1972 was a busy year for me. As you learned in my last post, in July, I saw the Allman Brothers at Gaelic Park in the Bronx. At the same venue, on August 2nd, I experienced Jeff Beck (with Argent, Blue Oyster Cult and Flash) and on August 14th, Jefferson Airplane (with a set from Hot Tuna with Papa John Creach). Then, on August 30th, John Lennon and Stevie Wonder at the Felt Forum. As a free range 15 year old I was having a great time.
However, I must admit that a highlight of the year for me was 9/12/72 when I attended my first Grateful Dead concert. I had been listening to the Dead for a few years and as a guitar player I was a huge fan of Jerry Garcia. I loved his tone and his playing that blended jazz with blues and country. I went to the concert with a friend who played rhythm guitar and who thought Bob Weir was the ultimate rhythm player and after all these years, I have to say that I agree.
Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux has said that concerts from 1972 had some of the most consistent great playing from the band and in my opinion this concert was no exception. This was the fourth concert of the Summer East Coast tour. Here is the setlist:
Greatest Story Ever Told
Black Throated Wind
Big Railroad Blues
Me and My Uncle
Beat it on Down the Line
The Other One
One More Saturday Night
Johnny B. Goode
The opening act was New Riders of the Purple Sage and Jerry played pedal steel on a few of their songs. In 1972, there was typically a long jam in the second set. At this show it was He’s Gone >The Other One (1st verse) > Space > Other One (2nd verse) > Stella Blue. I don’t believe that this was played again until the 1990’s.
What struck me was the fact that they weren’t playing just familiar songs. I was expecting mostly songs from Aoxomoxoa, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. Some songs were not on albums yet, like, Greatest Story Ever Told, Tennessee Jed, Mississippi Half Step, Mexicali Blues, He’s Gone, One More Saturday Night and the hauntingly beautiful Stella Blue, which wouldn’t see a studio release until 1973’s Wake of The Flood. Of course, some of these tunes would have been familiar to Deadheads who followed the band from concert to concert. I know that Greatest Story ever Told premiered at Port Chester’s Capitol Theater the year before.
My personal memories of the show include experiencing the parking lot scene, where people were sharing booze, drugs, and, food in a carnival like atmosphere, hearing Bob Weir mention that Pigpen (Ron McKiernan) was “not feeling too good” but hoped he would be back soon, seeing Weir disappear into the crowd during one of the breaks, and being blown away by the ability of the band to play for so long at such a high level of musicianship. In fact, we were heading for the parking lot after the encore of One More Saturday Night when we heard the band come back on to perform Johnny B Goode. This was not your typical rock group of the early 1970’s. This was also one of the first shows to feature Keith Godchaux on keyboards and Donna Jean on vocals.
Unfortunately, the only recording of this concert that I have found is a fairly low quality audience recording on archive.org. As I remember, there was a problem with a noise coming from the keyboards. Perhaps, this is why no official release has been made. There is probably a way to reduce this noise with current technology. I can only hope that the Grateful Dead organization will release at least a partial recording of this show. 1972 had an abundance of great shows I’m sure, but, this was an important show in the New York area where the Dead had (and no doubt, still has) a large number of fans.
I also would love to see a boxed set of shows from the Capitol Theater in Port Chester. This was a place where the band could really try new things out since it was in the NYC suburbs and the shows wouldn’t be subjected to the scrutiny of the big rock press.
Next, I was off to see Tim Buckley and Frank Zappa at the Felt Forum on September 22, and Ry Cooder and David Bromberg at Town Hall in November.