August 22, 2009


Clementine, along with several other new tunes, debuted on the Dead's Northwest tour of early '68, which they were recording for the Anthem album.....however, it never appeared on that album, nor on Aoxomoxoa, though it would have fit in well on either record. The Dead apparently weren't too happy with it and seem not to have played it very often.
Clementine was a rare Lesh/Hunter tune, so I'm not sure how much Garcia was involved in the composition. There's quite a difference between the way they played it in early '68 and how it sounded by early '69. It's strange that the song was left unfinished (if it was) since Lesh was a stern taskmaster on his later tunes!
In its shuffling jazzy two-chord rhythm, it's very similar to the Quicksilver Messenger Service instrumental Gold & Silver, which QMS had been playing through '67, so they may have influenced the Dead in this tune. (Which may be one reason the Dead never released it.) 
Another likely influence is John Coltrane's treatment of My Favorite Things, which Lesh admired:
The jazz feel is prominent in the Anthem '68 tour, between this song and the Spanish Jam and the whole jammed-out treatment of the new songs; but a jazzy style didn't really resurface in a Dead song until Eyes of the World a few years later.

The first recording on 1/20/68 fades in (probably out of a missing Cryptical), and it's given the full '68 treatment, especially with washes of organ from Pigpen. Along with other recent tunes like the Other One suite and New Potato, they get the verses over with quickly and then spend a few minutes wandering in a jam before dissolving into the next song. I'm sure audiences at this tour couldn't tell where one song ended and another began, since nothing would be familiar to them!

We have a couple more performances from this tour, on 1/23 and 2/2, which are similar but longer, with quieter Pigpen. In each case Clementine comes out of Cryptical, a smooth transition in which it starts quietly; and on 1/20 and 1/23 it shifts into New Potato Caboose, which also works well. (On 2/2 they abruptly switch to Schoolgirl instead.) In the Cryptical>Clementine>Caboose medley, the style of jamming is very similar in each song, so it's almost like one long extended composition. (In contrast, the Dark Star>China Cat>Eleven medley sounds more like what it is, three tunes jammed together.) After they dropped Clementine, they kept the Cryptical>Caboose segue which flowed very nicely.
Some people prefer the 1/20 Clementine, but it seems like a tryout to me - I think 1/23 has the best version of this tour. It has a long intro, and it seems more developed, especially Garcia's playing. There's a very nice solo, and he returns to the verse at the end. On 2/2 they follow the same pattern - this version is the most focused, and just glides by with a hypnotic Lesh riff. (The 2/2 version was included on the So Many Roads box.)
(Note that new Miller transfers of this tour are now available, so "check for other copies" of these shows on the Archive.)

They may have played it on other shows of this tour, but too many tapes are missing to say for sure. It is perhaps the least-played song of the tour though, which shows that they may already have been unsure of it and perhaps decided it wasn't good for the record. I think they kept playing it throughout '68; but since so few shows were recorded, we only have a few brief snapshots from that year.

Clementine did resurface a few times, a studio jam from 8/13/68 which was a bonus on the Aoxomoxoa CD reissue, they play Clementine for a while. They were starting to record the Aoxomoxoa album and were perhaps trying out ideas. This is perhaps the best early studio session we have; in most of our studio outtakes, the Dead are too focused on rehearsing to explore the jams. This Clementine is an especially nice recording, taken much slower than it was in January, but without new sections yet - with Garcia "singing" the melody lines on his guitar, it resembles Santana's style!

Clementine pops up again in a Hartbeats studio session on 9/21/68, when Garcia & Lesh jam on it briefly with another guitarist who solos over the chords. (Just the basic riff, not the full song.) It's odd to hear Garcia dueting the lines with someone besides Weir; it makes it sound like one of the club-blues jams that were very common in '68.

Which brings us to one of those clubs, the Matrix, and the Hartbeats' appearance there on 10/8/68, minus Weir and Pigpen. They start the show with Clementine (after Garcia sorts out some amp trouble), and it's basically a loose duet between Garcia and Lesh....kind of interesting, but with Weir gone, there's a huge hole in the sound. It takes them a while to get going - this Clementine is rather sloppy and unfocused - and things get more interesting after they turn into the Eleven. (Also in my opinion, this is the least interesting Hartbeats show, with Clementine pretty much just a warmup.) But here we start to hear hints of how it would sound in '69, with Lesh introducing new riffs into the tune and Garcia exploring different playing styles.

The main bridge riff Lesh added was apparently taken from the bassline of Coltane's take on Greensleeves, from the Africa/Brass album: 
This also suggests that Lesh had Coltrane in mind when he was composing Clementine. This riff sometimes recurs in Lesh's playing in later years - for instance, a bit in the 4/26/72 Other One (on Hundred Year Hall), or the 11/19/72 Dark Star. (I've also put together another post with more thoughts on this.)

The bridge riff also pops up in the next Hartbeats show on 10/10 - the second big jam, track 6, mixes this with some themes from New Potato.

The 10/30/68 Matrix show has a much more solid version of Clementine - in fact, you could use the start of this as a 'karaoke' version, since they're playing the basic backing just as if Garcia was singing. Here you can tell they're playing it in the new format, with the extra chords in the verse, a new bridge, and Lesh's distinctive riff afterwards. So it's frustrating not to hear how it sounded at Dead shows in late '68.... Once again, they head into the Eleven. (track 11)
Also, in the post-Elvin Bishop jam (track 17), Lesh & Garcia go off on another Clementine jam, this time entirely based on the new bridge riff.

According to studio dates, the Dead worked on Clementine several times in the Aoxomoxoa sessions in fall '68. Sadly, none of these outtakes have surfaced, but the Matrix shows make clear that they must have been working on the song around that time, and it appears in the two earlier studio rehearsals we have. Unfortunately, there are no Clementines in the Dead shows that survive from late '68, and they decided not to put it on Aoxomoxoa. Perhaps they felt it was too derivative a song, or Garcia wasn't comfortable with the lyrics, or the arrangement never satisfied them? It seems the song was left unfinished, never finalized...

But Clementine makes a final, unexpected 1969 appearance (kind of like Rosemary's sole surprise showing on 12/7/68)....again being recorded for a possible live album, on 1/26/69 they start with the Cryptical suite, which in the other shows of this tour could segue into any other tune, but suddenly they have a '68 flashback and go into a slower-paced Clementine. It's quite different from the early '68 versions, they've worked on it some more with Tom Constanten: his playing is very different from Pigpen's and he gives it that baroque-'69 flavor. Garcia matches his playing to Constanten's, and the intro and verse are very dramatic. They've also added some chords and new sections (as we heard on 10/30/68), and heightened the dynamics of the song; there's one wonderful solo section after the first verse where Garcia swells up one note at a time. Although he's a little uncertain about the verses (adding an extra solo when he forgets the second verse), the song abruptly transforms into a marvelous jam. At first it's built around the new riff that Lesh introduced at the Matrix shows; then they return to the two-chord waltz and Garcia starts a new jam theme - and the song ends dramatically with Weir, Garcia and Constanten all playing arpeggios around the chords. For a few minutes it's like being in the middle of a '69 Dark Star; but it fades and Garcia starts Death Don't Have No Mercy, abandoning cold Clementine for the blues.

After such a wonderful performance, it's a shame we don't have any more Clementines. It seems like if they'd kept playing Clementine, it could have become one of the highlights of 1969 shows; but just as with New Potato Caboose, they felt done with it, and it was never heard again.


  1. The Clementine bridge riff added in late '68 also pops up in another Hartbeats show, 10/10 - the second big jam, track 6, mixes this with some themes from New Potato.

    It's been pointed out that this riff sometimes recurs in Lesh's playing in later years - for instance, you can even hear it a bit in the Other One from Hundred Year Hall (4-26-72).

  2. The melody has similarities to the Doors' "Someday Soon", most noticeably around 3:50 in the 1/26/69 version. Both are gorgeous songs rarely played. If you don't know that song, and even more so if you do, check out the version played at Seattle on 7/5/68, their finest five minutes.

  3. There is a slight (and coincidental) similarity to Someday Soon... Kind of ironic, since Garcia hated the Doors!

    By the way, the two known Doors performances of Someday Soon were Pittsburgh 5/2/70 and Seattle 6/5/70 (both versions offically released in the Doors' outpouring of live shows, and both on youtube).
    Your "Seattle '68" show is misdated. (The Doors were at the Hollywood Bowl on 7/5/68, which was released on video.)

  4. A new discovery - the 'bridge' added to Clementine at the October Matrix shows (it comes around 6:10 in the 1/26/69 version), is taken from the bassline in Coltrane's Greensleeves.

    The swing/rhythm in Coltrane band performances like this and My Favorite Things is pretty similar to the way the Dead played Clementine - so I would guess that when Lesh composed Clementine, he probably had Coltrane strongly in mind.

  5. I expanded the last comment considerably in this post:

  6. I noted in a comment to my Live/Studio Dead post, that according to the Dead worked on Clementine several times in the Aoxomoxoa sessions in fall '68.
    I don't know if that info is accurate or where it came from, but it makes sense. It's clear they must have been working on it around that time, and it pops up in two earlier studio rehearsals we have.
    It's a shame no "actual" Clementine outtakes have surfaced. My feeling is perhaps they didn't end up putting it on Aoxomoxoa because they felt it was too derivative a song... At any rate, they weren't happy with it for some reason!

  7. Light into ashes.. excellent overview of Clementine! I truly enjoy all of your dead essays and wish i could get around to reading/listening to all of them. You truly give due respect and analysis to the greatness that is the dead.

  8. Clementine has become my favorite Grateful Dead simply because of the 1/26/69 performance. Sure, the lyrics get flubbed every now and then but the way they go from swinging psychedelic Jazz to baroque to full on rock is just brilliant. And then the way Tom stirs them towards "DDHNM"! Wow!

    1. Yes, it's a shame they abandoned it after that. For all we know, they'd played it frequently in '68 and were sick of it...

  9. Why do you suppose Hunter left it out of his songbook?

    1. I don't know - maybe he forgot about it?
      Hunter's complete original lyrics were printed in Dodd's Annotated Lyrics book, though.
      Lyrically the 1/26/69 version is the most complete, but it seems Garcia may not have settled on one definite set of lyrics (or never quite remembered them). Maybe he wasn't comfortable with them, or the Dead didn't play it often enough to fix the words in his mind. At any rate, as a song the Dead tinkered with through 1968, it may never have been "finished" to their satisfaction.

    2. Yes, I have both books. It's interesting that he didn't include it since in the annotated version he mentions that he remembers the entire song intact after 4 decades. I suppose it was just one of those things they could never be satisfied with.

  10. I failed to mention, in track 17 of 10/30/68, the post-Elvin Bishop jam, Phil & Jerry go off on another Clementine jam, this time entirely based on Phil's new bridge riff from Greensleeves (the one that would pop up later in '72 jams).

  11. I've updated this post from the comments.

  12. Another Clementine has surfaced!
    This one's from a studio rehearsal session, thought to be Pacific Recording on 9/12/68 (the tape's dated "9/12/69" which seems to be a mistake). There's over a half hour of extended Clementine rehearsals, with Phil singing vocals (mostly off-mike, though on the last couple takes he sings clearly). It's a pretty focused rehearsal, with a lot of teaching chords and chatter about how it goes - since the tape's in mono it's hard to hear, but there are one or two guest guitarists playing, and Phil is going through the song with them. (His new bridge bass-line is very prominent here, and the vocals differ a bit from what Garcia sang.) Fascinating to hear what's close to a fully-developed studio Clementine with vocals, especially when they stretch out instrumentally.

    This is definitely a companion session to the 9/21/68 snippet that was aired on the Taper's Section, with David Crosby & Vic Briggs on guitars - possibly from the same day:
    That piece is played differently, all-instrumental with two guitarists trading solos while another plays rhythm (and no audible organ). In this session, I'm not sure if Weir is one of the guitarists or not; but there are two drummers, and an organist who sounds just like Constanten.

    After Clementine, there's a wild jam which starts out a bit like China Cat on the original Aoxomoxoa album, but it soon gets nutty, discordant & atonal and turns into something like a '70s-style Tiger/meltdown with panting, noises, swirling organ, slide effects, vocalizations and feedback. I think Crosby as well as Weir may be on guitar. It ends with some Cosmic Charlie teases. This is as noisy and unhinged as the Dead ever got, and they wouldn't really play anything like it live until '72. A remarkable discovery - along with the 8/13/68 jam session, it makes me wonder what else might be hiding among all the '68 reels of early Aoxomoxoa outtakes?

    1. Listening more closely to the new "9/12/68" session (I'm unsure whether the date's right), I believe Garcia & Weir are playing guitar throughout, along with another guitarist that they're teaching the song to. (Crosby or someone else, I don't know.)

      The Clementine arrangement is very different from 9/21/68. That date had a simple jam around the basic verse chords (similar to the 8/13/68 studio jam).
      On the new practice tape, they're intent on teaching the song and the structure is different - Phil is enamored of his new 'Greensleeves' riff, playing it all over the song, at the start & in the middle of the verses. (This seems to make the song unnecessarily complicated.)
      In the October '68 Hartbeats shows, the verses go into a new, different bridge section which then leads into the riff.
      Then in the January '69 version, the verses end differently, and the riff follows without that bridge being played.

      One of the mysterious things about Clementine is that every time it appears on tape, it's different, as the Dead kept tinkering with the arrangement...

  13. ...and sometimes you hear new things in old tapes.
    Listening to the 10/30/68 Hartbeats Clementine again, I noticed there's a second guitarist playing! He plays chords behind Garcia for a couple minutes, then drops out. I assume this is Elvin Bishop, attempting briefly to join in. (track 6)

  14. I don’t know about the supposed guest musicians: I’m hearing Phil, Jerry, Bob, one drummer (Mickey?), plus an organist (TC?) and some occasional congas (Pigpen?). I’m pretty confident Bobby is the second guitarist: it sounds like his playing, and I think you can hear his voice during the banter around 11, 17, and 24 minutes in the first track. A clue about the organist: at 1:35 in the 2nd track, it sounds like Phil says, “it could work, if TC hasn’t split” and at 3:27 he says “hey Tom” and explains some chords.

    My guess is that Phil’s teaching it to the band, who get increasingly frustrated (or stuck) as they press on, until Phil says he done with it at the end of the 2nd track. If that crazy jam was everyone blowing off steam immediately afterward, I wouldn’t be surprised!

    1. It's mostly just the Dead for sure - TC on organ, and Weir & Garcia on guitars, and I think Mickey & Bill are both present. I initially thought I heard a third guitar in there at points...but listening again, I think I was mistaken. (Garcia isn't very recognizable til halfway through the first track.) Easy to hear an extra phantom guitarist in a mono tape if you're expecting to hear one! So now I think you're right that Phil's just going over the song with the band.

      Then why are they having such trouble? It was hardly a new song. The problem seems to be that Phil has rearranged it, sticking in his new pet riff at every possible point in the song and making it much more awkward. You'll notice in the later live performances, other than a couple new sections the song was simplified again...

  15. heh, why are they having such trouble? I think Phil (~2 min) sums it up well: “There’s 3 beats to the Dm6, 4 beats to the Cm6, 3 beats to the B6b9, 7 beats to the Em9, and then suspend it over to the 3+2, then stop. So the total on the Em9 is 12 beats in all. It’s divided… it’s only the last 2 divisions… so after ‘Clementine’ on D, hold that D for 4 more beats.” Then they play it for a while, then Phil and Jerry have a little disagreement about whether the last bar was in 6 or 7, to which Phil replies, “actually, it doesn’t really matter, it should just be long. Whatever we can learn to do there.” Gah!! For whatever it's worth, I personally think Phil's arrangement sounds cool with the repeated "Greensleeves" figure, but the rest of the band just don't seem like they're getting it.

    You're right, the other 8/13 and 9/21 jams are (more or less) just grooving on that Cm6-Dm6 vamp with a straight 6/8 swing. The Dead could do that in their sleep by this point, but they already had plenty of songs that let them "stretch out on 2 chords Coltrane-style" as Phil put it somewhere. It seems like in the 1/26/69 performance they found some kind of middle-ground which may not have been satisfying for anyone.

    1. It's a good illustration of Phil as composer vs. the rest of the Dead. He could get pretty upset with them for not being able to play his arrangements... He gives up at the end, "I don't want to do it any more today," but they must have returned to it another day.

      After the jam on 9/12/68 someone asks, "Is it recording?" No telling why the Dead wanted to record rehearsals and jams in the studio during the Aoxomoxoa sessions, but it's a tantalizing thought that there could be more Clementine tryouts yet to be heard...

  16. Hi LIA,
    I'm looking for Clementine online on 09/12/68 but I find nothing but quotation on this blog ... can you help me?
    I'm really in love with this song in all its changing versions.

    I never forget to read this wonderful blog, it really is an important source for me even though I have difficulty with the English language (I'm Italian).
    Take care

  17. Wow, finally I found it!!!
    It will be a good GRATEFUL GODDAMNED DEAD sunday morning!!! :)

  18. Heard 1/26/69 today. My first reaction was that i liked the early '68 versions better, but then the jam got going, and WOW! Yeah, too bad they didn't stay with it.

  19. A listener reports a Clementine jam in the 5/7/69 Dark Star. It starts 11 minutes in, initiated by Garcia; it's rather loose and continues for about a minute before dissolving. More a brief flashback than an organized jam.

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