February 8, 2010

February 1970

February 1970 is a month plagued with missing reels and incomplete shows. So here's a look at this month's tapes, focusing especially on the shows that are missing full SBDs. Admittedly this is a rather random bunch of shows to investigate - as one reviewer puts it, "for every scorcher, there's another that just sort of smolders." But Feb '70 was quite a busy month for the Dead. Between the drug bust, the loss of both Bear and Tom Constanten on tour, Lenny Hart fleeing to Mexico along with the Dead's bank accounts, recording a new album, the inclusion of acoustic sets in the shows, the first Stephen>NFAs, and the first 'secret' Fillmore East tapes, there's a lot going on in these few weeks.

Seemingly everybody who talks about early 1970 feels compelled to say that it was a transitional period.... I won't. Most of the 'transition' had already been done back in '69, with the last Workingman's Dead songs added to the set in December. The sets in winter '70 were pretty stable, finetuning the new material in a series of mostly consistent, if not repetitious, shows. (The one exception was New Speedway Boogie, which after its late-December debuts, wasn't played live again until May '70!)

January's shows are mostly complete (except for the usual tapecuts), so we'll be skipping over that month. I should mention the 1/24/70 Honolulu show though - at under an hour, there is clearly something missing, especially since the 1/23 show was two hours long! (Possibly there's another reel after Good Lovin' cuts that didn't make it into circulation.)
The part we have is not as exploratory as the night before, but tighter, with some enjoyable song versions. Garcia's solo in Dancing is quite nice. The Mason's Children was snappy enough to be included in the Workingman's Dead bonus tracks.

The Dead started what was supposed to be an uneventful couple of shows in New Orleans with Fleetwood Mac. It's a solid if unexceptional show, with Constanten barely audible most of the time. Most of the performances are standard for the month - High Time is cut in the middle; Good Lovin' is still in its short phase; there's a good Cumberland Blues and decent Hard to Handle; and the Easy Wind jam is the highlight of the show. The Other One is rather uninspired, though they do perform a full Cryptical reprise (which was rare by this time, often being truncated to a minute or two in their haste to get to Cosmic Charlie).
Deadlists notes: "The circulating tape breaks off during Cosmic Charlie. This is short for a complete show & Eaton lists another 35 minutes." Most likely a Lovelight at the end is missing. (As well as being incomplete, this is a rather poor tape copy as the sound is very hissy.)

After the show, of course, the Dead were busted by zealous police, but were bailed out for the next show. Though they took it in stride, the bust would prove disastrous for Bear as he was no longer allowed to travel outside California. (His eventual jailing, though, would result from a different offense.)
This was Tom Constanten's last show with the Dead. Since the Dead's music had become increasingly less weird and experimental over the past year, and they were about to record a simpler rootsy album, they agreed before the show this was a good time for him to go. He had also been invited to be composer & music director for a New York musical called Tarot - as he said, "I wanted to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, and Tarot was more edifying."
There were other reasons too - he'd become a Scientologist and non-drug-taker, which didn't exactly make him part of the family; and he was unhappy with being drowned-out by the guitars and felt there was little room for him in the music. "The Grateful Dead, as freaky and far-out as they got, were Jerry Garcia's backup band to a large extent...so there wasn't any room... On top of that, there was the amplification problem... My major frustration was not being able to find enough turf to even set up a tent in the sonic texture, and scarcely having time when there was a break to make something happen. I'd get to solo sometimes when Jerry would break a string - but even then he'd go back and string his guitar as fast as he could!" And as the others became more of a regular rock & roll band, they were also unhappy with TC's contributions - Weir said he was too experimental & Lesh said he was too stiff!
There's no sign of him at the next couple shows, but little difference in the music. Pigpen returns to the keys now and then.

Tonight's electric show is quite strong under the circumstances. They start out with Cold Rain and Mama Tried, which seems like a pointed choice of songs! Then there's some extended banter (which I couldn't entirely make out) -
Weir: "We gotta work something out with the PA, we're getting fried alive."
Garcia: "We're getting shocked silly up here."
Weir: "You don't know what it's like....big blue sparks come up and hit you right in the head and send you to the amplifiers, and you come reeling back to try and sing another verse. I just can't tell ya..."
Lesh: "For a while I thought the only mic around here was the heat, but now we know better." (The audience applauds.)
Weir: "Hey, I got a statement to make...this seems to be a blatant attempt on the part of the establishment to - "
Garcia: "Tell it like it is, Weir!"
Weir: " - to keep rockers from coming here and save this fair city for the straight people. Well, I think - "
Garcia: "The revolution's over. Everybody go home."
Lesh: "Remember, obedience to the law is the only true freedom."
Weir: "And crime does not pay."
As the sound returns, Garcia announces, "I'm gonna do a little paranoid fantasy song for ya." It's Dire Wolf of course - as he usually did around this time, he asks the audience, "You can sing along with it...the chorus is really easy."
Morning Dew is especially mournful. The Mason's Children would be one of the most extended versions, but sadly the middle is cut. (As we'll see, Mason's was especially prone to tapecuts - 1/31, 2/2, 2/5, and 2/23 are all cut!) The electric set closes with a raging Hard to Handle jam, after which Lesh notices that his bass amp is buzzing.
Weir: "We got a busted amplifier here."
Garcia: "We got a severe technical problem."
Weir: "So you guys can hang out and chatter amongst yourselves, and feel free to wander around and make friends, and do whatever it is you like to do in short, while we try to work it out."
After a tape pause, they resume with a spontaneous acoustic set - somewhat hampered since they only have one acoustic guitar! So Garcia accompanies Weir's songs with electric fills while Lesh keeps sputtering; then announces, "We're still working on Phil's bass frantically in the background," and does a few songs by himself. Pigpen comes out for the first live Katie Mae, and the tape closes with a shortened Cumberland Blues played with one acoustic, handclaps and congas!
Deadlists notes: "Before Cumberland Jerry can be heard proposing that they do Cumberland first, then Uncle John to end the set. The tape breaks off after Cumberland, however. It seems possible that this represents the entire Dead performance for this date, although normally you'd expect more electric Dead." It's unknown whether they ever got the amp fixed and did a second electric set, but it seems unlikely.

For their last New Orleans show, the Dead (and their amps) are in a better mood. This was the Dead's 'bust-fund benefit' for themselves - at the beginning the announcer says, "Here's the group that made this afternoon all possible -" and Lesh interrupts: "The New Orleans police department!"
Initially only the Lovelight from this show circulated, but eventually the complete show made it out. The mix is guitar-heavy for the first three songs, but gets fixed. The first part of the show is pretty standard without real standouts - Good Lovin' cuts as the jam heads back to the verse; and Garcia asks the audience to sing along with Dire Wolf again.
After Cryptical there's an extremely long drum-break (eleven minutes!), then they tear into an EXTREMELY hot Other One. Garcia sounds like he's about to blow up! This is also, unusually, an instrumental Other One, as the vocals are neatly cut out by a tapeflip. Peter Green joins them on guitar as they roll into Lovelight, making this a very long and jammed-out version that wanders far and wide, one of the standout Lovelights of the year. The announcer exclaims at the end: "The finest fucking music in the world!"

A nice snippet of a show here from the Fox Theatre, with an excellent Dark Star. The Dead were excited to be out of New Orleans and back on the road; and they were quite impressed with the Fox. Unfortunately, only one reel seems to survive from this show, so the rest of the setlist is unknown, but we do have some idea. There was a newspaper review the next day, describing the show:
The Dead opened with some country tunes, including Mama Tried. Our tape starts with the end of Cumberland Blues. The Dark Star is driving and melodic - Lesh pushes his way quickly out of the post-verse space, and Weir takes the jam into a quick Feelin' Groovy. [There's no Tighten Up jam, as some claim.] After that they jam blissfully on the Dark Star theme for some time, ramping up the intensity until they slam back into the delicate main riff. Garcia is sparkling and this version has an intense, otherworldly clarity, more urgent than the famed 2/13/70 Star. (The reviewer didn't know Dark Star, and called it a "long, slow blues featuring electronic games with tape loops"!)
St Stephen follows as usual - there's a funny moment at the break when the entire band forgets what to play next! (Likely they'd planned to go into NFA and blanked when the moment came.) But Garcia steers them into Mason's Children, which cuts painfully just as they're going into the second solo...
Mason's after the tapecut went into Lovelight, the way they did on 2/28/70, and the show ended with Lovelight. (The liner notes for Two From The Vault have a long description of the Lovelight from this show, from the same newspaper writer.) The encore was an a cappella Bid You Goodnight, which was quite rare by this time, so perhaps the Dead needed to calm down the frenzied crowd after Lovelight....

This was filmed for TV, with the Dead doing a short set for a small audience at the Family Dog along with Jefferson Airplane and Santana. (The PBS documentary, called "San Francisco Rock: A Night at the Family Dog", wasn't broadcast until 12/13/70!)
Only Hard to Handle and China>Rider were used in the TV broadcast - in my view, the only decent songs of the show. The St Stephen>Not Fade Away>Stephen>Midnight Hour is relatively weak, with the band tiring at the end - check out the Stephen>NFA from 2/13/70 for a huge contrast! Then again, this was the first time they did the Stephen>NFA segue (in fact, they hadn't done NFA at all in January) - it comes in an unexpected spot, and it's handled smoothly. (Here NFA replaces the "ladyfingers" bridge, which they would skip again on 2/8, and Garcia carefully pushes the band back into an awkward Stephen.)
The video is excellent. It shows Garcia playing a Stratocaster guitar, which he used from fall '69 to mid-April '70 before switching back to the Gibson SG. Keyboards are set up for Pigpen, though I think he only plays them on Me & My Uncle. The Download Series CD includes most of the show (the Cold Rain & Snow opener is missing).

The "allstar jam" that ended the evening unfortunately wasn't on the CD - however, the incomplete fragment shown on TV is on youtube along with the rest of the broadcast. This show's all about the dancing chicks - check out the girl onstage three minutes into the jam!

Hard to Handle
China > Rider
Super Jam (Garcia, Kantner, Kaukonen, Casady, Santana, Gary Duncan, Airplane & Santana drummers)

This is the first show of a four-day Fillmore West run. A bit more than an hour survives from this show, with the start of the "big jam" missing. Only one 42-minute reel from the end of the show is left in the Vault; there is also a half-hour AUD tape from the start of the show, with only one song duplicated and an unknown amount missing.
Just a few songs are on the AUD tape - you'd expect it to be more complete, since the AUDs from 2/7 and 2/8 are both longer, so probably not all of it got into circulation. It's hard to know why the full AUD was never traded, unless the taper ran into some trouble. (Possibly it was the same taper on all three nights? The Fillmore West tapers remain anonymous.)
Weir starts off the show with a couple country songs (Seasons and The Race Is On), with Garcia on pedal-steel. (Deadbase suggests a China>Rider was also played at some point.) The audience is full of song suggestions, but Weir tells them, "Just relax and take what you get," before the band starts Mason's Children. The SBD has most of this song, but cuts out mid-solo, so the AUD fills out the ending.
After Mason's it sounds like they're tuning up for Cryptical. Possibly they could have gone from the Other One suite into the Eleven, which would be quite a rare transition; a Cryptical>Alligator>Eleven could be even more tantalizing, even likely (an Eleven jam had also followed Alligator on 1/16). But we don't know how it went, for the SBD only picks up near the start of the Eleven.
The Eleven starts off brightly, though they enter the vocals uncertainly. The Eleven gradually unwinds and the jam changes - all of a sudden we're in the middle of an exploratory Alligator jam, which could go anywhere. Lesh riffs Alligator, then teases Lovelight, then Caution. Garcia signals the Bid You Goodnight riff and they jam on that, Garcia teasing China Cat inside it (!), then falling back into an aggressive Alligator-type jam. This heads into Caution, a full-fledged version with Pigpen singing. It has some intense spots, but seems mostly quiet or mild to me though, as if the band didn't really feel like a blowout (as they would do on 2/14). Garcia and the drummers nudge the band into Not Fade Away, a short sedate version - as this dies out, Lesh starts up Caution again, but with a few strums Weir transforms it into a subdued Cumberland Blues. They finally send the crowd home with a laid-back Uncle John's Band.

This average show is complete other than a few cuts. The cut in Dancing, unfortunately, is a big one and wipes out most of the jam! There's not much worth remarking on here. Pigpen's back on keyboards, for instance in Cold Rain; and he blasts away in the Other One like it's 1968 again. The Dead do a couple of the odd energy-dropping segues they'd become fond of - Good Lovin'>High Time and Other One>Black Peter. This show is also notable for the absence of any AUD tape, unusual for this run.

The end of the show is missing, though we don't know how much. There's an AUD tape of the first hour of the show (which isn't on the Archive at the moment), and a 70-minute SBD which is rather chopped up with many cuts (and Hard to Handle completely absent).
Deadlists notes: "Compared with Friday's total of 115 minutes and Sunday's of 138, the 85 minutes of Saturday 2/7/70 preserved on tape seems obviously to fall short by at least a half hour. Obviously we are missing several tunes from the end of this set." One thing that's glaringly missing is any long jam - and they probably didn't play Lovelight this night, so like 1/24 it's a mystery how the show might have ended.
What's left of the show has an unremarkable setlist, but is very well-played. Garcia is on tonight, with a biting tone. Fans of slow Dead will like the twenty-minute Uncle John>Black Peter - Garcia takes a very long, extended solo in Uncle John! The tape ends with a hot Good Lovin' jam which is cut cruelly short.
This is the last show Garcia & Weir opened with pedal-steel country songs (Green Grass, Sawmill, and Seasons) - in a couple months that slot would be replaced by the New Riders set. The Compendium reviewer notes that the pedal steel was onstage "forlorn and unused" during all four Fillmore West shows, though only played in two.
Apparently after the 1/31 acoustic show, the Dead decided to revive the old-style country covers they'd done in summer '69 to introduce shows; but this lasted only a couple performances. By the Fillmore East shows, Garcia decided to drop the pedal-steel covers and have an acoustic interlude in the middle of the show instead....
(More details about the transition from pedal-steel to acoustic sets here:
http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2009/08/deads-acoustic-sets-1969-1970.html )
The China>Rider>High Time was released on the "Fillmore West '69" bonus disc. Banter completists take note: after High Time there's a long break in which Weir has some humorous complaints about the monitors and they play some instrumental ditties....which is only on the AUD tape.

Just as with 2/5, only one SBD reel circulates from this show. Fortunately, there's a complete (and very good) AUD. Also, since Smokestack Lightning and Top of the World were released from the SBD, it's possible the full show is in the Vault.
Deadlists notes: "The SBD tape in circulation begins 3:42 before the end of Dark Star and runs for 33:04, cutting off 15:12 into Lovelight; the AUD supplies the remaining 19:55 of Lovelight." (If the Dark Star is ever released, it would have a tapecut in it, but that could be patched with the AUD like they did with the 7/31/71 Star.)
The AUD is clear enough to really hear the full band and the power of their sound in the room. As the Compendium says, "Every member of the band is clearly heard, vocals are clear, and drums are loud and strong." (The guitar balance is also excellent.)
The show starts with a rare Smokestack Lightning. After that comes Morning Dew (with Pigpen on organ), though of course they pause for tuning while Weir explains, "We're waiting for the Bear to turn on his lovelight..." The rest of the show stays at a high level.
This Dark Star has a very long & percussive space; the jam is relaxed and takes a while to build, and never gets to the blazing heights some other early-'70 Stars reach. After the SBD starts, a slow Feelin' Groovy jam is slipped in just as they're returning to the verse. The Stephen>Not Fade Away is interesting - just as on 2/4 they start NFA (very awkwardly) early on, after "lower down again", and it becomes a very slinky, sultry version - Garcia then starts playing the Stephen riff to the NFA tempo while Weir's still singing "not fade away", a very smooth segue, and they take it back to "did he doubt?" At the end they pounce on Lovelight (you can hear Lesh call it), which is a long 35-minute version.

2/11/70 (early show)
Only the last 20 minutes of this show are available; most likely some 40 minutes are missing. It's possible the full early show is in the Vault, considering Bear was taping the opening bands (Love and the Allmans) as well. The Fillmore crew apparently did not tape the early shows as they were too busy; in fact, on this night they couldn't get the tape rolling until 10 minutes into Dark Star! (Until Bear's tape surfaced, their 45-minute //Dark Star>Spanish Jam>Lovelight// was all that circulated from this night.)
The tape starts in the middle of a fierce Other One, with Garcia's guitar dropping from a snarl to a whisper and back to piercing runs. The Cryptical reprise glides quietly for a while until the big explosion (when Pigpen's organ comes in). Garcia doesn't feel like extending it though, and takes them right into a calming Dire Wolf. Casey Jones chugs along to end the set, sounding much like the upcoming album version.
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1970-02-11.sbd.smith.patched.99154.sbeok.flac16 (inc early show)
The late show starts out with a bang, the hottest version of Not Fade Away yet. The rest of the set is quite famous, and described well by Lesh in his book. So I'll just note that Bear's tape has a four-minute cut in the middle of the Dark Star [starting at 7 minutes in], so it's fortunate that a good, complete AUD was made of this show.
The AUD isn't as clear as the 2/8 tape, being a bit boomy, but for a Fillmore East tape it's pretty good. (Compare it to the July '70 horrors!) It's fascinating to hear how the interaction of all the guitarists sounded in the room - the mix is quite different & more balanced than the SBD.
(There is another incomplete, similar-sounding AUD of the 2/13 early show, which is not on the Archive. It's odd that there aren't AUDs of every show, as in July & September.)

As Tom Constanten said, "Most any show at the Fillmore East was exceptional. The Fillmore East was a magical place to play - the crowd was very responsive. The band had a strong following in New York and it put an edge on the playing. I'd rather listen to any Dark Star from the Fillmore East - they were in a different class." (He may have been overstating this, but one example of the Dead's regard for the Fillmore is that they played a different Dark Star suite on every night of this run - which even in 1970 was exceptional.)
The rest of these Fillmore East shows are complete and very well-known, so we won't go into them here...

But it's worth mentioning the infamous Ungano's "secret" club show on 2/12/70. For a long time a fake tape has circulated with this date, which is actually the 2/13/70 early show. At any rate, there's no tape, but here's a discussion of whether or not this show happened:

After the Fillmore shows, the band went to record Workingman's Dead. (Most of the songs were trimmed down considerably from their live versions, and recording wrapped up within a couple weeks.) Bear was no longer able to tour with the Dead, so SBD tapes outside San Francisco become rare from this point on. They did a short tour of Texas in late February, but we are missing the first three shows (2/20, 2/21, 2/22).
This is especially unfortunate because the one surviving show, from 2/23, is one of the least interesting shows of the year. It sounds like an outside taping job, as our copy is poor, buzzing mono - part of this show was played on the Taper's Section in better quality, though. (The few SBD tapes in March also lack Bear's finesse.)
The show is missing the first few songs, and may be missing some late electric songs as well. Dire Wolf is interrupted by feedback while the Dead gripe at the soundman. (Lesh: "Don't mess around with it! It was okay til you started messing with it!" Garcia: "Yeah, you idiot." Weir: "Eat my shorts...somebody get that guy away from the microphone.")
They decide it's time for an acoustic set -
Garcia: "We're gonna do some acoustic things here..."
Weir: "So we're gonna hang out and make you wait."
Garcia: It's gonna be a little while while we rearrange all the furniture up here."
Weir: "Feel free to talk amongst yourselves..."
Garcia: "...bite, scratch..."
Then Weir tells us the Yellow Dog Story yet again while we wait, and the acoustic set starts with just him and Garcia. Weir plays Me & My Uncle mostly by himself while Garcia changes a string; then Pigpen comes out to play organ on Black Peter and Seasons.
It's very strange to have only two electric songs after the acoustic portion. Then again, it's possible the Dead just wanted to get out of there, or faced a time-limit and wrapped it up quickly. Garcia complains again at another delay: "Hey, come on you PA guys, get on the ball man, good grief, we're gonna call the union if you don't hurry up. [Lesh: "What union?"] The galactic rock & roll union, that's what..." The Not Fade Away is nice (Pigpen dueling with Garcia on organ) but it runs out of gas; as it ends they almost start Good Lovin', but Lesh & Garcia go into Mason's Children instead. A cut wipes out half the song, and the Dead say "goodnight".


This started out as a post continuing my Incomplete Show Files series - but turned into something bigger. So instead, this will be the first of a 40th-anniversary series covering the year 1970....