dead notes 7

And we’re back. Welcome to the seventh installment of Dead Notes where we find our former psychedelic heroes continuing to shed their kaleidoscopic, meandering, ways. Tightening up, both literally and figuratively, by March of 1971 the Dead’s live show had been transformed into a lean, mean, rock ‘n roll revue. The band had just lost second percussionist, Mickey Hart, who left indefinitely after his father, Lenny Hart (the Dead’s former manager), absconded with the band’s savings. While the loss of Hart was indeed significant, drummer Bill Kreutzmann had become a swinging powerhouse in his own right, and was more than able to compensate for the sudden loss. In return, the Dead were able to open up – moving them further into the jazz idiom while producing some of the most dynamic live shows of their career.

On the night of the 24th, the band convened for the Sufi Benefit at their old Bay Area haunt, Winterland Arena, with a crowd of  “about 4000 characters – Dead fans, freaks, mystics, religionists, spiritualists and a few semi-straights” – aka a Grateful Dead concert. Following an opening set by the Sufi entertainers, the band sauntered on stage plunging straight into a jam with the Sufi choir, immediately kicking shit into high gear with the one-two punch of “Bertha” and “Sugar Magnolia.” Deep into the first set, the opening notes of Otis Redding’s posthumous 1968 hit “Hard to Handle” ring out, as Pigpen’s high pitched warble – “Baaaay-beh, here I am, I’m the man on the scene” – whip the crowd into a frenzy. The band quickly locks into a solid groove as Phil and Billy provide a punishing backbeat while Jerry lays down a sleazy, fluid blast of licks that tangle and weave with Bobby’s chunky rhythm breaks. Pig, of course, dons the role of mister sweet talker, an experienced sugar daddy who doesn’t mess around with drug store lovin’; promising “to prove every word he say(s).” Phil throws down a thick, funky, bass line allowing Pig to really turn on his special brand of poetic charm. A Pigpen rap then ensues, centered around when he “gets a little hungry” — see: the evening, the afternoon, the morning again and the times between. On a dime, Jerry tightens up, leading the band into a thick rhythm and blues jam that percolates with Phil’s bass oozing through Bobby’s rhythmic punches, building into an epic explosion of blood, sweat and tears.

In some sort of post-coital astral haze, the group limps back as Pig reminds us – “I can give you what you want, but you got to come home with me.” Phew! words/ d norsen

Grateful Dead :: Hard To Handle

Elsewhere: As a companion to Light In The Attic Records’ recent vinyl issue of One From The Vault, our buddy Jess Rotter, of Rotter & Friends, designed commemorative t-shirts. We have a few to give away to AD readers. To enter, leave a comment with your name, size, favorite GD show and why. Winners notified via email.

Archives: Aquarium Drunkard – Dead Notes (Volumes 1 – 6)

96 Responses to “Dead Notes #7 :: Hard To Handle (3/24/71 San Francisco, CA)”

  1. In 1970 my buddy Mike, President of the Music Club in High School (I was President of the Geology Club) turned me on to Anthem of the Sun. We spent the next several years catching every Dead show in LA we could. Were in college in Flagstaff when a show came up at the Hollywood Palladium and we drove across the painted desert by full moon to get to the show. Little did we know we were in for what I think is still the best Dead show, 8/6/71. I like this (3/24/71) Hard to Handle for it’s laid back to full steam ahead development, whereas the Palladium HTH smokes from start to fire breathing finish. You can here my buddy Dave whoop when the song starts on Bob Bertrando’s classic recording. He was a big Pigpen fan and this was one of his favorite Dead tunes. I can remember Bob Weir telling them to move back to get a better recording and seeing them with the tape recorder and thinking “you guys can’t do that”. Thankfully they did and I can relive every moment of that show. Except the auras around everyone……. Forgot to mention, there was an eclipse of the moon that night too.
    Thanks for the Monday treat. I’d take a large.

  2. 3/16/90 The Capital Centre in Landover, MD…now immortalized on the Spring ’90 box released a couple years ago. I’m a huge Brent fan and this collection really shows how good he was, even when he was so unknowingly near the end of his journey. 🙁 Size XL please. Thanks!

  3. My 1st dead show was in October (I think) of 1974 @ Winterland. Me and friends had graduated high school (Orange Glen in Escondido, CA) earlier that year in June. One of our buddies started Fall semester that same year @ SF Insitiute of Art, called and said I got tix to see the Grateful Dead. Never seen ’em and only knew Truckin & Sugar Magnolia from the radio. The concert was after they released Blues for Allah and I never, ever saw and experienced such an event. I was dead to the bone ever since. Just got back from Paradise Waits with my girlfriend. I thought those days were over, but no … !

  4. great!wish i was there

  5. great!wish i was theresizeL please

  6. Fave show? July ’90 at Giants Stadium: Dark Star (finally!), Eyes of the World, closed with The Weight including verses sung by Papa, Bill, Phil, Bruce Hornsby (who filled in on piano,) and Steve Miller (who opened.) Got in on a miracle for the cost of a peanut butter, honey, banana, and wheat germ sandwich.

  7. Favorite Show: 9/3/77 at Englishtown

    All-time versions of Loser, Mississippi Half-Step, Bertha, NFA, and He’s Gone — and a Terrapin encore taboot!

    Shirt Size: Large

  8. XL….my favorite show was in Philly, spring of ’86…just gotta poke around, just gotta poke around

  9. XL. My favorite show is whatever I am currently listening.

  10. March 77 San Bernadina. 1st Estimated & Terrapin. Epic!!

    Many Good times.
    My favorite shows were always outside.

  12. Like so many, I’m an XL. A favorite show was one I attended with friends, “the Pseudo Brothers,” at Spartan Stadium in San Jose on 4/22/1979. It was Brent’s very first show, and he added energy that entertained and amused us all: “I Need A Miracle,” indeed. Also, BG was out looking at the line in the AM, telling us to “lick the back of the tickets, because that’s where we put the acid.” A long, fun day, and my first outdoor show.

  13. l…..Live in Frankfurt Dead forever

  14. M or L. The Summer show in ’85 or ’86 at Cal State Dominguez Hills. It was hot, but sunny and beautiful! What a perfect day.

  15. After a weekend of rain and mud the sun finally peeked from behind the clouds during the first notes of Dark Star…. tell me that’s not magic.

    Bickershaw 72

    Shirt size L

  16. First show was right after brent joined the band at the mississippi river festival, was at his final show in chicago. I love all eras of the grateful dead. Favorite tape would be the only time that whats become of the baby was performed, electric theater chicago illinois 4-26-69. A mind bending show to say the least.

  17. Gotta be Woodstock for me. 2x

  18. XL. Favorite show right now? 6/21/71 Chateau d’Herouville France. Awesome, random show at a really cool place. As discussed in the article, 71 might’ve been the best year for good solid raw rock n roll blues!

  19. I grew up in Tahoe, but right about the time I was old enough to sneak off to a show, we lost Jerry. Love this music. It is like salve for my soul.

  20. 1st show was 11/73. 9th grade and the world unfolded. Last shows were a pair of Knickerbocker shows in ’95.
    Thanks for everything and keep it up.
    As always the best show is the next show.

  21. Good ol grateful dead for those morning bluess
    Size S

  22. (Large Shirt) Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on 1973-06-10. The jams with the Allman Bros are so much fun; and really just icing on an already perfect cake. This show played 5 years before I was born…so the “scene” has nothing to do with my passion for this show…just the beautiful music….stream it here:

  23. My favorite dead show is 05/02/09 the last of the shows at the spectrum in philly. warren haynes helped out and the band and the audience were fire! Especially liked Warren Haynes on Comes a Time! I’m a Medium shirt size. please and thanks.

  24. XXL

    Hampton VA, 3/27/88 – First Solo show as I was the only one of the group who secured tickets that evening. I Iko’ed my way up front and was never looked back from there.

  25. Size – XL

    11/30/80, Fox Theater, Atlanta, Ga.

    I can listen to this over and over. It takes my mind to other places ending up in a dreamlike state. In fact going to listen to it now.

  26. Sooo miss Jerry, Only got to see East Coast Shows cause I was living in Mass until ’97. I still have all 6 of my mail order tickets to the Sept Boston Garden ’95 Shows that never happened. Sad face. The Wed. night show would have been my 25th birthday. I do have my tickets framed along with the official Fall Tour poster (still hanging proudly on my living room wall.) Highgate VT was the last show I saw. Miss grooving.

  27. I went to 34 shows, most at Winterland and Oakland, but also in Oregon, Colorado and Utah. The early 70’s shows always stand out as the most exciting. ‘Best show’ often depends on who you were with, how old you were, what state of mind you were in, etc. as much as the musical prowess of the band that night. However, I can say, unequivocally, that the best song I ever heard was the gem you have found and presented here. March 24 1971. Sufi Choir night at Winterland. I have heard tapes of the whole concert since, and overall, its a solid night, but not particularly spectacular compared to others — with the exception of this one song. I was a senior in highschool at the time and attended with a couple friends from the East Bay. This song transported us. It blew the roof off the place and blew our minds. We were not on psychedelics, but it was definately a psychedelic experience. So much that was great about this band can be heard in this particular version of this song. Some recordings are better than others. In this, the bass comes off really well. I have a cassette tape of this somewhere where Bobby’s rhythm is louder and more dominant in parts. You don’t often hear Jerry stand back and let Bobby do a rhythm solo. This really is Bobby and Phil at their best. Of course, Pigpen was at the top of his game as well. It just all came together for an explosive performance. So glad to have been there. But don’t take my word for it, PLAY IT AGAIN!

  28. man, loving this thread so very much. got my first batch of tapes in 96 or 97, from my resident advisor on my floor at high school nerd camp. playing those tapes in my car through high school opened up a corner of my mind hitherto unknown. I can still picture the clear favorite — fillmore west 3/1/69 (mislabeled 2/1/69) — endless song bleeding into endless song, in combination with the slow warping of that maxell XLII in my dashboard cassette player — intimations of eternity.

    size medium, but I vote it goes to eric #43. do it for the kids!!

    thanks AD and thanks d norsen.

  29. Size XL
    Can’t remember the date but after a long letter when ordering tickets explaining that my wife will give birth to our first born and would like a show to celebrate, they gave us 8th row center. Sting opened and I shot some great pictures of Sting and then Sting with Jerry, when he came out to join him. I remember seeing John K before the show and dropping to the celebration and having the best night and the best seats in the house. I have pictures I would like to share, but the memories are the best. Thanks to GDTS for the seats and thanks to the guys for a show that dreams are made of. I only saw 33 shows but that’s 33 more than some Heads…

  30. L
    2/3/1968, I love the unstoppable force that is Anthem of the Sun-era GD. Whatever fueled them that night should be bottled and sold.

  31. Size L
    My favorite show of all time is too hard to pin down with all the incredible moments from 1968 – 1977, but the best I attended was definitely 9/5/91 (out of 30 between 1989 and 1995). It was high energy start to finish, the crowd was insanely loud and the band fed off of that atmosphere. Bruce and Jerry had great chemistry together, and the band also was working together exceptionally well. Many excellent songs in the play list that night, but the highlights were the beginning, middle, and end of second set – most rockin China>Rider I’ve ever heard from ANY show, beautiful Truckin>Smokestack, and a positively explosive Sugar Mag>SSDD at the end with Bobby screaming and kicking and the crowd lapping it up. I have yet to find a REALLY good audience recording of the show (soundboards don’t convey the energy that the show generated), but I hope to find one someday. 9/4/91 was amazing as well, and 4/4 and 4/5/91 in Atlanta. None of the other shows I saw matched the intensity of those 91 shows.

  32. I miss the Grateful Dead……..xl please, thank you.

  33. There are so many shows I just don’t remember anymore. I do remember that there was always a smile on my face. The Vegas shows kind of stick in my head. Good times! I remember Jer on Stella like it was yesterday. Chills…..

  34. inspira a minha vida,faz o meu dia melhor!! GD é magicamente lindo!

  35. Just another example of what made the Dead so amazing. I was living on Long Island and after December 1969 I never missed a show at the Fillmore East.

  36. Can’t get enough live GD j: theres too many awesome concerts they did and sadly i never got to attend any of them. But I’m sure it would’ve been life changing

  37. 8/16/80. Ewardsville, IL My sacred “got it” show

  38. 7/8/78 the show so nice they numbered it twice. It was my second show after 2/3/78 in Madison, WI. I remember Micky doing (what I later realized was a la Apocalypse now) helicopter drumming during Terrapin. It sounded like 20 helicpters were all landing at the same time surrounding the Red Rocks Amphitheater. Incredible! A great show with the sweetest Wharf Rat intro among many other highlights, all culminating in Werewolves of London that we all were singing as we exited.
    Size Large, if I am so lucky!

  39. Auditorium Hall, June 29 1976. Strong playing from the dead all around at this show, but they had a good summer run that year overall. I basically go back to this one because they played Mission in the Rain! Just adds that special something to an already solid set. Plus Bobby and Donna both sang really well that night, just listen to the Looks like Rain from that night.

    I’m Kyle Stephens and I am a size medium.

  40. xl Please.

  41. Last nite of three in Salt Lake City 1995. Last show ever for me. And lots of other folks too. Size large.

  42. I was on the bus for 44 shows during the last 15 years of their run, starting in 1981 (9/26), and I think my favorite show has to be 11/7-8/85, in particular the first of those two nights in Rochester NY. I had just graduated college and was still bumming around avoiding adulthood and these were the last fall tour shows i would ever see in the Garcia era. For me they epitomize the GD experience: walking out of the first show, I thought “ok that was pretty good,” and the second night the impression was simply “holy crap i love this band!” Flash forward a year and a good buddy laid an stupendous quality soundboard of 11/7’s second set (there are super quality SBDs of both nights in circulation now). Turns out that ‘pretty good’ night was an absolute monster. An unusual second set “Let it Grow” saw the boys tearing it up, with Phil and Garcia digging real deep. On the first listen of that I remember saying to myself “i just don’t remember it being this good!” but there it was gloriously on tape for me to revel in over and over again. thanks for the tape Johnny B., and thanks to Phil Jerry Bill Bob Mickey, Brent (and Bruce and Vince) for providing a safe place to play with my friends! (I’ll take a medium)

  43. I’ve only ever been to one dead show, and in some ways it has come to represent the essence of the cosmic bittersweet hilarity and Conrad’s incomprehensible logic of accident for me. I grew up listening to punk in Detroit in the 80’s and the dead were anathema. The show I went to was at pine knob in June of ’91. I’d been out of high school since January and had gotten myself into a healthy string of absurdist adventures already. My credo was no alcohol, no drugs, no girlfriends, get the weirdest job possible, quit after three months. I was better with some parts of that than others. I had been working as a maintenance / grunt work tool for this steel plant that was owned by the father of a kid i knew. He listened to the Smiths and Depeche Mode but we got along anyways.

    I don’t even really remember how I got the tickets. I was goin with the flow pretty strongly and never paid attention to the mechanics of how the magic happened around me. Strange parts of my brain had been starting to flicker and flash on like an old style flourescent bulb that was fighting it’s ballast. I’d had dreams about my father’s heart-attack the night before it happened and had heard a voice in my head saying “He’s dead” about a kid that dropped from an aneurysm the next day, all within the span of a month or so leading up to the dead show. I don’t even really remember who I went to the show with but they were definitely not dead fans. I didn’t know any except this cute girl that paid me $20 to put a hair braid in out of embroidery floss – my grandma taught me how to macrame when I was a kid. I remember making a wall hanging out of synthetic maroon and buff jute. My parents seemed to like it because they hung it up but I thought it was ugly. I was amazed at the orgy of good natured commercialism going on in the parking lot of the show. It was a self consistent parallel universe that had Jerry as the gravitational center and a hierarchy of celestial bodies in orbit around him. I was merely a comet passing through. Some of the orbits were clearly degenerate as kids with too much of one thing and too little of another were spinning out in cliched style, although my 18 year old eyes were cruelly tuned to that part of the spectacle. In later years as the tectonics of personal taste opened my ears and mind to the Dead, I would say that I liked the Dead, just not the dead heads, but the irony of it is that I didn’t listen to a single bar of the music that night, I was way too fascinated by the subcultural espionage, like a Tom Wolfe in sheep’s clothing. The crowd was a feast for the eyes. There is probably not a fan base that has been as thoroughly described as that of the Dead so I won’t be redundant. The most poignant feeling that I had was not that of togetherness and oneness inspired by the noodley jams, but rather of alienation, both personally and in a reactive way in the crowd, people young and old responding to the alienation of the world outside of Jerry’s gravitational pull by escaping it, throwing themselves past the event horizon to fall head long into the black hole of the Dark Star, hoping by the intense power of that gravity to be smooshed into a singularity. The burden of mortality is otherness, being vastly alone even in a crowded dead show.

    Years later papa CRZ from the band Oneida made me listen to Anthem of the Sun. Years past. I’d flirt with a studio album here and there, but the tumblers hadn’t fallen in my heart quite yet. Then for some reason about a year ago I just started listening to them and nothing but. I had escaped my first winter in rural Maine (as if there is any other thing in Maine but rural) by going to the quiet backside of the USVI for a couple weeks with my three year old son. We communed with conchs and love bugs (St. Andrew’s Cotton Stainers, Dysdercus andreae). We saw the coral dying. We saw a beach where a mass slave suicide had happened. I looked into the dirty mirror of a woman glazier who OD’ed and saw the black ocean of her heart. I had a unity experience with a man named “teacha” that spoke with his fingers in a way far more advanced than any mere sign language. Heavy stuff. Came home to the snow giant of the north pissing sleet and passing frozen kidney stones, may ice-lice eat his hoary beard! For every nadir there must be an apogee. I just started listening to the Dead and nothing but. Somehow it made it easier for me to deal with the winter in its blithe disregard for us mortals. About ten weeks later on Earth Day my Dad finally died of ALS, god bless him. The following Friday he was cremated on my fortieth birthday. To tell his story is way beyond the scope of this post but a story well worth telling. I live in Maine, he died in Florida. I didn’t get to go to the service for the cremation. Instead me and my wife and two kids went to the head shop here in town and I bought a Grateful Dead T-shirt, my first and only, and a couple sticks of incense. We walked over to the “Two Penny Bridge” here in town over the Kennebec river and lit the incense and said our peace each of us as we watched the smoke go up to the sky to mingle with that of his spirit and remains. It took me months to be able to listen to something other than the Dead, but they have been an important part of my life this past year. I obtained the Download Series Volume 11 soundboard copy of that June ’91 show that I was at and finally listened to the show. They kicked the show off with Touch of Grey. How apropos! It’s a beautiful set and sentimentally my favorite.

    Thank you Aquarium Drunkard for posting your Dead Notes. I’ve enjoyed them all. I am coming up in the next week on my father’s birthday, his first since passing. It’d be cool to win the beautiful T-shirt as a memento of a year passing, as a symbol of the change that happens in all of us, in this regard for me since June ’91. but if I don’t win it doesn’t matter much, the process of writing this has been its own reward. That, and the music.

    I’m a medium in all meanings of the word.

  44. My favorite show is probably 6-18-74 at Freedom Hall in Louisville. It’s my hometown and I just love that jazzy 1974 sound, best displayed here on an energetic Eyes followed by a tender China Doll that acts as a nice denouement for the first set. Second set gets spacey without falling apart in a nice dark WRS -> TOO.
    Also, for anyone looking for another great Hard to Handle, check out 8-6-71 at the Hollywood Palladium. The whole show smokes, but the H2H is otherworldly. Jerry absolutely cannot contain himself.
    I wear a medium.

  45. Love that writing, d norsen!

  46. […] at Aquarium Drunkard, Darryl Norsen’s been presenting the best moments from overlooked tapes under the Dead Notes banner. As you’d expect, he’s also a big collector:  “I’ve been actively collecting Grateful Dead […]

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