The following concert tape reviews are reprinted here from copyrighted material in The Tapers Compendium, Volumes 2 and 3. Following these reviews there is an interpretive essay on The Other One, originally written for inclusion in Volume 3.
12/30/83 San Francisco Civic, San Francisco, CA
First Set: Bertha > Greatest Story Ever Told, Friend of the Devil, Me and My Uncle > Big River, Ramble On Rose, Little Red Rooster, Brown-Eyed Women > Looks Like Rain > Deal.
Second Set: Shakedown Street, Man Smart, Woman Smarter, Terrapin Station > Drums > Space > Mind Left Body Jam > Truckin' > Wharf Rat > Good Lovin'.
Encore: Day Job
Source: AUD, Quality: A-, Length: 1:30 (Second Set only, with Deal filler), Taper: Unknown.
Comments: Recorded from the Jerry side with strong complement of keyboards, bass and cymbals.
The first set didn't really catch our attention until the closing spiral jam on Deal, but after a Brown-Eyed Rain to set the mood, the whole crowd was dancing smiles by set's end. The real show started with Shakedown, with strong enterplay between Phil and Jerry and solid support from Brent's piano. The jam stretches out nicely, then pulls up for a strong run to the finish. The Terrapin stretches out, too, but there isn't a lot of punch to the jam. But coming out of drums into a nice ethereal space, we're treated to a rare taste of the Mind Left Body jam, followed by a deliberate, well-paced ignition jam into Truckin'. Cowboy Bob slaps his forehead when he loses track of the lyrics, but the rest of the band rises up like a giant wave and carries the song along without missing a beat.
The intensity builds, and the interplay between Jerry, Phil and Brent reaches its peak on an overflowing version of Wharf Rat. Jerry's voice speaks to us with simple passion as Brent's voice hovers gently above. The bass and organ lines cradle the suspension of time, and a wonderful soaring jam rises up at the end to transform a soft, touching ballad into a powerful Dionysian overture to all the suspended lives lying draped over the park and subway benches of our towns and cities. Settling in for a set-closing run at Good Lovin', the band cranked up the energy one last time and lifted the crowd to another peak of dancing ecstacy. For those who make tapes for their own listening pleasure, Shakedown and Space through Good Lovin' fit on one side of a 90" tape and should add a great run of tunes to your rotation..
By Jim Tuedio
12/31/84 San Francisco Civic, San Francisco, CA
First Set: Shakedown Street, All New Minglewood Blues, Pretty Peggy-O, Jack Straw > Birdsong, Hell In A Bucket > Don't Ease Me In.
Second Set: Sugar Magnolia > Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain > Man Smart, Woman Smarter > Drums > Spanish Jam > The Wheel > Throwing Stones > Lovelight.
Third Set: Gimme Some Lovin' > Uncle John's Band > Around and Around > Baby Blue.
Source: FM Broadcast, Quality: A-, Length: 2:50
The band introduced itself with a well-balanced Shakedown. The jam came in two waves, and brought the crowd together. Minglewood and Jack Straw had good punch, but the rest of the set was pretty flat. The crowd was off on its own high and everyone was cruising toward the midnight hour. After a restless set break and a rousing chord of contentment to signal the birth of a new year, the crowd took off on Sugar Magnolia and I don't think the band quite caught up with them until after drums. Sugar Magnolia and Scarlet Begonias were garage band specials, but the steady climb toward Fire on the Mountain was a turning point in the set. Starting from a subtle backdrop of Phil and Brent, Jerry's guitarwork weaves a spiraling string of crisp notes that rise and fall like your favorite roller coaster. Departing to the drumbeat of The Women Are Smarter, the dancing crowd took off on the crest of another wave and Jerry kept the band on the mark. The crowd carried the beat into drums, but the Beast quickly took control. Slowly the jungle came to life, then a nice Beam and Jerry space opened up, and from this point on the band seemed back in control. First some discordant feedback, then the rumblings of deep bass fever, a few suspended notes from Jerry's guitar, and finally a hollow-tone entry into Spanish Jam. Jerry's crystal notes flutter ever so delicately, as if to digest the change in mood, then start to climb the register. This part translates very well onto tape. As Spanish Jam dissolves, The Wheel emerges from a sweet transition with Phil pushing the band along as he plays off his front foot. Phil returns to the backdrop for a garage band run through Throwin' Stones as Cowboy Bob takes control, but he's soon back in front kicking off a short, animated Lovelight to close the set.
After a short break, the band ran through a four-song medley of crowd favorites. Gimme Some Lovin' caught most of us by complete surprise, unleashing a crowd surge of energy that simply doesn't translate onto tape. But the ending was totally unrehearsed and abruptly broke off into the opening riffs of Uncle John's Band. The well-jammed coda brought the crowd together for a brief, upbeat version of Around and Around. Then the band slipped us a quiet, satisfying dose of Baby Blue and we sauntered off into the crisp, cold night to bask in the afterglow of our fading new year's resolutions.
By Jim Tuedio
12/11/79 Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS
First Set: Jack Straw, Loser, Me & My Uncle > Big River, Althea, Easy to Love You, All New Minglewood Blues, Chinacat Sunflower > I Know You Rider.
Second Set: Shakedown Street > Samson and Delilah, Ship of Fools, Terrapin Station > Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance > Improv Jazz > Drums > Seacruise Percussion > Not Fade Away > Black Peter > Sugar Magnolia.
Encore: Alabama Getaway > Promised Land.
Source: SBD, Quality: A+, Length: 2:45, Genealogy: MC > DAT > C > Circulation.
Comments: This tape offers a spectacular perspective on the band, as if we were standing on stage in the Phil Zone with a clear view of Brent. Lots of strong keyboards and bass in the mix, clean drums, crisp vocals, and lots of off-centered Jerry guitar. Tremendous clarity of instrumentation with amazing jazz-fusion complexity. Great onstage banter between Phil and Jerry.
This great show really comes across on tape. Jack Straw and Loser are solid, well-paced openers. The Big River jam is very fluid, and the Althea is exceptional: Phil's bass line leads the way like a proud stallion, and there's a rare closing jam that opens up the heart and soul of the song. The opening riffs of Minglewood Blues draw us right into the jungle, and a "Lesh filling" China Rider rolls off Brent's fingertips with perfect reckless abandon. This is live jazz at its finest, on a night when Phil, Jerry and Brent were right on the mark.
The second set takes right off with a nice uptempo Shakedown in full jazz relief. Three instruments dance along ahead of the pack, leading the way, and everyone's in perfect time. The layering is pretty incredible. After a semi-manic Samson & Delilah, the band settles into a steady gait for three heroic tales of human shipwreck. Ship of Fools, Terrapin and Lost Sailor flow together as if they were movements in a symphony. Saint of Circumstance rises from the ashes and reestablishes a multi-layered jazz motif that bleeds over into pure improv jazz on the way to drums. An Egyptian percussion motif soon permeates the mix and out of this comes an incredible hornblast from a fog-enshrouded ship that must have rattled the rafters and ghosts of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. A dynamic entry into Not Fade Away puts us back on solid ground. Brent's on the organ now, and the bass line is deeper. Then Jerry calls everybody over to Black Peter and Phil plays some amazing notes between the lines. Brent's organ keeps us on the edge of our pew, lost in reverie. The closing jam builds nicely before giving way to a frolicking, typically raucous Sugar Magnolia. The Alabama Promised encore carries us to the end of this show in grand style.
By Jim Tuedio
3/27/91 Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
First Set: Hell in a Bucket, Cold Rain and Snow, Minglewood Blues, Row Jimmy, Mama Tried > Maggie's Farm, Loose Lucy, Picasso Moon, Reuben and Cherise.
Second Set: Scarlet Begonias > Fire On the Mountain, Estimated Prophet > Uncle John's Band > Drums > Beam and Jerry Space > Prologue Jam > All Along the Watchtower > Stella Blue > Sugar Magnolia.
Encore: Box of Rain
Source: SBD, Quality: A, Length: 2:45, Genealogy: DAT > C > Circulation.
Comments: Strong dose of Phil Zone, with excellent complement of guitars and keyboards. Drum segment is cut from my tape. Jerry's vocals are right up front in the mix.
Even though Bruce Hornsby sat out the New York shows from this tour, I consider this Nassau show one of the strongest performances from the band in 1991. The first set offers a solid, up-tempo run of songs, with four decent Jerry tunes, culminating in the only set-closing version of Reuben and Cherise. While none of these songs deserve special comments, they all reflect a band in high gear, on its way to a stellar second set.
From the opening notes of Scarlet Begonias, the band is off and running on Phil time, with strong Jerry leads to chart the territory. The path through Scarlet Begonias is full of energy, but direct and unassuming, landing us quickly in the lap of a strong, well-played Fire on the Mountain. Phil and Jerry are in command throughout the jams, which are compact and well-developed. With the exceptional clarity of instrumentation on this tape, there is plenty of action to follow as the song carries us down some nice Class 3 rapids. Estimated Prophet is intensely jammed up until the band settles back for a restful break in calm waters; for a few minutes Weir and Welnick do most of the paddling. The pace picks up again with a sweet transition into Uncle John's Band. The closing jam is very powerful right up to the coda, and then slips quietly into the drum segment.
Coming out of drums, the Beam and Jerry space develops a strong discordant relief before fusing with Weir's sliding rhythm chords to form the backdrop of a Phil Zone attack on Watchtower. At this point the pace really picks up, and the prologue jam into Watchtower is quite spectacular. With Jerry's lead soaring over the top, Phil brings the motif to life with solid pacing as Vince lays down a wonderful overlay of sweeping organ tones to draw us into the heart of the song. This is one of the band's stronger versions of this song, very powerful yet well-controlled. Lesh and Garcia move the band along, but Weir is very much in command. The jams are extended, yet compact, never quite letting loose the frenzied, up-tempo intensity characteristic of so many versions from this period. As the final jam winds down, the band glides into a blissful Stella Blue, with strong Jerry vocals and a well-fused jam. As the closing jam climbs up Jerry's register, the rest of the band kicks into a rather exceptional Sugar Magnolia. There is just a hint of reckless abandon throughout this version, with solid instrumentation from every direction. Phil's delight with the show shines through nicely on the Box of Rain encore.
The second set translates quite well onto tape. Stand close and play it loud!
by Jim Tuedio
10/27/91 Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA
First Set: Sugar Magnolia > Sugaree, Walking Blues, Althea, Masterpiece, Candyman, Cassidy, Touch of Grey.
Second Set: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Samson and Delilah, Ship of Fools, Aiko Aiko > Mona > Drums > Requium Space for Bill Graham > the Wheel > I Need a Miracle > Wharf Rat > Good Lovin'.
Encore: Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Source: SBD, Quality: A, Length: 2:50, Genealogy: DAT > C > Circulation.
Comments: Aiko and Mona feature Carlos Santana on lead guitar and Gary Duncan on rhythm guitar, with Weir and Garcia strong in the mix. There is also an excellent audience tape of this show which catches the intense crowd energy and fusion of instrumentation (especially when all four guitars take off during Mona). The encore is missing from the soundboard in circulation.
The Grateful Dead could definitely rise to the occasion. Caught in the throes of an emotional catharsis following the recent death of Bill Graham, the band took to the stage and unleashed as uplifting and powerful a version of Sugar Magnolia as the heart can take. There was no distance between the crowd and the band, just a wonderful, heart-felt celebration of the music. Sugaree, Walkin Blues and Althea carried the energy forward and come across very well on tape. The band settled into a more relaxed groove for the remainder of the set. The weight of the evening is quite apparent during Touch of Grey, with Jerry pulling off a very poignant, hard driving jam on the closing refrain. We would survive, indeed.
A thought-provoking China Cat opens the doors to one of the finest sets of music to emerge from the Hornsby era. The jam into I Know You Rider has a life of its own, riding the crest of Phil's commanding bass line. The mood starts to shift with Samson & Delilah. All the instruments are contributing something to the tight, well-paced jam, but the song hardly takes a breath. Suddenly we're aboard the Ship of Fools and the x-factor has kicked in. Garcia's lyrics are touching, and each instrument is right where it belongs in the mix. The song has great feel from beginning to end. What happens next is totally unexpected. The band launches into a stirring version of Aiko, accompanied by some rousing guitar work from Gary Duncan and Carlos Santana. The song ebbs and flows between the Quick and the Dead until at last we find ourselves caught in the midst of a wonderful, full-blown version of Mona. Jerry's vocal overlay adds an interesting layer of complexity to the opening verse, followed by three distinct jams in which all four guitars weave in and around each other with total precision. Bass and keyboards are total jazz in the background as Carlos, Gary Duncan and Jerry each play leads that draw on the magic of the moment. This is followed by a short jam by Phil and Bruce, then a seamless transition to drums. The variety of percussion motifs is striking as the rhythm devils prepare us for one of the darkest, most compelling pieces of Grateful Dead music ever performed. First, an intense fanfare for the dearly departed, then a beam medley to set the clock to one past midnite. My life changed dramatically in the midst of the ensuing space requium. The energy delivered to that room was extraordinary. A lot of this power is captured on the tape.
There is a soft release from the requium space before the band settles into a strong version of the Wheel. "If the thunder don't get you, then the lightnin' will." We land in the lap of a Miracle before nestling into a heartfelt Wharf Rat that holds our attention as if we were staring in through a window at the passing scenes of our life. Weir and Garcia work back and forth to establish a slightly discordant motif, and the lyrics pass through like blue herons tracking across a valley. A rousing Good Lovin' brings the set to a close, and a crowd-clapping Knockin' On Heaven's Door brings the show to a soft landing. This was one of the great shows. The tapes bring much of it back to life, whether you were there or not.
By Jim Tuedio
2/22/92 Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA
First Set: Bertha > Promised Land, Stagger Lee, Wang Dang Doodle, So Many Roads, Queen Jane, Loose Lucy, Wave to the Wind, Don't Ease Me In.
Second Set: One More Saturday Night, Mississippi Half-Step > Estimated Prophet > He's Gone > Jam > Drums > Wheel > All Along the Watchtower > Black Peter > Sugar Magnolia.
Encore: U. S. Blues
Source: SBD/AUD, Quality A-/B+, Length: 2:35, SBD Genealogy: DAT > C > Circulation. Taper: Hal Keenan
2/23/92 Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA
First Set: Hell in a Bucket, Peggy-O, Walking blues, Ramble On Rose, Long Long Way to Go Home, Black-Throated Wind, Corinna.
Second Set: Chinacat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Playin' in the Band > Terrapin > Drums. Space > I Need A Miracle > Stella Blue > Throwing Stones > Not Fade Away.
Encore: Box of Rain
Source: AUD, Quality B+, Length: 2:30, Taper: Hal Keenan
Comments: Hamza El Din joined Hart and Kreutzmann during the drum segment.
2/24/92 Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA
First Set: Touch of Grey, Feel Like A Stranger, Friend of the Devil, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Althea, Cassidy.
Second Set: Aiko Aiko > Corinna > Other One > Long Long Way to Go Home > Other One Tease > Same Thing Blues > Drums > Wave to the Wind > Other One > So Many Roads > Lovelight.
Encore: Mighty Quinn
Source: AUD/SBD, Quality B+/A-, Length: 2:30, SBD Genealogy: DAT > C > Circulation. Taper: Hal Keenan
After the exquisite run of Oakland shows to close 1991, these shows were a disappointment. While Vince Welnick was given more room in the mix, the band seemed more tentative without Bruce Hornsby along for the ride. We were introduced to four new songs, but only one seemed to have much life. The Bertha > Promised Land to start the first night gave us high expectations. Stagger Lee was well played, but couldn't hold the energy. The highlight of this set was Wang Dang Doodle. For a brief time, the instruments were firing on all cylinders. Then the music stands came out and Jerry introduced us to a quaint version of So Many Roads. The set dropped off considerably from Queen Jane on.
The second set regained some momentum, but never quite registered that "second set" feel I look for in a show. It doesn't come across any better on tape. The jam in Estimated packs some intensity, and the Watchtower > Black Peter > Sugar Magnolia sequence is worth a listen. But there are better versions of these songs, and the rest of the show is not really worth tracking down unless you were there and want to relive the better moments.
There is not much to say about the second night. Average song selection, less than average performance. We didn't see it so much at the time, but Jerry was already in decline. Without Hornsby to draw him out in these shows, there wasn't much authority to his playing. The rest of the band was hanging back, too. The segment with Hamza El Din stands out, but the rest of the show is simply not worth tracking down.
The opening set of the third night actually paled in comparison to the others. Skip it. But the second set had its moments and is probably worth tracking down. The Mardis Gras Aiko > Corinna medley feeds nicely into a spirited Other One, followed by decent versions of Long Way Home and Same Thing Blues. Phil's Vegas Wind (from a dead start out of drums) is particularly unstellar, but the Other One's reprise reestablishes the continuity of the set. So Many Roads doesn't come close to matching the tunes we had come to expect at this juncture of a show, but the closing refrain flows nicely into a decent Lovelight. The encore is an upbeat Mighty Quinn, an appropriate way to bring this tepid Mardi Gras evening to an end. The x-factor is clearly missing from this run of shows.
by Jim Tuedio
5/19/92 Cal Expo Amphitheatre, Sacramento, CA
First Set: Cold Rain and Snow, Little Red Rooster, Althea, Queen Jane Approximately, Tennessee Jed, Let it Grow.
Second Set: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Looks Like Rain, Long Long Way to Go Home, Terrapin > Drums >I Need A Miracle > Black Peter > Sugar Magnolia.
Encore: Baba O'Riley > Tomorrow Never Knows.
Source: SBD, Quality: A, Length: 2:25, Genealogy: DAT > C > Circulation.
5/20/92 Cal Expo Amphitheatre, Sacramento, CA
First Set: Jack Straw, Bertha, Walking Blues, Brown-Eyed Women, Desolation Row, Stagger Lee, Promised Land.
Second Set: Box of Rain, Truckin > Crazy Fingers > Saint of Circumstance > Drums > Other One >
Wharf Rat > Around and Around
Encore: U. S. Blues
Source: AUD, Quality: A-, Length: 2:15, Taper: Hal Keenan
5/21/92 Cal Expo Amphitheatre, Sacramento, CA
First Set: Touch of Grey, Wang Dang Doodle, Row Jimmy, Me and My Uncle > Maggie's Farm, Birdsong.
Second Set: Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain, Estimated Prophet > He's Gone > Drums > All Along the Watchtower > Standing on the Moon > Lovelight.
Source: SBD, Quality: A, Length: 2:25, Genealogy: DAT > C > Circulation.
This was a good but uneven run of shows. The first set of the first night features an excellent Let it Grow but otherwise standard fare. Don't expect a lot from the second set beyond the opening China > Rider, though the songs hold together well on tape. I recommend skipping the second night (although the Box of Rain is very nice!). Go straight for the 5/21 show. This one is a jewel (especially the second set). The Birdsong holds together in very spacey territory, the jams on Fire on the Mountain are stellar, and we are treated to one of the finest lyrical versions of He's Gone anywhere on tape. While the Watchtower never quite catches fire, its measured pace sets the stage for a stunning version of Standing on the Moon. The Lovelight carries forward the intensity of this set, and the Gloria encore is superb. On the audience tapes, you can hear the Cal Expo crowd singing along to Gloria. There was great chemistry between the band and the crowd on the 21st. The crowd synergy is not so apparent on the soundboard tape, but the energy in the music definitely comes across. The second set from 5/21 is definitely a highlight of the Spring '92 tour.
By Jim Tuedio
8/27/93 Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA
First Set: Mississippi Half-Step > All New Minglewood Blues, Lazy River Road, Broken Arrow, Eternity, Loose Lucy, Johnny B. Goode.
Second Set: Aiko Aiko, Wave to the Wind, Playin' in the Band > Uncle John's Band > Corinna > Drums > Space Jam > I Need A Miracle > The Days Between > Throwing Stones > Lovelight.
Encore: I Fought The Law
Source: AUD, Quality: A-, Length: 2:40, Taper: Hal Keenan
After the huge Autzen shows the previous weekend, these shows were largely uninspiring. The best one was 8/25, but a bit of the 8/27 show deserves special consideration as well. There is a strong version of Eternity in an otherwise lackluster first set. The Aiko has punch (but the Vegas Wind song kills the momentum), and the Playin' > Uncle John's is an interesting variety, leading into a solid Corrina that blends right into the drum segment. Coming out of drums, there is a pensive beam segment that slowly ebbs and flows before fading into a clearing of rumbling silence. Out of this clearing erupts a spectacular bass jam, followed by a strong blend of Phil and Jerry. There is a clear hint of Spanish Jam, and then a spirited, spacey movement of music that culminates in a rather impassioned entrance to Miracle. This is a classic stretch of Grateful Dead space. The hard-driving Miracle eventually gives way to a rather touching Days Between. Though not as strong as the Autzen version a week earlier, the main theme steadily gains intensity with superb drumming and an emotional fugue of voice and lyric. The Throwin' Stones > Lovelight is
a total shift away from subtlety. The special energy of this show is sustained from the back-door entrance into Playin' in the Band straight on through to the closing notes of Days Between.
By Jim Tuedio
9/08/93 Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, OH
First Set: Feel Like A Stranger, Peggy-O, Wang Dang Doodle, Brown-Eyed Women, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Liberty, Johnny B. Goode.
Second Set: Foolish Heart > Estimated Prophet > Eyes of the World > Drums > I Need A Miracle >Aborted Standing on the Moon Jam > Black Peter > Sugar Magnolia.
Encore: The Weight
Source: AUD, Quality B+, Length: 2:20, Taper: Unknown (DAT > C > circulation)
9/09/93 Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, OH
First Set: Here Comes Sunshine, Spoonful, Stagger Lee, Queen Jane Approximately, Tennessee Jed, Easy Answers, Don't Ease Me In.
Second Set: Victim Or The Crime? > Crazy Fingers > Saint of Circumstance > Terrapin > Drums >
Jam > Last Time > Morning Dew.
Encore: I Fought The Law
Source: AUD, Quality B+, Length: 2:05, Taper: Unknown (DAT > C > circulation)
9/10/93 Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, OH
First Set: Jack Straw, They Love Each Other, Little Red Rooster, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, Ramble On Rose, Black Throated Wind, Bertha.
Second Set: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Long Long Way To Go Home, Corinna > Uncle John's Band > Drums > The Wheel > All Along The Watchtower > Attics of My Life > Not Fade Away.
Encore: U. S. Blues
Source: AUD, Quality A-/B+, Length: 2:25, Taper: Unknown (DAT > C > circulation)
This is not a stellar run of shows, but several sets stand out as real keepers. There are a number of strong crowd surges on the audience tapes, which is always an interesting touch. One thing for sure, this crowd was UP for these shows, even if the band wasn't always up to speed. Stranger, Peggy-O, Foolish Heart and a well-above average Sugar Magnolia stand out from the first night, and the rest of the show holds together. The first set of the second night wanders around a bit too much for my taste after the opening Sunshine > Spoonful, but the second set is quite good. Saint of Circumstance builds to a soaring crescendo and the Terrapin holds together all the way through. The space out of drums feeds nicely into a well-jammed Last Time, followed by a stirring Morning Dew, complete with a classic crescendo that must have left an indelible mark on the audience. The encore is a tight, well-paced version of I Fought the Law.
The highlight of this run for me is the first set of the third night. Each song is played well, and the movement within and between the songs holds this set together right straight through to the closing chorus-jam of an excellent Bertha. I consider this one of the great unsung "first set" tapes from the post-Hornsby era. A well-jammed transition between China Cat and I Know You Rider gets the second set off to a rolling start. There's a nice spacey jam at the end of Uncle John's Band, and the segment after drums offers a strong conclusion to this run of shows. These tapes exhibit a great chemistry between the band and the crowd. Must've been fun shows! I strongly recommend 9-09 set II and 9-10 set I. The instrumentation is very clear on these tapes, but the vocals are repressed in the background. A soundboard would lose the crowd factor, but it might also bring out more strength in the music. On the other hand, the crowd factor is part of the strength of these tapes, so don't assume the soundboard option is the best way to go here.
By Jim Tuedio
The Bus Came By and We Got On:
Thoughts on the Evolution of "The Other One"
by Jim Tuedio
In its prime, the thunderous, howling roar of The Other One's crescendo often came over us like a giant wave of anticipation. Building to a climax, the elements of this song would blow in with a full head of steam. The initial clues of its arrival might be locked in the space of an ever-tightening drum solo, or they might emerge in the hidden motif of a galloping jam out of Truckin'. On occasion, the song would come rumbling out of the soft melody of a delicious, meandering Spanish Jam, or rise from the epicenter of a pyrotechnic space encounter. Some of my favorite points of entry were those that seemed to soar above time like eternity in heat breaking free in the wake of a spiraling He's Gone jam. The opening chords often announced the pace, intensity, and rhythm of the song. Always the same gripping melody and effervescent lyrics, evaporating without a trace, eclipsed by a photon jam or spatial maneuver suspended in a vacuum of concentration. Galloping along at the leading edge of the spiral, travelling deep into space, a cast of thousands would lose themselves in a new sense of place, one well-suited to exploring new frontiers of the soul. A classic Other One could mean only one thing: here we are, alive and dancing at the edge of the abyss.
I. Opening Up A Space for Transformation
That's It For The Other One stood for many years as a signature song of the Grateful Dead experience. Each new iteration reflected stages in the band's musical development. In its prime, this song could strike like lightning, and it often gave the band a powerful vehicle for discharging the effluent surplus of its Dionysian spirit. More importantly, The Other One served as a proving ground for the band's dynamic approach to musical exploration. The growth of the improvisational components of this song often foreshadowed developments in the jam structure of songs chomping at the bit to "break out" (like Born Cross-Eyed, Truckin', Playin' in the Band, Eyes of the World, Let it Grow). But by 1973, this role was shifting to other songs (most notably Playin' in the Band, Eyes of the World, and of course, Space itself). From this point on (and especially in the post-hiatus period), The Other One began to settle into a more predictable format, exhibiting an ebb and flow of intensity and concentration that more or less matched the creative and dynamic energies of the band.
The original suite of tunes (Cryptical Envelopment=>Quodlibet for Tenderfeet=>Cryptical Reprise) arrived on the scene in the Fall of 1967, with a standout version from the Shrine Auditorium shows of November 9th and 10th quickly establishing this as a song in tune with the temporal structure of the times. The earliest known version on tape seems to be from the Marijuana Defense benefit at Winterland on October 22, 1967. These early versions open with a classically ambiguous, heartfelt announcement reflected in the voice of an epic storyteller:
"The other day they waited
their breath was cold and baited
solemnly they stated
he had to die
he had to die...
And all the children learning
from books that they were burning
every leaf was turning
to watch him die
well, you know he had to die...
The summer sun looked down on him
his mother could but frown on him
and all the others sound on him
but it doesn't seem to matter...
And when the day had ended
the rainbow colors blended
his mind remained unbended
he had to die
he had to die..."
===>and then off they would go into a brief (but soon to be expanded) version of Quodlibet for Tender Feet. Galloping along at a full gait along the leading edge of the curve, this structured portion of the song was initially an instant, well-measured jam with a fairly tight space for instrumental improvisation, usually guided by the loose cannon on lead guitar who seemed hell bent on forging pathways for his fellow riders. Background pulses from Pigpen's organ held the song in time while Phil's bass oscillated across the wavelengths opened up by Jerry's soaring guitar work. The drums gave the song a rhythmic balance teetering on the edge of instability, and operated like herd dogs to keep the musical movement within recognizable boundaries. After a few minutes, a sudden new twist would be added to the lyrical tale (an early cumbersome version of this tale would be refined and clipped to a more concise and essential form by Februrary 14, 1968, as reflected on Anthem of the Sun; see Volume I, p. 144 for a snapshot of these early lyrics. ): in the midst of the Quodlibet jam, up would swell a lyrical wave reflecting a first-person account of a classically "mind-unbending" experience,
"Spanish lady come to me
she lays on me this rose
it rainbows spiral round and round
trembles and explodes
left a smoking crater of my mind
I like to blown away
the heat came round
and busted me for smilin'
on a cloudy day."
"comin', comin', comin' around
"I was driven through the lily fields
when I came across an empty space
it trembled and exploded
left a bus stop in its place
the bus came by and I got on
that's when it all began
Cowboy Neal at the wheel
of the bus to never ever land"
"comin', comin', comin' around, comin' around
comin' around, comin' around...."
The seamless return of the epic story teller hems in the dramatic energy of this first person narrative account and leaves us to ponder the meaning and consequence of this mind altering experience:
"and when the day had ended
with rainbow colors bendin'
his mind remained unbended
he had to die...."
In the early 1968 versions, a short exit jam would quickly transform into a rhythmic version of New Potato Caboose, and off they would go. By early 1969, this exit jam (called Cryptical Reprise) had grown considerably in power and intensity, often evoking the feel of a magnificent stormy sunset cast as a poignant coda to this tale of growth and death. From early 1969 through the late Spring of 1970, Cryptical Reprise often deserved the acknowledgement of its very own exclamation point. Classic versions abound from this period, beginning with the Fillmore West shows in late February/early March (especially 2/28 and 3/01) and picking up a constant head of steam straight through the May 1970 shows, as evidenced (in spades!) by the 2-13-70 and 5-15-70a Fillmore East shows and the stunning 5-02-70 show in Binghamton.
Indeed, the entire Quodlibet=>Cryptical Reprise sequence was acquiring dramatic new proportions during this period. Stellar versions from late '69 and early '70 were clearly feeding on the anger and tension reflected in the increasing hostility of the surrounding political atmosphere. The space motifs within the Quodlibet jam were now driven by a complex interplay of instruments working without the structure of a conscious guiding hand. They would emanate primarily from Phil Lesh and Captain Trips, the two players most adept at entangling their bandmates and riveted audiences in one epic space excursion after another (notable versions occurring on 6-21-69, 12-30-69, 1-03-70b, and 6-24-70a).
While the growth of this interplay can be felt in a few versions from the latter half of 1970 (listen to 9-18-70), major transformations were to emerge in 1971 as The Other One started to eclipse Dark Star as the space vehicle of choice (as reflected in the well jammed versions from 4-28-71, 7-02-71, 8-06-71, 8-15-71, 10-29-71, and the full-blown extravaganza from 11-12-71). Here the band began to stretch out the jams, moving with seamless translation between jam and spatial motifs. With Keith Godchaux on board, the song burst into full bloom during 1972 (I would recommend the versions from 4-11-72, 5-10-72, 5-26-72, 9-09-72, and 12-10-72 (my first of many encounters), and especially the crackling, often explosive jams from 4-26-72, 9-17-72, 9-28-72, and 12-31-72). In most respects, the creative expansion of this song reached its pinnacle during the summer of 1973 (exemplified in the versions from 5-13-73, 5-20-73, 5-26-73, 6-22-73, and 6-29-73). By the fall of 1973, the song was beginning to wander. Perhaps the jamming potential had lost its political edge with the changing political tide.
There would be a few worthy capstone performances from 1974 (most notably 5-12-74, 8-06-74, 10-17-74, and 10-20-74), but the space vehicle was shifting to explorations of the still uncharted territories of Playin' in the Band, and the jamming energy was locked into expanded versions of Truckin', Eyes of the World, and Let it Grow. These were songs that would develop into major vehicles for intensifying the Grateful Dead sound, especially when the band returned from its hiatus. But the jamming intensity of these songs could not replace the exploratory dynamics of The Other One as a vehicle for space exploration. Ironically, this is reflected in the transformation of The Other One itself. After the hiatus, The Other One became a more concentrated, compact jam-based song. Though still introduced by the now familiar string of explosive bass chords from Lesh, The Other One was now played through without the depth and attunement to complex exploration that had been so important to the maturing of its structure in the early 1970's. To the trained ear, this signaled major changes in the band as a whole, and as the new sounds emerged,The Other One was clearly assimilated into the resulting jam motifs, de stined to become just another song among songs. There would be a few stellar versions along the way (most notably 7-17-76, 5-21-77, 11-01-77, 11-04-77, 11-05-77, 2-05-78, 10-27-79, 6-27-83, 8-19-89, 10-20-89, and 5-06-90), but these were primarily a reflection of the shifting emphasis from exploration to performance. The momentum of the show was now driving the band, and the bus was caught in the vortex.
II. The Mind Altering Experience Becomes Our Own
The 1969-73 musical development of The Other One (much like the 1969-70 versions of Dark Star) was beginning to affect the way people think and experience. On one level, the spacejams were drawing us out of the box into a space of attunement rich in complexity and ambiguity. The intensive concentration required to follow a maturing version of The Other One into Grateful Dead space was literally "occupying" us. In the process, it played a remarkable role in transforming our capacity to reflect on who we were becoming, what we were experiencing in our lives, and what to make of our surrounding world. The crucial element of this experience was being caught in the present without the mediating interlude of language. When the band was on, we were on. Being "on" meant living in a mindspace subtended by the musical interplay. It meant being caught in animated suspension at the intersection of a steady run of highly punctuated, often exploratory bass notes and a wild, sometimes eerie cataclysm of high-end guitar notes, often played out against an ethereal jazz background of percussion, keyboards and Weir's exploratory guitar riffs. From the spring of 1969 through the summer of 1973, The Other One was a stellar vehicle for transporting us to this magical space.