Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Grateful Dead - Shows in California 3-12/72

1972 was a big year for the Grateful Dead. They fully integrated new members Keith and then Donna Godchaux, bid adieu to Pigpen as a performing member of the band, went on a wild jaunt in Europe in the spring, and toured steadily during the summer, fall, and winter, culminating in a quintet of December shows in Long Beach and San Francisco. I saw the Dead nine times in 1972, including the two August shows I discussed here.

The Dead began the year in a very atypical fashion, playing a show at Winterland on the evening of January 2 following their New Years show.  I did not attend that show, but did make their next gig, also at Winterland. During the first several years I saw shows at Winterland, Bill Graham and crew experimented with different positions in the hall for the stage. For New Year’s the stage was located on the narrower side of the auditorium, adjacent to Post Street, a position that became standard from December 1972 until the hall closed at the end of 1978. However, for the March 5 show (a benefit for the Native Americans who had occupied Alcatraz Island at the time), the stage was located on the long dimension of the auditorium, opposite the main entrance on Steiner Street. It remained in this location throughout most of 1972, only returning to the alternate location sometime prior to the mid-December run of Dead shows.

This show was notable for several reasons. The Sons of Champlin, still operating under the name Yogi Phlegm, were scheduled to open the show. However, guitarist Terry Haggerty, vibes player Geoff Palmer, and bassist David Shallock were seriously delayed, ostensibly caught in traffic, and Bill Graham wanted to keep the lengthy show as on schedule as possible, so the rest of the band recruited a couple of the musicians in the green room to temporarily fill out their ranks. Thus the show opened with the quartet of Bill Champlin, Bill Vitt, Phil Lesh, and Jerry Garcia jamming out on a medley of “Big Boss Man” and “How Blue Can You Get.” At the conclusion of those songs, the other two Phlegmatic musicians took the stage, and Jerry and Phil went back to whatever they were doing earlier. The Sons of Champlin/Sons/Yogi Phlegm never got their due as a sublime jamming vehicle, and it was not mere convenience that led the Dead to enlist them so frequently as an opening act.

The New Riders followed and I have no memories of anything that distinguished their set. This was a transitional period for the Riders, with bassist David Torbert emerging as a lead singer and songwriter to balance the front man duties with John ‘Marmaduke’ Dawson, who had done most of the writing and lead singing previously. Pedal steel player Buddy Cage, only a few months into his gig of replacing Garcia, had already firmly established himself as an essential part of the sound of NRPS MK II. What I do remember was that the Riders played a long set and  that, coupled with some unusually long breaks between sets, meant that the Dead took the stage very late, probably after 11. One of the most memorable aspects of the pre-Dead set break was Wavy Gravy, lying on stage in a full body cast, delivering one of his memorably free-form monologues.

The Dead’s performance that night was notable for several reasons. First and foremost, it turned out to be the band’s last hometown show with Pigpen, who had delivered some virtuoso performances during the band’s New Year’s run and remained in strong form for this show. Secondly, it represented the debut performance of Weir and Barlow’s “Black Throated Wind,” and that of the revised version of “Greatest Story Ever Told” that appeared on Weir’s solo album Ace, which had been recorded in the early months of the year. “Good Lovin’” had also been retooled, adding a high harmony part, sung by Phil Lesh, to the song’s chorus. Structurally, it was a very odd show, with a typical first set followed by a 30 minute, four-song second set (“Good Lovin,’” “Not Fade Away”>”Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad”> “Not Fade Away”). The short second set, appended by a brief “One More Saturday Night” encore, was at the behest of promoter Graham, who was running up against the venue’s 2 AM curfew. 

Grateful Dead Winterland 3/5/72
Bertha
Black Throated Wind (debut)
Mr. Charlie
Sugaree
Greatest Story Ever Told
Next Time You See Me
Tennessee Jed
Jack Straw
China Cat Sunflower> 
I Know You Rider 
Mexicali Blues
You Win Again
El Paso
Casey Jones

Good Lovin' 
Not Fade Away> 
Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad> 
Not Fade Away

One More Saturday Night

That Winterland Benefit was also the Dead’s last hometown show until the August San Jose>Berkeley Community Theatre run (discussed here), but I had the opportunity to see them sooner than that at my first out-of-town show, 6/17/72 at the Hollywood Bowl. The Dead had played the Hollywood Bowl once previously, on a 9/15/67 bill with the Jefferson Airplane. This was not only the largest venue I had seen the Dead to date, but also my first time seeing them outdoors.  Although this was well over a year before the Wall of Sound started evolving, the audio system provided was more than adequate to provide clear sound to us in our seats, which were roughly midway back in the Bowl. Once again, the New Riders preceded the Dead with a fairly typical set for the era, closing with an extended version of “Willie and the Hand Jive.” 

The Dead’s sets represented Pigpen’s last performance onstage with the band, but he was a wraithlike presence behind his organ for the entire show. In contrast to his heroic efforts during the Europe ’72 tour, he took no vocals, and his instrumental contributions, although not insubstantial, were relatively subdued. The show featured the debut, late in the first set, of a new Hunter/Garcia song, “Stella Blue” which evolved to become one of the mainstays of the post-drums slot where Garcia often sang one of their ballads.
The second set was again relatively abbreviated at about an hour, containing a fairly typical, yet abbreviated, medley of “Truckin’”>”The Other One”> “Ramble On Rose.” The set concluded with that era’s standard closing medley of “Not Fade Away”>”Goin Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” with “One More Saturday Night” tacked on in lieu of an encore, most likely a result of the familiar tug-of-war between the Dead wanting to play long sets and venue-imposed curfews. 

Grateful Dead Hollywood Bowl 6/17/72
The Promised Land
Sugaree
Black Throated Wind
Tennessee Jed
Me And My Uncle
China Cat Sunflower > 
I Know You Rider
Playing In The Band
Loser
Beat It On Down The Line
Stella Blue (debut)
El Paso
Casey Jones

Truckin' > 
Drums > 
The Other One 
Ramble On Rose
Sugar Magnolia
Not Fade Away>
Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad>
One More Saturday Night


In contrast to the two performances the Dead played locally during the first half of the year, they played ten hometown shows in the latter half of the year in addition to touring relentlessly elsewhere. First off, the band played a masterful run a run of local shows starting in San Jose and concluding with four at the Berkeley Community Theatre.  The two of those shows which I attended are described here. At the last of the Berkeley shows, it was announced that they would be back in town for an October 9 show at the much roomier Winterland as a benefit for the band’s road crew.  For this show, our UCSC contingent snagged prime seats in the balcony opposite the mid-arena stage that Graham used during most of 1972.  Once again, the New Riders opened the show, followed by a more typically generous two sets from the Dead. The first set was notable for the live debut of the revival of “Box Of Rain,” which was performed onstage at most a couple of times during acoustic sets around the time it was recorded for “American Beauty in 1970. The new, electric version is the arrangement that the band performed during the remainder of its touring history, at that time prominently featuring Donna Godchaux on harmony vocals.  The first set concluded with a 20 minute version of “Playing in the Band,” reminiscent of some of the more interesting versions of that tune performed during the European tour. 
Set two opened with an oddity, a brief blues jam featuring a possibly chemically altered Grace Slick riffing vocally in front of the bemused band. The second set medley consisted once more of “Truckin’” leading into “The Other One,” this time followed by “Wharf Rat.” Overall, this was an exceptionally generous and well-played show, clearly reflecting the many miles the band had logged on the road in previous weeks. 

Grateful Dead Winterland 10/9/72
The Promised Land
Deal
Me And My Uncle
Tennessee Jed
Black Throated Wind [6:48]
Friend Of The Devil
Beat It On Down The Line
Loser
El Paso
Box Of Rain (first since 10/70) 
China Cat Sunflower > 
I Know You Rider
Mexicali Blues
Sugaree
Playing In The Band

Jam with Grace Slick> 
He's Gone
Big River
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Greatest Story Ever Told
Brokedown Palace
Truckin' > 
The Other One> 
Wharf Rat
Sugar Magnolia
Casey Jones

Johnny B. Goode

As detailed in a nice Lost LiveDead piece, the Dead and Allman Brothers were slotted for three nights at Winterland in early December. However, the untimely death of bassist Berry Oakley in early November led to the Allmans not performing, and I believe it was close to Thanksgiving when tickets for the showsn now featuring the Dead without the Allmans, went on sale. The New Riders were touring back east, so the Dead selected three different opening acts for these shows. Incidentally, this was the first time I opted to go to a complete hometown run of shows, something to be repeated all too often in the future. Between October and December, the stage configuration at Winterland shifted once again to the stage occupying the shorter, west-facing dimension of the hall (where it remained for the remainder of the auditorium's existence), and I remember being up close on the floor for all three nights. 
Grateful Dead Winterland 12/10/72 Photo: Michael Parrish
The first show had scheduled Bay Area bluegrass band High Country as the opening act. High Country was already an institution by 1972, fronted by  mandolin player Butch Waller, a crony of Garcia’s from his bluegrass days. I’m not sure if my friends and I arrived late, or whether High Country ultimately did not make the gig, but I certainly have no memory of them performing at the show (I suspect the latter was the case). The Sons of Champlin played another reliably funky set the second night, and the 12th represented the second and final co-billing of the Dead and the Rowan Brothers. The Rowans set was notable by the presence of David Grisman (still identified from the stage as “David Diadem”) playing electric piano rather than mandolin, and by the Rowans’ clothing, which consisted of western suits outfitted with patterns of small electric lights. The Dead followed suit in debuting the set of their own country suits, without lights, crafted for them by notable Los Angeles tailor Nudie.  One other fashion note is that these were the first local shows Bob Weir played sans his signature pony tail (It appears that he probably cut his hair between the October and November tours). 
Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann Winterland 12/10/72
Photo: Michael Parrish

Jerry Garcia Winterland 12/10/72 Photo: Michael Parrish


The three Winterland Dead shows maintained the very high playing standards that the band exhibited throughout the year. I would be hard pressed to identify any shows from 1972 that were subpar). They were very long shows, with 14 song first sets the first two nights, but only 13 on the 12th. Box of Rain was played all three nights, as were Playing in the Band and Sugar Magnolia. The centerpieces of the second sets on the 10th and 12th were Truckin>Drums>The Other One, whereas the 11th featured a 33 minute Dark Star that led into Stella Blue. One of the reasons 1972 shows are so engaging is that the extended segments labeled as “the Other One” and “Dark Star” opened up into extremely varied and engaging group instrumental improvisations that, to my ears at least, had more substance than most of the ‘space’ segments of the band’s later years.

Winterland 12/10/72 - Sunday     
Cold Rain And Snow
Beat It On Down The Line
Don't Ease Me In
Black Throated Wind
Bird Song
El Paso
Around And Around
Tennessee Jed
Big River
Box Of Rain
Candyman
Bertha
Playing In The Band
Casey Jones

The Promised Land
Stella Blue
Jack Straw
China Cat Sunflower>
I Know You Rider
Truckin' >
Drums >
The Other One
Deal
Sugar Magnolia
Ramble On Rose
Johnny B. Goode

Uncle John's Band

Winterland 12/11/72 Monday
The Promised Land
Sugaree
Mexicali Blues
Loser
Me And Bobby McGee
Brown Eyed Women
Beat It On Down The Line
China Cat Sunflower >
I Know You Rider
Box Of Rain
He's Gone
Around And Around
Friend Of The Devil
Me And My Uncle
Big Railroad Blues
Playing In The Band

Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Dark Star > Stella Blue
Big River
Deal
Tomorrow Is Forever
 Sugar Magnolia

Casey Jones

Winterland 12/12/72 Tuesday
Bertha
Beat It On Down The Line
Brown Eyed Women
Mexicali Blues
Bird Song
Jack Straw
Cumberland Blues
Box Of Rain
El Paso
Don't Ease Me In
Me And Bobby McGee
Tennessee Jed
Around and Around

Playing In The Band
He's Gone
Truckin' >
Nobody's Fault But Mine Jam>
Bass And Drums >
The Other One > Sing Me Back Home
Sugar Magnolia
Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad >
One More Saturday Night

Johnny B. Goode


Following the Winterland shows, the Dead played a single southern California show on the 15th at the Long Beach Arena that I did not attend, featuring a remarkable long form second set segment that led from Truckin' through a unique uptempo improvised segment into "Dark Star" and culminating in a powerful “Morning Dew.” They then took a couple of weeks off for the holidays, returning to Winterland for the New Year’s show discussed here.

1 comment:

Grateful Seconds said...

You were very lucky to see all these California shows in 1972. I'm pretty jealous