Last week I posted a deservedly less than positive Song Of The Day critiquing the music from the Dead’s 18-CD “Spring 1990” box set…and I heard plenty about my comments from lots of my Deadhead friends. So, I thought I’d make it up to them with some pre-Jerry Garcia Band, JGB from the Keystone in San Francisco. Back in 1973, Jerry Garcia and Merle Saunders could be found multiple nights at the club playing low-key gigs. It was an opportunity for Garcia to stretch out musically, playing mostly covers with musicians other than The Grateful Dead. On nights when he wasn’t on the road with The Dead or playing at The Keystone with Merle, he would also show up at the club with his other band, the equally great Bluegrass unit, “Old And In The Way.” Here we have the boys stretching out on a high-energy Lightning Hopkins original, from the newly released 4-CD box set called “Keystone Companions” featuring the complete 1973 Keystone recordings. If you want to hear a fully-engaged Jerry Garcia, look no further than these recordings!
Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Good Shepherd” by Jefferson Airplane
The epiphany of an eight year old…
The backdrop of my childhood played out with images of the Vietnam war and the unrest that culminated in the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention coming over the television screen. While I wasn’t privy to what it all meant, I did know that the world around me was changing and that my older sister and her peers were making it happen. And I also knew that I very badly wanted to be a part of it all.
I was eight years old in 1969 visiting my grandmother’s house when up the drive came the coolest MG convertible (if memory serves me right) I’d ever seen in my life. The car stopped right in front of granny’s house and out popped my groovy long-haired cousin Paul in full-on hippie regalia. (RIP Paul) Nothing was cooler than Cousin Paul at that moment, and then I spotted the record that he had laying on the front seat of the car.
It was called Volunteers by Jefferson Airplane. I had never heard of the group, although I already knew the song “Somebody To Love” from my older sister’s records. I just never made the connection that this was the same group.
I asked Cousin Paul if I could look at the record and he gladly obliged. The image on the front cover was a bit disturbing to me. I couldn’t tell if each band member was wearing a mask, or if they just looked that way. I just knew that the image was kind of creepy. Upon flipping the jacket over, I began reading the “Paz Chin-In Huge Success” story on the back cover. It didn’t make any sense to me. Then I opened the gatefold and saw the huge peanut butter and jelly sandwich inside which made me wonder what the sandwich had to do with everything else here.
Inside was a fold-out poster with the headings “Revolt!” on the front and “Feed And Water Your Flag” on the back. I was totally confused, and although I hadn’t heard a note of the music contained within, I knew was that I wanted to own this record.
Fortunately my ninth birthday was just around the corner, and as promised I received my very own copy of Volunteers from one of our neighbors with whom we exchanged birthday gifts.
A whole new world opened up to me upon putting the needle down on the vinyl.
First there was the opening tune with some of the most harmonious singing the Airplane ever committed to vinyl. “We Can Be Together” was a sentiment I could understand and sink my teeth into, and there was just enough novelty value in the lyric “Up against the wall motherfucker” for a nine year old who’d never heard the “f” word on a record before, to make it a track worth playing over and over again.
Next up was today’s Song of the Day. At the time, I didn’t know that it was a traditional song with biblical overtones, but I sure did like it. “Good Shepherd” is Jorma Kaukonen’s masterpiece on this record with some of his sweetest guitar fills.
“The Farm” came pouring out from the speakers next featuring the tasty pedal steel playing of Jerry Garcia. I didn’t know who he was back then, but I sure did like this song. The animal noises reminded me of The Beatles’ “Good Morning Good Morning” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Things turned sinister and a little disturbing with “Hey Frederick,” a centerpiece for Grace Slick’s vocal prowess. The song was long, over eight minutes. As a kid, I thought the longer the song, the more important it must be. And the imagery of the lyric “There you sit mouth wide open / Animals nipping at your sides” was enough to make me feel uneasy as the first side of the record came to a close.
Side two began with the buoyant “Turn My Life Down,” another Jorma tune featuring Marty Balin’s pure soulful voice. Then came the David Crosby/Paul Kantner masterpiece “Wooden Ships.” I already knew this song from my older sister’s copy of the Crosby, Stills & Nash album which was played around the house all the time. The Airplane version seemed so epic in comparison, especially during the fade when the band invited the listener to “Go ride the music.” I wasn’t sure at the time how to “ride the music,” but I did know that the band was taking my ears on a life-changing, mind-opening journey.
The next song was another featuring Grace Slick. Grace was the star of the band, so her songs on the record were the ones I initially gravitated to. With “Eskimo Blue Day,” she outdid herself as she wailed the lyric “doesn’t mean shit to a tree” over the course of the song, which proved more than novel to my young ears. At the time, I had no idea that she was singing about the environment.
The next two songs were the weakest (and still are) on the album. The country and western arrangement of Nicky Hopkins’ “A Song For All Seasons” never truly fit into the scheme of this record, and the organ dirge “Meadowlands” seemed to just be taking up space as I patiently waited for the album’s title track to come on.
Then came Volunteers! The song rocked hard and was poignant with its call “got to revolution.” It seemed to be the polar opposite to the album’s opener “We Can Be Together,” but later on I realized that the songs indeed harbored the same sentiment.
Woodstock had happened by the time I got my copy of the album. It was an event I was keenly aware of even though my older sister (and by default) I wasn’t allowed to attend. I can remember watching footage of the festival on the news as it happened, as I sat pining to be there. The following year the movie and soundtrack album came out. It was where I finally got to see what the Airplane was like in concert, not to mention experiencing Santana, Joe Cocker, The Who and Jimi Hendrix in all their glory for the very first time.
Volunteers found the group at a commercial and cultural high point. The interplay between Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and Marty Balin’s vocals, coupled with Jorma Kaukonen’s acidic guitar playing and singing, Jack Casady’s bass and Spencer Dyrden’s drums made it the band’s most potent lineup. Add to that, the star power of a guest list that included Jerry Garcia, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Nicky Hopkins and Ace Of Cups, and you had a group at the peak performance.
All in all, Volunteers proved to be the last great Jefferson Airplane album. It was also the last album the group made before Marty Balin and Spencer Dryden left the fold.
While most Deadheads would agree that 1972 was a key year for the band due to the amount of then-new material added to the mix now considered standards, as evidenced on last year’s essential “Complete Europe ’72” mammoth box set release. I too agree, but I really love the 1973-74 shows and the tracks from “Wake Of The Flood” and “From The Mars Hotel” that were entered into the band’s canon which brings us to this great Jerry track originally from “Wake.” Even though this is a 1978 version of the song, the reason I chose it is that I received my “Dave’s Picks Volume 2” subscription CD in the mail today featuring a show from Dillon Stadium in Hartford, CT from July of 1974. Its arrival coincided with a 3-hour ride each way downstate to the University Of Illinois to see my daughter perform at Superstate with her High School Band. Timing is everything, so I took the opportunity to spin the show which has an interesting set list with nice early versions of the “Mars Hotel” songs played at much quicker tempos that the band ultimately settled upon and many then-current “Wake” tracks. The release is somewhat patchy which is of some concern because the folks at Rhino keep going to the well for releases and I’m beginning to wonder if they’ve begun to hit bottom for some of the key tour years for the Dead. Nevertheless, what was good on the set was great as long as you can put up with the numerous lyrical flubs and mistakes the band made on this show. I guess that’s part of the charm of these releases anyway…
editor’s note: This info comes to us from the publicist for the PPV providers.
THIS WEEKEND: GRATEFUL DEAD’S LIVE “FARE THEE WELL” THREE-NIGHT PAY-PER-VIEW EVENT
Fans Can Get Psyched With a Wealth of Free On Demand Interviews and Behind-the-Scenes Content, Now Playing on Cable Systems Nationwide
Each Night’s Concert Performance Will Be Unique and Feature Different Surprise Guest Stars; All Shows Will Replay on VOD and PPV
New York – After 50 years of thrilling fans in concerts and recordings, the Grateful Dead is going out in style with a three-night Pay-Per-View (PPV) spectacular, Grateful Dead: Fare Thee Well, on July 3, 4 and 5, 2015, live from Soldier Field in Chicago. Each day’s show begins with a countdown at 7PM ET, followed by the live event from 8PM-1AM ET. To celebrate the upcoming special event, cable providers around the country are now offering a great selection of Free On Demand (FOD) content for viewers. Plus, for fans who won’t be able to catch the live telecasts, concert replays will be available on Video On Demand (VOD) on cable starting the day after each concert. Viewers will also find replays on linear PPV channels*. Both remain available until Aug. 3.
Four original band members reunite to headline the event: Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, joined by Trey Anastasio (guitar), Jeff Chimenti (keyboards) and Bruce Hornsby (piano). Each night will have completely different set list, and different surprise guests will join the band during each performance. The concerts will take place nearly 20 years to the day of the last Grateful Dead concert with Jerry Garcia.
Free On Demand Grateful Dead special content. (See below for locations of the free content as well as the VOD replays**).
Grateful Dead: Interview With Dead Drummer – Interview with Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann.
Grateful Dead: Interview With Bob Weir – Legendary Bob Weir talks about his experiences during the 50 year history of the band.
Grateful Dead: Excerpts from 2009 Doc – Backstage documentary footage of Grateful Dead.
Grateful Dead: Preview Of 50 Year Celebration – Drummer Mickey Hart discusses his feelings leading into a big show.
Grateful Dead: Jerry Garcia’s Daughters – Actor Luke Wilson interviews Jerry Garcia’s daughters, Annabelle, Keelin and Trixie.
*For information on cable system channel numbers and linear PPV replay schedules, go to:
Each of the three Grateful Dead: Fare Thee Well shows is available for $29.99 (SRP***, Price applies to live as well as replays.) The programs are available in both SD and HD. Grateful Dead: Fare Thee Well is distributed to most cable and telco providers by iN DEMAND L.L.C.
**FREE ON DEMAND ON CABLE AND VOD REPLAY CONTENT LOCATIONS:
Locations differ by system but viewers can check their VOD channels and menus. Here are the channels and category titles for just a few of the top providers:
- Comcast – On Demand Channel
- Music/Grateful Dead (SD & HD)
- HD On Demand/Music/Grateful Dead
- Time Warner Cable – Movies On Demand Channel
- Special Events/Music & Specials (SD & HD)
- Bright House Networks – Movies On Demand Channel:
- Special Events/Music & Specials (SD & HD)
- Cox – On Demand Channel
- Events/Music & Specials (SD)
- Events HD/Music & Specials (HD)
- Cablevision – On Demand Channel
- On Demand/Events & Specials/Concerts & Docs (SD)
- RCN – On Demand Channel
- Events/Music & Specials (SD)
- Other systems:
- Events/Music & Specials
*** Suggested Retail Price. Pricing may differ by provider. HD not available on all systems.