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:
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-12-23.sbd.vernon.10376.sbeok.shnf ]

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. The first reel of the 12/23/70 Winterland show has come into circulation, from Charlie Miller's collection. (David Gans also played it on his show some years ago.) The setlist:
    Deep Elem Blues
    King Bee
    Me & My Uncle
    Cumberland Blues (cuts)

    The next reel concluding the show is familiar:
    Me & Bobby McGee
    Dire Wolf
    Good Lovin'
    Casey Jones
    Uncle John's Band

    If this is the complete show, it's surprisingly short, only about 75 minutes. But this is thought to be all that was played.
    Perhaps it's not so surprising if you remember that some of the other surviving Winterland shows from 1969-70 are also pretty short - depending perhaps on whether they were the last band of the night, or able to play more than one set.
    The band keeps complaining that the monitors don't work... Since this was partly a benefit for Bear (then in prison), I was a bit disappointed that they never mention him onstage, until Garcia's final comment, "Thank you for helping us bail out the Bear!"

  11. While it was a discovery (when I wrote this) to find that the Dead were recording for a live album as early as October 1970, it's even more surprising to find that they were planning the live album as far back as July '70!

    From the July 25, 1970 Billboard - "Rock Ballroom Ready to Swing Out in Calif. Town," an article on the opening of Pepperland in San Rafael.
    "The two 25-year-old promoters...report they have signed the Grateful Dead for the Sept. 11-12 and 18-19 weekends. The band plans to record their next Warner Bros. LP during this engagement, according to the two promoters."
    https://books.google.com/books?id=dikEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA22&lpg=PA22&dq=%22Ben+blatt%22+pepperland&source=bl&ots=QTMIxg4Izt&sig=fZp443a-NQH8W00Yr5m_qRrkLmA&hl=en&ei=U3gZTPq8LoHCNdiPsa4F&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22Ben%20blatt%22%20pepperland&f=false (link thanks to JGMF)

    The article was written a couple months before Pepperland actually opened. (In July, the location was running as the Euphoria Ballroom, where the Dead played a couple times that month.) As it happened, the Pepperland opening was delayed, and the Dead changed their schedule and didn't play there.
    But the band's plan is of interest. You could say that the band just told the promoters they were going to be recording a studio album around the time the shows were played; but I interpret it to mean that they intended to record the shows for a live album.

    Since they started recording American Beauty in August, what material did the Dead think might appear on the live album? The end of the article supplies a clue: "Among the acts the two [promoters] have reportedly signed up are New Riders of the Purple Sage [and] Acoustical Dead."
    At the end of July '70 and into August, the Dead jettisoned their electric sets for a series of club shows where they played all-acoustic sets with the New Riders. They must have been excited by the possibilities, telling the promoters not only that their shows (two months hence) would be "acoustical," but they'd be recorded too! (Remember that all the new songs debuted in July/August '70 were acoustic songs, so it's possible the Dead initially planned American Beauty as an all-acoustic album.)

    Plans changed. By September, the Dead were no longer scheduled at Pepperland; the all-acoustic shows had stopped, and they were playing acoustic sets only in select venues; and the live album was put off while they finished American Beauty. The Winterland recordings of October 4-5 were close to the timeline the Dead had offered in July, though the "acoustical" side of it had been dropped and further recording was put off until February '71.

    When Pepperland finally announced the Dead for a show on 12/21/70, it was advertised as the "acoustic Dead" - one attendee remembers the Pepperland marquee reading, "Acoustic Dead Jam." As it happens, it's unclear and doubtful whether the full Dead actually appeared that night, and no acoustic music was played; but I wonder if the Pepperland promoters were still hoping for the "Acoustical Dead" they'd signed in July! (The Dead deceived concertgoers with the "acoustic" tag for a couple other shows in December as well, as cryptdev remarked above.)

    1. Record World also ran an article on the soon-to-open Pepperland in its 8/1/70 issue (Mike Sigman, "Pepperland Dancery to Open on Coast"). An excerpt:

      "Nat Shind and Ben Blatt, who are getting set to open a new rock palace called Pepperland on the West Coast, were in New York last week contacting agencies and promotion people about their new enterprise. They also dropped in at Record World to tell about their plans for Pepperland...
      It will be the only hall in the country with quadraphonic sound (also anticipated is an elaborate light show, which may be worked in with the sound system). For another, this biggest ballroom on the West Coast will offer community service projects, experimental film and art shows during the week. And most important, the list of groups already contracted indicates that Pepperland will present an array of talent not easily matched anywhere in the world.
      Pepperland will open Labor Day weekend with Hot Tuna, Deep Purple, and Charles Lloyd. The next two weekends will feature the Grateful Dead and the New Riders of the Purple Sage. (The Dead will be making a live album for Warner Bros. during their engagements. According to Shind, "the Dead fell in love with the place.") Other groups signed for upcoming shows include Delaney and Bonnie, Dave Mason, the Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Lee Michaels, and Sly and the Family Stone. Other innovations will include a health food concession along with regular food, and probably some other surprises not yet announced."

      A blog post on Pepperland's history:

      Oddly, since the Dead "fell in love with the place" and even planned to record a live album there, they ended up not playing at Pepperland at all except for the mysterious 12/21/70 appearance where, strangely, there's no witness of the band actually playing!
      One person who worked there recalled vaguely in the blog comments, "To my memory, the Grateful Dead never played while the owners who opened Pepperland were there. There was some bad blood between the two organizations... At the time, I very much regretted the trouble that prevented them from playing there, and always held out the hope that things would change."

  12. During the KSAN commentary after the Dead's set, someone explains, "It's really incredible how the sound's being put together - it's coming out of here and it's going into Wally Heider's remote truck out in the street, and being mixed on a 16-channel machine, and then it comes back into here where Bob [Matthews?] mixes it to 4 and sends it out to KSAN and KQED and KQED-TV, and he also phases it, he can go from one speaker to the other and move the sound around the stage..."

  13. One newspaper's brief report on these shows:
    "Quicksilver Messenger Service played San Francisco's Winterland in two four-hour sessions televised over an educational television outlet and simulcast in quadrophonic sound over two of the city's FM stations.
    The group, along with Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, also made live 16-track tape recordings for future use. The two FM stations jointly broadcast the concert in stereo..."
    ("Platter Chatter," Van Nuys Valley News 10/16/70)

    I'm sure this is distilled from a longer report in another newspaper, and might not be accurate, but it's the first I've heard that Quicksilver and the Airplane also made 16-track recordings on 10/4/70 along with the Dead. Which makes sense - the KSAN broadcast had said that the whole show was "being mixed on a 16-channel machine" in Wally Heider's remote recording truck. Whether the tapes survive and are releasable is another story...

  14. To change the subject...now seems as good a place as any...I have a question about the photo on the cover of Workingman's Dead. Who took it? And does anyone remember an alternate picture that showed A GIANT MOLE MAN standing on the roof of the building behind Hunter? Maybe I was tripping but I swear I saw this picture somewhere. I think it was an advertisement or publicity shot. Please respond to wdelaney1952@gmail.com

    1. You'll find the answers here:

  15. I was at Winterland 12/23/70. It was advertised as “Acoustic Grateful Dead” in the San Francisco Chronicle, but there was no acoustic set. Here are my memories. Winterland was mostly empty. There was at most about 200 or so in attendance. First there was a New Riders set, even though they were not advertised. During New Riders, a wheeled cart containing a big vat of electric apple cider (usually electric koolaid back then but apple cider was a nice touch) with piles of cups was wheeled through the audience and we got dosed. After New Riders, they set up for the Dead with two full drum kits so we happily anticipated an electric Dead set, which is what we got. It was a fun but mellower than usual set that seemed organically psychedelic. The comment above that the show has come into circulation, “from Charlie Miller's collection” does seem like it’s almost certainly the whole show. After the Dead, Electric Hot Tuna played.

    1. Thanks for your memories! It's surprising to hear that so few people went...maybe they were waiting for the New Year's show.
      The Dead were advertised as the "acoustic Dead" a few times in December '70, but never actually played acoustic that month (except in one radio appearance). I'm not sure why.
      The whole (?) show has come out - it's a short and mellow set: