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Sunday, April 24, 2011

NRPS-Matrix-1970 06 of 7: LN19700902: Wednesday, September 2, 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

Overall Impressions

The 86 minute sbd-sourced recording identified as NRPS at the Matrix on Wednesday, September 2, 1970 captures some really loose moments. David Nelson is absent this night, out sick, and so Garcia is more forward both in terms of instrumental leadership but, especially, in terms of harmony vocalizing. He just didn't do too many harmonies behind the pedal steel, ever. I think he really had to focus on his hands, knees and feet (which sounds like enough to occupy anyone!). But here he jumps in with enthusiastic harmonies, at little cost (that I hear) to his steel playing. Nice. Marmaduke is slurring very, very heavily in set I, though it affects his banter with/to the crowd more than his singing, which is obviously more important. He seems to set himself straight a bit for set II.

I have no idea how many people are in the room. Sounds like a small but enthusiastic bunch. To my clumsy ears the tape is sonically superior to the 7/29 and 7/30 tapes. My instinct is that it sounds more like 7/7 in terms of sound quality, but I need to try out a specialized listening enterprise to make any tape comparison with any kind of confidence. This is one of the more complete tapes of the NRPS-Matrix-1970 set, with lots of off-mic chatter and tuning available for transcription. I have done what I can in that regard.

Dating and Venue

Like every other NRPS-Matrix-1970 tape, this one has some dating ambiguity. Chicken on a Unicycle's state of the art Matrix list shows Seatrain and Kracker Jacks down in the Marina this night. There is no known basis for a NRPS entry except the tape, and we know that those can be unreliable, at best. The only thing that I can hear on the tape that helps with dating is the "Big Yellow Taxi," which the 7/29/70 tape suggests they picked up in Hawaii in June 1970 (see those notes for details). So all we can really conclude is that this show takes place after that, i.e., the second half of 1970 or later. I don't hear anything else that might help me identify the date with any precision. Based on some of the uncertainties around Matrix newspaper ads and listings, I am coming around to the view with most of these tapes (except 4/30) that they are approximately correctly dated. Indeed, I feel pretty comfortable just continuing to list this as 9/2/70, despite the lack of any corroborating evidence.

Regarding venue, I asked this question in re 7/29/70, but does anyone know if Matrix showed "weird movies" at setbreaks during this time frame? Dawson references it again at the end of set I here, as he had done on the earlier-dated recording.

Historical Interest

The whole premise of this series is that there's historical interest in the NRPS-Matrix-1970 interface.

The obvious things here are a couple of setlist rarities. Foremost among them are another version of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" (which also appears on 7/29/70) and, especially, the only known NRPS version of the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun." [check that - 4/25 and 4/28/71, around the famous Dead/Beach Boys set of 4/27. I am not sure how that escaped me - h/t Grateful Seconds] To hear Garcia playing pedal steel over this number around Labor Day 1970 is just too amazing. Had he ever played that song publicly before? What about surf music in general? I don't have anything in my notes (but confess to not having checked The Sources) about him playing surf music, but I'd bet it's absolutely possible. He grew up and was playing in coastal California in the first half of the 60s, for goodness sake. Why the hell not tear it up a little bit, lay down some fuzztone and try to get some chicks? Specifically, though, to find a Beach Boys connection in the setlist fascinates. Is there any other Beach Boys-Garcia connection besides the unbelievable 4/27/71 Fillmore East encounter?

I don't know what "Little Boy" is, the song said to follow "Glendale Train" on the Jerry Site's list. Anyone? It might be "Two Little Boys", apparently a traditional played in an earlier Garcia life by the Black Mountain Boys, but without being able to hear it I can't say.

Everything else is standard NRPS: mostly Dawson originals with a few country covers thrown in. Lots of good Bakersfield sound here, even without Nelson's picking.

Far and away, though, the feeling is what's so interesting. This entire enterprise I am involved in began with the observation that Garcia On The Side was supposed to be about "music without bullshit", i.e., playing in front of an audience, but without all of the baggage of being Jerry Garcia Of The Grateful Dead. And being able to hear Garcia so relaxed, so loose, so open to playing whatever, just playing, is fantastic. Quite often on these tapes one can hear the band talking off-mic about what to play, and Garcia just basically being pretty agreeable to play whatever. So nice! Then you get a little sardonic Jerry humor, as they are looking to replace some strings after "I'm In Love With You". Garcia, affecting a sneer:

They use the good steel for the war. [crowd laughs] They do man, really, it's awful.

Big deal, I know. But, as I have said over and over again, before too long Garcia would rarely find himself in a performing situation in which he felt comfortable saying anything at all to the crowd, let alone anything humorous or even obliquely (anti-) political. I am sure that in future years he would lament his perceived inability to just go down to the bar and fuck around. Thank goodness we have tapes that display him doing it for as long as he felt he could.

Listening Notes after the jump.

New Riders of the Purple Sage
The Matrix
San Francisco, CA
September 2, 1970 (Wednesday)
86 mins, incomplete

--Set I (10 tracks, 49:26)--
d1t01. Hello Trouble [3:15] (1, 2) [1:20]
d1t02. Superman [3:47] (3) [1:30]
d1t03. I Don't Know You [3:55] [1:37]
d1t04. I'm In Love With You [3:47] (4) [1:00]
d1t05. Together Again [2:48] [0:13]
d1t06. Portland Woman [5:32] (5) [0:44]
d1t07. Big Yellow Taxi [3:43] (6) [0:27]
d1t08. Glendale Train [5:23] [0:06] % [0:11]
[TJS: Missing "Little Boy"]
[TJS: Missing "Henry"]
d1t09. If You Hear Me When I'm Leaving [4:51] (7) [0:41]
d1t10. Sweet Loving One [4:30] (8) [0:07]

--Set II (9 tracks, 36:14)--
d2t01. Tuning [0:26]
d2t02. Six Days On The Road [3:45] [0:08]
d2t03. Brown Eyed Handsome Man [4:38] (9) [0:13]
d2t04. Lady Came From Baltimore [5:47] [0:03] % [0:13]
d2t05. Fair Chance To Know (10) [4:27] [6:31]
d2t06. %//Fun, Fun, Fun [1:35] [0:19]
d2t07. Workin' Man Blues// [3:35#]
d2t08. Cecilia [4:34] [0:30]
d2t09. Louisiana Lady ... [3:59]
[TJS: MISSING "The Weight"]
[TJS: MISSING "Dirty Business"]

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

Tape specs:
Unknown sbd > CD > EAC (extraction) > CDWave (tracking) > TLH (FLAC8 encoding) > foobar (tagging).

JGMF Notes:

! R: Nice sbd but for some distortion which seems to get worse as things go along. The hiss level increases substantially after d2t02. Prior to that, this one sounds better than 7/29 or 7/30, maybe about the same quality as 7/7?

! TJS: I think TJS historically listed a "MSR > 2 Reel > DAT > CD" recording without noting any missing songs. This copy could well be sourced from that lineage, though why this would missing songs is unclear to me. This needs further investigation.

! db: nothing as of 4/24/2011.

! Historical: This is a nice NRPS set for JG fans, in particular, since with Nelson out Garcia is a bit more prominent, both in terms of the pedal steel and in terms of background vocals.  Hearing Jerry sing background harmony on @@ "Big Yellow Taxi," for example, is a real treat!  He usually didn't sing harmonies while playing steel, but since he sort of has to, he gives it a go. Notice that he's not singing and pedalling at the same time, instead engaging these things serially.

! Historical: There are a few pieces of fantastically interesting here. Of course, Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" is a real rarity, and actually sounds pretty good. This would seem to be the second of three versions, having been preceded by 7/29/70 and followed by 4/25/71 at the Fillmore East. Note further that the presence of this song helps establish the timing of this set as the second half of 1970. That's because on the 7/29/70 Matrix tape Dawson tells us that they learned it in Hawaii, which had to have been June 1970 (NRPS weren't in Hawaii with the GD in January 1970). "Fun, Fun, Fun" is the other super-rarity here, a singleton as far as I know. It's interesting to be able to trace a Beach Boys connection in the setlist. Is there any other Beach Boys-Garcia connection besides the unbelievable 4/27/71 Fillmore East encounter?

! P: d1t01 Hello Trouble is terrific, with nice pedal steel and background vox by Garcia.

! d1t01 (1) Dawson: "I'd like to mention that we've got a guitar player who isn't here becuase he's sick tonight. There's usually five of us, you see. And over there is David Torbert. This is Mickey Hart. And that's Jerry Garcia. And my name is Marmaduke, usually."

! d1t01 (2) @ 3:54 You can hear them discussing song selection. JG: "Anything, anything is all right with me." [tuning] JG: "Let's do another shuffle." Dawson: "Let's do another shuffle right away, OK, OK." Again @ 4:28 JG: "Let's do anything you want."

! d1t02 (3) Marmaduke: "Hey, can we have a 7-Up up here?" ?Torbert?: "Can we a-have -atwo?" JG: "[inaudible] cider." Marmaduke: "Make it a cider." Cross-talk: "Three ciders." Marmaduke: "Wait a minute, what do you want?" JG: "Anything." [Marmaduke takes the drink orders.] Marmaduke is wasted. Marmaduke: "Cold, very cold." JG: "Aw shit, another decision. What do we do?" Marmaduke: "Let's try Henry. I don't know if we can pull it off [inaudible]." JG: "No, too soon." Dawson: OK, let's see ... that is a fast one all right." JG: "How 'bout that other one?"  [More song selection talk.]

! d1t04 (4) Dawson: "Thank you, thank you. I gotta find an E string here. Hurd? Uh, an E string?" @ 4:12 JG, affecting a sneer: "They use the good steel for the war. [crowd laughs] They do man, really, it's awful."

! d1t05 Together Again note no lyrics. Alex Allan says that on 9/20/70 "they sing only the first verse." Here, they don't sing anything.

! d1t06 (5) I think Garcia is the one who suggests Big Yellow Taxi?

! R: d1t07 BYT some pretty horrific tape flutter

! d1t07 (6) Dawson: "Let's do the train [inaudible]." JG: "All right."

! d1t08 Torbert is singing primary harmonies on Glendale Train. Garcia's adding a bit now and then.

! d1t09 TJS lists "I'm Going On My Way" here, but I think that's a mistake for "If You Hear Me When I'm Leaving". That line is in the chorus of the song, and Alex Allan lists a song only by the latter name, not the former.

! d1t09 (7) @ 5:23 Dawson: [off-mic] "There's no other banjo, you see. So we can't cop out of it tonight. We'll come back and play some more after we play this song, after we come back and go away." JG, sarcastically: "Huh?"

! d1t10 (8) Dawson: "OK, thank you. We'll see you in a few minutes, after a movie or somethin' like that, you know." Dating/venue note: he also mentions setbreak movies on the 7/29/70 Matrix Tape. Can anyone, anyone at all, tell me whether this was standard practice at the Matrix? It certainly ties the three tapes together pretty nicely.

! R: a fat layer of hiss kicks in after d2t02. Blech. I hate hiss.

! d2t03 (9) JG mentions tempos. I think Dawson suggested a faster song, and JG wants to slow things down.

! R: d2t04 the tape splice at the end of the track is cross-faded and is missing very, very little, by the sound of things.

! P: s2t04: The Lady Came From Baltimore is a weeper, and Garcia's dripping pedal steel is well-suited to it. Nice little interaction where JG indicates he wants a slower number, Dawson complies, and Jerry delivers the goods.

! d2t05 (10) "Right on, right on.  We broke two strings just then, him and me." Then Garcia and Marmaduke off-mic cross-talk as they mutter to themselves and each other, looking for guitar strings. Then, of course, there is a minute or two of tuning up. @ 6:19 there's a splice, but it has an "equipment issue" kind of sound to it, so I doubt there's much missing. When it comes back in, you hear a diffusing steel note, and then Garcia says "Mickey, you just unplugged my pedal. [Hart gives a puzzled grunt] Don't do it no more."

! R: d2t06 Fun Fun Fun cuts in, but it probably doesn't lose much material. I think we get pretty much the whole run-through of this Beach Boys number written by Bryan Wilson and Keith Love. @@ It is absolutely fantastic. This just some of the loosest stuff you'll ever hear. I have no idea how many people are in the room. Sounds like a small but enthusiastic bunch. But to hear Garcia playing pedal steel over the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun" in the Matrix in San Francisco around Labor Day 1970 is just too amazing. Had he ever played that song publicly before? I don't have anything in my notes (but confess to not having checked The Sources) about him playing surf music, but I'd bet it's absolutely possible. He grew up and was playing in coastal California in the first half of the 60s, for goodness sake. Why the hell not tear it up a little bit, lay down some fuzztone and try to get some chicks?

! R: d2t07 Workin' Man Blues cuts out not too long before the end

! R: d2t09 pop @ start of the track

! R: d2t10 Louisiana Lady fades down, a minute or so missing?

! P: Marmaduke sounds like he has sobered up a little at the setbreak, actually. Or just found that elusive balance.


  1. It's interesting that Dawson announces an intermission movie, as on 7/29....that would confirm that these tapes are from the same place. I don't see listings of NRPS playing any other SF clubs in that time period; the tapes of all these dates are labeled the Matrix; and we know the Matrix regularly recorded SBD tapes.
    So I think the most logical conclusion is, it's really the Matrix, whatever the dates...

    As far as Jerry playing surf music, there IS an earlier the 9/7/69 Family Dog oldies-show where Jerry sits in with some of the Airplane gang, they do the Surfaris' Wipe Out (by audience request!) - Jerry takes it into Big Railroad Blues, of all things.

  2. Yep, I had forgotten that.

    I want to revisit the Link Wray album that Garcia played on, just hear what he does. I know it's a little later (ca. 1973, off top of my head), but might be fun.

  3. Be What You Want To by Link Wray is a lot less interesting than the track listing of the musicians would suggest.

  4. Where can I find a copy of this show??? thanks

  5. I just found another little piece that casts doubt on the date: Hart appears to have been with the PERRO crew at Heider's on this night. It's not dispositive, of course, but it's consistent with the standard contrary Matrix listing and another datum against this actually being 9/2/70 at the Matrix.

  6. My wife, who was in SF as a college-level exchange student, was at the 9/2 show; her recollections:

    "I really only remember sitting with my host family and talking with Neshama Franklin, the woman who had invited me to go with them after she received a phone call in the late afternoon. She was a seamstress, among other things, and used to make pants for Jerry. I was sitting near the front of the audience towards the right (audience right), and stared at Jerry - who was not much more than 5 feet in front of us - for much of the first set, wondering if he was Jerry (!). I was not familiar with NRPS and didn't know their music.

    I don't have any insight or valuable memories except my between-sets conversation with Neshama, in which she explained that Jerry sometimes played with other groups, and his missing a finger was the result of a childhood accident. I was 19, and owned one GD album (I WAS the little schoolgirl). I was spending a college semester in SF and knew nothing about anything. The Franklins moved to Bolinas within the year."

  7. Amazing. Thank you for sharing these memories!


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