Posted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:12 am Post subject: The Birth of the Jam
I am reading Garcia:An American Life right now and I am at a part which pretty much explains the Mickey and the Hartbeats runs at the Matrix during October and December of '68......Basically, Jerry, Phil and Billy fired Bobby and Pig....Jerry said that Bobby was still playing the electric like an acoustic and simply could not keep up.....He said about Pig that there was no way he could play in the direction their music was going at the time......Esentially, he said that musically where they were going was beyond Pig's ability.....Jerry then told Rock Scully(their manager at the time) to tell Bobby and Pig that they voted and they were out.....Scully did, and Pigpen took it much tougher than Bobby....Although the firing never really took, Pigpen stayed away longer than Bobby...He was also very hurt when, a little later, they brought TC outtta nowhere and told Pig simply not to play(keys) at all anymore......I thought this little tidbit out of the book was great, and hence the birth of the hottest aspect of the band's music, the jam segments.......Think about it, 10-12 second set, Cryptical>>>>>Feedback....AGAIN, another corner turned by the band....I think this is probably the hottest jam segment ever, and it was during the time Jerry felt burdened by Bobby and Pig...Without the worry and feeling more freedom, they turn out some amazingly breakthrough shit almost instantaneously......Hence, the Birth of the Jam..........PEace
Yes, I have heard that show, in particular the Jam after Stealin'....I guess I should clarify.....There are numerous excellent Jams(obviously) that took place prior to 10/12....Take a look at all the hot Crypticals in early '68...When I think of those Jams I think of Jerry and Phil struggling to link the tunes together in a way that they were happy with, esentially jazz rather than blues progression......Prior to that, primarily 66 and 67, the jams seemed like they were playing as hard and as fast as they could just to see if they could get away with it..... The tempo began to back off at the latter half of '67 and you can almost hear the change coming...In early 68 after they finished Anthem, especially January and February, they had the Blues Jam down.....The shit is so hot from that time and there are Jams in almost every show....However, they are not the jazz influenced Jam segments.....I guess what I am saying is that The Birth of the Jam is the birth of the free form, unstructured jam, or the classic Jam Segment....Than you for the question Mason, it was thought provoking........PEace
Thank you for the insight. I often wondered when exactally Bobby and Pig was fired and around which shows and even what the boys was sounding like and that answered just about everything! Truely an awesome read.
Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:21 pm Post subject: Dispute of the Jam
Actually I disagree with the theory here....
For one, I think the Jan '68 shows are filled with jams that are totally jazz-influenced, even more than the rest of the year - I also think that tour saw the big breakthrough in that they started segueing from one jam-song to another - in '67 they pretty much did one song at a time. I'm not sure what skobud has in mind about blues progressions, outside of Pigpen's songs - the setlists in Jan '68 are similar to Oct '68, except that Jan. has more weird jazzy tunes that later got dropped.
Two, I don't think the firing of Pigpen & Bobby had that much influence on the direction they took. What's in the 10/12/68 show that isn't in the Aug '68 shows? The Aug '68 shows are full of nonstop jam segments - if anything, by October they've calmed down. The more intriguing part of the year (unfortunately, almost all lost), is between March & August '68, when they transitioned from the Anthem style to the more rigid '69-type setlists.
Pigpen & Bobby were out for a short time - Pigpen, sometime between Sep 20 and Oct 20 - Bobby, it couldn't have been more than a week or two - but it did hurt them. You can tell Pigpen is playing less on keys, even in August, than he did at the start of the year - so they'd probably been thinking for a while about getting someone else for the keyboard.
The firing is definitely the Birth of the Hartbeats shows - Garcia got a chance to play with some other guitarists, but it's kind of a dead-end in Dead history - I think after Dec '68 they pretty much stopped the Hartbeats experiment.
Joined: 06 Jan 2009 Posts: 296 Location: Tewin Wood, Hertfordshire; England
Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 2:51 am Post subject:
Pig took it hard that they asked him not to play keys anymore....he should probably have realized that it was because he sucked. He really, truly did. I'm not trying to be too mean here but it's not like he could offer the band anything except in the form of vocals. As far as I'm concerned his "playing" damn near ruins any number of monumental Dark Stars in this period
_________________ Too many days I've left unstoned
However I dont really see anything in your argument except that you disagee. When I spoke of Basic Blues Progression I was speaking of musical style, not just Pigpen tunes. A basic or standard blues progression uses 3 chords, generally in 12 bars.
I was not talking about Jazzy tunes either, I was talking about an unstructured Jam. I realize there were a few jazz influenced tunes, a perfect example is Clementine.
The reason Pig was playing less keys in August is because Jerry, Phil and Billy hired TC and had him play on Anthem. They realized how much more the band could be with a talented keyboard player. It is not like I was saying that the band woke up one day and decided to fire Pig and Bobby. The exact reasons you are stating about the types of sets they were doing earlier in the tour is why they they thought Bobby and Pig could not keep up. This was not an immediate thing, it was a progression.
As far as it being a Dead end, please explain. I was under the impression that after they finished the tour '68 they never sounded the same again. The evouloution of the sound is more than evident right from the start of 1969.
Jazz influenced free form jams........Hence, The Birth of The Jam
Hey skobud - we'll have to agree to disagree, since I admit I don't understand your point!
I'll see if I can follow your argument -
First, that the firing of Weir & Pigpen enabled the Dead to start creating jazz-influenced, unstructured jams in their shows - you pointed to 10/12/68 as an example.
My belief is that, 1) they were doing more unstructured free-form jams earlier in the year - the June 14 & 19 shows are the best examples - and fall '68 sees the point where Dead shows got more rigid and less free-flowing in their format; 2) everything they did in October, they were doing in August, well before anyone got fired; 3) the jamming in early '68 is far more jazz-influenced, but they soon dropped the jazzier tunes like Born X-Eyed, Clementine, and the Spanish Jam - which left them with fewer transitions and less rhythmic strangeness.
Their jam songs got longer later in the year - Dark Stars & Crypticals became 10 minutes rather than 5 minutes - so perhaps this is what you mean by jazz-influenced. Or perhaps you're thinking of end-of-show Caution>feedback jams? But those were done in early '68, too.
Second, you say that in early '68 they were using blues progressions and jams, rather than the more 'classic' jam segments that came later.
My question is, outside of Pigpen's songs and blues covers, what '68 songs of theirs have blues progressions? In fact, did they do any blues in early '68 that they weren't still doing in '69? Maybe you're referring to a change in Garcia's playing, using different scales or so on, but I'm not sure what you mean or where this turning-point would be; his style still seems fairly blues-soaked in '69.
To my ears, the big change in the Dead's playing into heavier jams was in '67 - that year is the major turning-point when they created the psychedelic songs and style that they developed in '68. Jan '68 is when they created the segues from one song to another - you mention that Jerry & Phil were struggling with the links then. I don't hear this; the transitions seem well-worked-out, and they didn't change a whole lot later in the year. As for blues, the Hartbeats shows in October are stuffed full of 12-bar blues jams, which are notably absent from most Dead shows.
I do agree that they didn't feel Weir & Pigpen could keep up, and their disappointment was probably a gradual process.
But I'd make the point that it was short-lived. I call the Hartbeats shows a dead-end because I don't think they contributed anything to the Dead sound - were there Hartbeats ideas that got incorporated into the Dead jams? Didn't the Dead just keep progressing normally, like they did every year, regardless of this brief side-project? Do you hear a big difference in Weir's playing after October?
The biggest result of the firing is that Pigpen stops wrecking the Dark Stars, and later we get Constanten who certainly added a new element to their sound. But I just don't hear a big change in their sound in October '68.
This was a band whose music developed from tour to tour, sometimes in huge jumps - but my feeling is that late '68/early '69 was a rather static time where they worked on a very limited setlist. For instance, the setlist of 10/12/68 is almost the same as 4/4/69 - 3/28/69 is almost the same (minus an Alligator) as 8/21/68 - the only big difference is that the Dark Stars and Other Ones have swollen considerably, and the musical energy has gotten heavier. I don't consider from this that the Dead kept getting more jazz-influenced in '69, just that they kept developing the music and over time, found more to play within the jams.
Joined: 23 Jun 2008 Posts: 10252 Location: Davy Jones' Locker
Posted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 7:42 am Post subject:
I do agree that they didn't feel Weir & Pigpen could keep up, and their disappointment was probably a gradual process.
But I'd make the point that it was short-lived.
I am, by no means, an expert in this period... you guys are speaking Greek to me...
However, regarding the statement above, I don't think Pigpen ever caught up... he was just plain pedestrian on the boards the entire time. I don't think there has been one time when I thought, wow, that Pig is really breaking it down on the boards. So, I would argue that that was not short lived.
Nor do I think Bobby was any good until about 1972... and no where near his peak at that point.
This is a wonderful discussion and I am glad you are challenging me.....It seems you are trying to describe my point with words I never used and implications I never made. I think your argument is based on your opinions of the setlists and mine is based in history as written by Blair Jackson and Rock Scully. With that being said, my main points are as follows:
1. Jerry, Phil and Billy realized during '68 while doing those Jazz influenced tunes that Pig and Bobby could not keep up. This led them to drop the tunes, fire Pig and Bobby(or try to) and start experimenting with the sound.
2. 10/12/68 signifies a change in the sound of the band. They did not do this type or length of Jam before, but they definately did it after.
That is it, that is all I was saying from the beginning L&A. There are still afew clarifications I have to make.
"First, that the firing of Weir & Pigpen enabled the Dead to start creating jazz-influenced, unstructured jams in their shows - you pointed to 10/12/68 as an example. "
I never said "enabled the Dead to start creating jazz-influenced, unstructured jams in their shows ". Using the words "enable to start creating" changes the context of my point in a big way. You may not think so L&A, but it reads that way.
EDIT: just for further clarification of my point>>>They were already doing Jazz influenced songs and jams and I am not contesting that. The firing enabled nothing, it was a result of differences in musicianship. I just wanted to make it very clear why I had such a problem with your statement.....
The only other clarification I have is that we agree more than you think. You say
"My belief is that, 1) they were doing more unstructured free-form jams earlier in the year - the June 14 & 19 shows are the best examples - and fall '68 sees the point where Dead shows got more rigid and less free-flowing in their format; 2) everything they did in October, they were doing in August, well before anyone got fired; 3) the jamming in early '68 is far more jazz-influenced, but they soon dropped the jazzier tunes like Born X-Eyed, Clementine, and the Spanish Jam - which left them with fewer transitions and less rhythmic strangeness.
Their jam songs got longer later in the year - Dark Stars & Crypticals became 10 minutes rather than 5 minutes - so perhaps this is what you mean by jazz-influenced. Or perhaps you're thinking of end-of-show Caution>feedback jams? But those were done in early '68, too. "
That is where you and I agree and you agree with history as well. Essentially you are saying that they were already doing Jazzy tunes but dropped them in later '68. Think about it L&A.....WHY would they do that???Simple, Pig and Bobby could not keep up and they were struggling with the sound.
I think we agree more than you think. It is very difficult to have a discussion when you extrapolate so heavily on things I never said and points I never made.
I do not mean any of this in an insulting wayL&A, it just seems I am spending all my time trying to clarify your manipulation of my writing.
My first point is based on fact. My second is based on opinion. The fact that both of them happened at the same time is no small coincedence.
I am enjoying this by the way as this is the first time in a year that anyone has had any type of lengthy discussion regarding the '68 sound......PEace
You're both basically making the same point, which is an important one. Bobby's improvement in guitar after the firing might be the single most important factor leading to the "golden era" sound of the 70s. Jerry, Phil and the rest of the band really wanted to move forward, and Bobby and Pigpen were holding the band back. Jerry and Phil especially were already highly-skilled. Their sound continued to evolve, but Bobby simply needed to get better. But he certainly had the energy and the showmanship to take over the Pigpen stage presence.
Joined: 23 Jun 2008 Posts: 10252 Location: Davy Jones' Locker
Posted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 12:28 pm Post subject:
I think the 68 firing in general probably put Bobby on the (long) road to success, but even in 72, Bobby was a smaller factor of the Golden Era than the other members (except Donna of course). He had progressed in leaps and bounds, probably (gulp) based more on the necessity thrust upon him by the 1971 4-man formation; he really had to put up or shut up. I would say that period figured more prominently... though one could argue if he was permanently fired he wouldn't have been able to do it... but that goes without saying really.
Anyhow, by 1985, Bobby was pretty fucking good. I wonder if Jerry probably worked with Bobby on his stuff a ton... it seems like he would have, but rhythm versus lead...
OK, Bobby needs to write a book. Can he spell? Doubt it.
Good discussion. But I do have to add that the "birth of the jam" was definitely at the 1966-67 acid tests. Also, I don't see the firing of Weir and Pig as a major turning point musically for "jams". The band was going through a natural progression as maturing artists. There is HEAVY jamming going on in Nov 67, Jan 68, and even the Shrine shows shortly before the "firing". Pig and Weir were brought back because they were needed. The music lacked is complete power without them. Sure Billy, Phil, and Jerry wanted more out of them, but their decision was short lived. Pigpen was the Grateful Dead and Jer knew that.
hey not to change the subject or "hijack" this thread but that pedal in you avatar is exactally like the one my dad gave me years ago! Looks to be handmade also if you ever had it apart. It now lives in a box under my bed. Just a thought. MU Tron huh?
Hey skobud - actually I disagree with many of your statements, and I agree more with mutron's view --- mainly, I doubt that the early-'68 songs/jam styles were dropped because Weir was struggling with them, and I don't think October '68 saw the birth of a new kind of jamming, or any real change or breakthrough except for Pigpen getting kicked off the keyboard.
But that's a matter of opinions, and can't be resolved. More importantly, we've clearly stated our views for others to think about & debate. Wish there were more '68 fans here to discuss!
Oh, I forgot to mention - McNally's book A Long Strange Trip has a much longer discussion than Blair Jackson's book about the Weir/Pigpen firing - believe it or not, they actually taped the meeting where Garcia & Phil told Weir to shape up or get out, and he transcribes some of it - it's a must-read to see how the band interacted & made decisions.
I am right in the middle of re-reading "Living with the Dead" by Rock Scully and yesterday I got to the point of the firing. Once again I am going to say that I stand by my original take on "The Birth of the Jam".....I realize that the title really got people in an uproar but my point still remains the same.
Pigpen did not have the chops even on Anthem to handle what was going on. Bobby still could not play an electric worth a shit in Jerry's view and Jerry could not take the leads the way he wanted because of Bobby's inadiquacies playing rhythm on the electric. This was leading Phil to play the bass like a lead. Although it gave them a sound like no other it handcuffed Jerry and he made it known. Scully said something to the effect that Jerry wanted to keep the people dancing, and without a good rhthym guitar player that would never happen. They sat the two of them down, and Rock and Jerry had an impossible time trying to tell them they were fired. The rest we covred several times already in this thread....
NOW, back to my original point.....The second set jam from 10/12 was unlike anything they had done before that time and it signified a change. I never said they did not jam prior to this point, although many thought that is what I was saying.....I'm saying the attempted firing, this particular show done without Bobby and Pig, led to something new.....Think about it, you go through trying to fire your best friends from the band because they are not good enough, and then you have a show right after without them.....What is going through Jerry and Phil's head at that time??? JUSTIFICATION for the firings, of course...So they take the music in a direction they have not really visited before by doing things they had not done....Mentally freeing them up, without having anything to hold them back....Hence, dare I say, The Birth of the Jam..........
Open mouth, insert foot.....Yes obviously he was there.......Thank you Dude, and now I remember the rest of what Blair Jackson wrote about Pig being hurt by this and staying away and Bobby refusing to leave(or essentially not listening and staying). All I had to do was revisit the setlist ......I am gonna relisten to it right now...
That is one thing about Rock Scully's book I had forgotten about....Much of the book is specifically about drugs and dosing and quantities. Coupled with that is how much he writes about Pigpen hating it....Janis hated the dosing thing too........Bill Graham felt the same way in the beginning about the doses. according to Scully. Rock decribes Pig during this period as hating practice showing up wasted and generally drinking much of the time. Jerry on the other hand was practicing 24 hrs a day and if he was not he was at music shops looking for books, guitars and whatever else pertaining to music....
He also tells a funny story about the first time they went to Chicago and played the Electric Theater in '68...He said the promoter told them he booked them a whole floor in a hotel and it was beautiful....The place was a shitty little rathole filled with hookers and pimps on the south side of Chicago. He said there was a Blues club downstairs where all kind of bad shit was going on. This place was far from psychedelic and everyone hated it....Well, everyone but Pig. They couldnt drag his ass outta there...Everyone else found women or other musicians or whoever to crash with to avoid this hotel, but Pig was in his element. Playin all night in the club downstairs getting drunk as hell and lovin the chicks everywhere. Rock said when they left they literally had to drag his ass out of there.......So yeah, according to Rock he was fucked up everyday...I wish a copy of that show circulated but it was never taped or lost in the shuffle.....
I just remembered something else I read yesterday, Scully said the ENTIRE water supply at Woodstock was dosed, including the Army Corps of engineers helocopter pilots that delivered it....ANyone else heard this before??? Thats kinda fucked up if true
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