September 23, 2010

Live vs. Studio Dead 1967-69

“Making a record is like building a ship in a bottle. Playing live music is like being in a rowboat in the ocean.” - Jerry Garcia

The Dead were known as live improvisers who could never quite pull it off in the studio – the magical jams that sustained their shows and wowed audiences were rarely found on their studio albums. As Phil Lesh said, “The Grateful Dead have always primarily been a live band; we’ve never quite managed to capture on record just exactly what it is that we do so well.” Weir agreed: “We just don’t play with the same fire in the studio.” And Garcia grumpily commented in 1974, “I hate all my records. The Grateful Dead don’t make good records.” By that time they were running on two different tracks - the ‘studio Dead’ focused merely on making radio-friendly pop albums, while the live band went on merrily expanding consciousness.
I thought I’d write about the Dead’s early albums, when they were still figuring out what would work in the studio environment, and still trying to capture that live aura on vinyl grooves. It’s not often mentioned that the early Dead could be quite ambitious and disciplined, in their own way – not in the sense of being conventionally ‘successful’ with hit singles & TV shows, or being able to play the same thing twice. But when they had an artistic vision, they would go after it with relentless rehearsals and patience; and when they had an album to make, they would stay in the studio month after month getting it right - only to proclaim disappointment once it was finally released. This was a band that listened to itself with very critical ears.
(I talked about this a little in an earlier post –
http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2009/08/did-dead-like-their-live-albums.html )

Garcia was asked in 1988 what he thought of his playing from 1969:
“It’s embarrassing to me! I studied all that stuff to improve what I found embarrassing about my own playing. To me it’s the thing of not being in tune a lot of the time…I meant to be in tune! I hear what I meant, as opposed to what I actually played… It’s not as embarrassing for me to listen to myself now.”
And in 1976, he said of the Dead’s albums, “Comparing the record to the vision, I always feel that it fails…it produces sort of a feeling of disappointment. You want it to work a certain way and sometimes it doesn’t work as well as you want… On our earlier records, if I listen to them now, they’re embarrassing for reasons like they’re out of tune.”
Even back in 1971, he felt the same:
“It’s hard for me to go back to the past in terms of the music, because for me it’s a continuum, and to stop it at one of those points, to me it always looks underdeveloped and not quite working… I think of it in terms of something we were trying to do but didn’t succeed in doing. I listen to what’s wrong with it.”

Garcia talked about the Dead’s first album in 1968: “We didn’t know anything about it, so we went down and ground out the first record in four nights. We were inexperienced about recording…there we were for the first time in the studio world – engineers looking at their watches [saying] ‘OK, what’s next?’ and that whole scene…”
He said a few years later, “At that time we had no real record consciousness… We were completely na├»ve… So in three nights we played some hyperactive music. That’s what’s embarrassing about that record now – the tempo was way too fast, we were all so speedy at the time. It has its sort of crude energy, but obviously it’s difficult for me to listen to it; I can’t enjoy it… Even as soon as we’d finish it there were things that we could hear… It was just simply what we were doing onstage. But in reality, the way we played was not really too much the way that record was. Usually we played tunes that lasted a long time…then we went down there and turned out songs real fast, less than three minutes…” (By ’71, apparently Garcia had forgotten that their early live shows were often even speedier and more hyper than the album!)
He dismissed the album as a product of low expectations: “We really didn’t much care about it while we were doing it. So we weren’t surprised when it didn’t quite sound like we wanted it to.”

The Dead weren’t complete strangers to the studio, though. They’d recorded a demo for Autumn Records in November ’65 at Golden State Recorders in San Francisco (probably a session of a couple hours with one engineer attending). This demo apparently went nowhere, and I’d imagine the Dead held it in some disdain.
They tried recording again for Scorpio Records in June ’66, at producer Gene Estribou’s home studio. There was even a single (Stealin’ b/w Don’t Ease Me In), which was barely released and they quickly disowned. The complete sessions have long circulated, and show the Dead quite patiently tackling multiple takes of each song. (A selection was released on the Birth of the Dead CD, omitting Cardboard Cowboy.)
But the Dead became disenchanted early on with the recording process. The producer recalled, “It was an effort to get out of the zone of indecision…Phil wanted to do one thing and Jerry wanted to do another… So it was frustrating for everybody, but we had to get something finished rather than nine thousand hours of shit that was unusable.”
Garcia summed up the single in August ’66: “We never got in on the mixing of it, and we didn’t really like the cuts, and the performances were bad, and the recordings were bad, and everything else was bad, so we didn’t want it out… It doesn’t sound like us.” The rest of the band shared his feelings.
Garcia: “It’s not that bad, but - ”
Pigpen: “Bullshit.”
Weir: “Go burn it.”

Come January ’67, the band was ready to try again, recording for Warner Bros in RCA Studios in Los Angeles. The Dead recorded their first album in just a few days, basically taping live with only the vocals overdubbed (just as they’d done at the Scorpio sessions). At this point the Dead thought of a studio record as just like a live set – the goal was to capture what they sounded like onstage.
The band picked their producer, Dave Hassinger, who was known for his recent work with the Stones. Garcia said, “We were impressed by him because he’d been the engineer on a couple of Rolling Stones records that we liked the sound of.” Hassinger, though, did little producing on this record. He admitted later, “That upset the band, because I had been primarily an engineer and that’s what the band wanted from me… They needed someone to help them get the record the way they wanted it to sound, and that’s what I would have liked to have done.” (The RCA engineers, of course, simply told the band to turn down! – causing Weir to comment that the band’s sound “didn’t fill out the same way.”)
Hassinger remembered, “We went in and did the first album very, very fast – less than a week… At that time I didn’t know them, and looking back I wish I could have had more time and done some things a little differently. But my understanding was that these were songs they’d played a lot, and they essentially wanted to get them down like they played them live. I’d made two or three trips up to the Bay Area and seen them at the Fillmore, and I thought they were dynamite. What I was after on the album was to capture as much of the energy as I could.”

http://www.archive.org/details/gd1966-12-05.sbd.kimbro.23064.sbeok.shnf
This is a (misdated) collection of mostly instrumental outtakes, showing how the Dead worked – they rushed through the tracks live, leaving just the vocals for later. (For such a speedy recording session, there were actually quite a few songs taped and then abandoned – I Know You Rider, King Bee, Stealin’, Alice D Millionaire, Overseas Stomp, Tastebud, and Death Don’t. Garcia also said that they taped a different Viola Lee Blues each day, in order to pick the best one for the album – indeed, a different version was used for the single edit.)
By the way, it’s worth noting that the Dead may have had little to do with the mixing of this album. It was standard before ’67 for the musicians to record the tracks and split; the producer would then spend a few hours (at most) mixing the album. (The 4-track mix in this case was quite simple anyway, with each instrument staying in its allotted place for the length of the album.) At any rate, the album was mixed on the fifth day of the session – McNally says the Dead were there, but they didn’t have much oversight over the process, as quite a few songs were considerably shortened for the record, eliminating the end jams (one thing Garcia later objected to!).
And ironically, once the band had finished recording, Warner Bros asked them for a single – “they said, ‘We still haven’t got anything here that’d be a strong single,’ so we said, ‘Ah, a strong single, sure!’” - so the Dead composed Golden Road to order and recorded it in San Francisco. The recording was more complex than their LA tapes, and they took more time on it with several overdubs - it was a highlight of the album, but didn’t fly up the charts! It’s easy to hear why this clean, zippy, somewhat restrained album would later sound strange to Garcia – it came out just when the band was turning the corner into a new musical dimension.
Crawdaddy magazine wrote a positive review of the album, but noted that it “disappoints fans of the live Dead. The more you’ve grown to love Grateful Dead live performances over the years, the more difficult it must be to accept an album which is (though very beautiful) something completely different. Only Viola Lee Blues has any of the fantastic ‘this is happening now!’ quality of a good Dead performance; only Viola Lee Blues takes you away as far as the longtime Dead fan has grown accustomed to being taken.”

On the album’s release in March ‘67, Garcia already sounded a bit skeptical about it: “I think our album is honest. It sounds just like us. It even has mistakes on it. But it also has a certain amount of excitement on it… It’s the material we’ve been doing onstage for quite a long time – it sounds like one of our good sets.”
But Garcia already realized that while the album accurately reflected their live show at the moment, they were quickly moving beyond that moment. “It isn’t as good as it could have been, but it’s still okay… After the fact of the recording, I don’t want to say too much about it – it’s finished and it’s sort of in the past. [The album had just been released!] None of the material we’re doing that was on the record is going to be much like the record from now on. Because now we feel we’ve done it that way. I’m even thinking perhaps there’s a possibility of re-recording some of this stuff in the future, just for the sake of how much it’s changed.”

By December ’68, Garcia was even more negative: “We felt very bad about it. We felt it was unfortunate… We did it, and that was it. We had all the time afterwards, and after it was released, and listening to it hundreds of times, to really regret it, because it was mediocre performances of material that we were able to do much better. It was uninspired completely. We’ll never go about it that way again.”
Back in March ’67, he’d started thinking about how their studio approach could be different than their live performances. “Being in a recording situation is really a lot different than playing. A recording situation brings out another side of creativity…something that you do over a long period of time… So when you get into a recording studio you begin to have a different feeling about what you’re doing. That’s something we’re just starting to get into. So the first album was essentially a live album.”
By April, Garcia was determined not to record in the same way again. “That was an attempt to try and sound like the way we do live - there's not really anything unconventional for us in there. So we're not going to bother doing that anymore... When we go and record, since the first album is doing so nicely, we hope they'll let us have a lot of time in the studio, and next time we'll do a lot more studio stuff.”

As he hoped, that’s exactly what happened. As he told the story later, “On the second record, we went the whole other way. We decided we’d spend time on our record: we’re going to work on it, we’re going to make sure it sounds good, we’re really going to get into recording and go on some trips with it. So our second record turned out to be a monumental project.”

In October ’67 the Dead went down to Los Angeles to work on recording their new album in RCA Studios. (They’d started work on Alligator and other tracks for a couple weeks in September, but didn’t get far – as Garcia said, “we accomplished absolutely nothing” - and after Mickey Hart joined that month, they probably decided to rehearse a little while before they continued recording!)
The October studio sessions went slowly, as they tried out Alligator and the newly written Other One suite. We have a set of outtakes from these sessions:
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1967-xx-xx.sbd.studio.81259.flac16 (identical to the “10/20/67” session)
In November they moved to the smaller American Studios in Hollywood, recording Dark Star and Born Cross-Eyed:
http://www.archive.org/details/gd67-11-14.sbd.unknown.17417.sbefail.shnf (though these tracks include later overdubs)
There’s also a tape of a long Lovelight rehearsal from November 19 (not on the Archive) – it might be surprising the Dead would consider Lovelight for their studio album, but at the time they’d only been playing it for a few months. They also tried taping Death Don’t, a reject from their first album (and one of their oldest numbers going back to ‘65), and New Potato, which they’d written just after the first album – though sadly we don’t have outtakes of it!

But the thought of recording a real live album had also crossed their minds. When asked in April ‘67 about capturing the Dead's live sound, Garcia stated, “You can't do it in a studio.” [It had taken just a few days in the studio to learn that!] But he theorized: “If you recorded us live, like at the Fillmore, maybe after two or three months....we'd start to get good cuts, good enough for an album in terms of how clean they were and how much we liked the performance on them. It would be such an expensive undertaking, and long....”

In November ’67, the Dead made their first attempt at professional live taping. While they were in the Los Angeles studios, the band brought a Warner Bros recording crew to tape a couple of their Shrine shows on 8-track. An LA Times reviewer at the November 10 show noticed that they were recording; and the two shows were kept in the Warner Bros vaults.
For me the mysterious question is, why were these shows taped? The Dead were not taping their shows in any format that year, let alone 8-track. (Many of our SBDs from ’67 apparently come from Bill Graham’s tapes; the Dead at the time were quite indifferent. David Lemieux says of the famed August ’67 Toronto tapes: “Unfortunately there are reels in the vault clearly marked with the date and venue of some of these shows, which has been scratched out, as the tapes were recorded over.”) As of November ’67, the band had only just started their long trek through the studios – and the idea to mix live & studio tracks together (born of desperation after Dave Hassinger quit) I don’t think had occurred yet.
Possibly Warner Bros, aware of the Dead’s live reputation, wanted to try recording a straight live album. (This may not be so far-fetched: remember that Hassinger considered their live show ‘dynamite’ and said of their first record, “What I was after on the album was to capture as much of the energy as I could.” So he may have been in favor of a live album, especially after seeing how slow their studio work had become.) If this was the case, the Dead clearly rejected this idea, either feeling these Shrine shows weren’t good enough, or having more ambitious ideas they wanted to get down.
The other scenario is that it was the Dead’s idea to record these shows for some undefined use on the album. A few months later, Cream would record an album split between live sides & studio sides, and the Dead might have had something like this in mind. Perhaps they were initially thinking of dubbing studio parts onto the basic live tracks, in an attempt to combine the live ‘excitement’ with studio trimmings (the way they would do with their ‘live’ albums in the early ‘70s).

In December, the Dead went to New York to try recording at Century and Olmstead studios there. Producer Hassinger finally quit, fed up with their inability to sing complicated songs like New Potato and Born Cross-Eyed, and tired of their insane production requests:
“I gave up in New York. We’d been working for a long time on that second album, and they had put down some new tracks in New York, and nobody could sing them, and at that point they were experimenting too much in my opinion. They didn’t know what the hell they were looking for…they were going from one end of the spectrum to the other… It was like pulling teeth, until finally I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Dan Healy recalled, “There was friction between the band and Hassinger – hassle hassle, back and forth. We were at the session one afternoon when we got into an argument with Hassinger about something he was doing in the mix. He jumped up, freaked out, and stomped out of the studio. Everybody just sat there. We were left there, halfway through finishing the record.”
Healy replaced Hassinger as the nominal ‘producer’, and the band saw a golden opportunity. Lesh realized, “We found ourselves with enough music on tape for maybe a third of an album, so we had to figure out what to do.” As Mickey Hart says, “It was our springboard to weirdness. We thought, ‘Now we’re not tethered by the engineers or the technology! We can fly the lofty peaks, man…’ And of course we knew nothing of the studio.”
Warner Bros president Joe Smith sent them a letter in late December insisting on a February ’68 release, saying they had “no time for delays or indecision as we must have the package on the market as quickly as possible… Now let’s get the album out on the streets without anymore fun and games.” The band, of course, ignored him - they now had bigger plans in mind.

In fact, they’d decided to record an entire live tour and blend the best performances with what studio tracks they had in an album-length symphonic collage. The famous Anthem tour followed in winter ’68, Dan Healy faithfully capturing the Dead’s shows on 2-track and 4-track tapes.
Garcia: “We recorded some of those shows using an 8-track machine for the band, and then using a 4-track machine for the room, so that we had 4 tracks of the room, various parts of the perspective of the room...one corner over here, one corner over here, one in the middle, done lots of different places... In mastering, we had the 8-track and the 4-track playing simultaneously. We'd mix them together and cross-fade them, so as to get partly the sound of the band, partly the sound of the hall, reverberating...it gives you a sense of enfolding space.”

It’s worth noting how overboard the Dead went, taping all those shows. They had a 40-minute album to make, much of which was already recorded in the studios over the months; simply mixing together the different live tracks was going to be a gargantuan job. And yet they taped over sixteen shows (probably more) from January through March ’68, in their search for just the right performances.
I think this tour definitely shows the Dead going after certain long album sequences, the same way they would do Live/Dead the following year – several planned medleys were done repeatedly. Of course with only two album-sides, some things had to go – the Dark Star>China Cat>Eleven medley was dropped and later dissolved into its separate songs. The Space>Spanish Jam that usually followed Born Cross-Eyed was also left unused, except for a bit of feedback on the single. (And it’s hard to say if Clementine or Lovelight were even considered, but probably not.)

Compared to our sparse knowledge of 1967 shows (where almost the whole year is missing), we have really good coverage for early 1968, thanks to these tapes. Here’s a rundown of the shows on the Anthem tour, noting what circulates (usually just partial sets), and also which shows were not listed in the Anthem CD liner notes (indicating that the Dead didn’t find them usable). What’s interesting is that our lost shows tend to be the ones that weren’t used for the album, suggesting that the Dead discarded those reels early on.
1/17 – complete tape; but not listed on album
1/20 – partial tape only
1/26 (aka “1/22”) – mostly complete
1/27 (aka “1/23”) – partial tape circulates; another set was found abandoned in studio
1/29 – lost; not listed
1/30 – lost except for one newly discovered song; not listed
2/2 – partial set only
2/3 – mostly complete set
2/4 – lost; not listed
2/14 – complete
2/17 – lost; not listed
2/22 – partial set in the Vault (vocals not recorded)
2/23-24 – mostly released on Dick’s Pick
Most of the Dead’s shows in March are lost – it looks like they only taped their Carousel shows that month:
3/15 – doesn’t circulate; but listed, and may still be in the Vault
3/16 – circulates complete
3/17 – didn’t circulate, but partially released in Download Series
3/29-3/31 – mostly circulates except for the 31st
After that, the Dead’s shows fade into darkness again for a few months….

One of these shows is famous for the incident where Lesh became so confused by the music he stopped playing for a little while. “For the first time I discovered that there were realms of music that we could play, that I couldn’t even imagine what was going on…it got more and more incomprehensible to me as the night wore on.” After the show, he tried to slink out in shame, but Garcia intercepted him. “He was so pissed, he just grabbed me and said, ‘You play, motherfucker!’ and sort of threw me down the stairs…”
There is actually some disagreement as to which show this was, though! Lesh’s original story was clear:
“The gig that became the core tape of Anthem in the Sun was the one Garcia talked about in the movie, where he ‘threw me down the stairs’ because I stopped playing… That was one night we weren’t high on acid; we were just playing. If you’re not on drugs and you play shit like that…maybe it makes you more edgy. We were trying too hard… That tape was so hot that we didn’t connect it with that incident for a while. I think Jerry was the first one who recognized it… Even after all that misunderstanding, we used those tapes of that night: St Valentine’s Day 1968, at the Carousel Ballroom. We used that for the core of the Other One and Alligator.”
Which sounds straightforward – yet in his book, Lesh says it didn’t happen at that Carousel show, but in one a month later, on the weekend of his birthday (during the March 15-17 run). And McNally’s bio offers yet a different date, saying it happened during the Carousel run from March 29-31…

Meanwhile, the album mixing commenced. I’m not sure how much new studio recording was done that year; some accounts suggest the Dead were still working on their studio material, though the CD liner notes state all the studio tracks were done in ’67. (It’s unclear, for instance, just when or where Tom Constanten contributed his noise piece to the end of the Other One, as different sources vary.) It’s also unclear just how long the mixing took; most of it seems to have been done in April and May, and it must have been finished before the summer. Most of the mixing was done at Columbus Recording in SF; but in April they also tried out Criteria Studios in Miami, with little result.
Garcia said, “We just worked and worked and worked for months – mostly Phil and I… We assembled an enormous amount of stuff…after an enormously complex period of time, we assembled the material that was on the master tape. Then we went through the mixing…” (Lesh has a good account of the mixing methods & process in his book.)
Healy described some of the tape problems: “We got all these tapes, and they were all recorded on different machines in different cities. The speeds were all different and weird and variable. There would be things wrong – the performance would be going along real good, and suddenly somebody would kick out a plug, or the power would go off and the performance would end prematurely… We got back to the studio, and it turned out there wasn’t one performance that played all the way through and did anything. We decided to just devise a way to be able to play them all by aligning and starting two different performances in the same place…”
Garcia spoke of not two, but “four stereo pairs of completely different shows that all started in the same meter and had about the same timing.” But he also said, “We selected, from various performances we did, the performance which seemed the most spaced, and we did that all the way through.” (This perhaps refers to the 2/14 Alligator, which does make for a spacy side B.)
“In a lot of those places, we have two or three different live performances all happening at the same time, and we’re cross-fading – that’s why some of that stuff is like a dream. You listen to a guitar run, and it goes somewhere, and all of a sudden there’s another part of it that’s almost a continuation but not quite, coming from another place. We did that a lot in the Other One, particularly.”
Lesh pointed out an example of the show combination in the Other One: “On tracks 1 and 2 we have the Grateful Dead at Kings Beach, California; on tracks 3 and 4 we have Eureka, California; and on 5, 6, 7, and 8 we have two different performances from Portland, Oregon.”
Of course, with just 8 tracks at their disposal, they had to do a lot of track-bouncing, as Garcia explained: “It was an 8-track tape, so we spent a lot of time crowding things down to one track, mixing down… A lot of stuff is dubbed off quarter-track…half-inch…4-track stuff…which we assembled in the hopes of producing a sound-collage symphonette or some damn thing.” Healy expanded on this: “We had to convert all the performances down to whatever tape machine was in the studio. Some of the performances we took down to 3-track, and some we took down to 2-track…then we transferred it all onto the 8-track.”
And throwing all these performances together required tons of edits, as Garcia said: “There are zillions…they’re everywhere…a lot of them are not in obvious places at all. There are things like three or four splices every two or three bars, and a couple of transitional places where we would have to piece things together to get it to work.” (On top of this, they’d have to edit together performances recorded at different speeds, and still get the tempos to match – you can hear an example of the speed shifting just before Pigpen sings “just a touch of mojo hand.”)
The final mix required numerous rehearsals to get right. “We shot at performances of the mix, rather than mixing little bits and tying them together. We ended up mixing almost the whole side in big flows, to get smoothness through the transitions. It was the most complicated fucking mixing you could imagine… It took a long time, but we took lots and lots of passes, and then went through the best of them.” (Lesh remembers, “I lost track of the number of times we performed this mix, trying to achieve just the right timing and balance.”)
This produced a very random yet open-ended album, full of mix collages and sonic jumps. “Each performance of the mix of those 8-tracks is like throwing the I Ching. You know it will all work – any possibility will work, any combination would produce a version of it that you could dig.”

Ihor Slabicky in his discography gives a rundown of some of the live tracks used, which I’ll list (I haven’t gone into the identifications myself, but have made some additions other listeners have found) -
The basic music for much of the album (Alligator and part of the Other One) was taken from February 14.
The Other One verses, and the first half of the New Potato Caboose jam are from March 17.
(It's been speculated that possibly some of the tracks for New Potato Caboose and Born Cross-Eyed come from February 3, but Born Cross-Eyed seems to be all-studio. I think the ending of New Potato is still unidentified?)
The jam sequence for side two has Alligator (from February 14, with the vocal reprise from November 10, 1967) into Caution (from November 10, and part of March 31), with some of Feedback from March 17.
A portion of Feedback is from January 22.
A short portion of Feedback from February 24 was used at the end of Caution.

Anthem of the Sun is a hybrid record, where songs like Cryptical, New Potato, and Alligator start out in ‘conventional’ studio guises and then suddenly lurch into jumbled-up live versions. It remains the Dead’s weirdest, most far-out statement. (In a way, they’d spend the rest of their career retreating from 1968.)
In the abstract, it appealed to Lesh & Garcia’s intellectual side: “We weren’t making a record in the normal sense, we were making a collage…more like electronic music or concrete music, where you are actually assembling bits and pieces toward an enhanced nonrealistic representation.”
And as an ‘acid’ record, it was very much designed for people’s mental trips. “We worked on it to get you high,” Garcia would say; or, “We mixed it for the hallucinations.”

At the same time, the record has a rather muffled quality, both in the sound and the performances. Today, a straight live tape from early ’68 can be more exciting, playing-wise, than this doctored melange (although perhaps the right hallucinations will hit me one day, and the full glory of Anthem will be revealed). But it still has the power to disturb. As Garcia said, “There are places of extreme awkwardness, but it wasn’t hurting for imagination.” What’s most notable about the album are the juxtapositions of moods, the feeling of disorientation and darkness, the heavy psychedelic atmosphere, the descent from the jaunty kazoos of Alligator to the apocalyptic ashes of Feedback.
McNally suggests the band wasn’t too thrilled with the album at the time, saying they “lost it in the mix.” Garcia said in 1971 that though he liked how far-out it was, “there’s parts of it that sound dated…in terms of the form and structure, it’s something which you can dig; but in terms of the way [it’s] performed, it’s a drag… We didn’t really succeed in getting [our ideas] onto tape too successfully.”
With Lesh and Garcia at the helm, some of the others in the band may have felt left out. Bill Kreutzmann later said, “There was a lot of layering and manipulation in the studio…I wasn’t all that involved with Anthem of the Sun. I didn’t feel like I participated that much in the music…it wasn’t my cup of tea particularly…I wasn’t that thrilled with it… Sometimes less is more.”

Aside from the rehearsal sessions I listed earlier where the band were initially running through their new repertoire, no outtakes have circulated from the later studio work. Part of this is because, as Lesh explains, “We didn’t have even one song complete; just a bunch of fragments.” And the CD liner notes clarify: “There don’t appear to be any completed outtakes from the sessions – most of what’s still in the vaults consists of instrumental backing tracks and separate vocal overdubs.”

Once the Anthem album was behind them (it was released in July ’68), the Dead were soon itching to get back into the studio. In the summer of ’68, they had one exciting new song (St Stephen), and a couple Anthem rejects from the dissolved Dark Star sequence (China Cat and the Eleven). Also, Robert Hunter was now writing songs with Garcia (starting with Cosmic Charlie).
One of the mysteries of Aoxomoxoa is just how the first months of sessions went – how much material did they have to work on? Several songs on the finished album – Mountains, Dupree’s, Rag - would not be written or played live until Dec ‘68/Jan ’69, which makes me wonder just what they’d been recording all the previous months. (Not only that, but the band was going through a crisis, as I’ll discuss below.)
I suspect they started the sessions simply jamming in the studio to see what turned up (the way they would start Blues for Allah sessions in 1975). The Aoxomoxoa CD reissue includes a Pacific Recording Studio session from August 13 ’68, where the band jams at length on a few themes.
There are also a couple too-brief tidbits on the Taper’s Section:
http://www.dead.net/features/tapers-section/january-22-january-28-2007 - a short instrumental studio Caution, “recorded sometime in 1968, likely the summer” (so it could actually be another Anthem outtake). This is just a loose rehearsal with Pigpen (sadly, the last minute before it cuts out is the best part!).
http://www.dead.net/features/tapers-section/september-17-september-23-2007-0 - a short Clementine jam from 9/21/68; Weir and Pigpen are absent, but the Hartbeats perform with a guest guitarist.
I believe they also worked more on Clementine in these early sessions. Not only do we have the 8/13 and 9/21 Clementine jams, but the Hartbeats also ran through it at the Matrix shows in October (with some new riffs), so I have to think they tried recording it around this time… It would be nice to know if more studio takes exist!

We do have one full studio rehearsal from these sessions:
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1968-11-06.StudioRehearsals.GEMS.82393.flac16
They start the session by warming up with a loose Lovelight (with Garcia singing the verse!) and Dark Star (very laid-back, and dominated by Pigpen’s little riff). Most of the session is devoted to exasperating stop-and-start attempts to get down St Stephen and the Eleven - the transition is especially troublesome. (They do manage one good full Eleven, though. This is one of the sessions where Lesh becomes quite bossy, as he mentions in his book – “I became insistent about going over and over these transitions…sometimes I’d start yelling at the drummers, ‘Let’s do it again – right this time.’”)
I used to think this session was from around September when they were just jamming in the studio; but now I think the labeled date is correct. Dark Star and St Stephen are slowed down from the summer versions, and Pigpen is still on organ, so a November date makes sense. What baffles me is why they’d have such trouble rehearsing a Stephen>Eleven segment they’d been performing for months, and why they taped it at all…. It’s unknown whether this rehearsal was for the album or some other purpose, but it may indicate that the full Stephen>Eleven medley was then planned for the album. (And indeed, a ‘finished’ version shows up on our outtakes tape.) The studio Eleven was dropped, though, when the Live/Dead shows were taped.

Just when they started the Aoxomoxoa sessions, the band again made professional 8-track recordings of some of their live shows – August 21 & 22 at the Fillmore West, and August 23 & 24, again at the Shrine in LA. Dan Healy notes in Two From the Vault, “Because our approach to recording was then considered controversial, Warner Bros would not entrust this new [8-track] equipment to us without their engineers chaperoning. The engineers they sent to us were accustomed to recording big-band style, and were not familiar with rock & roll close microphone techniques.”
So what was the Dead’s plan when they recorded these shows? I think clearly they had a live album in mind – why else would they drag skeptical Warner Bros engineers and their precious equipment to several shows? But it’s a strange move, when the largely live Anthem had been released just the month before. (Perhaps, as with Live/Dead the next year, the plan was to get an inexpensive live album out to pay for all the Anthem studio time, especially with a new studio album in the works.) Or perhaps the band felt there was more new live material, like the Dark Star medley, they wanted to release. It’s notable that the familiar Live/Dead sequence is already being played in August ’68 – in fact, the setlists for their shows would barely change over the next six months. As Garcia said, “We were after a certain sequence to the music - a serious, long composition, musically, and then a recording of it.”
But, just like the Nov ’67 Shrine shows, these tapes were rejected by the Dead. [The show from the 24th was finally released 24 years later.] Whether they were unhappy with the performances or felt the material needed more work, I’m not sure. But it’s probably not coincidental that right around this time, Garcia and Lesh started grumbling about getting rid of Weir and Pigpen.

Rock Scully says, “If the firing had to happen, it happened at a good time, because we were just sort of doodling in the studio, we weren’t making any money, we didn’t have any gigs booked…”
Garcia downplayed the firing later on, saying, “It didn’t take. We fired them, all right, but they just kept coming back.” He even said, “We never actually let [Pigpen] go; we just didn’t want him playing keyboard, because he just didn’t know what to do on the kind of material we were writing. It seemed we were heading someplace in a big way, and Pigpen just wasn’t open to it.”
According to McNally, it was in August that the band held a meeting to fire Weir and Pigpen (though I’m not sure if Pigpen was even there). They were planning to start recording their next album, and it seems they’d just taped and listened to the Shrine shows [or the earlier rehearsal jams] and were not too happy with them.
Scully: “We haven’t talked about anything more immediate than an EP and this record, in terms of Bob and Pig, and I think that you guys oughta make your intentions clear… The situation as it exists right now, musically, depends on four guys. The weight is on four cats in this band, not six… It seems like the music is being carried to a certain level, then staying there… You guys tire of music that has much more potential, many more possibilities, too soon…it never gets any better.”
Garcia: “All you gotta do is listen to the tapes there and test them.”
Lesh: “You can’t really get but two or three of them on, man; even those are with reservation…”
Garcia: “You guys know that the gigs haven’t been any fun, it hasn’t been any good playing it, because we’re at different levels of playing, we’re thinking different thoughts and we just aren’t playing together.”
As it turns out, Weir and Pigpen stayed with the band. Memories are vague here (Weir seems to feel he was out of the band for a couple months; and the band’s known gigs are notably sparse in September ’68, with only four dates in deadlists). But it seems Weir still kept playing at all the shows; Pigpen was absent for at least part of October, and mostly stayed out of the album sessions. I think the band found that it just wasn’t feasible to lose two of their key members (as the Hartbeats experiment showed), but what they could do was limit their input into the music.

Years later, Weir admitted, “I didn’t have all that great a vocabulary as a guitarist at that point. And my role…was a fairly difficult one. Being in-between the lead and the bass and intuiting where the hell they’re going to go, and being there. It took a while to work up a touch for that. I’d get hot and find myself moving pretty fluently in that role, then I’d lose my momentum and fall out of it. It’s a real difficult position to stay on top of… When TC was playing with us was an era when the music was its most cumbersome. It was hard to turn the corner, because it was a little too outside. For me, nowhere could I find a handle on the drift when it started to get spacy, well enough to intuit where it was going. It was accidental music…”

With Weir and Pigpen somewhat out of the picture, Aoxomoxoa turned into practically a solo Garcia album. I think the most obvious reason is because no one else was writing anything – but it’s a big shift from Anthem which was very much a full-band composition. It’s true that when Hunter arrived, he could churn out the songs and crowd the others out, but I don’t think the others tried either.
Pigpen, with his role in the band rather shaky, probably felt no need to participate in the studio - especially after Constanten replaced him on keyboards in November. Weir was not much of a songwriter at that point – he’d been dissatisfied with Born Cross-Eyed (which soon dropped out of their live sets), and combined with the criticism from the others, that pretty much shut him down for a couple years. (He said in December ’68, “My songwriting career has been slowed up because I can’t think of any decent words to sing. That’s kind of gotten to me after the last album…you’ve written a song, and you hear it on the album and the words are so nada, they don’t really say anything.”)
As for Lesh, it’s hard to say – he was a co-composer on St Stephen but otherwise gets no writing credits on Aoxomoxoa. His forte was more the jam-songs, which were left off that album – the Lesh/Hunter song Clementine was sadly dropped, and the Eleven (which was also a Lesh/Hunter collaboration) was picked for Live/Dead, so the the studio version was dropped from Aoxomoxoa. Lesh’s role at that point seems to have been something of an invisible arranger – Weir sang New Potato Caboose, and you’d never guess Clementine was Lesh’s as well, since Garcia sang it (Lesh has said he wasn’t ready to sing leads yet) - and the Eleven was very much driven by the whole band. As Lesh has said of New Potato, “It didn’t spring into being all at once, but rather amalgamated itself over time, with small but crucial contributions from the whole band.” But Lesh focused on developing the arrangements and jamming possibilities in these band collaborations. So, like Weir, it would be a couple years before we heard Lesh singing his own songs again.

Garcia himself later became unhappy with the batch of songs he and Hunter wrote for the album. “All those Aoxomoxoa songs, a lot of them are cumbersome to perform, overwritten. China Cat Sunflower is marginal. But a lot of tunes on there are just packed with lyrics, or packed with musical changes that aren’t worth it for what happens finally with the song. There isn’t a graceful way to perform them… Cosmic Charlie was really a recording song, and even when we did perform it, it always had its weaknesses…it’s not quite performable… At the time I wasn’t writing songs for the band to play; I was writing songs to be writing songs. Those were the first songs me and Hunter did together, and we didn’t have the craft of songwriting down.”
(He was talking after the band had turned toward simpler, easy-to-play songs; but the Dead in 1969 had no problem with tackling odd, complex tunes and demanding a lot of themselves!)

Serious album work commenced in September – the band was now able to drop out of the conventional studio system, and went to Pacific Recording in San Mateo, where Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor were recording engineers. Matthews says, “Aoxomoxoa was the first album they were allowed to do completely on their own…this was their opportunity to be in charge.”
They started with St Stephen, moved on to Cosmic Charlie (first heard live on October 8), and in October unveiled the Barbed Wire Whipping Party. (Which was probably an accurate picture of how they were spending their studio time!) Little did they know, all these early recordings would be abandoned.

Although Lesh doesn’t follow a strict chronology in his book, he says that the new 16-track was installed in the studio while the Dead were on their Nov/Dec ’68 midwest tour. (McNally says it was around Christmas.) When they came back to the studio in December, they decided to scrap everything they’d done and start over. As Bob Matthews said, when the new 16-track recorder arrived, “we fooled with it for a couple of hours and said ‘Fuck it, we’re redoing the album’… We all knew we could do it better.” It wasn’t entirely whimsical for the Dead to re-record the entire album, though – what most accounts leave out is that they now had a new player with them, Tom Constanten, who’d joined on November 23 and would play a central part in the recordings. In fact it’s hard to imagine what many of these songs sounded like without him! But the ‘first’ 8-track version of Aoxomoxoa has never been heard, not even as bonus tracks. (Possibly it was just erased, but I’ve never read what happened to it.)

We have one collection of Aoxomoxoa outtakes –
http://www.archive.org/details/gd69-xx-xx.sbd.dodd.16760.sbeok.shnf (I’ve posted a review there outlining the various tracks.)
The notes speculate these are from the original 8-track sessions. I’m not sure - some definitely are, some must be from ’69, but most of these tracks are noticeably lacking Constanten. In fact, some of these are missing any band members except for Garcia and Kreutzmann, who apparently laid down some basic tracks themselves (just like they’d do for Garcia’s first solo album). It’s evident that the Aoxomoxoa tracks were generally done piece-by-piece in a series of layered overdubs, though the finished mix disguised this somewhat by putting in bits of studio chatter and instrument doodles between tracks to make it sound more ‘live’. (And in turn, the CD remix does away with most of those to make it sound more ‘album-like’!)
Blair Jackson suggests that China Cat, Mountains, Dupree’s, and Doin’ That Rag weren’t recorded in the studio until January ’69, which makes sense since most of them had just debuted live. (According to McNally, the last three had only just been written, after Hunter moved in with Garcia.) But since that’s half the album songs (and Rosemary was simply a Garcia solo tape), it strongly indicates that most of fall ’68 had been spent tinkering and experimenting in the studio, rather than trying to finish any songs. Check out the bizarre version of St Stephen on the outtakes tape, which is stuffed with odd effects, to hear what the Dead were up to during those long weeks in the studio!
One engineer said of the Aoxomoxoa sessions, “It was like a circus in there,” as the band sipped STP and sucked on nitrous oxide to see how it might alter the music. (And imagine, if you will, the entire group of people on the album’s back cover crowding into the studio each day and camping out! It becomes no wonder the album work went rather slowly…)

Over the months recording Aoxomoxoa, as the Dead piled up their studio hours and worked out their disagreements, I think they had a dual strategy in mind. On the one hand, they were anxious to create a full studio album just the way they wanted. But I think they were also honing their live set with an eye to future live recording. Whether or not their debt to Warner Bros factored into their Live/Dead plans, on an artistic level, they’d clearly decided that ‘live Dead’ and ‘studio Dead’ were now going in two different directions.
Garcia said, “We knew that we weren’t going to be able to sound like we sounded onstage, in the studio – we just couldn’t do that. We haven’t ever been able to do that.”

Interviewed in December ’68, Garcia sounded quite bold and optimistic about the upcoming album (which at that point, was barely in shape at all) -
“This next album is going to have lots of songs on it, ‘cause we’ve been into lots of songs lately. It’s going to be mostly a vocal trip, really, just ‘cause we’ve gotten into lyrics this time. And, at this point it’s pretty amorphous. We have lots of material, and we have much of it recorded, but we haven’t decided exactly how to put it together…whether it’s gonna be a double album or a triple album or… We’ve got lots of different kinds of material. We have jam session stuff, we have all kinds of live scenes. Our material, at this point, is getting to be so interchangeable…we can do almost anything inside of anything else.”
He also talked about their plans for a live album:
“What would be nicest would be to take one complete show with no editing and just say, here it is, man. [Interviewer: “The perfect night!”] It could happen, and on the chance that it might happen sometime, we record.”
Weir: “And invariably, the really good, perfect performances are never on tape. Which is, of course, the way it should be.”
Garcia: “The latest trip that we’re on is to get some large room and say, we’re gonna do four hours, four or five hours of whatever we do, everything we can pull out of our hats; really do a huge number that just goes on and on, has millions of changes and goes millions of places.”

Once the Dead started using a 16-track in the studio, naturally they felt their live album had to be taped in 16-track, too. (‘The more tracks, the better!’ was their attitude.) At the time, the Ampex 16-track recorder was a large, expensive new item, and the idea of carting it to live shows frightened the manufacturer. According to Bob Matthews, “Ampex said, ‘You’re crazy; you can’t do that. It’s not portable’… They lost that round, and we put it in the back of the truck and took it over to Winterland for the Dead’s New Year’s Eve show.”
The first tryout did not work so well, as the recording turned out distorted. Dave Lemieux says this about the tape, the first live 16-track: "The reels of 12/31/68 were erased to record the January '69 Avalon shows (hey, tape was expensive!), with one lonely Midnight Hour left on tape, featuring all of the musicians who performed that night in an all-star jam. The sound on this 16-track recording is very poor, filled with distortion."
Unfazed, the Dead tried the 16-track again at their Avalon run from January 24-26: “We got ten people with ropes and we carried it like a sedan chair up the stairs into the Avalon.” Lesh tells the story of how (in the first set on the 25th), Weir’s guitar was lost in the mix, to the band’s great frustration. However, it appears our circulating copies come from Bear’s 2-track tapes, not the 16-tracks, as Lemieux notes: “the master 16-tracks from the first two Avalon shows were erased” to record the February Fillmore shows!
The Dead agreed that these shows weren’t quite right (except for the Eleven>Lovelight from the 26th) – a wise decision on their part, as Dark Star would mature immensely over the next month of touring. One interesting thing about their February touring is that they did not bring the 16-track; in fact, it was not used for any shows outside San Francisco, as far as I know. (Perhaps because it was too valuable or difficult to transport cross-country.)
However, on at least one night they did record on 8-track. The Fillmore East 2/11/69 album was recorded by Bob Matthews on 8-track, and I would presume he taped the next night as well. (Unfortunately, we only have an incomplete copy of Bear’s tape from the 12th.) If Matthews was with them in New York, I’d guess it was to get more recordings for the live album. It’s unknown whether Matthews brought the 8-track to other shows on the tour as well – perhaps they felt that the Fillmore East was where they’d get the best shows, despite the short sets. [Oddly, the pictures used in the 1997 CD release were from the January 1970 Fillmore East shows!]
Back in San Francisco, the Dead played the “Celestial Synapse” show at the Fillmore West on February 19. One newspaper wrote that they played “a set that ran for four hours or so with scarcely an interruption… The Dead played continuously, a flowing improvisatory set of new material. Originally the concert was to be recorded for inclusion on the next Dead album, but last-minute difficulties in setting up the recording equipment scotched that.” They must have had some trouble with the 16-track! It’s a great loss that this show is among the missing, but we can hope that perhaps a Bear tape is hiding in the Vault, waiting to be unveiled.
In any case, when they returned to the Fillmore West at the end of the month, the recording went smoothly. (Although in the middle of the first set on the 27th, the Dead seem a bit bewildered, with lots of chatter and mayhem. Garcia says, “It’s really too weird up here… If you’d like to spend an idle half hour sometime, you oughta come up here under these similar circumstances, and see what it’s like, it’s truly weird – utterly weird - beyond the pale.” But they calmed down in time for a more tranquil second set.)

Trivia note: In-between the majestic Dream Bowl show on Feb 22 and the Fillmore West run, there was another Mickey & the Hartbeats run at the Matrix! (The notorious Frumious Bandersnatch also played.) It’s interesting that they kept going with this setup even after Weir & Pigpen were fully reinstated in the band; so apparently Garcia & Lesh didn’t yet feel that it was a dead end, and these shows may well have been ‘open invitations’ for other musicians to come jam with them. It would be great to hear how the Garcia/Lesh jams had evolved since October ’68, but sadly there are no known tapes. (Matrix owner Peter Abram had to abandon or tape over many of his tapes, as he couldn’t keep everything, so quite a few Hartbeats shows are lost.)

Strangely, the band didn’t rush to release their live album. Instead, they sat on the tapes for months while they finished Aoxomoxoa. The studio album was finally finished in April and released in June - apparently only then did the Dead get around to mixing Live/Dead, which wasn’t released til November. As Garcia said, “When Live/Dead came out, it was about a year out of date.” (This is one reason I doubt the band planned the live album from the start to relieve their studio debt. Although most accounts like McNally’s suggest that “the fact that Live/Dead was in the can helped them finance the studio album,” I’m not sure just how an unheard, unreleased batch of live tapes convinced Warner Bros to keep giving the Dead advances for their never-ending studio work! The Dead had, after all, professionally recorded shows for Warner Bros twice before, but didn’t release anything from those.) Once Aoxomoxoa was finished, they were in debt to Warner Bros for about $180,000, but the success of Live/Dead helped pay some of that off.

Bob Matthews says that initially the Dead tried mixing Live/Dead themselves (as they’d done on Aoxomoxoa) – it was “from their perspective onstage, which is their mindset. It didn’t work…it didn’t have any dimension to it. I always listened to the band from the hall, so when I got the chance to mix Live/Dead, that was the perspective I was looking to recreate: how it felt to be in the hall.” Apparently there were no ‘room’ tracks used in the Live/Dead recordings (even with all the new tracks!) – and unlike later live albums, there were also no overdubs - although they did add some echo, the better to make it more grand and spacious. And it’s interesting that, just as on Anthem, they decided to end the record with a long bout of feedback – it worked well as a live closer, so why not use it again on the album?
In marked contrast to his complaints about the studio albums, Garcia liked Live/Dead: “It’s good… We only recorded a few gigs to get that album… It’s our music at one of its really good moments.” Even in the ‘80s, Garcia still said that album came closest to capturing the band’s essence.

It was probably a given that there would be no songs (except for St Stephen) repeated between Live/Dead and Aoxomoxoa. Live/Dead famously starts with a fade-in, cutting out Mountains of the Moon. Actually, they were only doing five of the Aoxomoxoa songs live – Rosemary and What’s Become of the Baby were probably never going to be live contenders! (Although we’re lucky to have one live Rosemary from 12/7/68, and one instance of Bear playing a Baby studio track under the feedback-encore of 4/26/69 – which sounds different from the released track, so they may have taken some work mixes on tour.) China Cat, oddly enough, had been dropped from their live shows after March ’68 and was not revived until April ‘69; so as far as we know it wasn’t played live the whole time they were recording it. (When they did start playing it again, it shared much of the shambolic energy of the album cut.)
Aoxomoxoa songs were done the same way live as they were in the studio, though of course without the extra instruments and overdubs. St Stephen for instance sounds more chaotic on Aoxomoxoa due to the additional parts (like the piano) – in contrast, the live versions sound more focused and pared-down, and can sometimes dig into the jam more.
(As for the other songs on Live/Dead, though they’d been tried out in the studio in ‘67/68, after that album they were ‘finished’, and the Dead never bothered with them in the studio anymore.)

Garcia later looked back with ‘90s hindsight on the Aoxomoxoa period: “The live show was what we did; it’s who we were. The record was like dicking around. It was like a day job or something; it wasn’t that relevant.” (This reflects his later distaste for the studio, but I’m not sure he felt that way in ’69 – and perhaps not for many years afterwards. He tended to put a lot of artistic effort into whatever he was working on.)
Garcia said in 1971, “We spent too much money and too much time on that record; we were trying to accomplish too much, and I was being really stupid about a lot of it, because it was some new tunes that I had written, that I hadn’t really bothered to teach anyone in the band, and I was trying to record them from the ground up, and everybody was coming in and doing overdubs… We went about it in a very fragmentary way; we didn’t go about it as a group at all.”
Nonetheless, he liked Aoxomoxoa for its weirdness and looseness – it “sounded like how I wanted…the tapes were well-recorded, and the music is well-played and everything on it is really right.” Unfortunately, “it’s been our most unsuccessful record. It was when Hunter and I were being more or less obscure…too far-out, really, for most people.” He sighed, “That record is one of my pets. I really like it. I was always sorry that it came out so fucked up and then didn’t sell.”
Mickey Hart said of the Aoxomoxoa mixing, “All those psychedelics clouded the lens…they’d give you great detail, but then you’d hear the most obscure aspect in the mix. [The music was] real fuzzy; you couldn’t find a real center.”
Garcia remixed the album in the summer of ’71: “I’m really happy with the remix… It was our first adventure with 16-track, and we tended to put too much on everything; we tended to use up every track…and then we were all of us trying to mix. Well, we couldn’t…it came out mixed by committee. A lot of the music was just lost in the mix…but I really had fun remixing it. The remixes are admittedly somewhat simpler…I dropped a lot of the junk off it. It sounds more like I hoped it would when we recorded it.”
In general, the ’71 remix presented clearer, more organized and stripped-down mixes of the songs, with many incidental ‘studio bits’ mixed out so that the album, though less cluttered, now had less of an atmospheric ‘live in the studio’ feel. (It’s telling that the original album has no fadeouts, while most of the remixed songs fade early.) Some songs were changed more than others - Mountains of the Moon was now minus its choir and ending; China Cat Sunflower was simplified and the 40-second jam at the end discarded; Doin’ That Rag was missing the vocal outro they did live; Cosmic Charlie was quieter, with drums much reduced and TC’s organ almost inaudible; What’s Become of the Baby was stripped of almost all the bizarre electronic effects that had made the original version at all interesting, and turned into a long bore. (The feedback-drenched 4/26/69 version is probably the ideal for what this song should have sounded like.)
The remix of Aoxomoxoa is what’s on CD now, and the original is out of print. Phil Lesh also got busy in 1971 remixing Anthem of the Sun, which had the opposite fate – it’s the original mix that’s now on CD, while Lesh’s remix has disappeared.

Once Aoxomoxoa was finished, new songs came pouring out of the Hunter/Garcia team, but the band didn’t rush to the studio right away, like they had in ’68.
Garcia said, “After Aoxomoxoa, we didn’t make a studio record for almost a year – Live/Dead came out in its place. We were anxious to go into the studio, but we didn’t want to incur an enormous debt making the record like we had been. When you make a record, you pay for the studio time out of your own royalties. That costs plenty. Live/Dead was not too expensive since it was recorded live. It ended up paying for the time on Aoxomoxoa… So when we were getting new material together, we thought, ‘Let’s try to make it cheap this time.’”
“We spent so much money on Aoxomoxoa – we spent almost a year working on it, and it was not that great of an album – that we had a huge deficit. So I was thinking, when we go into the studio next time, let’s try a real close-to-the-bone approach… ‘Let’s not spend a year, let’s do it all in three weeks and get it the hell out of the way. And that way, if the record does at all well, we will be able to pay off some of what we owe to the record company.”

The next album was recorded during a couple of weeks in February 1970 after the Fillmore East run, though the specific dates haven’t been revealed. According to Blair Jackson, "Shortly after the bust, the Dead went into Pacific High Recording and cut their studio album in just ten days." Steve Silberman’s CD liner notes agree: "The New Orleans bust went down two weeks before the Workingman's sessions began…and [the band] wrapped up the new album in a couple of weeks.” He even gives the recording date for one song: Dire Wolf was recorded on February 16.
This time around, most of the songs already had a long performing history behind them, and the Dead went through additional rehearsals to get them ready for a quick recording. Bob Matthews says, "We went into the studio first and spent a couple days rehearsing, performing all the tunes. When that was done I sat down and spliced together the tunes [in an album sequence]. We made a bunch of cassette copies and gave them to the band. They rehearsed some more in their rehearsal studio, and then they came in and recorded."
McNally's bio, though not date-specific, also puts the recording after the Fillmore East shows. "They went into Pacific High Recording, a tiny room half a block behind Fillmore West, and rehearsed for a week. Then [after Matthews gave them the album-sequence tape] the band rehearsed for another week... They went into Pacific High to record Workingman's Dead, and in about three weeks they had an album."
(As we know, Lenny Hart fled with the Dead’s bank accounts during the album sessions - McNally unfortunately doesn’t mention any dates, but he does say specifically that it was mid-March, whereas all other accounts put this in February.)

What these accounts make clear is that there were two separate studio sessions, the first one a kind of 'practice run', with perhaps a week of rehearsals in-between. In a way, this was a return to the brisk methods of their first album – the months of studio experimentation were through. Not only did the Dead’s perilous finances call for a short studio trip, their new material did not need much embellishment.
Garcia explained in ‘81, “We weren’t having much success getting that experimental stuff down in the studio, so we thought we’d strip it down to the bare bones and make a record of very simple music and see how that worked. Time was another factor. We’d been spending a long time in the studio with those exploratory albums, six to eight months apiece, and it was really eating up our lives.”
The new songs were quite a change from the strange, quirky material the Dead had been doing, and lent themselves to the much quicker, simpler recording process. “It was a chance to expose a side of us that we certainly hadn’t exposed very much,” Garcia said – in fact, it was a side they’d hardly exposed at all, save for a few hints on Aoxomoxoa. Listeners were surprised by this new, accessible sing-along country-rock Grateful Dead, with not an acid jam in sight.

One interviewer the next year asked Garcia if they had given up the long jams:
“We never really gave it up, we just didn’t put it out on that record. We still play that way, we still stretch out. It wasn’t meant to indicate any trend… We’ve never accepted any limitations. We don’t think of ourselves as a rock & roll band, an experimental band, this band or that band… We think of ourselves as musicians, who have lots of possibilities. [Each record] is one of the possibilities, and I expect in the course of a lifetime of music, we’ll have thrown out lots of possibilities.”

35 comments:

  1. These are some additional pieces I didn’t have room for in the essay…

    There’s an interesting essay by Robert Christgau here, written in July ’69 –
    http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/news/grateful-69.php
    He was a critic who initially didn’t like the Dead, but was gradually won over. It gives an interesting look at how they were perceived in mid-’69, and how the New York audience greeted their shows of June 21-22 and July 11. But for my purposes here, there are a couple significant parts:
    “Weir and Pigpen did not make crucial contributions [to Anthem of the Sun], and soon it was reported that they were leaving the band. Musically, this made sense, but because the Dead was also a spiritual unit, this was distressing. Then it was revealed that this was a breakup with a difference: two groups would result, but the new one, to be called the Pigpen Revue, would tour with the Dead. It never did happen, partly because the group, which is always in debt no matter how much money it earns, couldn’t handle the finances… The Dead wouldn’t have been right without Pigpen to root them to the ground, and they knew it.”
    It’s a surprise to learn that Weir & Pigpen’s firing was publicly announced (the Dead bios tend to gloss over this), and this is the only place I’ve heard of the “Pigpen Revue”! Perhaps readers steeped in the music press of the day can find more references to this.
    [Christgau, though, aside from slighting Weir & Pigpen’s presence on Anthem, seems not to notice that they’re barely heard on the new album…]
    Christgau also comments that the Dead were facing a “lawsuit over unpaid studio time” – which I don’t remember reading about before. Whether this is true, threats from Warner Bros would certainly explain why the Dead now decided it was high time to put out a live album!

    There’s a misleading picture in the first Taping Compendium (p. 104) of a Golden State Recorders tape box note, detailing songs from the 7/3/66 Fillmore show along with their first single. This is actually noting tape copies the Dead made for a radio documentary about them in 1968, which was filled with musical samples including some early Mother McCree’s. So the radio producers were able to contrast how “the spontaneity of live performance was lost in the sterile environment of the studio”…but oddly enough, despite access to the Dead’s tapes, they didn’t use any post-’66 live examples, save for the Anthem release.
    http://www.vidkid.com/GDdochome.html

    Not much is known about the ‘Fire in the City’ session where the Dead backed Jon Hendricks for the documentary “Sons and Daughters”. McNally talks about their meeting in some detail (p. 174) – apparently the Dead were eager to work with Hendricks - but he says the recording was in October 1966. I think he’s mistaken; the Birth of the Dead CD lists the recording as March 1967, which seems more accurate as the single was released in April ’67.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is also a mystery about Bear’s 1968 live tapes – namely, why so few survive. Bear recorded the Dead’s shows through the second half of ’68, but it’s only in late December that we start to get decent coverage. (Maybe because the Dead were then starting to listen to the tapes in preparation for Live/Dead?) I think it’s impossible that the scattered late 1968 shows we have were the only ones taped; it seems more likely that they’re random survivors from some tape holocaust. It’s not like Bear to erase shows, and our December shows notably come from cassettes rather than reels, but otherwise we can only speculate. Whether reels were lost, or taped over by later shows, who knows?

    Here’s the rundown of what we have from the last few months of 1968:
    Aug 28 - comes from a Latvala reel, the source is unknown. Either the copy or the original recording was screwed up, as you can hear.
    Sep 2 - Miller says three 4-track reels (with the music only recorded on 2 tracks). But deadlists says 2-track. I believe this was an 'outside job'.
    Sep 20 - partial tape, or aborted show?
    Oct 12-13 - 2-track reels.
    Oct 20 – 2-track reels.
    Nov 1 - 8-track (!) - something screwed up the recording midway; and we only have the second set, though possibly the first set survives. [Latvala was said to have played a Viola Lee from this show once.]
    Dec 7 - recorded by Bear on a cassette master. (Deadlists claims it was recorded on a 2-track reel.)
    Dec 20 (partial), 21, 29 - cassette masters.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Speaking of Bear's tapes, Dick Latvala said:
    "There's hardly any 2-track stuff of '68 [in the Vault]. It's mostly 4-track or 8-track stuff in '68. Then '69 is the 2-track stuff - and Bear got pretty thorough, he taped almost every show, although there's a little missing in '69. But I found these cassettes of Bear's one day. I went, 'Oh my God! I've never even heard of these shows!' I went nuts on that box of tapes; I stayed up for days copying. I mean they're not usable - I don't think I could ever release any of it because they're not good enough quality - but they're sort of interesting as a listener."

    So this indicates that there's probably not much more in the Vault from '68 than we have (save perhaps for more of the Anthem tour 4-tracks). But it sounds like their '69 collection is nearly complete (at least on cassettes) - there must have been many shows Latvala never bothered or got around to copying for anyone. David Lemieux has said there's a lot of 1969 in the Vault that doesn't circulate...

    ReplyDelete
  4. There's so much great stuff in this post I hardly know where to begin. However, I am particularly interested in your re-thinking of the idea of why the Dead didn't release Live/Dead as soon as they recorded it. One factor to consider would be the increasing popularity of live albums, and studio albums with longer tracks. Goodbye Cream was released in March 1969, to huge acclaim, after Wheels Of Fire had been released around July 1968. Inna Gadda Da Vida had been selling steadily since its release in mid-1968, so by mid 1969 Warner Brothers may have had a very different view of a double album with just a few tracks.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was thinking about that actually, that Live/Dead was part of the wave of live albums that followed Wheels of Fire - Iron Butterfly would soon release their own live album, too. (Decided not to go into that, though, the post was long enough!)
    There's little doubt that the huge success of something as off-the-wall and uncommercial as Wheels of Fire is part of why Warner Bros had such a 'hands-off' approach with the Dead & let them release what they wanted. ('A 15-minute drum solo, and the kids love it! What next?') Garcia's even said that the Dead were something of a 'prestige' band for Warner Bros to have, even though they made no money & were not that popular in those early years.
    It seems clear that Warner Bros had no influence over what the Dead released in '68/69 - they just took what the band gave them. (Unless you've read something contrary?)
    What's not clear is whether the label was encouraging the band to put out a live record, or if it was the band's initiative. (I didn't talk much about the band's relationship with Warner Bros; McNally has some info, but is not very helpful in answering how the band was able to stay in the studio for months on end with no producer, on Warners funds.)
    As I found, there were the two previous aborted live recordings, so for all we know, maybe the Live/Dead tapes would also have sat on the shelf forever unreleased, if not for the Aoxomoxoa debt disaster. (Tom Constanten feels that the band was too aware of the tapes rolling at those shows and 'played it safe', but the shows became better afterwards - that could have been the band's perception as well.)
    So the long delay was a little mysterious until I saw Christgau's comment that after Aoxomoxoa the Dead were in a lawsuit over unpaid studio time. I didn't find any reference in McNally (who to the contrary, says Lenny Hart was able to get yet another advance out of the label that fall - which he pocketed, of course - in exchange for a contract extension).
    But Blair Jackson mentions that during the Aox sessions, they had a dispute with the Pacific Recording studio owner Paul Curcio, and moved to Pacific High studio; Curcio tried to sue them when his studio was not credited on the album.
    So I do think it was the post-Aoxomoxoa financial pressures that finally convinced the band to release a live album. Could be a wrong theory, though. Maybe they had just decided to wait til the Aox album work was done, and Warners had really been panting for it the whole time... More investigation required!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is what Constanten said about Live/Dead:
    "This was about the time we were finishing the work on the Aoxomoxoa project, and Warner Brothers was pointing out to us that they had sunk $100,000+ into it and hadn't seen a product yet. So someone had the idea that if we sent them a double live album, three discs for that price wouldn't be such a bad deal, and they went for it. So we started 16-track taping every show. That weekend when Live Dead was recorded was the first one where no one raised an objection to the performances. We were hoping that one of the [shows] along the line would be okay at least, and at the time, we figured they weren't objectionable - not that they were excellent. As I recall, shortly after that...with the pressure off, the band started to play even better."

    I wouldn't take all this too literally (they did not 16-track 'every show', and in Jan '69 they were far from 'finishing' Aoxomoxoa) - Phil also has a misleading comment in his book that in January '69 "our immediate concern was to record a live album and get it out as fast as we could, to help pay off our studio debts." Immediate by summer '69, yes, but they hardly acted like it in January!

    Anyway, TC suggests that Live/Dead was something of a bargain deal, that the band suggested to Warners when they were asked for 'product'. And of course Warners would jump at the idea - ANYTHING getting to the record stores was good, in their eyes, from a band that had only released one record per year.

    And maybe just the fact that the Live/Dead shows were sitting 'in the can' did help the band get through the Aoxomoxoa sessions (as McNally suggests) - though it seems like a suspicious timeline to me, simply because that live album wasn't released til five months after the expensive studio one. Clearly the band wanted to hold back for some reason!

    To us today, it seems natural that Live/Dead would be a double album (as most of their later live albums were) - when all your major songs are about 15-20 minutes, it seems like a necessity! It probably seemed extravagant at the time, but I doubt the Dead conceived it any other way.
    And though their later live albums were also long, they were filled with songs, songs, and more songs, with perhaps one side for "the Jam" - so Live/Dead remains a testament to that late-sixties spirit when the Dead were willing to give us one long jam after another...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fascinating read, thanks a TON for taking the time to write and share it.

    It's funny to me that now Furthur has gone back and dug out all fo those old songs that weren't really happy with in the first place and abandoned long ago. I'd prefer they didn't, I agree with the GD's perspective of them - they're hard to play, don't always translate to live, etc.

    But thanks again, a great read.

    Jay

    ReplyDelete
  8. LiA , your work , as expected , is excellently written and sourced . I come up with questions as I go through but I am satiated by the end . I hope one day you can put some/most of these essays in an old fashioned book form . It would sell .
    And the pace man . I can barely keep up .
    micah6vs8 , Sean

    ReplyDelete
  9. Grateful Dead and Rhino will celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty with THE WARNER BROS. STUDIO ALBUMS, a five-LP boxed set available on September 21. The collection contains The Grateful Dead (1967), Workingman’s Dead, and American Beauty (1970), plus the original mixes for Anthem Of The Sun (1968) and Aoxomoxoa (1969), available on vinyl for the first time in nearly 40 years.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Man I've been into the Dead since I was about 10, and that was the early 70's and I'll tell you, its great reading your articles. Maybe we can look forward to a book

    ReplyDelete
  11. I wrote this before discovering that our "6/19/68" recording was actually from 2/19/69...

    And there's now a post speculating on those mysterious February '69 Hartbeats shows at the Matrix:
    http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/01/february-24-and-26-1969-matrix-san.html

    Now I'm wondering about the Fillmore West run at the beginning of January '69. We have no tapes of these shows. But we know the band 16-tracked their Winterland 12/31/68 show, and the Avalon run 3 weeks later. The Fillmore West shows on January 2-4 were the only other San Francisco shows that month...is it possible the band might have taped them on 16-track as well? I see no reason why they wouldn't try...though they would likely have taped over those reels with other shows later.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Michael Parrish says:
    "Through Workingman's Dead, the Dead had a tradition of bringing in their albums for broadcast on KSAN (and initially KMPX) long before they were released commercially. Anthem of the Sun was given to them well over a month before it was released, as was Workingman's Dead (most of which was broadcast along with a documentary on Altamont around April, 1970). Live/Dead was given out even earlier. I taped a rough mix of it off the radio in roughly May, 1969, and it was broadcast again right after the Wanger GD special aired, which i believe was in June, 1969. The album finally came out in November."

    This raises a couple interesting questions...
    First, work on mixing/finishing the Live/Dead album started earlier than I thought, if an early mix was already being broadcast in spring '69. So maybe they didn't wait til Aoxomoxoa was finished before starting work on the live album. (I assume the few months between the releases, then, was due to Warners not wanting to put out too much at once.)

    Another question is the sound quality of what radio listeners heard... Parrish suggests that Live/Dead was a rough mix (which isn't known to survive); with Anthem of the Sun, I wonder whether the Dead brought in acetates or tapes to play.
    When Anthem came out, at that point the Dead didn't follow the record-mastering process, and they were disappointed at how muddy the final album sounded compared to the master tapes. (An early step in their disillusionment with Warners.) So possibly the Anthem mixes they played on-air may have sounded cleaner than what was in the stores a month later!

    ReplyDelete
  13. More details in the Live/Dead story!

    Garcia once said to Sandy Troy, "We finished the mix of it before we finished Aoxomoxoa... Actually, the outtakes of the album I've heard recently are, in my opinion, better performances of the same material. We constructed the whole thing as a show; it was all a complete long piece."

    So that's confirmation that the Live/Dead mix was finished in spring '69.

    As for why the Dead waited til November to release it, when they could've put it out right away to keep funding Aoxomoxoa?

    Back in '66, the Dead had signed a 3-album contract with Warner Bros. Now in '69, they were ready to deliver that third album - and considering the enormous amount of time & Warners money they'd put into Aoxomoxoa, that had to be the one.

    So I suspect that the Dead intended to 'save' Live/Dead for another label after they were out of their Warners contract.

    As it worked out, though, sometime around September '69 their nefarious manager Lenny Hart extended their Warners contract without telling them, while pocketing the advance.

    So, stuck with Warners, the Dead released Live/Dead in November.

    I don't really know more details about the Warners contract though, and could be wrong. Possibly, considering the amount of debt the Dead were in, they would've had to stay on Warners anyway. (They ended up staying on the label clear to '72, releasing 6 more albums, so the contract must have been extended again at some point after the Dead became more successful.)

    ReplyDelete
  14. After looking a little more into the Dead's show schedule in summer '68, I noticed something interesting.
    We've always known that the familiar Live/Dead suite of Dark Star>St Stephen>Eleven>Death Don't first shows up on tape in the late August shows.
    But we don't know when they first started playing it. After the Anthem show tapes of March '68, we have a "black hole" in the recordings until late August, with only a few glimpses (often undated) of what they were up to.
    The Carousel shows of late March show them still doing the familiar segues of Jan/Feb: the Other One suite>New Potato>Born Cross-eyed on 3/29, Dark Star>China Cat>Eleven>Lovelight and Born Cross-eyed>Spanish jam>Death Don't on 3/30.
    What they were up to in April/May remains a mystery. Deadbase had a setlist for a 5/24 St Louis show featuring Dark Star>St Stephen>Eleven>Caution, but I'm very skeptical of this and consider it a false list.
    Of shows we have from that period, the new song St Stephen is still free-floating. For instance the undated May/June show which goes: St Stephen>Other One suite>New Potato. Or the famed 6/14/68 set which has: feedback>Eleven>St Stephen.
    From the "mystery reels" set, there's also another fragment that has a St Stephen>Other One suite.
    But there's also one fragment that has Dark Star>St Stephen>Lovelight. From the style of Stephen, I concluded this was another June show - possibly it could be one of the first Dark Star>St Stephen segues. (The Eleven was not yet included in this medley.)

    Then on 8/21, we have the full suite: Dark Star>St Stephen>Eleven>Death Don't. A few things had to happen - China Cat was discarded, the Eleven was joined to St Stephen, and Death Don't became the standard 'conclusion' to the Eleven.
    I always wondered about the process where all this came about, and assumed there were a number of shows over summer '68 where they worked out the new 'standard' set.

    But, looking at summer '68, they actually played almost no shows between mid-June and mid-August!
    After a 6/22 Phoenix show, there's one weekend played in mid-July, and one in early August. Unless more shows come to light, this was a period of inactivity for the band; they weren't in the studio at this point, so they had little to do but devote themselves to rehearsal, when that was possible. (There is one studio rehearsal from Aug 13 which has them working out some jams.)
    So it seems that June was a time of fluctuating setlists, when Stephen was just added and they were experimenting with new song placements. I have to think that it was the lengthy breaks off the road when they worked out the new suite, and the Aug 21 show may actually be one of the first performances of the full suite. At any rate, they didn't have many opportunities to play it live in the previous two months...

    Which makes it all the more surprising that the band decided to record on 8-track their performances on Aug 21-24. They may have been over-confident of themselves; though the shows are wonderful to our ears, the band themselves were obviously unhappy enough afterwards to not only complain about how poor the playing was, but discuss getting rid of Weir and Pigpen!

    There is an obvious echo in later Dead history, as well. In February '71, they had several new songs to add to the live sets, and wanted to record them - so did they test them out on the road first? No, they brought the 16-track to Port Chester to capture the songs' first live performances!
    I suspect that in August '68, the band was just as excited by the new suite they'd been rehearsing and wanted to "get it down" right away - possibly for a live release, as none of the songs had been on Anthem. So while Live/Dead wasn't actually recorded until Feb '69, the concept had been in the bands' minds for months...

    ReplyDelete
  15. Setlists.net lists the early Aoxomoxoa studio sessions, presumably from deadbase. I don't know how accurate these are - did someone look up the studio logs? - but I thought it might be worth listing here.

    One issue should be noted immediately. Setlists.net lists all of these as "Pacific High Recording, San Mateo."
    Nope - the Dead recorded Aoxomoxoa in two studios with almost identical names, hence the confusion.
    In 1968 they started recording at Pacific Recording in San Mateo, where Bob Matthews & Betty Cantor were working. As I noted in an earlier comment, the studio was run by Paul Curcio; the band had a dispute with him in early 1969, and moved to Pacific High Recording in San Francisco to finish overdubs and mixing for the album. (They left the Pacific Recording studio off the credits on Aoxomoxoa, so Curcio sued them after the album came out, claiming "unpaid studio time.")

    This list is only the sessions at Pacific Recording - hence, the session dates stop midway through the album when the Dead relocated.
    It also looks incomplete. (There was, for instance, the jam session held there on Aug 13; and undoubtedly more sessions in the fall.) But the list does at least give an idea of how the sessions went (particularly the slow start).

    9/5/68 - St Stephen
    9/6/68 - St Stephen; What's Become of the Baby
    9/10/68 - St Stephen
    9/11/68 - St Stephen; What's Become of the Baby
    9/13/68 - St Stephen
    9/21/68 - a "Hartbeats" session; partial Clementine jam played on Taper's Section
    9/26/68
    9/29/68 - St Stephen
    10/2/68 - What's Become of the Baby
    10/3/68 - Barbed Wire Whipping Party; What's Become of the Baby
    10/4/68 - Clementine; Barbed Wire Whipping Party
    10/7/68 - Clementine; Barbed Wire Whipping Party
    11/5/68 - Clementine
    11/6/68 - Lovelight; Dark Star; St Stephen; Eleven [This sounds more like a rehearsal than an attempt to record album tracks.]
    [12/10/68 Alembic Studios - a fake; repeat of the 11/6 session]
    [In December the studio got a 16-track machine and the Dead decided to start over. No telling how far along they were by then!]
    1/6/69 - Mountains of the Moon
    1/15/69 - Doin' That Rag; Mountains of the Moon
    1/20/69 - Dupree's Diamond Blues; China Cat Sunflower
    3/11/69 - Cosmic Charlie; Mountains of the Moon

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have a couple of questions concerning the "Aoxomoxoa" album.

    First of all, can ANYONE shed some light on just what the heck "What's Become Of The Baby" is supposed to be? Is it actually about anything that can be speculated on with some degree of certainty?

    Also, it's interesting to note the previously mentioned title, as well as the name of the track "Rosemary". The movie "Rosemary's Baby" was out around the time "Aoxomoxoa" was being recorded. Could there be any connection, however slight or subliminal?

    ReplyDelete
  17. What's Become of the Baby is a sonic experiment with deliberate obscure, poetic lyrics - it's avant-garde, not meant to be understood, though I suppose english/poetry students can have a field day with the lyrics. (See the Annotated GD Lyrics Site for theories on this & Rosemary.)
    The idea was for the vocal to be enveloped in weird electronic effects, but Garcia failed to accomplish what he envisioned with this track. Worse, the version on the common CD remix has all the interesting effects taken off and is a bore. The original mix, or better yet the 4/26/69 version with feedback, is how it's meant to be heard.

    Rosemary's just a short wistful ballad, almost like a little short story, kind of in the same Renaissance-fair territory as Mountains of the Moon. Unfortunately it's spoiled on the album by Garcia's vocal effect!

    Any connection with the Polanski film is, I suppose, coincidental. The whole Aoxomoxoa album pretty much ignores contemporary pop culture and is mainly Hunter's blend of old literary & folk-song motifs.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Phil's comment on the Dead in the studio, from a 2005 interview -

    Q: Why couldn't you ever capture your sound in the studio?

    LESH: You know, I don't think any of us ever believed it could be done. There was just so much range to it - not only dynamic range, but emotional range - and we found ourselves in the studio always trying to tone it down, which really isn't what we do. We're not about turning it down; we're about opening it up...
    We only made albums becase it was what we were supposed to do... It brought in a little money - it was interesting to play in the studio and see what could be done with it. But that wasn't why we were playing music, to make records.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have a new post about the Dead's activities in the studio in 1966 -
    http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2011/10/dead-in-studio-1966.html

    ReplyDelete
  20. As an aside - looking at the Grateful Dead Annotated Bibliography, I spotted a Ralph Gleason article from 11/20/66 about a Dead appearance with Jon Hendricks at a SNCC benefit at the Fillmore. "Mentions GD session work with Hendricks."

    This puts a new light on the dating for the Jon Hendricks session. Since the Fire in the City single was released in April 1967 (on Verve), it seemed that a session dating of March '67 made sense, per the CD liner notes.
    But if a newspaper article from Nov '66 mentioned the Dead being in the studio with Hendricks, it looks like McNally's dating of fall '66 for the session is actually correct.
    It also makes more sense as far as the timeline. The session was at Columbus Recorders in San Francisco, hence a local session (as opposed to a major-label Los Angeles recording trip). The Dead were still working out their contract with Warner Bros in '66, and so presumably felt free to guest on someone else's single. They would have had less reason to do so after their first album came out.
    In fact, as far as I can tell, aside from Garcia's sidetrips and the PERRO sessions, the band as a whole did not guest on anybody else's work until a David Bromberg session in 1972. Requests, I would guess, were few.

    ReplyDelete
  21. There is a new post here about 12/31/68, with some discussion of its place as the first show recorded for what would become Live/Dead:
    http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/12/december-31-1968-winterland-grateful.html

    ReplyDelete
  22. A discovery about the "11/6/68" studio rehearsal - which illustrates how easily knowledge about these Dead tapes can be forgotten or overlooked.

    Deadbase X makes this comment on the session: "What's obviously going on is that the rest of the band is teaching T.C. the material."
    Listening again, this is indeed blatantly obvious. Pigpen is not on organ, and not at this rehearsal at all.
    Since TC didn't join the band until 11/23, clearly the 11/6 date is incorrect. I had this session with the date of 12/10/68, which is very likely to be the true date.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Just for the sake of easy reference, these are my Archive notes on the Aoxomoxoa outtakes tape:
    http://www.archive.org/details/gd69-xx-xx.sbd.dodd.16760.sbeok.shnf

    This collection of outtakes comes from all over the place - solo demos, outtakes, and alternate mixes spanning from fall '68 to early '69. On most of these, there's no Tom Constanten, so a lot of this may predate December '68.
    The first two tracks are a highlight, showing that the Stephen>Eleven medley was originally planned for Aoxomoxoa (until they decided to leave it for the live album). Unfortunately, the sound quality is particularly poor in this section. (In fact, the whole reel seems to come from a very weak cassette copy with lots of distracting bass print-through.)
    1. St Stephen - a different early take, more far-out than the finished version, and covered with strange effects.
    2. The Eleven - very nice! basically done just like the live version; unfortunately it cuts early.
    3. Barbed Wire Whipping Party - the most famous Aox outtake, and the least listenable...
    4. Doin' That Rag - I think this is the same basic track as the album; they just haven't dubbed the organ or backing vocals yet.
    5. Dupree's Diamond Blues - a basic track: 12-string guitar, bass, drums, and Garcia's double-tracked vocals.
    6. Instrumental - Garcia & drums, doing an unknown song.
    7. China Cat Sunflower - this sounds pretty close to the final mix (though there's no TC here), but it could be a different take or an extremely different mix - the parts aren't quite the same, so most of this was redone. There's a gap/cut in the middle solo.
    8. Cosmic Charlie - very nice! A totally different opening. This is another basic track: guitar, drums, and Garcia's double-tracked vocals.
    9. Doin' That Rag #2 - another basic track: guitar, drums, vocal. Notice the pattern? Some of these tracks are just Garcia & Kreutzmann, no Weir or Lesh, just like his first solo album.
    10. Mountains of the Moon - basically the same as the album version, just an alternate mix. (And the girl choir hasn't been dubbed on yet.)
    11. What's Become of the Baby - just Garcia & guitar here, few studio effects, so you can actually hear the song. Very acid-folk, and not like anything else he ever did.
    12. Rosemary - pretty much the same as the album version; no surprise, since Garcia just made one 4-track tape of this song.
    13. Mountains of the Moon #2 - an earlier track: guitars, bass, and vocal (no TC on harpsichord yet).

    ReplyDelete
  24. I quoted Garcia a lot in this piece; but Lesh has been consistent in his dislike for the Dead's first album over the years.

    Tom Donahue asked Lesh & Garcia about it in April 1967: "How do you feel about the album yourselves?"
    Lesh: "I feel like it's a turd... It's where we were at the time."
    Garcia: "It's something we did, it's all over with."
    Lesh: "The next one certainly won't be anything like that, in any way."
    Garcia: "No. That one is sort of an attempt to try and sound like the stuff that we do live, with the same instrumentation and everything. There's not really anything unconventional for us in there."
    Lesh: "But that's impossible to do in a recording studio."
    Garcia: "Right. So we're not going to bother doing that anymore... Since the first album is doing so nicely, we hope they'll let us have a lot of time in the studio, and next time we'll do a lot more studio stuff..."
    Donahue: "Because it's the whole problem of trying to take what live sounds like and put it on tape or disc."
    Garcia: "You can't do it in the studio. You might be able to do it if you could record a rock & roll band live, at the volumes that we play at the Fillmore - and maybe after 2 or 3 months of every night at the Fillmore, we'd start to get good cuts, good enough for an album in terms of how clean they were and how much we like the performance on them, and then we'd have something, but it would be such an expensive undertaking, and long and everything. And the studio facilities are so incredible that we should do something with them. So we're gonna go in there and try something different."
    Lesh: "There are people who practice the art of recording, [like] Phil Spector... When we went in to do the album, we didn't know anything about the art of recording, we knew a little bit about music..."

    Lesh in 1993: "I personally felt that we made our first record too soon, that we really weren't ready to record."

    Lesh in his book: "I was nervous coming into that kind of high-pressure scene... None of us had any experience with performing for recording, so we tended to accept the judgment of the production team, though the whole process felt a bit rushed. In fact, the resultant album sounds rushed, even hyper... The main thing I took away was the knowledge that the next time I wanted to do it very differently. I didn't know exactly how, but I knew more sure that we'd take more time."

    A couple notes - one, they did have some recording experience in 1966, so this was far from their first time in the studio; though the earlier times were for small SF outfits, doing demos or a single. But they seem to have been intimidated by the Warners engineers & the big studio environment.
    Also, Garcia's estimate of doing a live album sounds awfully pessimistic! The state of live-album recording was pretty dire at that point, though it would soon improve. True to his word, the Dead would indeed record 2 or 3 months' worth of shows for the Anthem album, and for most of the Dead's live albums thereafter. Apparently there was never a question of taping just one or two shows and hoping for the best! - this band was never happy compiling a live album unless they had piles of tapes to choose from.

    ReplyDelete
  25. A note on Garcia's studio perfectionism -

    David Freiberg talked about Garcia's work mixing Mickey Hart's album Rolling Thunder:
    "Garcia saved us on a couple of mixes there. He was a really good mixer. Mickey had this long instrumental we could never get mixed called 'Deep, Wide and Frequent' and I remember Garcia is the one who finally managed to get all these guitar solos that really had nothing to do with one another in and out at the right time. He did it in pieces. He was able to concentrate really well in the studio and still always keep an eye on what he was ultimately trying to do with a track."

    And Mountain Girl talked about Garcia's studio habits in general:
    "Jerry could spend more time in the studio than anybody I've ever seen. It was absurd. He would just go on and on and say, 'Well, that's not good enough.' I would go in there to see what the hell was going on, what was taking so long, and they would be on their 19th mix of some three-minute segment of some tune. Everybody would have left except for Jerry and the engineer. And there would be pizza boxes and coke, mirrors; all this kind of stuff. People had been there for days, and they weren't done yet. He seemed to have an endless appetite for studio time."
    [from blairjackson.com additions, chapter 12]

    Anthem & Aoxomoxoa had shown that Garcia was more than willing to spend months on end in the studio fussing over an album to get it just right. (Then as often as not, after the release he'd express disappointment that it didn't come out right!) This is the guy who spent two and a half years editing the GD Movie, and more months slaving over Cats Under the Stars. That seems to be the album that finally cured him of the habit, as he was always reluctant to return to the studio after that.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I've transcribed the interview in which the Dead talked about their disappointing 1966 single:
    http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/02/august-1966-grateful-dead-interview.html

    What's striking is that, at the end of August '66, they were planning on recording more with the same producer, Gene Estribou. Garcia says, "We’re working for this independent producer who’s got his own four-track machine... We start recording this week...and hopefully we’ll have something out. I don’t know what it’ll be. Presumably...a single and then probably an album... We have a lot of material and...it'll be between us and the producer, what'll be first released."
    This didn't happen. There could be any number of reasons - maybe Estribou didn't want to work with them again, or vice versa; or Warner Brothers started making offers to the Dead just then; or Healy said they could record after-hours at Commercial Records; who knows...

    ReplyDelete
  27. There was a brief notice in Rolling Stone, from early November 1967, which announced the Dead's release plan after the first month of recording Anthem: "The Grateful Dead hopes to have some new records out soon, particularly a single in late November and an LP in January. If the group obtains the approval of Warner Brothers, the January release will be a two-record set... Some of the titles already recorded for the LP include "Alligator," "No Potato Caboose," and "Dark Star." The single is an as yet unnamed original tune. Live tracks may also be included. Warner Brothers is setting up an eight-track remote tape unit at concerts the Dead are doing November 10 and 11 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles."
    http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/02/november-1967-new-record-planned.html

    There is a show review from the MIT Tech in early December 1967 which gives new release dates, "They are scheduled to release another single in February, and a new album, which will contain live tracks, in March."

    Presumably Dark Star was already slated as the single (it would be released in April) - I wonder if Born Cross-Eyed was the "unnamed original tune" that was originally to be the A-side.
    What's striking is that from the start (before the NYC sessions in which Hassinger quit), they were already planning to use live tracks on the album, most likely from the LA Shrine shows they recorded in November, and were even thinking of doing a double album.
    My guess is at that point, the album was to be a more straightforward part-studio, part-live effort (like Cream's Wheels of Fire would be), and it was only after Hassinger left that they decided to mix together multiple live & studio tapes into one performance.

    The 1967 reviewer already noticed the division between live & studio Dead, writing, "The Dead’s performance live is completely distinct from that on their Warner Brothers album. Their songs, which average ten to fifteen minutes in person, were cut, except for Viola Lee Blues, to lengths compatible with the usual LP format. For this reason they will probably never have a hit single."
    http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/01/december-8-1967-psychedelic-supermarket.html

    ReplyDelete
  28. Frank Kofsky interviewed Garcia in September 1967 (for Jazz & Pop magazine, though it was never published til the Dead Studies vol. 1 book a couple years ago). This was before the Hollwood Bowl show, and shortly before the Dead started recording Anthem.

    GARCIA: We're going down [to LA] pretty soon to go into the studio again. And we'll try and set up something.
    KOFSKY: Have you thought about cutting your record live? I thought that was the Avalon that was set up now for -
    GARCIA: We're thinking of doing parts of the next album live. We're also gonna try doing stuff with combining live and studio. And this time we're gonna go in and fuck around, you know? Last time we went in four days straight and just played our shit; and that was it. And - I didn't like it. None of us liked it. This time we'll spend some time at it. We've got some nice heavy material and good ideas.

    This is pretty amazing - even before the Dead started recording, they were already planning to combine live & studio tracks. (So the Nov '67 Shrine tapings must have been to use on the album.)
    Garcia also states his intent to "fuck around" and "spend some time at it" - he may not have intended the Anthem process to take so many months, but he wanted to be leisurely this time around, to do justice to their "nice heavy material and good ideas"...

    ReplyDelete
  29. By the way, the epigraph for this article was not an exact quote since I couldn't find the original quote - but it seems to come from Garcia's 1983 MTV interview.

    Q: Do you think that the sound of the Grateful Dead has ever been captured correctly...on a studio album?
    GARCIA: Not at all, cause when we go into the studio, we turn into scientists; we turn into other kinds of people. It's like the difference between building a ship in a bottle and being in a rowboat on the ocean - it's a world of difference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, the specific quote seems to come from an FM interview with Garcia broadcast in November '78. So it seems he expressed the idea more than once!

      Delete
  30. Once again, words fail to express the value of this information. Keep up the good work...

    But this reminds me of a question about Aoxomoxoa's version of China Cat Sunflower that's been bugging me for years: between the 2:03 and 2:06 minute mark, or thereabouts (remixed or original), in the midst of this musical hurricane prior to the last verse, you can distinctly hear someone (Garcia?) saying something like "Right... Move on, check it!" What is it that he's saying; and why? Is it just some spontaneous rave? Obviously, it isn't in any edition of the lyrics I've ever seen -- nor is it a false start of the third verse (it doesn't sound anything like "Comic book colors...").


    Anybody else ever hear that, and wonder, 'WTF...'?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was never able to make out that little bit of chatter. But the original mix was full of bits of studio atmosphere, making it sound more "live," most of which Garcia stripped away in the remix.
      It reminds me of the instrumental 11-14-67 Dark Star in which someone says "it drags right there" after 2:20.

      Delete
  31. Clive Davis has a chapter on the Dead in his new book "The Soundtrack of My Life," most of which is more or less promo-speak that doesn't add any revelations about his relationship with the band - but he does say:
    "I first tried to sign them to Columbia in 1969, before their manager renegotiated an extension of their three-album deal with Warner Brothers."

    There seems to have been a lot going on behind the scenes in 1969, and we don't have all the details; but here's a recap:

    Spring 1969 - The Dead are finishing their last album for the WB 3-album contract, Aoxomoxoa.
    Even before Aoxomoxoa's finished, though, they finish a mix for the live double album, but hold it back for later release.
    Aoxomoxoa is released in June.

    Mid-1969 - Knowing their contract is up, Clive Davis tries to sign them for Columbia Records. The band also does a Pigpen session for Mercury Records for a possible 'solo album.'

    Circa Sept. 1969 - Per McNally, Lenny Hart extends the band's contract with Warners without telling them (taking the advance for himself).

    November 1969 - Live/Dead released.

    It seems to me that the band's renewing with Warners was very much uncertain. Maybe they were so much in debt to Warners that they had to stick with the label; or maybe the Live/Dead material legally belonged to Warners anyway; I don't know. The delay in the release of Live/Dead is still puzzling, but there could be several reasons for it (the band might have wanted the studio album out first, or were required to complete it for Warners; or they might have been saving the live record for another label or a new contract). I don't think Warners would have been anything less than eager for the live album. At any rate, it appears a couple other labels were interested in grabbing the Dead in '69, but (despite the band's huge debt & studio problems) Warners wanted to keep them as a 'prestige' band.

    ReplyDelete
  32. There's an interesting account of an Aoxomoxoa mixing session by Phil Sawyer here:
    http://precambrianmusic.com/gratefuldeadranch1.htm

    He arrived in San Francisco in April '69 to work as an engineer at Pacific High Recording, and caught the tail end of the Aoxomoxoa sessions.
    "[I was] not the Dead's engineer, mind you. There were all kinds of them around: Bob Mathews and Betty Cantor were sort of the almost official engineers - the "almost" part ruining their ability to take charge of anything that was happening - Bob especially seeming to be always in sort of a snit, as if things weren't being properly acknowledged - it was kinda weird. Dan Healy was in and out, freaking out Mathews because clarity of role was always threatened whenever Healy was around. Healy was an incredibly gifted technician and one whom I believed should have had the commanding engineering position, yet I could see that perhaps no one could drive this whale, and Healy's best contribution was as the renaissance court pyrotechnician, easily and confidently in command and able to explain, in myriad ways, the potential of all that lay before us.
    In all the chaos I ended up trying to get more and more involved so at least something would be happening that could be called progress. And once in a while someone would try a mix - Jerry, Tom Constanten, Phil (I'm not quite positive about that), sometimes Mathews, but not Healy and not Owsley. Never Owsley seriously. But as a reply to his constant nagging, someone would occasionally challenge him to stop whining about the superiority of his precious Nagra recorder and try a mix himself. He did and fed it to both a 15ips Scully 2-track and his Nagra. They were good enough mixes I guess, but no one really expected his mixing to ever matter. It could never be a final mix...
    These sessions were like a carnival lava-flow - everything just being swept along through days and days - nitrous oxide tanks, the cases of densely patched Moog, Owsley's "better recordings" fantasies, Pig Pen, everything just oozing along... In all of this I ended up doing a mix of Mountains of the Moon (with Tom Constanten I think?)... Phil acted like an asshole, and while I was setting up the mixing board I started to create a "Mountains" mix and Jerry joined in, encouraging my interpretation of the tracks and the extra-low growling bass sound... I remember that Phil hated the mix I was coming up with - and being amazingly asinine about it. He's saying "you call that a bass sound? what is that? wah wah wah..." and then Jerry's saying "no, go on" and encouraging my going forward into the mix. Another saving grace was Tom Constanten...especially the innate cleverness of his dry observations on things happening and things imagined. And he too was also trying to do some mixes amidst the chaos of the Pacific High Recording control room."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently Garcia claimed that Sawyer's mix of Mountains was the one used on the original album...

      Anyway, Sawyer also pays tribute to Dan Healy elsewhere on his site:
      "I saw Dan quite often at PHR in '69, '70, and '71; at the sessions for the Charlatans, and at those for the Dead's "Aoxomoxoa" and "Working Man's Dead" albums which he continually visited, advising and kibitzing, often to the chagrin of engineer Bob Mathews (and to another contender for the role of technical wizard, Owsley, who was unmercifully teased about it by the others, never actually realizing that his quest was to them an amusement).
      When Dan Healy came flying into a room, he was the promise of a barnstorming test ace come to the rescue with brilliant pluck and unbounded enterprise! He had thoughts on almost everything at hand and anything at issue; comments about minute details of audio recording and, not incidentally, a way of expression that could be precise, outlandish and delightful at the same time. He appeared quite often as instigator and iconoclast, with an intoxicated persona that for some was too ferocious, the result of "speeding" or some such thing."

      Healy had been the engineer for the Anthem of the Sun sessions, and also did live work with the Dead; Owsley was their live soundman; and Matthews & Cantor were nominally the head engineers on the Aoxomoxoa sessions. So the Dead had a surplus of engineers on hand (on top of having all their own ideas about how the mixes should be) - it's no wonder they were stepping on each other & perhaps competing for final say. Matthews may well have felt his position threatened when Healy would come in and "advise."
      On the album, Owsley, Healy, and Ron Wickersham were credited as "consulting engineers." After this, I think Owsley bowed out of studio "consulting," focusing on the live sound. The Dead seem to have found it a most fruitful situation to be surrounded by differing ideas, with no one in charge and everyone having their say - as Weir later said, "That whole album was a waste in many respects and an invaluable experience in other respects. It was not a particularly good album but it taught us a lot about recording." At any rate, they wouldn't spend 8 months in the studio to make an album again.

      Delete