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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NRPS-Matrix-1970 04 of 7: LN19700729: Wednesday, July 29, 1970

NRPS-Matrix-1970: a seven part series discussing New Riders of the Purple Sage (NRPS) gigs at the Matrix, 1970, including listening notes on the circulating tapes, speculation on dates, observations on playing, general pontificating.
  1. Introduction
  2. LN19700430: Thursday, April 30, 1970
  3. LN19700707: Tuesday, July 7, 1970
  4. LN19700729: Wednesday, July 29, 1970
  5. LN19700730: Thursday, July 30, 1970
  6. LN19700902: Wednesday, September 2, 1970
  7. Analysis and Conclusions
The 133 minute sbd recording traveling as New Riders at the Matrix on Wednesday, July 29, 1970 has all of the qualities you'd expect at the NRPS-Matrix-1970 intersection. A pretty good tape, largely complete (so it would seem), including tuning and off-mic stage talk. It's a period of NRPS's development that is underscrutinized (beyond the overall neglect of the New Riders) since the tapes don't circulate widely. Both because of tape and east coast bias, more is known about the touring band of the rest of 1970-1971, the one that opened for the GD in medium-sized college rooms and theaters across the land, than this mid-1970 band that's woodshedding in tiny Bay Area joints such as the Matrix, the Lion's Share in San Anselmo, or Mandrake's in Berkeley.

There's also a characteristic shroud of doubt around the date/venue combination. I'll address date and venue in turn.

Regarding dating, first, this recording apparently used to travel dated "7/30/70". Ouch. It helps even less that this set I is the same as "4/30/70, set I." Most confusingly, the evidence from this week at the Matrix is all over the place, and none of it supports the presence of the NRPS at Matrix on Weds.-Thurs., July 29-30. LIA has recapped all of this in his thorough way, so I won't go over the same terrain -- see his post "The Hartbeats - July 1970".

I was hoping that a forensic listening to the recordings of the NRPS Matrix Tapes dated July 29-30, 1970 would shed some light on all of this, but my hopes have been dashed. Here's about the only date-relevant information from 7/29, from John Dawson introducing the New Riders' version of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi":

We're tryin' to do 'Big Yellow Taxi', which was number two in Hawaii when we were there. And Hawaii has this big pink hotel right there on their famous boardwalk, right there on the beach.

Now, Jerry and the Grateful Dead were in Hawaii twice in 1970, in January and in June. But as I understand it, the NRPS only accompanied them in June. (McNally [1999 p. 351] narrates the first trip with no mention of the Riders or any member, and the dog is silent everywhere as far as I know.) If true, that would eliminate the "4/30/70" dating for this material. Hypothesis: 4/30/70 was an erroneous transcription of 7/30/70, the old (apparent mis-) date for this same material. All we can know, then, is that this NRPS set takes place after mid-June. Unfortunately, this doesn't get us any closer to figuring out the late July 1970 dating confusion.

I hear only two things that might shed some light on the venue. The first is Dawson's setbreak announcement: "Thank you, we'll see you after a few weird movies here." Can anyone say whether this would have been the Matrix, the Lion's Share, or somewhere else? Or is it just too vague? The second is that the recording has some of the amplitude changes that I associate with the '68 Matrix Tapes, where the mics seem to be sound- (or maybe pedal-, but I don't think so) activated. Anyone know what I mean by that?

What do I conclude from all of this chasing my tail? My instinct is that the July 29th dating is very approximately right. The contradictory listings for the Matrix this week suggest that there was a lot of fluidity, for whatever reason. Who knows? Under such a cloud of uncertainty, where the contradictory evidence contradicts itself, the tape is likely the best we are likely to do with dating this stuff. So I'd propose on the basis of this analysis that we all ding the "4/30/70" listing and keep 7/29/70.

I won't spend much time on the performance, except to say that it's sloppy. "Big Yellow Taxi" is really the only song of any historical interest, insofar as this would seem to be the first of only two known NRPS renditions.  Inchoate listening notes after the jump.

New Riders of the Purple Sage
The Matrix
San Francisco, CA
July 29, 1970 (Wednesday)
133 minutes, probably approximately complete

--Set I (12 tracks, 68:27)--
s1t01. [0:34] Whatcha Gonna Do [4:04] [0:42]
s1t02. Glendale Train [5:21] [1:15]
s1t03. Lodi [4:00] [1:07]
s1t04. If You Hear Me When I'm Leavin' [4:33] [1:07]
s1t05. Sweet Loving One [3:37] [0:04]
s1t06. Portland Woman [5:25] [0:33]
s1t07. Delilah [3:37] [0:20]
s1t08. Dirty //Business [9:#40]
s1t09. Last Lonely Eagle [6:12] [1:40]
s1t10. Hello Trouble [3:21] [0:10]
s1t11. (1) [0:10] Big Yellow Taxi [2:59] [0:57]
s1t12. The Weight [6:49] (2) [0:10]

--Set II (13 tracks, 64:27)--
s2t01. [0:07] Workin' Man Blues [4:49] (3) [1:03]
s2t02. Together Again [2:28] [2:12]
s2t03. I Don't Know You [4:04] [0:49]
s2t04. Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line [3:24] [0:33]
s2t05. Superman [3:18] [0:52]
s2t06. Henry [3:41] [0:43]
s2t07. I'm In Love With You [4:16] [0:22]
s2t08. Me And My Uncle [3:43] [0:26]
s2t09. Mama Tried [3:00] [0:33]
s2t10. Cecilia [4:54] [0:03]
s2t11. All I Ever Wanted [9:07] [0:32]
s2t12. Louisiana Lady [3:58] [0:26]
s2t13. Honky Tonk Woman [4:55] [0:12]

John Dawson - rhythm guitar, vocals;
David Nelson - lead guitar, vocals;
David Torbert - bass, vocals;
Jerry Garcia - pedal steel guitar;
Mickey Hart - drums.

Recording Specs:
Unknown sbd > CD > EAC (extraction) > Traders Little Helper v2.4.1 (FLAC encoding, level 8) > foobar2000 v0.9.6.8 (tagging).

JGMF Notes:
! Recording: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording.
! TJS: The note reads as follows: "This set list used to circulate as 07/30/70, but recent set list corrections have helped to correct the dates in question. Thus, 07/29/70 is now known to be the correct date for this show." I assume this was established by NRPSologist Noah Weiner.
! db: nothing listed as of April 11, 2011.
! P: A very sloppy show.
! R: This is a relatively degraded recording, a bit hissy for TJS lineage of MSR>D. This lineage is unsure, though presumably MSR > et seq. Distortion on vocals, maybe running slow? To me, this has a recording feature that I associate with Matrix tapes. Like inter alia the Hartbeats October 1968 tapes, the recording mics seem to be sound-activated, unless there is a pedal or something. But it sounds like the former to me. The recording has a characteristic amplitude change when they are tuning between songs that sounds like the '68 Hartbeats tapes, but not like 7/7/70. Check out Last Lonely Eagle (s1t09) at the start or the end (e.g., in the 7:30 range) for an example.
! R: s1t08 Dirty Business splice @ 7:48
! R: s1t09 Last Lonely Eagle hissier? Check before splice.
! s1t11 (1) Marmaduke: "We're tryin' to do 'Big Yellow Taxi', which was number two in Hawaii when we were there. [JGMF: 6/12-13/70, probably?] And Hawaii has this big pink hotel right there on their famous boardwalk, right there on the beach."
! s1t12 (2) Marmaduke: "Thank you, we'll see you after a few weird movies here."
! s2t01 (3) Marmaduke: "Hey Bobby, can I talk you into getting a new string out of my case there? A high 'E'."
! s2t02 Together Again (Buck Owens) had previously been listed as a false start. But it's really more that it's just truncated, like all they know is the melody. It's interesting because the 9/20/70 FE version also truncated, though they do get through the first verse. Weird.
! R: s2t02 recording (master?) wavering in and out, very characteristically of the Matrix tapes. But there seem to be a variety of technical issues, not least the BAD SNITS THAT COULD DAMAGE YOUR SPEAKERS.
! setlist: s2t03 I Don't Know You not traditionally listed.
! R: SQ gets better after s2t02
! setlist: s2t06 Henry not traditionally listed,
! P: Torbert is very hot on this one, and/or the recording picks him up very nicely.
! There has been some question about these dates. I can confirm that "4/30/70" and this set I are identical material. The Hawaii reference in s1t11 (note 1 above) is important in dating this. The GD were in Hawaii twice in 1970 (and ever, right?), in January and in June. Regarding January 1970, it seems pretty well-established that the New Riders were not there. McNally (1999 p. 351) narrates Hawaii with no mention of the Riders or any member, and the dog is silent everywhere. So I propose to eliminate "4/30/70" from contention (it's probably a transposition error from the previous mislabel, 7/30/70).


  1. I agree that the dating must be after mid-June, for it's nearly certain that the Riders weren't playing Hawaii in January '70!

    There's also the matter of Big Yellow Taxi, which was released as a single that year, though I can't pin down the date.

  2. Everything I can find shows that the album containing "Big Yellow Taxi" was released in April 1970. Of course, that doesn't preclude the single being released ahead of time, etc., but I would think that it clearly puts January out of the running. Especially in 1970, having an album released in April and the single peaking in June makes a ton of sense.


!Thank you for joining the conversation!