Listening to everything, so you don't have to

All the new stuff will be here: RatDog, Furthur, Phil & Friends... I listen to the rehearsal tapes that surface on etree, I watch the videos from Dime and Trader's Den. I also occasionally post little research projects on various periods and people that were pivotal in the life of the Grateful Dead.
Everything you never got around to checking out, I did.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

GD: Shrine Auditorium, November 10-11 1967

Just shy of the Grateful Dead's second birthday, they played two shows in LA, soundboards of which exist on Archive. The shows are not complete, in fact it's rare to even find complete setlists from back then. The boys played 121 shows in 1967, averaging one every three days, and the setlists were often repetitive (their repertoire numbered only 32 that we know of). This is a reduction from the previous year; the band had moved away from the popular covers they had been doing previously and were focusing on original stuff like Alligator, Cryptical/Other One, New Potato, Caution, and on stretching out some selected covers like Morning Dew and Viola Lee. '67 marked their first forays outside of the West Coast (aside from 5 shows in Vancouver in July and August '66). They went out to New York twice, including an 11-straight-night run at the Whisky-a-Go-Go in June, and played 3 shows in Michigan and 3 in Colorado. They were settling into their role as ambassadors of the San-Francisco-Psychedelic sound.

While the band (read: Jerry and Phil) was angling towards more thematic, improvisational music, Pigpen held them anchored in their blues roots. The setlists for the two Shrine shows went Jerry-Pig-Jerry-Pig etc. Weir sang very little; his role in the band was pretty low-key. He was only 20 at the time and was not nearly as developed musically as Phil, who had been studying jazz and avant-garde classical music since high school, and Jerry, who had been performing almost daily for years.

The band's overall sound had not yet matured; it was working up to the fantastic 68-69 period. There were, however, some terrific passages, most notably in Viola Lee Blues and Morning Dew (both from the first night); Phil is very prominent and he and Jerry feed off each-other. Pigpen played real well, much better than later (see my Port Chester '71 review). He had some outstanding harmonica leads on Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (second night). Mickey was a recent addition to the band, but he and Bill contributed immensely in the longer jams, most notably on Cryptical reprise and Caution (10th). They also took a four-minute solo during Alligator (11th).

The shows were a bit looser than later. Jerry talked (!); during a break between Morning Dew and Schoolgirl on the 10th, he turned to the crowd: "You can take advantage of this time to... take off your clothes... order a pizza, maybe catch a bus... get high... hoot and jeer at the performers, that's fine..." (to which Weir responded "Hoot! Jeer!"). There was also an interlude when Garcia introduced Neal Cassady; Neal got up and jabbered for a few minutes in his famous fast, nonsensical rap. I have to say that the guy didn't make ANY sense. Not that it hurt the atmosphere any...

There were a couple of variations in the lyrics. I noticed one change in Cryptical: "The breath was cold and baited" instead of "The sky was dark and faded." The Other One had a different first verse altogether (replacing "Spanish Lady...") I couldn't make out all the lyrics, but it went "I woke up this morning [.....]/I would ask them all about it [....]/[....]spell my name[...]/ the heat come round and busted me for smiling on a cloudy day."

I found one set of lyrics that might fit what I heard:
"When I woke up this morning the sky was not in sight
I would ask the walls about it, but they vanished overnight
I could not think or spell my name or _?_ the words away
The heat came 'round & busted me for smiling on a cloudy day."

There are some others versions as well: V1:
"When I woke up this morning my head was not attached
I asked my friends about it, try to find out where its at
[inaudible]...came up inside of me, blew the dust clouds all away
The heat came 'round & busted me for smiling on a cloudy day"
"Well the heat down in jail they weren't very smart
They taught me how to read & write,they taught me the precious arts
When I was breaking out of jail I learned that right away
That they didn't need me telling them about smiling first and running _?_"
That last one evidently inspired by Weir's water balloon incident. See here for more information. As Weir told it to David Gans, the final lyrics (sort of about meeting Cassady) came to him out of the blue one night, and the next day, he found out that Cassady had just died.

These shows are worth hearing, for historical reference if nothing else, and the quality of the Archive recordings is excellent for the period. They're not outstanding but they're tons of fun; it's really a different band.

Up next: Berkeley '85. Weir's 80's solo stuff is on hold. I'm going to listen to Brent's album first, and I just grabbed Millers sbds of the '92 Shoreline run. I'll review the Furthur shows whenever they pop up.

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