[Note: This wasn't meant to be a standalone post; it was actually a forum reply to someone who posted about how much the Other One changed from '67-74. But as it got longer, I thought it could stand on its own - though it's just a short chunk of Other One history!]
The story of the Other One in its early years is well-known - but I don't think anyone's ever told the story of its development over the next few years. The Dead's style still went through several significant changes in the four years from '76-79. So this is meant to be an initial attempt, looking at a few examples of the most notable versions.
To sum up the earlier history: there were a few turning points in the Other One's early development -
One was in 1968, when the jamming in the suite (mainly the Cryptical part) was considerably expanded mid-year. I suspect they were intentionally performing "short" versions of the suite in the Northwest tour, knowing they had to fit it on an album side, but there's definitely a blossoming by the August shows.
While Cryptical reached its full maturity early on, the Other One section continued to grow in length & density until by itself it could top 10 minutes. This was fortunate as by late '69, they were already tiring of the Cryptical section (usually favoring a short segue to Cosmic Charlie), and through 1970 Cryptical tended to get shorter, until in 1971 it disappeared.
Without its bookend, the Other One got relocated, usually coming out of Truckin' after late 1970, and often just stopping after the second verse. While it could go into any number of songs, in 1971 the preferred post-Other One song became Wharf Rat.
1971 was also the other big turning-point for the Other One, since in the early part of the year they started developing spacier sections where they'd leave the rhythm and wander off in other melodies, so it became musically much more varied. Also in Aug '71, they started interpolating Me & My Uncle in it, a crucial step - while they'd done 'sandwiches' like that before, they tended to be short-lived or not repeated. This changed not only the way they could play the Other One, but the way they could arrange a set & other jam medleys.
Plus, the possibilities for the Other One expanded enormously once Keith arrived - and, for once, the Dead jumped on these possibilities immediately. Within a year, they were jamming out the Other One for a half-hour on end, and it became a diverse centerpiece of the set where they could travel through a variety of jam themes.
In 1974, the Other One was already thinning out - only 8 versions, and several of those were little more than thematic starting-points from which the Dead ventured into a series of other distinct jams.
During the hiatus, the Other One shows up once - 8/13/75. The Dead's playing was going through a lot of changes that year, and a few things are immediately notable: this Other One is an instrumental, and it's only five minutes long, sticking closely to the main theme. Once they start to drift out, they quickly pull themselves back in for a tight performance of Sage & Spirit. Evidently this was a band that didn't want to keep repeating the expansive jams of yesteryear...
They didn't do the Other One in June '76, but it returned in July. They were no longer doing the giant, rambling jams of 1974 - most of the Other Ones from this year stick mainly to jamming on the theme for 10 minutes or so. (This is almost a reversion to 1970 in form - the last year there were two drummers.) The music is more mild & temperate in '76, and Jerry sticks to his sweeter tone. No longer is the Other One an excuse to launch into parts unknown - on the other hand, Jerry frequently spaces out after an Other One jam and starts quietly meandering, often to end up in a ballad. (These spaces would turn into Jerry's extended solo spots in spring '77.)
They did Other One sandwiches a few times in '76 (where another song is stuck between the verses) - 7/17, 7/18, and 10/2.
On 7/17 for example, the actual Other One is kept pretty brief, for after the first verse they head right into a minimalist, dreamy Space that patiently winds its way into Eyes of the World. (This illustrates one important thing about '76/77 - that the Other One is no longer the central part of the set, but one element in a much longer medley of songs & transitions. In this case they come back to the second Other One verse after Eyes, but more often they just drop a verse when moving on.)
This is a relatively short version that starts mildly and gains steam. After the verse, the music dissolves into a Jerry & drums interlude (kind of like the spring '77 solo-Jerry pieces) which slowly transforms into a little mini-meltdown (one of the last ones they did in the Keith era, I think). It's rare to hear one of these in '76 - even rarer when Jerry starts a rather rusty Morning Dew, the only one of '76.
This is one for people who like their Phil loud; it's also relatively quiet & exploratory. It starts off with a long Phil/Jerry/Keith exploration, which tumbles into a little dissonant passage, then quiets down and slowly meanders back to the Other One. Weir sings just the second verse; the band leaves the theme and goes back to quietly pitter-pattering for a while until Jerry starts Ship of Fools.
This is probably the best Other One of the year - starts out very fierce and stays that way. The band really plays with bite and rarely leaves the main rhythm - there's a very cool bit at the end of the middle jam where Jerry starts quietly straying off and Phil comes back in with a crash. (This time the post-Other One ballad is a fine Comes a Time, the last version til May '77.)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1976-09-27.sbd.miller.87664.sbeok.flac16 is perhaps the second-best Other One of '76, but it's time to head into 1977 -
This one falls into three parts - the intro is (as often in '77) more peaceful & mellow than an Other One should be. After the verse, though, they heat up and pick things up into a fine frenzy. Then they calm down and, without another verse, move into a Bach-like Jerry/Phil duet as an outro into Stella Blue - one of the most unusual sections of any Other One.
One of the spacier Other Ones of '77, this one meanders around for a while, dominated by Jerry's persistent noodling - the band keeps threatening to actually start the song, but Jerry's out in the zone, so eventually they drop out and let him drift in the clouds by himself for a few minutes. Then suddenly, they storm back in and do a hot & furious verse with Jerry turning on the distortion, quite the change in dynamics, before cooling things down again for Stella Blue.
This one (another one-verse version) is more energized, and has a nice climax in the middle. Here they stick to the rhythm throughout, without many variations, and Jerry is prominently in the lead here - many of the Other Ones of '77 are similarly stuck in one gear, so are closer to 1970 in the band's style (though much mellower) than to 1972-4. At the end, though, Jerry wanders out into an unaccompanied quiet space again to set us up for the ballad, in this case perhaps the slowest Stella Blue ever.
Smooth, burbles along uneventfully until Jerry drifts off into space again. This one's notable because after the Wharf Rat, the band comes back into the Other One - the last Other One sandwich til I don't know when. (There are some more energetic Other Ones from the spring, like 5/1 or 5/9, but they tend to be shorter and feel incomplete, as if the band was hurrying on.)
This one's pretty good, more tense & biting than usual for '77, and the constant riffing off the rhythm is rather hypnotizing. (Compare to the 10/30 Other One, which for me stays too calm & mellow - Jerry tries to steer the band into a climax there, but it isn't cohesive.) After the song there's a slow drift into Black Peter, but by fall '77 the long spacy-Jerry sections we heard in the spring are pretty rare.
(Another thing we see in fall '77 is some very short five-minute Other Ones (11/1, 11/4) - however, those also happen to be the most energetic, with a distorted Jerry storming through them. One pattern that seems to hold for the next couple years is the hotter the Other One, the shorter it is...)
This is one of the most extended from fall '77. They tease the Other One for a long time out of drums, and build up very nicely to a dramatic verse. The band's style is a little more hard-edged than it was in the spring, on its way to the more rocked-up '78 attack - notice how Jerry plays with the Other One riffs in the middle jam, and the reentry to the second verse is done unusually well!
Heading into '78, we see the Dead in full attack mode in this Other One, Jerry distorted and the band pounding away. Note the big climax before the second verse, something they really got into in '78. This Other One, unusually, segues into Truckin' - and this Truckin' is insane, they just shred the closing jam for six minutes straight.
Very similar is this one from a few days later - http://www.archive.org/details/gd78-01-10.sbd.cotsman.14523.sbeok.shnf
I get a sense of much more energy & excitement in these early '78 Other Ones than we'd heard in '77 - these hark back not just to 1970, but to 1968. As in many of these versions, Jerry drifts for a bit after the verse before settling on Wharf Rat - back in the old days, they'd go straight into another song, but in this period they liked to provide more of a cushion.
A famously forceful version. It starts off hot but standard - and the jam between verses is very brief, barely leaving the usual Other One riffs. But what happens in the last minute before the verse is Dead legend - Jerry suddenly takes off into a sustained trill as the band CRASHES back down, one of the most explosive moments they ever played.
This one is similar in its dramatic approach, but it's no match. The Dead try three times to get that crashing climax - most unusually, they even do it AGAIN after the second verse - but they botch the timing the second two times....
This one's not too notable in itself (other than having an unusual predrums setlist placement between Estimated and Eyes), but it also illustrates how the Other One is becoming more of a brief uptempo energy burst, rather than an extended exploration. The calm meanderings of yore are usually gone in favor of a more straight-ahead rock approach, as Jerry riffs away almost '68-style.
But there were other times in '78 when the Dead did jam out more...
This has a very interesting free jam after drums (a little reminiscent of the 12/30/77 jam), out of which the Other One comes. The jamming is more leisurely and drifting here, Jerry shooting for audience hypnotism as in early '77... By the end of the jam they get quite spacy as on 1/22, even heading towards a meltdown; but Jerry pulls up and decides it's time for Wharf Rat rather than the second verse.
Well-known and very well-done - the middle jam almost goes freestyle, reminiscent of the early '70s. For my purposes here, it's enough to note the transitional phase that gives this Other One its particular shape: while it has the tougher, dramatic '78 playing style, this Other One still has the form of the longer, noodly '77 versions - the end-of-song Jerry solo-spaceout we'd gotten in '76/77 now culminates in the Close Encounters episode. Note how completely out of place St Stephen is here - one of the only times the Other One space didn't go into a ballad.
(You can also compare this to the very similar, but less inspired, 1/17 version: http://www.archive.org/details/gd78-01-17.sbd.cotsman.14555.sbeok.shnf )
Included partly because here, in the middle jam, we can hear Jerry's shift to the really-fast-little-notes playing style he favored in '79, which gives the late-'78 Other Ones a different flavor. Otherwise this Other One is not really notable in itself - except that it's a rare predrums version, so instead of going into another song, after the second verse they do this great free Space led by Jerry and the drums, with Phil adding feedback and finally everybody screeching madly away like it's 1973 again.... This is the kind of thing they should have played under the pyramids! (After drums they do come back with a lovely, spare Ollin Arrageed jam, also well worth hearing.)
The most extended version of late '78, I found it rather plodding in the way that a lot of late '78 is. Even the climax before the second verse sounds a bit perfunctory this time around. The best part is after the verse, when Jerry speeds up and they seem to be going into another jam, before Jerry cuts it short. Note that here (and on 12/19/78 Jerry switches back & forth between his usual longer note rhythms & the quick notes.
And finally, heading to 1979 -
One of Keith's last Other Ones - the Other One comes out of Drums as it often does, but we're starting to see the "space" section with Jerry's warbles stretching out a little before the Other One proper starts. Also in this period, the Dead are doing a dramatic re-entry from the verse back into the middle jam - Phil really likes to slam on those chords. Jerry particularly wails in the jam here, though it's kept short.
Keith's last one - you can hear Keith clearly here, and how percussive he is. Here the Space is quite long & adventurous for '79, and it slowly evolves into the Other One. This gives the Other One a very calm feeling, similar to early '77 - on the other hand, this version ends up being pretty tepid, one of the ones that simmers but never boils. By this point, I feel the musical range of the Other One was so limited, it was more satisfying when it was quick & rough than when they prolonged it with more noodling.... But in these two versions, we get two sides of the '79 band: one crunchy & energetic, one placid & spacey.
In '79 the Other One either came out of Drums>Space or He's Gone. Here we have a full-fledged Space with odd noises that leads to the Other One. This is Brent's second one, and he's still relatively restrained, mainly just chording. The rest of the band goes nowhere quietly, so this is pretty unexciting, though they try to beef it up for the second verse.
This one from a few days later - http://www.archive.org/details/gd79-05-08.glassberg.vernon.18876.sbeok.shnf (a bass-light AUD) - sounds notably hotter, although (or because) the jam is kept very short but purposeful, so this is one of the mini-Other Ones that would become more common. In '79 Garcia still drifts for a while after the second verse before starting the ballad - on 5/5 he segues to Wharf Rat, but on 5/8 there's a neat, independent little spiraling jam after the Other One, a predecessor of the post-song jams that would come frequently in '79, and here it goes into the only China Doll of '79.
This plucky version grows out of He's Gone, something that became much more common in '79. Brent & Phil are getting more involved with the jamming, so the jam finally heads in a different direction as we hear more interplay and building tension in the jam. After the climax though, we don't get a second verse but it peters out into Drums.
A famous one, coming again out of a speedy He's Gone jam. Phil is quite perky and up-front here, and we get two separate bass intros - this Other One is rare for having a big explosion before the first verse! Garcia has been sharp and zoned-in during this set; unfortunately, the jam is rather minimal before Phil brings back the intro for the second verse. We get a quick, big meltdown right after the verse, though, before the drummers take over.
Once again, out of He's Gone - by now, the band is really seeming more unified in these Other One jams, creating a big swirl of sound. (Part of it is due to Phil being more prominent in late '79, part of it due to Brent being more integrated with his organ sustains than Keith was with his choppy piano chords.) The Other One itself is extremely brief; the song is over within five minutes - once again though, the shortness of the jam seems to be a positive, as they really dig into this one and tear it up! After the second verse, they continue in the Other One vein, as Garcia isn't ready to stop - the music skitters, becomes more agitated & dissonant, and the band takes it into a nice mass freakout that fades out for Drums.
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1979-12-26.sonyECM250.walker-scotton.miller.89187.sbeok.flac16 - follows the same pattern.
Yet again, the momentum of the post-He's Gone jam seems to have a beneficial effect on the Other One, which comes cascading out. It's another strong version for '79 - after reaching one climax in the jam, this time the Dead decide not to cut to the next verse but keep going (for a couple more minutes). The song is still very compact (done in under 7 minutes), but the band keeps charging ahead after the verse into a more exploratory percussive jam, almost harking back to '73. It starts out great for a few minutes, but trickles out very slowly for Drums.
So I'll end there, at the dawn of the '80s....
To briefly sum up - the Other One went through a variety of forms in '76-79, but overall became more condensed and shed the spacier elements. Though the varied jams of '72-74 were gone, the Other Ones of '76/77 often still have quiet space sections which, in '78/79, shifted to the post-drums Space. While there was still sometimes an extended jam in late '79, it came attached to the end of the song, and in 1980 it too disappeared. While on the other hand, the frequently mild & mellow Other Ones of '76/77 are gradually phased out by harder-rocking versions in '78/79. So in a way, the Other One kind of returned to the original 1967 conception of a quick, frenzied blast that would soon segue to the next tune.