Today in Grateful Dead History: April 27, 1971 – The Fillmore East, New York, NY


NOTE:  This material was originally published in 2015 on my previous site.  It has been updated and edited, sometimes heavily, and was posted in several batches in August, 2016.

Did you know that the Grateful Dead played with the Beach Boys on this day in 1971?

The two bands collaborated on Searchin’, Riot In Cell Block #9, Help Me Rhonda, Okie From Muskogee and Johnny B. Goode, and the Beach Boys played Good Vibrations and I Get Around on their own in the middle of all of that ruckus. Unfortunately, none of it is any good (seriously – it’s a hot mess), but it does represent the first and only time that the Dead played Riot In Cell Block #9, Help Me Rhonda and Okie From Muskogee, so it fills a historical footnote at the very least.

The rest of the show is a fairly typical 1971 performance, with a very high quality Hard to Handle.

Here’s the link to the Charlie Miller transfer:

Today In Grateful Dead History: March 14, 1971 – Camp Randall Field House, Madison, WI

stealie It’s Pigpen’s world tonight, so get ready.

The three best songs of the night – a monster performance of Good Lovin’, a horrifyingly spliced Hard to Handle and a soulful It Hurts Me Too – all belong to the Pig, with some serious support from Misters Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh, who both just unload on this show with reckless abandon.

It’s a shame that Hard to Handle is spliced where it is, because the band is just reeling back, ready to fire that fastball straight ahead.  The cut throws everything off, but once you get back into the rhythm of things, you’ll be treated to a very fine, full steam ahead version of this tune that only gets better as the song progresses.

Good Lovin’ is really the signature piece of the night, with a little bit of everything for everyone, including a drum solo about four minutes in, some serious Pigpen rapping and just guitar lick after guitar lick, all of which is punctuated by Phil bombs.  This is the solid stuff here, people.

The rest of the show is fine, but these are the definite highlights.  You should check them out:

Today In Grateful Dead History: February 18, 1971 – Capital Theater, Port Chester, NY

stealie It’s nice to be back from vacation and settled back into the Grateful Dead.

Today’s show from Port Chester, New York in 1971 features the live debuts of Bertha, Greatest Story Ever Told, Loser, Johnny B. Goode and Wharf Rat, so it can realistically be called a historic performance, and that’s even before you find out that it was Mickey Hart’s last night on stage with the Dead until the 10/20/1974 “farewell” concert.  Also, it’s at the Capital Theater, and since there are no bad performances at the Capital Theater, this show is worth your time even without the attraction of the new songs.

Let’s talk about the debuts first.  First off, they all basically sound like themselves, which is somewhat unusual for the Dead, who would often debut a tune and tinker with it for years before arriving at a “definitive” version. (I’m thinking of the In The Dark songs in particular, which were worked out live for years before being officially released).  The one interesting note comes in Bertha, which features a final Jerry solo after the last chorus – this wouldn’t stick around for very long.  The rest are all typical versions.

I think the most interesting musical section of this show takes place here: Hard To Handle, Dark Star>Wharf Rat>Dark Star .  This is a very good but not top tier Hard to Handle, but the combination of Dark Star and Wharf Rat, with a return to Dark Star, is very nicely done.  The band nails the transition from Dark Star to Wharf Rat, but the really awesome part is the truly beautiful playing during the jam out of Wharf Rat and back into Dark Star.  It’s an all-time highlight.

The remainder of this show is a frantically paced rocker, with no more jamming but a lot of your favorite songs well-played.  Strap in and enjoy.

Check it out here:

Today In Grateful Dead History: January 21, 1971 – Freeborn Hall, UC Davis, Davis, CA

stealie This show is a perfect example of an incomplete audience recording that most listeners would probably discount because of the nearly constant talking and clapping right next to the taper.  But throwing this show out on the basis of the crowd noise would be a mistake, since there are a couple of really powerful sections of music here.

Grateful Dead Sources has a couple of interesting contemporary reviews of this performance and the comments section details the history of the recording as far as it goes.  What we know for sure is that the Dead were the last of three bands to perform at this concert, which might explain why the setlist appears slightly truncated.  But when you listen to this show straight through, you don’t get the sense that much is missing in terms of the pace of the performance – it follows the pretty standard 1971 show trajectory.

There are a couple of rare moments here, starting with Pigpen’s harmonica playing on Truckin’, something that pops up from time to time but was eventually shelved.  Also, the ending to Hard to Handle, while again not unique, is undoubtedly different from how the band was playing it a couple of months later when it formed into something a little less harsh.  This version is a monster all its own.  Finally, this would apparently be the last performance of Cosmic Charlie until 1976, and while it isn’t a best ever version, it’s still very enjoyable.

For me, the beating heart of this show, and the bar-none highlight of the night, is The Other One, which starts out with Cryptical Envelopment but rapidly turns into an eight minute drum solo.  This was not the typical way to start this song.  The drums build and build until the full band bursts back into the song with a thrilling slide, the beginning of a great fifteen minutes of music.  There are shrieks of feedback, delicate moments where Jerry and Phil play off of one another, and an aggressive section near the end where Bob and Phil are driving deep into the rhythm like men possessed and then Pigpen’s organ rises briefly into the mix to add that little extra something that pushes the song over the edge.  It’s pretty amazing to hear the effect this has on the crowd – whereas before, everyone was talking over the music, now it’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop as the Dead rope the captivated audience in.  (They start talking again as soon as the second part of Cryptical Envelopment starts).  This The Other One is a master class in early 70’s psych rock and shouldn’t be missed.

Please, do yourself a favor and overlook the audio glitches and the missing material, at least for The Other One.  It’s worth the effort.

Here’s the audience recording:

Today In Grateful Dead History: December 2, 1971 – Boston Music Hall, Boston, MA

stealie Today’s show from the Boston Music Hall in 1971 reminds me a lot of the August 4, 1971 show from the Terminal Island Correctional Facility, in that it’s short on jams but filled to the brim with hard core rock n’ roll and peak Pigpen.

All of your favorite non-jammy early 70’s Dead songs are here, and they are performed with a TON of guitar.  In fact, you can hardly tell if Pigpen is playing at all given all of the noise from Jerry and Bob.  But this is glorious rock n’ roll, and it’s nice to hear Bob higher up in the mix.

The funny thing about this show is that Black Peter, one of the slowest songs in the repertoire, is probably one of the best songs at this up tempo show – it’s as if the band was warming up only to slow things down.  Later on, Smokestack Lightning is a thrilling Pigpen performance and Casey Jones has an interesting ending.

Don’t skip Track 18 – labeled “Tuning”.  This is a very delicate minute-long jam that stops you dead in your tracks, especially given how rockin’ the rest of the show has been.  It’s like a little dose of ’73 popped up here in ’71.  Of course, once this moment passes, we’re back to the rollin’, with a heavy Not Fade Away>Turn On Your Love Light>Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad>Not Fade Away to end the show.  This isn’t going to win style points, but at this show, it’s all about the feeling, and this show is a party, start to finish.

Here’s the link to the soundboard:

Today In Grateful Dead History: November 12, 1971 – San Antonio Civic Auditorium, San Antonio, TX

stealie Keith Godchaux joined the Grateful Dead in October, 1971 and immediately began a seven and a half year quest to see how quietly he could play a keyboard while still actually playing a keyboard.  This journey was incremental, like all epic pilgrimages, so the fall of 1971 finds Keith Godchaux, new member of the Grateful Dead, at his most assertive.  (In most normal rock bands, the members, even the scrubs, fight tooth and nail to be heard more as time goes on, but in the Grateful Dead, Keith, and then, much later, Jerry Garcia, tried mightily to fade away to nothing.  Contrarians, those Grateful Deads).

At this show, which took place about a month into Keith’s tenure, the band still had no idea how to place an acoustic piano into their live p.a. mix.  As a result, we get this soundboard recording, with Keith front and center and blasting away with a honky tonk sound that became less and less tonk and more and more honky as the 70’s progressed.  This is also a good show for Keith listening because there is no Pigpen to spray organ all over Keith’s playing.

This is not a good recording in the audio sense of the word, but it is a good show, primarily because of the light it sheds on Keith’s playing at the start of his career with the Dead and also for the monster Cryptical Envelopment>Drums>The Other One> Cryptical Envelopment> Big Railroad Blues in the 2nd set.  Obviously, had the show been mixed properly, we wouldn’t be able to hear Keith as clearly as we do here, so I’m thankful they couldn’t dial in the sound, because it gives us an opportunity to really ponder what could have been had Keith stayed this aggressive.

See, for example, the insanity that is El Paso, of all songs.  Here, Keith is plunking away with complicated! lines, sounding like a frontier saloon piano player on meth.  Ditto on One More Saturday Night, which is simply ferocious.

The second set gives us a chance to appreciate the leanest, baddest version of the Grateful Dead that ever existed, with no Pigpen, only one drummer and no Donna.  This comes into play primarily on the aforementioned The Other One, which is pure slashing power from start to finish.  This transitions into the second half of Cryptical Envelopment and then right into Big Railroad Blues, a unique (meaning “the only time these two songs were played together”) pairing of songs that works perfectly here.

As I said, the sound quality is not great here, but Keith is, so check it out:

Today In Grateful Dead History: August 26, 1971 – Gaelic Park, Bronx, NY

yankeestealie I know Gaelic Park is nowhere near Yankee Stadium, but since this 1971 show is the only time the Grateful Dead played in the Bronx, I’m posting this picture anyway.

Musically, there isn’t much to report from this particular date in history – there’s not a lot of jamming, that’s for sure.

We do have good versions of Hard to Handle and Good Lovin’ in the first set, even though Hard to Handle is somewhat marred by tape problems.   The highlight of the second set (and the whole show for that matter) is The Other One which is really on fire with monster licks from everyone and huge Phil Lesh runs all over the place.  Speaking of Phil, this is one of those shows that features him high in the mix throughout, so if you’re looking for the Phil Zone, look no further.

This soundboard is the best of the recordings, but it’s still not great:

P.S. – I didn’t have time to post yesterday’s 1993 show from the Shoreline Amphitheater but it’s a good one with pretty awesome 1993 versions of Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain and Estimated Prophet>Terrapin Station making it sound like a strange alternate 1977 performance.