The Next Track, Episode #74 – Jeffrey Norman on Restoring, Mixing, and Mastering the Grateful Dead

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxWe welcome Jeffrey Norman, who has been mixing, mastering, and restoring Grateful Dead recordings for more than 35 years.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #74 – Jeffrey Norman on Restoring, Mixing, and Mastering the Grateful Dead.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

The Next Track, Episode #67 – The Grateful Dead’s Legendary 5/8/77 Cornell Concert, with Author Peter Conners

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxAuthor Peter Conners tells us the story of the legendary 5/8/77 Grateful Dead concert at Barton Hall, Cornell University, and its legacy.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #67 — The Grateful Dead’s Legendary 5/8/77 Cornell Concert.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

What’s Become of the Bettys? The Fate of the Long-Lost Grateful Dead Soundboards – Relix

In May 1986, a storage auction took place in California’s Marin County that would altogether change the nature of Grateful Dead tape trading, the group’s distribution of its live recordings and, ultimately, the Dead’s place in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. An advertisement in a local paper drew in a few dozen curious parties anticipating the range of memorabilia and household items that typically become available through the auction of lockers that had fallen into arrears due to lack of payments. While the popularity of such events has blossomed in recent years due to television shows such as Storage Wars, back in 1986, bidders’ expectations were often minimal and true windfalls were rare. As it turned out, however, on this spring afternoon, there was bounty to be had: Among the items up for auction that day were hundreds of reel-to-reel soundboard tapes of the Grateful Dead originally recorded by Betty Cantor-Jackson during a golden age between 1971-80.

The Betty Boards, as copies of these recordings became known, eventually found their way into the collections of longstanding Deadheads and newbies alike, ending some aspects of a tape-trading hierarchy by which certain individuals lorded over their collections, denying access to those who were unfamiliar with the secret handshake.

The appearance and subsequent dissemination of these recordings became a source of fascination and speculation for Deadheads in 1986 and the questions have only compounded over the years: How did the tapes fall into the auction? Who won them? How and why were they initially distributed? Are there more recordings that have yet to make it into circulation? And jumping ahead to the present, where are those tapes today? Just what has become of the Bettys?

Amazing story.

Source: What’s Become of the Bettys? The Fate of the Long-Lost Grateful Dead Soundboards : Articles : Relix

New Grateful Dead: The Great May ’77 Recordings

UnknownThe Grateful Dead organization just announced a new box set containing four of the band’s greatest performances:

  • 5/5/77 Veterans Memorial Coliseum: New Haven, CT
  • 5/7/77 Boston Garden: Boston, MA
  • 5/8/77 Barton Hall, Cornell University: Ithaca, NY
  • 5/9/77 Buffalo Memorial Auditorium: Buffalo, NY

The band was on during that run, and Deadheads know that 5/8/77 is one of the best shows of all time.

Limited edition, 15,000 copies, plus it includes this book: Cornell ’77: The Music, The Myth And The Legend Of The Grateful Dead’s Concert At Barton Hall.

Get it now before it’s sold out. It’ll sell out pretty quickly.

Update: It has indeed sold out, in just four days. But there’s now an “All Music Edition,” which contains the CDs in simply slipcases, without the fancy box or the book. So at least you can get the music if you want.

Listen to what is probably the best performance ever of Morning Dew, from 5/8/77:

How Listening to the Grateful Dead Helped Me Learn to Appreciate 20th Century Classical Music

I’ve been listening to The Grateful Dead for more than 40 years, and their music never ceases to satisfy me. Most people, when they think of the Grateful Dead, know a few of their later songs, such as Touch of Gray, which was a hit in the MTV era. But when you dig into their music, especially their early years, you can see how diverse the band was. They played rock, blues, roadhouse R&B (especially while Pigpen was alive), jazzy tunes, and crazy improvisations.

It’s this latter part of the band’s repertoire that is the most astounding. From night to night, they’d belt out cowboy songs, psychedelic tunes, and play a Chuck Berry song or two, but they’d also slip into mind-bending improvisations. Right now, I’m listening to their concert of April 2, 1973, which contains are three extended improvisations.

The first is in Playing in the Band, a song the band started playing live in 1968, that was finally recorded on Bob Weir’s first solo album Ace in 1972. It was one of the two major vehicles for extended jams in those years, the other being the band’s signature song Dark Star. The second improvisation in this concert is merely labeled “Jam” on the recently released recording (Dave’s Picks vol. 21). It’s an 11-minute improvisation sandwiched between two songs, Sunshine and Me and Bobby McGee. And the third is part of the extended performance of Eyes of the World, from the record the band would release later that year, Wake of the Flood. This song always featured long improvisations, yet more restrained than some of the others.

Dead jam

The Dead’s jams were unique. Sometimes, they would act as simple bridges between two songs that they often played as a pair: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain, or Not Fade Away > Going Down the Road Feeling Bad. Sometimes they were part of specific songs, such as Dark Star or Playing in the Band. And sometimes they were just in between two random songs, as in this 1973 concert.

They would often start as the band ended the lyrics and slowly morphed from the original tune and chord structure into a free-form exploration of themes and rhythms. They were sometimes loud and rocky, sometimes mellow and psychedelic, but often they drifted far from what rock music generally was. They could be atonal, polyrhythmic, almost random sounding, but, at least in the early years, the band maintained a direction.

So what does this have to do with contemporary classical music? Listen to a jam like the one on April 2, 1973 and you may want to press the Next button, but if you’re curious you’ll hear melodies and structures that might tempt you to seek out more music of the kind. Few other rock bands would venture into this territory, but when I started listening to 20th century classical music in my late teens, I was not turned off by the atonality and strange rhythms I heard, as many people might be. I welcomed the incongruity of this music, and tried to understand it.

(It’s worth noting that Phil Less, the band’s bass player, was interested in avant-garde music, studying with Luciano Berio at Mills College in 1962; one of his classmates was Steve Reich. I don’t think Lesh – who had never played the bass until the day that Jerry Garcia told him he would be their bass player – led the band in that direction, but that all of them, especially Garcia, were open to all forms of music.)

I’m not a fan of aimless contemporary classical music; in fact, much of this type of music, especially the formulaic serialism and random compositions that become dominant in the 1950s and 1960s, annoys me. But I love listening to Charles Ives, Toru Takemitsu, or Einojuhani Rautavaara, all of whom, to some extent, feature atonality in their music. One of my favorite pieces of music is Ives’ Concord Sonata, at times a harshly atonal piece of piano music; I probably would not have appreciated that work without having heard the Dead and their improvisations first.

The Dead had a short window of interesting improvisation. Around 1978, their jams became codified around drum solos, leading to the common track listing seen on concerts from that time until the end of the band’s career: Drums > Space. “Space” was what their musical explorations became, aimless improvisations that followed self-absorbed drum solos. The band would let the two drummers play with their toys for a while, then come back on stage and phone it in, sounding like a ghost of their former selves. There were still jams within songs, but these remained melodic improvisations, more jazz than free-form. But these Drums > Space segments mostly sounded anemic. (To be fair, for a few years, there was still some interesting music in them, at times.)

From the late 1960s to around 1978, the Grateful Dead treated their audience, every night, to a cloud of improvised sound that went beyond the confines of any genre. Some of those listeners used this music as a launching point for exploring other types of music. And we’re forever in debt to the band for opening our minds.

The Next Track, Episode #33 – This Was the Year that Was, 2016

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxIn this special, one-hour, year-end episode, we feature clips from some of our more popular episodes. If you’re just discovering The Next Track, this highlight reel will give you an idea of the topics we cover in the show.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #33 – This Was the Year that Was, 2016.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

The Next Track, Episode #23 – David Browne on the History of the Grateful Dead

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxDoug and Kirk welcome David Browne, author of So Many Roads: The Life and Times of the Grateful Dead to discuss the history of this iconic band.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #23 – David Browne on the History of the Grateful Dead.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Much of Jerry Garcia’s Discography Now Available on Apple Music and Other Streaming Services

Much of Jerry Garcia’s discography is now available to stream, on Apple Music and other streaming services. The announcement was made on August 1, 2016, Jerry’s birthday. Some of these albums were available before, and not all of his catalog is there, of course. The Pure Jerry series is not streamable, nor are all of the GarciaLive releases. But this is the first step, and more will certainly follow.

Jerry garcia albums

Check out Jerry Garcia’s music on Apple Music.

The Darkest Star Shines the Brightest

WinterlandOn December 31, 1978, the Grateful Dead played the last concert ever at San Francisco’s Winterland. Originally built in 1928 as a dance hall, Winterland had become the West-coast mecca of rock after promotor Bill Graham started organizing concerts there in 1966. The 5,400-capacity hall – most of the space was for standing and dancing, not sitting – hosted concerts by the biggest names in rock over the 12 years that Graham managed the venue.

This sold-out New Year’s Eve concert was a big event in San Francisco, and it was broadcast live on KSAN radio and KQED TV. (It is now available on DVD as Closing of Winterland. (, Amazon UK)) At one point, a TV camera shows a banner in one of the balconies, saying “1535 Days Since Last SF Dark Star.” The Dead had not played this signature song in more than four years, and the capacity crowd was hoping to hear this song.

At the start of the third set of this marathon concert, the band came out and played the four-note sequence that begins Dark Star, to the rousing applause of the tired, sweaty fans. At this moment, they had tapped into a song that had provided continuity for the band since they first played it in 1967[1], then recorded it in 1968, as a single[2].

But Dark Star was not a “single” song; it was an epic. In 217 (or 232) live performances[3], the song was more often 20-30 minutes long rather than the 2:45 sped-up version that appeared on a 7″ disc in the early days. It’s the same song, but since the Grateful Dead improvised extensively, the single version contains a rough framework of what Dark Star would become.

Dark star crashes

From their birth in 1965 as a scruffy San Francisco band playing rhythm and blues and psychedelic music, providing the soundtrack for Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests, the Grateful Dead went on to become the biggest concert draw in the United States. In their 30-year career, the band proved to be the most American of music-makers, playing a broad range of songs from rock to the blues, from acoustic roots music to jazzy jams.

Grateful Dead concerts were special. The adage said that "there is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert," because of the unique atmosphere that developed when this band and their fans met. Concert promoter Bill Graham said, They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”

The Dead helped spread their music, early in their career, by allowing spectators to tape concerts; eventually setting up a special “tapers’ section,” and, in some cases, allowing people to plug recorders directly into the soundboard. Because of this, the experience of Grateful Dead concerts was disseminated throughout the United States – and the rest of the world – piquing interest in this distinctive band. Over time, the Grateful Dead developed a huge, loyal following, and became the biggest-grossing concert band in the United States.

To Deadheads – fans of the band – the music was important, but there was also a sense of community. People were welcome to trade tapes, but selling them was anathema. Concerts were friendly experiences, with people sharing their beverages and other sundries. These events were large parties, places where people would get together and have a good time, relax, get high and dance.

The Dead were a reliable top-100 band, but only once did they reach the top ten, when the 1987 Touch of Gray became a hit, propelling its album, In the Dark to number 6 is the charts. They did a few TV appearances, from a 1969 Playboy After Dark performance, that embodied the meeting of hippiedom and Hefnerism, to a 1978 Saturday Night Live gig, and a few stints on Letterman. They made a few videos, as did everyone from the mid-80s onward, but none of their filmed songs stand out. They also made a movie, ingeniously titled The Grateful Dead Movie (, Amazon UK), filmed during a series of 1974 concerts at Winterland, and released in 1977.

In spite of all this, the Dead were never truly mainstream, but that’s the nature of jam bands; the 20- or 30-minute songs they play, such as Dark Star, don’t fit on the radio.

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