Grateful Dead – Europe ’72: 40 Years Later – A Tale of Two Cities, Part II: The Paris Dark Star, May 1972

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Europe ’72, a legendary Grateful Dead tour now available in all its 16-track glory, we enlisted the help of Joe Kolbenschlag and the Steel Cut Oats team to break down a handful of the most memorable shows from the run. Today, they continue with a look at a massive Dark Star that was recently released on vinyl…

A Dark Star in the City of Light

Over the last couple of years, the Grateful Dead and Rhino Records have teamed up for a relatively new rite of spring. The third Saturday in April has been officially designated as Record Store Day – a day to visit an independently-owned vinyl shop, and stock up on old and new treasures. Part of the allure of the holiday is the massive list of limited edition releases that are rolled out to coincide with the occasion, and this year’s batch was exceptional. Anyone’s musical tastes can be found in the bins and boxes during the annual homage to vinyl.

For the second straight year, the Dead booked another visit to the Europe ’72 tour. 2012’s limited edition (4,200 copies) vinyl release was the Dark Star from Paris, France performed on May 4th, 1972. From a structure perspective, they couldn’t have picked a more appropriate version to fit on two sides of a single 12-inch record. In fact, no other Dark Star from the tour offers better break points to accommodate both sides of an album.

The sixth (and middle) Dark Star from Europe begins with a very pleasing, yet meandering vibe – possibly a reaction to their travels through the French countryside as the group finally departed West Germany. Several minutes float along gently, and nobody is willing to make any aggressive moves to disrupt the ambiance. The first shift of gears occurs around the 11 minute mark in which Phil and Jerry simultaneously halt their grooves cueing the band to slide towards the first verse. Typically these musical changes push the tempos upward during the Euro versions, but this particular one takes on a more quiet approach. The tour’s first drum break inside of a Dark Star is hinted at…Side 1 ends; Side 2 begins…Drums…

Billy’s contributions are a bit understated compared to his other work from the tour. He’s working less percussion than normal, (this also coincides with the jam segment from the first night in Paris, too) and isn’t adding as much color as was his customary Euro norm. The group begins to chug around the ten minute mark of Side 2, and this is where the real meat and potatoes occur. What took the band almost a half an hour to create in Paris had been done in less than five minutes during earlier (London) and later (Rotterdam) versions. Countering Jerry’s brief and scary meltdown, Phil steps in with a Feelin’ Groovy jam to keep the mood light, and the group happily obliges opening further non-intrusive spaces…Garcia falls beautifully into the second verse (sung for the first time on this tour), and the short, introspective conclusion dissipates into Sugar Magnolia as the album fades.

As a collector, congratulate yourself if you were able to find this limited edition release at a fair price. As a listener, you may find something a bit more ethereal to this take than most. From here – when segued – Dark Star > Morning Dew would slowly replace Dark Star > Sugar Magnolia, and while standing on its own, the track would continue to evolve for the next two-and-a-half years. Only a select few would take the form of beauty and splendor more than the Dark Star from Paris in Spring of 1972. Put the needle on the record.

Grateful Dead, Dark Star: Europe ’72 Olympia Theatre – Paris, France 5/4/72:

Side 1 – Dark Star (19:21) >

Side 2 – Drums (2:32) > Dark Star (17:34)

Joe Kolbenschlag
Huntersville, NC

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2 thoughts on “Grateful Dead – Europe ’72: 40 Years Later – A Tale of Two Cities, Part II: The Paris Dark Star, May 1972

  1. Jameson Reply

    Great review, I can’t wait to give it a listen! I wasn’t able to get this album from my local record store on RSD 2012 because they only had one copy and I was the third person in line. I ended up having to get one off of Ebay for $41 after shipping, which I still consider a pretty fair price. Def gonna put the needle to it when it comes in!!

  2. Sammy Martin Reply

    Thank you so much for putting a new take on an re-released old classic. Very well written, again HT you continue to be a shinning light when it comes to good relevant music knowledge. Sweet job eh!

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