So last night I fired up the ipod to listen to some late 1969 jammage. I chose new years eve for the obvious reason that new years shows are generally pretty hot. I was somewhat suprised with what I heard.
It started out with a raw but straightforward version of New New Minglewood Blues in which Bobby is nearly screaming the lyrics. He sounds young, wild, and untamed. He sounds like Acid Cowboy Bob. (That should have been a clue...) This song is a good example of how The Grateful Dead can take a traditional song, infuse it with crazy psychedelic energy, tweak the lyrics to retell it in their style of the oral storyteller tradition, and make something different out of it. Check out the Cannon's Jug Stompers recording of what I think is the original version.
Then on to a song that I don't think I've heard before, and was really unaware of until now. It's Betty & Dupree. This is an early telling of Dupree's Diamond Blues, and it was enjoyable. It unfolds as a slow blues tune with Jerry on vocals. You can hear some solid Pigpen keyboards on this song.
Next Time You See Me is up next and showcases Pigpen suggesting that this early version of The Grateful Dead is really a blues band with Pigpen out front.
A stand alone version of I Know You Rider follows and has lots of keyboards out front and is obviously a rough and early version of the song. The speed is pretty fast - being driven by Billy. There is some intense guitar work going on. Something at this point seems wrong - this aint no 1969 version of Rider.
Lemme check Deadbase... What we have here is 12-01-66. Well THAT explains a lot! It turns out that Betty and Dupree was played once and only once, and we would have to wait until 1-24-69 to get the GD rewrite of it we all know as Dupree's Diamond Blues.
Well now, lets look at what we are listening to again. According to my Deadbase X ( I really should use The Setlist Program now shouldn't I?), that's the 5th known version of Minglewood, the only Betty & Dupree, the 7th Next Time You See Me, the 7th Rider - and to be the last for two and a half years while they rework it. So it seems there's some confusion going on on my ipod, strange, but it lead to an interesting listen I may not have picked up otherwise.
On with the show. Big Boss Man turns out to be the highlight so far. A solid rendition, though it's only the 4th time they play the song. They reinforce my earlier statement that at this point (1966) the GD is a blues band fronted by Pigpen, as he not only shines on the vocals here, but takes the solo spot on the harmonica. A well played version. I've got to wonder if Elvis heard the Grateful Dead's version before he decided to do the tune himself (um... probably not). Here's a 70's "Vegas Elvis" version on Youtube, but I'm sure the single from 1967 was better. I find it interesting that Elvis sings "sure rest easy at night" as opposed to "sure get stoned at night". Different crowds I guess.
One Kind Favor features some blistering Jerry leads and familiar chunking rhythm guitar from Bobby. Pig is strong on the keys and voice again. This version is the last of only four appearances of this song by Blind Lemon Jefferson. ( more on Jefferson here) I think this is a song that they should have revived at some point. It's a medium to uptempo blues with a lot of room to jam.
Next is Alice (as in Wonderland) D. Millionaire. Again, the second of only 2 known live versions of this historic tale. This video is only still pictures, sadly, but it is this version:
The video is worth it, if not for the song, then for the early pictures.
After Bear's tale we get the second version of Me and My Uncle. The guitar arrangement and Weir's inflection or emphasis on the lyrics is different from what I'm used to hearing.
After about a minute and a half, the song breaks down and various band members can be heard saying "we cant agree"
Jerry says "we cant agree on where it goes, so we wont do that song" - then they launch right back into it, and it would appear they finally agreed, because they did it twice that night and over 600 more times - more than any other song they performed in their 30 year span.
Finally, to "ride the set home" they close out the first set with a strong Cream Puff War. They'd done Cream Puff War 6 times prior, and would do it 3 times after. Having done the song a few times already, they were pretty well together on this version. There is some early Jerry noodling in there. At about 7:30 the jamming really takes off and we get some early X factor, the band is just cookin', and at about 8:50 there's actually some fanning going on to wrap up the song.
I'll cover sets 2 and 3 in later posts...
The Matrix - San Francisco, CA
Betty And Dupree
Next Time You See Me
I Know You Rider
Big Boss Man
One Kind Favor
Alice D. Millionaire
Me And My Uncle
Cream Puff War