January 11, 2017

Dark Star: A Tale of Four Mixes

On February 27, 1969, the Grateful Dead played a pretty good version of Dark Star. They liked it enough to release it on a live album later that year, and it immediately became a fan favorite. (1) To this day many consider it the quintessential Dark Star, the defining version most heard by newcomers to the Dead, and much loved by longtime collectors. What’s not often mentioned, though, is that this Dark Star is available in several different mixes, each with its own sound and character:

1) The original Live/Dead album was mixed by Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor in 1969, and released on a Warner Bros CD in 1988.

2) In 2001, the Dead’s Warner Brothers albums were remastered for release in the Golden Road box set and individual Rhino CD reissues. Secretly, without any publicity or mention in the album credits, Live/Dead was completely remixed and the new alternate version released.

3) In the early ‘90s, Dan Healy made rough mixes from the Fillmore West 16-tracks to be considered for the From the Vault series. The shows weren’t released then, but (thanks to Dick Latvala) copies of these mixes did slip out into circulation. All the copies on the Archive from this run come from Healy’s mixes.

4) Then in 2005, Jeffrey Norman mixed the Fillmore West run afresh from the 16-tracks for release in the Fillmore West 1969 box set.

These mixes are quite different from each other, each emphasizing different aspects of the performance. Surprisingly, there isn’t a single mix where you can hear all the players all the way through! What follows is a summary of the various mixes and the changes between them, what you can hear (and can’t hear) in each one.

Bob Matthews original mix, 1969 (23:07)

This mix starts with Phil drifting in during the interlude after Mountains of the Moon. Garcia enters about 15 seconds later: Lesh is in the center, Garcia the center/right, and Weir on the right, quieter than the others. Kreutzmann’s drums are on the left; Constanten’s organ is almost inaudible at first, and wanders around the stereo picture after it emerges. After the Dark Star riff, Mickey’s guiro can be heard very faintly, almost unnoticeably, on the right. It’s usually easy to hear Kreutzmann in this mix; on the other hand, here Constanten has been mixed out to near invisibility much of the time. For instance, after the initial Dark Star riff appeared, Constanten played Pigpen’s old six-note organ riff; but that disappears here. The effect is to simplify the music with fewer instruments heard.
Instead, this mix was bathed in echo. This wasn’t on the original tape, but definitely added in the studio on a separate track – Garcia’s guitar echoes off to the right.
During the verse, Garcia sings on the far left, his voice echoing over on the right. Mickey’s gong can also be heard loudly on the far right. In performance, Garcia doubled his vocal lines by playing them on guitar, but his guitar was mixed out of the verses here (effectively replaced by the echo). The organ is also reduced to inaudibility, heard only during the two volume swells at the end of the verse.
The gong keeps ringing in the space after the verse. During the jams that follow, the organ continues to be mixed low, darting underneath the guitars so Constanten’s decorative playing is de-emphasized. The album isn’t quite as dynamic in volume as later mixes, but it’s a very active mix – along with the organ, Garcia’s guitar is sometimes panned around, and various instruments are raised or lowered in the mix. Constanten might disappear for a while and then quietly reenter in a different channel; or Weir will become quieter until coming back up in volume. The guitars aren’t always widely spaced in the mix, and sometimes they seem to get bunched up on the right of the stereo picture.
Mickey’s guiro comes back on the right in a quiet part of the jam, but he’s barely audible til he contributes a bit of percussion to the “sputnik” jam. Kreutzmann seems to sit out after the verse for a while except for a few taps, but becomes more involved after the “sputnik” jam, his drums placed on the left. Once he comes in, it’s easy to hear him playing through the jam, particularly the bass drum which is quite prominent here. (It’s loud enough to remind me of the 5/19/66 bass-drum mix.) For instance, when Garcia dramatically plays the Dark Star melody, you hear a drum-roll and bass-drum kicks, and the drumming is more active during the “bright star” climax than in the later mixes. (Hart, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be playing anything in this part.)
The second verse is mixed much like the first: vocal echo; no Garcia guitar lines; the organ inaudible until one volume swell at the end; Mickey’s gong on the right. The final backing vocals by Lesh & Weir appear on the far right (Weir very distant).
In the outro, you can faintly hear Kreutzmann’s drumroll, but the gong is more prominent.
Overall, this is a swampy, spacy mix, with instruments swirling around in a sea of echoes. It’s the most drum-heavy mix; but it also has the least keyboard presence, with Constanten frequently diminished or mixed out. Weir, though present throughout, is also quieter than in the later mixes; in fact all the guitars sound more murky and distant. This version is very much a studio creation, altering the sound of what was played on stage.
(I didn’t check for any difference between the original vinyl and the CD.)

Live/Dead remaster, 2001 (23:18)

The track starts some 15 seconds earlier than the original album, fading in with the last few notes of Garcia’s acoustic solo out of Mountains of the Moon. 
Initially, Lesh and Weir share the center, and Hart’s drums are briefly heard on the right. Suddenly Lesh’s level jumps up so that he’s way up-front, and Garcia re-enters 30 seconds in. The guitars find their balance in the center: Garcia a little to the left, Weir to the right, and Lesh loud in the middle. Some faint cymbal and percussion can be heard quietly on the far left. Once the Dark Star theme starts, Mickey’s guiro moves to the center, at higher volume.
Constanten can be heard very faintly in the back, playing Pigpen’s old riff; a minute later the organ moves over to the far left, and stays there, increasing in volume. The organ is louder here than in the other mixes – it can actually be heard throughout. The drums and guiro, on the other hand, are at first rather faint and mixed down more – they come out more in the quiet parts, and become louder and clearer in the lead-up to the verse. Lesh remains up-front (he and Weir are significantly louder than on the original album). The guitars are about level with each other in volume – there seems to be no added echo on Garcia’s guitar.
During the verse, Garcia’s vocal is in the center, a little distant in the first line (unique to this mix) but then brought up. His voice isn’t as echoed here, but there’s a bit of his guitar doubling the vocal line. Mickey’s gong is loud and clear on the far right, and the organ can be heard on the left playing through the verse, not just in the volume swells at the end.
The gong and organ stay up in the mix through the space that follows, before Garcia storms back in. Mickey’s guiro returns in the center during a quiet part of the jam – he switches to the drum set later on with some tapping on the right before the “sputnik” jam, then disappears. The organ playing is clear throughout, particularly in the “sputnik” – Constanten is brought out more here, and there’s a brief section where Garcia retreats and Constanten takes a little solo, a moment that’s most apparent in this mix. Lesh doesn’t stay in the center through the jams – sometimes he drifts right, sometimes left – but Weir is stable in the mix. Once Kreutzmann joins in after the “sputnik,” his drums can be heard quietly on the left and center, but pushed more to the background – for instance, you can’t hear the drum-roll when Garcia plays the Dark Star melody, and the bass-drum isn’t nearly as prominent. Kreutzmann kicks in more during the “bright star” section leading up to the verse; Hart doesn’t seem to be present until his guiro quietly re-enters on the right.
In the second verse, Garcia’s quiet guitar lines double a few lines of the vocal (his voice recedes sometimes). There’s very quiet organ through the verse, not just at the end; and the gong is clear. Lesh’s backing vocal is in the center (close to Garcia’s), and Weir’s on the far right.
In the outro, Kreutzmann’s quiet drumroll can be heard on the left, but Mickey’s gong is strangely absent!
Overall, this is a more balanced mix than the original album: the guitar levels are more even, with fewer shifts in volume. There’s a lot less echo; Lesh and Weir are more up-front; the organ is louder; Kreutzmann’s drums are pushed back more, but Hart has more of a presence here. I call it the “organ mix” since Constanten can be heard better here than in the other mixes. This is less of an “artistic” mix than the original, and more faithful to the stage performance.
(Though it would seem likely that Jeff Norman did this remix, he isn’t credited for it, nor could I find any interview where he mentions it, so this remains a mystery.)

Dan Healy rough mix, c.1991 (22:56)

The guitars are spread a bit wider than in the other mixes – Garcia’s on the center/left, Lesh in the center, Weir on the center/right. (Lesh and Weir are a bit more up-front relative to Garcia in this mix.) Kreutzmann’s drums are back in the center/left, somewhat recessed; Mickey’s guiro emerges clearly but briefly in the center after the Dark Star riff. The organ is very quiet behind Garcia, and can barely be heard (the Pigpen riff is almost subliminal here). As in the other mixes, the drums and organ seem to get louder (or more active) as the intro jam progresses.
During the verse, Garcia’s vocal is up front in the center – his vocal-doubling guitar lines are here (except for the last lines), and there’s no extra echo on the vocal or guitar. The organ remains very quiet in the verse, only getting louder in the two volume swells. Mickey’s gong is almost totally absent, only faintly heard in the distance after the verse – it sounds like Healy simply didn’t include the gong track, for whatever reason.
The space after the verse where Garcia forebodingly chimes while the other instruments hover sounds a bit flatter here, since the mix is so guitar-centered and lacking the gong. The organ’s present after the verse, but isn’t very loud; it’s thinner and quieter than the other mixes – sometimes Constanten becomes faint and just about vanishes, at other times he comes back up in a surge. The drums are generally quieter here too: a bit of guiro and cymbal-tapping can be heard in the quiet moments, but no percussion is apparent in the “sputnik” jam. Kreutzmann starts tapping again after the “sputnik,” and gradually the full drums can be heard coming in later, although the bass drum is still quieter than on the original album. (You can hear the drumroll when Garcia plays the Dark Star melody.) The drums and guiro are more prominent during the “bright star” re-entry into the verse.
In the second verse, there’s no echo on Garcia’s vocal, and his guitar lines are present. The organ can barely be heard til the end of the verse, with one swell; and the gong is all but absent. At the end, Lesh’s backing vocal is on the far left, and Weir’s on the far right, very quiet.
In the outro, Kreutzmann’s familiar drumroll is on the left, and Mickey’s gong is still missing.
Overall, this mix emphasizes the guitars, with the other instruments more in the background. Garcia seems less high in this mix, relative to the other guitars. The organ is pretty quiet throughout; there’s no gong, and less percussion in general. With no extra echo, it sounds flatter and less atmospheric than the other mixes. (It’s easy to hear Garcia’s natural stage echo in places, though.) Healy didn’t just set instrument levels at one spot, though, there are some volume variations throughout – for instance, Garcia or Constanten are sometimes bumped up for one phrase.
If the Dead had put out Fillmore West ’69 material in the vault releases of the ‘90s, perhaps the mix would have sounded like this. But it was held back; the tapes were leaked by Latvala and others instead; and an “official” Fillmore West set was released years later.

Jeffrey Norman mix, 2005 (21:44)

The timing is shorter here by some 80 seconds since Mountains of the Moon had its own track, and the new track starts with the Dark Star riff.
Garcia and Lesh are in the center, Weir in the right/center – grouped closer together than in previous mixes, all at about the same level; and Lesh is very up-front as usual. As in all the remixes, Weir is louder than on the original album, but Garcia’s guitar seems to have more echo in this one. Constanten’s on the left – quietly at first, you can faintly hear the Pigpen riff, but the organ gets louder at times. Kreutzmann’s drumtaps and cymbal can be heard clearly on the left/center throughout the intro jam, more than in the other mixes. Mickey’s guiro is in the center, but farther back, not nearly as loud as on the remastered Live/Dead. The drums and organ remain clear on the lead-up to the verse.
Garcia’s vocal is upfront in the verse, with a little echo. You can hear his doubling guitar lines, and the organ playing through the verse. Mickey’s gong is loud on the right, and pans around during the verse. At the end of the verse, the organ swells loudly, and there’s a big dramatic gong pan.
Afterwards, organ and gong and Weir chords dominate as Garcia suspensefully hangs back for a bit, his chimes growing in volume before he pours back in. Kreutzmann can’t be heard for several minutes; Mickey’s guiro faintly re-enters in a quiet part, then he returns to drum-taps before the “sputnik;” Constanten comes in and out of the mix. (Garcia & Lesh take on a brief, strangely phased sound entering the “sputnik” jam.) Kreutzmann’s cymbal comes back after the “sputnik,” and he gradually brings in the rest of the drum set after a few minutes, though he’s in the background and not very loud. (You can hear his drumroll when Garcia plays the Dark Star melody; but in this mix his cymbals are much clearer than the more faint bass drum.) Meanwhile the organ volume grows in some parts, and recedes again. There’s some extra echo applied to Garcia at moments throughout the jam, to emphasize his peak notes. (For instance, note the stereo reverb on his high notes before and after the “bright star.”) You can hear Kreutzmann’s drumbeats in the “bright star” section, and (very faintly) Mickey’s guiro comes back on the right afterwards. (In all these mixes, this is the first we’ve heard from Hart since the “sputnik” started.)
Garcia’s voice is brought up again in the second verse; you can only hear a few of his guitar notes. The organ is very low through most of the verse, finally coming up in one line, and the final volume swell. Mickey’s gong rings loudly through the verse, panning back and forth. Lesh’s backing vocal at the end is in the center with Garcia’s, and Weir’s on the center/right (Weir’s voice is louder than in the other mixes, and not as separated).
In the outro, the gong is front and center, but Kreutzmann’s drumroll is missing.
Overall, this was a creative mix – Norman fell in love with the gong here! (The guiro, though, remains in the background.) There is some extra echo used for emphasis; and the organ and percussion often change volume throughout – sometimes loud and clear, sometimes faded out. (The organ’s about as loud as on the remastered Live/Dead, but not as consistently.) Kreutzmann’s cymbals are emphasized in this mix, while his bass-drum is barely there. The touches of echo and volume changes bring out the drama in this version, though there’s a rather unpleasant processed (almost double-tracked) effect on Garcia & Lesh’s guitars at times.
I haven’t said much about Lesh’s place in these mixes, since Lesh is always the center and the lead in each mix; and the music rotates around him. Garcia comes in and out of the jams, laying back at times then diving back in with a new idea, while Lesh sets the foundation and anticipates Garcia’s every move. It’s also notable that all of the remixes give Weir a more equal role than the original album did.

The other tracks on Live Dead are also available in multiple mixes. Without going into too much detail, here’s a brief comparison of their differences. (2) 

St Stephen 2/27/69
Original CD:
Guitars – Garcia left, Weir right, Lesh right – Constanten on left
Vocals – Garcia left, Weir right, Lesh right
Garcia’s guitar has a very processed sound in the intro, and added echo on the right. Loud vocal echo added on the right. The organ is quieter than in the remixes. Faint glockenspiel in the bridge, on the right. Garcia’s guitar seems to be mixed lower in the jam.
Remastered CD:
Guitars – Garcia left, Weir right, Lesh right – Constanten on left  (same as before)
Vocals – Garcia center, Weir right, Lesh center
Garcia’s guitar sounds more natural, with no added echo. No extra echo on the vocals either. Louder organ. In the bridge: Garcia’s vocal is more up-front; very faint glockenspiel; Lesh & Garcia’s guitars move to the center.
Healy Mix:
Guitars – Garcia center, Weir left/center, Lesh center – Constanten left/center
Vocals – all in center
No vocal separation. Glockenspiel in the bridge is barely audible.
Fillmore West Box:
Guitars – Garcia center, Weir right, Lesh center – Constanten on left
Vocals – Garcia center/left, Weir center/right, Lesh center/left 
The feedback burst in the intro is reduced a bit. Weir’s cry after the second verse is mixed down. (There might be some echo on the vocals?) Kreutzmann’s drums are moved to the center (the other mixes had drums on left & right, as usual on each song). Glockenspiel in the bridge is almost inaudible.

The “William” Tell bridge is from 2/27; St. Stephen cuts to the Eleven from 1/26 after the vocals (at the track break on the CDs). They wouldn’t have wanted to use the St. Stephen from 1/26 since the playing’s less strong, it has some vocal goofs, and the jam is messed up when Garcia breaks a string:
I think they picked the Stephen from 2/27, despite a few flaws (the feedback at the start, Garcia stumbling at the end of the jam), since it had the fewest mistakes among the Fillmore West versions. (The others all have some sloppy moments; there wasn’t a “perfect” Stephen in the bunch.)

The Eleven 1/26/69
Original CD:
Guitars – Garcia left, Lesh center, Weir right (some reverb effect might be on Garcia’s guitar in places).
Organ in center/right, very quiet (almost inaudible sometimes), and stays quiet until the last 30 seconds.
Vocals – Garcia left, Lesh & Weir right (some reverb on Garcia’s vocal, and Lesh’s vocal mixed low).
Remastered CD:
Guitars – Garcia center, Lesh & Weir on right.
Organ on left, quiet at first but gets louder midway.
Vocals – Garcia & Lesh center, Weir on right.
Bear’s Mix:
Guitars – Weir left, Lesh & Garcia in the center.
Organ in the center (very quiet at first).
All vocals in the center. Drums on the sides, as in the other mixes.
The remastered Live/Dead sounds very similar to Bear’s mix. A couple volume changes are notable: when Garcia enters around 90 seconds in, his volume is down at first (especially on the original album mix), but he turns it up at 1:55. Constanten also gets louder when he starts playing chords at 3:30; then at the end (in all the mixes), at 8:40 the organ volume abruptly comes up.

It’s odd that they chose an Eleven with Garcia sitting out the first 90 seconds to change a string! (You can hear Garcia lose the string back in the St. Stephen jam.) But clearly the Dead were fond of the Eleven>Lovelight from 1/26, preferring it to any of the Fillmore West versions. (The Eleven on 2/27, at any rate, had a reel flip in it; and each of the Lovelights on the other Fillmore nights also had tape cuts.)

Turn On Your Lovelight 1/26/69
Original CD:
Guitars - Garcia center, Lesh center, Weir right (After a few minutes, Garcia moves to the left.)
Organ in the center, very quiet; stays low in the mix throughout.
Backing vocals on the right (a bit of Garcia on the left). Echo is added to all vocals.
At the start, you can hear the mix switch from the Eleven, as Garcia moves to the center; but oddly later on, he drifts back to the left again. There’s extra reverb on his guitar. Along with the organ, Weir’s guitar is also very low in the mix, so it’s hard to hear.
Remastered CD:
Guitars – Garcia center/left, Lesh center, Weir right
Organ on the left, louder in this mix.
Backing vocals – Garcia on left, Lesh center/left, Weir on right
Again, the mix changes from the Eleven at the start, as Lesh moves to the center. Weir’s guitar is much louder than on the original album. No extra echo on the vocals here – but strangely, when Lesh says “and leave it on” at the end, it has the same echo added as in the original mix. (You can hear the original sound on Bear’s tape.)
Bear’s Mix:
Guitars - Weir center/left, Garcia & Lesh center
Organ in the center, very loud in the mix.
All vocals in the center. Weir’s vocal is mixed up too high at the end (it’s comparatively low on both the Live/Dead mixes).
Drums on the sides, as in the other mixes. There’s a lot of audience shouting in this Lovelight, well-captured on Live/Dead but very audible even on Bear’s soundboard tape. 

Death Don’t Have No Mercy 3/2/69
Original CD:
Guitars – Garcia center, Weir & Lesh on right. Organ on right.
Remastered CD:
Guitars – Garcia center, Weir & Lesh on right. Organ on left
Healy Mix:
Guitars – Weir left, Garcia center, Phil right. Organ in center/right. (Vocal also moved over to center/right.)
Couldn’t check the Fillmore West box mix. But other than instruments shifting places, there aren’t significant differences between the various mixes. On the original Live/Dead, Garcia’s guitar isn’t as up-front (and the mix seems to change a bit midway through the solo); but Pigpen’s organ is well up in the mix as a lead instrument on all versions.

Feedback 3/2/69
Original CD:
Guitars – Lesh left, Garcia center, Weir right – Constanten center/right
Fades in. There’s a bit of drumming at the start for about 15 seconds, on the right. Gong on the right in the first few minutes, but seems to disappear in the last couple minutes. The organ is quieter than in the later mixes, but Garcia is louder and more up-front in this mix. (In all the remixes, he’s more recessed and farther back in the center.)
Remastered CD:
Guitars – Garcia center, Weir center/right, Lesh right - Constanten on left
(Later Lesh moves to left, Weir to right; then Lesh back to right.)
Comes out of applause. No drumming at the start. Gong on the right throughout, quieter in this mix, but can be heard in the last couple minutes. The organ is louder. It’s harder to distinguish who’s making what sounds, since Lesh & Weir often move around in the mix.
Healy Mix:
Guitars – Weir left, Garcia center, Lesh right – Constanten center/right
(Later Garcia moves to right, Lesh moves to left.)  
No drumming at the start. Gong on the left, very faint in this mix, and can’t be heard in the last couple minutes. The guitars are more widely separated (as on the original album), but Garcia & Lesh change places midway..
Fillmore West Box:
Guitars – Garcia center, Lesh center/right, Weir right – Constanten on left
The drumming at the start can be heard on the right. Gong on the right throughout, louder than the other mixes, including the last couple minutes. Very clear organ; the feedback might be the loudest in this mix.

We Bid You Goodnight 3/2/69
Original CD:
Vocals – Garcia center (more upfront), Lesh & Weir on right. Added vocal echo on left. The song cuts early since the reel ended right there.
Reissue CD:
Vocals – Garcia & Lesh center, Weir on right.
Healy Mix:
Vocals –Weir left, Lesh center, Garcia right for the first 20 seconds, then (on the Wise transfer) switches to centered vocals. The reel ran out shortly after the point where Live/Dead ends, so at 20 seconds a patch from Bear’s tape (with all-centered vocals) continues the song. To hear the original reel ending, check the Kaplan copy:
Fillmore West Box:
Vocals all in center; the whole song is taken from Bear’s tape. (There are some mic noises on the right.)

Despite having seven taped shows to cull from, the Dead’s selection process for Live/Dead seems to have been simple. They weren’t going to repeat songs from Anthem of the Sun, and they probably knew from the start which sequences they would use. In the end, a couple songs each from only three shows were picked – all included in full, and only a couple transition edits between songs were required:
1/26: Eleven>Lovelight
2/27: Dark Star>St. Stephen
3/2: Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Feedback>We Bid You Goodnight

A bit more background on the recording and mixing:

The band’s first attempt at recording live with the new Ampex MM-1000 16-track had been at the 12/31/68 Winterland show, which was not successful. Bob Matthews later said, “Unfortunately, we used some off-brand microphones that needed a bunch of batteries and constantly failed… We had so many problems that the tapes ended up not being usable.” (3)
David Lemieux says that only one reel with an all-star jam of Midnight Hour survives. Per one article: “"There was incredible amounts of distortion, missing tracks"… For the final set, the band called out the other musicians on the bill to jam, until there were three or four players per track. "It was one big blur of 16-track distortion by the end." Reels of the new 2-inch tape were so costly, the band erased the New Year's Eve recordings and recorded over them…at the Avalon Ballroom in January 1969…[and] when the band rolled into the Fillmore West six weeks later, eight rolls of tape from the Avalon had been erased, ready to use on the Fillmore recordings. Lemieux found Fillmore West reels with both "NYE" and "Avalon" scratched out on the label.” (4)
It’s unlikely that the January ’69 Avalon shows will ever be released – most of the multitrack reels were erased; and Bear’s two-track tapes have so many mixing problems they’ll probably never be considered for release. (The complete Dark Star from 1/26/69 may not exist in the Vault either, only Bear’s circulating two-track tape with the giant cut when he changed reels.)

Matthews and Bear have different memories of how many tracks were used., but according to Jeff Norman, the tracks were:
1. Pigpen vocal
2. Garcia vocal
3. Lesh vocal
4. Weir vocal
5. Kreutzmann kick & snare
6. Kreutzmann overhead
7. Hart kick & snare
8. Hart overhead
9. Hart gong
10. Constanten organ
11. Garcia guitar
12 + 13. Lesh bass
14. Weir guitar 
Two tracks were not used, and there was no audience track.

Matthews told David Gans, “The process by which we recorded was a simple one. Microphones that [were] used for the PA split were placed on the stage and [those] same microphones went directly to channels on the tape machine with no signal processing in between. No artistic decisions were made [with] the electronic signal.” When mixing, Matthews used “a fairly complex set of delays and reverbs to re-create that feeling of being in [the Fillmore].” The 16-track machine had 14-inch reels, “which at 15 ips allowed you to record continuously for an hour-and-a-half, and, of course, with the Grateful Dead, that was very important.” (5)

Matthews recalled that first the Dead tried to mix Live/Dead themselves “from their perspective onstage, which is their mindset. It didn’t work. It’s not that it was wrong, it was just different. It didn’t have any dimension to it. I always listened to the band from the hall, so when I got the chance to mix Live/Dead, that was the perspective I was looking to recreate, how it felt to be in the hall. We were the ‘audience’ in some respects.” His mixing technique: “You figure out the phase plans of all the input sensors – the microphones, where they were, and how they fit together. That’s the template. Then, adding to that, what is it that makes things sound locational when you’re in a room? … By utilizing time – such as delay and reverberation decay – in a very musically defined and tuned manner, you can add the dimensionality that makes it feel like it’s in a real space.” (6)

Jeff Norman had a few problems with the tapes when he mixed them in 2005:
“The ’69 tapes were pretty punchy. The way those were recorded by Matthews – taking the microphone straight into the tape machine and bypassing [console] electronics and control, the end result is there are some things that sound fine and others that are clipping, and there’s distortion on some tracks because they’re just too loud. The first day, the 27th, was fine; the 28th I struggled a lot with distorted vocals… It was a very bare-bones recording. There wasn’t too much you could do. There’s lots of bleed of instruments into the vocal mikes and there was limited tracks of drums to work with.” (7)
He showed Blair Jackson a couple examples of the instrument leakage: “[Pigpen’s] lead vocal on ‘Alligator,’ which revealed Garcia's guitar nearly as loud as the lead vocal. Both of bassist Phil Lesh's tracks have prominent drums, organ and rhythm guitar, in addition to Garcia's axe. ‘Jerry's guitar is in everything,’ Norman says.”
Norman was especially bothered by the limited drum tracks. “They put the kick and the snare on the same track…and there's distortion on a lot of it. Fortunately, each of them had another overhead track that was cleaner… Some of the vocals, particularly Jerry’s, are distorted, too. If you listen closely to Live/Dead, you hear it a little bit.” (8)

Norman said that “some delays and other little things I put in on the 2/28 “Dark Star”…were things that I thought would make it sound a little better, whether they were right or wrong. But for the actual Live/Dead material, I really tried not to do anything that was going to change it radically from what people already knew.” (9)
Norman is an active hands-on mixer, who can be creative with his improvements or sonic alterations. The original Live/Dead album was the radical departure, though; none of the subsequent mixes have tried to recapture that echo-bathed swirling sound. They’re usually closer to each other than to the original album, but each is a subjective interpretation that brings out (or leaves out) some different element on the tapes.

A fifth mix of 2/27/69 also exists – Bear’s two-track tapes of this run are in the Vault, and were used as patch sources in the circulating 16-track mixdowns, though otherwise they’re not available online. They probably wouldn’t offer a very different perspective of the music (and don’t have much of a stereo picture), but they’re likely to be a more accurate portrait of the stage sound than the more manipulated mixes we have.
Jeff Norman used pieces to patch little gaps on the 16-track tapes when mixing the Fillmore West box set: “Speaking of cassettes, there were five or six places where the multitrack ran out and the only tape to cover a gap was a Bear two-track. They were little pieces of Bear’s board mixes and some worked OK, but there’s one in a version of “Caution,” I believe, where there was only a cassette, and that’s pretty brutal... It’s not that great a cassette – there’s no high-end and there are drop-outs. But we had to use it.” (10)
(Lemieux said there might be “eight or nine points” on the box set where Bear’s tapes were patched in, which seems to be a more accurate count. "I think you could hear it if you were listening carefully with headphones.") (11)

It’s possible that a sixth mix of the Live/Dead material was also aired back in 1969. Garcia later told Sandy Troy, “We finished the mix of it before we finished Aoxomoxoa,” and the Dead previewed Live/Dead on KSAN as early as April ‘69:
I don’t know if this was an alternate mix, or the same mix later released on the album, since no tape circulates; but possibly it was the early Dead mix of the album that Matthews mentioned.
(Michael Parrish writes, “I taped a rough mix of it off the radio in roughly May, 1969, and it was broadcast again right after the Wanger GD special aired…in June, 1969. The album finally came out in November.” When Aoxomoxoa came out in June, Garcia said the live album would be released “in the next month or so,” but it was apparently pushed back by Warners.)

This Fillmore West run isn’t unique in having so many studio mixes available. Parts of many shows from the Europe ’72 tour also exist in at least three mixes, between Betty’s circulating tapes, the recent tour box set, and a few earlier official releases. The Dark Star from 4/8/72 boasts four different mixes, one done by the Dead themselves during the tour – but a mix analysis of that performance can be saved for another day!


(1) Witness the screams when the Dead start playing it at the Fillmore East in February ’70. An excerpt from this Dark Star was also used in the film Zabriskie Point, just a few months after Live/Dead was released.
(2) Instrument placement can vary, as guitars sometimes move around in the mix, and there was a lot of instrument bleed between tracks. The bass often seems to be in two places at once – not just because Phil played that way, but I think also because the bass was recorded on two tracks, so it has more freedom of movement.
(3) Blair Jackson, Grateful Dead Gear, p.79
(6) Grateful Dead Gear, p.83

July 27, 2016

Blowing Mad: Neal Cassady and Music

“Dean Moriarty roars into the Opus One at 3:30 a.m…. ‘Ron! How you been? Crazy! Look Jack, we got a lookin’ all so clean gig goin’ over Hunter’s Point so let’s splee this one an’ make that!’ That cat Moriarty…is just about so crazy as a man can be.”
– Pigpen (1) 

In February 1949, the writer Jack Kerouac visited his friend Neal Cassady in San Francisco, and they went out to the Fillmore district to hear some music:

 “We went to see Slim Gaillard in a little Frisco nightclub… In Frisco great eager crowds of young semi-intellectuals sat at his feet and listened to him on the piano, guitar, and bongo drums… Dean stands in the back, saying, ‘God! Yes!’ – and clasping his hands in prayer and sweating… That same night I dug Lampshade on Fillmore and Geary. Lampshade is a big colored guy who comes into musical Frisco saloons with coat, hat, and scarf and jumps on the bandstand and starts singing; the veins pop out in his forehead; he heaves back and blows a big foghorn blues out of every muscle in his soul… His voice booms over everything. He grimaces, he writhes, he does everything. He came over to our table and leaned over to us and said, ‘Yes!’ And then he staggered out to the street to hit another saloon. Then there’s Connie Jordan, a madman who sings and flips his arms and ends up splashing sweat on everybody and kicking over the mike and screaming like a woman; and you see him late at night, exhausted, listening to wild jazz sessions at Jamson’s Nook with big round eyes and limp shoulders, a big gooky stare into space, and a drink in front of him. I never saw such crazy musicians. Everybody in Frisco blew. It was the end of the continent; they didn’t give a damn.” (2)

The two young travelers found themselves in the midst of a musical paradise. The Fillmore district in the 1940s-‘50s was known as the “Harlem of the West,” a jazz and R&B hotspot with a couple dozen music clubs crammed into the neighborhood. (Due to segregation, blacks hadn’t been allowed in most Fillmore clubs & ballrooms during the ‘30s, but it became a black district during the war, when the Japanese were evacuated and tens of thousands of blacks moved to San Francisco.)
Musicians remembered, “There were two or three nightclubs on each block… You’d go in one club…and they’d be doing blues and jazz. You’d go down the street, and they’d be doing jazz… You could just go from one end of the neighborhood to the other, and every block had a club. If you were a musician and needed a gig, you just went to the Fillmore.” (3) So it was quite possible, as Kerouac described, to walk down the street and hear musicians playing on every corner: “You could walk down Fillmore Street and see all kinds of clubs lined up one behind the other, and the musicians could gig all the time. I mean, just music out of the doors, windows, people’s houses…there would be doo-wop groups on the street.” (4) Visiting jazz players from around the country with shows in the area would come to the Fillmore to sit in at jam sessions at various clubs. (By the mid-‘60s, almost all of these places had closed as the neighborhood was redeveloped.)

The Fillmore & Geary location would become famous in later years for the Fillmore Auditorium – but that’s not where Cassady & Kerouac went. What would become the Fillmore Ballroom had opened in 1912 as the Majestic Hall & Academy of Dancing – during the ‘40s it was a roller-skating rink, the Ambassador Roller Rink, for whites only. The rink closed in ’52, and dances started being held again. Black promoter Charles Sullivan took over in 1954, called it the Fillmore Auditorium, and started booking black bands.
Big bands had played the Majestic in the ‘30s, including some black musicians, but they remembered, “People of color were not allowed in the audience,” and through the ‘40s, “the dance-hall owners would not allow minorities in to see bands, or to roller-skate when it was a rink, until Charles Sullivan took it over in the ‘50s and began booking bands again.” (5) Through the ‘50s to mid-‘60s, the Fillmore was primarily for black bands playing to black audiences – some ‘60s acts included Bobby Bland, James Brown, Little Richard, Ike & Tina Turner, and the Temptations. (Neal Cassady may well have seen music there during this era too – he lived in various places around the Bay Area during the ‘50s-60s, spending a lot of time in San Francisco – but it’s unknown.)
At any rate, on that night in ’49 Cassady & Kerouac certainly didn’t go roller-skating, so where on Fillmore & Geary would they have gone? At the time there were a couple other music clubs just up the block, including the famous Long Bar, which might have been where they went and saw Lampshade. Jamson’s Nook may be Kerouac’s term for Jackson’s Nook over on Post & Buchanan, a club that often held jam sessions. They could have seen Slim Gaillard in any number of clubs since he was quite popular; possibly in a club right next to Jackson’s that he ran in ’49 called Vout City, which later became the famous Jimbo’s Bop City – in ’49 already notorious for its constant jam sessions.

(As an aside: I’ve wondered whether Joe Garcia (Jerry’s father) ever played dances at Majestic Hall in its first incarnation. Neal Cassady moved to San Francisco in November 1947 – he could never have seen Garcia, who died that August; and in any case Garcia had not played in jazz bands since 1937, when he’d been suspended from the musicians’ union and decided to open up a bar instead. During the ‘20s-‘30s Garcia had played clarinet and saxophone in jazz orchestras (probably in the popular sweet style of the time), and became the bandleader of a big orchestra. I don’t know whether he ever played the Majestic, but he’s said to have played in other theaters that his son would later play: the Orpheum, the Warfield, and possibly the nightclub Topsy’s Roost at Playland, a building which in ’69 would briefly become the Family Dog.)

Kerouac came back to San Francisco in August ’49 to take Cassady on a road trip to New York. They decided to celebrate (“two days of kicks in San Francisco before starting off”) and this time headed to “the little Harlem on Folsom Street,” then back to Jamson’s Nook, to see some more jazz – a night described at length in On The Road. It’s a famous musical passage with a wailing horn, a mad crowd, and Cassady (Dean) in ecstasy:
“Dean was already racing across the street with his thumb in the air, yelling, ‘Blow, man, blow!’… ‘Whoo!’ said Dean. He was rubbing his chest, his belly; the sweat splashed down from his face… Dean was directly in front of [the horn player] with his face lowered to the bell of the horn, clapping his hands, pouring sweat on the man’s keys… Dean was in a trance.” (6)

Kerouac also wrote about this experience in his tribute to Cassady (now named Cody), Visions of Cody:
“We started off the voyage by dedicating two nights of jazz to it. At that time Frisco jazz was at its rawest peak, for some reason the age of the wild tenorman was piercing up through the regular-course developments of bop…the wild tenormen blew with an honest frenzy because nobody appreciated or cared (except isolated hipsters running in screaming ‘Go! Go! Go!’)…friends and hepcats and they didn’t care anyway and the ‘public,’ the customers in the bar, liked it as jazz; but it wasn’t jazz they were blowing, it was the frantic ‘It.’
‘What’s the IT, Cody?’ I asked him that night.
‘We’ll all know when he hits it – there it is! he’s got it! – hear? – see everybody rock? It’s the big moment of rapport all around that’s making him rock; that’s jazz; dig him, dig her, dig this place, dig these cats, this is all that’s left, where else can you go Jack?’ It was absolutely true. We stood side by side sweating and jumpin in front of wild be-hatted tenormen blowing from their shoetops at the brown ceiling, shipyard workers; altos too, singers; drummers like Cozy Cole mixed with Max Roach; a kid cornet of sixteen…a cool bebop hepcat who stood slumped with his horn and no lapels and blew like Wardell; but best of all the workingman tenors, the cats who worked and got their horns out of hock and blew and had their women troubles, they seemed to come on in their horns with a will, saying things, a lot to say, talkative horns, you could almost hear the words and better than that the harmony, made you hear the way to fill up blank spaces of time with the tune and consequence of your hands and breath and soul; and wild women dancing, the ceiling roaring, people falling in from the street, from the door, no cops to bother anybody because it was summer, August 1949, and Frisco was blowing mad…” (7)

Kerouac & Cassady seem to live in a permanent jazz soundtrack in On The Road, and even more in Visions of Cody, which has one long section where they rap while listening to one jazz record after another – a couple times Cassady puts on Coleman Hawkins' ‘Crazy Rhythm’ and tells Kerouac to listen carefully, narrating the solos: “Listen to it, you’re gonna hear the different things they play…listen to the man play the horn…did you hear that riff?...listen to Coleman, real open tone…here comes the alto again, now listen to the alto…hear him?...real sweet but he rocks…he’ll play the same phrase again…watch him hang on it…here comes Coleman real low…” and so on til the record ends. (7)
During one of Cassady’s visits in On The Road, he “stood bowed and jumping before the big phonograph, listening to a wild bop record I had just bought called ‘The Hunt,’ with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume.” (8) Later in the summer ’49 trip, they go to a jazz club in Chicago and watch a bebop band, carefully described by Kerouac, who pauses to give an erudite little history of the major bop players. They’re surprised when the British cool-jazz pianist George Shearing shows up to play – “God has arrived,” Cassady announces. (They’d seen him before at Birdland, in another closely described performance – “those were his great 1949 days before he became cool and commercial… Dean was popeyed with awe” and kept shouting at the pianist, “That’s right! Yes!”) (9)
“He played innumerable choruses with amazing chords that mounted higher and higher till the sweat splashed all over the piano and everybody listened in awe and fright… [The band] sought to find new phrases after Shearing’s explorations; they tried hard. They writhed and twisted and blew. Every now and then a clear harmonic cry gave new suggestions of a tune that would someday be the only tune in the world and would raise men’s souls to joy. They found it, they lost, they wrestled for it, they found it again, they laughed, they moaned – and Dean sweated at the table and told them to go, go go.” (10)

Cassady had a primal reaction to jazz music, or the raw freedom it represented. For instance, once Cassady took his girlfriend Carolyn to a record store to listen to records; and she later described him listening to Benny Goodman’s 1937 swing hit ‘Sing, Sing, Sing,’ much like he did with Kerouac: “He was passionately involved in every instrument, every note, every phrase. He shared his delight by insisting that I, too, become as engrossed as he, repeating nuances I might have missed, calling my attention to an impending riff, while – his face glowing in a wide grin – he exuded, ‘Aaaah…hear that?’ or, with his eyes closed, ‘Listen…now listen, hear it? WhooooweeeEEE!’ followed by gleeful giggling and shaking of his head while he clapped his hands on his bouncing knees in time to the beat.” (11)

Kerouac, more reserved, was a deep follower of jazz, familiar with its history and the players, and often reading poetry and scat-singing in clubs to jazz accompaniment; and his winding, in-the-moment improvisational prose was inspired as much by the music as by Cassady’s letters to him. After the success of On The Road in 1957, he also recorded some spoken-word “Beat Generation” albums (initially with music backings) which, like his books, are full of jazz references – a couple examples, ‘The San Francisco Scene’ and ‘The History of Bop.’ 

Jerry Garcia was then in high school and becoming attracted to the bohemian North Beach scene. He read On The Road after a teacher recommended it to him, and called it “a germinal moment:” “As soon as On The Road came out, I read it and fell in love with it, the adventure, the romance of it, everything.” (12)
A Kerouac album also made a big impression on him: “I recall in '59 hanging out with a friend who had a Kerouac record, and I remember being impressed – I'd read this stuff, but I hadn't heard it, the cadences, the flow, the kind of endlessness of the prose, the way it just poured off. It was really stunning to me. His way of perceiving music – the way he wrote about music and America – and the road, the romance of the American highway, it struck me. It struck a primal chord. It felt familiar, something I wanted to join in. It wasn't like a club, it was a way of seeing. It became so much a part of me that it's hard to measure; I can't separate who I am now from what I got from Kerouac. I don't know if I would ever have had the courage or the vision to do something outside with my life – or even suspected the possibilities existed – if it weren't for Kerouac opening those doors.” (13)


On January 8, 1966, Neal Cassady was back on Fillmore & Geary, not to see music this time but to take part in an “acid test” at the Fillmore Auditorium, where he was one of the main attractions. No longer just a freak in the audience, he was now something of a celebrity in his own right, listed on the acid test posters and encouraged to rave on a microphone to the crowd.

The Fillmore was about to undergo a major change – Bill Graham had rented the Fillmore and used Charles Sullivan’s dance-hall permit to hold a couple of benefits for the Mime Troupe there. Graham saw the possibilities for the venue, and in February ’66 started booking weekly rock shows at the Fillmore. (Graham got the lease from Sullivan, who was killed in August ’66).
Abruptly, the Fillmore became a venue mostly used for white rock groups, in an area that was by then considered a run-down black slum, much of which was being closed, torn down and demolished in a flurry of redevelopment that turned the Fillmore district into blocks of vacant bulldozed lots. Thousands of residents were displaced, and much of the neighborhood was wiped out, including most of the black music clubs that had been there. (For instance, Bop City closed in 1965; other clubs like Jackson’s Nook and the Long Bar had closed years earlier.)

Cassady had met Ken Kesey in 1962, seeking him out in Palo Alto after reading One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, to Kesey’s surprise. Kesey later recalled, “Everybody already knew Cassady before they ever met him. A lot of people were there in that area because of him. I had read On The Road; I’d also read Visions of Cody. All of the action was swirling around Cassady. The writers all wrote about him, the hangers-on all hung around with him. His presence was known to me soon after we moved to the San Francisco area… He came swirling into my yard there at Perry Lane… He just took over that whole neighborhood.” (14)
Cassady hung out in Kesey’s scene for the next few years, partying at La Honda and famously driving the bus on the 1964 road trip to New York, rapping to the passengers and playing music on his earphones: “Roland Kirk blasting away on those tapes and me jumping up and down with the music.” (15) (Though he’d been rather estranged from Jack Kerouac for years, he introduced Kerouac to Kesey & the Pranksters when they arrived, but the withdrawn & disgruntled Kerouac did not get along with them.)
After the trip, he also discovered Carolyn Adams, finding her in a Palo Alto cafe, taking her back to Kesey’s place, and renaming her Mountain Girl. She recalled, “I ran into Neal Cassady [and his friend] at St. Michael’s. They had just come back from the Prankster bus trip. They came up to my table and said, ‘Do you want to go for a ride and smoke a joint?’ and I said ‘Yeah!’… I knew who Neal was, of course. Plus he had all his clippings in his wallet!… He was a celebrity and I thought he was a weird old guy… I decided these guys looked interesting and I went for a ride with them and [we] ended up at Kesey’s and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, look at these people!’… I felt instantly at home with them.” (16)

Naturally Cassady would be a fixture at all the acid tests as well, usually surrounded by admiring girls; and he ended up handing out the diplomas at the Acid Test Graduation in October ’66. (Cassady had a run-in with Bill Graham when the Pranksters were trying to persuade Graham to hold the Graduation at Winterland, but Graham only viewed him & Kesey with suspicion and the meeting didn’t go well. Cassady summed up Bill Graham on sight: “He was out on the street checking tire treads to see if they’d picked up any nickels.”) (17)
Despite his long association with the Pranksters, Cassady wasn’t known to have been especially into acid (though at the Watts acid test it’s said he “drank about a gallon” of the Kool-aid, becoming pretty disoriented). In general he was more a pot & speed man, living on a diet of amphetamines.

Sometimes Cassady would take a microphone at an acid test, but more often he stayed on the perimeter, rapping to those around him, twirling a hammer, dancing in a strobe light, or even analyzing litter on the floor. Wavy Gravy recalled, “Cassady would pick stuff off the floor, cigarette packs or whatever, and he would read it like Native Americans read meaning in natural things… It was the world as I Ching.” (18) (Not a strange concept for Cassady: Garcia said that “before the acid test a lot of times we’d throw a change, the I Ching, and Neal would read the judgment and stuff.”) (19)
Sara Garcia was entranced by Cassady juggling his hammer, “rapping to everyone in the room seemingly about what they were thinking, wrapping everybody’s trip into this whole eloquent bubble.” (20) Mountain Girl remembered Cassady as “the main announcer, the mad commentator… He was beautiful at the Trips Festival and the acid tests. We’d give him the microphone and a spotlight and some brilliant piece of clothing to shred. He’d do weird scat singing if the music wasn’t happening. He’d talk or give commentaries on the girls. Just constant entertainment. He moved fast and loved dancing in the strobe light, babbling all this comic rap stuff.” (21)
Garcia said that "Neal was really good" at the Big Beat acid test in Palo Alto: "This one ended up with Neal Cassady under the strobe light tearing up paper." Mountain Girl added, "Tearing up his shirt! He was ripping up that beautiful fluorescent polka-dot shirt...tearing it into little pieces. And then he got onto the paper after the shirt. He was ripping up anything he could get his hands on." (21.1)

The Fillmore acid test was a big success, with 2400 people attending. Stewart Brand later talked to Charles Perry about his memory of Cassady that night:
“Brand ran into Neal Cassady…standing in the balcony of the Fillmore Auditorium looking down at the welter of self-interfaced microphones and TV circuits, the Grateful Dead playing at one end of the hall and Kesey's own Psychedelic Symphony playing at the other. Brand had never seen Cassady so serene. ‘Total chaos going on on the floor, right? People wailing on Ron Boise's thunder sculpture, taking their shoes off and counting their toes, and television cameras pointing at each other and general weirdness. And he's just sort of nodding. Then he says, ‘Looks like your publicity for the Trips Festival is going pretty well.’” (22)

The Grateful Dead had been hanging out with Kesey’s bunch for some time, and had met Cassady at parties well before they played the acid tests. In these early meetings, one of his roles was as a drug connection – Lesh mentioned, “I met him in 1963, when he was selling methedrine in little vials, and pot.” (23) Kreutzmann also said that the first time he met Cassady, “he hit me up for dexamyl and shook me down for speed.” (24) And on one spring night in 1965, at the party when Lesh told Garcia he was interested in the bass guitar, they were smoking pot that Cassady had sold to Weir’s friends. (Lesh called it “killer dope;” he also noticed that Weir already “did a sidesplitting Neal Cassady impression.”) (25)
They were all in awe of Cassady – as Garcia said, “He was the guy speaking to us from the pages of Kerouac.” Everyone had already read On The Road, and he was something of a living legend to them, a hero of the beat life, an elder teacher and guru pointing to new space by his example. They all agreed on his influence: “the most far-out person ever…a true inspiration” (Jerry) – “beautiful” (Pigpen) – “an amazing man...being around him was like being close to the sun…he seemed to live in another dimension” (Bob) – “one of the most inspiring people I’d ever known…he was a saint for us…poetry in motion” (Phil) – “an inspiration…he was jazz personified…just watching him was like watching an action film.” (Bill)

It wasn’t often that someone who grew up in the big-band and bebop jazz era came to embrace new rock music, but Cassady seems to have made the leap happily. In one 1965 letter he mentions listening to ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ (“that’s true alright!”), and elsewhere he says he “went bar-hopping to hear some great Rock & Roll.” His girlfriend Anne Murphy wrote that Neal liked hearing Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard on the radio. (‘Slippin’ and Slidin’’ was a favorite song.) (26) On the ’64 bus trip he was spotted singing along with the Searchers’ ‘Love Potion #9;’ his son also recalled “Neal listening to Chuck Berry on the car radio and cranking up ‘Maybellene’ as he banged the dashboard to the beat.” (27)
Back in the ‘40s, Cassady & Kerouac had also been fans of early big-band rhythm & blues – while passing through San Antonio in On The Road, they listened to some R&B records on the jukebox: Lionel Hampton, and Lucky Millinder, and Wynonie Blues Harris’ ‘I Like My Baby’s Pudding.’ (28) So early rock music wouldn’t have been a huge jump in style for Cassady.

The Dead were not the first San Francisco rock group that Cassady came into contact with. He wrote in an August ‘65 letter to Ken Kesey: “I forgot to mention that Sunday night…[we] went to see a R&R group that Chan insisted on observing – well, who was it? that’s rite – Signe & The HiWires or the Sextones or the Jefferson Hi Bandits – our pals, ya know; & they sounded great, esp. on one about a Hi Flyin’ Bird.” (29)
The date was Sunday, August 8, 1965. The first Jefferson Airplane concert was always thought to be August 13 at the Matrix, but Cassady is very clear about the date, so it’s possible that friends of the band took him to see a rehearsal. (The writing implies that Cassady’s friends knew the people in the band already.)

“Chan,” who took Cassady to see the group, was probably Chandler Laughlin. Laughlin later told Charles Perry that in March ’65, “Me and a Hell's Angel named Gypsy and Neal Cassady and his old lady Ann Murphy and a bunch of other people drove…out to where Owsley was, picked up [his] acid and went on down to the Cabale Coffee House to hear the Chambers Brothers rock & roll.” (30) (The Chambers Brothers frequently played the Cabale around that time, though they were then more of a gospel-folk group and I doubt they did much “rock & roll” at that point.) So Cassady may have been going to any number of rock shows with friends at the time.
When Annette Flowers (later in the Dead’s office staff) met Cassady in September 1965, he was taking mushrooms and listening to the new Beatles album (Help! was their latest). He later took her to the Big Beat Acid Test, and the next year he’d take her to see Quicksilver and Airplane shows at the Fillmore. Though he was now almost 40, Cassady was just as comfortable in the underground rock scene of the ‘60s as the nightclub jazz scene of the ‘40s-‘50s, equally at home with beats and hippies.

Cassady seems to have attached himself to the Dead in particular, perhaps for several reasons – they were friends of Kesey’s, they were a focus of youthful energy, drugs and girls swirled around them, they admired him and gave him a place to stay, and he probably liked their music too. It’s easy to imagine him dancing intently in front of the stage as in the bop-jazz days, sweating and shouting, “Yes! That’s right! Go, go!” (Which the Dead would have loved.)
Cassady was a prominent visitor at the Dead’s 1966 Olompali parties as well. George Hunter remembered, “The Dead would be playing and Neal Cassady would be doing this strange little dance – it was almost like breakdancing, very fluid… Neal was always in the thick of things.” (31) Rock Scully also described Cassady at Olompali, “dancing in circles all over the lawn, juggling his hammer, talking that talk and making no sense at all.” (32)
Scully remembered Cassady at 710 Ashbury, at the Thanksgiving ’66 dinner: “Cassady never sits down. He’s up on the table, doing a little dance from corner to corner, rapping out his own Dada digest of the news... This is our dinner music. Jerry loves it because you can talk over it or under it, relate to it or ignore it. Jerry and Phil, who are both well read, listen to it like instantaneous poetry and toss lines back to him and feed the frenzy. Cutup conversations pieced together out of…gossip, mental mumbling, song lyrics... You can see why Kerouac and Kesey loved him so much. The guy was a brilliant writer who never stopped long enough to write it down.” (33)

Cassady would also hang out at 710 Ashbury in 1967, sleeping in the attic. Jon McIntire recalled, “Neal Cassady was around a lot, really a lot. He would kind of live up in the attic. There wasn’t really a floor in the attic; there were just boards that were laid down. I remember at one point, Cassady’s foot came through the ceiling. He slipped and his foot came down into Pigpen’s room.” (34) (Pigpen thought this was hilarious, and would tell the story ever afterwards.)
John Barlow visited in the summer of ’67 and remembered Cassady: “Holding court in 710's tiny kitchen, he would carry on five different conversations at once… To log into one of these conversations, despite their multiplicity, was like trying to take a sip from a fire hose… As far as I could tell he never slept. He tossed back green hearts of Mexican dexedrine by the shot-sized bottle, grinned, cackled, and jammed on into the night. Despite such behavior, he seemed, at 41, a paragon of robust health... As Cassady rattled incessantly, Bobby had fallen mostly mute,” silently listening to him. At night, while Weir lay dazed on the couch in the music room, Cassady would put on headphones and listen to bebop jazz, dancing, whooping, sweating, and juggling his hammer in front of the stereo. (35) 

Tom Wolfe was struck that "Cassady never stops talking...he doesn't seem to care whether anyone is listening or not. He just goes off on the monologue, by himself if necessary, although anyone is welcome aboard. He will answer all questions...spinning off memories, metaphors, literary, Oriental, hip allusions, all punctuated by the unlikely expression, 'you understand - '" (35.1)
It seems like Cassady must have been exhausting to be around, and even his friends could grow tired of his company. He often initially struck people as crazy, or they didn't know what to make of him, until they realized there was more going on under the constant patter. For instance, Pigpen said, "I thought he was kind of nuts, and then I got to know him better, and...he kind of got me, you know like, 'hey wait a minute, what's this guy up to?' [And then] I talked to him, and got to know him, and got to love him, and got into him more." (35.2)
The band members also experienced the terror of driving with him at top speed through San Francisco traffic, expecting to die at any moment since Cassady didn’t stop for anything. Garcia - who'd already come close to death in one car crash - gave a typical account: "When you went riding with him, it was to be as afraid as you could be, to be in fear for your life. You'd be driving along in some old Pontiac or Buick, one of those cars Neal was always borrowing - with no brakes. You'd be racing through San Francisco at 50 or 60 miles an hour, up and down those streets with blind corners everywhere and he'd cut around them in the wrong lane and make insane moves in the most intense traffic situations and you'd just be amazed that people weren't getting killed. He could see around corners. And while he was doing this he'd be talking to everybody in the car at once and dialing in the radio and fumbling with a roach." (35.3)

Hank Harrison had an apt characterization: "Neal was a dynamo. You thought it was a crowd until it slowed down and it was only Neal." (35.4) According to Harrison, “Neal had a fascination for beer but not really for rock groups. Neal didn’t hang out with rock groups very much. The only reason you could see him with the Grateful Dead was because they were his old friends and they had gotten a band together. Neal was constant energy – trying to tell everybody to loosen up and boogie, but ‘always keep that light lit.’” (36)
But Hank was mistaken about Neal and rock groups. Garcia had a different impression of Cassady: “He liked musicians; he always liked to hang out with musicians. That’s why he sort of picked up on us.” (37) Garcia also told McNally, “Neal really liked musicians. He got off on music. He liked my music. He liked my playing. And he loved to dance and he loved to do that crazy shit to the music. And the Grateful Dead was like his cup of tea for that kind of stuff.” (38)

Cassady would ‘perform’ with rock groups on occasion, too. Back in ’65 the Pranksters had recorded him rapping, intending to make a record with their musical backing; and he also danced and rapped onstage with the Anonymous Artists of America at the Acid Test Graduation. (Things like this were probably a natural extension of the beat-poetry readings over jazz music that had become common in the ‘50s. He may have done this with the Dead at some acid tests too, but I don’t think Cassady is heard on any of the circulating acid test tapes.)
But the most well-known instances came in 1967. Cassady reunited with the Jefferson Airplane that year when he, Kesey, and Allen Ginsberg went to a writers’ conference at Western Washington State College in Bellingham. “While they were there, on May 26, Neal and Allen appeared onstage at the Sam Carver Gymnasium, performing alongside Jefferson Airplane.” (39)
This may have been similar to Cassady’s rap with the Grateful Dead at the Straight Theater a couple months later on July 23, when they brought him on as a guest to do an almost incomprehensible monologue in his scattered style:  
Robert Hunter said this tape “gives you a good idea of his rap. He was like that, except he was not in top form on the [tape] except for a few moments.” (40) Hank Harrison included an excerpt in his Dead book and claimed, “The audience, consisting mostly of young people from Haight Street, did not know who he was and were jeering him from the floor.” (40)
Though Cassady’s not very inspiring on the tape, it’s the only recorded collaboration between him and the Dead – a link between the beat poetry/jazz recitals of the ‘50s and the psychedelic rock of the ‘60s, connecting over the R&B song ‘Turn On Your Lovelight.’

One of the last times Cassady met the Dead was in October ’67, just after Mickey Hart joined, when they were rehearsing at the temple next to the Fillmore. Cassady stopped by and rapped to the new member Mickey during the rehearsal (making him nervous), then roughly shook Bill’s arm, asking, “Are you loose, Bill?” (41)
The Dead were then working on Weir’s new song, ‘The Other One.’ Weir was still working on the words: when they played it live on October 22, the lyrics cryptically referred to the Dead’s bust earlier that month (or possibly another time when Weir threw a water balloon at a cop), and dealing with “the heat” in jail. The familiar first verse with the Spanish lady and her rose wouldn’t appear until February 3, 1968 (the day Cassady died); but by November 10, 1967, Weir already had the final second verse intact:

Well a bus came by and I got on, that’s when it all began
There was Cowboy Neal at the wheel of a bus to never-ever land.



1. Brandelius, Grateful Dead Family Album, p.51
2. Kerouac, On the Road – part 2, chapter 11
3. Elizabeth Pepin/Lewis Watts, Harlem of the West,  p.73
4. Harlem of the West,  p.37
5. Harlem of the West, p.127
6. On The Road – part 3, chapter 4
7. Kerouac, Visions of Cody [p.407, 169-70, 191, Library of America edition]
8. On The Road - part 2, chapter 1
9. On The Road – part 2, chapter 4
10. On the Road – part 3, chapter 10
11. David Sandison/Graham Vickers, Neal Cassady: The Fast Life of a Beat Hero, p.94
13. Richardson, No Simple Highway, p.28
14. Neal Cassady, p.277
15. Neal Cassady, p. 288
16. Blair Jackson, Garcia, p.81 (In another telling, Carolyn recalled that "Cassady was on a speed run, looking for bennies... He seemed to be a dangerous kind of guy... Then all of a sudden, [he's] pulling these clippings out of his wallet and he's a Kerouac character. Well, I loved Kerouac." Accounts differ on whether Cassady gave Carolyn the name "Mountain Girl," but that's what most sources say. One interviewer heard that "Cassady had told Kesey that he met this girl who was a little wild, 'like she was kind of a mountain girl.'" See http://www.sfgate.com/magazine/article/SHE-NEVER-GOT-OFF-THE-BUS-3117809.php )
17. Tom Wolfe, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, p.344 (see also Greenfield, Bill Graham Presents, p.169-70, for another account)
18. William Plummer, The Holy Goof: A Biography of Neal Cassady, p.139
19. McNally, Jerry on Jerry, p.138
20. McNally, Long Strange Trip, p.115
21. Sandy Troy, One More Saturday Night, p.79
21.1 Signpost to New Space, p.27
23. Gans, Playing in the Band, p.42
24. Kreutzmann, Deal, p.39
25. Lesh, Searching for the Sound, p.43
26. Neal Cassady, p.274
27. Simon Warner, Text & Drugs & Rock & Roll: The Beats & Rock Culture, p.210
28. On The Road – part 4, chapter 4
29. Neal Cassady, p.298 (see also Neal Cassady: Collected Letters, 8/30/65)
31. Grateful Dead Family Album, p.33 (from Golden Road)
32. Scully, Living with the Dead, p.54
33. Living with the Dead, p.134 (Misdated Thanksgiving ’67, when Cassady wasn’t in San Francisco. Probably written by Scully's co-author.)
34. Greenfield, Dark Star, p.100
35. http://www.litkicks.com/BarlowOnNeal (See also Browne, So Many Roads, p.108 – Cassady “shirtless and high on speed…listening to jazz with headphones and scat-singing along with the music as he danced around the couch.” – and McNally, Long Strange Trip, p.250 – “Neal had spent some ten days that January [1968] sleeping in the attic of 710, generally hanging out with Weir, who slept on a couch on the second floor… The room with the couch also had the stereo, and Weir would lie there, still silenced...as Neal gobbled speed, juggled his sledgehammer, and raved.” It’s possible that Cassady visited in January ’68 too, before his final trip to Mexico, but Barlow’s account is from a few months earlier.)
35.1 Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, p.14
35.2 Hank Harrison interview, 1970
35.3 Holy Goof, p.132
35.4 Hank Harrison, The Dead Book, p.153
36. Harrison, The Dead, p.46 (Amidst the fictions, Harrison has an interesting psychological portrait of Cassady in his books, which might even be partly true.)
37. Jackson, Garcia, p.93
38. Jerry on Jerry, p.129
39. Neal Cassady, p.311 (See also Bill Morgan’s Allen Ginsberg biography, I Celebrate Myself, p.436: “Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady picked Allen up in Portland in their magic school bus, Further, and drove him to Bellingham to teach classes for a few days at Western Washington University. Allen listened to Neal’s nonstop babble and related it to ‘Joycean syntax in 20th century English prose.’ The following evening Ken, Neal, and Allen acted as masters of ceremony for the Jefferson Airplane, who played at the college gym. That would be the last time that Allen and Neal would ever see each other.” See also the 5/26/67 Collegian article on their arrival, which mentions Cassady “[f]renetically keeping up a verbal discourse through a microphone setup inside the bus, with anyone that would listen.” Kesey says, “Cassady figured it out ten years before anyone else,” and it’s announced that “Cassady and Ginsberg will moderate” the Airplane show:  http://content.wwu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/wfront/id/34395 )
40. Deadhead’s Taping Compendium, p.140
41. Long Strange Trip, p.229; also Deal, p.83 (McNally & Kreutzmann clearly place the rehearsal in the synagogue next door to the Fillmore, but since that was apparently still in use, the Dead must have rehearsed in the Geary Temple next door to that. Cassady can't have met Hart for long before dashing off to Mexico.)

See also:

May 6, 2016

A Call For Missing Tapes

Back in the pre-Archive days, there were a number of Dead tapes listed in the Taping Compendium or in deadlists that a few collectors had, but weren't very widespread. To this day they still haven't been transferred to digital or put online, so you won't find these on the Archive or torrent sites.
I've put together a short list of the tapes that used to circulate, but aren't available or are in inferior quality online, in the hopes that some old tape collectors may still have these and can digitize them.

Jan. 1967 - studio outtakes
One collection of outtakes is here (misdated "12/5/66"), but it runs too fast, a couple songs are mislabeled, and a couple tracks are missing. I'm sure a better copy can be found.

8/4/67 - Lindy
Per deadlists, a partial fragment of this song opened the tape, but it isn't on the copies online.

3/29/69 - Dark Star
Deadlists has the time of this Dark Star as 21 minutes, but the circulating copies are only 15 minutes (with a tapecut). It's possible the deadlists timing is wrong, but I have hope that an alternate tape of this show may have the complete Dark Star. 
It's now available! 

Late 1969 - Bucky's Theme (studio outtake)
This was an instrumental with Garcia on pedal steel & John Tenney on fiddle, and was recorded along with Pigpen's 'I'm A Loving Man,' but never made it to a digital copy. 
It's now available!

[2/7/70 AUD
The SBD is very chopped-up and the AUD is more complete for most of the show. Actually, a complete composite source is available online, but I've listed this since for some reason the Archive copy is missing most of the songs and needs to be fixed or re-uploaded.]

4/12/70 - complete AUD
Several songs from this excellent AUD are patched into the available SBD, but the rest of the AUD would also be nice to have, offering a somewhat different PA mix of the songs.

5/24/70 - alternate SBD
A near-complete SBD is available, which is rather rough and distorted in places. But another mono board tape used to circulate, which was only part of the show (it started at Cryptical and went til the first few minutes of Lovelight), but may have clearer sound. 
It's now available! 

6/24/70 AUD - late acoustic set
Surprisingly for such a famous show, we still don't have the complete evening on the Archive. Different sets are scattered across several different source tapes of varying quality: the early acoustic set, the early electric set (but with Cosmic Charlie cut), part of the late acoustic set (with many cuts and some missing songs - the end of the set is also here), and the late electric set. Deadlists notes that the late acoustic set (and the early-show Cosmic Charlie) are complete, so evidently there are still more tapes to find.

(7/9/70 AUD) - Friend of the Devil, Easy Wind
Deadlists notes that these two songs used to circulate on tapes of 7/11/70 (their date is uncertain), but they aren't online. It's possible they're actually from another known show, but there's no telling if we can't hear them.

9/19/70 - acoustic set AUD
Only the last two acoustic songs are on the available copies of this show. Although the quality of the AUD tapes this night is quite poor, it's odd that an entire set of this famous show is still inaccessible.

10/4/70 - Pigpen interview
A radio DJ interviewed Pigpen at this show, but the copies online don't include this. 
It's now available!

11/16/70 AUD - Good Lovin'
A fragmentary audience tape included this song, with Hot Tuna and Papa John Creach playing on it, which is not on the SBD tape. 
It's now available!

11/70 AUD - fragment of unknown show
The Taping Addendum lists a batch of Marty Weinberg reels that were transferred in 2001; most of them have been put online by Rob Berger and others, but this partial mystery show is still unavailable.
The tracklist: Till the Morning Comes, China>Rider, Mama Tried, Good Lovin'.  
It's now available! 

(1970 AUD) - Good Lovin'
This was on a set of Marty Weinberg's reels transferred back in 2001 - the start of a 6/24/70 reel was taped over with part of a Good Lovin' that couldn't be dated, but was from another show. Unfortunately, it wasn't included with the Weinberg reels that were put online.
It's now available (all three minutes of it).

2/18-19/71 - Ken Lee AUDs
A couple fragments from these tapes have become available - here and here - and they sound far superior to the other audience tapes from these nights (as you'd expect from Ken Lee). I don't know if the rest of these tapes ever actually circulated, but it's worth checking.
(Marty Weinberg's surviving reel of 2/24/71 sounds very good but is also incomplete, and it's unlikely more of his recording will be found. The reel also included a Mama Tried with Garcia on pedal steel which was unidentified - perhaps from a 1970 NRPS set - but wasn't included when the reel was put online.)

10/19/71 - Garcia interview
The radio broadcast included a pre-show interview with Garcia, which isn't included in the copies online.

1973? - Pigpen demos
About an hour of Pigpen's home acoustic demos are available online in a few different collections, but the Taping Compendium (p. 449) lists another tape of piano demos which isn't online.

2/24/73 AUD
An audience tape of much of the second set exists, including the Truckin'>Nobody's Fault jam>Eyes of the World, which has never circulated online. (Only a couple SBD fragments from the first & second sets are available.)

3/15/73 alternate AUD
A complete audience tape exists on the Archive, in varying quality - the first ten songs are rather poor, distant quality with a noisy audience; it then switches to a very good, clear stereo sound up until Truckin', when it switches back to distant mono. I'm not sure if this was pieced together from different sources or if the taper had to move around; but an old '70s bootleg LP had a couple first-set songs from an excellent, up-front AUD tape. It would be a significant upgrade if the rest of that tape could be found. (Only part of the second set is available in SBD.)
The Betty-Board SBD for almost the full show is now available. It would still be nice to find a better AUD source to use for patches, though.

The available sources online are all incomplete, with the longest one still missing several songs at the end of the show; but the full show was available on tape.
The missing songs are now available. 

9/10/74 AUD
This night was taped by the same taper who recorded 9/11/74, in similar quality, and the AUD used to circulate. It would be nice to hear this.
A more complete copy of the show with the SBD cuts patched by the AUDs is now available. 

There are a number of other 1972-74 audience tapes that were never transferred to digital, because the SBD tapes are widely available and the AUDs don't sound so great. I haven't listed them all since there would be little interest in these; but one that I'm curious about is 12/6/73, poor as the quality might be, just to hear how the audience responded to that Dark Star. (Dave Cubbedge, a reviewer in Deadbase who made a non-circulating stereo audience tape of the show, describes the audience bickering during Dark Star!)

A large number of studio rehearsal tapes from 1975-77 were in limited circulation but were never put online, probably because only a few fanatics would ever want to collect or hear them all. Nonetheless, there could be some interesting sessions here:

Sept 1975 Studio Rehearsals
9/1/75: Comes A Time, They Love Each Other
9/16/75: Catfish John
9/23/75: Dancin' in the Streets instrumental jams (a couple takes)
??/75: Dancin' in the Streets (a couple vocal takes)
[There could be earlier Blues for Allah rehearsals that were on tape but not online, but due to all the song repetitions I couldn't tell.]

April/May 1976 Studio Rehearsals
4/20/76: Lazy Lightnin' (multiple takes), Born Cross-Eyed, Friend of the Devil (two takes)
4/24/76: The Wheel (a couple takes)
5/6/76: Jam, Cosmic Charlie (multiple takes), Let It Grow
5/17/76: Cassidy (several takes), Instrumental, Attics of My Life (two takes), Estimated Prophet
5/18/76: Peanut Butter, Might As Well, Blues Jam, Samson & Delilah, Saint Stephen
5/20/76: Saint Stephen
5/28/76: Cosmic Charlie (alt), Samson & Delilah, Crazy Fingers, Music Never Stopped, Might As Well, Playing jam [missing from copies online]
5/30/76: Samson & Delilah

1976-77 Studio rehearsals:
8/26/76: Jam, Dancin' in the Streets (multiple instrumental takes)
2/19/77: At A Siding (multiple takes), Equinox (several instrumental takes), Blues, Fire on the Mountain (multiple takes with alt lyrics)
??/77: Funk Instrumental (two takes), Terrapin Station, Playing in the Band

(The Taping Compendium vol. 2 also listed as a 1976 outtake the ambient instrumental 'The Whale's Master,' but this appears to be a Mickey Hart solo track with synthesizers and no Dead involvement.) 

These were the first tapes that came to mind; I'll add to the list as I come across more.
Feel free to add suggestions to the list!