Saturday, January 09, 2010

GD: August 17, 1970, Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA

I am sure this has been gone over many, many times over the years. I imagine that in the days before ubiquitous tapes and information the Playboy article "Grateful Dead I Have Known" by Ed McClanahan (1) was probably scrutinized very closely, like some Rosetta Stone capable of unlocking the 1970-era GD. That it was published in the national and widely available and read (or, "read" -- tee hee) magazine makes it even more likely that people would have analyzed it. But I think we can get more out of it than what I have found, so at the risk of reinventing the wheel I am going to plough ahead.

As Deadlists notes, this is definitely written in Beat style and plays fast and loose with things like chronology (as befits the Prankster author, I guess). Yet it's reasonably clear from the context of the article that the specific show that is discussed throughout the article is August 17, 1970 at the Fillmore West. I argue that we should be confident enough in this that we should use information from the article to fill out the Grateful Dead setlist from this show along the lines laid out below.

I'll proceed in three parts. First, I'll discuss why we should think of the show detailed by McClanahan as 8/17/70. Second, I'll consider the countervailing evidence. Third, I'll lay out a more complete setlist than is presently available, based on McClanahan 1972.

1) Arguments for 8/17/70: four observations and an upshot.

First, the show was at the Fillmore West.

Second, it was billed as "An Evening With the Grateful Dead" and followed the three-set structure of that format: acoustic Dead, New Riders, electric Dead. Deadlists places the beginning of this format (among circulating tapes) as May 1970.

Third, McClanahan notes that the show he discusses will be followed by two more: "reworking my notes on last night's three sets at the Fillmore ... Jerry played all three sets ... and will do the same tonight and again tomorrow night." I don't think he explicitly says this is only a three-show run, but that's what I am inferring.

Fourth, partly based on this, the evidence points in favor of this being the August 1970 run at Fillmore West. Recall that the Grateful Dead played four stands at the Fillmore West in 1970: February 5-6-7-8; April 9-10-11-12; June 4-5-6-7; August 17-18-19.

We can rule out the February and April runs because they didn't follow the "Evening With ..." format.

The June shows can't be ruled out with 100% confidence, but I see three reasons that cut against this run: 1) setlists McLanahan describes don't match setlists from the June '70 shows; 2) McLanahan (per point #3 above) seems to be referring to a three-night stand, while the June run is four nights; 3) he references songs from Workingman's Dead, which wouldn't be released until later in the month. (True, he could be looking back from the perspective of what he knew when writing the article, but from the context he seems to be speaking from the perspective of his contemporary notebook.) #1 is probably most important, and it's where I am at greatest risk of being infected by material outside the article (e.g., Deadlists).

The upshot is this: in order to think that we are in the realm of a specific, coherent show, we have to trust a Prankster. On this score, I don't doubt the utility of McClanahan's account as much as Deadlists seems to. Here's what Deadlists says:

He doesn't get all the details right (or necessarily mean to -- he doesn't aim to publish a setlist) and it's definitely self-indulgent writing in the manner of Hunter Thompson & Tom Wolfe, but he does catch a hint of the flavor of the venue and the event, if from a tourist's point of view.

I think it's actually much more precise than that *on the particular issue of the setlist for a specific show*. McClanahan makes a point of saying that he is carefully noting the shows in his "Official Accuracy Reporter's Notebooks". He is very precise in describing the components of the "Evening With ..." format and in enumerating the songs that go with each part.

Finally, what he describes makes *perfect* sense based on what we know about setlist structures from the era.

Putting all that together, I believe that the show in question is the first show of the August 1970 "Evening with the Grateful Dead" run at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, i.e., August 17, 1970.

2) Counterarguments/evidence

First, McClanahan says "tonight's the first time the Dead have tried a strictly acoustic set on the Fillmore Audience." I don't believe this is true, for I believe that they did this during the June 1970 run. So this line would point in the direction of the June shows. But, again, we have reasonably complete setlists of the June 1970 GD sets, and what McClanahan describes isn't one of them.

Second, there is the issue of the tape that Deadlists (and thereby the LMA) associates with this date:

It is an 11-minute audience-recorded fragment that includes "Let Me In (83968's My Dad)," "Attics of My Life," and "Friend of the Devil". Deadlists points out that Teddy Goodbear and Dave Tamarkin both feel this is from an east coast show, and leaves this an open question. I have no view on this. If the material is from this show, it does not support the 8/17/70-as-described-by-McClanahan thesis, since none of these songs are from Workingman's Dead. (Though it is possible that McClanahan is trustworthy as far as he goes, but just incomplete, thus making room for these songs in the acoustic GD set he describes.)

Third is the issue of the Michael Lydon piece in Rolling Stone # 66 (2), which Deadlists ascribes to this show. The Lydon account is less complete than the McClanahan one, but they correlate nearly perfectly. There are two discrepancies, only one of which is particularly troubling. The first, minor one is that Lydon notes that David Nelson joins the acoustic Dead on mandolin about halfway through that set. McClanahan says nothing: let's just assume that he didn't notice. The second, more important, is that Lydon is quite specific in saying that the acoustic GD set begins with "Juggin'", i.e., Truckin', while McClanahan is quite specific in saying that it begins with Cumberland Blues and places Truckin' in the electric set. I can't reconcile this. I would be more inclined to buy that the show began with Truckin', or anyway that Truckin' was played acoustic rather than electric, but I honestly don't know. At this point it's just evidence contrary to my hypothesis.

Upshot: there is some evidence pointing away from my hypothesis, but on balance I'd say it is supported.

3) setlist as reconstructed from McClanahan 1972.

Anyway, I have gone too long already, so here's what I have come up with:

Acoustic Dead (Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Pigpen, Kreutzmann)
Cumberland Blues (opener)
New Speedway Boogie
Dire Wolf
"two or three others, mostly from the Workingman's Dead album"
Swing Low Sweet Chariot (last song)

New Riders of the Purple Sage (Garcia, Torbert, Nelson, Hart, Marmaduke)
Six Days on the Road (opener)
Dirty Business
Last Lonely Eagle
a Marmaduke "yodeler"
Honkey Tonk Women (last song)

Electric GD (as GD acoustic, plus Hart)
Dancing in the Streets
Mama Tried
It's a Man's World
Not Fade Away
Uncle John's Band
Casey Jones ->
Turn on Your Lovelight

(1) McClanahan, Ed. 1972. Grateful Dead I Have Known. Playboy 19, 3 (March): 84-86, 108, 218-228.
(2) Lydon, Michael. 1970. An Evening with the Grateful Dead. Rolling Stone no. 66 (September 17, 1970), pp. 22-23.


  1. Good work!

    It seems the only real discrepancy between Lydon & McClanahan is the placement of Truckin'....

    I'm not too disturbed by that AUD fragment which might be from the 8/17 acoustic show - it's so short, it could be from anywhere, and doesn't contradict either writer. (Probably neither of them, at the time, would have been able to write names for Let Me In or Attics, anyway...)

    It's usually thought McClanahan "merged" the three nights at the Fillmore, but as you note, the fact that his first four songs for the electric set exactly matches Lydon's four songs - probably can't be a coincidence!
    (The closing of the acoustic set with Sweet Chariot was common, though, and confirms that they had New Riders guests in that set, as usual.)

    It's a shame Lydon left the show early (apparently before they even finished playing NFA) - they wore him out! McClanahan seems to be short a few songs, unless this was a shortened set. It's also notable how unadventurous the setlists are these three nights!

  2. Another note about Truckin' -

    I think McClanahan's mistaken about putting this in the electric set.

    For one, the summer acoustic shows most commonly start with Truckin' - I can't think of any that start with Cumberland.

    Also, at this point Truckin' was always an acoustic song - we don't have any electric versions until 10/4/70.

    So Lydon is probably right, the acoustic set started with Truckin' and it wasn't in the electric set.

  3. A brief note - a bit of listening confirmed that the "8/17/70" tape is actually from Ken Lee's 6/24/70 recording.

  4. Great detective work ... thank you for sharing the results, LIA!

  5. Was just thinking to myself that the Marmaduke "yodeler" might have been Cecilia, which did include a little yodel break.

  6. I just had a thought that the Marmaduke yodeler in the NRPS set is probably "Cecilia".

  7. So 8/18/70 is still the first performance of Truckin' and the 8/17/70 tape is just a mislabeled 6/24/70, which has no Truckin'?

    1. Yes, the tape fragment labeled "8/17/70" is actually from 6/24/70.
      Truckin' was certainly played on 8/17/70 (its debut), the two reporters just differ on which set, acoustic or electric. See comments above.


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