Gotta Get Down: Jerry Garcia’s Musical Escapades of November 1973
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A Mix By /u/MrCompletely and /u/wilbard
1 Finders Keepers (JGMS 11/05)
2 Cumberland Blues (GD 11/14)
3 Catfish John (OAITW 11/04)
4 Playing in the Band > (GD 11/21)
5 El Paso > Playing jam > (GD 11/21)
6 Wharf Rat > Playing jam > space > (GD 11/21)
7 Untitled Improvisation (PFA 11/28)
8 White Dove (OAITW 11/04)
9 Someday Baby (JGMS 11/03)
10 China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider (GD 11/25)
11 The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (JGMS 11/05)
12 Jerry’s Breakdown (OAITW 11/04)
13 Stella Blue (GD 11/10)
14 Expressway (To Your Heart) > jam > (JGMS 11/03)
15 space > (GD 11/23)
16 Playing jam > (GD 11/21)
17 Playing Reprise (GD 11/17)
Deadheads all know November ’73 to be a high point of the Dead’s early career. The band played nearly a dozen great shows, including some all-time classic performances. But the Grateful Dead was just one of the projects Garcia had going on at that time. The same month featured him on banjo with Old & in the Way in their last full show, on guitar with his Merl Saunders side project (with Bill Kreutzmann on drums), and even in an experimental night of far-out psychedelia at the Palace of Fine Arts alongside Mickey Hart (who was not playing in the Dead at the time), also featuring Ned Lagin and Phil Lesh. Also of note, during the same month Rolling Stone published a long cover-story feature article on the Dead’s evolving “business” model. In the previous month of October, the Dead had just released Wake of the Flood, the forward-looking first album on their own newly-established independent label.
This is a mix meant to capture the wide range of live output Garcia was producing during the month of November 1973. While we were working on this mix, we came across a smaller-scale version of the same concept done recently by another guy here. As he writes:
There’s a paraphrased quote in Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads: “Garcia has said that all he needs is one day off a week, and that in an ideal world, he’d be playing six gigs weekly: two with the Dead, two with the Jerry Garcia Band, and two playing with an acoustic group like the Black Mountain Boys.” November ’73 might be the closest he came to achieving this omnivorous vision.
This mix is centred around one of several epic Playing in the Band sequences that were played that month. Overall, the styles covered range from jazz-funk fusion, to bluegrass/country pickin’, to blues, to ballads, to the pure experimental space that was being explored by the end of the month, by the Dead themselves and in the Hart/Garcia/Lagin/Lesh project.
Not only does November ’73 contain much $$$ Garcia playing (as displayed in every single track in this mix), it was also a particularly intense transformative period. Many threads that had been developing came to a head. For instance, the cosmic experimentation that culminated in the Palace of Fine Arts gig led directly into the more far-out sounds that were to be played through December and in 1974. (Note that the PFA segment we’ve included is an audience recording; we think it’s good enough quality to make an enjoyable listen, but if it’s too jarring for you that’s understandable. The stream link below also includes tracks from a similar set recorded in SBD on 6/6/75 in case you’re interested.)
Setlist creativity was also there in spades. Playing in the Band is especially interesting to trace. Perhaps inspired by the successful one-off experiment with a split Playing sequence a year earlier on 10/18/72, Playing’s placement in the second set was being experimented with increasingly during the fall of ’73. The 11/01 Evanston show saw the first Playing > UJB > Playing, which was a precursor to what was to come in more developed form in the classic, epic Playing palindrome sandwiches at 11/10 Winterland & 11/17 UCLA (Playing > UJB > Dew > UJB > Playing). We decided to include the next, lesser-known version from 11/21 Denver, where Playing became the vehicle of a wholly unpredictable affair. With this performance, Playing completed its transition from self-contained song to being a true launching-point song for unplanned improvisational sequences, having broken free of even the planned segue structures of earlier in the month. Given that the Other One segues of the early 70s almost always touched on the same few songs, this moved Playing into a category of its own, foreshadowed only by a few multiply-segue’d Dark Stars of late ’69 and 1970. In a very real sense we can see the maturation of the “main sequence” Grateful Dead second set structure happening in realtime.
The Other One is the other tune to watch. There’s the TOO-segue-filled second set of 11/14 San Diego, which hearkens back to the old 71-72 style versions. And there’s also the unique version of TOO in 11/23 El Paso that gives way to a long “Tiger-y” space segment (from which we included a portion here), anticipating the spacey explorations of the coming weeks and months.
This is meant to be a seamless mix that takes you through it as if all the month’s sounds were played in one evening. Put it on and enjoy from top to bottom. But it’s not meant to be comprehensive, by any means. Most people already know the big shows like Winterland, UCLA, and Boston (if you don’t then get on that!). And the lesser-known GD shows like Evanston (only set 2 survives), El Paso and Tempe are very worth your time too. The whole OAITW show on 11/04 is excellent (their final full concert performance, with Garcia’s banjo chops by then fully re-established), as are both the JGMS Betty Boards (11/05’s soundboard just emerged for the first time last year).
Thanks to /u/arghdos for hosting on his YT channel.
Enjoy,MrCompletely & wilbard