Tuesday, July 20, 2010

(Late) Monday Dead: A show of 1st's, 8-18-1970 Fillmore West

Was traveling this weekend, (that's why Monday's Dead is showing up on Tuesday) and it got me thinking/questioning; when was the first "Truckin'" played by the fellas?

Well here's the answer:
 today's show: 8-18-1970, click that link or listen right here:

Pretty cool that the first version was acoustic set opener for these cosmic folkies.

Don't come to this show looking for great sound it is not to be, this one is more for historical signifgance then for capturing sonic moments. Any audience tape from 1970 would surely sound a bit whack-a-doo, but even with glitches and distance it is listenable for an important day in the bands history.

After the 1st ever appearance of "Truckin'" which let's us hear some excellent piano playing from Pigpen we find the band sorting out some sound issues, with Jerry proclaiming it, "A Harrowing Trip".  Next comes an almost sweet version of "Dire Wolf".  The audience feel is pervasive and can distract when ill timed hand claps come into the ears, but the vocals are top notch.  As is the still new "Friend of the Devil" and the old standby when the Dead break out the acoustics, "Dark Hollow"

This show finds the group in the middle of perhaps it's most critically successful phase of their career having shifted from their Acid Test days with the release of the folk/roots record Workingman's Dead and 1 month away from releasing their studio highlight of their career American Beauty.  What comes next is just as epic as the "Truckin'" the first airings of "Ripple", "Brokedown Palace", and "Operator", a huge treat for those in attendance who witnessed it and for us today.

I talked bout the simple perfection of "Wish You Were Here" the other day and "Ripple" is in the same rarefied air, majestically breathtaking in it's seeming simplicity and then all encompassing scope.  Gorgeous.  "Brokedown Palace" was written by lyricist Robert Hunter during the same afternoon in London that he wrote "Ripple" and is almost as stunning, must have been a great day for Hunter with his bottle of Retsina.
 This version is historic, but there are a few shuffling tape problems in the beginning of the recording taking away from it's grandeur, before an over-excited group harmonizing effort of "Ooh's and Ahh's" that end the track.  The final 1st timer that is played here finds Pigpen crooning out "Operator" that gets the crowd giggling and clapping along, this is only 1 of 4 times that the group ever played this song, rare indeed.

The band dips into a couple of more acoustic ditties, highlighted by the best pure playing of the set contained in the 10 minute's of "New Speedway Boogie", before plugging in and getting the psychedelic bus started.  

"Dancin' In the Streets" starts it off, seemingly caught in-between a freak-out and a boogie. "Next Time You Seem Me" and "Mamma Tried" give breathers to those looking to catch their mental breath before the mind warp of "Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One > Cyrptical Envelopment" combo.  "Attics Of My Life" weeps out then Pigpen takes the reigns and runs with the show.
"It's A Man's World" is burning soul from the man who drank and lived the blues in the end a touch out of step with the rest of the fellas, but claiming the stage as his own here.  It is completely different from the original James Brown classic, but that just goes to show unique renderings of great songs can all work on different levels.  There is no way James Brown would let his band wander the way The Dead do, and the Dead could only wish they played as tight as Brown's boy's who in 1970 may have been the baddest group the planet has ever seen (may have to do another post on that topic)...here is a version from '91 that The Godfather did:

 "Not Fade Away" is bumped and drummed getting crowd fired up with an electric "Bid You Goodnight" run through tossed in the middle for good luck, why the hell not?  The cocaine was probably flowing with "Casey Jones" bleeding into the night ending "Uncle Johns Band".

In a cool piece of Internet magic, Rolling Stone sent Michael Lydon out to cover this exact show and report on it.  If you are interested in the full review, I am posting it below.  Pretty cool that he called "Truckin'", "Juggin" as it was still so new.  Enjoy this slice of the bands history...

An Evening with the Grateful DeadMICHAEL LYDON
(RS 66, September 17, 1970)

Jerry and co. mellow out, grow up
Grateful Dead

Working man

We change and our changings change, a friend said once. It sounded true, but it seems too that through it all we stay the same. That obscure rumination takes us to, of all places, backstage at the Fillmore West, a spot that has mutely witnessed its share of changes and has gone through some of its own. Backstage used to be literally that, a few murky closets with just a few inches and a thin wall separating them from the amps. Now the car dealer on the corner has gone through his changes, and Bill Graham got extra floorspace for a dressing room as big as the lobby of a grand hotel. 
  No palms but a lot of sofas, on one of which sat Jerry Garcia as if he owned the place. Which he once had, sort of, when it was the Carousel, changed from an Irish dance hall to a mad den of psychedelic thieves who for a few months put on a series of dances the likes of which hadn't been seen since the early days of the old Fillmore.

Jerry Garcia had played over there too -- he had been a foundering member, so to speak -- but he had never owned it. Bill Graham had owned that Fillmore and now he owned this one and Jerry was working for him one more night. There was a time when Bill Graham was always on hand when the Dead were playing, but this night he was in New York on business (the next night in LA), and a second or third generation of underling, a soft-faced young man named Jerry Pompili was watching the clock and counting the heads on behalf of Fillmore Inc.
It was just past eight-thirty, showtime, and Jerry P. approached Garcia and asked if they were ready to go on.
Jerry G. was deep in one of his eyeball-to-glittering eyeball monologues, but he paused long enough for a glance around that indicated he was the only musician present and accounted for. "The other guys will be here in a minute, man," he said, "Phil's the only one who might be late."
"Well," said Pompili, "what happens if Phil is late?" allowing into his voice a hint of his hope that the Dead would find a way to start without him, to be nice for once. A hopeless hope.
"Nothing happens," said Jerry G. grinning deep within his hairy tangle, "We'll start whenever Phil arrives."
"Okay," said Pompili, shrinking like a tired balloon, and Jerry geared back up to rapping speed, instantly oblivious of the interruption.
Everything had changed, and nothing too. After over five years of extra inning play, the celebrated Fillmore (and all of rock and roll show biz) versus Grateful Dead game was still a nothing-nothing tie. For five of those years the Dead took their lumps, always scraping through but never out of trouble. In the past half year, however, their tenacity has finally begun to pay off (perseverance furthers, says the Book of Changes). The years of weathering cosmic crises have given them an unshakable musical and group foundation (and even an odd sort of financial stability) and on that they are building afresh.
Typically, their luck waited until the last possible moment to change. 1969 ended with the near disaster of Altamont. The Dead family had been crucial in its organization, and they were as responsible as anyone for the sanctioned presence of the Hells Angels. That day -- they did not even get to play in the end and do their best to save it -- was, says Jerry, "a hard, hard lesson," and while they were absorbing it in early 1970, they had an epic management crisis. Their manager, whom they had chosen because of his honesty and earnestness, was irritating some family members who did not trust his ingratiating manner. Weeks of tense encounters led to a showdown and the manager was let go. Only then did the band discover that he had been bilking them all along; by that time he had disappeared and no one had the time or heart for a suit.
Then they got busted en masse in New Orleans (their second time, the first in the fall of '67 in San Francisco). That has now turned out to be just an inconvenience of time and money, but in March they didn't know that. In the middle of all of this they had to do a record. Something complex was out of the question; Jerry and his writing partner Ron Hunter had some tunes, so they walked into Pacific High Recorders in San Francisco, and banged it out in nine days.
The result was Workingman's Dead, one of the best of the few good records released this year, their simplest production since their first LP, and their most popular release so far. "It was something," said Jerry, "all this heavy bullshit was flying all around us, so we just retreated in there and made music. Only the studio was calm. The record was the only concrete thing happening, the rest was part of that insane legal and financial figment of everybody's imagination, so I guess it came out of a place that was real to all of us. It was good old solid work. TC (pianist Tom Constanten) had just left to go his own way, and with his classical influence gone, we got back to being a rock and roll band again, not an experimental music group. Man, we had been wanting to boogie for a long time."
Workingman's Dead is just about as good a record as a record can be. Easy on the ears from the first listening, it gets mellower as it grows on you; a lot of different rhythms but one sure pulse. In it they tap the same rich emotive vein that the band has reached, and have made from it story songs with down-home feel hiding sophisticated structures, but the Dead's molding of the material is a lot more raw and driving. The Dead look at the world from the outside edge, and their song heroes are losers and hardworking men. "A friend of the devil it a friend of mine," they sing at one point, and the closest they come to "I Shall Be Released" is:
One way or another,
One way or another,
One way or another,
This darkness got to end.

That's a long way from the messianic enthusiasm of "Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion" ("See that girl barrbonn' around, she's a dancin' and a singin' she is carryin' one"; remember?), but it's won them more friends. Sales haven't been at hit proportions, but enough to make Warner Brothers friendly for the first time since they were trying to sign the band up.
"Of course we still owe Warners money," Jerry said, "but we're getting the debt down to the size where it's more like a continual advance." A family member, John McIntire, is now the manager, some old friends are watching the books, and the days when organs got repossessed five minutes before showtime have receded, at least for the present.
"We're feeling good," Jerry went on, "really laid back, a tittle older and groovier, not traveling so much, staying at home and quieting down. We used to push ourselves and get crazy behind it, but now we're all getting more done but not having to work at it so hard.
No one could say when the turn from the old Grateful Dead to the new began, but the key was opening up the band's structure. The Dead's complex personal changes are as legendary as their public ones, and they ended only when they decided that they didn't have to be just the Grateful Dead. They could also be Bobby Ace and the Cards from the Bottom, a reentry group led by Bob Weir, or Mickey Hart and the Heartbeats which a lot of golden oldie rockers. At the same time (spring 1969) Jerry got a pedal steel to fool around with and ended up commuting dawn to Palo Alto twice a week to play Nashville style in a little club. That group became the New Riders of the Purple Sage and other Dead members sat in from time to time.
All that country music got them singing, something for which they had not been noteworthy in the pass, and hours of three-part harmony rehearsals got them back to acoustic instruments. Less noise made them less wired. The small quiet groups could and did do club work, around the Bay which meant gigs without touring or equipment hassles. All that ended up with the groove that made Workingman's Dead possible and has created a unique musical experience which they call, rather formally, An Evening with the Grateful Dead.
Phil arrived, sweeping in with madman-long strides, a few minutes before nine, and the latest evening began before a happy crowd of oldtime heads. They opened with the acoustic part (there's no other name). Jerry and Bob Weir on guitars, Pigpen on piano, Phil on electric bass, and Bill Kreutzman (who alternates with Mickey Hart) on drums. The first tune was "Juggin'," an easy going autobiography of a band's life on the road, dotted with busts and bad times and long gone friends like Annie who they've heard is "living on reds, Vitamin C, and cocaine, and all you can say is 'ain't it a shame.'" It went on like that for an hour, music soothing to weary hearts and hard-driven minds because it understands that state of mind only too well. Jerry and Bob shared lead guitar and vocals, Pig doodled around when he wanted and just sat there when he didn't, and Phil and Bill just kept the beat. David Nelson of the New Riders came in about half way through on mandolin, and Jerry switched to his Fender, and it was all very sweet and funky. They ended with "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and believe it or not, the Grateful Dead looked angelic at last.
The New Riders came on after the break -- Jerry on pedal steel, Mickey on drums, David Nelson on electric guitar, Marmaduke lead vocal and acoustic, and Dave Torbert on bass. They opened with "Sly Days on the Road" and that too set the pace for a rolling set of country rock that probably sounded a lot like the Perkins Brothers when Carl was working honky tonks around Jackson, Tennessee. Except that Carl Perkins never had a drummer as tense as Mickey Hart, and while Jerry most often was tastefully traditional on the steel, he allowed himself some short freakouts banshee-style seldom heard below the Mason-Dixon. They ended with "Honky Tonk Women" which was a gas; Keith Richards, from a film clip in the light show, watched them without cracking a smile.
Then it was time for the Grateful Dead, and everyone was on their feet moving as they began as they used to begin with "Dancing in the Streets" ("It doesn't matter who you are, as long as you are there"). After that came the lovely "Mama Tried" that the Everly Brothers had on their Roots album, and then Pigpen took it away with an all-out dramatic rendition of "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World." Out of that into "Not Fade Away" (quite a repertory that night, huh?) and it was past one thirty; Jerry Garcia was still going strong after four hours on three instruments but the Fillmore floor had gotten to me and we wandered out with that Bo-Diddley-by-way-of-Buddy-Holly beat pounding on and on and on ("My love is bigger than a Cadillac . . .") It wasn't one of those weird nights when, acid-blitzed, they gushed out music as hypnotic energy; is was more legible and, if not as spellbinding, more open music. Very fine indeed.
Those weird nights are surely not gone forever, but the Dead are a bit more careful these days. "Altamont showed us that we don't want to lead people up that road anymore," Jerry had said before the show, "taught us to be more cautious, to realize and respect the boundaries of our power and our space." The Dead never called themselves leaders, but they were high-energy promoters of the psychedelic revolution. On one hand they know now that it's not going to come as quickly as they thought; on the other, they know it is already too big for them to direct. They are now just helpers, like the rest of us. "At last the pressure's off," Jerry said.
He is disturbed, however, about what he calls the "politico pseudo-reality that we find when we go out on tour. Dig: there's a music festival, but because there are people there, radicals say it's a political festival now, not a music festival. I don't want to take over anybody's mind, but I don't want anybody else to take over anybody's mind. If a musical experience is forcibly transferred to a political plane, it no longer has the thing that made it attractive. There is something uniquely groovy about the musical experience; it is its own beginning and end. It threatens no one."
"The San Francisco energy of a few years back has become air and spread everywhere. It was the energy of becoming free and so it became free. But the political energy, the Berkeley energy, has assumed a serpentine form, become an armed, burrowing, survival thing. It's even still on the firebrand, 'To the barricades!' trip that I thought we had been through in this century and wouldn't have to will on ourselves again.
"'Accentuate the positive' though, that's my motto," he said with a gleam in his eye, "and there are more heads every day. Heads are the only people who have ever come to see us, and it used to be that if we played some places no one would come out because there weren't any heads in the town. Today there is no place without its hippies. No place."
With that Phil had come and the band had to start juggin,' playing for the people and hoping to get them high. "We realized when we started out," Jerry had said a few minutes before, "that as a group we were an invention, as new as the first chapter of a novel. We started with nothing to lose. Then suddenly there was something, but always with the agreement that we could go back to being nothing if we wanted. So nothing that has over gone down for the group has ever been real except to the fiction which could be made unreal at any time. A lot of limes when we were at that point, we consulted the I Ching, and the change we've gotten has always said push on. So we have; there's not much else we can do until the next change." 

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