We’re getting an early start today because today’s offering from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles is a truncated recording consisting of only a partial version of The Eleven, the debut performance of Mountains of the Moon and a relatively short Turn on Your Lovelight, which apparently represents the last three songs on a night where the Dead shared the bill with several other bands.
If the rest of the Dead’s performance was anything like these snippets, then it must have been a hell of a night, because both The Eleven and Lovelight rage. The Eleven, which we join in progress, is one of those sixties songs that the Dead discarded as they moved in a different direction, but it always holds up – for a lot of fans of the band, this song (and the Dark Star>St. Stephen combination that frequently preceded it) represents everything pure about the Grateful Dead. Thrilling, repetitive lines that change ever so slightly as the song chugs along. Intricate rhythm (when played right). Swirling interaction between Jerry, Bob and Phil. Hippie dippy lyrics. It’s all here and it’s beautiful.
Turn on Your Lovelight was a Pigpen showcase and he almost always delivered, driving the crowds crazy with his improvised raps and clearly feeling the music deep down in his soul. The song died with Pigpen, only to be revived years later with Bob Weir attempting to fill the Pig’s shoes. It was never the same. And while many, many versions of Lovelight tended to stretch on too long, when the Dead got their claws into a shorter version, like tonight, the effect was breathtaking – a take no prisoners assault that never tried to be anything other than a old-school dance number to get everyone up and moving. But since this was the Grateful Dead, you also get to hear Jerry and Phil race around the fretboards (much like in The Eleven), gleefully playing their hearts out as the drummers punished their kits and Pigpen added flourishes on the organ.
And then there is Mountains of the Moon, a song on AOXOMOXOA that would only be played live 13 times, including one infamous performance for the TV show Playboy After Dark where the Dead dosed a studio audience of Playboy bunnies and male models with what, for the band at least, were hilarious results. For tonight’s debut performance we’ve got Jerry and his acoustic guitar and that’s it – you have to pump the volume up really loud to hear him at all, and it’s not a very clean performance (the lyrics are impossible), but it’s a first, so listen carefully anyway.
Let’s be thankful that we’ve got this partial recording of what was likely a great 1968 Grateful Dead show that gets the day moving in the right direction. Listen here: https://archive.org/details/gd1968-12-20.sbd.miller.89663.sbeok.flac16