Grateful Dead: The Unofficial 31 Days of Dead – 2011 Edition

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 for the past two Decembers new contributor Ed Martin has created compilations of live Grateful Dead tracks called The Unofficial 31 Days of Dead. We’ll be posting Ed’s 2012 compilation featuring a “new” track each day from December 1st to 31st. Before December starts we wanted to share Ed’s 2010 and 2011 compilations to give a taste of what you can expect. We posted the 2010 compilation earlier this week and today we present the 2011 compilation. Take it away, Ed…

During November 2010 & 2011, GDP gave away a previously unreleased SBD track for download each day of the month and called it the “30 Days of Dead.” I thought it would be fun to create my own version, called “ECM’s 31 Days of Dead.”

[Artwork by Brian Levine]

My criteria was pretty simple: (1) No official releases; and (2) Nothing too predictable or obvious (i.e., 5/8/77 or 8/27/72). Yes, there are some “familiar” selections here too.  But, the idea was to share great music with both n00bs and vets.

So, without any further ado, here are the Mediafire links to download the 2011 selections for ECM’s 31 Days of Dead – all tagged and with artwork for your enjoyment.

Download Links for ECM’s The Unofficial 31 Days of Dead (December 2011) – Inspired by’s 30 Days of Dead (November 2010):

Part 1 ->
Part 2 ->
Part 3 ->
Part 4 ->

Here is a re-post of the daily write-ups:

December 1

Samson & Delilah
4/10/83 West Virginia University Coliseum, Morgantown, WV

Ah, the “Sunday Samson.”  The Dead loved to get their gospel on by playing Samson & Delilah on Sundays.  Here, they make the unconventional but very welcome decision to open the show with it.  I wish they had done this more often!  The band must have been itching to play Samson because this version is blazing as Jerry’s notes seemingly fly off the fretboard.

Archive Link:

December 2

It Must Have Been The Roses
5/18/77 Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA

This show will always fall in the shadows of the next night which was immortalized on Dicks Picks 29.  But there is plenty to love here – especially if you are a sucker for Garcia ballads like I am.  Here you will find a ridiculous treasure trove of some of the most coveted Garcia nuggets – Stella Blue, High Time, Brokedown Palace, Friend of the Devil, Ship of Fools and today’s selection – It Must Have Been The Roses.  This show calls to mind the ballad-heavy Richmond show from 11/1/85 (Dicks Pick 21).

This version of “Roses” is album-perfect and may only be eclipsed by the acoustic version that appears on Reckoning from the epic Warfield/Radio City Music Hall run.  Musically, this version the equivalent of Morning Dew from 5/8/77 and Comes A Time from 5/9/77 – great recording, sublime Garcia vocals, gorgeous dirge-like guitar solo, and just a beautiful team-effort by the entire band.  If you like this then be sure to seek out the rest of this show – especially Stella Blue and Jack-A-Roe.

Archive Link:

December 3

Space (with Ken Babbs) -> Not Fade Away -> Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad -> Around & Around
6/25/78 Autzen Stadium, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Ever since they left their acid-drenched mark at Ken Kesey’s Farm on a hot August day in 1972, Oregon has been sacred ground for the Grateful Dead.   Although 1978 proved to be a bit inconsistent for the band, they absolutely crushed the two shows they played in Eugene.  Many fans are familiar with the famous McArthur masterpiece from 1/22/78 that included the Close-Encounters->St. Stephen odyssey (see my 2010 31 Days of Dead).  But, the band’s return to this magical city on 6/25/78 tends to be a little off most people’s radar.

Today’s selection begins with “Thunder Machine” Space courtesy of Ken Babbs and the Merry Pranksters.  This culminates in some wild guitar fanning that charges right into an authoritative Not Fade Away.  It’s almost startling the way the band comes out screaming right from the beginning.  The exaggerated vocals immediately calls to mind the “mescaline show” from 5/11/78 (Dicks Picks 25, specifically, Cold Rain & Snow, Loser, Lazy Lightning->Supplication, and Fire On The Mountain) and the epic U.S. Blues encore at Duke on 4/12/78.  It would not surprise me if the band was playing with a head full of drugs for this show as well, given their history with Oregon and the presence of the Merry Pranksters.  Do the math.

Although sloppy, the energy is through the roof!  Wild screams, thrashing guitars – garage band music at its best.  I like how one reviewer on LMA described it:  “It appears that someone overturned a few drums of gas onstage during Space, then lit a match as they started NFA. Loud, messy, wild, and utterly satisfying stuff.”  Another LMA reviewer who attended the show recalled rumors that parts of Eugene and Springfield were browned out during NFA-GDTRFB-‘Round and ‘Round.  After hearing this sequence, that certainly is plausible.

Archive Link:

December 4

They Love Each Other
10/21/73 Omaha Civic Auditorium, Omaha, NE

I have always preferred the peppy versions of They Love Each Other from 1973 over the slowed-down versions from later eras.  I also dig the extra verse/bridge.  Although there are some problems with the master reels, this version of TLEO from Omaha on the second night of the amazing 1973 Fall tour is one of the better versions I have come across.  Keith’s ragtime piano fills have a big, happy face on them and Garcia’s giddy solo climbs to a marvelous peak.

Archive Link:

December 5

Feel Like A Stranger
11/10/85 Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, NJ

Feel Like A Stranger was always a great way to open a show but after hearing this version, a cogent argument can be made that it makes for an equally powerful set closer (See 3/2/87 for another example).  The vocal scatting here is nice and funky the way it should be.  Somebody who attended the concert (who will remain unnamed in this review) swore that he saw African-American gospel singers on stage doing backing vocals but after years of unsuccessfully trying to confirm this, he begrudgingly conceded that the substances he had ingested may have impaired his vision that evening.  Nevertheless, I’m sure that this unnamed person will appreciate that I have chosen to highlight this version of Stranger.  Bobby gets some nice, fat sounds out of his guitar and Jerry builds the jam to a great peak with a repeating riff at about the 6:23 minute mark leading to a searing ending.

Archive Link:

December 6

Mason’s Children
12/28/69 International Speedway, Hollywood, FL

Mason’s Children has a special place in my heart.  It was a song that had so much potential – a groovy, psychedelic riff that provided enough open space to jam.  Sadly, it was left on the cutting floor during the Workingman’s Dead sessions and was played live less than 20 times between December 1969 through February 1970, never to be revived again.  This version from an obscure music festival in Florida is perhaps the raunchiest ever played.  There is gobs of energy from both the crowd and the band.  The song is briefly aborted immediately following the opening chords so that Pigpen and Phil can plead with the crowd to move back otherwise it is “trouble city” for them.  But do you think these rowdy fans care?  Hell no!  Like the honey badger, these crazy, nastyass fans don’t give a shit.  Realizing the futility of their warning, the band shrugs its shoulders and decides to ride the wave of madness with the crowd by charging back into Mason’s.  Sure, the vocals are a little rough but who’s complaining – this is a rockin’ party, man!  Garcia begins his second solo at about the 5:40 minute mark and he just tears it up, spewing electric psychedelia everywhere as the frantic honey badgers eagerly lap it up.  The hungry little bastards!  Classic Grateful Dead.

Archive Link:
Honey Badger Link:

December 7

Space -> Playing In The Band -> Comes A Time -> Playin’ Reprise
8/19/80 Uptown Theater, Chicago, IL

Here is something you don’t see too often – a post-space Playing In The Band with the rarely-played Comes A Time tucked in the middle, no less! This deliciously spacey pairing calls to mind the heavenly 40-minute journey that was the centerpiece of 5/4/77 (Palladium).  While this version of Playin’ does not quite reach the cosmic level of its predecessor, the gorgeous Comes A Time that follows takes the version from the Palladium for strong!  From Garcia’s passionate vocal delivery to his solos both in the middle and on the back-end, this version is simply stunning and deserves a place in the Comes A Time Hall of Fame along with 5/9/77 (Buffalo), 7/17/76 (Orpheum, See ECM’s 31 Days from 2010) and its cousin, 5/4/77 (Palladium).

Archive Link (AUD):
Archive Link (Partial SBD):

December 8

Greatest Story Ever Told
8/21/72 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA

The 1972 versions of Greatest Story are the cream of the crop.  The fan favorite is the version from 9/28/72 which has a St. Stephen tease tucked inside the jam but my go-to version is 8/21/72.  Keith is just a monster on the piano and Jerry’s blissful wah-wah guitar solo is absolutely vicious.  The jam loosely references the riff from The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion).  Orange Sunshine is written all over this version.  And to think that this was just the “warm-up” for the epic show at Kesey’s farm less than a week later.

Archive Link:

December 9

Iko Iko
11/8/87 Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA

Let’s get the weekend started with a rousing Iko!  Although the band first started playing Iko Iko in 1977, it really didn’t become a “tour de force” until the Neville Brother’s made several guest appearances in the 80’s and showed the boys how to get their Mardis Gras on (See 2/11/86, 12/30/86, 7/6/87, and 12/31/87).  The result was a completely different song.  The groove changed from a laid-back, loping, hippie sock-hop to a rockin’ anthem much like Touch of Grey had recently become with the release of In The Dark.  Garcia’s vocals became much more assertive and animated.  “Hey Now” became the “battle cry” for Iko the same way that “We will survive” did for Touch.   A new verse was added (“Indian boy wanna go downtown…”) and Brent added a killer B-3 solo.  Today’s selection, taken from the “comeback year” of 1987 showcases all of these elements.

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December 10

Might As Well
10/29/77 Evan Field House, Northern Illinois University

Might as well keep the weekend party going with this incendiary version of Might As Well from 10/29/77.  Picking up where they left off the previous evening with an epic Casey Jones encore (See ECM’s 2010 31-Days of Dead for Casey Jones from 10/28/77), the band goes for broke and opens the show with a raging version of Might As Well that sounds more like a set closer or encore rather than a show opener.  The energy on this version is through the roof and will have you shaking your head in disbelief.  Similar to the aforementioned version of Casey Jones, the chorus is sung over 20 times complete with manic screams, screeches and growls – all pushing the energy to the precipice.  And to think that this was the show OPENER!!  I’d like to take that ride again!

Archive Link:

December 11

Friend of the Devil, Big Railroad Blues (Acoustic)
9/20/70 Fillmore East, New York, NY

Easy Like Sunday Morning.  I wonder if Lionel Richie was listening to some acoustic Dead when he wrote that song?  Here is a snippet from one of the finest acoustic sets ever played.  David Grisman and David Nelson are among the guest musicians who sit in.  The sound is so intimate and sparse that it almost feels as if you are sitting by a campside fire listening to these acoustic nuggets.  Everything they touch is gold.  This version of Friend of the Devil is album-perfect and the embryonic bluegrass version Big Railroad Blues that follows has a completely different feel to it which is equally as enjoyable as the better-known, later versions.

Archive Link:

December 12

To Lay Me Down
5/4/81 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

To Lay Me Down has always been a rare, special treat.  I was fortunate enough to catch four live versions.  Some of the best versions are from the acoustic sets from the Warfield and Radio City Music Hall shows in 1980.  Here is a beautiful, electric version from 1981.  Jerry’s fragile vocal phrasings and lilting guitar solo are sublime.

Archive Link:

December 13

11/7/87 Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA

Here is another selection from the Kaiser run in November 1987.  The entire first set benefits from great songs and tight execution and should be heard at all costs.  Cassidy, in particular, is downright explosive!  The jam begins with an exploratory, spacey-feel but patiently builds-up with some great guitar runs by Garcia.  Eventually this leads to a bit of fanning until we reach a glorious peak that takes us home to the transition.

Archive Link:

December 14

Dark Star -> Morning Dew
11/13/72 Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this wide-ranging Dark Star rivals the immense psychotic version from Veneta that we all know and love so well.  However, nobody talks about this Star because a soundboard source does not exist.  Shame on all you soundboard snobs for shunning this show like a bad penny.  What has this show ever done to you?   If you only knew what you are missing!

Like the version played in Veneta, this Dark Star is filled with intense, massive meltdowns.  However, unlike his failed attempt in Veneta, Jerry gets his way this time and leads the band into Morning Dew – and what a version too!! More on that in a minute.   Billy gets your attention right away with a very emphatic rap on his drum kit. almost as if he is hitting the first note of Not Fade Away.  A few brief moments of tension float in the air and then the band launches into the Dark Star.  The pre-verse themes are carefully constructed.  I especially like the united effort when the band reaches its first peak at about the 5:30 mark by repeating the same note in unison several times.

Things quiet down a bit and somebody – possibly Keith – uses a very watery tone throughout which adds to the psychedelia.  They eventually get to the first verse after 11 minutes.  Garcia is in terrific voice.  After the verse things get dark…very dark.  Atonal bass plucks, squealing feedback, scratching strings, “violin” taps – you get the picture.  The band is messing with your head and they know it.  You are thinking, “Why, dear Jesus, did I eat three tabs instead of two?” You make a feeble attempt to maintain your diminished sense of  reality and start repeating to yourself, “Must-resist-urge-to-take-off-clothes.”  But it is too late.  And, brain-fry meltdown time starts.  The notes get darker, louder, faster, scarier.  A massive whirlpool of chaos leads to a torrential “Tiger.”  It’s a maelstrom of psychedelia as the nucleus of Dark Star is reached.

Thankfully, Phil Lesh has mercy on your soul and immediately launches into a happy land of unicorns and sunny skies with what has become known as the “Philo Jam” (23:30).  This version is incredible – probably the best of the few that were played in Fall of 1972.  The band quickly joins him and they explore a few more themes.  At 28:30, the jam gains momentum and begins to take on a twangy bluegrass edge that sounds rooted in Cumberland Blues.  As it winds down, Weir suggests the “Feelin Groovy” jam and the band follows (30:00).  Hold on to your hats because this is version is played at hyper speed! It eventually slows and Jerry leads the band into a dazzling Morning Dew for the ages.  The dynamics are perfect and range from fragile to powerful.  Jerry’s vocals are mournful.  He’s almost crying through the lyrics.  Keith’s piano accompanyment is beautiful throughout. The final jam is reflective and life affirming.  What a journey.  If you really want to understand the Grateful Dead, then look no further than this Star -> Dew combo.

Archive Link:

December 15

Row Jimmy
4/12/78 Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke University, Durham, NC

Like most people, I haven’t the slightest idea what Row Jimmy is all about but I sure do enjoy the hell out of it!  A pretty melody with cryptic lyrics combined with a long interlude of deep solos that is all-consuming and draws you in.  You just get lost in it and give in to the absurdity of it all.  Yet it is so pleasing.  The formula is pure genius.

This Duke show has become famous for one of the most the over-the-top versions of U.S. Blues but don’t miss the Row Jimmy!  A sterling reading, for sure.  Garcia is in great vocal form, as is Donna Jean.  Bobby adds some guitar harmonics with dramatic effects.  And, the reggae-style break-down at the end is one of the finest.  Garcia really gets into it.  Listen to him ad lib, “Yes, it does.”  A masterpiece.

Archive Link:

December 16

8/12/79 Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

It’s Friday, so let’s get the weekend off to a rockin’ start.  This set-closing version of Passenger from Red Rocks is absolutely on fire!  Bobby and Brent do great job with the vocals.  Phil drops massive bombs left and right and Brent’s swirling organ is practically deafening.  This lays a solid foundation for Jerry who digs in deep and attacks his guitar like a starving animal.  He brings the word “shredding” to a new level.  Check out his off-the-chain, dizzy solo beginning at about the 3-minute mark.  The distortion is turned way up while he wales away at blinding speed.  Ridiculous, jaw-dropping stuff.  Best ever?  Quite possibly.

Archive Link:

December 17

Looks Like Rain
3/30/88 Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ

The band’s decision to move Bob Weir’s quirky love song, Looks Like Rain, from the first set to the second set during the mid-1980’s was controversial.  Some disgruntled fans grouched that adding another pre-drums ballad could kill the energy of an otherwise promising second set the same way that Ship of Fools often did.  But, then again, when did the band ever pander to their fans?  (ok, they did stop playing Day Job).  Sometimes you just have to have faith in the band you love and let them play music on their own terms because you just may be surprised to discover that they know how to blow your mind better than you do.

This transcendent version of Looks Like Rain is Bob Weir’s answer to Garcia’s epic version of Morning Dew from 9/18/87 at Madison Square Garden just six months prior to this show.  It is a showcase performance with a passionate, theatrical vocal delivery.  Quintessential Weir.  As with all big storms, the intensity builds slowly and patiently.  Jerry musters up his best musical raindrops and Brent dials up a MIDI “thunderstorm.”  The band reaches an incredible peak during the final minute.  Mickey adds the final lethal blow when he lands a giant “thunderbolt” on his drums at the 8:40 minute mark.  The storm is over and the audience roars with approval!

Archive Link:

December 18

Crazy Fingers
6/14/76 Beacon Theatre, New York, NY

Here is a beautiful version of Crazy Fingers .  The composed section is album-perfect.  The vocal harmonies are spot-on and the Middle-Eastern jam is stunning.

Archive Link:

December 19

Here Comes Sunshine
12/6/73 Public Hall, Cleveland, OH

Some of the material from this show was officially released as a bonus disc with Road Trips Volume 4, Number 3 for people who pre-ordered all four of the 2011 Road Trips albums.  Tragically, Here Comes Sunshine is conspicuously missing.  I’m guessing the reason is that the master reels are cut, leaving us with a painful blue-ball patch from an abysmal audience source that sounds like it was recorded with hand-held mics from the concession stand.  Argh!!

Clocking in at nearly 16 minutes, this languid version of Here Comes Sunshine is the longest ever played and provides a preview of the well-known Dark Star later in the set which was also the longest version ever played.  Needless to say, the jamming here is relentless as Garcia is just brimming with ideas.  One the first peaks occurs at about the 4:56 minute mark where Garcia peels off some rapid guitar runs that are very similar to the much-loved version from 12/19/73 (Dick’s Picks #1).  Eventually, Phil initiates the signature riff and it appears that the jam is winding down.  But Jerry will have none of it.  The man is possessed and must keep going.  As the song goes, “Get out the way!”  After the third verse Jerry initiates a beautiful, melodic thematic jam beginning at about the 13:30 minute mark which eventually gives way to a more driving jam courtesy of Billy K.  And, then the skivvy audience source switches in and kicks you in right in the diamonds.  Hello Cleveland!!!

Archive Link:

December 20

China Cat Sunflower -> I Know You Rider
5/10/80 Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, CT

A seven-song pre-drums second set?  Are you kidding me?  Today’s selection spotlights the opener of that marathon set.  Jerry starts the signature, metronome riff of China Cat and it is immediately accompanied by a very prominent cowbell.  I like it!  We can always use some more bell!  Things are starting off well.  But, then Jerry forgets the entire second verse.  No worries because Mickey makes up for it with a “cowbell solo.” This seems to be just thing the band needs to pick them up.  Whew, saved by the cowbell! Jerry catches a big, fat musical wave at around the 5:44 minute mark.

Soon, glorious, colorful spiraling notes begin swirling out of his guitar in a very groovy pattern until we reach the China Cat peak. Things simmer down during the transition into Rider.  The harmonies sound great with Brent’s youthful vocals! From the first solo you can tell that this version is gonna be BIG.  Bobby does his verse about the sun shining on his back door but it’s all child’s play compared to what Jerry has in store for him as he digs in deep and does a Pete Townsend windmill with his vocal chords on the “headlight” verse.  The final solo is ridiculous.  There is no build-up because Jerry is already cranked all the way up to 11.  Big, chunky, crashing chords are everywhere.  At around the 5:40 minute mark we get full-on, Morning Dew-style guitar fanning.  The energy is through the roof! And, then we are at the a cappella ending.  It must have been the cowbell.

Archive Link:
More Cowbell skit:

December 21

12/30/86 Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA

I’ll be honest, I was going to choose Estimated Prophet from this show for today’s song.  However, after reading some of the reviews about Althea from the same show I decided to give it a listen.  I’ve always thought that nothing could exceed the amazing version of Althea from Without A Net (3/15/90, Landover) but lo-and-behold, this version which was performed shortly after Jerry’s triumphant return from a diabetic coma is nothing short of spectacular!  Sound problems with Jerry’s vocals plague the first verse, but don’t be deterred by that.  It gets ironed out quickly.  Besides, this version is all about Jerry and Bob.

The reverb from Jerry’s guitar echoes blissfully throughout the song adding to the drama of the beautifully melodic notes he plays.  Each note is selected carefully – not one note is wasted. I love it! I also love the fat sound Bobby gets from his guitar.  It reminds me of a giant bubble and it perfectly complements what Garcia’s is doing.  Jerry’s ending solo is incredible.  He reaches some soaring high notes, and eventually things get rockin’ at about the 7-minute mark.  He even adds a bit of guitar fanning to this version!  Wow!  Every effort should be made to hear this entire show.  As previously mentioned, the Estimated Prophet is white hot.  Also, don’t miss the 30-beat intro of BIODTL, China-Rider, Ship, Saint, Stella Blue and the entire post-drums sequence, especially the collaboration with the Neville Brothers.   1986 Dead – who knew?  I’m a believer!

Archive Link:

December 22

Cumberland Blues
10/24/71 Eastown Theater, Detroit, MI

Kick off your shoes, strap on your overalls, grab a bottle of moonshine and settle down on a bale of hay.  Cumberland Blues is the quintessential GD bluegrass song for Jerry to showcase his banjo chops on the electric guitar.  I would love to feature my favorite version of this song – Europe ’72 (i.e., 4/8/72, Wembley), but it would violate my own rule of “no commercial releases.”  No worries because, the version I selected today from the Fall 1971 tour is a real barn burner!

For starters, note the unusual placement – late second set (post-Dark Star, and what a version!).  It’s practically the closer!  That provides a clue about the intensity of this performance.  Add to that the fact that a youthful Keith Godchaux had just joined the band and was killing it every night with his honky-tonk piano.  All the planets were aligned for the band to create this raging, hyper-speed version of Cumberland Blues. The guitar solo after the second version is an all-timer. Check out the vicious repeating pattern that emerges at about the 2:30 minute mark. Yeee-haaaw!

Archive Link:

December 23

Cryptical -> Drums -> JAM -> Drums -> The Other One -> Cryptical -> Dire Wolf
4/15/70 Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA

Here is an amazing sequence that I like to of as the “warm-up” for the epic Harpur College show (5/2/70, Dick’s Pick #8).  If this version of The Other One doesn’t quite reach the stratospheric heights of the  Harpur College version then the “Jam” tucked in between the two drum solos certainly does.  Jerry channels Carlos Santana’s guitar playing at Woodstock and simply shreds everything in its path.  This is high-intensity, psychedelic music at its best.  The speed and energy are jaw dropping.   Also noteworthy is the seamless segue from Cryptical Reprise into Dire Wolf.  Must-hear, essential GD!

Archive Link:

December 24

The Music Never Stopped
5/7/78 Field House, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

As with many GD shows its those brief moments of bliss, when they find “it” that follow you through the years.  Take for example, the Santana “Jam” from yesterday’s selection (4/15/70), the “heavy-metal” ending to The Other One or Stella Blue (both from 10/21/78), or, the “Beautiful Jam” in Dark Star (2/18/71), or the “Watkins Glen jam” (7/27/73).  These are the kind of moments that cause you to shake your head in disbelief and immediately press the repeat button over and over.  It’s the reason why we dropped everything in our lives and followed this band for thousands of miles.

Today’s selection has that kind of “X” factor to it.  Taken from the 1978 Spring Tour, this version of The Music Never Stopped features a very trippy midsection with quick bursts of notes.  At about the 5:05 minute mark Jerry lands on a repetitive phrase and builds it to a searing climax with some signature guitar fanning which segues into the huge final jam.

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December 25

If I Had The World To Give
8/30/78 Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

On this day of giving I couldn’t think of a better song for Christmas.  Performed live only three times, this version of If I Had The World To Give from Red Rocks is probably the best.  The ending jam is both haunting and splendidly hypnotic.  Jerry Christmas everybody!

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December 26

Uncle John’s Band -> Playing In The Band -> China Doll -> Uncle John’s Band -> Playing In The Band
7/10/81 St. Paul Civic Center, St. Paul, MN

Speaking of haunting, check out this version of China Doll. The song sequence here calls to mind the “Playin Palindrome” that the band played live just a few times in 1973-74. Most people like the version from UCLA (11/17/73), but I have always preferred the version from the Cow Palace (3/23/74 – Dick’s Picks 24). Unlike those marathon versions, this 1981 version which emerges out of “Space” is not a “true” palindrome. Also, China Doll replaces Morning Dew, and at 23-minutes this half as long as those versions. However, the spirit is still present in this laid-back, summery version. The Uncle John’s->Playin’ sequence is short but very well played. As mentioned, the real treat here is the album-perfect version of China Doll. And, the transition back into UJB is perfect as is the transition into Playin Reprise. I wish I could say the same for the transition from Playin’ Reprise into Around and Around which is a train wreck. Good Ol’ Grateful Dead, warts and all. Be sure to check out the rest of this show – especially Althea and Estimated->Eyes. The SBD is missing from the vault but we are left with a pretty good sounding audience source. Also, be sure to check out the pre-show radio interview with Jerry (posted below).

Archive Link:

Pre-show radio interview with Garcia:

December 27

Cold Rain and Snow
12/27/77 Winterland, San Francisco, CA

During the Fall tour of 1977, the band really flexed its rock and roll muscles, delivering some crushing versions of songs never heard before (See Casey Jones from 10/2 and 10/28, Might As Well from 10/29, Sugar Magnolia from 10/15, Half-Step from 11/6 and Truckin from 9/3 and 11/6).  This energy carried over to the December shows at Winterland.  Today marks the 34th anniversary of the opening night of that 4-show run that closed out the epic year of 1977.  The second night (12/29/77) was featured in the Dick’s Picks series (Volume 10) but all four nights bring the goods.  When a song like Cold Rain and Snow that is normally reserved for the first set, opens the second set, you know it’s gonna be powerful and this version does not disappoint.

Archive Link:

December 28

I Need A Miracle -> Shakedown Street
1/15/79 Springfield Civic Center, Springfield, MA

For today’s selection I decided to use the excellent review written by Michael Getz for The Taper’s Compendium, Vol. II
The set opens with a “Miracle” that is torn into by Weir’s vocals and Garcia’s howling guitar. Guess that Gatorade re-energized the band backstage, eh? Next comes a little bit of that magic. In fact, it’s one of those moments we all love to crank for anybody who visits our pad (or who might be across the street). As Miracle unwinds into a short jam, Garcia hits the wah-wah pedal and, with an iron will, tenaciously builds the momentum, stroke by fierce stroke, until he holds it suddenly in midair with a single note…hoping and praying that all of that one-with-the-universe-ensemble-group shit they’d been traversing since the ‘60’s would pay off. It does. Everyone intuits the momentum he’s created, hold back until Keith seizes the helm by descending down his keys until – WHAM! – the whole gang slams gloriously into the opening D minor of Shakedown. Nailed to the wall, folks. This version has a spunky, funky attitude with lots of subtle interactions among all band members.

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December 29

Hell In A Bucket
6/27/85 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY

Taken from the “20th Anniversary” Summer tour in 1985, this raging version of Hell In A Bucket defined the high energy of this SPAC show  The following excerpt from LMA describes that energy a little further: “Record setting crowd plugged the place, “Butch” hanging off the balcony, gaggles of people bum rushing the balcony lanes, naked and untethered souls wandering the lawn, marshmallow wars, a rushing flood of people from the lawn into the reserved section and a parking lot that says “I dare you to find your car” as you say to yourself “Which bridge did I cross to get in here?” Don’t forget the rain.”  Enjoy the ride!

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December 30

Stella Blue
9/19/90 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

“All the years they combine…” As we approach the New Year this Garcia-Hunter classic seems more than appropriate.  Taken at a very slow tempo, this dirge-like version of Stella Blue, taken from the epic Madison Square Garden run in 1990, really tugs at the heartstrings as the tragic loss of Brent Mydland was weighing heavily on the band.   “There’s nothing you can hold very long…” The despair in the music practically takes your breath away. “A broken angel sings from a guitar…”  Rather than express the sadness vocally as he does on the version from 8/1/94 and 3/21/94, Jerry does it through his guitar as he did on the stunning version from 10/21/78.

As Jerry begins the outro-solo it is almost too much, so he wisely shifts gears. Capitalizing on the dueling airy keyboards, he switches on the “musical raindrops” effect on his guitar and suddenly the music becomes ethereal and uplifting.  “Dust off those rusty strings just one more time, gonna make them shine, shine”  It is both reflective and life-affirming at the same time – a new beginning.  As one door closes, a new one opens.  Similarly, as one year ends, a new year begins.  “All the years combine…”

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December 31

Happy New Year -> Dancing In The Street
12/31/71 Winterland, San Francisco, CA

Many moons before Phish rode in on a hot dog for New Year’s, there were Grateful Dead concerts at Winterland.  Unlike other years when the countdown to midnight kicked off the second set, this show begins at midnight.  Amid the cacophony of popping balloons, the band slams into Dancing In The Streets which had been absent from the repertoire for a year. Oddly enough, it would be the last version played until 1976 (with “disco” flair).

Bobby ad libs the first verse, “It’s New Year’s Eve but I do believe they’ll be dancin’ in the street!”  This is a giddy version of “Dancin'” for sure, but unlike my other selections this month, there is no searing guitar solo from Jerry, or crushing bass bombs from Phil or vocal histrionics from Bobby.  Rather, today’s selection is all about “the vibe,” and oh my, what a party!  Thank goodness “the vibe” is captured by the FM broadcast and the DJ who provides the hilarious play-by-play of Bill Graham as Father Time and the “black and white baby New Years” who take off their diapers and started running around the stage naked.  At about the 5:37 minute mark we get some exuberant hoots and hollers. Glorious mayhem!  What an exciting time to be a deadhead as the band was about to embark on what many consider the best musical years of its career (1972-74).

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One thought on “Grateful Dead: The Unofficial 31 Days of Dead – 2011 Edition

  1. Andrew Weiss Reply

    Ed, 4 of these are ranked in my top ten played on Itunes. The “Might As Well” from DeKalb is the most rip-roaring version there is from where I am standing. I started many a road trip with that doozie.

    The JAM in the middle of the 4-15-70 Other One sandwich is denoted by Ed in all caps for a reason. It’s lysergic energy bottled in musical form. If you put in on for someone without context they might guess it was Santana or the Allmans. Superb choices for 2011, Ed.

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