March 19, 2006

 

Dead Story vol. 1

.
This has been one lazy Sunday. I slept gloriously late and got up for coffee and cinnamon roll oatmeal. The wife was out grocery shopping so I checked email and then put on some tunes, strummed along with Neil then Jerry (actually mostly Bob - I have by no means achieved "lead" talent). When Jen got back we cleaned house - gotta take a break from the laziness.

So since Joe has been doing his Bit Torrent tutorial, I decided to surf about to see what I could learn. It's probably much less complicated than it appears at this point, so I'll stick with it. Besides, I have guru Joe.

I'm excited because it seems I can renew my bootleg collection (and then some!) into the digital age with a little persistance. Over the years I've amassed a couple hundred hours of mostly Grateful Dead bootlegs (lost a good chunk of 'em several years back - another story). They have received much use and are still quite listenable, but we all know that cassette tapes just diminish over the years.



Anyway, that's not what I meant to start writing about. Seeing this ticket from the Jahrhunderthalle show in 1972 got me to thinking about my first Grateful Dead epiphany. From that same tour came the album that forever changed the direction of my "music of preference."

I was turned on to Europe '72 in my sophomore year of high school (1981) by some hip dudes in my print shop classes. They invited me to their chambers for some afterschool tokage and tuneage. The dad of the kid whose house we were at was an old hippie and a big Deadhead. Not long after entering that circle they arranged for my first ticket to a Dead show at the Rosemont Horizon outside Chitown on 12-6-81 (shit, more than 24 years ago!). I can't say I was hooked after that show, but my interest was piqued by seeing my first tripping people, and not long after that was my own first trip.

But back to the album. I had come up into high school on the crest of that typical rock n' roll wave of Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Who, Stones, etc. About the hippiest I got was an early fancy of all things Neil Young (which survives to this day). Oh, and my friend Doug whose mom had a copy of Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow on which we wore out the grooves. Listening to Europe '72 was a mind-expanding experience, with the lilting harmonies and dissonant exchanges of China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Robert Hunter's lyrics in Jack Straw (which still moves me greatly), and Garcia's leads throughout. Ron "Pigpen" McKernan was near the end of his life, and perhaps by that gave such soulful renditions of Elmore James' It Hurts Me Too and one of my favorite Dead originals Mr. Charlie.

Europe '72 is one of my definitive watershed influences in music and counts among the most important stuff in my collection in terms of professionally recorded Dead. Though like most Deadheads I find high quality live bootlegs the most satisfying, I've explored and found periods of favor with many Dead albums, most notably Workingman's Dead and Reckoning (which is, like E '72, um, live). One of my fave GD tunes is Easy Wind, and the acoustic stuff of Reckoning turned me into a bluegrass and classic country junkie, a trend in reverse musical influence that the Dead would pull on me time and again.

So the natural progression for a young Dead fan who wanted to piss of his parents was to go to shows. The summer of '82 brought the Dead to Alpine Valley, WI. I and four fellows of various degrees of fandom, including my brother Steve and my best friend Rob, made the first of many pilgrimages to that sacred valley. The psychedelic of choice was pyramid gel, and there the magic took hold. I knew many more songs than at my first show, though at the time I did not comprehend the rarity of the show's opener of The Music Never Stopped > Sugaree > Music. We also missed out on the following night's guests of Zakir Hussain and John Cippolina, as a multi-show weekend had not yet manifest itself in our desires. I do remember a brief suggestion (was it ME?) of "let's stay for tommorrow night's show" that was voted down due to being all, uh, worn out. But the seed had sprouted and it became almost painful to wait for the once-a-year Dead weekend in the summer, which continued for the next two years.

The Spring of '85 found me in my last semester of sophomore year college, and I had the "freedom" of being 150 miles from home. I wanted to go to Philly for three shows at the infamous Spectrum. So off I went with my pal Scott, who I still keep in touch with, and his friend Jim, who got us the tickets and who gave me my first bootlegs. My friend Rob had become a taper and was also there with friends (aka assholes) from his college. Tapers are a funny (funny strange) lot, and Rob and his ilk could not comprehend me and mine just cruising around the whole arena during a show. But I still loved him. It was in Philly that I got my first solid conception of what it was to be on tour. Years later I would come to the realization of what a terribly mixed blessing that was.

Summer of '85 was when the band officially rolled out their "Twenty Years So Far" tour, and they were on fire. Alpine Valley was approaching critical mass with cops busting people on the highway into town, complete with roadside judge to expedite the "judicial" process. I managed to stay off the radar (simple common sense usually does the trick) and had a wonderful time. Back in the home town the space was gettin' HOT by summer's end.

I needed a vacation from my problems (Run But Can't Hide version 1.1), so I left Chicago with Rob for Houston, TX at the end of August for what would be my longest stretch of consecutive shows ever (ten - I came close in the winter of '86 with seven). From Astroworld in Houston (which makes me chuckle when I think about Bill Hicks' bit about mushrooms) it was on to Manor Downs in Austin, a place full of sweaty drunk Texans where you could buy package beer at the concession stands. Then it was the Zoo Ampitheatre in OK City & Starlight Theatre in KC, MO (two very cool venues) and then out to Colorado for three insane shows at Red Rocks. End of original plan. Somewhere along the way I realized that I neither wanted to return home nor to college, so after Red Rocks I had to decide what to do with my life. Well, a ride to California presented itself (another Dead anecdote for another time - file under "Bob the Bug") and since that was the next place for shows the decision was oh so very crystal clear. I called my brother Terry in San Jose to let him know I was heading that way, and eight days later we were sharing an apartment and working for the same company. Seems I was the catalyst for him getting out of a certain relationship with the woman whose house I lived in for nearly a week. So now the rock n' roll life of St. Tim the Introspector had come full circle: he was a beach boy preachin' on the burnin' shore (hhaAAA!!). From August '85 to October '87 I got in to see fifty-one shows, of which only ten were NOT in California. The all-time count for all Dead and Dead-related shows that I've been to (whether I got in or not) is...is...uh, over 100. That's teeny compared to others in my circle during those daze.

Good times, for the most part. Unfortunately, I think I was on the last fading edge of the altruistic hippies having a majority on the scene. When I returned after nearly seven years on hiatus (yes, a huge chunk from the Timline and yet another few stories for another time), I became astounded at the new influx of over-the-top, soulless and ultimately infantile ragers and the mass hysteria they had brought with them. There were tons of posers who didn't give a fuck about the music. By the time Garcia died the scene had reached critical mass, and though I miss him and regret his early passing, overall it probably was the best thing for the Deadhead community.

Anyway, my Europe '72 experience came full circle in 1998 when I went out and bought the Live from Hundred Year Hall, Frankfurt, Germany 4-26-72 (it had been out for a couple of years). It is some KICK ASS Dead!! Lovelight > Goin Down the Road Feelin' Bad for nearly 27 minutes; Truckin' > Other One for over 54 minutes. Incredible stuff.

Some of the Robert Hunter liner notes are classic:

"A Snapshot of the Second Set"

Truckin', still new enough in '72 that Bobby hasn't got all his entrances down by heart, is full of thunder juice. GD signature tune of the time, the audience is familiar enough with it to think about getting involved after engaging the band in a standoff first set. Or maybe it's not their choice the monster is out of the box now, per usual, and is perfectly capable of sweeping things along without a by-your-leave. The tune breaks up into sprung clockwork but Billy the K hangs in there, not letting things end. Oh oh, drum solo, settling into an unmistakable beat. Phil thrums his cue line for The Other One and the room begins to rock back and forth. Suddenly the band decides to go back and inspect that busted clock for a minute. Tension, release, tension, release. Drop back now and again, or you got nowhere to go. Bands that don't bother to learn that might sell more records but drop by the wayside.


Preach it, brother.

Comments:
On your second round you introduced your lovely wife to Touring with The Dead. Loved it absolutely, but was sometimes too uptight to let you know. Good, good times. Buckeye Lake and all the car troubles, outside of Indie when everyone came over the wall and Jerry's next to last show in Chicago (Tennessee, Tennessee, aint no place I'd rather be..... get on back to Tennessee). And finally being able to go back in Atlanta a couple of years ago. I'd go on tour with you again anytime......
 
Great post! Something we can agree heartily on. ;o)>

It's too bad you missed that Cipolina performance live. I count myself as being at another show where Cippolina played with the Dead - The closing of Winterland, '78. I couldn't get tickets to the show despite exhausting all possibilities. It was simulcast that very night on a then-local radio station, KSAN, and the local PBS station, KQED. I set up a reel-to-reel tape deck at a friend's house in San rafael, then partied all night while listening to the show and taping it, and watching it on Channel 9.

That's why I count myself as having been there, as it was all real-time. Back to John (who used to frequent, with his family, a restaurant at which I was then employed as a waiter). John came out for "Not Fade Away" and "'Round and 'Round". His guitar work on NFA is absolutely stunning. The whole jam is incredible with the song starting out slow with percussion and harmmonica by Lee Oscar,then Jerry coming in softly, Bobby, and then picking up with John. When he first appeared on the screen, I went nuts, as I knew it wwas going to be a great set. I didn't know how great until afterwards.

That show remains one of my all-time favorites. They did one of their best "Dark Stars" as well. Periodically, Channel 9 still shows an abortion of a copy of that show for pledge drives. A few months ago I sat down to watch it, but shut it off after an hour. The best material is not in it, and their constant yammering in between makes it a horrible experience, having "been there" myself the night it went down.

I'd klike to find an uncut version of that video. If anyone has any leads, I'd like to hear from them.
 
You guys were at those Chicago shows? So was I. Unbroken Chain!

The scene as I saw it changed drastically as soon as Touch of Grey hit the Top 10. Alpine was sweet as honey one year, when I and my Bloomington, Il. friends made a pilgrimage, but it was an overpopulated mess the next year. THOUSANDS of people without tickets showed up "for the party". People WITH tickets were parking along the highway and walking miles to get there! We had hoped that it would be a temporary situation, but the scene never bounced all the way back.

And, as you said, the BT thang seems complicated at the setup, but becomes simplicity itself. Once I find something I want, I can start downloading it within a minute with just a few clicks. Have you found anything of interest so far?
 
I'd go on tour with you again anytime... Ditto, babe.

Mark - I got this for Christmas two years ago and I love it:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000C5090/104-9425636-5980751?v=glance&n=130

I never got to see Cipp but still had a few "special guest" moments, most notably Carlos Santana coming out on 8-22-87 to play the first Good Morning Little Schoolgirl since Pigpen died. I also met Bill Graham that day at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds while he was booking around on his dirt bike and handing out trash bags for people to pick up litter. I bumped into him again just a week later at a JGB show at the Greek, where he was giving somebody that had thrown some trash on the ground what for. Bill was obviously big against littering - a man after my own heart (I think his picture should be under the entry for "huzpedik" in the Yiddish lexicon)! That was another great guest show, as Bonnie Raitt opened for JGB and she came out in the second set to duo with Jer on Think and Knockin' on Heaven's Door.

Sadly, Joe, we were only at the 7-8-95 show (as Jen said "Jerry's NEXT TO last) as we had to be back to work on Monday and didn't want to do that on the heels of a 12-hour drive. If I could, that would definitely be one of my life's do-overs.

I guess I should save some of this stuff for vol. 2, eh?
 
Speaking of guest spots..... 6/25/92, Soldier Field, with Steve Miller and James Cotton, for what I understand was the 2nd GMLS since Pigpen died. Maybe I'll torrent the SBD for ya!
 
Thanks, I didn't know there was a DVD out. Get the CD - it was released year before last. The sound quality is magnificent. And I don't agree with the first reviewer at Amazon that this is not one of their best shows.
 
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