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.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

So Many Roads - February 1992

In the early 80s, Hunter recorded Garcia running changes on a piano. Finding the tape ten years later he wrote some words, which he gave to Garcia. Jerry didn't like the progression very much but Hunter asked him to try it out anyway. On February 9th, 1992, there was a quick run-through of the changes at Club Front. Jerry seemed happy with it, though he did mention that he wasn't nuts about the words to the bridge. Vince asked if there was any room for harmonies; Garcia told him "Wherever you feel them, man."
On February 21st, with the full band, they sat down to figure out how to flesh out the tune. Hunter, who I believe was at many of their rehearsals, was there with some new lyrics on hand. They started a run-through which Jerry stopped pretty quickly, telling the drummers not to double-time the rhythm: he felt it was already fast, and noted later to keep it nice and relaxed.
Once the first run finished, they had to figure out an intro. Weir suggested a little progression Garcia liked. Intro problem solved.
They ran it again; then decided to hold the C-chord on the bridge twice as long. Third run: Vince tries out some harmonies, singing "so many roads." Fourth run-through: Weir says he thinks the background vocals should be more prosaic. Garcia agrees. Vince: "What does that mean?" Garcia: "Oo-oos, not words." And that was it. Garcia said: "Well hey, guys... New song. Boom." It took a total of five tries to get the song together.
The atmosphere all of a sudden got all jokey. Weir wondered how he was gonna remember all the changes by tomorrow (the song was debuted in Oakland the following day); Garcia said he didn't know how any of them were gonna remember any of it. Bruce said "Fuck it, throw some index cards up there, they're never gonna know." Garcia said "How about cue cards all the way across Bruce's piano?" to which Phil quipped "How about a blonde in a top hat [like at a boxing match]" Garcia: "Yeah right. Verse 1!..."
They decided top run it a few more times to make sure they all had it straight. Bruce spent a few minutes trying to settle on some harmonies so nobody was doubling anyone. Then something about the "kokomo" line got Bruce talking about how he'd seen Chuck Berry a few times "crawling on the floor," all tweaked out on Ketamine. That started a whole conversation about K. Garcia noted how Gary Lyons (producer on Go To Heaven) used to make Weir snort Ketamine by the mound. They all agreed that stuff will throw you for a loop; Garcia "It's like getting paralysis shot into your frontal lobe." Bobby talked about walking into a New Riders session and finding Dave Torbert and Buddy Cage holding onto the soundboard, convinced it was falling over.
They took a break. When they came they noodled around a bit on some old-western-style stuff, then Topsy and It's a Man's World. Phil led the band through the changes to Wave to the Wind. Weir and Garcia didn't have the right changes. Phil told Weir he needed glasses, to which Weir replied: "I do need glasses but I just can't wear them. I'd rather be blind..."
The first run of Wave fades out on the tape.

Both tunes were first performed the next day. Wave to the Wind lasted until December '93 (21 performances). So Many Roads became a fixture for the rest of the band's existence: 55 performances; the last was at Soldier Field.

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