Grateful Dead: Playing with Friends (1968-1970)

This mix compiles improvisational highlights of six different live configurations of the Dead (whole or members) and other musicians. 

All of these performances appeared on an earlier Save Your Face mix at some point. The focus of this sub-curation is to concentrate great stuff that sounds really different from “normal” Dead of the period. The stuff is that is more literally far out. Alternate universe Dead.

No aspersions are being cast on anything I didn’t include. Poke around SYF for more from nearly every configuration presented here.

In addition to choosing start- and end-points, several performances are edited: The Crosby material is presented as instrumental edits; the Elvin Bishop jam is extensively edited to isolate one theme from other stuff that happened; and the Volunteers Jam has been shortened via a couple of edits.

77-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Jam (8/28/69 Harbeats w/Howard Wales, organ)
  • Jam (edit, 10/30/68 Hartbeats with Elvin Bishop, guitar)
  • Wall Song & Laughing (instr. edits, 12/15/70 Crosby, Garcia, Lesh, Kreutzmann)
  • Jam (11/20/70 Garcia, Weir, Kaukonen/Lesh/Kreutzmann, Hart)
  • Volunteers Jam (edit, 9/6/69 Garcia, Hart, Jefferson Airplaine)
  • Dark Star (8/3/69 w/unidentified sax and violin players)

Grateful Dead: The Save Your Face 1968-1970 Mixes

The Save Your Face blog has gradually accumulated a pretty nice mixtape tour of the Grateful Dead’s rise to maturity - 1968-1970. The mixes start with the first recorded appearance of the big-jam-sequence in January 1968 and end with Mickey Hart's last month with the band in 1970 (until 1975).

These mixes almost entirely dodge officially-released material and only include well-recorded, exciting performances. 

The objectives are to:

  • Fill in calendar gaps on your shelf of official live releases and favorite tapes
  • Highlight transitional and secret-history moments in the band's musical attitude and lineup
  • Draw circles around notable moments in the band's improvisational evolution
  • Blow out some beguiling "lost songs" into album-length experiences
  • Reveal 1968-1970 to be the most heterogeneous and routinely surprising period of the band's musical history

Below are links to all the 1968-1970 SYF mixes so far, in chronological order.

January 1968  

To the Eagle Palace: The earliest possible, most-inclusive-possible, draft of the jammy sequences that would change and mature in time for “Live Dead,” a year later. 

January 1968 - January 1969

Clementine (1968-1969): An extensive dive into the Dead’s first jazz jam, including full performances and instrumental edits.

June 1968

Live highlights from a lesser known month/moment-of-development, taken from little-known tapes.

June 1968 - November 1970

At Tens & Sevens: A compendium of The Main Ten, The Seven, and a little bit of The Eleven. 

August - December 1968

Late 1968: Live unreleased highlights from a period of intense maturation.

October - December 1968

Fate Music: The juiciest minutes from the Mickey & The Hartbeats recordings.

January - December 1969

Tones: An album’s worth of the quiet passages that often followed the noisy part of “Feedback.”

February 7-15, 1969

Do Not Step on Alligator: Alligator Jam > Caution Jam > Feedback is the earliest zone of Dead “thematic jamming,” captured here in three versions from the same week “Live Dead” was recorded – with the “Cautions” edited to instrumental jams.

Late Summer 1969 (August 2 - September 7)

Not the Wild East: Live passages, recorded mostly at The Matrix (a tiny venue), within a month of Woodstock. This mix finds the band as broadly heterogeneous as at any moment in their career, with guest musicians almost being the norm.

August 1969 - October 1971

The Tighten Up Jam

September 17, 1969 (Alembic Studios)

Single –  Sawmills b/w Seasons of My Heart: A couple of adorable studio outtakes of cover songs that slide into the nascent “Workingman’s” ethos.

Cartoon Music: Highlights of the band seriously practicing and taking taking random shots at Looney Tunes and other cartoon music.

December 1969 - January 1970

Mason’s Children Jams: A half-hour of five performances of “Mason’s Children,” edited into instrumental jams.

November 6, 1970

Instrumental Electric Set: A ripping, audience-only recording edited into an extended, vocal-free jam.

November 20, 1970

Grateful Airplane (Garcia, Lesh, Weir, Kaukonen, Kreutzmann, Hart): A unique jam-band formation that produced unique results.

December 15, 1970

Grateful Dorks (Crosby, Garcia, Lesh, Kreutzmann): The only live recording of David and the Dorks, purified into an instrumental jam. IMO, some of the most remarkable music of the Dead's recorded history.  

December 12-31, 1970

Skullf*ckery: Live highlights from the very end of the first two-drummer period, featuring songs from the 1970 albums, while also prototyping the one-drummer "Skull & Roses" recordings that would happen a few months later. This mix also provides extensive coverage of the moment's big jam, "Good Lovin'."

Grateful Dead: “Mason’s Children” Jams (1969-1970)

This mix offers an extended, instrumental excursion into a wonderful song that appeared briefly in Dead history and didn’t make the original, official records. 

“Mason’s Children” debuted in mid-December 1969 and, after fewer than 20 performances, it was last played at the end of February 1970.

A weird amalgam of psychedelic moves and the band’s new, old-timey vocal approach, Mason’s was a tough song for the vocal ensemble. The “Workingman’s Dead” studio outtake is the only version that properly represents the composition itself and reveals what the vocals/harmonies are supposed to sound like. 

Nonetheless, the live band dove into it with vigor and sometimes jammed it rather extensively. This mixtape highlights that jam by removing the vocals from five performances of the song. I looked for the longer, exploratory takes and those that found interesting little dynamic pockets.

The final version on 2/28/70 is a real outlier – slower, with a heavy Rolling Stones vibe. (It is speed/pitch-correct.) 

26-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

Instrumental Mason's Children:

  • 12/28/69 (6:56)
  • 12/29/69 (5:54)
  • 12/31/69 (4:48)
  • 2/5/70 (4:46)
  • 2/28/70 (3:10)

Cover photo: John Hilgart. Detail of mural on the wall of the Kalamazoo People's Food Co-Op, after a car crashed through it, and the mural's painted bricks were reassembled randomly. 

Grateful Dead: Clementine (1968-1969)

This mix provides a full hour of Clementine, as played by several Grateful Dead configurations in 1968 and early 1969. It was the band’s first jazz jam. 

I believe I have included every recorded version, except for the officially-released 8/13/68 studio jam (AOXOMOXOA bonus track).

This Dead Essays post is the place to find answers to all your Clementine questions. 

62-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Clementine Rehearsal Edit (9/12/68, studio Hartbeats)
  • Clementine (1/27/68, live Grateful Dead, Seattle)
  • Clementine Jam (10/30/68, live Hartbeats)
  • Clementine Instrumental Edit (1/26/69, live Grateful Dead, Avalon Ballroom, SF)
  • Clementine Jam 1 (10/8/68, live Hartbeats, The Matrix, SF)
  • Clementine (2/2/68, live Grateful Dead, Portland)
  • Clementine (1/20/68, live Grateful Dead, Eureka)
  • Clementine Jam 2 (10/8/68, live Hartbeats, The Maxtrix, SF)


  • For the 9/12/68 rehearsal, I have edited together fragments of the stop-start practice session to simulate a complete performance. Vocals by Lesh!
  • I took the vocals out of the final, 1/26/69 performance, because they’re not good, kind of buried, and way less interesting than early ’69 Dead exploring the musical opportunities. For great Garcia vocals, listen to early ’68.
  • I edited out the slack parts of the Hartbeat’s 10/8/68 performance.

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.

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 the 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 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 (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.”

New Potato through the Caution jam is arguably the greatest mid-year, 1968 passage.

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