May 18, 2014

The 1966 Mystery Reels (Guest Post)

By Michael Sheflin & Light Into Ashes

The Mystery Reels  

In 2006 a set of “uncirculated primal GD” reels surfaced, containing a number of previously unknown Dead performances from early 1966. The notes stated, “The dates and locations are as marked on the boxes of master reels. Let’s leave it to the Deadhead historians to figure it all out for accuracy.”
Historians examining the reel labels, though, would soon find that they were extremely misleading, if not useless in determining where these tapes were recorded; and the true dates have remained unknown.

This starts with a single question – When do these tapes come from? In this post, I examine the evidence for determining which shows the tapes are from.

All these tapes were recorded by Bear. He taped Dead shows up through July 1966, then was dismissed by the band after the Vancouver run and stopped working as their soundman, which is why there are so few Dead tapes from late '66.

At first, Bear was careless in marking his reels. According to Bear, “I learned to date [the tapes] more carefully after having to deal with tapes that said simply ‘Saturday night’ or ‘second set.’ I needed to make certain notations as to what night they were, what reel they were, what set they were, and I soon realized it was like a journal.” (Taping Compendium p.40) He later became better with his labeling!

Dick Latvala has said, “Bear gave me some stuff from the Acid Test era, but it wasn’t marked. The labeling was terrible. They taped a lot of stuff and labeled it very poorly. I’ve gone through that, and most of it is really terrible nonsense. Some of it could be used someday, but I don’t think it’s that compelling. Some of it’s unique and interesting and we will use it. There aren’t whole shows really, except for a few examples.” (Taping Compendium p.49)

David Lemieux has a stash of Bear's early '66 tapes in the Vault (only a few highlights have been released), most of which are poorly labeled as well. In the Rare Cuts liner notes, Lemieux described the state of Bear's Vault reels: "about 15 reel-to-reel tapes, most of which were unlabelled, while some had the most rudimentary identifications, such as "3/2 LA rehearsal," "Trips '66 3rd night" or "February 23 practice." ... However, further major discoveries came on those tapes that were entirely unlabelled. What looked like blank tape based on their markings (or lack of), these eight reels of 1/4" analog tape turned out to be, well, rare cuts and oddities."

The "Trips '66 3rd night" reel he mentioned may well be the same reel we have as "Longshoreman's Hall 3rd night" – the music is clearly not from the January festival, but the three-day run at Longshoreman’s in April ’66 was billed as the “Trips 196?” festival. Only Lemieux could say for sure which of the Vault reels are the ones that are in circulation.

Earlier, Latvala had mentioned a couple other of these reels: "two different seven-inch reel boxes, the [Watts] Pigpen rap in an unlabeled one, the other [with Schoolgirl>YDLM>Schoolgirl] marked "Longshoreman's #1," with no other information." So that matches the info in the text notes, such as it is.

January 28, 1966 – The Matrix, San Francisco

Mystery Reels, Tracks 15-18: “Pauley Ballroom #2” (10” reel at 15ips)
//You Don’t Have To Ask (end of first set)
Viola Lee Blues
I Know You Rider
Midnight Hour (plug pulled)

This canister was labeled "Pauley Ballroom #2", containing 10" tape at 15 inches per second.  I don't have great data on reel standards, but the reel labeled "Longshoreman's 3rd night" uses the same standard. However, it is probably precarious to base relative chronology solely on tape information.

The Dead are thought to have played the Pauley Ballroom in June and December ’66. A Pauley Ballroom show in June '66 may have been taped, as the label suggests - but the one in December, definitely not. It's also quite possible the Dead played earlier at the Pauley and we don't know about it (no surviving ads or posters). The tape clearly comes from early in the year, though.

These tracks come closest to something like 'objective proof' for their exact date.  There are two relevant comments in the banter - 1) Phil: "We're gonna move to LA next week, but, mean time we might be back a little later after the Loading Zone plays another set." - and 2) Weir: "Don't forget, don't forget that uh, next Saturday night, mm, this coming Saturday night, if you happen to be in Los Angel..."

Since we know they were in LA by Sunday, February 6th, this has to be roughly within the week before February 6th.  
The Dead are thought to have played at the Matrix on January 28-29:
(Although this site notes that it’s unclear if the shows happened, so total certainty is not possible.)
According to Deadbase, the show on the 28th was with the Loading Zone and Big Brother.

Here's a list of the Loading Zone's known performances -      

While the Dead could have played The Matrix on the 29th (for which there is no certain evidence), Loading Zone was playing at the Open Theater in Berkeley that night.  So even though there's no definite evidence Loading Zone played with the Dead on the 28th, it's not likely they could have played together on the 29th.
Given the Dead's known gigs and Loading Zone's availability, it is most likely that they played together at the Matrix on the 28th.

The Dead and the Loading Zone also played together at the Longshoreman’s Hall in April 1966, however the reference to the upcoming move to LA means this tape can’t be from that run.
The audience sounds rather small, and seems consistent with the audience sound on other Matrix tapes such as 11/29/66. At the start of the Dead’s second set, Weir introduces it as a “benefit for that fine upstanding organization, the Viet Cong, bringing arms and supplies and spiritual guidance.” Musically, the Viola Lee Blues that follows is extremely primitive, the earliest live version we have.

There is an interesting exchange at the end, after the Dead’s power is cut – obviously this had happened to them before. (For instance, at the 1/8/66 Fillmore show.) This may have been due to a noise complaint.
Garcia: “Cut us off again. That’s what happens, there’s no place you can play.”
Weir: “The story of our lives, you play somewhere and somebody turns you off.”
Lesh?: “Good night, ladies and gentlemen, and you too, you pricks.”
Announcer: “Let’s give a big hand for the Grateful Dead – one of the best bands I’ve heard in a long time.”

The reference to LA “next Saturday night” seems to be to an unknown concert the night before the Northridge Unitarian Church gig. February 6 was the date for the Northridge acid test; as well, there is a Vault tape with that date.
But a week earlier, the Dead thought the first LA show would be Saturday, Feb 5. So there are a couple possibilities - either the Northridge Church test was originally planned for the 5th and bumped to the 6th; or there was a "lost" LA show on the 5th (perhaps cancelled) that we don't know about, though this is unlikely. Or perhaps the Dead were confused about the date – all the Acid Tests were generally on Saturdays.

Deadbase lists a 2/5/66 show at the Questing Beast in Berkeley, however that was simply a false tape-label. – this site lists the actual shows at the Questing Beast. (The Lost Live Dead site also asserts that, contrary to old stories, the Dead did not use the Questing Beast as a rehearsal space.)

That said, the "Pauley Ballroom #2" tape certainly comes from the Dead's last week in San Francisco. Since the 1/8/66 Fillmore show was not taped by Bear but by the Pranksters, this is his earliest known live recording.

Late January 1966 – Rehearsal Room, Berkeley

Viola Lee Blues rehearsal

No date is known for this rehearsal tape, though it is presumed to be from January. But a comment in the band chatter makes it obvious that it was recorded the week before they went to LA. If that's the case, this rehearsal must be within a few days of the 1/28 show.

The rehearsal location is unknown, but is thought to be at Bear’s house in Berkeley. The tape is drenched in reverb, much of it intentional – judging by the echoes, the space is not that large (it’s clearly not, for instance, a concert stage).

At the start of the rehearsal, Garcia & Pigpen sing the verses, with Pigpen on organ. Pigpen also briefly tries a harmonica accompaniment. Garcia is in charge, correcting Pigpen and telling the others how it should go, insisting that it be tighter. Pigpen is rather wobbly and drops out, so Weir takes over his vocal part, and Lesh adds harmony – it seems that Lesh hasn’t sung this before. They go repeatedly over the arrangement, particularly the end of the verse (“you may know by that I’ve got a friend somewhere”).

Even without other evidence, January is by far the most obvious date for this tape; that is, it precedes the earliest live version, and they had changed part of the arrangement by March. The jam and the stilted rhythms are extremely similar to the primitive “Pauley Ballroom #2” version, which must have come shortly after this. It also makes sense to me that all the rehearsal difficulties, and Pigpen's (abandoned) contribution of singing & harmonica, would come when they were first trying it out, rather than after a month or two of playing it live. I don’t think they had played it live before, unless it was with much rougher vocals. It’s unknown whether Weir & Lesh sang in this song previously.
It is also interesting to hear the bigger part Pigpen played in this song when they started it – the song could have gone in a different direction, and the brief harmonica/guitar duet is tantalizing. His organ part remained integral to the song, though.

It is possible to narrow down the date for this session. In track 16, Garcia says, “We won’t be able to record at all next week, we’ll be busy recuperating….”
Phil: “As long as we get to LA in time to set up and do the thing Saturday night, after that it’s total freedom, we just have to get…”
From these references, it appears this rehearsal must be very close to the 1/28 show, perhaps just a day or two earlier.

In track 18, a drunk Pigpen leaves under a shower of insults from Phil. But in a discussion with Bear, Garcia seems to talk a little about why they’re doing this rehearsal: “One of the things that we’ve been doing all the time is trying to learn how to sing with ourselves without being able to hear each other, because that’s what it’s like when you’re on stage… You can hear yourself but you can’t hear the combination...”
Weir adds, “The reason we’re so good at it is because we’ve been working at it for about a year now, and we’re not that good at it.” (Garcia adds: “Yeah, pretty rough.”)
Bear suggests earphones, but Weir & Garcia reject that idea – Garcia says, “I don’t like the feel of it; I like to be able to hear what’s going on around the stage.” Bear specifies: “I don’t mean a pair of headsets, I was thinking about a little one-ear-only – ” But then Phil cuts in: “Hey, we were working on this song before we were so rudely interrupted.”
Much of this rehearsal is devoted to working on their harmony vocals, since they seem to have the instrumental arrangement mostly down already, though still finetuning some parts. Note that Garcia asks them to “just sing the three verses one right after another,” often skipping the instrumental breaks between verses (which they’ll play on 1/28).

Bear later wrote about this issue: “I could play you tapes of the early Dead that would make you cringe they’re so bad. They couldn’t sing for shit. Any one of them could sing on his own okay, but they sounded terrible together, and I think part of that was the fact that the technology of on-stage monitors was pitiful. It’s absolutely essential that musicians clearly hear themselves in order to blend their voices together. While they were sitting around practicing their vocal harmonies without instruments it was fine, but once they were on stage with the instruments going, each one would hear something else and they’d all be off-key. It was sometimes painful... I encouraged them to listen to tapes of their performances, not just so they could hear how they sounded, but also to correct me on what I was doing.”

According to Bear it was at the Fillmore acid test on January 8th when Phil asked him to be the Dead’s soundman. It is not known whether he did any recording at the Longshoreman’s Hall Trips Festival shows on January 22-23, but it seems doubtful. Perhaps it was at those shows where Bear first decided he needed to start taping the band. At any rate, he must have immediately started encouraging the band to hear how they sounded on tape, since he recorded at least one show and this rehearsal the following week. He would continue recording in Los Angeles, not only the shows but many demos and rehearsal sessions at home over the next two months. (Garcia might be referring to Bear’s plans to tape their rehearsals to help them improve.)

Bear said, “We listened from the beginning… We thought it might be good to hear what it really was like. Or someone might say, ‘Gee, I think that was terrible, let’s listen and find out whether it really was.’ Back in those days after the show we were usually wired up and weren’t ready to sleep anyway. As time went on, their vocals got better and they were singing in pitch with each other more and more. Everyone was working to try to get better. How can you get better if you don’t ever listen to yourself? We were all interested in what was going on. The only way you could find out what you had done was to listen to it later. In the heat of the show, no one can tell. Whose idea was it to listen to the tapes? I think it was everyone’s. They said, ‘You’ve got the tape, let’s listen to it.’” (Taping Compendium, p.40 – see also Conversations with the Dead p.327)

February 6, 1966 – Northridge Unitarian Church, Los Angeles
/Tastebud (cuts in)
One Kind Favor
Only Time Is Now// (cuts after one minute) 

Lemieux included more of 2/6 in a Jam of the Week selection than in the Taper's Section, which only has three songs. On the Taper's Section, Lemieux wrote of the 2/6 material: "Amongst the mishmash of unlabelled 1966 material in the vault, there was a short snippet of music at the end of the reel labeled 2/6/66, so perhaps [these songs are] from that show, but not for certain." (In the Jam of the Week selection, there was no note, just the date.)

This suggests that music from more than one show could be taped onto a reel, which makes sense – no reason for Bear to waste a blank half-reel. In addition, many of these early shows were clearly split across reels. On several reels, the first song cuts in (the "possibly 2/12" Viola Lee, the "Longshoreman's 3rd" It's A Sin), indicating a reel flip, so whatever was on the previous reel has presumably been lost. On the 1/28 tape, You Don't Have To Ask (the last song of the first set) cuts in, so the rest of the set was evidently on another reel.
We are obviously missing parts of the 1/28 and 2/6 shows. It is frustrating that these mystery reels tend to be only three songs or so, nowhere near full sets or full reels. If we had the physical reels in hand it may be easier to explain why they're so incomplete. The implication is that a lot of full reels have gone missing.

The mix is almost identical to the 1/28 show a week earlier. The type of reel is unknown.
Since this tape has the date of the Northridge Church show, it may well be the correct date. But there is no sign of an Acid Test taking place, which puts the date in question, though it must be near that date.
A newspaper report proves that the Acid Test was on Sunday night:  (But the Dead are not mentioned.)
A week earlier the Dead clearly believed they would be playing on Saturday night, February 5, and Phil hints they'd be free after that (that is, no other shows that weekend). This raises a few possibilities:
1) Since all the previous acid tests were on Saturday nights until this one, they were mistaken.
2) It was originally scheduled for Saturday and moved to Sunday. (No account of the acid tests, though, mentions the date being changed.)
3) There was another show someplace on Saturday, of which all trace has been lost. 

My analysis focuses on Beat It On Down the Line, as a song that can be compared with other live versions from the period.  It uses an early intro that predates the “Longshoreman's 1st Night” tape, and certainly precedes May 1966.  Moreover, the solo on this version is not as fully formed as the pattern used in March and subsequently, but is conceptually similar to that found in the March 19th version, perhaps even identical.  It is probably the basis for the later solo usually heard in at least the ‘66 BIODTL's.  One might infer that the later solo was really just a more-open form of a basically planned and structured solo found in these early versions. The solo here is notable for being more wildly played than the later, cleaner versions – in fact, Garcia essentially keeps soloing through the last verse. (Later he would be more restrained with his fills.)

It might also be worth noting that the backing vocal arrangement is a little more complicated, including an extra part in the last line of the chorus which seems to be carried over from the Mother McCree’s version.

February 12th, 1966 – Youth Opportunities Center, Compton

Mystery Reels, Tracks 6-9 (on an unlabeled 7-inch reel, per Latvala)
“Who Cares”/Pigpen Rap
Vamping/Twist & Shout

This unlabeled reel is without doubt from the actual 2/12/66, as it matches participants’ accounts of this date. The “Who Cares Girl” at the Watts acid test became notorious – Owsley recalled, “There was a woman who Babbs was putting the mike onto who kept screaming ‘Who cares?’ over and over at least a hundred times.” Wavy Gravy said, “Well I certainly cared, at least to get her to shut the fuck up.” She was also written about in Tom Wolfe’s book:

The Dead’s musical contribution here is negligible. One participant remembered, “They kept tuning things up and trying to get things to work, but they didn’t play any actual music. They were just too high to function.” Lesh also recalled trouble setting up the equipment: “We may have played one, maybe two tunes, when Jerry decided he didn’t feel like playing anymore.” This must have been one of the Acid Tests Garcia had in mind when he said, “A lot of times we’d get just too high, really, to play. And we’d play for maybe a minute, and then we’d lose it.”
Though Twist & Shout cuts in, it evidently follows immediately after the previous goofing around. (Bear may have been called away from the tape recorder to work on the equipment.) Garcia only plays on Twist & Shout, and the band is accompanied by a harmonica player. After the song, they stop, announcing, “Our drummer flashed, we’ll be back later.” Apparently a tape of the song is then played back by the Pranksters!

This recording is in mono. It is possible this reel was taped by the Pranksters, not by Bear – they were probably both recording.

Bear’s Mixes

The tape mixes can also be used to help locate the earliest shows of the year. Sonically, the 1/28 and 2/6 shows have a very similar sound - the mix is basically identical, and both those tapes are notable for not featuring the simple "vocals one side, instruments other side" mix Bear usually used in 1966. (Actually, I think these early tapes sound better, with more depth.)

There was a dramatic shift in Bear's production technique by the 3/12/66 show.  He mentioned a synesthetic experience of seeing music circulating: “My knowledge of the true nature of sound dates back to…one of the rehearsals we had in the house in Watts, when I actually saw sound coming out of the speakers. It was total synesthesia… It was just a unique experience. And it so completely blew my mind…I went around and inspected it very carefully… And that became the foundation for all the sound work that I’ve done.”
Whether it was due to this experience or not, sometime in February or early March, Bear changed the way he mixed the Dead:  “I recorded the vocals in the left channel and the instruments in the right, Beatles style.” That remains the basic premise in every Bear production setup from 3/12 through July.

Bear wrote in the Rare Cuts liner notes, “I used a stereo reel to reel recorder with the (mono) PA signal in the left channel, principally vocals and drums…with the instruments which were not in the PA…in the right. The PA was flat-out just managing the drums and vocals in those early days. This resembled the Beatles' first 'stereo' record, and had a lot of 'space' or 3-D effect.”

The tapes of 1/28, 2/6, and the Viola Lee Blues rehearsal have guitars and vocals spread across the two channels in an interesting way: one channel has the bass, Weir’s guitar & vocal, and Pigpen’s organ & vocal; the other channel has Garcia’s guitar & vocal, and Lesh’s vocal. The drums are in the center, probably due to being so loud they couldn’t be isolated from any mikes.
By late February, Bear had switched his approach: all vocals and drums were now recorded on one channel, and the guitars & organ on the other. He was taping demos at the Watts house during this time – practice tapes from February 23 and March 2, for instance, survive, as well as various undated tapes released on the Rare Cuts collection – and these all feature the new mix. As well, three live Rare Cuts tracks simply dated “unknown location, February/March 1966” also have the split vocal/instruments mix.

In any case, the earliest dated concert with the new mix is the 3/12/66 Danish Center show (also labeled on the Archive as 2/25/66 Ivar Theater). As with the 5/19 show, it’s apparent that the Vault masters have a far wider stereo separation than the circulating Archive copies, which (perhaps due to copying) have more bleedthrough between channels, placing the music more in the center. So the Archive copies can’t always be used to judge the original mix.
The tapes can vary. The organ level differs widely between shows – for instance it is almost inaudible or far in the background on 2/6, 3/12 and 3/19, but very loud on 3/25. Later shows through July also vary, with the organ sometimes prominent in the mix and other times very low. (A reminder that what we hear in the mix does not always reflect what was heard on stage.) It’s also noticeable that in the March shows, the drums are confined pretty much to the vocal channel – the guitar channel sounds clean enough to be a direct line feed from the amps, rather than miked. In later shows, the drums are more in the center of the mix.
I believe Bear generally did not place anything in both channels, but often the drums or guitars will leak onto the vocal mikes, giving them a more centered sound. Vocals almost always remain confined to one side, since they were not loud enough to leak into the instrumental channel, except for sometimes a little room echo.

All the shows from March through July were recorded this way, including the remaining tapes in the “mystery reels.” Individual shows offer variations, though: for instance on 7/3, the mix changes midway through (it starts out unusually, with the vocals centered). The 5/19 tape is glaringly different from the others: bass and drums are on one channel, the drum levels loud to the point of distortion, and the guitars are more in the center, bleeding into both channels, at too low a level as if they were improperly miked. (It’s hard to tell if this was a taping experiment or just a poor recording. Note that the “true” mix of 5/19 can only be heard in a few tracks sampled on the Taper’s Section and misdated 3/12 – )

April 22nd and 24th 1966 – Longshoreman’s Hall, San Francisco

Mystery Reels, Tracks 4-5: “Longshoreman’s Hall 1st Night” (7” reel at 15ips)
Schoolgirl>You Don’t Love Me>Schoolgirl/ (cuts)

Mystery Reels, Tracks 10-14: “Longshoreman’s Hall 3rd Night” (10” reel at 15ips)
//It’s A Sin (cuts in)
Viola Lee Blues
Midnight Hour
Blues Jam w/ Jorma & Jack// (cuts)

Once again I focused on Beat It On Down the Line, since we have two versions from these tapes to compare.
In the BIODTL supposedly from February 6th, and in the version from March 19th, one finds an older intro, different from the ‘standard’ multiple-beat intro.  The two tapes labeled Longshoreman's contain two different versions of BIODTL, each of which uses a different intro - the earlier and the 'standard.'  The May 19th version is, very unfortunately, cut off at the beginning; but it uses a faster tempo that strongly implies it is the later version (i.e. with the later beats intro).  The 'standard' intro is found for certain by July 16th.
Since the 2/6, 3/19, and "Longshoreman's 3rd Night" BIODTLs all have the same alternate arrangement, they are evidently the earliest versions.
But it's in the solos that one finds a distinctive key. The Longshoreman’s solos are nearly identical – Garcia is evidently playing the same practiced solo, but it is not found in any other extant tapes of BIODTL (outside the Vault).  In short, this is strong circumstantial evidence of at least the proximity of these shows.

The version labeled “3rd Night” is peppier, but both solos use this ascending, syncopated quarter note approach offset by an eighth rest.  No other versions of BIODTL that I can find use that.  Listen back, and you'll see that the conceptual approach to those two solos is both unique to those two tapes and also offset from every other BIODTL solo on the extant tapes from 1966.  Along with the “1st Night” and “3rd Night” labels, that is somewhat telling.  
The similarities particularly at the beginning of the solos should be quite apparent.  In the other versions, it's generally a much more aggressive pattern involving an initial rest and a variety of triplets.  This, like early Cold Rain and Snow or Morning Dew, was probably originally a memorized semi-stylized but more or less not improvised instrumental part. This may have been an early attempt at experimenting with improvising solos for otherwise 'written' songs (since this was a Fuller song).  

Given the solos, I believe they are from concerts close in time to each other.  However paucity means that it's pretty hard to place things relatively, since most of the material is missing.  Nevertheless, those Longshoreman’s labels could be correct; they do exist, and I find no obvious reason to reject them.

The Longshoreman's gigs were from a three-day run.  It is not beyond the realm of reason that having played the song since at least 1964, the band got tired and the proximity of these shows provoked an evolution in the song. The change in the song’s speed and intro come from a liminal period - the realistic range is mid-March to mid-July; but if we infer the newer intro being played on May 19th, the range is really restricted to between mid-March and mid-May.  Along with the unique solo approach, the only 'run' in that period was the Longshoreman's run.

Longshoreman's 1st Night and 3rd Night could then correctly refer to April 24th and 22nd respectively - the last and first Nights in their Longshoreman's run.  Going from the BIODTL's, they are probably in reversed order.  The intro of the BIODTL on Longshoreman's #3 is 'older' than the one labeled Longshoreman's #1, so the “1st Night” is the later version. 

Also, the Viola Lee Blues evidently comes from the same period as the March 19 and May 19 versions. The tempos and guitar parts are the same – note that Phil’s bassline in the verses is the same here as on 3/19. This version is a bit punchier than the March performance, and chronologically this is the earliest version to have the acceleration in the middle of the jam, as heard again on 5/19. So it is certainly plausible that this performance comes from April.

LIA: Per Lemieux, "Longshoreman's Hall 3rd night" is in the Vault dated only "January 1966" (see the 1/26/09 Taper’s Section), which, based on the Viola Lee, is almost impossible. (Vault dates can't necessarily be trusted - for instance they have a set of 5/19/66 under the date of "3/12/66 Danish Center" – see the 3/12/07 Taper’s Section.)  

Owsley has said (from memory) that “the box labeled ‘Longshoreman’s’ would have been from the shows we did with Loading Zone in late April ’66, after the return to SF from LA.”
Although I don't trust the "Longshoreman's Hall" labels, another small bit of evidence in favor is that the Jefferson Airplane had no known shows during those dates, so Jack & Jorma were free to show up & jam with the Dead. Garcia announces that they’ll “come up and screw around with us a little.”  (Which is a telling sign of their early closeness to the Dead, since the Dead had just returned from being out of town for two months, and in fact hadn’t been on the same bill with the Airplane since December 1965!)

The mix and room echo sound nearly identical on both tapes, suggesting that they are from the same venue; but it's possible neither tape is actually from the Longshoreman's Hall. One curious thing in this spacious venue is that the audience response to the songs is miniscule – on the “3rd Night” in particular, it sounds like only a few people are half-heartedly clapping! In fact, it sounds like the Dead are bombing in a near-empty hall. Wherever this show took place, it seems not too many people were interested in seeing the Dead (or, at least, were too busy tripping to applaud the music). Of course most of the early ’66 shows have small or inaudible audiences as well – on 3/19 especially, it sounds like the Dead are playing to complete indifference. It’s easy to forget that the Dead were almost totally unknown at the time, and audiences at these events were not necessarily paying attention to the band.

Due to the difference between the BIODTLs, I have doubts that the two "Longshoreman's Hall" tapes were within two days of each other. Note the specific differences in arrangement between these two nights - not only are the intro & ending changed, but the little fill before the chorus is also changed (earlier it was a guitar/bass riff, but they changed it to full-band chords). These aren't improvised things; the band would've had to rehearse the changes. It struck me as improbable that they'd rearrange this song within the two days of this run. But assuming they were rehearsing during the daytime, it's certainly not impossible. 
(One catch is that on the "1st night" (which must be the later version) Garcia is playing badly - he muffs up the solo and doesn't play any fills during the verses, like he does in the other versions. Perhaps the new arrangement was throwing him.) 
Another consideration is that, according to McNally, during the week of this run, the band had just returned to San Francisco on April 22 and did not yet have any place to stay, so "the band separated, each member finding a place to stay wherever he could. Garcia passed the week until [May 1] 'staying with all kinds of strange people and getting really [financially] strung out, walkin' around.'" (McNally p.143)  This raises the obvious question, where could they have rehearsed to rearrange a song in between two dates of this run?

My original suspicion was that these tapes may have come from Los Angeles shows. 
Note that in the 3/25/66 show, after You Don't Have To Ask, Lesh starts announcing what sounds like shows from April 6-9 before the tape cuts, which are otherwise totally unknown; so we may not be aware of all the shows played that April.

July 31st 1966 – PNE Garden Auditorium, Vancouver BC

Mystery Reels, Tracks 1-3: “Possibly 2/12/66” (7” reel at 7.5ips)
/Viola Lee Blues (cuts in)
Don’t Ease Me In

At the end of Viola Lee, someone suggests they do Stealin' and Jerry says, "the jug band already did Stealin'..."  I believe this is most likely a reference to the pH Phactor Jug Band that played the Vancouver run from July 29-31. They're the only jug band that are known to have played with the Dead in 1966. I'll make the bold claim that the Dead didn't play with any other jug bands in 1966 - at least not that we know of.  Moreover, the pH Phactor Jug Band did include Stealin' in their repertoire (though only provably later).

The tape's sound and production is also consistent with that of the other two nights, and the audience sounds just as tiny and unenthusiastic on this tape as on the known Vancouver tapes.
The Viola Lee Blues is extremely similar to the one played on July 30, except that the band here does not play the spiraling riff between verses.

The GEMS copies of the shows from July 29 and 30 are accurately dated – their notes state, “The dates and song lists for 7/29 & 7/30 come directly from the boxes that the master reels are stored in.” The full set on July 29 is a short one, less than an hour (Dancin’ to Minglewood). It is not known whether they played a second set, but seems unlikely; the tape ends with Garcia saying, “Maybe we’ll see you later, then again maybe we won’t, we’re going off now…” The tape from July 30 is little more than an hour, and includes one full set (Standing on the Corner to Cream Puff War), and the start of a second set (Viola Lee to Schoolgirl, which cuts out).
There is no telling how long the Dead’s show on July 31 would have been, but it was likely also short. The tape is clearly incomplete – Viola Lee Blues cuts in, and there’s no indication that Tastebud is the end of the set.

Jerry did an interview the next month in which he recalled that the festival had “every band every night, so a band would only get to play maybe one set a night and it would be a short one. You couldn’t really get warmed up, you know, or get any kind of thing going. It wasn’t really much fun to play.”  
The Trips Festival poster reveals that the evenings were certainly crowded, with several bands each night, and the Dead listed in a different order each night.

The band had a dismal time at the festival, unhappy with the stage and the sound; Phil called it "one of the worst performances I can remember." The Dead played at the Pender Auditorium in Vancouver the next weekend, on August 5, and Jerry remembered that "actually we did much better on the next weekend, when we played again at another dance, and had a fairly good crowd - it was really good, you know, it was responsive - much more so than the Trips Festival." But no tape is known to have survived.

This may have been the last Dead show Bear taped that year. After they returned home from Vancouver, he and the unhappy band parted ways. Bear later explained, "They had decided that the system that Tim Scully and I built was too clumsy and wasn't doing what they wanted. So they wanted to go back to using standard amplifiers... By then I was out of money, and the scene was in need of other things, so I went off." (Taping Compendium p.39 - see also Conversations with the Dead p.317-18)
As a result, the Dead stopped taping themselves, and the next few months of shows are concealed in silence.

LIA: I agree that the "possibly 2/12/66" reel is probably the latest of these tapes. There's no way to tell when they started playing "Don't Ease Me In," but I doubt it was a new tune when they recorded it in June. Its absence from earlier tapes is odd, though. Perhaps it was intentionally resurrected from the jug-band days.
I would just add that they may have played with a jug band somewhere earlier in the year as well – the PH Phactor Jug Band, for instance, regularly played in San Francisco. Though there’s no evidence of such a billing in the show information we have, our knowledge of the year is far from complete.
(As an aside, the PH Factor Jug Band released a single of “Minglewood Blues” in 1967, and briefly joined the Dead on their Pacific NW tour in January 1968.)

Reel Clues

One commenter has suggested that the 10" reels are from earlier shows than the 7" reels. This could be coincidental, but it matched my initial feeling for the relative order of the tapes.
On further investigation, though, the different reel lengths seem randomly scattered through the year. There may not be a definite rule for how Bear's use of different tape standards corresponds to dating. The 1/28 show was recorded on a 10” reel, but 2/12 on a 7” reel. “Longshoreman’s Hall 1st night” uses 7" tape at 15 IPS whereas the “3rd Night” uses a 10" reel at 15 IPS. The July 29th and 30th tapes mark the last inarguable, undisputed Bear tapes for that period, and are known to be 10" reels at 15 IPS; yet the tape I believe to be from July 31 is a 7" reel at 7.5 IPS. So it is possible that Bear randomly used whatever type reel was available.

Bear does not often seem to have tried to conserve tape by recording at a lower speed. Taping at 15 IPS as he usually did, the reels would obviously run out much faster – had he set the speed at, say, 3.75 IPS, he could have taped well over an hour on a single reel. Since the sound quality would have declined, evidently getting good sound was a top priority. As it is, most of these reels are far from complete – the 10-inch “Longshoreman’s 3rd night” is the only definitely full reel, at almost 34 minutes. The 7-inch “Longshoreman’s 1st night” reel may be full, with almost 24 minutes of music. The other reels here are all left partially blank, perhaps only half-full. There is no sign that Bear was ever very thrifty with his tape use.

Most of the reels are labeled. Given no other evidence, I don't find the argument that the labels are "wrong" to be compelling enough to discard them completely - though they surely are not always correct.  I have trouble believing that these are random labels rather than that Bear (for instance) misremembered some details or labeled some stuff ambiguously - and reels and canisters got confused.

LIA: I believe the labels on the reels are almost entirely wrong. There is no reason to trust the dates or locations. As we saw in this post, "possibly 2/12/66" wasn't even in February; the actual 2/12 reel had no label; "Pauley Ballroom" was most likely at the Matrix (any actual Pauley tape has vanished); and the "1st night" and "3rd night" reels, if the location was right, are reversed. This is, at the least, massive confusion & mixup of the tapes, whether Bear or someone else did the attempted labeling.

It is at least clear that all these tapes are from early in the year, from Bear’s time as soundman.  We are hobbled by having so few reliable show dates from this period - there are probably a number of lost, unknown shows, and there is no telling how many shows were taped. It also doesn’t help that all of these tapes are partial – it seems there were other reels from each of these shows, which would have helped us identify them, but they are now lost.
Whether Bear taped over older shows is unknown, but doubtful. Though it would explain why so much is missing, it doesn’t seem like him to do that.

So my initial conclusion was that we may be able to determine the relative order of these tapes, but our dating info is too unreliable to trace them to specific shows. Nonetheless, this post has advanced some strong arguments toward identifying the actual dates.

December 23/24, 1966 – Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco

I Know You Rider
It Hurts Me Too
It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
Dancin’ in the Street
Midnight Hour
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl

In the early ‘70s Sunflower Records, a now defunct label, acquired a couple of 1966 Dead concerts from the Avalon and the Matrix, which were partly released on the Vintage Dead and Historic Dead albums. Most of the material seems to come from one concert; based on the liner notes (Avalon recording engineer Robert Cohen is credited as producer), we know this concert came from late 1966 and the Avalon. The relevant Avalon dates from late ’66 are August 19-20th; September 16-17th; November 4-5th and 13th; and December 23-24th. The concert is usually labeled September 16th, since the Vintage Dead album uses the poster from that date. 

I Know You Rider demonstrates that the show is from late in the year – it is most similar to the 12/1/66 version, with a prominent organ (which doesn’t feature in earlier versions, perhaps due to being low in the mix). These two performances also differ from the versions up through July ’66 in being longer: the Dead have added the “I wish I was a headlight” verse and a second solo in the middle of the song. Dancin’ in the Street is also very similar to the December 1st rendition, much more than to the July performances – Garcia’s playing is stronger in the later versions, and the Dead have dropped an extra vocal section before the jam that they sang in July.
Interestingly, I have noticed that Weir changed a lyric to Dancin' in the Street by the season in 1966.  It was probably originally for variety, but it helps immeasurably in relative dating, and sheds new light on the date of this show. Some examples:

7/16/66 – “Summer’s here and the time is right for dancin’ in the street”
 “9/16/66” – “Winter of the year but the time’s still here for dancin’ in the street”
11/19/66 – “Autumn of the year but the time [is] here for dancin’ in the street”
3/18/67 – “Spring of the year but the time is here for dancin’ in the street”

In the supposed September 16th version, Weir sings "winter." Since the few other available performances in this date range are consistent by season, that really rules out any date before late December. Within the Avalon shows of late '66, that lyric change is only plausible on December 23rd-24th. (In the December 1 Matrix performance, it sounds like Weir is still singing “autumn of the year,” though he is drowned out by the backing vocals.)

The tape was edited for release, so I have not found any banter that would narrow the date down further. The songs may well come from more than one show, though the sonic mix is consistent throughout. (Midnight Hour could have been an encore, as an announcer introduces it, “Ladies and gentlemen, once again, the Grateful Dead;” but that may be a production edit.)
Any further songs from this concert were likely erased by Cohen after the albums’ release.

As for the other songs usually included with the “September 16” show, Stealin’ and The Same Thing from side B of the Historic Dead album are not from the Avalon, but are from the 11/29/66 Matrix show; Peter Abram is credited as producer.


  1. Awesome love and scholarship as always with this most excellent site. Thanks for this primal archaeology and Uncertainty Principle exploration.

  2. By the way, if anyone captured the Jam of the Week stream of 2/6/66, file-sharing would be appreciated! It was more complete than the samples on the Taper's Section.

  3. Another great guest post. Nicely done. Re this:

    Garcia: “Cut us off again. That’s what happens, there’s no place you can play.”
    Weir: “The story of our lives, you play somewhere and somebody turns you off.”
    Lesh?: “Good night, ladies and gentlemen, and you too, you pricks.”

    ... there seem to be a couple handfuls of tapes in the archive wherein the Dead's electricity gets axed by the house. I'm guessing that at some point the Dead must have stopped playing venues where they be shut down, or they altered their behavior, or the venues became more accomodating ("Hey, we can't pull the plug on these guys in the middle of a song ... it's the Grateful Dead!").

    I'm curious: when is the last time we know that the plug was intentionally pulled on the band while they were playing?

    1. 8/24/68 at the Shrine in LA is another famous example of the plug getting pulled.
      It happened a couple times in April '69 - 4/6/69 at the Avalon, and 4/17/69 in St Louis.

      One interesting thing about the Avalon cutoff is that the night before, 4/5, Garcia says they have ten minutes left and they then play a 20-minute Alligator>feedback. This may partly account for the cutoff on 4/6.

      Offhand, I don't recall any later shows where the Dead had the plug pulled on them, though there may be more.
      I'd be surprised if there were any such incidents after 1970... By then, if the Dead were late or had less time to play, they simply played shorter sets. There are definitely short shows from this period where they kept their eye on the clock, so to speak, though they preferred not to.

    2. The power is also cut off during the 1/24/69 Avalon second set, in the middle of Lovelight. The audience doesn't want the show to stop, so the drummers keep going for a long drum break.
      Considering the set had been only a little more than a half-hour long, they must have been running overtime - and the Avalon was pretty serious about keeping sets short.

    3. The stage power is also cut in the 12/13/69 Swing Auditorium show in San Bernardino, 23 minutes into Lovelight, just as they're near the end of the song. It's not very dramatic - there's some stage yelling ("they pulled the plug on us!"), but otherwise you might think the Dead just stopped playing.

  4. Having 10 minutes left and then playing a 20 minute "Alligator/Feedback" is just the kind of dick move that many venue operators deserve.

  5. I'm sorry about the long wait for another post here. Circumstances since April have kept me from writing anything, and I am not sure when I will be able to post again. For now my best guess is sometime next month. This is very frustrating for me, so I'll resume as soon as I can.

  6. A couple new notes:

    2/6/66 -
    Bear said that he did not attend the Northridge Acid Test. If this is true, then he didn't tape it. I think that:
    a) the Acid Test was more likely on Saturday, Feb. 5 - this seems to be what the Dead are referring to on the earlier tapes.
    b) the "2/6/66" tape does not come from the Acid Test, but from some other show. It could be somewhere on Feb 6, but I suspect that more likely it comes from one of the late January shows - perhaps not one we know about.

    2/25/66 -
    This tape is in the Vault as 3/12/66, though it's circulated as 2/25. (It's referred to in this post as 3/12.)
    The setlist: On The Road Again, Next Time You See Me, I Know You Rider, Hey Little One, King Bee > Caution, Stealin'
    There was an Acid Test on 2/25/66 (at the Cinema Theater, not the Ivar), but this tape is not from it - in fact, it's not from February or March at all. The Vault dating cannot be trusted (as mentioned before, one set of 5/19 is also in the Vault dated as 3/12).
    Some clues:
    Hey Little One - in the 3/25 version (an authentic date), the guitar has a pronounced tremolo effect, which is not in the "2/25" or 7/29 versions.
    I Know You Rider - the 3/12 version does not have the "I drink muddy water" or "The sun will shine" verses, but "2/25" (and all versions from 5/19 onwards) have the extra verses.
    Cold Rain & Snow - 3/25 is the earliest version we have: Garcia's guitar playing is awkward, they play it rather slowly, and he sings it totally differently than any later version, lower and more tentatively. (He also sings "she met her fatal doom" in the last verse, which is changed in later versions to "she sang a fatal tune" or "she sang a fateful tune.") I think they must have just started playing it. "2/25" has to be later.
    But if "2/25" can't be from February or March, when is it from? The new Deadbase suggests it's as late as July, but this can't be the case either, because I Know You Rider does not have the bass/drum intro that was added in the July versions. So I think it most likely comes from the spring, May or June - it's most similar to the 5/19/66 show. There's no way to pin it down to any particular show.

    3/12/66 -
    This tape has circulated as both 3/12 and 3/19. Recent thinking is that it's from the 3/19 Carthay Studios Acid Test. The new Deadbase insists that it's from the 3/12 Danish Center show, which was not an Acid Test but a regular show. I think they're right. There's no hint on the tape that any Acid Test is taking place - it doesn't resemble the tapes of 1/8 or 2/12 (which are the only Acid Tests we actually have Dead music from). We know the Vault tape dated 3/12 is from other dates, which leaves 3/12 open. So I think that date is valid.

  7. Cross-posted from the 1966 Songs post comments, since it involves one of Bear's misdated reels:

    The Owsley Foundation has been putting up a few pictures of the reels they're restoring, including this example from 1966:

    Along with the picture of the reel label (dated "2/23/66 #3"), they state: "here's what's actually on the reel: Beat It On Down the Line, Standing on the Corner (first time played live according to some sources), Mindbender (Confusion's Prince), It Hurts me Too, Viola Lee Blues, I Know You Rider, It's A Sin, Sick & Tired, and Cream Puff War." (Cream Puff War cuts off at the end.)

    This used to be on tapelists as 2/23/66, but the reel is identical to the 5/19/66 first set, right down to the timings and the "raggedy" right track:

    5/19 is very likely to be the correct date. Sonically it matches the second set (which is in the Vault as "3/12/66"). The Viola Lee & I Know You Rider also seem to be later than the early LA versions.
    Also, the presence of Standing on the Corner & Cream Puff War in the setlist would suggest that it's later than the LA trip, since those songs aren't heard in any of the LA tapes. (The Rare Cuts release has a demo session with Good Lovin', Standing on the Corner, and Cream Puff War, all played on 5/19 - I presume it's close in date to the show, though possibly it was done earlier in LA.)

    Also, the Dead vault has another reel dated 2/23/66 (included in a Taper's Section) which has a home rehearsal jam. (Presumably there were reels #1 and 2 from that date.)

    My best guess is that reels originally taped in Feb/March '66 got taped over on 5/19, and perhaps other later shows as well. This is a perfect example of why '66 dates, even written on the reels, can't be trusted!

    One question is when it was labeled - there are two different attempts by a couple people to list the songs on the label; presumably Bear was the first, but he didn't know many of the song names (and called I Know You Rider "Easy Rider," a totally different old blues song which it would've been cool to hear the Dead play).
    My impression is of reels hastily taped during LA rehearsal sessions which maybe had only a date written on the reel, were later re-used to tape shows, and only later had song titles listed on the labels, perhaps accounting for the mis-match between the reel dates and the actual reel contents that we find on most of the early '66 reels.

  8. Those photos certainly explain why 1966-05-19 Set 1 used to circulate as 1966-02-23.

    I suspect Bear did not originally label his tape spools (or the labels have long since peeled off and been lost, sticky labels don't stay sticky forever). He hurriedly wrote something vague on the tape box and assumed the tape would stay in its correct box. He said that when he returned from prison his tapes were just carelessly piled up on a pallet. There must be every chance that tapes had spilled out of their boxes over the years and were not put back in the right box or the box just disintegrated leaving a mystery tape. Where there are labels on his old tapes now they have likely been stuck on by later cataloguers at the same time as they wrote the set lists on the boxes and the labels on the spine. There are plenty of opportunities for confusion even without reusing tape.

    I wonder why the tape (which as you say exactly matches the latest 136656 source) cuts after only 34 minutes but our older sources continue to the end of the set. They don't sound like they have a splice.

    1. The other copies don't sound like they have a splice - but they do! A standard 10-inch reel at 15ips would only have a little over 32 minutes on it.
      Check the last two seconds of Cream Puff War on the latest copy from SIRMick (the only copy actually taken from the master reel, the others are "remixed" to some extent with a narrower stereo picture) - after the drum rat-tat-tat, Garcia continues soloing with a flurry of high notes before the tape cuts off.
      On the other copies, that little flurry cuts short and he goes back to a repeat of his opening solo phrase. It's definitely an edit, the last second of the first reel is cut out so the music can be seamlessly spliced into the next reel. My compliments to the editor!

      The top line of "Feb 23 #3 - 15" - the good!!" seems to be written with a different pen than the initial song-titles, so those could have been added at a later date.
      I think the initial crossed-out songlist is of the same set - unknown songs, Hurts Me Too, Viola Lee, Rider, blues (It's A Sin), Pigpen (Sick & Tired) - though skipping a couple songs.
      Why Bear knew so few of the Dead's song-titles is in itself a mystery!

      The initial song list (and the side label) must be by Bear, or at least someone in the Dead's crew - the handwriting matches other Dead reel labels. (For instance see the Taping Compendium p.4.) It's hard to imagine anyone else calling I Know You Rider "Easy Rider" (could, say, Bob Matthews have written this in 1970? I doubt it).
      Nor would anyone labeling in later years just date it "Feb 23" - notice that the second labeler had to write in "1966." But whoever wrote the initial song list did so without the band's involvement, probably well after the tape was made, since they called some songs "unidentifiable."

      I agree with your theory, but I think it happened even earlier. Unlabeled reels may have gotten shuffled around between boxes even at the time, or put in the wrong boxes, or labels came off the Bear might not have been aware he was taping over earlier dates on 5/19, and by the time he got around to trying to list the songs, he'd forgotten dates.
      (I doubt he'd call one of his worst-sounding '66 tapes "good"... Something seems to have gone wrong with the mix here, unusual for Bear. Which is part of what makes me think that the initial 2/23 #3 reel was something else entirely.)

      This reel fits into the pattern where most of Bear's reels from early '66 have the wrong dates on them, and some of them seem to be off by months. Latvala & Lemieux both commented on how terrible the labeling was on the early reels (and how many reels were still left totally unlabeled, even when they had music on them) - see the start of this post.
      Some examples: "2/23" = 5/19 first set; "3/12" = 5/19 second set; "2/25" aka "3/12" again = unknown spring show; as well as the many examples in this post.
      I don't think the confusion was by later cataloguers - clearly some of the early reels got recycled or mixed up while in Bear's possession. At that point, maybe nobody cared about keeping the recordings after they left LA. Maybe the reels were intentionally taped over without bothering to write new dates. For all we know, Bear was still taping over more Feb. reels in July!

  9. On 4/24, David Lemieux played the "Longshoreman's Hall 3rd Night" tape (the one with the Jorma & Jack blues jam) on the Today in Grateful Dead History show on SiriusXM's Dead channel. So in the Vault, at least, this tape is accepted as 4/24/66. (Since this BIODTL has the older arrangement, I think it's a misdated tape from an earlier show, but we'll never know for sure.)

  10. How did I miss this?

    Is there any way to hear the 2-6-66 three tracks that were posted on Jam Of The week? I have the first two from the Taper's Section. I haven't seen these turn up on the torrent sites..... I'm a huge fan of these early acid test shows!

    February 6, 1966 – Northridge Unitarian Church, Los Angeles
    /Tastebud (cuts in)

    One Kind Favor
    Only Time Is Now// (cuts after one minute)

    1. Sadly, I didn't think to save the Jam of the Week audio, so I don't have a copy myself, nor have I spotted it on a torrent site.
      But perhaps some reader here does have a copy and can share it online?


    3. Thanks!
      On a technical note, Lemieux did some editing between songs, as there's a cut after each song - possibly just dead air, but perhaps some stage banter got snipped too. (I don't think the cuts are on the original tape.)
      It's impossible to tell whether the tape is actually from the Northridge acid test, but I doubt it - not only does it have none of the madness that's on the known acid test tapes (it sounds more like a regular show), but Owsley said he wasn't at that one. It's surely from a nearby date, though.
      Note that Owsley keeps changing the vocal mix from song to song, as the vocals switch from one channel to another (check out One Kind Favor in particular). The instruments are more spread-out than in his later mixes too - Garcia's guitar is usually over on the right. Owsley was still new at live taping, so he was making mix decisions on the fly.

  11. One other tape that I've been trying to figure out came my way on cassette in the mid 80's labeled 3-12-66 with only three songs on it: Viola Lee Blues, You See a Broken Heart & (In The) Midnight Hour. a copy can be streamed here:

    This version of Viola Lee Blues doesn't seem to match ANY other 1966/1967 shows. (I played every 1966/1967 recording back to back trying to match it up w/o luck.) You See a Broken Heart and (In The) Midnight Hour are from the tape now labeled as the Pico Acid Test 3-19-66, previously known as 3-12-66. (Go figure, right?)

    After comparing Garcia's lead work on Viola Lee Blues, I think it was probably from around summer, 1966. The closest recording I heard is version heard in Petulia, but it's Not the same version

    Petulia is said to have been recorded in the Spring of 1966. I've been thinking it could be another unused take filmed for the movie, but I'm just speculating. It's a shame such an amazing performance can't be properly dated.

    What do you think?

    1. Viola Lee Blues on that tape is taken from 12-1-66 (but in a mono copy) - compare to this copy:

      Petulia was filmed in spring '67, from a "show" probably staged for the cameras. Since Richard Lester only used a couple minutes of singing in the film, I wish outtakes existed for that performance!

  12. In last November's 30 Days of Dead, a recording from what is typically said to be 5/19/66 was asserted by David Lemieux to actually be 2/23/66.

    1. The date on the Vault tape is wrong, that show is definitely 5/19/66.
      There's some discussion of this in the 3/21/17 comment above!