Heavy "Primal Dead" from October 12, 1968

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In keeping with the Grateful Dead thread that happily resurfaces every so often here on Arthur, I’m offering up one of the heaviest bootlegs in my collection: A soundboard recording of October 12, 1968 at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. It’s a show that came up in our “Listen to the Dead” story from 2005, and it’s my favorite single-disc representation of how monstrously weird this band used to be. Legendary taper Dick “Picks” Latvala is quoted on Deadlists saying that this is among his favorite performances, calling it “primal Dead.”

It’s a short show by Dead standards — just about 80 minutes — comprised entirely of CRUSHING jams. No folky “Sugar Magnolia” sing-a-long first set, not much noodly Phish bullshit and almost no sign of the gentle rainbow twirly groovin’ bear nonsense. Instead it’s near ambient passages that slowly gather speed and intensity before exploding into massive psychedelic earthquakes of rhythm that leave aftershocks of cosmic guitar lines shimmering through the air. This is the fearsome and messy STEAL YOUR FACE sound that people who compare the Dead to Royal Trux or Comets on Fire are talking about. A Dead show where you can see why Greg Ginn and the Black Flag dudes were into these guys.

Check the annotated setlist below. FYI the “>” is taper shorthand for songs joined together by “a defined jam or contiguous transition” so you get the idea how loose things get:

Set One (1) [0:23] % (2) [0:37] ; Dark Star [14:53] > Saint Stephen [4:51] > The Eleven [9:58] > Death Don’t Have No Mercy [7:#52] ; (3) [0:31]

Set Two Cryptical Envelopment [#1:28] > Drums [0:10] > The Other One [7:08] > Cryptical Envelopment [8:30] > New Potato Caboose [3:28] > Jam [3:11] > Drums (4) [1:35] > Jam (5) [7:12] > Feedback [7:15#]

A couple notes: Some Deadheads like to talk about how maybe Jimi Hendrix was hanging out in the wings during the show. As rumor has it he snubbed the band’s invite to check ’em out the night before — there was this girl and she had some acid and yadda yadda — and so they failed to invite him on to jam or something. Who knows if it’s true, but like the shows these guys played with the Allman Bros later in the ’70s, it’s fun to imagine such a ridiculous gathering of guitar avatars in one place.

People also complain about somebody who is just cold goin’ bananas with some kinda wood-stick percussion thing on “Dark Star,” all “ritzy-rit-ritzy-rit” outta rhythm with the rest of the band from time to time. Whoever it is walks up to a mic at some point and it gets really annoying in the front of your speakers for about 25 seconds but then it fades out, so just chill about that. It’s also a show where beloved keyboard slob Pigpen is not on stage — probably off getting wasted with Janis or something. Good for him!

You can stream the show over at Archive.org, or download it by clicking below.

The Grateful Dead – Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA – 1968-10-12 (320kbps)

More Dead on Arthur after the jump …
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Today's Autonomedia Jubilee Saint — HARKISHAN SURJEET

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August 1– HARKISHAN SURJEET
Indian communist leader, prisoner, independence fighter.

August 1, 2009 HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS
*Southern California: Laughter Day.
*Ghana: Homowo, or “Hooting at Hunger,” in which the Ga people feast and mock famine.
*Lammas, a Druid Harvest Feast. First-baked bread of new harvest blessed, effigies of corn spirit, called maiden corn, carried in procession.

ALSO ON AUGUST 1 IN HISTORY…
1744 — Naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck born, Bazentin-le-Petit, France.
1819 — American novelist Herman Melville born, New York City.
1916 — Indian communist leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet born, Jalandhar, Punjab.
1942 — Grateful Dead ‘Captain Trips’ Jerry Garcia born, San Francisco, California.
1983 — U.S. resumes making chemical weapons after 14-year suspension.

Excerpted from The 2009 Autonomedia Calendar of Jubilee Saints: Radical Heroes for the New Millennium by James Koehnline and the Autonomedia Collective

Headneck Bonanza: Doug Sahm live in 1972 with Leon Russell and the Dead

Garcia and Sahm onstage in Austin
Sir Doug and Jerry Garcia, onstage in Austin. Photo: Steve Hopson


Our celebration of recently departed hippie-country music pioneer John “Marmaduke” Dawson of the New Riders of the Purple Sage’s legacy started a conversation about the history of “headneck” music: tunes beloved in equal measure to cowboys, hippies, bikers and all varieties of stoner hicks, country heads and longhaired rednecks.

Beyond the New Riders and the Dead, the consensus seems to be that Commander Cody, Asleep at the Wheel and Doug Sahm (in his many incarnations, from dusty Texas boogie, accordion-flecked Tex-Mex and sun-dappled Mill Valley country) represent some of the pinnacles of this rowdy sound. After a bit of digging around in the Google crates, we found one of the holy grails of headneck history over at The Adios Lounge: a bootleg recording of an impromptu 1972 Doug Sahm, Leon Russell, Jerry Garcia and Friends show at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas.

On Thanksgiving weekend in 1972 the Dead were in Austin, on tour of course, and they joined Sir Doug and country-time piano genius Leon Russell — you know his rollicking keys from session work with The Byrds, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, his oft-covered song “Superstar”; and you really should seek out the riches of his 1971 solo album, Leon Russell and the Shelter People, as the psych-out cover art is just the beginning — on stage for a couple hours of once-in-a-lifetime country grooves.

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Genuine Texas groover Sahm with spliff and brew


At our request, Lance — the gracious proprietor of The Adios Lounge — has re-upped the whole two-and-a-half hour jam session full of songs from Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan and Hank Williams, among many others. It’s a soundboard recording (A-/A for the tapers out there) full of Garcia’s lush pedal steel, Phil Lesh’s noodly bass, and fiddle duties handled by Marty Mary Egan and Thirteenth Floor Elevator (!?) Benny Thurman. Vocals are traded between Sahm, Garcia, Russell and what sounds like a room full of rowdy Texan headnecks having the time of their lives. “Holy shit” is right.

This is music for hot afternoons, sitting shirtless in the sun, chasing shots of green dragon with econo-brews and popping off at the empties with your “blaster of choice.” Many thanks to Lance for the re-post. Click here to go download yourself a copy.

Now who’s got the hook up on some vintage Commander Cody bootlegs? And “muchas Garcias” once again to longtime Arthur compadre Michael Simmons for initiating my search for this music.

Also: BONUS HEADNECK JAM after the jump …

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New Riders' Marmaduke, RIP

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New Riders of the Purple Sage, live at Fillmore East, April 29, 1971. Click here for the setlist, or to download the whole thing as MP3s


Dilettantes dabbling in the genre of country music have always had a hard time, from hippies like Gram Parsons to his modern day alt-country hipster inheritors. There’s almost always an inevitable anxiety over class privileges and the fetishization of working class experience by cultural elites. That combines with the classic rural versus urban divide and adds up to an awkward night sitting in a bar in Silver Lake listening to delicate, good-looking dudes in fancy vintage Western shirts singing about CB radios and old pickup trucks. It’s airless tribute at best, unaware cowboy drag at worst.

John “Marmaduke” Dawson was the lead singer and main songwriter for The New Riders of the Purple Sage, the best of the hippie country bands that emerged from the West Coast psychedelic rock and rustic folk scenes, and one of the only bands — along with Commander Cody, Doug Sahm and Asleep At The Wheel [thanks for reminding me, Michael!] — that managed to merge roper with doper without apologies to either camp. He died on Tuesday in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he’d been teaching English as part of the city’s established community of American expatriates. He was 64, and stomach cancer was the culprit.

Travel to Mexico is the subject of one of the New Riders best-known songs, “Henry.” Marmaduke often dedicated live performances of the song to anyone in the audience who “smuggles dope for a living,” and given that most of the New Riders best shows were during the early ’70s opening for the Grateful Dead, there were no doubt plenty of audience members who appreciated such recognition.

“Henry” is about the titular drug runner on his way down to Acapulco to find out why all the marijuana has stopped flowing to the United States. After navigating a series of twisty mountain roads, he finds his supplier’s farm and proceeds to get thoroughly obliterated on freshly trimmed crops. The song is about the drive back, as told from the perspective of an unnamed passenger, who is continually beseeching the seriously faded Henry to keep the brakes on as they careen through the mountain passes.

It’s a song that, like so many New Riders tunes, conveys a distinctly hippie experience using the language of country music. The band was an outgrowth of Jerry Garcia’s pre-Dead unit, the wacky bluegrass band Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. The Dead did plenty of country-leaning material, but Garcia still wanted an outlet for his pedal steel licks, and thus the New Riders of the Purple Sage came to be.

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Uncle Skullfucker’s Band: Daniel Chamberlin explains the discreet charm of the Grateful Dead

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Daniel Chamberlin explains the discreet charm of the Grateful Dead. Illustrations by D.C. Berman.

Originally published in the July 2004 issue of Arthur, which is currently available for purchase in our online store. Click here to check it out.

I’M NOT ALLOWED TO WEAR TIE-DYED CLOTHING. My girlfriend and those friends of mine who truly have my best interests at heart forbid it. For most people this is an obvious and easy style rule to adhere to. But during certain times of the year I am overwhelmed by the Grateful Dead. I listen to nothing but live recordings of Dead concerts while immersing myself in books detailing the minutiae of their 30-year career. I search through David Dodd’s “Annotated Grateful Dead Lyric Archive,” reading up on the roots of “Fennario,” a made-up world of timber forests and treacherous marshland mentioned in two of my favorite songs, “Dire Wolf” and “Peggy-O.” Judging from the number of Dead recordings in my collection one can draw an easy conclusion that I am a certifiable Deadhead.

This is a problem because alongside New Age or contemporary country, “Grateful Dead” is a genre of music with acknowledged questionable merits. This has something to do with the schizophrenic quality of said music: the May 14, 1974 “Dark Star” performed in Missoula, Montana sounds like “In A Silent Way” as interpreted by Sonic Youth but nearly every performance of “Lazy Lightnin’” sounds like coke-snorting yuppies getting funky in tie-dyed Izods. The Dead toured with both Love and Waylon Jennings in the ‘70s but were collaborating with Bruce Hornsby and Joan Osborne by the ‘90s. I hear their influence on classic Meat Puppets and latter-day Boredoms albums, but their official inheritors are cornball bands like The String Cheese Incident and Phish. They count among their fans legions of Hell’s Angels as well as Tipper and Al Gore. There are a lot of ways to listen to the Grateful Dead. As legendary concert promoter and longtime Dead booster Bill Graham once put it, “They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”

Mostly though, the Dead’s bad reputation is due to their fans. My latent Deadheadism causes my girlfriend to worry that at a certain point of saturation, she’ll come home from work to find me reeking of patchouli oil, clad in vibrant pajama bottoms and a tank top decorated with capering bears, my dilated pupils being the only reason I haven’t yet found something to juggle. “Fukengrüven, sister!” I’ll say as she comes through the door.

My most recent Grateful Dead binge kicked off when Islamic militants decapitated Nicholas Berg on the Internet. Oh yeah. No more NPR for me. Instead, a free-falling relapse into this December 26, 1969 Dead show at Southern Methodist University. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann is late getting to the venue, so Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir lay down this sublime acoustic set of murder ballads and old Christian folk songs that they refer to as “sacred numbers.” It’s the only known recording of their version of “Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet,” which is really something to be excited about for a closet Deadhead like me. The show provides a wonderful escape—the Dead always seem so detached from reality and that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

I was looking for a similar kind of escape in 1991 while en route to my first Grateful Dead show. I wanted to see if the Deadheads might offer a more organic, hedonistic alternative to the existentialist discomfort of my central Indiana high school experience.

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