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Sunday, July 22, 2012

LN jg1976-03-12.jgb.late.aud-unk.xxxxx.flac1644


My love of audience tapes is evident to anyone who reads here. The anthropological instinct (and practice) underpinning field recording enthralls me. To me, everybody who ever taped a gig is right there with Alan Lomax and all the rest. Now, sometimes you have to be willing to sacrifice your aesthetics a little bit. Some of these tapes were bad from the start and haven’t gotten any better with age. But They Are What They Are. And if there’s any possibility at all of gleaning something relevant to Jerry Garcia’s Middle Finger, then I can only but sacrifice my ears in the line of duty.

I recently waded into a pretty good tape, Eric Coplen’s partial 3/12/76 early (7:30 pm) show and the first song of the late show, from an era that is extremely uneven in terms of the availability and quality of recordings. I did so for all kinds of reasons, but I guess my main motivation is to make sure that I don’t let selection bias around recordings generate biased analyses on other dimensions. We all have a tendency to gravitate toward the stuff that sounds good (or that we suspect will be musically interesting, well played, etc.). But insofar as the distribution of sound quality is not random with respect to other things that we care about (e.g., performance quality), then we are on inferentially problematic terrain. In plain English, sort of, we can’t safely generalize from the sample of tapes we have to the population of all tapes. This is also an era that I have historically found dull and uninspiring, and with which I have spent correspondingly little time. I am endeavoring to dig into this period a little bit more than I have up to this point. 3/12/76 early was part of that. I found it to be quite a nice performance.

Here I report on the late (11 pm) Jerry Garcia Band (JGB) show from the same date-location, March 12, 1976 at Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University, 600 Emerson Street, Evanston, IL 60201.

First, the tape. It’s an unattributed audience tape, transferred sometime in the 2000s from cassettes, perhaps tapes supplied by Walter Keenan and transferred by David Minches. It’s not that bad, but it’s not that great. What I really like is how this tape captures some of the enthusiasm and intelligence of college kids. They are very, very excited at the start, and as the song winds down at least one young man appears to lose control [NSFW] of himself. The taper legitimately calls “Train, Train” as “Mystery Train” begins, and the whoop of recognition is audible, the whoosh palpable. Great energy in this crowd, the occasional flicks of Bics and ensuing mirth. Good times.

Second, the performance. I love it, with one real exception, and that is “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”. Let me get the griping out of the way first. Now, I will generally agree with the assertion that you can’t judge a book by its cover. There a couple of exceptions, however, and the rule any version of ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ exceeding 17 minutes in length is too long is among them. A great many, if not all, of the versions JGB played in 1976 fall afoul of this rule (see the official release Don’t Let Go [Grateful Dead Records, January 2001], recorded 5/21/76 at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, containing another classic example of the genre). In arguing that these numbers are just too darn slow, I have often encountered the retort that perhaps I lack the sophistication necessary to appreciating such masterpieces, perhaps I am just too impatient to let the impact make itself felt. Maybe. Or maybe they’re just too slow.

OK, I have made my point. As for the good stuff, I have to say that I am updating my priors on this period northward as I listen to the shows: it’s a really good show. Here’s some blow by blow.

“Harder They Come” finds Garcia bucking and snorting out of the gate, the crowd athunder, and the recordists’ deck getting kicked around in the initial mayhem. Coplen’s tape could replace the start if one had the time and inclination to do so. More notations: HTC is nice, comes out with the bounce it needed to be really successful in the Garcia Band. There are some very, very slow versions in 1976 that deprive the song of the lilt it needs. Keith nice solo in the 6-minute mark. Jerry steps forward in the 7-min mark for a solo, patient but inventive. He's so relaxed, just letting it flow, nicely lubed. Keith stepping up to weave around and through Jerry, so they are both upfront as we round the 8-minute mark. Tutt is hammering, like they are those big old marching band drums played with toms. Banging. Jerry takes another run around and puts some grit in it this time. A young man in the crowd loses his head as the song winds down, taper asks him to hush. It was ever thus!

“Tore Up Over You” is one that I too frequently overlook. This one’s an object lesson in why not to do that. Garcia pulls off a seriously loud and metallic solo in the 6-minute mark that has young man again exclaiming. Late 6 and into the 7-minute mark, Jerome John Garcia is pulling some ass-slapping power chords. This is where 1976 is good. Jerry was just starting to fatten up the power chords that would become a staple of his ’76-’78 period playing in the Grateful Dead. Here, there are still some filings in there, little bits of tin foil, metallic jolts. It’s a nice blend.

"A Strange Man" beautifully features Donna Jean Godchaux of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. This is sultry southern singing, with perfect main accompaniment from her husband on piano (probably a Steinway), everyone else back behind, Donna all swaying smoke and flowing shadow. She testifies beautifully and tastefully, in charge until 3:45 when Jerry, having hung back respectfully until this point, steps up and rhapsodizes to Donna, guitar-for-her-voice, for a minute or so. Lovely.

Song note: "A Strange Man" (t05): Allan lists it as "Strange Man", but that might perhaps his alphabetization/filing scheme drops indefinite articles, as others (my own included) do definite articles. Deaddisc uses the indefinite article in the title, which I follow. I dunno from alphabetization, but I guess I'll list it under 'S'. What Would a Librarian Do? Anyway, this appeared on Dorothy Love Coates and the Gospel Harmonettes' self-titled 1967 LP on Okeh Records. Note that the record also contains "I'll Be With Thee". Donna said that they just sat around in those days, listening to gospel records. Seems pretty clear that Dorothy Love Coates was among their inspirations.

“Mystery Train” operates on a more terrestrial plane. Jerry rolls it around in his hands for a few extra measures at the start, making sure everything is holding water. When he comes in with his "Train, train" opening, there's a hoot of excitement from the crowd, but it's controlled, tapering quickly, like they were hit by it, it drove the excitement out, but they lassoed it back quickly, still wanted to listen carefully. Fun to put yourself at Northwestern University on this Friday night and feel the excitement that Garcia doing "Mystery Train", with Elvis’s own drummer providing the locomotion, could bring to a crowd. This version just, well, chugs right along, as any self-respecting version of any train song should. Jerry is running it all around, and in the 7-minute mark Tutt starts revving the engine a little bit, a few extra splashes and things are rolling nicely downhill. Clean as a whistle, and as they are winding down Garcia must be windmilling, because he is power-chording very unusually, and the taper, who seems knowledgeable, chuckles and gives him a "yeah". Maybe, Forrest Gump style, he got the idea in this moment for the Garcia-qua-Jordan Nike ad stickers that used to sell wherever Deadheads gathered, and which made him a rich man. Just maybe. “It happens.”

“Friend Of The Devil”: Thankfully, the opiates hadn't yet bitten too hard into the pacing of FOTD. It's still sprightly at this stage. It would become a much slower plod not long after and would never re-acquire the lightness that allowed the music to counterpoint the lyrics to such good effect in early appearances with the Grateful Dead, for example. But this one also has more punch than the super-light acoustic versions from 1970, more heft. So, for my money, this is a very good version of the song.

Listening Notes:

Jerry Garcia Band
March 12, 1976 (Friday), Late Show, 11 pm
unattributed 80 minute audience recording

--(8 tracks, 79:39)--
01. /The Harder They Come [14:28] [0:33]
02. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry [8:38] [0:03] % [0:19]
03. They Love Each Other [6:43] [0:07] % (1) [0:20]
04. Tore Up Over // You [8:8:36] [0:04] %
05. //A Strange Man/ [#5:45#]
06. Mystery Train [9:17] % [0:13]
07. Knockin' On Heaven's Door [17:52] %
08. //Friend Of The Devil [#6:42] %

! Band: Jerry Garcia Band:
! Lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
! Lineup: John Kahn - el-bass;
! Lineup: Keith Godchaux - piano, vocals;
! Lineup: Ron Tutt - drums, vocals;
! Lineup: Donna Jean Godchaux, vocals.

JGMF:
! 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.
! db: none in circulation for late show except first song (“Harder They Come”) from Eric Coplen’s tape, shnid 20700.
! venue: JBP: http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/03/cahn-auditorium-600-emerson-street.html. See also http://www.pickstaiger.org/venues/cahn-auditorium. The data I have seen suggest that the venue capacity at the time of the show was approximately 1,100.
! R: tape has a lot more audience noise than the Coplen tape of the early show (and the first tune of this late show). Some taper talk here, things sound exciting. This tape is not terrible. It is a little oversaturated, but I have heard worse. All of the instruments are there. It may be running slow, but with this band it's a little hard to tell. While Donna's voice sounds a little draggy, I think she's just being laconic. Garcia's voice and the guitars sound about right to me, but then again I can't hear.
! context: Nice to hear how excited the kids are as the show starts.
! R: t01 HTC clips in. Not much missing, but could be patched from the Coplen recording of this song. Would also be able to cover some major rumbling and clipping at the start, as I believe (based on taper talk) that the deck got kicked in all the excitement.
! P t01 HTC is nice, comes out with the bounce it needed to be really successful in the Garcia Band. There are some very, very slow versions in 1976 that deprive the song of the lilt it needs. Keith nice solo in the 6-minute mark. Jerry comes around in the 7-min mark for a solo, patient but inventive. He's so relaxed, just letting it flow, nicely lubed. Keith stepping up to weave around and through Jerry, so they are both upfront as we round the 8-minute mark. Tutt is hammering, like they are those big old marching band drums played with toms. Banging. Jerry takes another run around and puts some grit in it this time. A young man in the crowd loses his head, taper asks him to hush.
! t03 (1) flicking of Bics and ensuing mirth.
! P: t04 TUOY Garcia pulls off a seriously loud and metallic solo in the 6-minute mark that has young man again exclaiming. Late 6 and into the 7-minute mark, Jerome John Garcia is pulling some ass-slapping power chords.
! R: t04 TUOY splice @ 7:46, then a few little repeated blips toward the end of the track.
! song: "A Strange Man" (t05): Allan lists it as "Strange Man" http://www.whitegum.com/~acsa/songfile/STRANGEM.HTM, but that might perhaps his alphabetization/filing scheme drops indefinite articles, as others (my own included) do definite articles. Deaddisc uses the indefinite article in the title, http://www.deaddisc.com/songs/Strange_Man.htm, which I follow. I dunno from alphabetization, but I guess I'll list it under 'S'. How's that for splitting the baby? Anyway, this appeared on Dorothy Love Coates and the Gospel Harmonettes' self-titled 1967 LP on Okeh Records. Note that the record also contains "I'll Be With Thee". Donna said that they just sat around in those days, listening to gospel records. Seems pretty clear that Dorothy Love Coates was among their inspirations.
! R: t05 Strange Man cuts in and clips out
! P: t05 A Strange Man. This is sultry southern singing, the piano the perfect lead accompaniment, everything else back behind, spotlight on Donna. She belts very beautifully and tastefully here. Very, very nice! Donna is in charge all the way until 3:45, Jerry, appropriately, having stayed way back. Here he steps up and rhapsodizes back to Donna, guitar-style, for a minute or so. Donna sings this song absolutely beautifully. I wish I had seen her sing this.
! P t06 Mystery Train is really nice. First, the taper recognizes it, and calls "Train, Train", which is a totally legitimate way to refer to this song, in my book. Then Jerry rolls it around in his hands for an extra couple of measures, making sure everything is holding water. When he comes in with his "Train, train" opening, there's a hoot of excitement from the crowd, but almost controlled, like they were hit by it but still wanted to listen carefully. Fun to put yourself at Northwestern University on this Friday night and feel the excitement that Garcia doing "Mystery Train" could bring to a crowd. This version just, well, chugs right along, as any self-respecting version of any train song should. Jerry is running it all around, and in the 7-minute mark Tutt starts revving the engine a little bit, a few extra splashes and things are rolling nicely downhill. Clean as a whistle, and as they are winding down Garcia must be windmilling, because he is power-chording very unusually, and the taper, who seems knowledgeable, chuckles and gives him a "yeah". Maybe, Forrest Gump style, he got the idea here and now for the Garcia-qua-Jordan Nike ad stickers that used to sell wherever Deadheads gathered, and which made him a rich man. Shit happens, right?
! P: t07 Knocking On Heaven's Door, this is an example of 1976 JGB drawing things out too deeply for me. Feels like slogging through mud to me. Such a dirge. Everyone is sleeping through it. At one point (@ 2:49) Garcia drops an alive-with-possibilities ascending eight-note run, you hear the crowd shift and a few little yips of anticipation, and then everyone falls back to sleep. Too much.
! R: t08 FOTD cuts in, not much missing.
! P: t08 FOTD: Thankfully, the opiates hadn't bitten too hard into the pacing of FOTD yet. It's still sprightly at this stage. It would become a deadly dirge not long after and would never require any of the lightness that allowed the music to counterpoint the lyrics to such good effect in early appearances with the Grateful Dead, for example. But this one also has more punch than the super-light acoustic versions from 1970, more heft. So, for my money, this is a very good version of FOTD.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting more on this tour, hopefully more gems will fall out someday. This is one of the tours that most interests me, maybe it's the tape scarcity, maybe it's the odd venues, maybe it's hoping for more jams like lonesome and a long way from 4/3. I am hoping it's like fall 76 gd was, murky then so much amazing material.

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  2. Thank you for reading. The idea of doing the whole tour (what there is of it) is daunting, but it sure would be fun.

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  3. There's a little review in May 1976 Triad. I only have the first page (p. 71). I like this line about Donna Jean, who adds "charming harmonies to the music and angelic elegance to the band's visual impact". Indeed.

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