December 28, 2010

Jerry Garcia & Surrealistic Pillow

I was spurred to write this by a fellow Dead researcher:
It seemed like it would be useful to have a thorough review of Garcia’s involvement in Surrealistic Pillow.

Garcia was listed as the “Musical and Spiritual Adviser” on the back cover when it was released in February ’67. Though perhaps meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it’s actually quite a serious indication of Garcia’s high standing (at least among the Jefferson Airplane). Hidden behind that vague credit, Garcia did quite a bit of work on the Airplane’s album, a couple months before the Dead even entered the studio – in fact, he spent more time on Surrealistic Pillow than he did recording the Dead’s first album!
This is even more surprising since the Airplane were comparative veterans of the studio, compared to Garcia. They had almost as much playing experience as the Dead – they’d formed just a few months later than the Warlocks, gotten a record contract with RCA much earlier, and were already the most successful band in San Francisco, thanks in part to a first album (Takes Off) which had captured lots of attention.
The Dead, meanwhile, had only just signed up with Warner Brothers in September ’66 and wouldn’t record for a few more months. Garcia’s only known studio experience was a few sessions & demos with Autumn Records back in ’65, and a disappointing attempt at recording a single in June ‘66. (His early studio work is actually mostly unknown, really. When asked later on about his pre-Dead recordings, Garcia vaguely replied, “I did some various sessions around San Francisco. Demos and stuff like that.” I haven’t seen any more definite information!)
On the other hand, the Airplane looked up to Garcia as a guitar player and musician. They had not been too happy with their first album (just as the Dead would later feel!), and felt they needed extra help making things run smoothly in the studio. They had also been going through changes – new drummer Spencer Dryden had joined in July ’66, and singer Grace Slick had just joined them in mid-October, only a couple weeks before they started the album sessions. So it’s likely they were still pulling new material together when it came time to record.

Garcia was asked about Surrealistic Pillow in a mid-’67 interview – the interviewer enthused about How Do You Feel: “Yeah, I played flattop on that. I didn’t play flattop in My Best Friend. Skip Spence did – he wrote the song. Let’s see, on Today I played the high guitar line, and I played on Plastic Fantastic, and I played on Comin’ Back To Me… I’m fond of the songs that Grace is in: I like Rabbit a lot, I like Someone to Love – the original on the album is more or less my arrangement, I kind of rewrote it. I’ve always liked the song she used to do with the Great Society, but it didn’t have - the chord changes weren’t very interesting.”
This is the Great Society’s version of Somebody to Love, pre-Garcia:
Studio -
Live -

(In the same interview, he was asked about the ‘San Francisco Sound’: “I’m not sure what they mean by that. There’s a similarity in the sound…but there’s not really that much similarity in the music… Each of the bands sounds as different from each other as they do from everybody else. The San Francisco music scene is healthier and there’s more stuff going on than there is anyplace else… We all steal freely from each other, we all play together, we’re all friends, we spend a lot of time with each other, we all listen to each other, we’ve all gotten good together, we’ve all improved over the past year or so...playing gigs, getting together and jamming.”)

Garcia later said, “The Airplane thought it would be helpful to have somebody there who could communicate to their producer… And since they all knew me and I understood their music and understood pretty much what they were doing at the time, it would be far-out. I went down there and hung out and was a sort of go-between between them and their producer. I helped out with some arrangements and stuff – I just hung out.”

The Airplane felt Garcia did more than just hang out!
Paul Kantner said, “We had an RCA producer, but Garcia did the art side of it.”
And Jorma Kaukonen said, “Jerry could be credited with really being the producer…in that he was one of us and he knew what to do with the band… He really was the producer who arranged those songs.”
The RCA producer was Rick Jarrard - the Airplane hadn’t liked the producer on their first album, but again they used engineer Dave Hassinger (whom the Dead would work with later).

As Kantner told the story: “Our first album had been made rather restrictive by RCA and we were sort of unhappy with the results, and we needed to get more communication between us and the studio, and in some idiotic fancy of mine, we figured Jerry Garcia would be the person to communicate some of the things we were trying to accomplish in the studio. So [the engineer] would know that Jack's bass should make the board smoke. Smoke comes out of the board, put another fuse in; don't try to damp it down…
"We would be rehearsing something out in the studio, [Garcia] would say, 'I have a nice little part that would work in there; maybe you should play this.' And he would pick up his guitar and go boom, 'Why don't you play that?' and he would play it so good that we said, 'Why don't you play it? It sounds really good and we can't play it better than that. Come on, help us out here.'
"But mostly he was there to serve as sort of a buffer zone between us and the other side of the window. A lot of what we were trying to do, both sound-wise and lyric-wise was eased quite a bit by his very gentlemanly manner. He was not harsh, not abrasive…”

Ironically, the actual producer denied that Garcia was there at all!
Rick Jarrard said, “Jerry Garcia was never present on any of those sessions. Jerry Garcia played no guitar on that album. I never met Jerry Garcia. I produced that album from start to finish, never heard from Jerry Garcia, never talked to Jerry Garcia. He was not involved creatively on that album at all.”

Nonetheless, Garcia is listed as playing guitar on RCA’s session paperwork.
He played the high lead part on Today - he also played guitar on Plastic Fantastic Lover, How Do You Feel, and Comin’ Back To Me - he also played on JPP McStep B Blues and In the Morning, which weren’t included on the album – and he also rearranged Somebody to Love. (All this aside from musical suggestions which went undocumented.) By the band’s admission, this was clearly more than casual session work – Garcia was virtually a band-member! It’s likely that he wasn’t given any music credit on the album since he was now a Warner Brothers artist, while the Airplane were on RCA; so the band may have preferred him to work officially ‘undercover’.
(As an aside, though it’s been thought that Garcia played guitar on My Best Friend, we have his word it was Skip Spence – which is curious, because Skip by then was long out of the band, and already playing in Moby Grape.)

The recording sessions went through November 1966 – though the Dead had shows on the weekends, apparently Garcia would fly down to Los Angeles for the Airplane’s weekday recording sessions. It’s clear he attended every session he could, from start to finish, and he must have stayed with the Airplane extensively between sessions while they were in L.A.

Here’s the rundown:
Oct 31 (Mon) – they started with She Has Funny Cars and My Best Friend, without Garcia. (The Dead were playing the “Dance of Death Costume Ball” in San Francisco that day.)
Nov 1 (Tues) – Garcia joined them, and played on Plastic Fantastic Lover.
Nov 2 (Wed) - he played on Today.
Nov 3 (Thu) - White Rabbit, redone from the Great Society’s version.
Nov 4 (Fri) - 3/5 of a Mile, without Garcia – the Dead were playing at the Avalon that night.
(Then there was a break in the sessions for shows in San Francisco & Vancouver.)
Nov 14 (Mon) – recording continued with JPP McStep B Blues, with Garcia playing, and How Do You Feel. (Garcia’s memory might be off when he recalled playing on this song too, but he was definitely at the session that day.)
Nov 15 (Tues) – DCBA-25, and the newly rearranged Somebody to Love.
Nov 16 (Wed) – Comin’ Back To Me, with Garcia playing. (Marty Balin wrote this song during the sessions, and recorded it right away with just Garcia, Slick, and Casady.)
Nov 17 (Thu) – Go To Her (remake of old song, no Garcia involvement, not included on album).
Nov 21 (Mon) – In the Morning, with Garcia playing.
Nov 22 (Tues) – Embryonic Journey.
At some point, Garcia apparently called the music “as surrealistic as a pillow,” thus inspiring the album title.
The sessions wrapped there, and the Airplane returned to San Francisco to play a run of shows at the Fillmore from Nov 25-27 (some of which has just been released, with the Surrealistic Pillow songs still fresh in the sets).

Jorma Kaukonen had many admiring words for Garcia’s role in this album. “He’s definitely in the mix and an important part of the band on those tracks. When I got into the Airplane, I didn’t have a clue about what an electric guitar was except that you plugged it in and it was louder. Jerry was way ahead of all of us in that. Jerry was his own electric guitar player from the jump.”
“When he worked with us on Surrealistic Pillow, he really helped discipline us. Because he had come from a band, and as a band leader and as an arranger, he just really knew what was important. He was really important in the formation of that record, and I know that personally he taught me a lot about playing in a band. I remember one evening he said to us, ‘It’s not what you play. It’s what you don’t play that’s important.’ In terms of dynamics and just plain letting the music speak for itself. As a band leader, he was really ahead of the rest of us.”

(Though Kaukonen may be exaggerating a bit in hindsight, it’s interesting how close this is to David Crosby’s statements about recording If I Could Only Remember My Name, when Garcia played a very similar role as a kind of co-producer – “Jerry Garcia is responsible for that record a very great deal. He was there night after night after night…thinking, listening, talking - you know, acting as a friend, saying ‘Hmmm, man, what if you, how did you, why don't you try a little more, and....’ And he would play. He played on a lot of stuff.”)

David Freiberg said, “He sure did help the Airplane with Surrealistic Pillow. I don’t know what that would have been without him. He was on every track, pretty near. I can hear him playing on Today. I always thought the sweetness that got put on that whole album never would have been there if it wasn’t for him. Because it wasn’t on any other album they ever did.”

December 3, 2010

Jerry Garcia Interview Links

For some time I’ve lamented that there isn’t a complete archive of Jerry Garcia interviews online. Many interviews in old publications are now more or less inaccessible – a few have been reprinted; a few others have been transcribed online; a few circulate in audio.
So I’ve decided to at least take a small step and try compiling links to the various interviews available to read or hear online. This list is just a start, and is meant to be a work in progress – I hope readers can suggest other interviews I’ve missed, so I can make additions.

This list is not meant to cover what’s available in books or DVDs – it’s a list of weblinks, not a bibliography. I was hesitant to include youtube videos; but there’s a lot of good material there. I drew the line, though, at listing every ten-second snippet!
I also (somewhat arbitrarily) decided not to include torrent downloads, only things that can be streamed, but many audio interviews can also be found on Lossless Legs.
An ever-growing text collection of Garcia interviews up to 1975 is also included on this site: 
This list is arranged by date – I tried to list the actual interview dates, but sometimes had to settle for publication date.

UPDATED March 2018 with some youtube interviews added (and others deleted). I'm sure I've missed or forgotten other items online, so it would be appreciated if people could point out some of those!

July '64 - (Mother McCree's interview)

Spring ’67 - (Audio)
(Several copies are also up on youtube, for instance:

May '70 - (brief video interview in England - excerpt also available at

'70 - (Audio - Grateful Dead radio interview) - link dead

9/70 - (Audio - Grateful Dead interview with Alex Bennett on WMCA-AM, New York) - link dead
Also at:

10/11/70 - (by Jay Itkowitz, for Action World) - link dead

Feb ‘71 - (by David Bromberg)

6/21/71 (has French voiceover) - taken off youtube; may be available elsewhere?

Summer/Fall ’71 - (by Charles Reich & Jann Wenner; published in Signpost to New Space)
Also part here: 

4/11/72 -

April ‘72 - (very short, only a minute) (brief Danish TV bit, from same interview)
5/7/72 - (brief preshow interview)

'73 - (brief Hell's Angels documentary clip)

6/7/73 -  (Audio - by Dennis McNally; mostly about early scene, Neal Cassady) - link dead, but probably available in the "Jerry on Jerry" audiobook.

Oct ’73 -
Jan ’74 - (by Cameron Crowe - not straight interviews, but use lots of Garcia quotes)

6/8/74 - (Audio - by Ken Wardell for BAM, backstage at Oakland Stadium)

9/74 - (Audio - WPLJ interview, New York)

October '74 - (unreleased interview done for the Grateful Dead Movie) [ also had an unedited clip of this interview on a "Celebrating Jerry" page a couple years ago] 

3/23/75 - (Audio - preshow interview by James Cameron included)

Spring '75 - (Audio - by Peter Simon, for WVOI radio) (shorter edit, excerpts with songs added) 

8/6/75 -  (Audio - by Mary Travers)

9/22/75 - (audio)

1/23/76 - (Audio - by Bonnie Simmons, on KSAN) 

1/31/76 - (Audio - by Miles Riley, on KPIX) 

4/1/76 - (by Steve Weitzman, for Relix - also published in Rolling Stone's Garcia tribute book)

1976 - (Audio - by Ben Fong-Torres for Rolling Stone; in 5 parts, follow links - from the "Got Some Things To Talk About" CD) (Audio - Ben Fong-Torres interview, dated c.1975, part 1) (part 2)

1976 - (Audio - "What Was That" interview for KSAN)

10/2/77 - (audio)
also here: 

3/10/78 - (Audio - radio interview w/ Garcia & Kahn about punk & new-wave bands – great music excerpts) (longer, unedited)

3/11/78 - (Audio - radio interview by Andy Gefen, w/ the JGB)

Oct ‘78 - (by Jon Sievert; excerpts from Guitar Player interview) - link dead
( had a few short excerpts from later Guitar Player interviews, but the page is now gone)

1/11/79 - (Audio - WLIR interview with Ray White) 

5/10/79 - (Audio - with Mickey Hart; for Direct News radio broadcast)

6/10/79 - (Audio - Robert Klein radio show)
Also at:
Also at:

11/7/79 - (Audio - WMMR radio show, Philadelphia) 

12/6/79 - 
Audio - (Studs Terkel/Abe Peck interview, Chicago)
Also at: 

Oct ‘80 Radio City press conference w/ Weir - (pt 1)  

3/28/81 - (Audio - hotel room, Essen, Germany) 

5/7/81 - (Tomorrow Show w/ Tom Snyder - with Ken Kesey & Bob Weir) (with the band)
band clip also here:  (dead links)
& here: 
Full interview also at:  and

7/10/81 - (audio, St. Paul hotel interview)
also at:

9/7/81 - (video)

Oct ’81 - (“In Search of the X Factor” – also includes other Dead interviews from Musician issue)

1982 - (Audio - "A Talk with Jerry Garcia" - by Joe Territo) - link dead
also at: (Audio - "a Talk with Jerry," part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)

4/9/82 -  (Audio - by Lisa Robinson)

5/82 - (Audio - WRNW interview with Bill Cooper, Westchester NY)

11/8/82 - (Audio - by Bob Coburn, on Rockline radio show) - link dead (audio)

1/21/83 - (Audio - Santa Rosa 101.7 KVRE FM radio interview)
and here:
and here:

6/2/83 - (MTV interview, part 1) (part 2) (part 3)
Complete 30-minute clip also here:
and here:  

May '84 - (Audio - Paul Krassner radio interview in Eugene, partly printed in '85) 

Fall ’84 - (Video - “PM Magazine” TV spot by Dennis Elsas - brief Garcia comments used)

Fall '84 - (Audio - by Alice Kahn, for San Jose Mercury News "West" magazine) 

12/31/84 - (Audio - by Guido Sarducci)
also here:

1/12/85 - (complete Jas Obrecht interview for Frets; excerpt was used on - dead link 

6/14/85 - (Audio - 20th-anniversary Grateful Dead press conference in Berkeley)

Sep ’85 - (by Paul Krassner, for Realist; different edit than '84 radio excerpt above)

10/14/86 - (by Steven Marcus)
also here:

’87 (video) - NBC News On Stage, Jerry Garcia Speaks, vol. 1 - used to be on as well as video, Amazon instant video, etc., but no longer available for streaming

'87 - (video for Rolling Stone 20th-anniversary TV special) - dead link

’87 - (by Justin Kreutzmann, about the Touch of Grey video) - dead link

'87 - (Audio - Grateful Dead "In the Dark" promo interview)

April ’87 - (audio - brief)

10/31/87 - (audio)

11/12/87 - (by Mary Eisenhart, for BAM – full transcript)

12/87 - (for Guitar World) 

12/31/87 - ("Garcia's backstage kitchen" comedy bit w/ Tom Davis)
also here:

'88 - (by Kate Kelly, for KPIX TV)
full interview at: 
see also: (only brief excerpts)

5/23/88 - (Audio excerpt on the acid tests - by Joe Smith -  partial interview was printed in Off The Record)

9/13/88 - (by Legs McNeil for High Times, on rainforests) - dead link

7/3/89 - (by Jeremy Alderson, for Relix)

Oct ‘89 - (by Steve Peters, for Relix)

10/13/89 - (video)

10/16/89 - (radio call-in questions)

11/20/89 - (Audio - "Timothy White's Rock Stars" radio interview with Garcia & Bob Weir) (part 2)

11/30/89 - (by Fred Goodman, for Rolling Stone)
Also at:

May '90 - (in Hawaii, on a boat) - dead link
Part of this video is a different Hawaii boat interview:

5/10/90 - (audio - Honolulu hotel interview by Ben DiPietro)

5/19/90 - (audio - Hawaii hotel interview)

6/27/90 - (by Howard Rheingold - with Bear) 

Oct '90? - (GD press conference)

2/27/91 - (Headliners TV) - This has been taken down.

3/1/91 - (w/ Elvis Costello, for Musician)

4/16/91 - (with Bob Weir, by Howard Rheingold, for Interview magazine)

6/27/91 - (by Brigid Meier - excerpt later printed in spring 1992 Tricycle magazine) - the site is now gone!

9/9/91 - (by Peter Watrous, for the NY Times)

9/13/91 - (by Scott Muni)
(Same as and )

10/31/91 - (by James Henke, for Rolling Stone) 

spring ’92 - (by Barbara Meier, for Tricycle)

May '93 -  (backstage in Las Vegas) (part 2)
also here: 

May '93 - (by Greg Kot, for the Chicago Tribune) 

5/20/93 - (w/ Bob Weir - by Jon Sievert, for Guitar Player)

9/2/93 - (by Anthony Decurtis, for Rolling Stone)

’93 - (10/11/93 New Yorker retrospective, by Bill Barich)

Jan ’94 – (for Magical Blend)
(Different edits of this interview also available at and and )

3/31/94 - (short interview on art)

5/2/94 - (History of Rock & Roll unedited interview) 

There used to be a shorter two-part copy on youtube, but it's gone now - - this is part 2.

'94 - (phone interview about comic-book artist Will Elder)

'95 - (Jerry talks about Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein)
also here: 

4/28/95 - (Garcia's last interview) (excerpt from above - a brief reminiscence about the old Palo Alto days) - Now gone! (a brief clip of Jerry talking about playing on Merl Saunders' Blues From the Rain Forest) - This has been taken down.
I think this is the same one: (don't know what interview it's from) (brief audio on 1970 drug bust; don't know what interview it's from) (on the trip to Egypt; haven't placed interview) 

Various - (Audio - "Got Some Things To Talk About" compilation) - dead link, but see 1976 link above.

compilation of excerpts - 

'80s - (Don Fass "Reaching Up Radio" show, part 1) (part 2)

Nov ’91 - (some interesting Garcia comments used in this CNN news report from Aug '95) (Audio - 1999 "American Routes" radio program, has excerpts from a July '89 Smithsonian interview by Nick Spitzer) (part 2) 
Also at:

Some other short TV bits: 
11/6/79 Philadelphia TV show (with Weir) - 
c.1980 Good Morning America -
10/29/80 Good Morning America (with Weir) -
1982 Don Bleu's Weekend (talking about Run for the Roses) - 
4/13/82 Letterman TV show w/ Weir -
also at:  

9/5/82 ABC Nightline w/ Sting - 

9/17/87 Letterman TV show w/ Weir -
9/15/88 Good Morning America (talking about rain forests) -
10/10/89 ABC Studios, interviewer Kurt Loder (with Weir, on the growing audience at recent tours) -
October '89 Today Show (with Weir, a similar interview) -
And Garcia with Grace Slick & Bill Graham on a San Francisco TV show in 1984, interviewer Bill Kurtis (talking about changes in the music scene since the '60s) -

November 25, 2010

The Very Short Tale of Golden Road

When the Grateful Dead went home from the LA studios in February ’67, they probably thought they were finished recording – after all, they’d recorded more than enough songs for an album. But Warner Bros wanted a single, and asked for another song: as Garcia reported, “After we recorded the album they said, ‘We still haven’t got anything here that’d be a strong single,’ so we said, ‘Ah, a strong single, sure!’ So we went home and wrote a song.”
They decided to write a song about the Haight hippie scene. The title came to them from Sue Swanson – she was their first fan, having watched over them ever since the first Warlocks rehearsals at Dana Morgan’s store in ’65. (She’d been Weir’s friend, and immediately became so enthusiastic about them, she insisted on going to every Warlocks rehearsal and even playing the 45s they learned songs from. “My job was to change the 45s. ‘Play that part again!’ It was a crummy little phonograph that would sit on the counter. I’ll never forget the sound of them practicing in there, and all the cymbals and everything in the whole room would be…making all this noise.”)
She’d been their constant companion since then. With the Dead’s first album now finally being released, Sue decided it was time to organize a fan club, and called it The Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion. She, Connie Bonner, and Bob Matthews put out the Dead’s first fan newsletter that April, the Olompali Sunday Times. (The first two issues can be seen here: - they’re short, and well worth the read.)

The Dead recorded the song at Coast Recorders in San Francisco later in February, rather than going back to LA. They were able to take more time with this song, recording lots of takes, so it’s more layered with overdubs than the other songs on the album. - the alternate single mix, with more studio effects than the cleaner album mix.

Lyrically, it’s something of an attempt to capture the Haight scene in a bottle, inviting everyone to “come and join the party every day.” (Ironically, the second fan-club newsletter from May describes the Haight being swamped with tourists, staring at the hippies!)
Garcia said, “The Golden Road was our effort at nailing down some of that feeling, I guess. That was sort of our group writing experience before Hunter was with us. We kept it simple. But what can you say? ‘We took a bunch of acid and had a lot of fun?’”

The band credited Golden Road on the album to McGannahan Skjellyfetti – a mythical character, based on a name in Kenneth Patchen’s book Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer. (My guess is Pigpen was the Patchen fan, since he was into beat poetry.)
As it turned out, Skjellyfetti would have a brief writing career, getting credits for Golden Road, Cold Rain & Snow, New Minglewood Blues, and “Feedback” on Live/Dead, before fading away. (On more recent CD issues, he’s disappeared altogether under the stern frowns of music publishers.)

We only have two live Golden Roads.
3/18/67 - (the other, better Archive file is currently not streaming)
‘5/5/67’ - (segues into New Potato Caboose)
It’s unusual among the Dead’s live songs – they do it exactly like the studio version (even the guitar solo’s unchanged) - and clocking in at two minutes, it must be the shortest live song they ever did. (Which may be one reason they moved on and left it behind – in ’67, the Dead didn’t stand still for long. Ironically, this summer-of-love song was already history by the summer of love.)
Those who wonder why the Dead dropped it so quickly should also remember that all the Dead’s early pre-Hunter songs followed that pattern. Garcia was never too happy with his lyrics (“I felt my lyric writing was woefully inadequate”), and the band was eager to abandon their early compositions. (They were primarily a covers band at the time, and wrote very few of their own songs in any case.) Almost none of their 1966 songs made it into ’67 except for Cream Puff War (that we know of…for all we know, they may well have played Alice D Millionaire or Tastebud live in ’67). And by the time Hunter started writing lyrics for them, pretty much all their older original songs were dropped.

Though they likely played Golden Road quite often in early ’67, it probably didn't last in their sets past the summer/fall.
Some inaccurate setlist sites report more specific performances of Golden Road., for instance, shows the mysterious 6/15/67 Straight Theater show with the setlist borrowed from ‘5/5/67’. has at least finally omitted their hoax listing of 12/18/65 Big Beat Club (which also used the same setlist).
For the 4/12/67 Mime Troupe benefit at the Fillmore, Golden Road is the only song listed, and is said to have opened the set. The Dead may well have played it.
6/8/67 Cafe au Go Go has a very nice-looking setlist which includes Cream Puff, Cryptical, New Potato, Born Cross-Eyed, and Alligator>Caution. Clearly a fake! (The available setlist for 6/6/67, though probably also fake and suspiciously Pigpen-heavy, does at least show what a full mid-’67 set would have looked like, and is also partly confirmed by Phil Lesh’s description of a Café au Go Go set in his book: “Pig’s blues and R&B, arrangements of traditional songs, a Dylan song,” and Alligator…though ironically, he may have just looked up this setlist!)

Back in the real world, there is also a video of Golden Road from a '60s British TV show called Whicker's World. This was “a weekly UK news journal show that ventured to San Francisco to report on the hippie generation. The Grateful Dead were featured getting stoned in their Haight Ashbury pad, as well as performing The Golden Road.” (The filming took place in March ’67, and is actually mentioned with some excitement in the first fan-club newsletter.)
I can’t find a good link to this clip, so I’ll offer this description from deadlists: “The video portion is intense to watch. Strobe lights are flashing and the camera zooms in and out very fast on the band members… There is a lot of footage of people dancing (and the guy doing the oil-based light show).”
The British narrator announces the clip: “An assault on the senses, an LSD trip without drugs. Flashing strobe lights, spermatazoic color.”
Sad to say, the Golden Road is not live, but dubbed from the album.

The band did at least mention Golden Road onstage again, a few years later. On 6/7/70, the fourth night of a Fillmore West run, the Dead were taking a little break onstage after Sitting on Top of the World.
Garcia explained, “We’re waiting around until a good idea comes up.” Of course, the audience offered a few ideas of their own. (Earlier in the show, the band had jokingly aborted Louie Louie as Weir exclaimed, “Hey man, none of us knows that song!”)
Now Weir spoke up again: “Hey, there’s a guy over there, and he’s always over there, and he always yells out ‘Golden Road.’ And I want to know who he is, man, because you take the cake. I mean, actually, quite truthfully, we’ve forgotten that song, we’ve forgotten how to play it.”

November 24, 2010

The Zodiacs

Sometime in early 1965, the Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Band, with gigs drying up and rock bands sprouting all around them, decided to take the plunge and go electric. For years, Garcia had floated around in various bluegrass bands, playing at folk clubs like the Tangent in Palo Alto, where electric guitars were a forbidden, despised instrument.
But the Warlocks were not taking a total step into the dark – for Garcia, Pigpen, and Kreutzmann had played in a blues-rock band back in 1963.

Bob Weir: "Garcia had done a few electric gigs with Pig in a band called the Zodiacs before I'd ever known them, and so they had a little experience with R&B."
Sara Garcia: “For money, Jerry had played in a rock & roll band with Troy Weidenheimer. They played fraternity parties. What they had to put up with was awful.”

In fact, Garcia’s rock & roll connection went back even farther than that. Several of Garcia’s friends said that he’d played the brief solo in Bobby Freeman’s Do You Wanna Dance back in 1958, when he was 15:
Sara Garcia, David Nelson, Rock Scully, and Phil Lesh all independently claim that Garcia played guitar on this single - presumably he told them so. It’s rather mysterious how it could have happened; there’s some more discussion here:
(Other Dead researchers have firmly refuted this story in the comments. But it appears Garcia did do some session work for Bobby Freeman when he was on Autumn Records, around '65 or so. Garcia later said, "I did some various sessions around San Francisco; demos and stuff like that.")

In 1959, Garcia was briefly in a band called the Chords, ‘featuring the Golden Saxes,’ a group mainly featuring ‘40s big-band tunes like Misty. As Garcia said, “kind of easy-listening stuff. Businessman’s bounce, high school version.” They mostly played for fellow high-school audiences – sometimes they’d play a rock song such as Raunchy, one of the first big instrumental rock hits:
Garcia remembered, "We had a five-piece combo - a piano, two saxes, a bass, and my guitar. We won a contest and got to record a song. We did Raunchy, but it didn't turn out very well."
But it wasn’t long before Garcia discovered folk music and left rock & roll behind.

By 1963, Garcia was playing in as many bluegrass bands as he could put together. As one friend noted, “He loved to play, and it didn’t take much encouragement or much of an occasion to get him to throw a ‘band’ together. For sidemen he would use whoever was handy to fill out his band, oftentimes naming the band on the way to the gig.”
Trouble was, there wasn’t much money in it, and there weren’t that many bluegrass players around. As Garcia said, “Bluegrass bands are hard to put together because you have to have good bluegrass musicians to play, and in Palo Alto there wasn’t really very many of them – not enough to keep a band going all the time.” So on the side, Garcia also played in a rock band with his friend Pigpen (who was not such a folkie purist, and was happy to accompany anyone who’d play the blues). quotes this article:
“Towards the end of 1962 [Pigpen] got a part-time job at Swain's Music Store in Palo Alto, and it was there more than anywhere else that the Grateful Dead seed began to grow.... Swain's Music Store, where Pigpen was working, was run by a guy named Troy Weidenheimer who had ideas about forming his own rock'n'roll band. He of course knew Pigpen, Pigpen knew Garcia, Garcia knew Kreutzmann, and so…a short-lived band called the Zodiacs was formed. Troy played lead guitar, Pigpen was on harp. They used a wide selection of drummers but most of the time it was Bill Kreutzmann, and Garcia would sometimes join in on bass guitar when he wasn't involved with his own bluegrass groups.”

Blair Jackson:
“Occasionally, Jerry picked up a bass and Pigpen sang with a local group called the Zodiacs, which played frat parties and other dances on the Peninsula, churning out the radio hits of the day, along with hipper R&B selections. The group was fronted by a guitarist named Troy Weidenheimer, who could play Freddie King lyrics like the master himself….”

According to Dennis McNally, Troy was the manager at Dana Morgan’s Music Store, where Garcia was giving guitar & banjo lessons. Regardless of which music store Troy was at, he was also a music teacher, and he and Garcia were already acquaintances.
They had met back in ’61 at the Boar’s Head folk club in San Carlos - Garcia would play folk songs there; Troy would play Ventures or Jimmy Reed songs on electric guitar; and Pigpen would play solo blues on guitar & harmonica. (David Nelson and Robert Hunter would also play there.) So when Troy wanted to form a band, he didn’t have to cast far for fellow members. is an interesting essay by Norm van Maastricht, a friend of Garcia’s in the early Tangent bluegrass days, which talks a lot about Garcia at that time, and his love of practicing banjo and playing loud instruments. “Hunter, Nelson, Garcia and I hung out together a lot. We would pool our money and [rotate coffeeshops] and nurse cups of coffee for hours… We talked about getting gigs and maybe getting famous one day. ‘Fame! Cookies! Comic books!’ as Garcia would say…”
“Jerry would let me know when a Playing Opportunity was coming up [and] we four would load us and our instruments into that old car and go anywhere we could play… We played a lot of little gigs, usually at no pay. Sometimes it would just be a house party. Sometimes a coffeehouse in San Francisco… We’d just pile in the car, get there, set up and play, get in the car and go home… You just played as much as you could. Sometimes they even fed you. They seldom paid you.”
“Troy Weidenheimer taught guitar over at Swain’s House of Music in Palo Alto. He would get together with us from time to time… Troy was an excellent guitarist. He played and taught electric jazz and rock. He would laughingly refer to our [folk] music as ‘hamburger music’, but he would come by and jam all the same.”
Dark rumours circulated that Garcia was “secretly fooling around with an electric group,” playing blues and rock, definitely a no-no among the Tangent crowd…

McNally: “Troy had a band called the Zodiacs, and that summer [‘63] he invited Garcia to join it – as the bass player. It was great fun, Jerry would say, despite the fact that it was ‘out of my idiom’…. The band also included a young local drummer named Bill Kreutzmann, and Jerry’s old friend Ron McKernan on harmonica.”

McNally also reports that Troy attemped to teach Bob Weir guitar circa ‘63/64, “but Troy taught a straight-ahead big-band style, and it did not appeal to Weir.” (So Weir gravitated to Jorma Kaukonen for guidance instead.)

Eric Thompson (one of Garcia’s bluegrass bandmates):
“While Jerry was teaching folk guitar, Troy was teaching electric guitar; he was known around town. Troy had an R&B band that played Stanford frat parties, and Jerry sometimes played bass in it, and Pigpen was the singer. Troy could not only play exactly like Freddy King, he could move like Freddy King, too. During that period, Freddy had his blues song hits in the chitlin’ circuit and his instrumental hits in the frat circuit, and he was playing both kinds of gigs. So that was part of the Troy niche, those instrumental hits Freddy King had – Hideaway, San Hozay, The Stumble…it was like surf guitar in a way, instrumental music that you could dance to. When Jerry got interested in the electric guitar again, he devoured the Freddy King stuff, but he’d already been watching Troy do it, so he already knew a lot about it.”

(I don’t know much about what the Zodiacs played other than Freddy King covers, but the music clearly had a big impact on Garcia. This article talks about Hideaway’s later appearances in Grateful Dead shows:
Probably the closest we get in early Dead shows to the atmosphere of a Zodiacs set are things like Heads Up & the blues instrumental from 3/19/66, or the instrumental on 3/25/66.)

Pigpen remembered in 1970:
"I was in a band with Troy Weidenheimer called the Zodiacs. The Zodiacs were playing beer-drinkin' fraternity parties at Stanford, and Troy played lead, his old lady Sherry played rhythm, Garcia would occasionally sit in on Fender bass, Roy Ogburn would play bass and drum, and I'd sing and play harmonica. The Zodiacs played really wet gigs, man...they'd rent the men's dressing room and we'd play in there with the showers and benches...weird frat-house parties and stuff... Troy got the gigs; he was the leader. Each of us would make 20 bucks per gig. But it ain't worth having to contend with 200 football players...they thought we were strange, long-haired freaks. [We'd play] Searchin', Walkin' the Dog, Sensation, San-Ho-Zay, some Jimmy Reed tunes. We played Gert Chiarito's Midnight Special show on KPFA. Me and Jerry did one, too. I played harmonica and Jerry played guitar."

Garcia was already familiar with Pigpen from the folk clubs, but said: "As early as when we were playing in the Zodiacs together, I discovered that Pigpen was not a guy who wanted to be a performer. I had to practically force him to perform. He'd always be out in the parking lot or somewhere when we were supposed to go onstage."

Garcia later spoke at length about Troy Weidenheimer’s influence on him:
“Troy taught me the principle of ‘hey – stomp your foot and get on it.’ He was a great one for the instant arrangement…fearless for that thing of ‘get your friends and do it,’ and ‘fuck it if it ain’t slick, it’s supposed to be fun.’ He had a wide-open style of playing that was very, very loose; like when we went to play gigs at the Stanford parties, we didn’t have songs or anything, and he would just say ‘play B-flat,’ you know, and I’d play bass, and we’d just play along and he’d jam over the top of it; so a lot of my conceptions of the freedom available to your playing really came from him. He would take chorus after chorus, but he directed the band right in the now… We never rehearsed or anything ever, we would just go to the shows and play – and he was so loose about it, he didn’t care, he just wanted it cookin’ so he could play his solos; and he was just a wonderful, inventive, and fun, good-humored guitar player. One of the first guys I ever heard who exhibited a real sense of humor on the guitar. He was quite accomplished. I mean, in those days he was certainly the hot-rod guitar player of Palo Alto, as far as electric guitar was concerned. While I was a folkie and all that…”

Troy Weidenheimer says,
"My band the Zodiacs was active for about 4 years and began with 4 friends at Menlo College in Menlo Park, Ca. It was always a blues band. The Zodiacs is where Pigpen worked out his harp playing and blues singing.
My regular bassist was a jazz player on Fender bass and my preferred drummer was a very young jazz drummer. Kreutzmann was a stand in when the jazz drummer was unavailable. We often had a jazz sax player also. In the later years we usually played with an RnB quartet from East Palo Alto called the Outer Limits. So we billed the band "The Zodiacs and the Outer Limits".
There were opportunities for me to play in Jerry's bluegrass or electric groups but I was pretty put off by the drug and acid trips that were becoming part of that scene in San Francisco, and I was really only interested in a blues/jazz style of music, whereas Jerry's first bands tended to sound a lot like folk-rock groups.
By the way my wife Sharon Huddleston was key to that band. She was a great rhythm guitarist and good blues singer. I met her at the same time I met Jerry and a group of folkies who hung out together around Palo Alto. She was only about 16 but a very solid natural musican and singer. She had been mainly playing folk stuff and acoustic blues from the 30's before meeting me. We got married within a year or so and she bought a Gibson electric and started playing rhythm in my band. Whenever Jerry played with us it was always on bass, but at casual jams at parties we would both be on acoustic guitars or often Jerry on banjo. At most of the parties there would be an acoustic jam going in one room and a jazz/blues jam usually with a drummer in another room. In those days I was almost always in the jazz jam on electric, and Jerry would be in the acoustic folk/bluegrass jam."

I don’t know how long Garcia played with the Zodiacs – or if he was even in the band at the same time Kreutzmann was. Garcia later fuzzily remembered, “I may have played a gig with him once when I was playing electric bass in a rock & roll band on weekends.” (Garcia had, coincidentally, met Kreutzmann sometime earlier, when he bought a banjo Kreutzmann’s father was selling.)
But soon Garcia retreated back to the folkie world, making a bluegrass trip east in ‘64. By the end of ’64, though, he’d become dissatisfied with the opportunities in bluegrass, and the call of rock music started to sound more appealing. “In the area I was in, there were virtually no bluegrass musicians: very few, certainly nobody very good… I wanted to have a great bluegrass band, but I only got occasional chances to put a bluegrass band together that was (by my standards) even acceptable. Although I had fun, none of them was serious or a very good attempt.”
In the meantime, “I decided to put together a jug band, because you could have a jug band with guys that could hardly play at all.”

Blair Jackson says that the Zodiacs kept playing concurrently with Mother McCree’s jugband in ’64, but I'd guess Garcia was out of the band by then. Bill Kreutzmann, meanwhile, became the drummer in another popular R&B band called the Legends. Mike Shapiro (of the band William Penn & His Pals) claimed that Troy was also a guitarist in the Legends, but that wasn't so. (Shapiro also reports, "We were actually in a Battle of the Bands with the Grateful Dead. They won and I never really could figure that out because they were really bad back then." This was in '65 with the Warlocks, at the Cinnamon Tree in San Carlos.)

McNally describes the Legends: “Fronted by a black vocalist named Jay Price, the Legends…covered James Brown, Junior Parker, Freddie King, the Isley Brothers’ Shout, and Ray Charles’ What’d I Say. They wore red coats, black ties, and black pants, and played YMCA dances, fraternity parties, and shows at the local navy airstrip…” Kreutzmann later said, “It wasn’t too soulful,” but one Palo Alto high-schooler remembered, “They were the best band at the school…they were great…they made the kids dance like they weren’t supposed to…”

Meanwhile, Mother McCree’s was going through an identity crisis.
Garcia said, “We played any place that would hire a jug band, which was almost no place, and that’s the whole reason we finally got into electric stuff.” He also wanted to have “big fun… I was up for the idea of breaking out. You know: ‘give me that electric guitar – fuckin’ A!’ … For me, playing the electric guitar represented freedom from the tremendous control trip [of banjo playing.] What I wanted to do more than anything else was not be in control nearly so much. And playing the electric guitar freed me!… It was much easier putting together a rock & roll band than having a bluegrass band.”
Lesh: “Some say it was Garcia’s idea to turn Mother McCree’s into an electric blues band, but Garcia told me it was Pigpen’s idea. At first he wanted to electrify the jug band, but then changed his mind, saying, ‘No, let’s get a drummer and make it a blues band.’”
Garcia: “[The electric band] was Pigpen's idea. He'd been pestering me for a while, he wanted me to start up an electric blues band....because in the jug band we used to do blues numbers like Jimmy Reed tunes and even played a couple of rock & roll tunes, and it was just the next step.... Theoretically it's a blues band, but the minute we get electric instruments it's a rock & roll band....”
They didn’t have to look far for a drummer, or for instruments, as the entire band was working in Dana Morgan’s Music Store - Garcia and Weir both taught guitar there, Kreutzmann was a drum teacher there, the bass player was the owner’s son Dana Morgan Jr, and (according to McNally) Pigpen was the janitor. Three of them had already been Zodiacs, and one was even a Legend, so they had some rock experience. So becoming an electric band was as simple as borrowing some instruments from the store… (Garcia’s folkie banjo students who dropped by Morgan’s were shocked and saddened to see that he had succumbed to the electric demon!)
But as John Dawson said, “Dana had all the stuff to play on, so they let him be the bass player. But he couldn’t play bass for shit, man.” So Dana was fired – unfortunately, that meant the band was kicked out of Morgan’s music store, and had to return their instruments. (Dana Morgan Sr said, “I just hated the noise they were making… They kept sneaking back in. Finally I got so tired of them I sold the instruments.”) Undaunted, the band simply moved to other stores, borrowing instruments from Guitars Unlimited and Swain’s House of Music (and buying what they could, with the help of their parents). As for a bass player? Garcia had played bass in a rock band himself, despite never playing bass before, so he had no hesitation in asking another non-bass player to join…

And what of Troy Weidenheimer, guitarist for the first embryonic pre-Dead band? He later moved to Vancouver, Canada, where he opened his own music store, Troy Music. Though their doors closed long ago, he still teaches music:
He says, "I am still playing and teaching. Fortunately I've not had any physical problems so at age 69 am playing better guitar than ever, and in the last 7 years have learned mandolin, fiddle and keyboard which helps keep music fresh for me. We now live in the woods near Charlottesville, Virginia."
He was recently in an acoustic trio called the Elsah String Band, which you can see in a video here:

The Zodiacs were a brief musical episode that remains a mysterious little early side-trip in the Dead's story. But any additional information is welcome!

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!

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
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:
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.
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:
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: ]

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…

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 – )

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 naïve… 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.”
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: (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: (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 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, 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: - 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!). - 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:
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 – (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.”