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a '66 review of the Dead

 
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light into ashes



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 3:41 pm    Post subject: a '66 review of the Dead Reply with quote

I was looking at the October '66 issue of Crawdaddy! magazine, which has an interesting article on San Francisco Bay Rock.
Special praise is given to the Grateful Dead: "they can be considered nothing short of fantastic."
So here's a snapshot of the Dead in October '66 -

"The Grateful Dead are rapidly gaining prominence and ascending from their underground status to a position close to the Airplane. Most local dance-concert attendees, when confronted with a question about the Dead, will mention Midnight Hour. The Dead's closing number is usually Wilson Pickett's blockbuster, and it is tranformed into a type of half-hour (sometimes longer) Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, performed by the Dead's organist Pig Pen. (A recent concert featured Midnight Hour performed by a joint Grateful-Airplane, with the assistance of Joan Baez and Mimi Farina.)
"Midnight Hour is not the Dead at their best. They are a hard blues-rock band, a powerhouse unit of organ, drums, and three guitars. Their best accomplishments are Pig Pen's gutsy version of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (with fantastic controlled harp work), The Creeper, Empty Heart, and Smokestack Lightning (both now performed only by special request), and an unbelievable grooving piece about Born in Jackson (supposedly written by rhythm player Bob Weir). Sitting on Top of the World jumps, and Dancing in the Streets is a railroad trip.
"Jerry Garcia's lead work is exciting, sustained genius. Bill Sommers is the Bay Area's best drummer. Their repertoire is chiefly city blues, some old folk and early rock, with some strong originals. A single is to be issued shortly. A Grateful Dead album is being re-prepared (a first effort was discarded). The group has a $10,000 sound system. The Grateful Dead figure to be important movers in imparting San Francisco's message to the world."

A lot of interesting things here (and a little misinformation)... The Dead had already released a single, which they hated and was a total flop, and would not record in the studio again til Jan '67, so the "outside world" wouldn't hear what the Dead sounded like for many more months. The $10,000 sound system was apparently pretty impressive!
Smokestack Lightning, it seems, was already a rarity. "Born in Jackson" is obviously New Minglewood Blues (the reviewer likes it more than I do). "The Creeper" I can't identify offhand, but I assume it was another Pigpen blues about some four-day creep....in fact, the reviewer's favorite Dead songs are all Pigpen's! "Empty Heart", sadly, we have no live versions of - there's a great version on the Rare Cuts & Oddities album (with a harmonica/guitar duel), and it would have sounded very similar to "Keep Rolling By", which was a surprise track on the Birth of the Dead live CD.

After the first album came out, Paul Williams wrote a review in Crawdaddy comparing the Dead to the early Rolling Stones, but noting that the songs don't sound like they do live:
"This is one of the many things about this LP that disappoints fans of the live Dead. The more you've grown to love Grateful Dead live performances over the years, the more difficult it must be to accept an album which is something completely different. Only Viola Lee Blues has any of the fantastic 'this is happening now!' quality of a good Dead performance; only Viola Lee Blues takes you away as far as the longtime Dead fan has grown accustomed to being taken."
(Note, in mid-'67, how he talks about "longtime Dead fans" who've been following the group for "years"! Time moved fast in the '60s.)

The '66 article mentions several other SF groups as well...Jefferson Airplane gets top billing as the most popular group, and "Takes Off" is said to be "the best rock album ever produced", with praise for every song. (Ironically, when Surrealistic Pillow came out, Crawdaddy called it "a definite bringdown, the worst LP to come out of the Bay Area scene"!)
The Great Society is also mentioned as "one of the city's strongest, most original groups...carried by Grace Slick, the single most talented woman in SF's rock scene. She sings lead, plays electric organ, flute, and bass at times... The group shows a strong Indian influence. Particularly impressive are Someone to Love, Sally Go Round the Roses, and the few Dylan numbers (Black Crow Blues is great)." Of course, Great Society broke up in mid-October after this was written, and Grace found a new group....
Also noted are the Charlatans, Quicksilver Messenger Service ("a good dance band...their best numbers are Codeine, Pride of Man, Mona, and Smokestack Lightning"), Sopwith Camel, Big Brother & the Holding Company [pre-Janis], and Country Joe & the Fish ("lulling psychedelic, new-mown grass music").
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kevkhayat



Joined: 08 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 3:55 am    Post subject: 66 Dead Reply with quote

Love it, thanks for the research. I'm a longtime arms-length fan who via country and blues has returned to my original love, late 60s psychadelia and can't get enough of the pre70 Dead. Thanks for putting it in context.

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Kochman
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:42 am    Post subject: Re: 66 Dead Reply with quote

kevkhayat wrote:
Love it, thanks for the research. I'm a longtime arms-length fan who via country and blues has returned to my original love, late 60s psychadelia and can't get enough of the pre70 Dead. Thanks for putting it in context.

Welcome aboard dude! Thanks for coming!
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kevkhayat



Joined: 08 Aug 2010
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Location: between the dawn and the dark of night

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:38 am    Post subject: Warm welcome Reply with quote

Thanks!

I take it from some other threads in Pigpen era that you're not as keen on this early stuff. I love it but will grant you that Feedback is least favourite track - but then how could it really contend with TO1, New Potato, Eleven, Lovelight or DS? Rather top notch company!

kev

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Kochman
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:00 am    Post subject: Re: Warm welcome Reply with quote

kevkhayat wrote:
Thanks!

I take it from some other threads in Pigpen era that you're not as keen on this early stuff. I love it but will grant you that Feedback is least favourite track - but then how could it really contend with TO1, New Potato, Eleven, Lovelight or DS? Rather top notch company!

kev

You have it right... I no longer really dig much of this era.
There are exceptions... and there are still many shows I do like... just not my cup of tea in general.

To each his own though, there are 30 years of stuff to rifle through, and I am still doing that... all these years later.
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