ONE FULL WEEK RUNNING WITH: GRATEFUL DEAD
The Dead played seven nights with one night off; Saturday was their benefit for the New York Hell's Angels. Then they played as backup band for Bo Diddley, ranged in a grinning line behind Big Bo's black silk bulk, the best band he's ever likely to play with. It was party night, and their own set was loose, nothing too strenuous. The first night and the last were the musical high points, but Sandy Alexander, president of the New York chapter of the Hell's Angels, was ecstatic, and why not, indeed? He'd come with his brothers from 3rd Street and all over the USA, riding shotgun to the Angels stagecoach on their gas buffalos. They pulled up to the curb on 14th Street in a ragged but impressive line (what else can you expect in Saturday night traffic - 'The Wild One?') and after they'd all been filmed by Geraldo's Hipnews Concession, the Grateful Dead their old buddies went and threw a monster of a party for them. What a fuckin' night!!!
As the boogie progressed, tasty party mayo splashed all over the green leafy stuff - hard cash for bail money, spark plugs, chrome polish, and all the other expenses of high style Angel living. The Breed never showed up (luckily for them), and the party was cool. No Rolling Stones to slide that little extra manic hysteria in there; no Altamont, no stabbings, just party time, everyone awash in a frothing sea of vile foamy liquids, innocent but potent macrobiotic cookies, weed by the ton, coke by the ounce, speed by the pint, Boone's Farm strawberry wine...
"Let's get it on for the Hell's Angels of the USA!" yelled Bob Weir into the mike, and while some more impressionable brothers almost swooned away from sheer excitement, the band launched into their first number - "How sweet it is, to be loved by you..."
WATCH OUT FOR THE FUNNY-LOOKING JUG, they had told me by way of warning, but the intrepid drugger in me took over, and in the twinkle of an eye, while the Dead launched into their best-ever "Dark Star" (this being Tuesday night, the last show), a jabbering circle of groupies, writers, chemists, and Angels dissolved into misty dayglo abstracts to the festive tinkle of discarded nitrous oxide cylinders plinking onto the floorboards like so many spent shellcases. If only it had been like this at Verdun; it probably was like this at Da Nang. Is that really an unhorsed knight I see lumbering ducklike in fetid armor? A plastic toy cowboy horseman minus steed? A Viking lost in a time warp? A Roman slave-master? Why, no, nothing of the kind; it's just an out-of-town Angel reeling away from his turn at the hose, playing walking custard pie.
Why is Jerry always off on the sidelines, grinning that hairy grin?
Tuesday night again; two Bronx groupies bump and grind their way past the demure ladies of the Dead tribe, like cheap hookers in a free-school communal dining room. One of the velvet cutie-pies washes Bob Weir in a flood of garlic from a yellow maw, and confides that she used to be a topless dancer (and worked her way up?). Weir says "far out." Just another little vignette of the road, another mote in the old sunbeam. Why is that hairy man grinning?
Tuesday night the Dead played the best set I have ever heard, every note in place, every opportunity for improvisation taken. "Trucking" slid into one of Weir's new high-power country rockers, loaded with melody and texture and sweet sliding riffs; that boy has finally learned to sing, with a vengeance. The Pig rendered sweeping blues, blowing everything from his tiny emaciated frame down into his wailing harp. Jerry took the lead on "You Win Again" from way back, and then it was time for some sensuous pyrotechnics with "Mister Charlie." "Brokendown Palace" followed, back in the sweet groove, then "Cumberland Mine" with a rip-roaring extension, another new Weir number, "Big Railroad Blues" slamming down the track almost like Casey's train, "El Paso" like Marty Robbins 10 years on and out, a magnificent collage of pieces from "Anthem of the Sun," "I Know You Rider," and then, to top it all off with a true blast of sheer power, "Casey Jones," roaring the first set to a close. Thunder and lightning could do no more.
By the time they were done with "Wharf Rat," "Dark Star," "Sugaree," "Playing in the Band," "Not Fade Away," "Going Down the Road," and "Saturday Night," several thousand delirious people had entered orbit - and we're back where we started. As usual the second set was much, much heavier than the first, and Tuesday night the boys in the band were on the ball as never before in my five years of Dead experience.
Sitting hunched over on an empty speaker case while the Academy crew sweated to comply to the strenuous demands of the Dead crew seeking perfection (that's the name of the game, all the way from self-management to guitar strings), Jerry Garcia pulled on an only-the-tops-special, relaxing before the serious stuff started that first night. "It's really far out, just too fuckin' neat, man," he said with that same huge grin, "I mean, we've only just started gettin' into what we can do. There's no limit...and we're all feelin' good." Now, ain't that good news?
(by Patrick Carr, from Grapevine (Toronto), May 17, 1972)
Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com
DICK'S PICKS 30.
This could be a reprint of Carr's article from the 4/6/72 Village Voice, "Why Is That Hairy Man Grinning?"
I haven't seen that, so can't be sure.
This was a review Carr wrote of the 12/7/71 Felt Forum show: