Blair’s Golden Road Blog—A ’60s Psychedelic Sampler Playlist
by Blair Jackson
Don’t get me wrong—I love 1970s Grateful Dead. It’s the decade they made their greatest albums, introduced most of their coolest songs (both originals and covers) and played hundreds of their finest shows. Just look at the number of official releases of ’70s Dead concerts—it dwarfs any other decade.
But when the good folks at Rhino recently asked me to contribute a Spotify playlist for “Grateful Dead Week” (coinciding with the announcement of the GD Spring 1990 box), I decided to shine my light on ’60s Grateful Dead. After all, the Dead were the greatest psychedelic rock band ever — quite frankly, no one else is even close—and they made some of their most exciting, challenging and mind-blowing music in the late ’60s. That’s the band I fell in love with, through Live Dead, in the fall of ’69, and I’m still hooked on that era’s fearless, no-holds-barred musical explorations.
Spotify, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is an online digital music service that offers about 15 million tracks by thousands of artists on both major labels and big and small indies, either free (within certain limits) or by different levels of subscription. Access to Spotify requires integration with Facebook or Twitter, but beyond that, using it is easy. Spotify has a customizable “radio” function, and also allows users to set up and share their own playlists. The Warner Music Group (and its Rhino subsidiary) has developed a close relationship with Spotify, so nearly every regular commercial release in the Grateful Dead catalog can be found there—live, studio, compilations—plus all 36 Dick’s Picks, the complete, hard-to-find Download Series, and such cool discs as Rare Cuts & Oddities, the 5-CD So Many Roads (1965-1995), Fallout From the Phil Zone, Grayfolded, To Terrapin, Crimson, White & Indigo and lots more. OK, it doesn’t have the 10-CD Fillmore West 1969 (but it does have the 3-CD condensation of it), the 73 discs of Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings, or, at the moment, any of the Road Trips series, but considering the scope of what they do have, it seems unfair to be greedy about it. A handful of special Dead playlists can be found through The Warner Sound app.
The 10 tracks I’ve selected for my playlist exemplify the Dead’s searching ’60s spirit. You can find your sweet songs, concise jams and fun country numbers elsewhere. Most of this is hardcore, melt-your-face-right-off-of-your-head stuff; ragged harmonies and scarily electric interplay. Turn it up! It’s in chronological order except for the two L.A. Shrine shows.
For what it’s worth, if Road Trips releases had been available, I would have chosen the “New Potato Caboose” > “Born Cross-Eyed” > “Spanish Jam” from the 2/14/68 Carousel Ballroon show (Vol. 2, No. 2) and “He Was a Friend of Mine” from the 5/24/69 Big Rock Pow-Wow release (Vol. 4, No. 4).
1. “I Know You Rider” (Avalon Ballroom, SF, unknown date in 1966). This first came out in 1970 on a fine unauthorized LP called Vintage Dead. Its lone appearance on CD is on the box set So Many Roads: 1965-1995. It’s a nice example of how the early Dead electrified old folk material and made it their own. Those of you who only know the post- 1969 versions of “Rider” will be interested to see how different it was earlier.
2. “Viola Lee Blues”(Dance Hall, Rio Nido, CA, 9/3/67). Right before the band traveled to L.A. to begin work on Anthem of the Sun, they spent a week or so in the redwood-shrouded Russian River enclave of Rio Nido, honing their new original songs and also playing a couple of gigs in the tiny dance hall there. “Viola Lee Blues” was the Dead’s main improvisational vehicle during this period, and this 23-minute marathon, which seemingly goes a million different places, with crescendo after crescendo, shows the Dead at their jammiest. Alas. the beginning of the tune does not appear on the surviving tape. This track is from the re-mastered/expanded edition of the Dead’s first album, The Grateful Dead.
3. “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” (Kings Beach Bowl, Lake Tahoe, CA, 2/24/68). One of the real crowd-pleasers of many a late ’60s Dead set was their snaky and sensuous reading of this old blues number, featuring Pigpen on lead vocals and harmonica. This version comes from a winter ’68 show in a bowling alley in Lake Tahoe, and can be found on Dick’s Picks Vol. 22. The Dead could be a first-rate blues band when they wanted to be, though it never was their main emphasis.
4. “New Potato Caboose” (Shrine Auditorium, L.A., 8/24/68). This Phil Lesh-Bobby Petersen tune, sung by Bob Weir, was perhaps the most compositionally interesting number on Anthem of the Sun, which had recently come out when the L.A. show represented on the 2-CD set, Two from the Vault, took place. Phil completely takes over the first half of the long instrumental break following the main song with a breathtaking bass assault, while Jerry dominates the back half of the jam. Stunning!
5-6. “Alligator” > “Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)” > “Feedback” (Shrine Auditorium, L.A., 8/23/68). When Dick Latvala was tasked with putting together the aforementioned Two from the Vault, he originally proposed including a third disc, containing this sequence, recorded the night before the Shrine show above. But, believe it or not, in those early days of the Dead’s archival releases, they weren’t sure they could market a three-CD set, so Two from the Vault stayed two discs. It wasn’t until the release of the re-mastered Anthem of the Sun in 2001 (originally as part of The Golden Road: 1965-1973 box set of the Dead’s Warner Bros. albums) that these fantastically psychedelic tracks were formally released. (Sorry, I don’t count “Feedback” as a “song.”)
7. “That’s It for the Other One” (Fillmore West, SF, 2/27/69). Killer version of the Anthem suite (containing “Cryptical Envelopment” and “The Other One”), from the same night as the “Dark Star” > “St. Stephen” on Live Dead, and played with that kind of intensity. It first appeared on Disc Two of So Many Roads: 1965-1995 and subsequently (newly mixed) on Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings.
8-9. “Mountains of the Moon” > “Dark Star” (Fillmore West, 3/2/69). The acoustic “Mountains of the Moon” (from Aoxomoxoa) is beautiful and delicate and then segues seamlessly into an epic “Dark Star” that is nearly the equal of the Live Dead version from a few nights earlier. The ’69 versions of “Dark Star” remain my favorite of any era. These tracks appear on the 3-CD Fillmore West 1969 (culled from the 10-CD Complete Recordings mentioned above).
10. “Turn on Your Lovelight” (Fillmore West, 11/9/69). Gotta have a “Lovelight” on here, because not only was it Pigpen’s big showstopper, it gave the other musicians a chance go down all sorts of cool avenues, from R&B riffing to much weirder stuff. This final playlist selection is the bonus track on the truly magnificent Dick’s Picks Vol. 16, which features the entire 11/8/69 show plus this one song from the next night. (You owe it to yourself to hear then entire second set of 11/8, which is incredibly trippy from beginning to end.)
What—no “St. Stephen”? No “Eleven”? No “Cosmic Charlie”? Sorry, not this time. Happy listening!***
Now let’s see your lists! Get creative and share 10 or 12 Grateful Dead tracks with us. They don’t have to be thematically linked; they could just be songs you like. But if you want to pick “12 Killer Tracks from the Europe ’81 Tour,” or “The Best of Frost Amphitheatre, 1982-1989” or even “My 10 Favorite Versions of Row Jimmy,” go to town and have some fun!
Ok Blair, this is very tantalizing. In no specific order, here are 7 of my faves:
1) Morning Dew 3/24/86. Jerry pulls a lick right before the final crescendo "fanning" the likes of which I have never heard. Also, Brent's keyboard swells are magnificent throughout.
2) Bertha 5/9/77. The bouncing country lilt of this version makes it eternally re-listenable.
3) St. Stephen 12/30/77. The glorious filler from DP 10 is as good as the playing from "The Nine." This version of Stephen features two apocalyptic jams before the "Lady finger..." bridge which both conclude with some serious Jerry fanning and are rife with some of the best Stephen licks I have ever heard.
4) Althea from "Go to Nassau" 5/16/80? Hands down the best version of this song ever played. The ending jam displays the incomparable placement and variety of Garcia's chops.
5) Playin' in the Band 8/27/72. I am not even a fan of this song, but one cannot deny the greatness of this version. Jerry is playing 100 mph and hitting every note. Seriously.
6) Help>Slipknot>Franklin's 8/13/75. Studio polish abounds in this display for the music execs.
7) Ramble On Rose 9/20/90. Mid guitar solo Garcia steps on a footswitch that launches you from saturated mutron bliss into midi french horn heaven.
I second that. That is one segue of which I will never tire. ...one of those "mistakes" that suddenly turned magical.
So much so that I am making a mix disc (or two) of your selections to play for myself and others. Thanks!
this is an exercise to get us stoked for the 'round-the-corner announcement for Dave's Picks 4. Your list is passionate, but it doesn't persuade (jes jivin'). The most mind blowing stuff comes from the Avalon run, October, '68. Kinda sets the tone for the next six months or more. Whoa!!!
Great submissions, all,
If you wanted to expand the list, include The Same Thing ('67), King Bee ('66), and the jam from 3/3 or 3/7, 1966 after "Stealin'". Those songs show what Phil called "shifting gears" approach to their music at the time.
Of course, I love to listen to the acoustic jug band tunes right along side of the electric versions from '67 of The Lindy, On The Road Again, and The Rub. Great to hear the change from '64 to '67...
Another list I put together paired the Stones' Not Fade Away next to the Dead's '66 version from "Rarities and Oddities." Also, I put Them's Mystic Eyes next to an early Caution'. It is great to hear the greater context to appreciate how fluid the Dead were (and are) among other acts of the time and similar genres.
Happy listening and dancin'
OK, here's my not well thought out list:
1) Dark Star Jam excerpt >Spanish Jam>U.S. Blues - Jai-Alai Fronton, Miami, FL, 6/23/74 from So Many Roads. To me, one of the greatest segues in GD history. All of the sudden you're hearing US Blues and you don't even know how you got there! Surprised more people don't rave about it.
2) Watkins Glen Soundcheck Jam - Watkins Glen, NY, 7/27/73 also from So Many Roads. When I got this box, I remember remarking to my wife, "There are about three jams in this that are so good they could be songs!"
3) jam>China>Rider from 6/26/74. My favorite China>Rider, long and awesome. I rarely heard a jam to begin a song sequence until TOO/The Dead/Ratdog/etc. started doing it somewhat recently.
4) Ripple from American Beauty. Simply the most beautiful, greatest song ever (IMO of course). You're not a Dead Head if you don't agree (kidding!!!).
5) Here Comes Sunshine -- 12/19/73. I loved that it jammed, but never quite lost sight of the song. Then I read Dick Latvala's notes and he said about the same thing. Also the first DP track!
6) He's Gone>Caution>drums>space>Truckin' from 10/19/74. Truckin' starts, and then veers off into Caution and then comes back. The most unusual Truckin' I know of, and shows the GD switching gears in the middle. On the movie soundtrack.
7) Lovelight>GDTRFB 4/26/72 -- Love the end of Lovelight where they start veering into NFA, then have a push/pull between NFA and GDTRFB. This was back when the GD could discuss the next song with their instruments, rather than before a show. Love the spontaneity of it all.
8) PITB>UJB>Dew>UJB>PITB (11/10/73 or 3/23/74) -- first heard this on college radio station at about midnight in around 1980. Great stuff!
9) Dancin'>Franklins Buffalo 11/9/79 -- Saw it, knew it was special then, couldn't wait to hear it again. Finally did and then they released it on the first Road Trips. Every bit as great as I remember!
10) Blackbird a capella from Alpine Valley encore in late '80s. They so completely screw it up you can hear them all laughing (especially Brent). Makes me laugh too!
All released except the Blackbird!
I've been revisiting 1990 this week in anticipation of getting my Spring 1990 box. I can't wait!!! Here is my list:
Cassidy from 3/15/90 Landover
Bird Song from 3/29/90 Nassau
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue from 4/1/90 Atlanta
Scarlet > Fire from 6/15/90 Shoreline
Jam after Terrapin Station from 6/16/90 Shoreline
Shakedown Street from 6/17/90 Shoreline
Let It Grow from 7/16/90 Rich Stadium
Playing In The Band > China Doll from 7/19/90 Deer Creek
Foolish Heart from 9/10/90 Spectrum
Space > Dark Star > Playing Reprise > Dark Star from 9/20/90 MSG
Blair, I didn't know that Lovelight from DP16 was from the following night. That is one of my favorite versions of that song.
I was 19 years old, my freind and I had just scored a couple of doses and someone suggested going over to the other stage to see some hippie band from San Francisco we had never heard of. We watched this biker looking guy singing about "Turning on your Lovelight" as we started to get off, then they started playing this song that the young guy said they "Once released as a single!" and they didn't stop playing. One tune melted into another, Saint Steven had a rose, there was a wild jam, some crazy drumming, and then as I started to peak...
... The Bus Came By And I Got On, And That's Where It All Began.
A few months later I went to the Big Rock Pow Wow to see that amazing band again and they sealed the deal. Late Sixties, early Seventies will always be my favorite period for the Grateful Dead!!!! (~);}
If you guys like the 11/30/73 Weather Report Suite>Dark Star>Eyes, I think the Weather Report Suite>Dark Star>China Doll from Missoula, Montana is right up there too.
Great Charlie Miller version here... http://archive.org/details/gd1974-05-14.sbd.miller.114462.flac16
... on that 11/30/73 sequence. One of my most played, too. I also adore the "Here Comes Sunshine" on that release...