August 21, 2009

The Fillmore East - September 1970

The only shows we have from September 1970 are the four nights at the Fillmore East. Starting in '69 something like an embryonic taping community was forming among New York deadheads; as a result, a high proportion of the Dead's surviving 1970 shows come from New York. These Fillmore East shows were taped both from the audience (by Jack Toner and Marty Weinberg, independently), and by the Fillmore East stagecrew who patched a reel-to-reel machine into the PA feed under the stage. Unfortunately the Fillmore tape masters seem to have vanished long ago; although the crew captured the shows from February and May 15, they seem to have missed the July shows (which would be known as some of the best shows of the year, if they existed as soundboards), and the surviving September tapes are fragmentary - nothing from the 17th, only an hour each from the 18th & 19th. So it's fortunate that folks were in the audience taping at the same time, giving us the complete shows, although Fillmore East audience tapes usually sound very poor. It seems the tapers had to stay pretty far back, so the band is often distant behind lots of echo and extremely noisy crowds. (The July tapes are, sadly, the worst.)

The shows from this time were generally quite long, billed as "An Evening With the Grateful Dead". Since December '69 the Dead had been including a few acoustic songs in their sets; in May '70 they started a new format where they'd play an acoustic set, then the New Riders would play a set with Garcia on pedal steel, then the Dead would play the electric set. Sometimes with the New Riders the Dead would play entirely acoustic shows (for instance on 7/30 and 8/5); by August the setlists included new songs the Dead were recording for American Beauty. These Fillmore shows are some of the last we have with the full acoustic sets; the Dead would drop them by December and not bring them back for another decade.

Since most people have just listened to the soundboard portions of these shows, I thought I'd talk a bit about the whole run (not including the New Riders sets) to put them in context.

9/17
This night survives in a decent audience tape (with a polite audience) which captures most of the acoustic set and part of the electric set - it's unknown what happened to the rest of the electric set. The Dead start the show with an acoustic Truckin' but quickly stop with their usual cry of "Monitors!" After things are settled, they get down to a very nice acoustic set with several new songs, though it's somewhat hampered for us by the sound quality. Pigpen's piano is barely audible, but sometimes we can hear David Nelson on mandolin, for instance on Rosalie McFall. The highlight of this set is definitely the acoustic Box of Rain debut - it's too bad the sound is so murky that Garcia's pedal-steel just disappears. (Check out the very similar acoustic set on 8/18/70, which fortunately was recorded in good, clear quality for the time.)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-08-18.aud.yerys.1346.sbeok.shnf
In the electric set, we have one of the early Sugar Magnolias, closer to the album version with its fast pace, Garcia on wah-wah and the band singing the "doo-doo" backing vocals at the end. (They would play it each night.) From there they jump into a Dark Star - due to the lack of taped shows, these two Fillmore Stars are the only ones we have between the Capitol Theater shows on 6/24 and 11/5, and they are major events. On this night, they proceed quickly to the verse, and then drop into a long five-minute space with gongs, feedback squeals and strange noises - finally they return to a pretty melody, creating a huge sense of relief as the audience cheers - from there they travel into the Tighten Up jam which they explore for several minutes, getting more cheers at the climax - and then wind up the jam with a lovely quiet, soothing melody. After Dark Star, of course comes St Stephen (much to the crowd's delight) - they had stopped doing the Eleven earlier in the year, so Stephen usually led into Not Fade Away, but not tonight - the band hesitates in confusion as the song ends, so it's time for a drum solo - they decide to go into Good Lovin', which means another drum solo after the verses, and the jam continues to be dominated by over-the-top percussion, pausing for a bass/drums break.
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-09-17.aud.remaster.sirmick.27591.sbeok.shnf

(Note: The Tighten Up in the Dark Star was a very common Latin-style jam theme in 1970; it's often known as a proto-Eyes jam due to the chord resemblance to Eyes. Its first appearance I'm aware of was on 8/30/69, where Weir plays the chords as Garcia's changing a string during Dark Star; it gets a full band performance on 10/25/69. After that they played it steadily for a year, in many Dark Stars (usually following the Feelin' Groovy jam), and after March '70 in most of the Dancing in the Streets; they seem to have dropped it in 1971 except for a surprise appearance on 10/31/71. It's unusual for the Dead to use a jam-theme interchangeably between two different songs like that, but Tighten Up works well in both of them. (It's surprising it took so long for them to play it in Dancing, since it's similar to the usual Dancing two-chord jam pattern - on 12/11/69 for instance, the Dancing is extremely close to a Tighten Up.)
It may be worth a post of its own someday - there used to be a webpage devoted to the Dead's Tighten Ups, but I think it's disappeared. These are the performances I've found so far; I've probably missed a few, but this is the most complete listing available:
10-25-69 Star
11-2-69 Star
12-26-69 Star
1-2-70 Star
3-1-70 Dancing
3-21-70 Dancing
4-3-70 Dancing
4-15-70 Dancing
4-24-70 Star
5-2-70 Dancing
5-6-70 Dancing
5-8-70 Star
5-24-70 Star
6-6-70 Dancing
6-24-70 second Star
7-12-70 Dancing
9-17-70 Star
10-5-70 Dancing
10-24-70 Dancing
10-30-70b Dancing
11-8-70 Dancing
12-17-70 Dancing
10-31-71 Star
(I might add that Deadlists claims there's a Tighten Up in the 2/2/70 Star, but there isn't.)

9/18
The audience tape is better than the night before, with the band clear and up-front. We have the brief acoustic set from the soundboard - a very nice Truckin' with piano, and a Black Peter with mandolin - but Garcia suddenly halts things saying, "Hold it. This is insane, man. I'm sorry, but it's just horrible up here, really awful." So they decide to go ahead with the NRPS set instead.
Whatever was the problem, it was worked out by the electric set, for the Dead were definitely in a jamming mood this evening. There is a strong, compelling Other One, heading into a short (three-minute) but hypnotic Cryptical and a sublime, perfect segue into Brokedown Palace. Then we get the last Man's World - one of Pigpen's best covers with a snaky groove and captivating solo - and the rarely-played Till the Morning Comes and Operator. The Dancin' in the Streets is long and excellent, going through several moods. (Note how they carefully avoid the Tighten Up jam, after playing it the night before!) St Stephen is sloppy but rousing, and shifts to Not Fade Away (which they'd play three nights in a row, each one different). As usual, tonight's NFA is great with poetic guitar lines; it includes the Bid You Goodnight jam which formerly resided in Alligator, and a few weeks later would become the coda to Goin' Down the Road. This leads to another Good Lovin' which is better than on the 17th - Weir kicks off the jam with a hot solo, then Garcia lifts it to an intense, fiery level - there's a nice end to the jam as the band take turns trading licks in the return to the verses. The audience demands an encore, but the band just sings them a brief We Bid You Goodnight.
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-09-18.sbd-aud.cotsman.17893.sbeok.shnf http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-09-18.set2.aud-sbd.sirmick.sbeok.30882.flacf (late set only)

9/19
This night has the worst-sounding audience tape of the run, distant and plagued by a very rowdy audience that constantly claps through all the songs. I can imagine the plight of the poor taper, surrounded by hollering clappers who just won't stop.... The soundboard on the other hand sounds superb (in fact Bear-like), and it would be nice to clear up the mystery of what happened to the missing sections on the 18th and 19th.
Most of the acoustic set (except the gospel closers) is missing from the audience copy on the Archive; from the setlist it looks more like one of the acoustic sets from May, mostly older tunes. They start the electric set with a standard Morning Dew, then unleash a surprise with Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. A guy exclaims, "I haven't heard this one in years!" - we only have three from 1970, and this is the last Pigpen version. Pigpen gets another song with Easy Wind (which would also soon be dropped), and then it's time for business: the sweetest Dark Star the Dead ever played with Garcia in fits of lyrical ecstasy, an upbeat Feelin' Groovy jam, a fine St Stephen, and an excited, bubbly Not Fade Away in which Garcia plays the Darkness Darkness riff, and then starts a blazing China Cat jam, Weir playing guitar-tag throughout and soloing right alongside him. By the time they get to a raucous Lovelight the crowd is quite carried away and sings along with Pigpen. When he exclaims "Let's fuck!" they explode in cheers (it takes so little to excite deadheads....), and afterwards they keep stomping through the PA's "time-to-leave" Get Together until Lesh comes out to explain that there won't be an encore: "It's been a really long night, and Garcia's got a cramp in his hand, and we're all tired, and Bobby's lost his voice." The delirious audience cries out, "No!" - so Pigpen tells them, "Why don't you guys go home and fuck somebody?"
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-09-19.aud-toner-weinberg.warner.25473.sbeok.flacf (aud)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-09-19.sbd.kaplan.5217.sbeok.shnf (sbd) http://www.archive.org/details/gd1970-09-19.mtx.chappell.SB14.31510.sbeok.flac16 (matrix)

(Note: The China Cat jam was an occasional occurrence in 1970 when the band was in a good mood, and later it would become a regular part of late-'71 NFAs. We can hear a few others in these shows - see how often the Dead tend to string together various common themes:
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-01-03.sbd.ret.19440.sbeok.shnf - in the Alligator jam (briefly, China Cat jam>Bid You Goodnight riff) - this jam is very similar to 4/29/71
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1970-03-21.late.aud.lee.pcrp.21779.shnf - in the Not Fade Away (Stephen riff>China Cat jam)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-05-07.aud.weiner-gdADT04.5439.sbefail.shnf - in the Lovelight (a great jam that includes the Stephen riff>Darkness riff>jam>China Cat jam)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-06-04.sbd.miller.12135.sbeok.shnf - in the Midnight Hour (briefly)

The Darkness jam (from the Youngbloods song) was also played at a few more shows in 1970:
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-05-24.sbd.hanno.6481.sbeok.shnf - in the Lovelight (briefly)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-06-06.sbd.ashley.2172.sbeok.shnf (in the fantastic Alligator jam, following the Bid You Goodnight riff)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-12-12.sbd.clugston.5985.sbeok.shnf (after Goin Down the Road, goes into the Stephen riff, very low-key)

9/20
The sound quality on this night is rather dodgy, especially during the Caution when the levels go haywire (our source comes from a copy, not the master). Although Marty Weinberg must have taped the whole show, unfortunately many of his early tapes were erased or taped-over, so we only have the end of the show from his recording - it would be great to have a matrix of this part, since it's the worst-sounding portion of the soundboard. The audience tape is bass-heavy and has some glitches but mostly sounds clear, and gives us an alternate look at the famous NFA>Caution.
The acoustic set is much-loved due to the soundboard quality and the song selection (all it lacks are the gospel tunes). We have more mandolin playing from Nelson & Grisman, and several new songs including an unusual acoustic Big Railroad Blues - of the many highlights, I would single out To Lay Me Down with its unusual instrumentation.
The electric set is more of an average '70 set than the preceding nights, and it takes them a while to get going. They bring out a couple rarely-played songs like Big Boy Pete, rouse everyone with a strong stretched-out Easy Wind and the best Sugar Magnolia of the run, and soothe them again with a wispy, tentative Attics of My Life. Then they're ready for the big jam with Not Fade Away (one guy exclaims, "They're back to rock and roll!") - Garcia is in a very melodic mood and we have another great, long NFA with its Bid You Goodnight jam, leading to a fine Caution>feedback (one of the last ones) - Pigpen might be better appreciated on the audience tape. They only played show-closing feedback a few times in 1970, and it's pretty cool here; this performance echoes the 2/14/70 Fillmore East show, and is almost a farewell to their '69-style psychedelic blowouts. As the embers settle, they end the run by singing a full-length We Bid You Goodnight.
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1970-09-20.aud.weinberg.bunjes.81728.flac16 (partial aud) http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-09-20.aud.remaster.sirmick.27583.sbeok.shnf (sbd)

(Note: We only have four full-fledged Cautions from 1970 - Caution had pretty much become separated from Alligator, and was only brought out on rare occasions. (On 1/3/70 they just tease it a little at the end of the Alligator jam before going into a long blast of feedback.) 11/6 and 2/14 are the best Cautions of the year; 2/5 is also unique the way it comes out of the Eleven. There is one more from 3/18/71, before they dropped it for a year - it's mostly laid-back until finally coming to a frenzy at the end, but is notable for Pigpen playing harmonica and singing a rap much like the ones he was doing in Good Lovin'.
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-02-05.sbd.hanno.9184.sbefail.shnf
2/14/70 Dick's Pick
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-11-06.aud.warner.17183.sbeok.shnf http://www.archive.org/details/gd71-03-18.sbd.yerys.1663.sbeok.shnf

8 comments:

  1. By September 1970, Pigpen seemed to be at his lowest point as a keyboard player. I was listening to the amazing 9/19/70 soundboard portion, and I don't think his organ uttered one note. Not in the Dark Star, St. Stephen or anything else. The other nights follow the same pattern. Maybe an organ doodle in "Me & My Uncle" or "Morning Dew" but basically his role as keyboard player was non-existent. I know from photographs of the era there always was an organ onstage, but why didn't he even touch it? Anyone know?

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  2. That year was Pigpen's low ebb on the keyboards. Basically, they didn't need him playing. Remember that Pigpen hadn't been playing organ for the 14 months that Constanten was in the band; and after TC left in Jan '70, Pigpen would've had to get back up to speed on the Dead's repertoire - so it was easier for him to just sit out most of the sets, coming back to the keyboard maybe for a familiar song or two. And at some shows, I get the feeling he might be 'distracted' with some girl backstage & the band has to call him out...

    If you listen to early/mid-1970, you do hear him more often, but it's kind of at random. In summer '70, he did make a big contribution - on piano. He's all over these Fillmore East acoustic sets on piano. Of course you're not going to hear him in a Dark Star, but if you listen to the 9/18/70 SBD portion, he plays organ on several songs.

    And by Europe '72, he did make an effort to play organ on more songs.

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  3. 9/19 is one of the best Dark Star jams. IMO. particularly coming out of the weird feedback- the second portion of the jam. Great interplay between Bob and Jerry.

    I believe the boys learned of Jimi Hendrix death that morning and were inspired. My recording from the GDH is fine.

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    1. It is indeed. And a superb recording, too - the Fillmore East secret-taping crew knew what they were doing.

      I don't believe the Dead were "inspired" by Hendrix's death though - they sound quite happy, and weren't really friendly with him; in any case, his death was announced in the news on Sept 18.
      For some reason no one ever talks about the 9/18 show as being inspired by Jimi, though, whereas 9/19 gets that all the time!

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    2. guess i gotta get 9/19 ... but then the best dark star is one the one your listening to hehehe example:
      on currently
      The Jan 2, 1970 fillmore dark star... one o my favorite dark stars goes thru all sort planes...scary , beautiful edgy
      jam approx 18:45 ?
      jam at 22:46 of dark star has always reminded me of beginnings from chicago

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  4. I've gone into much more detail about Marty Weinberg's tapes in a new post:
    http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2012/07/marty-weinberg.html

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  5. Hi- Reading here in and interview Jay Itkowitz got with Jerry in November 1970 (http://www.itkowitz.com/mam1965text.php?aid=260), these shows at the Fillmore were 6 hours each?

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    1. It was common in 1970 for the Dead's shows at the Fillmore to be 6 hours, or to go til dawn. Of course that would include NRPS/acoustic sets, and presumably lots of downtime in intermissions. None of our tapes are nearly that long.
      I don't know how long these September shows specifically ran; they seem to have been shorter than earlier Fillmore sets were that year.

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