Jesse Jarnow

#deadfreaksunite 1975

#deadfreaksunite 1975
tape-by-tape notes

An extended listening project tracking the Grateful Dead’s evolution, recording by recording. Originally posted on Twitter on each show’s 40th/50th anniversary and edited here for readability and occasional revision/correction and minor expansion. Many shows streamable via archive.org, though ’75 is scattered: 4 shows & nearly 2 dozen rehearsals/fragments (many with Ned Lagin) at Bob Weir’s home studio as the band writes “Blues for Allah.” I did my best to date everything accurately, based on both LIA’s scrupulous archive post and Ned Lagin’s extensive NedBase. Other recordings are still not public, some detailed in David Browne’s excellent book So Many Roads.

[1965] [1966] [1967] [1968] [1969] [1970] [1971] [1972] [1973] [1974] [1975] [1976] [1977]

2/19/75 ace’s: few minutes of the band tentatively running fuzzed version of CRAZY FINGERS chords, figuring out rhythm.

2/27/75 ace’s: 5 short jams-in-progress, double-keys lineup dense but graceful. CRAZY FINGERS, aka DISTORTO, assured if l’il plodding. PROTO 18 PROPER is a less-ballistic 1st draft of terrapin’s AT A SIDING, bright odd gallop across between THE ELEVEN & GOIN’ DOWN THE ROAD. A TO E FLAT JAM is sly but meh funk-shuffle, finding a great zone with rich expressive changes during last minute.

2/28/75 ace’s: keeper take of DISTORTO, garcia soaring over rolling groove with split-signal fuzz from 5/14 & 6/20/74 CHINA DOLL. the bounce of PROTO 18 PROPER really is a lost dead jam, a big calypso-gallop i can easily imagine in arenas. a bit phish-like, even. 11 minutes of lesh’s STRONGER THAN DIRT, satisfying & elliptical. brief convincing noodle on GIRL FROM IPENEMA. 10 minutes of proto-SHAKEDOWN STREET funk. much dead air & idle chatter. garcia & kreutzmann rap about the meters’ “pink” album (“rejuvenation”) and jam on JUNGLE MAN. listening to 45 minutes of early MUSIC NEVER STOPPED, can hear jam’s relation to the chromatic ecstasy of MIND LEFT BODY.

3/5/75 ace’s: 2 pieces of DISTORTO evolving towards CRAZY FINGERS, soon-abandoned backbeat asserting itself a bit heavily.

3/17/75 ace’s: cancelled dead practice turned 3-hour 27th birthday jam for ned lagin with lesh, garcia, kreutzmann, & david crosby. could listen to croz (on electric 12-string) lead ned & JG for days on LOW DOWN PAYMENT & HOMEWARD THRU THE HAZE. stunner 25-minute standalone jam, crozby & lagin (on piano) stacking chords, throwing changes for garcia, improvising odd turns. then, multiple (weir-less?) passes through MIND LEFT BODY as it turns into MUSIC NEVER STOPPED, perhaps misdated. 10 STRONGER THAN DIRT fragments. lots of dead air, but also cool pockets & discarded rhythmic approaches for soon-abandoned piece. perhaps missing music still? john cipollina supposedly plays, too. plus lagin pieces like MAKE A CAT LAUGH & others?

3/??/75 ace’s: dazzling 13m NINES jam (to go with THE ELEVEN/MAIN TEN/THE SEVEN?). band settles into odd time, soars past it, returns. then, 35 minutes of ebbing/flowing improv that’d be among the best of any year but sounds semi-unfocused after NINES. tasty SLIPKNOT moves. one of the long jams drops into the BLUES FOR ALLAH main riff, sounding quite spinal tap-ish, which i suppose it is. several runs through HELP ON THE WAY/SLIPKNOT!, fully-formed except for vocals, including one at scary light speed, eggheady & precise. 3rd take lands in FRANKLIN’S TOWER, lyrics done. hello, HELP/SLIP/FRANK. maybe 1st ever? “stunning,” says jerry at end. yes. lastly, s’more jamming, 15 seconds of LAZY LIGHTNING, & 3 more FRANKLIN’S TOWERS. can lou reed sue them over the groove now?

3/??/75 ace’s: despite the “first day”/1/75 labeling on this recently circulating recording (with incredible sound), i’m almost positive this is a 3/75 rehearsal for the SNACK benefit, with ned lagin & mickey hart. properly, this is BLUES FOR ALLAH/STRONGER THAN DIRT/BLUES FOR ALLAH & it gets admirably weird & dense & beautiful. warning: some cowbell.

3/21/75 ace’s: rehearsal for SNACK benefit with david crosby, merl saunders, ned lagin, & (maybe?) mickey hart. joyous 15 minutes of 2 STRONGER THAN DIRT > BLUES FOR ALLAH takes, 2nd maybe better than 1st, a full articulation of ’74 EYES jams. killer 15 minute BLUES FOR ALLAH > STRONGER THAN DIRT, too, the latter’s rhythms gathering gradually from the swirl, starting with lesh. stray fragment running through unfamiliar & lovely changes, maybe by crosby?

3/23/75 kezar stadium: 1st performance since 10/20/74, as jerry garcia & friends at SNACK benefit with jefferson starship, neil young, & bob dylan. the band features ned lagin (his last stage appearance with the dead) & merl saunders on keys, mickey hart (sort of back), minus david crosby, who rehearsed for the show but couldn’t make it due to his son’s birth. octet debuts probably unnamed instrumentals from ace’s sessions, labeled now BLUES FOR ALLAH > STRONGER THAN DIRT > BLUES FOR ALLAH. ALLAH riff lumbers but flies, especially after kicking into prog-time DIRT, dense in all ways, but incredibly graceful. DRUMZ is ever thus. return trip from DIRT is even fiercer, rich B3 by merl, darting rhodes by ned, buzzing bass, & elegant (not-yet-worded) ALLAH reprise. then, because weir, JOHNNY B. GOODE. in short: free-form jazz exploration in front of a festival crowd. in my top 10?

3/26/75 ace’s: musically unsatisfying but quality shit-shooting throughout. especially giggly digressions on pop melodies near start. unusual surf-grunge riff tangent slides into angular country-funk glide. some runs through 7/4 fragments that will be LAZY LIGHTNING. highlight is 15m of band listening to playback of hot SLIPKNOT. like chatty audience tape, except it’s jerry & co..

4/2/75 ace’s: a slog in places. generic jams & unresolved fragments, including MUSIC NEVER STOPPED, LAZY LIGHTNING, A TO E FLAT. back to 1 drummer after 3/23 show with mickey hart. especially notable on speedy/graceful HELP ON THE WAY/SLIPKNOT! instrumental. neat hearing the band stack the CRAZY FINGERS intro arrangement & piece together song. brief vocals only on 6th pass.

4/17/75 ace’s: the dead minus jerry, plus ned & croz; LOW DOWN PAYMENT & “allah” jams. jerry-less 1975 dead is odd, accidentally anticipating #GD50, etc., & not bad, but leadless song segments aren’t terribly compelling. short “jams” 3/16/17/31/32 are likely lagin’s RUNNING HOME, NO NAME, & A LOST SOUL, UNTITLED. unsure which is which.

4/29/75 ace’s: SWING WARMUP, 2 minutes of brief 2 keys/1 drummer dead in default mode. MUSIC NEVER STOPPED now done minus lyrics.

5/7/75 ace’s: 1 take of HOLLYWOOD CANTATA, MUSIC NEVER STOPPED with alternate LA-centric lyrics. “i don’t like them words,” weir says. 2 versions of STRONGER THAN DIRT (& more) with ned lagin & david crosby.

6/3/75 ace’s: instrumental CRAZY FINGERS has over-pronounced reggae bounce. band stretches odd STRONGER THAN DIRT groove pretty far. standalone 30-minute jam stays mellow & flowing (nice godchaux, man), shifting to darker & more tentative space near end.

6/5/75 ace’s: jerry seems bummed about molasses slow takes of FRANKLIN’S TOWER, “it just seems too busy, i’m not sure why.”

6/6/75 dominican college: ned lagin & phil lesh with jerry garcia, david crosby, & mickey hart. a stereophonic avant-dead holy grail. echoed drums & spun-out biomusic conversations have ned lagin processing garcia & croz. better than official seastones LP. 60 minute set is just delightfully disorienting at high volumes, especially the high-pitched cat communications on track #9.

6/7/75 ace’s: maybe the 1st HELP ON THE WAY/SLIPKNOT!/FRANKLIN’S TOWER. great spaces in all 3 & especially in 2nd standalone HELP. ace dixieland-disco by keith on not-yet-cheesy LAZY LIGHTNING jam. last A TO E FLAT JAM, not flying yet & never will.

6/17/75 winterland: 2 sets at the bob fried memorial boogie, as jerry garcia & friends, 2nd of 4 ’75 dead gigs. spontaneously (ned lagin leaves & mickey hart arrives at last minute), it is 1st show by 6-man/donna lineup that will hold ’til ’79. CRAZY FINGERS debut opens, sweet & confident with watery godchaux rhodes & small jam. 1st gig in 8 months with, like, actual songs. weir offers almost only covers, confirming band as the same ol’ grateful dead. to be fair, it *is* a boogie, especially with return of hart. lovely PEGGY-O, but the big beat era hath come. hart’s not even especially offensive, but band’s quiet mode is audibly busied. 1st onstage HELP ON THE WAY (instrumental)/SLIPKNOT!/FRANKLIN’S TOWER closes 1st set. loose but magnificent, still sorting out ending. BLUES FOR ALLAH/STRONGER THAN DIRT/BLUES FOR ALLAH hits classic dead jam space, a fine set piece, though last time played as such. then SUGAR MAGNOLIA, high-pitched shrieking (by deadheads/weir), & US BLUES. greensleeves on PA & back to the studio.

8/12/75 great american music hall: 2 songs circulate from long soundcheck day before “blues for allah” release party, neither from LP. only take of keith & brian godchaux’s SHOWBOAT, on “keith & donna”. on-brand dixieland bounce, fun & burbling if just a little lite. 1st THAT’LL BE THE DAY since ’69, slow & garcia band-like, perhaps inspired by mickey hart’s box of mic’d crickets.

8/13/75 great american music hall: single most polished grateful dead show ever(?) & maybe my fave. nearly everything is a highlight. band drops in one-by-one behind bill graham as he introduces the musicians, landing perfectly in the 1st HELP ON THE WAY with vocals. jam opens quickly into brief beautiful flight before dazzling SLIPKNOT!, double drummers in full effect, every voice finding a place. vocals fantastic throughout, though the official mix helps. FRANKLIN’S TOWER (& beyond) filled with concise expressive garcia solos. debut of weir/barlow’s MUSIC NEVER STOPPED, cool falsetto harmonies by garcia & donna, who gets her 1st solo vocal in a GD original. so sad, so slow, so sweet IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE ROSES with an especially perfect garcia vocal (ditto the SUGAREE in the 2nd set). bass solos to bookend soaring EYES OF THE WORLD, 1st minus the 7/8 ending but (for now) with lesh’s STRONGER THAN DIRT prog fantasia. the only thing i really skip on this show: weir’s molasses slow AROUND & AROUND. not wild ’bout the DRUMZ jamz, but they’re short. the only CRAZY FINGERS i’ve ever needed, the hippie-reggae transmogrifying into a magical california zen float. it just always works. extraordinarily compact 5:33 OTHER ONE, no vocals, but full-flight improv spiraling from high-speed burn to a moody denouement. the debut of weir’s lovely instrumental SAGE & SPIRIT, released on “blues for allah,” but only played once more, in 1980. only full BLUES FOR ALLAH, mickey hart’s crickets chirping. “under eternity blue” coda is an ethereal end to era. [i wrote a long essay about this show.]

9/28/75 lindley meadow: 4th of 4 ’75 performances & final free show in golden gate (or any) park besides 1991 bill graham memorial. 6 weeks since last gig, but sounds like longer. very different vibe, or maybe it’s just garcia’s new guitar. 1st show of late ’70s. band isn’t playing every day anymore & everything is looser but also softer/mellower. omnipresent bed of rhodes by keith godchaux. or last show of the ’60s? doctor needed because woman is having baby backstage. or maybe by soundboard. band can’t quite figure out. phil gettin’ surly about the correct pronunciation of TRUCKIN’, last ’til 9/77. bigger cheer for “cocaine” than “long strange trip.” TRUCKIN’ has only real improv of 2-hour/2-set show. big bass dashes, loud cymbal chatter via hart, & nice dense jam in 11 (i think). aaaaaaaand DRUMZ. sadder: last real version of lesh’s STRONGER THAN DIRT, the dead’s headiest/dorkiest/proggiest instrumental. mickey hart leads the way into NOT FADE AWAY, the boogie portion of the set, & the rest of the ’70s.

[1965] [1966] [1967] [1968] [1969] [1970] [1971] [1972] [1973] [1974] [1975] [1976] [1977]

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