GarciaLive, volume 5, December 31st 1975 Keystone Berkeley (2014) is out, available via jerrygarcia.com.
Let me start by expressing gratitude for these GarciaLive releases. Having been a massive outlier in my interest in Garcia on the side, having often expressed frustration at the paucity of Jerry shows released under the old regime, I am glad to see the music coming out and happy to buy these releases, not least because they are generally very, very well done.
The overall packaging is nice. I appreciate that the booklet picture of the Keystone is correctly placed from ca. 1981 - accuracy is important, and is very much appreciated by those of us who take our metadata like we take our coffee -- seriously. This is an improvement over the inclusion of a photo from 11/26/77, without identification, in a release of the show dated 3/22/78 (GarciaLive 4). I read David Gans's liner notes once quickly, and they look spot-on (more on that below), well-written, well-edited (I had complained about the editing on the killer 12/14-15/74 release), and informative. Good job, David. I haven't listened to it yet, but I have heard that it sounds nice and I fully expect the fat, full, Betty Cantor-Jackson sound. (I hope she is getting paid for these releases!)
Priors on this performance
But I have always disliked 12/31/75 as a Jerry Garcia Band performance and as a Jerry Garcia life event. The main billing for the show is that it's Jerry Band's only NYE show. That's true, but it doesn't go very far if the music isn't good.
I have known the performance from the tapes. I would have been listening to the very early shns of the soundboard (like this badboy) and, especially, the Louis Falanga-Bob Menke upfront (possibly onstage) ambient recording (shnid-8664), since these were fresh on the etree FTP sites. All told I probably listened to the Falanga-Menke tape a good 3 or 4 times through, the board once or twice. That's a lot for any single show.
People generally consider this a great one, but insofar as you'll indulge me in arguing about taste, I'll tell you that I think that's just flat wrong. My hypothesis here is that this is something like the "Cornell Effect" from Deaddom, in which great sounding tapes find mass-circulation relatively early, Patient Zero of the Betty Board contagion, and the show becomes legend. (Cornell is actually a great Dead show, but that doesn't preclude it being overrated.) JGB 12/31/75 at the Keystone has the added Dead appeal of guest shots by Bob Weir (very rare with JGB, only other times it happened were in June '82 and once on Broadway in '87, off the top of my head) and Mickey Hart. Nicky Hopkins draws lots of attention, it's New Year's Eve at the Keystone, and why shouldn't it be great?
But it isn't. As a musical performance, it has some OK moments, and it's rarely downright awful, but mostly it's just boring. That has always been my view.
But being a loyal customer, wanting to give the show a fair hearing, I decided to get the release, and to prepare my listen by revisiting the Falanga-Menke tape. Pin down the metadata if I could, just prepare the ground. Like a dog circling around a patch of lawn, if you know what I mean. And of course it became a rabbit hole, but I'll try to cover some ground and walk away from all the things that must be walked away from, conditional on the finity of our time here together. Anyway, I have some listening notes below the fold, but here are a few takeaways.
Confusion bedeviled the sociometrics of this gig from the beginning. Les Kippel wrote in Dead Relix (1976) that
Contrary to advance rumors, the Grateful Dead did not play this past New Year’s Eve. However, Bob Weir and Chris Herold from Kingfish did show up to play at the Garcia Band’s show at the Berkeley Keystone that evening. Bob played rhythm guitar and sang backup vocals, and sang lead on “C.C. Rider.” Other material played at the show included “Catfish John,” “Road Runner,” and so forth. Rumor has it that that might have been the Garcia Band’s last performance.
A few issues later, attendee Jim Wasserman (1976) wrote a letter to the editor, correcting Kippel that the drummer was not Chris Herold, but, he thought, Bill Vitt. This is a great letter, which I reproduce in whole so Corry can read about Grayson Street (see Arnold 2009).
I was at the show, and some of the info you said about it was incorrect. Chris Herold of Kingfish was not there. Weir was there as you said, but I believe the drummer was Bill Vitt, sitting in for Ron Tut [sic]. Also, Mickey Hart showed with Weir for the second set - - and played a very primitive drumset used by the warm-up band (whom I didn't know).The first band consisted of the drummer, (a bass, snare, tom tom, and two cymbals in the total set) and a slow blues slide guitarist who was pretty good, but generally a let-down for the opening of a New Year's show.The Garcia Band was also joined by Matthew Kelly of Kingfish from very early in the show. The overall performance was quite good, once the boys got it underway, however. There was what seemed like hours of tuning up and the band took two very long breaks. The show was like a fine old' party, and I think that's just what Garcia was into -- partying on New Year's Eve.
So witness one says the non-Hart drummer was Chris Herold, witness two says it was Bill Vitt, and Corry (Arnold 2009) comes along and has it as Greg Errico. I become confused.
But that's all over now, because now we have Official Documents, and it's Mr. Errico on the skins. (On the Falanga-Menke tape one can hear Nicky slurring "Thanks Greg" at note 3). Otherwise, it's as we have understood things: Matt Kelly on harmonica (throughout the show, as I hear it, should pin it all down), Bob Weir on guitar and Mickey Hart on drums (sets II and III).
In putting together what I have around this show, I found a 5-minute fragment of tape that I remember some guy sending me some years ago, labeled 12/31/75 Nicky solo "Maple Leaf Rag", a tuneup from the start of the show. I had always vowed to give it some attention, and I did on this occasion. It is five minutes of tape from an alternative audience recording (i.e., not the Falanga-Menke tape). It's nowhere near as good as theirs, and it is degraded, but it is nevertheless revealing. First, the smaller point, I can hear taper talk where guy says "that looks like the guy from Kingfish". I wonder if Les Kippel was recording this, or if in some other way the taper's guess became Dead Relix's error?
Second, the tuning is not just Nicky, it's the whole band, as far as I can tell. And, it's not Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag", as advertised. It's Joplin's "The Entertainer". I can't tell you how much I love this little snippet. In terms of the American musical mosaic, it occupies the same part of the canon, just replacing one singleton, now a never-played (Maple Leaf Rag), with another (Entertainer). But I also love it because it's Nicky Hopkins playing "The Entertainer". He is so brilliant, and he can make even the most well-worn classic sound fresh as daylight; this is about as pure a piano tune as you can find, being played by about as pure a piano player as ever graced a bench.
Very cool. But also, tinged. Dawson's Hopkins biography (2011) shows clearly that Nicky was the ultimate sideman, lacking in any of the discernible talents and inclinations that might make one a successful front man, except his musical wizardry. He was shy and quiet and ill-suited to the role (see my "Bloody Hell"), and yet this seems to have been the role that the JGB (Garcia, Kahn and Tutt) and/or Nicky himself allowed to operate. There's just something desperately sad about Nicky playing "The Entertainer", with all of his (and its) beer hall authenticity, warming up for the big show. Later, sweetly optimistic about 1976: "It might even be good for me; you never know" (note 7). To your health, Nicky.
"Mother Nature's Son" is a Garcia singleton, part of the small, compact, tastefully curated set of Beatles material he played publicly.
You can see the listening notes, and I have already given my bottom line summary. It's OK in parts, it's bad in parts, but mostly it's just boring. It's a mehfest.
Here is a little bit of color around this gig, which was contracted for the standard $500 JGB-at-Keystone rate (this would rise to $750 a night in 1977), but probably saw considerably more than that moving around.
- Nicky is wasted. You knew this, but he's really, really wasted. He's at that horrible place (note 7), where he's both "pissed as a rat's nightmare" and "dry as a fuckin' boneyard". I believe him.
- This is the last JGB #1 gig, as Nicky exits stage left. The conventional wisdom is that he was just too wasted and he had to go. I will argue in the book that he was never planned to last beyond the New Year. Either way, a few days later he'd be gigging a little with ol' pal John Cipollina, he never played with Garcia again, and he entered, from this night, perhaps the darkest period of a life too full of them.
- Jerry and Mountain Girl are breaking up (Jackson 1999, 266-268). Right around this time Jerry deeds the Stinson house to MG and moves in with Deborah Koons in Belvedere.
- Late 1975 has always been my guess for when the opiates become regularized. I don't know if the following refers to 1975 (it could be any year through 1975, really), but I have always thought it could have: "one Christmastime, on a whim, [Ron Rakow] took it upon himself to score some [China White] for himself and Garcia" (Jackson 1999, 289).
- Money is tight, the Dead are going to have to start touring again, the Grateful Dead Movie is already an albatross that would hang around Garcia's neck until mid-1977, etc. etc.
I guess my point is that this is a pretty dark time in the Garciaverse. I would hate to extrapolate from that to this particular performance (the Winterland shows from a week and a half prior are actually quite good). And it's possible I am letting that darkness shade my listening, though I don't think so.
The Show as a Release
So, I find this release a little problematic insofar as it's not a great performance, and it's got all kinds of darkness around it. I understand the marketing appeal of the Dead guys' presence and the fact that it's Garcia's only New Year's Eve with the JGB. I also understand that quality tape is probably in sparer supply than one might wish. I am not going to be too hard on The Powers That Be, but would certainly argue for "great performance" as the first criterion of interest to this particular paying customer.
Anyway, references below, then listening notes below the fold.
Arnold, Corry. 2009. December 31, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Jerry Garcia Band. Lost Live Dead, December 13, 2009, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2009/12/december-31-1975-keystone-berkeley.html, consulted 12/31/2013.
Arnold, Corry. 2010. 2119 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA: The Keystone Berkeley. Lost Live Dead, December 31, 2010, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/12/2119-university-avenue-berkeley-ca.html, consulted 4/22/2012.
Arnold, Corry. 2011. Jerry Garcia and Keystone Shows Overview. Lost Live Dead, January 2, 2011, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/01/jerry-garcia-and-keystone-shows.html, accessed 7/23/2012.
Dawson, Julian. 2011. And On Piano ... Nicky Hopkins: The Extraordinary Life of Rock's Greatest Session Man. Foreword by Klaus Voormann. San Francisco: Backstage Press.
Jackson, Blair. 1999. Garcia: An American Life. New York: Penguin Books.
JGMF. 2014. "Bloody Hell".
JGMF. 2014. Nicky after JGB.
JGMF. 2014. Grateful Dead Three Ways: December 20, 1975.
Kippel, Les. 1976. Bits. Dead Relix 3, 2 (March-April), p. 19.
Wasserman, Jim. 1976. [Letter to the editor.] Dead Relix 3, 4 (July-August), p. 2.
Jerry Garcia Band
2119 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94740
December 31, 1975 (Wednesday)
Menke-Falanga shnid-8664 shn2flac-patch-retrack
--set I (10 tracks, 53:13)--
s1t01. The Entertainer [1:35]
s1t02. talk (1) and tuning [1:45]
s1t03. Let It Rock [12:35] (2) [0:51] %
s1t04. Mother Nature's Son [2:01] ->
s1t05. (3) It Ain't No Use [11:24] (4) [0:17]
s1t06. God Save The Queen [0:43] [0:08]
s1t07. They Love Each Other [7:31] [0:15] % [0:34]
s1t08. tuning and talk (5) [1:36]
s1t09. Pig's Boogie [10:54]
s1t10. talk (6) [0:40]
--set II (5 tracks, 53:11)--
s2t01. talk (7) and tuning [3:31]
s2t02. New Year's countdown [0:19] -> Auld Lang Syne [0:48], tuning [0:34]
s2t03. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) [7:58] [1:01]
s2t04. Catfish John [15:20] [1:05]
s2t05. Mystery Train [7:13] -> drums [0:59] -> "New Years Jam" [12:25] -> Mystery Train [1:38] (8) [0:11] %
--set III (5 tracks, 33:08)--
s3t01. tuning [0:30]
s3t02. Tore Up Over You [10:14] [0:24] %
s3t03. barroom ditty [0:36], tuning [0:20]
s3t04. C.C. Rider [8:05] (9) [2:14]
s3t05. (I'm A) Road Runner [9:17] (10) [1:27]
! ACT1: Jerry Garcia Band
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
! lineup: Nicky Hopkins - piano;
! lineup: John Kahn - el-b;
! lineup: Greg Errico - drums;
! guest: Matthew Kelley - harmonica (whole show)
! guest: Bob Weir - guitar, vocals (sets II-III);
! guest: Mickey Hart - drums (sets II-III).
! 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.
! R: field recordist: Louis Falanga and Bob Menke;
! R: field recording gear: Sony ECM-270 + Sony ECM-250 > Sony TC-152.
! R: field recording location: mics onstage;
! R: lineage: unknown transfer by Bob Menke ca. early 2000s > CD > Jim Powell's CDs > Jack Warner's CDs > jjoops's CDs > extraction (EAC) > re-tracking (WaveMerge and CD Wave) > .shn encoding (mkwACT) > sector boundary alignment (shntool) by firstname.lastname@example.org, ca. 200xxx.
! R: patch material from unattributed aud, noshnid, supplies s1t01 and through 1:29 of s1t02.
! personnel: Old notes had the following, presumably from TJS: "entire show with Mickey Hart and Matt Kelly; Bob Weir plays during set III." I don't think so. Maybe the GarciaLive 5 liner notes will
! setlist: s1t01 comes from a scrap of tape I picked up somewhere, labeled as 12/31/75 Nicky Hopkins Maple Leaf Rag, piano solo. It's a classic Scott Joplin ragtime, all right, but it's "The Entertainer", and Jerry and the rest of the band are noodling along. Awesome! This is a singleton.
! s1t02 (1) taper talk @ 1:17 "looks like the drummer from Kingfish"
! P: s1t03 LIR Nicky is off key and elsewhere for the first 45 seconds or so, then he comes in. @ late 5-min mark Nicky says something inaudible.
! s1t03 (2) JG: "We have a couple of friends sittin' in with us." @ 13:15 Nicky, off-mic, slurring badly: "Where's me fucking drink? I'm dry as shit."
! s1t05 (3) NH, slurring: "Thanks, Greg. Thanks Jerry."
! personnel: harp comes on s1t05 IANU
! s1t05 (4) JG: "Thank you. Matthew Kelly sittin' in on harmonica."
! R: s1t07 TLEO brief drop @ 7:04
! P: s1t07 The performance is a little loose, Errico is awesome for just stepping in, but he hasn't ever played that song, ever."
! s1t08 (5) @ 0:35 NH "Steve, get me water? I'm dry as a fucking [inaudible]. Just water'll be fine." @ 1:05 NH: "All right. 11:16. Oh, 44 minutes to go. God help us all, every one of us, for '76. That's all I've got to say. Except ... we're gonna do 'Pig's Boogie'".
! R: s1t09 Pig's Boogie disruptions @ 8:03-8:05
! P: s1t09 PB John Kahn takes a nice lead piece 5ff, very well done.
! s1t10 (6) NH: "First of all, no, I'll do that later. The band. From right to left." [someone else: Nicky, Nicky, Nicky] What?" JG: "We have some more people who are gonna sit in with us ... it's gonna take a coupla minutes to set everything up. We're gonna take a little break and come back around midnight, I think. Thank you."
! s2t01 (7) NH "//to the next year" ... tuning % @ 13:07 "I'm just dry as a ... I don't know. If I weren't pissed as a rat's nightmare, right now I'm just dry as a fuckin' boneyard. 11:57 All right, we're gonna go into a number, because it's gettin' very very close to that fuckin' point in time. ... 2 minutes ... less than one minute to go ... I'll give you the countdown." NH: "It might even be good for me, you never know."
! R: s2t03 HSII NH solo late 2 is hard to hear, PA issues? Things are a little off-kilter 4 minute mark, Errico a little off.
! P: s2t04 CJ male high harmonies behind Jerry ... who is that?
! P: s2t05 MT drums start 7:14, I hear two drummers. John Kahn joins in 8:14, Nicky a few notes 8:37 ish, Jerry back, and in late 9 and 10 he's fully engaged. In 12:45 ish Jerry is playing some very strong guitar, but the problem is that there's no one else really directly engaging him and egging him on here. Nicky is playing, but it's not very loud in Jerry's monitor (which is what we are hearing on this recording). Tempo picks up late 13, Kelly comes in, now they are playing together. A little more bass and drum interlude starting late 19 over 20, but Jerry starts playing MT again 20:20ish, drops the change 20:40 and he and Nicky connect perfectly on the 1! Nicky had great ears, even pissed as a rat's nightmare. ends 22:18
! s2t05 (8) JG: "We're gonna take a break for a little while, and try to figure out what to do ... we'll be back in a little while." He had put some slight tension on "what" in "what to do", he sounds cogent but maybe a little exasperated. He's probably wondering what the fuck Mickey is doing there.
! setlist: s3t03 ditty probably has a name
! s3t04 (9) Nicky: "All right, we're gonna carry on past 2 o'clock. [crowd yelling] Hold it ... but, in order to ... hang on a minute while I remember it ... I forget ... please have all your bottles and glasses emptied in order for us to carry on past 2. OK? All right. And once again, from all of us, a very happy '76 ... whatever." Kahn yells "Road Runner" and Garcia says "OK". Nicky: "Is there any central heating? I mean air conditioning? I've [inaudible]." Taper talk around 10:12: "Mickey Hart is really intense."
! P: s3t05 Road Runner Garcia is playing some great guitar, which sounds great on this tape, in the 6-minute range. Excellent.
! s3t05 (10) after Road Runner JG: "Thanks a lot. We'll see y'all later on." Guy near taper: "Aww, shit." Crowd is hollering for more.