December 7, 2018

Help on the Way > Slipknot > Franklin's Tower: The Early Years (Guest Post)

Guest Post by David Bourne, author of the 21st Century Dead blog:

     Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower is one of the Dead's most ambitious suites, first released on Blues For Allah in 1975.  They played it live 27 times from 1975-1977, and in those few years it underwent a lot of changes.  Now I'm no master of music theory, so this isn't the most technical analysis of those changes, but I've done my best to break them down into terms that should be easy to understand.  My favorite performances are marked *. 
     You'll notice that there aren't nearly as many notes for Franklin's Tower, because it really didn't change at all from its conception, even all the way into the 90's.  I mainly just list its tempo and length, and anything of note for a particular version.

     These are the main features that I wanted to keep track of through the years.  I also took notes on other, more subjective aspects of the songs, like how well the songs are played and how smooth the transitions are.

    Setlist placement
    Vamp -- There are three different ways they started the song:
            With a vamp on the opening chord of the song (this could be of varying lengths, sometimes being quite long).
            A cold start with nothing more than maybe a vocal count-off from Jerry.
            A half vamp/half intro where the rest of the band went from vamping to doing the actual chord changes, but Jerry waited to do his chords.
    Number of times they did the opening/closing riff of Help
        They opened and closed all live '75 versions, and most '76 ones, with two big chords and a little riff from Jerry; they played these four times.  But in some '76 and '77 versions they did that eight times or even more, especially if they did the half vamp/half intro.  I pretty much only mention these riffs if they do the latter option when they do more than four times.
    Help solo
        I kept track of the amount of times they went through Jerry's solo in Help, as well as how aggressive or laid back he was.  Some '76 versions are very mellow.
    Keith's instrumentation
        Across these years Keith played grand piano, a Yamaha electric piano, Fender Rhodes, and a Polymoog synthesizer.
        I took approximate tempos in beats per minute, or BPM (thanks internet), for Help and Frank.  I say approximate because they vary within each song, especially Frank.
        The tempos in Slip change so much I didn't measure it.
    Jerry's tones
        I can't do a catalogue of all Jerry's filters and effects, but I do keep track of whether he's playing Wolf or his Travis Bean (he actually had a couple of them, but I don't get that detailed) guitar.  The Travis sometimes sounded very thin, depending on whatever Jerry was doing with his filters; I think it was meant to be more piercing, but often just sounds kind of weak.
        If you do want a more detailed history of Jerry's guitars, look no further than right here:  And really, look no further, because the actual Jerry site has way less information.
    Hee-ah, Hush
        In Help, Donna and Bob did breathy little asides of "hush" and "hee-ah," and for whatever reason they kept switching both the order of the words and the amount of times they repeated them.  I would say it wasn't intentional and they were just doing it randomly each time, but they almost always said the same words, so it feels like there's some level of intention.
    Slip Riff
        By "Slip Riff" I mean...well, that classic Slipknot! section that starts and ends the song (3:51-4:07 & 6:11 to the end on the studio version below).  There are four basic iterations of it, with a few wild cards that are either totally flubbed or just experimental.  Of these four, the first three I refer to as "double riff," and the fourth one is "single riff."
            On the studio version and some live ones they did the riff twice, and it's made up of three bars of 8.  The riff is mostly done by the whole band, but finished by the drummers, occasionally with some counterpoints from the others (usually Phil).
            On all the live versions from '75 they did the same riff twice, but it's made up of two bars of 8, then one bar of 9.
            In '76 and '77 they usually did the same riff four times, still made up of two bars of 8, one bar of 9.
            In some '76 and '77 versions they did half of the riff four times, so it's only made up of two bars of eight, so it's an even split of 8 bars with the full band, 8 bars with just the drummers.  This is how they always ended the song, but in these few versions, and every version from '83-'95, they started with it as well.
        Bobby's ascending riff that pulled the whole band out of the jam like a ripcord and led into the closing Slip Riff.  (Making up some new words here, bear with me.)

       One of the things we should settle before we go any further is where we draw the line between Help and Slip.  Ultimately it's not that important, since the two were always played together, but for the purpose of timing these different versions I needed to draw the line somewhere.  And it's not like there's a standard answer, the songs are cut at different spots on every official release, let alone all the versions on the archive.  If you listen to the studio version (linked below) I drew the line right at 3:50 in Help, and that's the same spot I aimed for on all other versions.  There's a good argument that it should be at 3:32, but to me that feels more like part of Help, even though it does contain elements of Slip.  Also note that if they vamp the intro, I include the vamp in the timing, just to make sure all the versions get measured on more or less the same metric.

    Studio Version

        Help (3:50)
            Opens the album.
            No vamp.
            Keith is on the Rhodes.
            Slower than most live versions (~92 BPM).
            Hush, hee-ah, hush.
            Solo not too aggressive, Jerry's guitar sounds full.  Only one time through.
        Slip (3:31)
            Slip Riff has only two rotations, three bars of 8.
            Keith-and-Phil-led intro, Jerry comes in after not too long.
            Keith is on the Rhodes.
            Very laid back tempo, but the jam does have direction.
            They do Slipcord, but it's not quite the full band, very subtle.  Transition feels a little different, but I think it's just the tempo and mix.
            Counterparts by Phil in riffage. Glockenspiel and sleigh bells in closing riff.
        Frank (4:35)
            More of a shuffle, Caribbean Jerry.
            Keith on the organ, only time.
            ~99 BPM.
            No solo between 2nd and 3rd, & 4th and 5th, verses.
            No solo after first roll away.
            It just fades out, there is no closing riff.

    6/17/75  San Francisco, CA

        Help (3:16)
            End of the first set.
            No lyrics written yet.
            Keith on the Rhodes.
            Great tempo (~104 BPM).
            No lyrics, no hee-ah or hush.
            Thick Jerry on solo with Wolf, very aggressive, two times through.
            Good outro riff and smooth transition.
        Slip (9:58)
            Slip Riff very tight, two rotations: two bars of 8, one bar of 9.  Mostly Jerry doing the actual riff.
            Jerry jumps in right away, good drive but not a ton of focus.
            Keith on the Rhodes, he really shines on this one.
            Only Bobby on Slipcord, but it doesn't really take.  Jerry just starts up the outro riff.  Pretty rough, but it's new, so we won't hold it against them.
        Frank (9:27)
            This Franklin's Tower sets the tone for how 99% (not real math) of future versions would be structured.
                Solo before the first verse.
                Solo after every verse.
                Big solo after "listen to the music play" line.
                After the final verse they sing the "roll away" chorus over and over, then another big solo, then the chorus again and the end of the song.
                The only difference is that this one doesn't reprise the Slipknot! outro riff.
            ~100 BPM
            Keith on the Rhodes.

    8/13/75*  San Francisco, CA  (One from the Vault)

        Help (4:12)
            Starts first set.
            ~14 bar vamp under Bill Graham's introduction.  If you listen to the above version, you'll hear that it doesn't go down quite the way it's presented on One From the Vault, but it's still cool.
            Good tempo (~100 BPM).
            Keith on the Rhodes.
            Hush, hee-ah, hush.
            Full and aggressive Jerry on Wolf during the solo, such a good version!  One time through.
            Great outro.
        Slip (4:11)
            Slip Riff has two rotations: two bars of 8, one bar of 9.  Very tight.
            Whole band is active in Slip.  Jerry gets big and scary, gives the song a lot of direction.
            Keith on the Rhodes.
            Someone goes "Woo!" before Slipcord, which is always a great sign.  Perfectly seamless Slipcord > transition > Slip Riff.  Sleigh bells again, like on the album.
        Frank (6:50 - shortest)
            This version is short and punchy, and I love it.
            ~105 BPM
            Keith on the Rhodes.
            Wolf sounds so great, I wish there were more versions of these songs with it besides these two from '75 and the final '77 one.

    9/28/75  San Francisco, CA  (30 Trips Around the Sun)

        Help (5:18)
            Starts first set.
            ~6 bar vamp, fades into intro.
            Keith on the Rhodes.
            A little slower, still good tempo (~100 BPM).
            Hush, hee-ah.
            Jerry switched back to the Travis Bean, and would use it up until Fall of '77.  Even so, he has a very full sound.
            Aggressive solo.  Three times through, but maybe by accident.
            Slightly different lyrics, probably just Jerry spacing out.
            Good riff and transition.
        Slip (6:57)
            Tight Slip Riff!  Two rotations: two bars of 8, one bar of 9.
            Jerry is a part of the jam from start, he doesn't hold back at first like he often did.  Pretty spacey at first, gains some direction.
            Keith on the Rhodes.
            Very present drums.
            Rough shift into Slipcord, transition good.  Riffs were a bit marred, but someone was having a baby, so give them a break.
            No segue; Music Never Stops follows.
        Frank (7:44)
            A rare standalone version, no transition into or out of it.
            Keith on the Rhodes.
            ~102 BPM.
            Jerry sounds huge and aggressive, excellent version.
            A Capella chorus before the outro riff.

    6/3/76  Portland, OR

        Help (5:05)
            Quiet, stretched out vamp, ~8 bars with full band.
            Slower (~94 BPM).
            Late 2nd set.
            Keith on piano.
            Hee-ah, hush, hee-ah.
            2 times through solo.  Laid back first time through, starts to bite a bit more in the second round.  Jerry sounding a little thin and sparkly.
            Very smooth outro.
        Slip (12:31)
            Four rotations on Slip Riff for the first time: first rotation with three bars of 8, the next three rotations with two bars of 8, and then one bar of 9.  Tight.
            Phil starts off the jam, it turns into a back and forth between him and Jerry. 
            Keith on the Rhodes.
            Very spacey, not too drum-focused.
            Not too focused in general, picks up some steam halfway through as Jerry finds direction.
            Weak intro to Slipcord.  Outro riff sloppy, maybe even a little lazy.
        Frank (11:27)
            A little lackluster at first, picks up steam briefly after second verse.
            ~106 BPM.

    6/4/76  Portland, OR

        Help (4:59)
            More stretched out vamp (~11 bars).
            ~97 BPM.
            End of first set.
            Keith on the piano, harder to hear him and Bobby on iffy soundboard.
            Hee-ah, hush, hee-ah.
            Two times through solo, more aggressive, getting still more aggressive on the second round.
            Transition a little rough from Help to Slip.
        Slip (11:23)
            Slip Riff not quite as tight. 4 rotations, though Bob tries to dip out after 3.  All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Phil and Bob lead the jam.  Bob and Keith sound very spacey and Rhodesy, some distortions for Phil too (or there's an issue with the tape).
            Long time before Jerry chimes in on this one.
            Much more direction and energy, nice dissonance.
            Sloppy into Slipcord, but they mostly keep it together.  Transition into Slip Riff is right too, but then there's no agreement on how the riff actually goes.  Jerry just forces his idea of it through and everyone drags along after him.  Not great.
        Frank (12:25)
            Starts out shaky after the rough ending to Slip, but it picks up energy, much better than the night before.
            ~101 BPM.

    6/10/76  Boston, MA

        Help (4:16)
            Early second set.
            Half vamp/half intro.
            A little faster again (~101 BPM).
            Hee-ah and hush said at the same time twice, then hee-ah.
            Two rounds on solo, aggressive, very fast notes from Garcia.  Jerry sounding a little thin, but with great interplay from Keith (piano).
            Smooth transition into Slip
        Slip (7:28)
            Slip Riff with 4 rotations: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.  A little sloppy.
            Aggressive start to jam by Keith (piano) and Phil, Bobby laying groundwork for the jam to come.  Jerry comes in much earlier, with a direction in mind.  Great phrasing from Bob.
            Much shorter than two previous shows, but that keeps them on task instead of noodling.
            Tentative transition into Slipcord, but they nail it and the transition into Slip Riff.  Slip Riff is perfect.  It must be Billy with sleigh-bells, because Mickey is on cowbell.  Big counterparts from Phil.
        Frank (10:28)
            ~107 BPM.
            More incredible interplay between Keith and Jerry!

    6/14/76*  New York, NY

        Help (4:36)
            Late second set.
             ~15 bars of vamp, longest yet.
            A little faster yet (~105 BPM).
            Keith piano, Bob sounding cleaner.
            Hush, heaa-ah, hush.
            Two times around, Jerry pretty thin, relatively aggressive.
            Some garbled lyrics in final verse, and a little hiccup in the transition when Jerry throws in one extra riff, otherwise very tight.
        Slip (13:18)
            Slip Riff as just a single riff for the first time.  4 rotations: all four rotations just two bars of 8.  Very tight, though Jerry tries to double riff at first.
            Sleigh-bells again.
            Phil and Keith start jam off happier, gets dark very quickly.  Jerry also shows up almost right away.
            Band very energetic, going in multiple directions at once.
            Everyone else fades away to a weird-off between Jerry and Phil for a bit, then gets drum heavy.
            Turns into Bob-led jam, all happy and bright (almost Good Lovin').  Kind of cool as an early '76 thematic jam, but doesn't fit song too well until Jerry takes over.
            Nice segue from general space to more of a classic Slip theme and then a count-off from Bob into Slipcord.
            Phil slams home the transition, and then Bob takes the first Slip Riff solo.  Very tight, very bright!
        Frank (10:23)
            ~108 BPM.
            A bouncy version, Phil clearly is having fun.

    6/17/76  Passaic, NJ  (Announced and released as Dave's Picks 28 while writing this!)

        Help (4:57)
            Second set opener.
            No vamp at all, just right into it with a lot of Phil.  Jerry starts with "help on the way" instead of "paradise waits."
            Slower tempo, ~94 BPM.
            Keith on piano.
            Fierce and fluid solo, two times through.  Jerry does a little feedback-echo thing at one point, very cool and not sounding too thin.  Phil's approach on this version feels jazzier than normal, a lot of unexpected notes and power chords.
            Hee-ah, hush.
            Jerry really flubs the transition.  One extra bar before Slip Riff.
        Slip (8:32)
            Slip Riff also pretty flubbed, hard to tell if syncopation or errors.  4 rotations, back to the double riff.  Jerry does all four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.  Bobby tries to only do bars of 8.  The rest of the band basically splits down the middle, and the song somehow keeps moving.
            Keith still on piano.
            Jerry comes into the jam right away and launches off with Keith, Phil dominating the soundscape.  Jam has definite direction, again starting to have that Fall '76 level of inspiration.  Drums not exactly dominant, but assertive.
            Sudden drop into Slipcord.  They nail the outro Slip Riff, way tighter than the intro!
        Frank (11:13)
            Very energetic, but same structure.
            Tempo ~100 BPM.
            Smooth outro riff into Dancing.

    6/19/76  Passaic, NJ

        Help (4:55)
            Show opener.  Phil says in tuning that they "don't use machines" to tune, which sounds believable and inconvenient.
            Half vamp/half intro, tempo still slower (~93 BPM).
            Keith on piano.
            Hee-a, hush, hee-ah.
            Very thin sound from Garcia, two times through the solo.
            Rough transition.
        Slip (7:05)
            Also a rough Slip Riff.  4 rotations: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Jam not as focused, Jerry and Phil not nearly as driving.  Very spacey but not much going on.
            Very dissonant jazzy Keith, going from the piano to the Rhodes.
            Bobby Dark Star tease ~2:30?!
            Spindly jam with a lot of drums by the end, awkward twist into Slipcord.  Tight Slip Riff though, if a little slow.
        Frank (9:42)
            Energy and tempo back up.
            ~102 BPM.
            This one goes right into Music after the outro riff.

    6/21/76*  Upper Darby, PA

        Help (4:21)
            Early/mid second set.
            No vamp, starts right into it.  One extra rotation on opening riff before the verse.
            Keith on piano.
            Tempo back up (~104 BPM).
            Hee-ah, hush, *moan*?
            Two rounds in solo, Jerry more aggressive than last one while still sounding a little thin on Travis.
            Smooth transition.
        Slip (8:58)
            Slip Riff a little iffy but mostly tight.  4 rotations: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Phil leads the jam again, Jerry waiting for a long while to come in.
            Keith on Rhodes.
            Drifting jam with not too much direction.
            Kind of backwards, spacey intro to Slipcord, very cool.  Keith back on piano.
            Great riffage with counterparts from Bob.
        Frank (11:15)
            ~108 BPM

    6/24/76  Upper Darby, PA

        Help (4:36)
            Starts second set.
            Half vamp/half intro
            Keith piano.
            Two times around in the solo pretty mellow.  Thinnest Travis yet.
            Good tempo, (~104 BPM).
            Hee-ah, hush.
            Jerry tries to flub the transition but pulls it together.
        Slip (9:08)
            Slip Riff a little rough but not too bad.  4 rotations: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Keith on the Rhodes.  Not as Phil-led, very much a drum affair.  Jerry with some directional control though.
            Slipcord emerges suddenly, no coherent jam into it, but smooth and bright transition.  The ending Slip Riff becomes pretty consistent from this point on.
        Frank (9:27)
            ~104 BPM, same as Help.
            Another good one, runs out of steam a little at the end.

    6/27/76*  Chicago, IL

        Help (4:42)
            Mid/late second set.
            No vamp.
            Keith on piano.
            ~96 BPM.
            Hee-ah and hush said simultaneously.
            Two rounds through solo, not as thin sounding but mellow.  Great interplay between Jerry and Keith.
            One extra outro riff, Jerry a little lost.
        Slip (9:40)
            This Slip Riff is tighter than the last couple, but only just.  4 rotations: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Aggressive start to jam from Phil and drummers, Bobby takes charge.
            Keith on Rhodes.
            Loses direction somewhat, but doesn't lose energy, very creative spaces.
            Sudden shift into Slipcord, works pretty well.  Transition good, riffage solid.  Phil providing counterparts during the drums part of the riff.
        Frank (14:34 - longest yet)
            ~104 BPM.
            Very good energy.
            Smooth outro riff right into Sugar Magnolia.

    7/12/76  San Francisco, CA

        Help (4:42)
            Mid second set.
            Half vamp/half intro.
            Recordings sound kind of thin.
            Keith on piano.
            Hee-ah, hush, hee-ah.
            ~106 BPM.
            Thicker tone from Jerry on solos, two time through, middle mellow.
            Pretty good transition.
        Slip (7:20)
            Slip Riff has 4 rotations: All four rotations with three bars of 8.  Tight.
            Very open jam to start, but Jerry gains control and direction.
            Keith on Rhodes.
            Jam really picks up, Jerry has definite direction in mind.
            Another sudden start to Slipcord, tight all the way through the riffs.
        Frank (14:01)
            107 BPM.
            Bobby almost does his China Cat tease for the first time, but not quite.

    8/4/76  Jersey City, NJ
        Help (6:53)
            Opens second set.
            Much slower (~89 BPM).
            ~10 bar vamp with Big Phil swooping and thudding all over the place.
            Keith piano.
            Hee-ah, hush.
            Three times through solo.  Jerry not sounding thin, but everything just feels in slow motion, kind of bloated.
            Transition very good, feeling more fluid than slow motion.
        Slip (10:31)
            Not great on the Slip Riff, and with a weird anomaly.  Four rotations: first rotation with three bars of 8, the next three rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Obviously a Phil dominant jam.  Maybe it's just the mix but I mean damn, Phil, leave some room for everyone else.
            Jerry still manages to take over with Keith's help, very focused and directed.  Jerry has a new riff he's working out it seems.
            Keith on piano.
            Drums would be overpowering if everything wasn't turned up to 11.  What's the story with this show?
            Jerry makes very nice turn into Slipcord, good transition except for one little speed bump.  Riffage solid, I think I hear one drummer(?) go "riiight."
            Tempo picks up into Franklin's.
        Frank (12:16)
            Bobby does the actual China Cat riff for the first time after almost doing it the previous show.
            Very big and splashy version.  Were they tripping?  Drunk?  It's not sweet like most other versions from the year, it sounds almost proto-78 in a way.
            ~104 BPM.
            Good outro riff into Dancing.

    9/23/76  Durham, NC

        Help (at least 4:34)
            Starts second set.
            Bad recording, hard to tell if there was a vamp.
            Jerry blows many lyrics.
            Tempo back up, ~103 BPM.
            Keith on piano.
            Hee-ah, (garbled, maybe also hush), hush.
            Jerry only a little thin in the solo (recording?), gets more aggressive as it goes.  Two times through.
            Extra rotations on the Help riff like in '77 (accident), but transition good.
        Slip (9:16)
            4 rotations for Slip Riff: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.  A little rocky, but it stays together.
            Everyone very present in jam, no particular leader but a shared direction.
            Keith on piano.
            Directed jam, goes into a small space, slides into Slipcord.  Transition very good, almost dark and brooding.  Hot riffage, Phil counterpoint.  Jerry kind of fucks it up but they make it work as if nothing ever happened, very cool.
        Frank (11:45)
            Higher energy than June and July, not the same craziness as August.
            ~107 BPM.
            Goes into Looks Like Rain after closing riff.

    9/24/76  Williamsburg, VA (Dave's Picks 4)

        Help (4:36)
            Mid second set.
            ~15 bar vamp.
            Tempo even faster than last night ~108 BPM.
            Hee-ah, hush, hee-ah.
            Aggressive and full sounding Jerry on solo, two times through.
            Keith is spiraling all over the place on his piano, a perfect example of what I love so much about '76.
            One extra rotation in outro riff again, maybe on purpose now.  Smooth transition with extra bar before Slip Riff.
        Slip (5:38)
            Slip Riff a little sloppy at first, but gets tighter.  4 rotations: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Very drum heavy from the start, Keith and Phil setting up territory before Jerry comes in.
            Very directed, rest of band keeping up with drum energy so no one person is dominant.
            Keith on piano, very energetic with thematic twists.  Sounds exactly like Fall '76, interestingly enough.
            The first of three split Slipknots in Fall ‘76. Sudden fade into Drums.
        Drums (5:35)
            Good drums, focused and kinetic.
        Slip (5:28)
            Bobby blends right in with drums, plucking away at his strings for a while before the others slowly filter in.
            Not too much direction at first, but still with a lot of momentum from Drums.
            They start a slow Slipcord-ish jam, but then it becomes impossible to tell when the real Slipcord starts or ends.  Drums are working overtime the whole time, which results in the weird, skewed double time Slip Riff.  A pretty cool accident.
            It's a bit of a mess, but then they slide into the outro riff and it all works out.  They maybe slow down a little too much after the frenzy, but still good.
        Frank (8:12 – shortest of ‘76)
            Vibrant, high energy performance.
            ~112 BPM.
            Outro riff solid, Keith rolling all over the place, transitions into Music Never Stopped.

    9/27/76*  Rochester, NY

        Help (5:21)
            Mid second set.
            Half vamp/half intro.  Big Phil at it again.
            Keith piano.
            Great tempo again (~109 BPM).
            Hush, hee-ah, hush.
            Jerry a little thin on solo, aggressive though.  Three times through, though Jerry almost loses the band at the start of second rotation.
            Four extra rotations on Help riff exactly like '77.  Great transition.
        Slip (7:24)
            Slip Riff is perfect, and also anomalous.  4 rotations: First rotation with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9, the next three rotations with two bars of 8 and one bar of 10!  Could it have been on purpose?  Just a mistake?
            Very drums heavy, Jerry not very dominant but jam still has direction, Phil maybe leading more.
            Keith on piano.  I think Keith's piano is crucial to that iconic '76 sound; it's just so chunky and bright, and it seems like it helps keep focus as opposed to the spaciness of the Rhodes.
            Drums and Phil try to take over, but the drums win out when Jerry slams on the brakes.
        Drums (5:56)
            Mellow drums at first, very pitter-pattery, but picks up momentum.
            I wonder how much these sandwiches were planned.  They were doing seamless sets tied together with unique jams all throughout the end of '76, usually with Playing in the Band as the launchpad, but Slipknot! seems like another obvious song to segue in and out of - certainly easier than Good Lovin'.  I'm still curious though if they started this sequence knowing they were going to break off from Slip, let alone if they would do all these other songs before returning to it.  Or was it all spur of the moment?  Jerry pulling the handbrake at the start of drums makes me think it was planned in this case at least.
        Other One (10:05)
            I'm not really here to review these middle songs, but I have to say I love this Other One.  Ferocious playing, it mostly stays on theme with some big peaks.
            Keith on piano.
            No second verse.  Sounds like they almost go into Slipcord from end of TOO, then Phil wants Stella, but Jerry starts off Wharf Rat instead.
        Wharf Rat (10:43)
            A very stretched out and majestic version, Jerry taking a lot of extra breaks between verses.  Hard to sing along to, excellent to listen to.
            Keith on piano.
        Slip (2:44)
            Kind of awkward turn into Slip, but they're quick to propel the jam from there into a nice frenzy.  A few false starts into Slipcord, but instead they build the jam up a little bit before letting it come to a little pause and fully diving in.
            Transition and riffage a little jerky, but still pretty great.  Maybe a "woo" from a drummer right before the riffs, but could be the crowd.
        Frank (17:50)
            This is the longest version of the song in this period.
            ~109 BPM.
            Sounds like they almost finish it up after the first roll away refrain, but Jerry pushes them to keep soloing and come back to it again.
            Bobby does the China Cat riff again.

    10/1/76*  Indianapolis, IN

        Help (4:39)
            Early/mid second set.
            Half vamp/half intro.
            Keith on piano, excellent counterparts with Jerry.
            Big Phil again, very sharp.
            Slightly slower tempo (~102 BPM), but still upbeat overall.
            Hush, hee-ah.
            Jerry sounds thin on the solo, not too aggressive.  Two times through.
            Usual number of rotations through help riff, not like '77 or 9/27.  Transition tight.
        Slip (13:05)
            Very tight Slip Riff.  4 rotations: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Very mellow jam to start, not any one direction, everyone goes off on their own track, but end up together.  Very active drums.
            Keith switches back and forth between piano and Rhodes throughout.
            It seems like they're going to Slipcord out around 8 minutes in, but instead the jam just mellows down into a spooky little thematic groove.
            Phil kickstarts them into Slipcord, slightly awkward transition with Bob taking first Slip Riff solo.  Tight from there.
        Frank (10:45)
            ~106 BPM.
            A little shaky on the outro riff.

    10/9/76*  Oakland, CA (Dick's Picks 33)

        Help (5:38)
            Mid/end second set.
            No vamp, it comes right out of St. Stephen.
            This is the best version of the song, I don't care what anyone says.
            Slow, Big Phil, ~92 BPM.
            Keith on piano.
            Hee-ah, hush, hee-ah
            Very full Jerry on an aggressive solo, three times through.
            Transition great, regular amount of time through Help riff.
        Slip (5:31)
            Near perfect Slip Riff, Bob takes first riff solo.  4 rotations: First two rotations with two bars of 8 and one bar of 9, second two rotations with three bars of 8.
            No real leader in the jam, but definite direction.  Jerry sits out only for a little, then totally takes charge.
            Keith starts on piano but shift over to the Rhodes.
            Gets very spacey without losing focus, starts to sound almost '74ish right before drums.
        Drums (3:23)
            Mellow aux percussion going on at first, but still pretty driven.  Turns into a bit of a frenzy.
        Samson (7:17)
            Sudden shift into Samson by the drummers, tight, but the others ease into it instead of a big explosive opening.
            Keith plays some incredible barrel-house piano, really rounding the whole song out.
            Ending done perfectly.
        Slip (6:48)
            Pure magic. Jerry starts up a little jam from nothing, and everyone joins in so smoothly and telepathically that it feels almost orchestrated.
            Keith on piano.
            Jerry is just masterful on this, creating unique thematic riffs and twists that still feel so very Slip.  Incredible transition into Slipcord.
            Perfect transition, tightest Slip Riff of the year probably.  Big "woo," from Bobby or a drummer.
        Frank (12:43)
            Such high energy, just like the whole show.
            ~107 BPM.

    12/31/76  Daly City, CA  (Live at the Cow Palace)

        Help (4:41)
            Mid second set.
            Half vamp/half intro that fades in from Around & Around.
            ~101 BPM.
            Keith piano.
            Hee-ah, hush.
            Full Jerry in solo, aggressive.  Two times through.
            Regular amount of times through closing Help riff.  Smooth transition.
        Slip > "Drums"(12:28)
            Slip Riff is pretty tight, second rotation a little off.  All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Keith on piano.
            Not too much direction, spaces way far out, but not in the creative jazzy way that 10/1 and 10/9 did.  Some attempts or hints towards Slipcord, but Phil and the drummers take over.
                I don't think this should be labeled as Drums, personally.  The rest of the band sticks around for most of it, then Phil does a Solomon-esque solo, but the drummers don't bite on that rhythm, they just bop around him.  The only part of this track with just the drummers is about 30 seconds leading up to Not Fade Away.
            No Franklin’s this night.

    2/26/77*  San Bernardino, CA  (Dave's Picks 29) 

        Help (5:18)
            Mid second set.
            Half-vamp, half-intro.
            Good tempo, ~103 BPM.
            Keith on piano.
            Hee-ah, hush.
            Jerry a little thin, but aggressive on the solo.  Three times through, gets fuller.
            Only once through the outro riff section like in '76, pretty tight through the transition.
        Slip (8:02)
            Double riff, syncopated.  Sounds great, if not totally together: the first, second, and fourth rotations have two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.  The third rotation maybe with just three bars of 8 if you ask Phil.
            Phil really leads jam, Jerry waits a long time to come in.  His tone really gets fuzzier and darker in '77, he turns into Big Scary Jerry.
            Very directed and inspired jam.  Drums present but not overpowering at all.
            Keith on piano.
            Sudden dive into Slipcord, preluded by Scary Jerry making big swoops to take control of the jam, a popular trick they liked to do in '77.
            Slip Riffs good, not perfect.  Counterparts from whole band.  Two times through riff like rest of year.  Solid transition.
        Frank (13:30 - with a 25-second cut in the SBD recording)
            Bobby teases China Cat again.
            ~107 BPM.
            Very good and bouncy.

    4/23/77  Springfield, MA

        Help (4:47)
            Mid second set.
            No vamp, just a count-off.
            A little slower still (BPM ~95).
            Keith on piano.
            Jerry flubs a bunch of lyrics.
            Hee-ah, hush.
            Full Jerry on solo, a little iffy on the first round though.  Picks up for second of two rounds.
            Great outro riff, double rotations, good transition.
        Slip (8:43)
            4 rotations on Slipcord, single riff again: all four rotations just two bars of 8.  Tight.
            Bob and Keith really pave the way for jam, Jerry doesn't wait too long to take over though.
            Keith starts on piano, switches over to his polymoog.  Some cool textures, but it doesn't sound anywhere as good as his Rhodes did.
            Spacey, but with direction.
            Rough switch into Slipcord.
            Riffs hard to count because of fuck-ups, becomes plodding and deliberate.  Transition a little rough.
        Frank (10:33)
            ~105 BPM.
            Keith on polymoog again.
            Bobby teases China Cat.
            Only time they finish Franklin's without the outro riff, they just go right into Around & Around.

    4/29/77*  New York City, NY

        Help (4:57)
            Open first set.
            No real vamp.
            Faster, great tempo (~106 BPM).
            Keith piano.
            Hee-ah, hush.
            Full sounding Jerry on solo, a little shaky at first but very aggressive.  Three times through.
            Double outro riff, Jerry almost loses it right away but recovers immediately, tight from there.  Good transition.
        Slip (8:14)
            Extra bar before Slip Riff.
            4 rotations: First rotation flubbed, the other three rotations with two bars of 8 and one bar of 9.
            Keith switches back and forth between the piano and moog. The moog makes for some cool drone work, but just not as good as the Rhodes.
            This is a very dark and feedback-filled jam, Big Scary Jerry is back.
            A nice balance between spaciness and a focused direction.
            A little janky turn into Slipcord, saved by Billy.  This version isn't perfect in a technical sense, but it really cooks.
            Transition a little sloppy too, but it still works.  Riffage tight, great tempo.  Triple rotations through the Slip Riffs, the only time they do that many.
        Frank (15:33)
            Still great tempo, ~114 BPM
            Keith on the moog.
            Kind of lackluster outro riff.

    5/9/77*  Buffalo, NY (May '77 Get Shown the Light Box Set)

        Help (5:24)
            Open first set.
            ~7 bar vamp, very quiet though.
            Double riff on intro.  Someone (drummer?) already yelling "hey!"
            Keith on piano.
            A little slower, honestly (~96 BPM).  Drums sounding very big.
            Hee-ah, hush.
            Full Jerry on solo, doesn't start too aggressive, picks up on second of two rotations though.  Great Keith and Jerry work.
            Energy really picking up at the end, especially drummers.  Double outro riff.
            Smooth transition.
        Slip (7:33)
            Perfect Slip Riff, 4 rotations: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Everyone except Jerry very active at first, drums almost overpowering.  Jerry comes in very mellow but gets more and more intense.
            Very driven and focused.
            Keith on piano.
            Another great instance of Big Scary Jerry cutting a dark musical valley right before Slipcord.  Perfect through the transition, Keith really shining.
            Another "woo!" from a band member, they must have been having fun.
            Perfect Slip Riffs too, double rotations.
        Frank (13:25)
            ~107 BPM
            Keith still on that moog.  It could sound cool in Slipknot!, but in Franklin's Tower it just drags everything down for me.
            Bobby teasing China Cat again.  I wonder if he really wanted to play it, but the rest of the band didn't?
            End riff a little weak, too mooged out.

    5/22/77*  Pembroke Pine, FL (Dick's Picks 3)

        Help (5:25)
            Opens second set.
            ~7 bar quiet vamp.
            Keith on piano.
            Tempo back up a bit (~105 BPM).
            Hee-ah, hush.
            Jerry a little thin on solo, but aggressive.  Three times through.
            Double outro riff, tight.  Good transition, almost perfect.
        Slip (6:27)
            Double riff, syncopated.  Still tight.  4 rotations: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Slinky, sneaky jam, to start, sounds like Fall '76 but more mature.  Phil, Keith and Bob really excel at start, Jerry waits for a good while to come in, and then takes his time deciding where the jam is going to go from there.
            Keith on piano.
            Big Jerry swoop again before Slipcord.  A little shaky into it, but still incredible.
            Double rotations through Slip Riff, very tight.
        Frank (15:10)
            ~108 BPM
            Keith thankfully still on piano.

    6/9/77*  San Francisco, CA (Winterland '77 Box Set)

        Help (4:48)
            Early second set.
            ~5 bar vamp, with Bobby giving his "just exactly perfect" spiel at the start.
            Very fast tempo (~107 BPM).
            Double riff to open.
            Keith on piano.
            Hush, hee-ah.
            Full Jerry on solo, aggressive right away.  Two times through.
            Double riff outro, great transition.
        Slip (9:27)
            4 rotations of Slip Riff: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.  Bob tried to do bars of 8 the whole time.
            Very busy jam, directed though.
            Keith on piano.
            One of the best versions, full of scary inspiration.
            No preliminary big swoop from Jerry, someone just counts off and they all go into a tight Slipcord.
            Double rotation on riffs, very tight.  Perfect transition.
        Frank (17:18)
            The longest version of 1977.
            ~109 BPM
            Keith on piano.
            Good outro riff, very active.

    10/11/77  Norman, OK (Road Trips Volume 1, Number 2)

        Help (5:14)
            Opens first set.
            No vamp, just a count off.
            Good tempo (~102 BPM), but feels a bit plodding, maybe due to Big Phil.
            Hee-ah, hush, hee-ah.
            Keith on his new Yamaha electric piano, sounding chincy and twikly.
            Jerry sounding thicker and with more bite on Wolf.  Starts kind of mellow in the solo but gets aggressive.  Three times through.
            Two extra rotations on end riff.
            Transition smooth.
        Slip (4:32 - just shorter than the album version)
            Slip Riff pretty mangled.  Bob keeps trying to do the single riff with bars of 8. The rest of the band does 4 rotations: All four rotations with two bars of 8 and then one bar of 9.
            Phil leads the jam at first, followed closely by Big Scary Jerry, Scarier than ever on Wolf.
            Starts out a little listless after Slip Riff errors, but Jerry soon finds direction and the others follow him.  Prominent drums keeping it from getting too spacey.
            Keith still on the Yamaha.  Fall of '77 was not a great period for him, he really relied on comping a lot of the time, but not much to comp on here so he basically just floats in the background.
            Sudden dive into Slipcord, very tight.  There's one extra bar before the Slip Riffs, which are pretty tight.
            Just a shame it's so short and the last one.
        Frank (14:46)
            Feels a little slow or bloated at beginning, Jerry's voice sounds a little hoarse too.
            ~104 BPM
            Keith on the moog.  Combined with his comping, makes for not the best listening experience.
            Bobby still teasing China Cat.  They would eventually do it in a couple months at Winterland, I hope that made him happy.
            Big drums and solos before the final chorus, very rowdy and fun.

     So at the end of putting all this together I found myself facing a question that some of you might have been asking while going through this: what's the point?  And maybe there isn't much of a point; I undertook this project because I love these songs so much, and just wanted an excuse to listen to them closely.  But in doing so, it really made me appreciate just how dedicated these musicians were to their craft.  Some of the variations in how the songs were performed can easily be dismissed as accidents, but I think it's impossible to deny that the band made a distinct effort to experiment.  They were at the height of their powers during this era, and even if it didn't work every time, they were determined to try different ways to perfect these new songs.  They could have just done it like it was on the album and most of the crowd at the shows wouldn't have noticed, but instead they challenged themselves to make it harder just to see if it would sound better; and a lot of the time it did!  So if I had to make a point here, it's that you should never discount the Dead's ability to over-complicate things in the effort to make them just a little better, even if just for their own satisfaction.  And we should be grateful for that.


Help on the Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower would not be played again until 3/25/83; the full suite was played 27 more times through 9/12/85, dropped again, then revived again on 10/8/89, and played through 1995.
Franklin’s Tower, meanwhile, continued into 1978 and never left the rotation. Starting in ‘78, it would frequently be paired with Mississippi Half-Step to open first sets for several years to come.

Other versions of Franklin’s played outside the suite in 1976-77:
6/9/76 – standalone encore (9:24)
10/15/76 – end of second set (12:22)
3/19/77 – end of second set (13:56)
6/4/77 – mid second set (10:34)
9/29/77 – end of first set (16:42)

A number of early studio rehearsals of Help > Slip > Franklin’s were recorded in 1975; a few notes on these are here:

Other writings on the suite include:


  1. You put an asterisk after several dates but I see no footnote. Are you messing with my head? Great analysis; I wonder if this would suit itself to a graphical visualization? And in understanding the evolution, perhaps more perspective could be added, such as grouping the tours and showing (graphically??) how much time elapsed between the versions.

    1. Oops, you're right, I didn't say what the asterisk is for. I used it to mark which ones are my favorite performances.

    2. I also wondered at first what the asterisks were for! I added a note to clarify this.

      Grateful Dead song histories lend themselves well to colorful graphs. It would be neat to look at the ebb & flow of Slipknots & Franklins...although I'm not the one to make graphs!
      As far as grouping this suite statistically by tours, it's interesting to see that the Dead rather quickly lost interest in Help>Slip after an initial burst of enthusiasm.
      1975: was played in 3 out of 3 shows after it was written (100%).
      June '76 tour: was played in 9 out of 19 shows (47%).
      July/Aug '76: played in only 2 out of 8 shows (25%).
      Sep/Oct '76: played in 5 out of 13 shows (38%).
      Winter '77: played in 2 out of 6 shows, including NYE '76 (33%).
      April/May '77 tour: played in 4 out of 26 shows (15%).
      And with only two performances in the rest of 1977 (7% of 29 more shows), clearly the Dead had burned out on this suite for some reason.
      Or to put it another way, in 1976 there were several times the Dead played this suite on consecutive dates, or twice in a run; other than the Orpheum run, they rarely went three shows without playing it. But in '77, the Dead would go for many shows, or even weeks, between Help>Slip performances.
      It may have been uncertain in fall '77 whether Franklin's would survive outside the suite, with only one standalone version played that fall, but Jerry started favoring it more in '78.

  2. Big thanks to LIA for letting me post this here. Hope some of you find it informative!

  3. Excellent piece. Can see all the work you did. For a complete list of help slip frank and for a piece of other franklins

  4. Very interesting. It made me go back and listen and watch some of these. One I watched was the Roosevelt stadium version and while one can never discount how high the band was, the bigness of that version maybe because it was played outdoors in a stadium. I think there are three outdoor versions in this list and on each you have made a remark like huge, big, or high energy, so location may play a role.

    1. That's a good point. Bombastic Phil in a theatre would almost be too much, but outdoors in a big stadium I can see that being pretty cool.

  5. feel like a stranger into franklins more than half step into franklins

    1. I don't think so. Half-Step had a couple years' lead on Feel Like a Stranger; according to Deadbase, Half-Step went into Franklin's 40 times from 1978-1987 (mostly in the years they didn't play Slipknot, '78-82).
      Stranger went into Franklin's 34 times from 1980-1989 - most of those just in '87-89, when it effectively replaced Half-Step in the opening duo. So if you were seeing the Dead in the late '80s, yeah, the Half-Step>Franklins disappeared and it was Stranger>Franklins all the time. But that was more than balanced out by the years from '78-82 when Half-Step went into nothing but Franklins.
      After Slipknot came back in 1989, it was nothing but Slipknot>Franklins from then on.

      Sometimes they'd do a triptych: Half-Step>Franklin's>Stranger (a few times in '80-82) or Half-Step>Stranger>Franklin's (a few times in '88-89).

  6. Looking for a version where Jerry goes off on a 7 minute or so solo of Help on the way. Can't find it anywhere and I used to have a copy of the song

    1. I checked through '91 and couldn't find any Help that was longer than 4 minutes or so. I doubt any version had that long a solo.

    2. I swear it was real. I can't find it anywhere but it was just a version of help and didn't have slipknot or franklin's tower with it. So weird. Thanks for checking for me. I used to have a cd with it but it got ruined 😢