October 5, 2010

The Mysterious Case of 12/17/70

There has been some confusion over the circulating tapes labeled 12/17/70 and 12/23/70, which have some contradictory setlists and conflicting venue information. It’s time to clear this up – and in the process, perhaps reveal a new, unsuspected piece of Dead taping history.

We’ll start with a glance at the two Winterland shows in October ’70, as they’ll help solve the curious December ’70 mixups.
10/4/70 you’re probably all familiar with. It’s famous for being broadcast quadraphonically on the KQED and KSAN FM stations (while also being broadcast live on KQED TV) – not only that, but because of the radio broadcast, it became one of the first Dead bootlegs, released in part on the “Mammary Productions” boot in early 1971. The show we have is short for 1970, only about an hour – the Dead probably faced time constraints since they were sharing the stage not only with the New Riders, but also with the Airplane, Hot Tuna, and Quicksilver – and the Dead were just the opening act that night!
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-10-04.fm.glassberg_winters.28363.sbeok.shnf

The 10/5/70 Winterland show does not circulate, but we do have one song from it, Dancing in the Streets, which was released as a bonus on the 2/4/70 Download Series disc.
It’s been said that the Dead didn’t know yet during the 10/4 show that Janis Joplin had died (although McNally says they were told before the set) – it’s a very exuberant show. The next day, though, her death must have been on people’s minds, and I think it’s reflected in the Dancing in the Streets. It’s a rather subdued version, and Garcia’s playing is quite pinched and lyrical, almost in a Bird Song vein – as he solos, it’s almost like his own little funeral elegy for Janis.

Now let’s look at the ‘12/17/70’ setlist, which seems innocent at first:

Hard to Handle
Candyman
Me and My Uncle
Cold Rain and Snow
Dancing in the Street
Uncle John's Band

The file text notes outline the confusion:
"Deadlists identifies it as the Matrix, based on Rob Eaton's transcript of the vault reel. However, when Dick Latvala copied the show to cassette, he attached the following label: "Here is something I have, that was labeled 12/17/70 - Winterland."
A long-standing confusion between this show and the Owsley benefit held at Winterland on 12/23/70, continues to infect GD tapelists. The first four songs, Hard to Handle through Cold Rain and Snow, were put into general circulation by the Bay Area Tapers Group in the mid-1990s, and continue to be mislabeled as 12/23/70.
The last 2 tracks may or may not belong with this!"

When we look over at the oldest ‘12/23/70’ file, we find that it indeed duplicates the first four songs.
But the newer 12/23/70 offers these songs:

Me and Bobby McGee
Dire Wolf
Good Lovin'
Casey Jones
Uncle John's Band

Deadlists unhelpfully conflates this with the four ‘12/17’ songs. The 12/23 file text notes state:
“This is the complete set played on 12/23/70 at Winterland. It does not include the four-song excerpt (Hard to Handle through Cold Rain and Snow) from 12/17/70 that was long thought to be a part of this show. At the end, Phil says: "Good night, folks. Merry Christmas and God bless you!" And Jerry adds: "Thank you for helping us bail out the Bear!"

So we now have the real 12/23/70, at least part of it. The band comments at the end make the date certain. Dick Latvala said the genuine setlist was on Bear’s cassette – which is a strange comment, since Bear was in prison. (In fact, the show was a benefit for him.) So I presume the band thoughtfully made a tapecopy of this show for Bear!

But what about 12/17/70?

The Dead almost certainly did not play a show on 12/17, not at Winterland, and definitely not at the Matrix. It was Crosby/Garcia/Lesh playing at the Matrix that night.
Outside of the Hartbeats & other offshoots, the Dead never played at the Matrix after 1966 - it was simply too small a club for them.
So right away, we know we have a mislabeled tape. But why would these songs be misdated 12/17 and 12/23 – not only on our circulating tapes, but within the Vault?

Charlie Miller has the answer -
"12/17/70 and 12/23/70 are actually a mix of 10/4/70 and 10/5/70.
(Btw, I have the real 12/23/70.)
What I was told is that 10/4/70 and 10/5/70 were multitracked and the 12/17/70 and 12/23/70 dates were the mixdown dates.
The Uncle John's Band put on The Golden Road box set as a bonus track is listed as 12/23/70, but it's actually from 10/4/70 (confirmed by a friend who taped 10/4/70 off the radio and still has his master).”

After some comparisons, it looks like Miller was definitely right in saying that our '12/17' and one of the '12/23' tapes are a mix of 10/4 and 10/5/70. This led to some confusion within the Vault, with the same songs being attributed to different dates. This helps explain why Rob Eaton would have misidentified his ‘12/17/70’ reel, because the wrong date was on his Vault reel label.
It didn’t help matters that a ‘12/23/70’ tape in the Vault ALSO contained mixes of the October Winterland shows, especially since the Dead were actually playing at Winterland again on 12/23, in the Bear Benefit.

This show fragment at the Archive is the REAL 12/23/70:
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-12-23.sbd.unknown.31608.sbeok.flacf
At 45 minutes, this is clearly incomplete - we're still missing most of the show. (One Archive witness estimates the show was two hours.) It’s said the show was billed as “Acoustic Grateful Dead”, and they played with Hot Tuna and the New Riders. This strongly implies that this show could have the missing last acoustic set of 1970! (Then again, the Dead might have changed their minds…)

David Lemieux has posted clips from ‘12/23/70’ on the Taper's Section, but they are NOT from this show.
http://www.dead.net/features/tapers-section/january-29-february-4-2007
The Cold Rain & Snow is from 10-4-70.
The Dancing in the Streets is from 10-5-70, as it was correctly dated on the Download Series.
And as Miller noted, the (Workingman's Dead bonus) Uncle John's Band labeled 12-23-70 is indeed from 10-4-70.
So obviously the Vault has a '12-23-70' tape that's simply a mix of the October shows. (And, just coincidentally, was made on the same day as another Winterland show.)

Now turning to our '12-17-70' tape, we find some interesting duplications:
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1970-12-17.sbd.unk.87356.sbeok.flac16
Cold Rain & Snow is 10-4-70 again.
Uncle John's Band is also 10-4-70.
Dancing in the Streets is, you guessed it, 10-5-70 again.
(The other three songs - Hard to Handle, Candyman, and Me & My Uncle - must presumably be from 10-5-70, unless they're from another unknown show.)

[Meanwhile, this '12-23-70' clip is merely a partial duplicate of the above, and can be ignored:
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-12-23.sbd.vernon.10376.sbeok.shnf ]

Now what's interesting to me is that the December compilations of our October songs feature a very different mix. (For instance, compare the Download Series 10/5 Dancing in the Streets with the Taper's Section '12/23' mix.) Obviously the Dead had a multitrack of the October Winterland shows they could remix. (And they still do, as the 10/4 Till the Morning Comes was released as a bonus on the American Beauty CD – with the correct date, and sounding more balanced than our radio mix.)
According to deadlists, “David Lemieux confirms that there is no SBD of 10/5/70 in the Vault.” But that information’s ten years old, and clearly at least one song has surfaced in the Vault since then – so there’s hope we may hear more of this show in the future.

But why would the Dead have been mixing these shows two months later, or at any time? And for a band that wasn’t taping themselves at all at the time, why would they bring multitrack equipment to these Winterland shows?
Whether or not it was related to the 10/4/70 radio broadcast, the fact that the Dead would professionally tape these shows, and mix them two months later, strongly suggests that this was their first step toward making another live album. (And, not coincidentally, they started reference-taping their own shows again during the same weeks in December these mixes were made in the studio.)
But they must have decided to scrap these selections and start over in February. In fact, once they’d decided to multitrack, you’d think the best decision would have been to take the tape equipment to the Port Chester shows in November ’70, for the run of shows there would be far better than the Winterland sets. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen – but the Dead themselves obviously realized the missed opportunity, as they DID take the multitracks to Port Chester for the long run in February ‘71 to start taping their live album. However, after Feb 18, with a bundle of new songs to work out and Mickey Hart fleeing the scene, magic didn’t strike at those shows…but that’s another story…

12 comments:

  1. There were a couple of December '70 shows billed as "Acoustic Dead". In addition to 12/23/70, the 12/21/show at Pepperland was billed as such, and it turned out to be Garcia/Crosby/Lesh/Kreutzmann gig. An acoustic set was also promised for 12/31/70, and that apparently did not materialize either. I think it is safe to assume that the acoustic sets were abandoned soon after the Capitol 11/70 run. None of the audience tapes from later in November include acoustic sets, nor do any of the Sbds and auds from 12/70.

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  2. This is amazing research, and sheds a good light on how much yet remains to be sorted out.

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  3. Cryptdev, I think you're right that the "Acoustic Dead" billing for 12/23/70 was a false alarm. A couple 'witnesses' had indicated that the whole show was electric, but I was hoping they were wrong! (Winterland did seem like an unusual venue to pull out the acoustics in, though...)
    On deadlists, Michael Parrish holds out hope that at Pepperland 12/21/70, maybe an unwitnessed Dead show did occur deep into the night...

    For the Dead to repeatedly announce these December shows as "acoustic", though - and then not come through - that's clearly an issue in itself. In fact, on 12/27/70, they did an acoustic radio show (for KPPC in Pasadena), playing their gospel set with the New Riders, as an ad for the El Monte shows. And yet, do they play any acoustic sets at El Monte? No!

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  4. I realize there are some possible objections to the idea that 10/4 and 10/5/70 could have been taped for a live album, which I'll try to address in speculative fashion:

    1. Why tape only these short one-hour Winterland sets?
    Because these were the only 'hometown' shows the Dead played in that time period, between August & December. For Live/Dead, they had apparently only focused on San Francisco shows (at the Avalon & Fillmore West) - so they may have initially thought of repeating that strategy.
    OR, possibly these tapes weren't initially made with a live album in mind, but were connected to the TV/radio broadcast.

    2. Why would the tapes not be mixed until December?
    Because the Dead were continually on tour in the East from 10/10 to 11/29/70.
    When they came home in December, American Beauty had just been released, and they had time to think about another live album. It's at this point when they started reference-taping their shows again for playbacks.

    3. If the '12/17' and '12/23' tapes are a mixdown for a live album, isn't the song selection pretty strange?
    Yes. (Keep in mind there were likely mixdowns of other songs, too; we just have the one reel. And, oddly enough, it is in a 'show order' with Garcia/Weir songs alternating.)
    But the '71 Skullfuck album also had a strange selection, representing the 'bar-band covers' side of the Dead. Me & My Uncle, one of the '12/17' songs, was indeed on the album. And it might make sense to include a live Uncle John's Band, as that was "the single".
    Garcia said in '71, "We didn't have a decent recording of it or we would've taken Cold Rain & Snow, or anything that was good, cause that's what we were after - we didn't care what song it was or whose it was."

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  5. LIA, I think you are absolutely right that this was a false start on what would become Skullfuck. One of the Rolling Stone interviews from late 1970/early 1971 -- I think it's the Kantner/Slick one -- partly takes place at Heider's, and says something about Jerry working with tapes from the GD's Winterland shows. These would be 10/4 and 10/5/70, I think.

    There are a few other bits and pieces that indicate that they were looking to tape live at the late '70 Port Chester shows. There may have been lots of reasons those were canceled and rescheduled for February '71, but he stated reason is that they wanted to get some new material together. They clearly did that in time for 2/18/71. It makes sense that they were planning on recording that new material.

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    1. The Rolling Stone reference comes from the Grace Slick interview, 11/12/70 issue:
      “We’re at Wally Heider’s studio, and Jerry Garcia has arrived to get a dub of Kantner’s Starship song and to listen to his own band’s tape from the previous weekend’s Winterland gig.”
      So that would be from early October '70. Since the live tapes were at Heider's, it confirms that the shows were professionally recorded & Garcia was listening to them at the studio.

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  6. I'd like to know more about the Dead's plans for the December '70 Port Chester shows & why they were canceled. It could be that, after touring for almost 2 months, they were sick of it! It could be that Jerry wanted to stay in the studio for a while.
    Or, as they announced, they may have wanted to work on more new songs. We know by Dec '70, Bird Song & Bertha were written (and Loser followed within a month), but weren't yet played by the Dead. If the Dead were already planning to record a Port Chester run, it would've made sense to delay it until the new songs were ready...

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  7. the magic did strike for one of the shows .... the opening night of 2/18/71.

    I saw a few of the shows on that 6 night run, and 2/18 is definitely magic in every sense of the word.

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    1. 2/18 was also the only night of the run in which Mickey Hart played, and the only night in which Ned Lagin joined in. The band's spirits probably dropped on the following nights...

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  8. listening to 12/17 garcia , lesh and crosby- nice

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  9. Okay did "David & The Dorks" consist of Crosby-Garcia-Lesh plus either Hart or Kreutzmann, or did it always consist of Kreutzmann and never of Hart?

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    1. We don't know. The one eyewitness report we have, from 12/21/70, has Kreutzmann drumming. The one time Jerry spoke about David & the Dorks, he said, "me and Phil and Bill and Mickey, we backed up David."
      The Matrix tape we have was always thought to be Hart, but I don't know how that attribution originated.
      So the evidence is vague. Hart & Kreutzmann seem to have alternated drumming at acoustic sets through the year, but it's hard to imagine they'd do so for a few shows with Crosby.
      Given the PERRO sessions, both drummers might have been familiar with Crosby's material, but I think Kreutzmann participated more in those studio sessions.

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