Today in Grateful Dead History: September 15, 1967 – Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA

skeleton&rosesThis show makes the case for Jerry Garcia as a high intensity guitar shredder of the first order.  Now, obviously, this title could apply to Jerry in any era, but 1967 Jerry was young, fired up and ripping solos of incredible length and power.  I don’t think that there is ever a point where Jerry comes closer to Hendrix than 1967, and this show is the proof.

Before I go any further, please keep in mind that this is an audience recording from 1967.  Not 1976.  Not 1994.  1967.  So the quality is not at all pristine.  Before you accuse me of hypocrisy, I’ll admit that I complained to high heavens about the sound quality of yesterday’s concert in Egypt – a soundboard, nonetheless – but at that show the playing was just as bad as the recording.  Here, the playing is great, so you need to ignore the crappy sound quality.Get over it and appreciate that we have any record of this show at all, especially since 1967 is a notoriously thin year for recorded shows.

Before you start listening, please note that this version of the Grateful Dead does not feature Mickey Hart, who joined the band at the tail end of September.  So you’ve got Garcia plugged in and ready to wail, Bill Kreutzmann as the sole drummer pounding away, and Phil Lesh doing God only knows what all over this recording.  Phil is in another place entirely tonight, and even though he is hard to hear in spots, his presence is always noted, dipping in and out of the music like a jaguar stalking its prey.  Musically, Bob Weir doesn’t contribute as much as the others here, possibly because he’s buried in the sonic boom but more likely because 1967 Bob Weir was, according to Bob Weir, not musically on par with his band mates yet. And then there’s Pigpen, the heavyweight champion of the world, bringing the ruckus with all his might.

Viola Lee Blues is probably the musical highlight of the entire evening and it leads off this show.  This is Jerry Garcia in peak 1967 form.  Jerry’s solos at this time feature a ton of repeated lines, something that he would move away from in the 70’s and come back to, a bit, in the 80’s.  But nothing like here, where the sheer force of the notes seems to propel more of the same in an almost never ending feedback loop.  This is delirious, almost dangerous, music, and it’s like nothing Jerry ever played again.

Cold Rain and Snow and Beat It On Down The Line both cook in the lead up to Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, the first big Pigpen number of the night.  Remember that the Grateful Dead in 1967 were more Pigpen’s band than anyone else’s, and he lets you know it here.  If you concentrate really hard, you’ll hear Phil in the background moving this song forward with a relentless parade of bass, almost none of which has any relationship to traditional bass playing. This is truly out there stuff.

Then Morning Dew.  Pure Jerry, tapping into another level.  This is not a very long version of the song, and it’s not nuanced, but man oh man is it effective.  Once we’ve recovered, it’s back to Pigpen for the show ending Alligator>Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks) that will peel your ears back.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – when you compare the Grateful Dead in 1967 to any other band out there at that time, you won’t find a harder rocking outfit anywhere in the universe.  And you’re never going to hear Jerry play guitar like this anywhere other than 1967.  So tap into the magic, get beyond the crummy sound, and strap in for the ride.

Listen here:


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