dead notes 1

Welcome to the first installment of Dead Notes. There is a raw stigma that runs parallel with the mention of the Grateful Dead. Far too often the circus surrounding the band trumps the actual music, instead placing more emphasis on skeletons, dancing bears, hacky sacks and other vestiges of the ‘parking lot’ scene. Not to mention Bobby’s shorts. But all these images, these tye-dyed pre-conceptions, are the unfortunate characterization of the last 20 years of the Dead’s history. Countless tomes have been written about the birth of the Dead, so no need to rehash at length here, save a few words. The band began as an awkward knock-off Rolling Stones inspired garage band, playing electrified blues, traditional folk and r&b rave-ups. Slowly, they morphed into the so-called Acid Kings of Ken Kesey’s La Honda with long drawn out jams that heightened the visual roller coaster their soundman (and in-house chemist) Owsley Stanley dropped upon the crowd. Emerging from that technicolor daydream they transformed themselves into psychedelic cowboys, hashing out a new set of songs over several releases that nodded heavily to America’s mythic past. Lassoes in hand and hearts on their sleeves they rambled into Europe in the spring of 1972, fusing seven years of identity crisises into a powerful set of music later christened Europe ’72. Arguably, amongst many, this was the peak of the band before they once again transformed themselves. Dead Notes are an opportunity to share some of our favorite moments of the Dead (off-the-beaten-path and otherwise), from their inception in 1965 to that epic spring tour.

After the jump: Dead Notes #1: ‘A buck and a Quar-tah’ – The Selling of the Brooklyn Bridge

We’re kicking off the series with a favorite – the infamous ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ “Good Lovin” from 4/17/71 at Princeton University’s Dillon Gym. By April of 1971 the Dead were in a comfortable spot performing amongst a dedicated and growing East Coast audience. And that Saturday night at Dillon Gym found them halfway through a month long tour firing on all cylinders. Especially Ron ‘Pig Pen’ McKernan who begins the second set with what appears to be a standard rendition of the ol’ fav “Good Lovin” — one that quickly morphs its way into a run of the mill ‘Drums’. However, what happens in the next 19 minutes will forever be sewn into the fabric of Grateful Dead history.

Pigpen’s rapping during “Good Lovin” was no old news. It wasn’t uncommon for him to pick out a guy in the audience, talk shit, and tell him to ‘stop playing pocket pool and introduce himself ‘ to the lady next to him. A dirty old man at heart, Pig immediately starts rapping about needing some lovin’ in the morning and jumpin’ on a pony to ride. Our MC soon finds himself in a chance encounter with a pimp down on the corner, after an argument with his ‘pony,’ and the negotiations get into the thick of it. Why wouldn’t the ‘commercial merchandise’ look like the Brooklyn Bridge and purchased for the small fee of ‘A buck and a quar-tah’ ? This is Pig in his prime carrying the audience into a dark place, yet with a wink and nod. All the while Jerry and Phil, with the rest of the group, lay down a thick groove that spirals into a sparse blues jam that fires back up for one last go around. Closing out 28 minutes of heaviness. words /d norsen

MP3: Grateful Dead :: Good Lovin’ (04/17/71 Dillon Gym – Princeton University)
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Elsewhere: Licensed original artwork from the band’s 45 singles printed on t-shirts.

35 Responses to “Dead Notes #1 :: Good Lovin’ (4/17/71 Dillon Gym / Princeton)”

  1. Kudos… i’ve always felt the same way about the Dead. Their studio records were as forward thinking as they were beautiful, and their live performances were simply raw and transcendent. Yet, the counter-culture surrounding the band has far overshadowed the artistic prowess.

    Very much looking forward to future Dead Notes!

  2. Glad you led with Pigpen, I think people tend to forget about him. This is one of the best hidden gems in the Dead’s career for sure.

  3. real nice. some choice pigpen.

  4. Agreed. This was a great song/show to lead with. I had a radio show in college where I played a live show every week and this was always one of my favorites. Pig gets off more than his usual self on this track.

  5. echoing the above ^^

    curios to see what all AD highlights

  6. this was my first dead show , i believe they were playing instead of The Flying Burrito Bros who had canceled. Pig pen was off the hook and so was Jerry playing pedal steel with NRPS. I did not know who the Dead were, but I have been a deadhead ever since. Great show!!

  7. Thank you for playing Dead

  8. yep, the scene clouded my own perception too! I even attended 20+ shows in the 80s, but loathed every musical second of it… I was often dragged to the early shows by my rich white suburban friends in college as a safe drug refuge. despite the watered down music of that time, it was a blast to be there!
    I stopped going around ’89, moved far from my terminally dull rich white friends, and avoided ever listening to the Dead. Finally, around ’98, I met someone that saw a bunch of 70s shows and he turned me on the primal era of the Dead. I learned that the pre-’72 stuff is endlessly fascinating…I can’t get enough of it now! thanks to traders, the SBD shows flow like wine around here… I can’t get into the disco/coke era stuff, even though I try once in a while. But, the 66 through 72 stuff is golden.

  9. What guitar is Jer playing in the picture? Looks like a Les Paul custom he decided to make a little lighter. LP Customs are heavy enough to use as a boat anchor. I knew he played a few customs around that time period, never heard anything about cutting one up like though.

  10. One of the better editorial pieces on the dead. Short but sweet. Thanks!

  11. LIKE!!!

  12. @dennis – its called the ‘peanut’ and wasn’t used very long. very few pics exist of it. it was a custom LP with custom SG parts by rick turner. the start of the long custom and wild custom guitars of jerry!

  13. 9/9/72 was my first show. I feel fortunate to have seen them prior to the hiatus, because I feel they were an entirely different (and mostly inferior) band after that. The GD were still creating arcing upward until the hiatus. After the hiatus not so much. Oh they could still occasionally surprise to the upside (New Years 1981 was spectacular), but often as not disappoint on the downside – forgetting lyrics, Garcia’s voice growing progressively weaker, slow plodding dirge-like tempos. Until I finally walked out on my last show in the late 80s completely disgusted. Still, I choose to remember those bright shining glory days. Most of 1972 and 1973 are truly spectacular, the likes of which I don’t expect to ever see or hear again.

  14. Some friends and sneaked ino the gym before the show and sat at Jerry’s feet as he broke in a newly strung pedal steel for 2 hours or more before the show. When a security person found us there with him he tried to throw us out, he asked Jerry, ” Are they here with you?” Jer came back with, “I’m they’re here, what do you think?” and we were in. A great show!

  15. @Dennis, I *believe* that’s the guitar known as “Peanut,” which was one of Alembic’s earliest projects. It does look like they used a Les Paul as the platform (or at least they used the neck/headstock from one?). Jerry only played it a very limited number of times in ’71, and there are only a couple of pictures of it. Weird stuff!

  16. Gr8choice. Thanks.

  17. “So you agree with me that the Grateful Dead never contributed anything positive to the universe.” – Anthony Bourdain.

    This, my friends, is what we’re up against. Thanks AD for trying to change the conversation to what it should be: the Dead are one of the great rock bands of all time, and probably the quintessential American group.

  18. cool thanks for the info!!

  19. This was my first concert ever. I will never forget it.

  20. The way the band responds to every funky move Pigpen makes has always floored me on this performance. To me this is the Grateful Dead. Something so special and powerfully hip it cuts right thru to the heart of rhythm and blues and funk. Improvisation like this is such a rare and magical happening. Great post as usual!

  21. Did my time primetime high school-college 79-85, and the rest of the time seeing NYC area shows as they faded from great shows, to a few great songs per show, to a few great jams, down to a few great notes per show. But have spent all my listening time focused 68-73. And most of the last year on ’71, maybe its the one drummer thing. Not sure. Great choice here. Looking forward to more. Love to hear from those who get the music, not the scene. Only one in ten thousand go for the show.

  22. while it is quite true there probably wasn’t really a great album after europe ’72, there certainly were some interesting segues- help>slip>frank & scarlet>fire to name two. yes, the outside scene did become a little much to say the least. however as a slightly younger deadhead who didn’t see first show till ’77, but still saw 180 or so plus a score of jerry shows. as they say… you can only play the cards you were dealt & i can say thank you for a real good time. i applaud dead notes for a spot on assessment of the boys. hope to hear & read more. thank you again.

  23. Yes!!! More Dead Notes! My favorite dead years are 1973, 1972, 1974, 1968, 1969, 1977 in that order :)

  24. Hell yeah i reckon the 71 concerts are good, only a 5 piece band if i’m correct, alot of pigpen! = Fun times~~~

  25. This version of Good Lovin’ has been, for me, the definitive Pigpen version since I first heard it 20 years ago. Pig wasn’t the musical prodigy of the band by any stretch, but he was their showman from the very start and this number is a great representation of the heights to which he could reach. Just exactly perfect.

  26. This was a great one, no doubt, but the Pig got darker and funkier on many a “Lovelights” between 1969 and 1971. Sometimes they were spooky and other times they were pretty erotic. No doubt the band usually caught his mood and reflected it in a great manner instrumentally. And don’t forget, the summer of ’71 is full of a number of GREAT versions of “Hard To Handle” 8/6/71 being one of them. ROCK ON RON!!!

  27. Anthony bourdain needs to spend a little less time posturing, making sure his ramones t shirt has tears in the right place. I always felt that punk and the dead shared a commitment to a certain sort of anarchy. The former being less sympathetic to the collective but both certainly in support of the purely individual.

  28. that guitar-best photo of it ive seen, is the infamous Turner/Irwin. Both guys take credit for cutting the bouts off of the LP Special. There is not a lot of info available about it but we know Turner took that shape but Jerry took Irwin on the trip. Legend says that it was only used on the night they recorded Three From the Vault/Skull and Roses.

  29. This was my first show, too. I really didn’t know a thing about the Dead at the time; I could not have imagined how many shows I would eventually attend nor how their music would become a central totem in my life going forward. F Tony Bourdain!

  30. Great show. Followed by a great Fillmore run.

  31. Is there a recording of this whole show for sale anywhere?

  32. [...] This is also worth checking out: Aquarium Drunkard – Dead Notes #1 [...]

  33. @Andy: you can hear the whole concert, and countless others, at archive.org. I’m listening to Pigpen play matchmaker on “Lovelight” that night, just now. Indeed it is one of the great Pigpen/’71 roadhouse Dead shows. Should’ve been put out on a double-album after Pigpen died. Thanks for shining a light on it, AD.

  34. [...] to round two of Dead Notes. We kicked things off with a “Good Lovin” from 1971; today we touch down in February 1968 where we find the Dead eleven months after the release of [...]

  35. […] replaced with a series of individual songs anchored by heavy Pigpen fueled R&B (see Dead Notes #1 & #4). Shows also began to include an opening acoustic set with many new songs beginning to work […]

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