To follow up on my missing-shows lists, this will be a more speculative post about what might have happened in late '69 through 1970 to explain why so many shows were lost.
The period from Oct '69 to Feb '70 for some reason seems to be especially plagued with missing pieces of shows - there are a bunch of shows where we have only a reel or two, and the other reels have somehow vanished. (Occasionally this happens at other times too - for instance, 2/19/73 and 2/24/73 - but usually it means that only part of a show was copied or circulated, and the rest may surface someday. Of course there are also shows where the taper was slow to change reels so we have painful gaps in the music, for instance the huge missing pieces in 12/30/69 - but this I consider a 'normal' situation since the soundcrew had other things to do than watch the tapes! Over time they got much better at making instant reel-changes, but '69 is full of these little gaps.)
I don't know how many shows from early '69 are still in the vault, so I'll pass over those. But from September to October '69 there is a huge gap in the soundboards: did they stop taping for a while or has it all been lost? We know some of the missing summer '69 shows are still hidden in the vault (part of 7/3/69 recently popped out to surprise us). But the complete lack of soundboards from early September to late October is very strange.
It's the next few months where lots of random reels have gone astray. Only audience recordings circulate for 10/24/69 (very incomplete) and 12/5/69, though soundboards were taped of the rest of those runs - in fact, every other show from Nov/Dec '69 was recorded and is in circulation.
Here's my rundown of the shows with missing reels - some may be in the Vault, but many aren't:
10/25/69 - missing at least the first 6 songs of the show.
10/26/69 - missing the second half of the show.
12/20/69 - missing the middle of the show, several songs including Dark Star>St Stephen.
12/21/69 - missing at least the first 6 songs of the show.
1/24/70 - extremely short, I suspect half the show is missing.
1/30/70 - the last half hour not circulating.
2/2/70 - missing the beginning and end of the show.
2/5/70 - missing the first half of the show. (Some saved on audience tape.)
2/7/70 - probably missing the end of the show. (Unfortunately the audience tape ran out early.)
2/8/70 - only a half-hour survives of the soundboard; fortunately a great audience tape captured the whole show. (The full soundboard may be in the Vault.)
2/11/70 early show - only the last 20 minutes survive.
4/70 Fillmore West run - though all the shows were taped, they survive in chaotic condition: stray reels from 4/9, 4/11, and 4/12 - nothing left from 4/10. (Sadly, no known audience tapes were made on 4/10 and 4/11, which are huge losses.)
It seems in 1970 the reels were carelessly handled; the crew keeping the taped shows at the time might have mislaid them, since I doubt it was given much priority to hang onto old shows. I'm pretty sure these reels were lost early on. I wonder where the reels were kept back in 1970....in fact it's curious that the band were keeping them at all. The mass of shows from 1969 alone would've been quite a storage headache for someone.
Take the 5/1/70 Alfred College show, for instance - some of the reels of this show were found under the stage at the 5/14/70 Kirkwood show, but later disappeared; only one reel with the New Riders actually made it to the Vault. One reel (//Other One to Lovelight//) went into circulation mislabeled as "5/19/70". Much later, part of the acoustic set and the start of the electric set were discovered and started circulating; so it's only recently that we had the full show. (As for 5/14/70, only reels 3, 4, and 5 made it to the Vault; the first part of the show was found separately.)
Latvala sighed, "That's how loose things were in the past. I'm sure there were plenty of times when someone says, 'Put these in the truck,' and the guy puts them in the back...the truck takes off, and the tapes flew off into the highway. Someone picks them up, puts them in storage, dies, and the tapes resurface...."
Kidd Candelario talked about the setup when he was recording shows later on ('73/74): "In those days we hustled from show to show. We got there, threw it up, went right to work, show was over, we packed it into a truck and took off for the next city.... When you think about what we were doing, and what was going on, and the climate, and the psychedelics, it's a wonder that we even have what we recorded..... Phil got tapes from me, Jerry got tapes from me, and anybody else who really wanted them. I had to make copies every night for everybody... That's why a lot of that music has gotten out there - everybody has a friend who has a friend. Personally I'd never had a problem with that whole situation.....
"[After the tour] we'd drop the tapes off at the warehouse because back then we really didn't have a vault or anything. For a long while I kept tapes at my house. There was no place in the warehouse yet to put things, so I would just come home and leave that tape box there and then go about making copies for anyone who asked me. The first thing I usually had to do after a tour was sort out the requests and get taping for them. But when Bear was doing it, he and Bob and Betty all shared the duties."
He also talked about the Vault: "Lots of people had access to the vault.... Anybody from our scene could actually go into the vault. We were constantly in and out of there, putting tapes in, taking tapes out, getting cassettes to make our tapes from shows." Apparently many people never returned the tapes they "borrowed".
There's always hope that more might emerge; sometimes shows from this era started circulating incomplete, and then full versions came out. For instance, set II of 1/16/70 only came out recently - we used to have only the last 45 minutes of 2/1/70 but now have the full show - and the release of 1/18/70 and 2/4/70 in the Download Series revealed that more shows from this period may also be in the vault. Possibly Bear has kept shows as well, since he recorded all these. (Surprisingly, he kept recordings of most of the bands that played with the Dead in '69, and there could be many unknown treasures among those - for example, the Flying Burrito Brothers sets from the April '69 Avalon shows that were recently released....no telling what else he might still have!)
But after the Fillmore East '70 shows, it's quite painful to see how many shows are completely missing, though some soundboards were recorded sporadically here & there in the first half of the year. There are various shows later in 1970 that are also incomplete....but that can't compare to all the shows that have just vanished altogether.
Some shows that we should have on soundboard, we don't - 3/7/70 Santa Monica (the next night was taped), 4/10/70 Fillmore West (all the early '70 shows there were taped), the full 3/20-21/70 Port Chester shows (we have the soundboard of the late show on 3/20). So I suspect that more of these missing shows were recorded, but there was a mass disappearance of reels at some point - perhaps in the period when they weren't taping. Lost? Thrown out? Stolen? Who knows....
The biggest reason 1970 is such a recording hole is that Bear was the one most interested in taping the band, and he wasn't with them most of the year. After the 1/30/70 New Orleans bust, Bear wasn't allowed to travel on tour, and the last shows he taped outside California were the Feb '70 Fillmore East shows. He was still able to tape their California shows (so we thankfully have most of the Fillmore West shows), and the last shows he recorded before going to prison were the July San Rafael shows. (Ironically, 7/14/70 has some bad cuts, and the circulating 7/16/70 is missing the start of the show, though set II recently appeared.)
Our run of completely missing shows starts in mid-February after the Fillmore East run. But what's interesting to me is the random pattern of what's survived. Bear may have been stuck in California, but if you notice the locations of taped shows up to June, they're all over the place - Texas, Arizona, one Port Chester show, Florida, Ohio, a couple New York shows, Cambridge, Missouri, England, Hawaii....some of these were "outside" taping jobs, but not all of them. It's possible the tapes we do have were just outside people plugging into the board - but then, why so many from these months when there are almost none in the whole second half of the year? I think the band's crew must have been still taping without Bear - we know the Harpur show, for instance, was recorded by Bob Matthews.
2/20/70 - missing
2/21/70 - missing
2/22/70 - missing
2/23/70 - SBD
2/27 - 3/1/70 Family Dog - SBDs
3/7/70 - missing
3/8/70 - SBD
3/17/70 - missing
3/20/70 early - missing
3/20/70 late - SBD
3/21/70 early & late - missing
3/24/70 - SBD
4/3/70 - SBD
4/9 - 4/12/70 Fillmore West - SBDs made, only a few reels left
4/15/70 - SBD
4/17-19/70 Family Dog - missing
4/24/70 - missing
4/25/70 - missing
4/26/70 - missing
5/1/70 - SBD (this show was taped by the band, later recovered in pieces)
5/2/70 - SBD (recorded by Bob Matthews)
5/3/70 - missing
5/6/70 - SBD (this was taped by a campus radio engineer who got permission from the soundcrew)
5/7/70 - missing
5/8/70 - missing
5/9/70 - mostly missing
5/10/70 - missing
5/14/70 - SBD
5/15/70 - SBDs (made by the Fillmore East crew - but the Vault has a separate recording made by the band, just as in February)
5/16/70 - missing
5/17/70 - missing
5/21/70 - missing
5/24/70 - SBD
6/4 - 6/7/70 Fillmore West - SBDs
6/12/70 - SBD in vault
6/13/70 - SBD
This is the point where I think the band stopped taping themselves (except for the two shows Bear taped in July). I'm not sure who recorded the Festival Express run in Canada, but my guess is it was the film-crew.
Some people have said that the break in soundboards came because of the Medicine Ball Caravan - in August 1970 the band were to go on a filmed cross-country concert trip sponsored by Warner Brothers (much like the Festival Express). At the last minute they decided not to go, but as McNally says, "Alembic, which had been hired to provide the sound system, remained involved, so mixers Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor and the sound crew went off with the Caravan." (The band went ahead and recorded American Beauty at Wally Heider's studio that month without them.)
Betty Cantor said, "The Dead were supposed to go as well. So we signed up on that as the recording and PA company, but then the Dead backed out at the last second. We were already contracted to do it, so we had to go; we traveled cross-country, went to Europe and did all that stuff, so Steve Barncard came in and did American Beauty."
I don't think this totally accounts for it, though - the Caravan only happened in August, and there were many more months where the Dead weren't taping.
The Dead didn't start recording themselves again until December, so the second half of the year is a void, outside of the occasional audience tape and the rare soundboard patches. Other than the intrepid audience-tapers, I have to applaud the Fillmore East crews for making their own tapes, and wonder why they apparently didn't tape the great July '70 shows. (And what happened to 9/17/70, did they miss that too? Fortunately the audience tape that night is very good.) After the Fillmore shows, there was an FM broadcast of 10/4/70 (quickly bootlegged); someone (a radio station?) managed to tape 10/24/70; and it may have been the Fillmore crew again who taped 11/16/70. The Stonybrook shows were captured by the stage crew there (as deadlists says, "someone at that venue had a clue"), but unfortunately were lousy shows, with the band quite upset with the student sound crew. The band's recordings resume with the December 12 Santa Rosa show.
It would be nice to know what the band's thoughts were....why they decided to stop taping mid-year if someone besides Bear was recording, and why they started again in December? These are things there are no real answers for anymore, but it's interesting to speculate....