May 3, 2024

The Transitive Spaces of 1973

In 1973, the Grateful Dead started playing more spacy, graceful transitions between songs. This had not been a big feature of their music in the previous years – there are not many such cases in 1972, for instance, when the Dead’s segues tended to hop straight from one song into another. Spacy transitions weren’t new to the Dead, of course: back in the sixties they were common features in, say, the Other One>New Potato Caboose suites of ’68, or Mountains of the Moon>Dark Star in ‘69. But as the Dead added more songs to their repertoire and phased out the Cryptical ending jam, spaciness retreated to the internal portions of Dark Star or the Other One, and spacy transition jams were rarely played from 1970-72.
Some songs were built for transitions: China>Rider was a regular link (though usually not jammed out very much at the time); Truckin’ in 1972 frequently headed down the road to an Other One; and He’s Gone steadily expanded in fall ’72, swelling into a giant end jam that would kick off an extended suite. But these usually weren’t very spacy jams, being built on steady grooves (though there are some Truckin’>Other One jams from the Europe tour that became their own meandering voyages). It just wasn’t that common in ’72 for the Dead to float gently from song to song.
There are still some rare moments in 1972 where the Dead would enter quiet reflective spaces between songs:
5/25/72 Uncle John’s Band>Wharf Rat
A lovely little glide where they spend almost 2 minutes contemplating possibilities before settling on Wharf Rat.
7/18/72 Truckin’>Dark Star
The last 90 seconds of Truckin’ are like a gently bubbling stew in which the Dead float placidly until Dark Star kicks off.
8/21/72 El Paso>space>Deal
Some quick tuning turns into a 3-minute lonesome space, mostly a Garcia/Lesh duet with volume swells and a wistful bass melody, until Garcia hops into Deal. (This is like a quiet continuation of Dark Star that got stranded outside of El Paso.)
Sometimes in 1972 the Dead would use a unique melodic jam as a transition – for instance, the three-minute Caution>Uncle John’s Band jam on 3/22/72, where a beautiful and seemingly composed melody appears from nowhere and then vanishes again:
Some more examples of this type of jam are here:
You might think Dark Star would have lots of spacy transitions, being designed for open-ended journeys to space and beyond. Once the second verse was dropped, all kinds of songs could find themselves emerging from the distant galactic reaches. But in 1972, Dark Star segues tended not to be distinct transition jams per se, but rather sudden shifts to a different dimension. Most typically Dark Star would wind up in a big Tiger freakout or a post-meltdown swirl, and once the noise subsided the next song would rise out of the ashes – think of how Sugar Magnolia appears on 4/14 or 4/17, or El Paso on 8/27. But other times the Dead would be jamming along and a new song would just be dropped abruptly into the proceedings, making a quick juxtaposition – for instance China Cat or Cumberland Blues on 9/24 & 9/27. So there usually wasn’t a prolonged in-between passage bridging Dark Star and another song; it was more often like a swift jump out the exit hatch.
But sometimes the Dead would prepare for the next song with a quiet transitional glide out of Dark Star:
5/11/72 Dark Star>Sugar Magnolia
At the end of Dark Star (after an abandoned Truckin’ tease, some hasty Garcia tuning, and a Bird Song quote from Lesh) they drift into a nice gentle 2-minute guitar-trio interlude before Sugar Magnolia begins.
8/24/72 Dark Star>Morning Dew
Dark Star fades in the last 90 seconds to a quiet elegant passage with volume swells and wisps of feedback, until Morning Dew rudely intrudes.
9/16/72 Dark Star>Brokedown Palace
The Dead slow down after a fast jam and the last minute of Dark Star becomes a very pretty prelude to Brokedown Palace.
12/15/72 Dark Star>Morning Dew
After the obligatory Tiger jam, the music calms and the last minute of Dark Star is a rather eerie, melancholy glide towards Morning Dew.
Of course I can’t go without mentioning the unique ending of the 10/23/72 Dark Star – following a fierce Tiger & feedback, the final 3 minutes find the Dead transformed into a haunted orchestra playing a tune of dignified sadness. John Hilgart calls it “arguably the greatest example of…Dead ‘chamber music.’ Suddenly the band is a string trio, it sounds like they are bowing their instruments, and the piece they are playing is moody and gorgeous.” One of the most beautiful endings of any Dark Star.
As for the Other One, in 1972 it was almost always played with both verses and the conclusion, and the Dead tended to go abruptly from the closing lick to the next tune without much drift. The Other One, like Dark Star, could have any number of spacy passages within its jams, but unlike Dark Star its ending remained a stable destination in 1972, so it’s rare to find extended transitions out of the Other One that year. One fine exception starts the year with the 12/31/71 jam>Black Peter – Garcia’s starting Black Peter as the Other One ends, but they have to stop for some tuning, so instead they melt into a sweet little pretty jam for 2 minutes before Black Peter restarts.
Sometimes we find great internal transitions in the Other One sandwiches – for instance, the Other One>He’s Gone>Other One on 10/24/72, where He’s Gone is preceded by a nearly 2-minute spacy passage of spiky delicacy, almost sounding like they’re trying to reprise the piece from the Dark Star the night before.
(Other transitional highlights from the Other One sandwiches of ’72 include the lead-ups to El Paso on 4/7, Me & Bobby McGee on 5/10, and Black Peter on 8/12.)

But the Other One wasn’t invariably played with its ending in ’72. The 9/26/72 Other One, for instance, has just one verse (missing on the SBD tape due to a reel flip). After the Tiger, the last two & a half minutes are another evocative space, Lesh plucking loudly over Garcia’s wistful notes until they land in an unexpected Baby Blue.
On 10/27/72, the Dead skip the second verse again in a laid-back Other One, and the last minute is a pretty but foreboding transitional bridge (peppered by audience screams) that ends up in an incongruous Mississippi Half-Step.
The Dead ended the year on 12/31/72 with another incomplete but magnificent Other One. After the first and only verse, they drop right into a lovely soothing slow piece with David Crosby. Full of Garcia sweetness, it sounds composed, but I don’t think it was ever heard again. Once it reaches a conclusion, the last 45 seconds are a heavenly volume-swelled bridge to Morning Dew.
In 1973 the Dead started leaving out the second verse of the Other One in many versions – out of 22 Other Ones that year, I think the second verse only appeared in 6 of them. This opened up more possibilities for the Dead to jam their way into the next song like they did in Dark Star. Sometimes a song would pop right out of some Other One jamming without much of a transition. But often the Other One ended with noisy Tigers or blasts of Feedback, then a new song would timidly creep forth – 12/19/73 would be a classic example of this – so the Other One doesn’t appear very often on this list.
What I was looking for in 1973 were distinctive or unusual spacy transitions between songs (not the spaces within longer jams) – I call these Transitive Spaces. The Dead took an increasingly “floaty” approach in 1973 with new jam suites and more varied song segues, often making pillowy clouds for 20 or 30 seconds at the end of one song to clear the way for the next. True, most segues were still quick jump-cuts or sudden shifts; but I focus here on the transitional spaces at least a minute or two long that became interesting pieces of music in their own right. (Admittedly some of these transitive spaces are not much different from spacy passages in the middle of an Other One, except for where they’re located!)


2/15/73 Dark Star>Eyes of the World
Lesh takes a big bass solo after the verse in Dark Star, playing with his quad system (each string going to different speakers), and the solo’s more bouncy and tuneful than usual for him. In the final minute, Garcia joins him for a short but sparkling duet, creating a sunny melody before Lesh nudges them into Eyes. This isn’t a spacy transition, but is one of the brightest and most memorable of the year.
2/21/73 Truckin’>Eyes of the World, Eyes>Stella Blue
Near the end of Truckin’, the band starts to dive into Eyes of the World without Garcia, but evidently change their minds and call it off. When Garcia returns in the final minute of Truckin’, suddenly they enter an intimate little space of sweetness & bliss, Garcia & Lesh coupled in harmony. With that out of the way, they start Eyes for real.
Then in the last two minutes of Eyes, the jam ends and they slide into another space, this one not so melodic, mostly guitars & piano drifting aimlessly while Lesh makes noises. Lesh rounds it out with some conclusive chords before Garcia makes a very awkward switch to Stella Blue.
2/24/73 – Truckin’>Eyes of the World, Eyes>Sugar Magnolia
This murky audience tape had largely vanished for two decades and was little-heard until it resurfaced again a few years ago, revealing its treasures. A hot Truckin’ jam starts heading in the Other One direction, but the Dead change course with a drumroll at 10:30, the main jam fading into a magical Garcia/Lesh duet. For two minutes they’re coupled in a sonata of piercing beauty, clouds parting to the music of the angels. At the end, a sudden burst of feedback announces Eyes of the World like the cold world breaking in on a heavenly dream.
But the show’s surprises aren’t over. Eyes wraps up with an excited finish by 9:30, then Garcia takes off in another solo space (interrupted by a tapecut and the taper confidently announcing “the Other One!”). When Lesh joins in, that indeed sounds like their destination and there’s a little Other One duet accompanied by drums. (Here’s where the available SBD tape cuts in, after 11:20.) But they veer away from the Other One, Garcia drops out, and Lesh starts another cheerful bass solo, backed by drums at first but then on his own, banging out chords in quad stereo. He invites the others back in, and they join him in a happy rhythmic groove that soon turns into a Feelin’ Groovy jam. Once that ends, they’re not sure what’s next and stumble around for a couple minutes trying to rekindle the momentum, Godchaux not quite in sync with Garcia. Lesh lays down some closing chords and they drift into a pretty space which only lasts briefly before Weir strikes up Sugar Magnolia. (mislabeled SBD fragment - it’s the post-Eyes jam)
Nothing else quite compares to the duet at the end of Truckin’ – this post covers many other beautiful pieces throughout 1973, but for me it doesn’t have an equal. There are similar moments from the period though: the space at the end of Truckin’ on 2/21 is in much the same vein (though briefer). There’s also a short spot in the post-verse space of Dark Star on 2/22/73 (after 10:45) where Garcia & Lesh are in the same kind of brooding place for a minute before a snarling Tiger approaches. (You can even go back to the end of the 5/10/72 Other One for a short but strikingly close passage.)
As for the Feelin’ Groovy jam, at the time it was usually an internal Dark Star jam but hadn’t been played since November ’72. It had made one appearance as a transitional jam outside Dark Star, on 10/2/72 where it followed Truckin’ in a unique joyful jam leading up to a chiming space & Morning Dew (you can hear the family resemblance to 2/24/73’s Eyes jam, though the ’72 jam is a bit more giddy & sloppy).
In March ’73 the Feelin’ Groovy jam would be absorbed into the China>Rider transition, but it would take a surprising turn in the 3/31/73 Other One, where it follows a long wah space, substitutes for the return to the Other One theme, and serves as an impromptu bridge to (where else) I Know You Rider. Not a spacy transition at all, but one of the most unique endings of any Other One, like the Dead suddenly skipped a song.
(The 3/24/73 Truckin’ jam could be considered a marginal case on this list – the Dead go into a quiet drift once the proper Truckin’ jam is through, and later pass through several minutes of underwater wah warbling before the Dark Star verse, so those are spacy transition points – but it could also be regarded as one long jam moving through different phases. Personally I consider the pre-Dark Star space to be part of an inverted Dark Star.)
3/26/73 Truckin’>Weather Report Suite Prelude
Garcia unusually takes up the slide in the Truckin’ jam for a bluesy touch (an occasional habit of his in early ’73), then they flirt with the Other One for a bit; but in the last two & a half minutes they suddenly slow down into a quiet, pretty introspective space – mostly Garcia & piano with a bit of Weir backing. Weir brings up the Prelude he’s been kicking around, and they use that as the jumping-off point to a longer mellow jam. This is nice but never takes off; finally in the last minute Garcia twirls into a sweet Wharf Rat prelude before starting the song.
(Weir’s Prelude was played a few times in early ’73 – on 3/21 and 3/28 it’s used as a prelude to Dark Star, and on 4/2 it serves to introduce Eyes of the World. The Prelude had also appeared earlier as one of a series of jams within the 11/19/72 Dark Star; but it wouldn’t find a home until being attached to the Weather Report Suite in September ’73.)
3/30/73 Truckin’>Eyes of the World
A meandering slide jam in Truckin’ turns into a more uptempo jazzy groove; but then the Dead seem to run out of direction and sputter out. The next two minutes are mostly Godchaux tinkling on the piano pretty much by himself with just some quiet noodling from the guitarists, until Eyes arrives. Not very interesting.
(The 4/2/73 Here Comes Sunshine jam is another marginal entry here. Although this is almost the only Here Comes Sunshine with a transition jam, it’s more like a typical 10-minute Other One jam stuck onto the end of Sunshine, climaxing with the ever-present Tiger. The last minute does get into some spacy swoops before Bobby McGee, though.)
5/26/73 Other One>Eyes of the World
In the wake of the Tiger, the Dead relax for a final couple minutes of subdued wah beauty, the band keeping up a busy patter while Garcia plays his lonesome keens. (The 5/13/73 Other One takes a very similar course in the Tiger aftermath at the end, but is a little edgier and not as relaxed.)
6/9/73 Truckin’>Playing in the Band
After the drums & bass section in Truckin’, the band embarks on a luscious 4-minute voyage to unmapped inner realms. At first the jam centers on the quad bass, cymbals, Weir’s phased harmonics & strums, and then becomes a delicate wah tapestry. In the last minute after Garcia’s brief Here Comes Sunshine tease, they seem to be forming a stately new melody on the spot; but Garcia’s in a hurry to move on to Playing in the Band and keeps pushing the opening lick until the others join him. But they could have stayed in this dreamy space… (AUD: there’s a cut at the start of this section around 8:30, but the sound is phenomenal – for otherworldly beauty, this is as good as it gets)
7/1/73 Other One>Wharf Rat
Once the last growls of the Tiger subside, the Dead quietly hover in a peaceful still ocean for a glorious 2 minutes before Wharf Rat arrives. A wonderful passage.

7/28/73 Truckin’>El Paso
A typical Nobody’s Fault jam closes Truckin’, but rather than a straight segue to El Paso they take a 2-minute detour into a quiet, spacy Garcia/Lesh duet.
9/15/73 Let It Grow>Stella Blue
After a hectic Let It Grow jam, the Dead drop into 3 minutes of quiet warbling with hushed wah & Rhodes touches, setting the stage for Stella Blue. (The next Let It Grow>Stella segue on 9/17 is a more sudden shift. Only a few Let It Grows from fall ‘73 would segue into other tunes.)
9/26/73 Truckin’>Eyes of the World
Truckin’ unwinds into a jazzy drums/bass/piano segment, but then in the final minute the mood shifts, the band hushes, and Garcia & Lesh reach a place of unexpected beauty, very reminiscent of 2/24/73.
10/23/73 Other One>Weather Report Suite
After the verse, the short Other One quickly peters out for a drum solo. The band comes back with a flurry and a calmer direction – Garcia’s playing with a slide now, and with Godchaux’s shimmering Rhodes and Lesh’s soft bass pings, they sail into 4 minutes of beautiful melancholy. One of the year’s high points.
10/30/73 Eyes of the World>Weather Report Suite
Most Eyes come to quick ends, but here for over a minute the Dead drift leisurely on a mellow sea in an unusually relaxed ending, until an impatient Weir jumps into his Prelude.
You may have noticed few post-Eyes of the World jams on this list since February ’73. Once the song’s jam structure solidified, Eyes rarely opened up to spaciness at the end. Usually, Garcia would put on the brakes and slow it down so there would be at most a quick 15 or 20-second glide to the next song, not a prolonged transition. So Eyes of the World doesn’t have many distinctive segues this year.
One exception is the 12/4/73 Eyes which basically substitutes for the Other One as the big second-set freakout in that shortened show – when Eyes itself comes to an end around 13:30, they dive straight into noisy weirdness, a long buzzing space, powerful feedback drones, and a skittering near-Tiger at the end. (Lesh unfortunately drops out for the last few minutes.) It’s kind of a test run for the 12/6/73 Dark Star – not very pretty, but unique for an Eyes.
(I should also mention one earlier oddity, the 6/10/73 Eyes where in the last 40 seconds, the Dead seamlessly switch to playing an impromptu little blues jam. It only lasts half a minute before they drop it for Stella Blue, but it foreshadows some ’74 moments like the 6/18/74 It’s A Sin jam.)
The Dead started playing the Mind Left Body jam regularly in fall ’73. At the time it mainly appeared within Dark Star and didn’t usually connect straight to other tunes, unlike in ’74, so I won’t say much about it here (it has its own post anyway). For instance the famous 12/2/73 version in Playing in the Band is followed by a 2-minute choppy, upbeat jam before they segue to He’s Gone. But I’ll point out the 11/20/73 Other One, where Weir introduces the theme at the end and the Dead go through a few hurried passes, then Garcia steers them through a brief simple melody to Stella Blue.
Other late-’73 deep-space Other Ones with fine endings:
11/23/73 Other One>Me & Bobby McGee
After exploring the depths of Feedback, in the last minute Garcia & the others peer back into the sunlight with a brief Bach-like interlude that coasts into Bobby McGee.
12/8/73 Other One>Wharf Rat
An even deeper dive into Feedback fades to a final minute of drone-haunted beauty. Wharf Rat comes too soon.
Meanwhile, it was still common for Dark Stars in 1973 to end with Tigers or Feedback episodes, but an increasing number of Dark Stars also ended on a gentler spacy note, providing the audience a little cushion before the next tune. Some of the best examples of these include:
3/28/73 – after a demented Slipknot-type section, the Dead quiet down with a minute of calming wah glitter before starting Eyes.
10/19/73 – following a frantic Tiger, the Dead float quietly on soothing volume swells for a minute before Morning Dew.
11/11/73 – after the rousing Mind Left Body jam finishes, the Dead glide prettily towards Eyes.
11/30/73 – the Dark Star jam ends with 2 minutes of a jazzily abstract Garcia/Weir duet.
12/18/73 – as the Feedback settles, Garcia & Weir weave some gently enchanting arpeggios and craft a final closing melody for the last Dark Star of the year…then they step aside for a drum solo!


I’ll stop there and leave 1974 for another day… Be sure to comment if there are some tasty transition jams I’ve overlooked!