted.

  • The Main Ten >
  • Good Lovin’
  • Alligator Jam >
  • Not Fade Away >
  • Goin’ Down the Road (w/vocals) >
  • Mountain Jam > Not Fade Away (>)
  • Caution

Cover photo: Joe Sia

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

The Grateful Dead: Not the Wild East – Late Summer, 1969

Here are five hours of wild West Coast Grateful Dead from the same month (8/2 through 9/7) as Woodstock. Jesse Jarnow has generously written liner notes for this mix, which was inspired by his show-by-show commentary @bourgwick and refined in conversation with him. His essay is below the tracklist.

Disc 1: A Swell Dance Party (76 minutes)

  • PA: There’s going to be a party
  • Hi-Heel Sneakers (with sax & violin)
  • Minglewood Blues (with Gary Larkey on flute)
  • China Cat Sunflower (with Gary Larkey on flute)
  • Sittin’ on Top of the World
  • High Time
  • Mama Tried
  • Big Boss Man (composite edit)
  • Hard to Handle (three version combo, with violin)
  • Not Fade Away > Easy Wind intro jam
  • Easy Wind (instrumental edit)

Disc 2: A Swell Dance Party cont. (64 minutes)

  • Big Boy Pete >
  • Good Lovin’
  • It’s All Over Now
  • Beat it on Down the Line (w/violin)
  • New Orleans >
  • Searchin’
  • I’m a King Bee
  • Me and My Uncle
  • Dire Wolf
  • He Was a Frind of Mine
  • Seasons >
  • Slewfoot
  • Casey Jones

Disc 3: The Dark Star Variations (58 minutes)

  • Dark Star > 
  • Cosmic Charlie
  • Dark Star (w/sax and violin)
  • The Other One (w/sax and violin)
  • Jam after Caution (w/sax and violin)

Disc 4: The Dark Star Variations, cont. (51 minutes)

  • Dark Star (edit, Hartbeats w/Howard Wales on organ)
  • Jam (Hartbeats w/Howard Wales on organ)
  • Dark Star

Disc 5: Grateful Airplane (Garcia, Kreutzman, Hart, and Jefferson Airplane members) (47 minutes)

  • Peggy Sue
  • That’ll be the Day
  • Johnny B. Goode
  • Baby What you Want Me to Do?
  • Wipe Out > Big Railroad Blues
  • Volunteers Jam

5-hour mp3 mix zipped up here (track dates and personel noted in song tags)

Not the Wild East
Like everything it touched, Woodstock casts an oversized shadow over the music the Grateful Dead made in the late summer of 1969. A terrible set in front of several hundred thousand, Woodstock virtually erases a fertile month in the band’s musical history. Forgotten between the crystalline perfection of the Live/Dead recordings from the spring, and the first glimmerings of the band’s folk-country directions (and the birth of the New Riders of the Purple Sage) is the sound of the Grateful Dead exploding with vivid energy that confounds the usual narrative of the band’s progression from deep space to deep Americana.

The month began with a chain of events centered around what was set to be the biggest music festival of the summer, resulting in a sudden, unexpected platform for the band’s newest explorations. The festival wasn’t Woodstock, but an enormous multi-day affair set to be held in San Francisco: The Wild West. As Michael Kramer has wonderfully documented in Republic of Rock and elsewhere, expectations for Wild West were so big that some in the underground press referred to Woodstock as the “Wild East.”

But Wild West imploded before it could happen, the implosion manifesting in part as a strike by the Light Artists Guild held outside a Grateful Dead show on Jerry Garcia’s 27th birthday. The venue for the Dead show and the picket line was the Family Dog on the Great Highway, the collective’s new venue “at the edge of the Western World” across the street from the Pacific Ocean in the ballroom once known as Topsy’s Roost, inside the Playland-at-the-Beach amusement park. Garcia refused to cross the picket line, and the subsequent negotiations led to the brief life of the utopian Common, practically speaking an ongoing series of loose afternoon hangs at the Family Dog, sometimes including the Dead. One such affair, not circulating as of press time, involved an early-career gig by the New Riders of the Purple Sage and a late-career gig by the New Lost City Ramblers, the pioneering folk act that were a formative influence on Garcia. Alongside the band’s regular gigs at the Family Dog and a small docket of other festivals and appearances, the month yields a virtual box set of raw surprises.

Grateful Dead: Sawmill b/w Seasons of My Heart (Alembic Studios 9/17/69)

This is a fake, studio-recorded, country-and-western single by the Grateful Dead, four months ahead of the recording of “Workingman’s Dead,” at a point when only a few of that album’s songs had entered the live repertoire. 

Captured at an unreleased September 17, 1969 rehearsal session that also included an emphatic effort to play Looney Tunes cartoon music, these are carefully-executed performances of songs that the Dead only played live a few times.

Both tracks are Weir-sung with group harmonies and Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar. Garcia’s first side-band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, played their first shows around the same time. 

7-minute mp3 file zipped up here

  • Sawmill (Horace Monroe, Mel Tillis)
  • Seasons of My Heart (George Jones, Darrell Edwards)

Editing and live performance notes:

  • “Sawmill” is the third of three attempts during the rehearsal. There are three documented live performances, January to April 1970. 
  • There is no complete take of “Seasons” in the studio session, as the band stopped to carefully rehearse the harmonies of the final section. I’ve edited their final attempt (which they approve at its conclusion) onto the rest of the song. There are five documented live performances, August 1969 to February 1970.


The Grateful Dead: Looney Tunes (9/17/69 - Alembic Studios)

The Grateful Dead were many things in the late summer and early fall of 1969, including a band that was very enthusiastic about playing cartoon music, with Garcia on pedal steel some of the time. 

This mix pulls a number of discrete “takes” out of 30 minutes of studio rehearsal recordings and stacks them into a fun sequence. It includes/compresses some fantastic band chatter. They couldn’t stop cracking up with delight and cackling over plans to mount cartoon music attacks onstage. I’ve jacked up the volume on the chatter, so it’s even with the music. 

There are more themes than I could identify, and others so fleeting that they didn't make it into the titles, including Garcia poking briefly at "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." 

22-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Merrily We Roll Along (acapella)
  • Merrily We Roll Along
  • The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down 1
  • Chase Sequence
  • Chatter
  • Cartoon Music (unidentified)
  • Teddy Bear’s Picnic
  • Circus Music (unidentified) > The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down 2 > Cartoon Music (unidentified)
  • Mickey Mouse Club > Popeye the Sailor Man
  • The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down 3
  • The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down 4

Dedicated to Carl Stalling

Thanks to @bourgwick for pointing out this recording. The full rehearsal tape contains much more, completely different material that is worth a listen, some of it tilting hard toward “Workingman’s.” As they play Mel Tillis' "Saw Mill," I can imagine Robert Hunter sitting there and thinking, "I could write a better song about a coal mine!"


Grateful Deadish: Fate Music ’68 (Hartbeats Highlights)

The several late 1968 shows that lacked Bob Weir and Pigpen, and that sometimes added or substituted a guest musician, have always been both a thrill and a disappointment to me. I have compared them to the “Wizard of Oz” poppy field; I periodically run into it joyously, and then it puts me to sleep.

In the course of his chronological 1968 listening journey (in 2018), Jesse Jarnow (@bourgwick) listened to all these shows closely and compiled great notes. Based on those notes, I’ve edited together this 2.5-hour mix. It sure as hell doesn’t put me to sleep; it’s the poppy field I’ve been looking for. Indeed, it often feels more like a lean forward in time by the band, rather than like a bunch of noodly, time-frozen, jam sessions. 

As far as I know, all tracks include Garcia/Lesh/Kreutzman/Hart, with David Getz (drums) and Elvin Bishop (guitar) joining in on some tracks. I’ve made a variety of edits, mostly to establish satisfying start- and end-points, and to remove fatty interludes from extended jams. (David Getz jam part 3 is missing, because I decided it was a debased rock version of part 1.) I also cranked up Garcia's vocals on "It's a Sin," so that they would match the instrumental interludes. Both this and the sung "Death Don't Have No Mercy" are curios that deserve a place on the shelf.

From an editing perspective, I especially draw your attention to the Elvin Bishop track, which is extraordinarily like a chill 1969 Velvet Underground track. The full jam includes thematically almost-unrelated explosions into mediocre rocking out, which return each time to the thematic base, to see what’s changed. I’ve edited it down to that thematic base, and I really like it. The Velvets and the Dead were presumably cultural/musical opposites in the late ‘60s, but they, along with Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, were closer than they thought at the time. If you want to check out my candidate for VU’s closest “Sister Ray” to a 1968-1969 “Dark Star,” listen to the 12/12/68 “Sister Ray” on this mix – performed at exactly the same time as the not-quite-Dead material on this “Hartbeats” mix.

There are also multiple brushes with a fetal “Fire on the Mountain” impulse/chord structure, closer to the 1973 Watkins Glenn jam and the 1975 “Noodle on the Mountain” rehearsal session than to true “Fire,” but also an indication of how long certain ideas incubated in Deadland. In truth, all sorts of Dead themes crop up here and there in this material, regardless of how they are labeled as tracks. 

Whether the band was contemplating kicking Bob and Pig out or just woodshedding, these sessions seem to have been an important proving ground for open improvisation, and, as we all know, the “Live Dead” shows were just around the corner, in early 1969.

2.3-hour 320kbps mp3 mix, derived from FLAC, and zipped up here

  • Fate Music (Garcia intro, 10/30/68)
  • Dark Star jam (10/8/68)
  • Jam w/David Getz 1 (12/16/68 – jazz star)
  • Jam w/David Getz 2 (12/16/68 – space)
  • Jam w/David Getz 4 > (12/16/68 – fire on the sunflower)
  • Jam w/David Getz 5 (12/16/68 – coda)
  • Clementine jam (10/30/68)
  • Jam w/Elvin Bishop edit (10/30/68 – just like sister lou says)
  • The Other One jam edit (10/10/68)
  • Dark Star jam > (10/10/68)
  • The Eleven jam > (10/10/68)
  • The Seven (10/10/68)
  • Death Letter Blues (w/vocals, 10/30/68)
  • It’s a Sin (w/vocals, 10/10/68)
  • The Other One jam (10/30/68)
  • Jam (10/10/68 – another view of fire mountain)
Bonus track: After creating this mix, I made a tighter edit of the track above titled "Jam w/Elvin Bishop edit (10/30/68 – just like sister lou says)," which removes an additional two minutes of mostly cowbell. You can grab that edit separately, below.