Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pre-Show Introduction

Welcome!! Never thought I'd see the day, but here's my first blog post (no foolin'!!).

First a bit of background: My lovely, thoughtful, and generous wife gave me the complete recordings of the Grateful Dead's Europe '72 tour as a gift over Christmas. I was so excited I nearly exploded, but I quickly decided that - in honor of the 40-year anniversary of the tour - I would (attempt to) listen to each of the concerts on the anniversary date of it's original performance. After talking with a few friends, Amy suggested I blog the experience, along with any other salient thoughts (of course) on topics ranging from beer/homebrewing, smoking meats, politics, the impending baseball season, etc. After marinating on the idea over a few beers, I was sold, and here we are.

To put this tour in context for people who may not have the same level of obsession with the Grateful Dead as I have, this was the band's first full tour to Europe*, seven years into the band's existence. All shows were recorded in their entirety by Warner Brothers for future release. As the band had dug such a deep financial hole after their original forays into the studio, live recordings were in order. Their lack of discipline in the studio actually somehow made lugging gigantic 16-track recording equipment across the pond and all over northwestern Europe more economical than opening a studio to the band. (Somewhat ironically, they still ended up in the studio to record the vocals and harmonies, leaving the originally performed vocals on the floor of the editing room.)

The resulting album, creatively entitled Europe '72, is one of my personal favorites. Originally released on three full-length records and later on two CDs, it loosely resembles the Grateful Dead concert experience. The first two records (13 tracks) capture the band's deeply American roots with (relatively) compact, composed songs spanning the roots of rock 'n' roll from country, blues, and raucous guitar solos. The songs exemplify some of Robert Hunter's pervasive lyrical themes: cowboys, gamblers, unrequited love, and the lore of rural America. The first CD is one I use to introduce skeptical friends to the music of the Grateful Dead. The final record provides a glimpse of the instrumental exploration - deeply rooted in a jazz mentality - that begin innocuously with a classically country-rock song. Taken as a whole, it shows the band's maturation and craftsmanship of songs, as well as its musical mastery.

Forty years ago today, on the Feast of Fools on April 1, 1972, the Grateful Dead and their extended family departed the United States to head "Over There" (tentative title for the yet-to-be-recorded album). Life on the road was wild, to say the least. An excerpt from Jerilyn Lee Brandelius's 1989 Grateful Dead Family Album (p 86) gives us a glimpse of the tour as traveling circus (and explains this blog's address):
The 43 persons constituting the Grateful Dead's European tour apportioned themselves for the most part between two busses which came to be known as the Bolo bus and the Bozo bus. The Bolo bus had a john in it and its seats faced forward. The Bozo bus had a refrigerator and some of its seats were installed facing back, to accommodate four tables. And to look back, the subtle difference in character and import and atmosphere between the two omnibuses was so profoundly hidden and enigmatic that you could never possibly understand it. The Bozos wore masks, and the Bolos showed their faces. At one time the Bozos staged a raid on the Bolo provisions; at one time the Bolos staged a raid on the Bozo provisions.
As this blog goes on, I'll try to fill in any GD-historical gaps along the way, and I'll also try to keep it from being TOO Dead-heavy. I will attempt to post on each of the tour dates listed on the right (sorry mobile users, but it only shows up on the computer version) with at least a brief review of each show (setlist, highlights, link to a streamed recording, etc.), but I'm not promising I'll be able to keep up. I am a rare blog reader - and as mentioned a blogger virgin - so please feel free to make comments and suggestions. Thanks for reading, and let the tour begin!!

- Morning Brewer

* The Grateful Dead played the Hollywood Festival along with Black Sabbath and Traffic on 5-24-70 in Newcastle-Under-Trent, England, as well as the Chateau d'Herouville in Herouville, France on 6-21-71.


  1. Dude! i already learned something new. i had no idea the dead had been to europe before 72. good going- z

  2. It's Newcastle-Under-Lyme, not Trent.

  3. Regarding your mention of re-recording vocals and harmonies in the studio before release:
    Comparing what I can with the original Europe '72 WB release, not all the vocals were recut. You Win Again has its original vocal intact, mistakes and all. Other cuts had certain parts patched or harmonies added later or recut, such as Cumberland Blues, which contains some sweetened harmonies but other parts are the original performance.
    The famous Morning Dew from the final show at the Lyceum has only one short line patched where Garcia's voice cracks rather harshly (you'll know which one); the remainder that showed up on the WB issue is the original performance.
    Another weird thing that trained musicians such as myself would notice is that on the WB LP, quite a few of the tracks were sped up. I don't know if this was because of timing restraints on LPs, slow speed on the tape recording, or that it was routine to give songs a little temp kick thinking the lay listener wouldn't notice. But a glaring example is the China Cat/I Know You Rider on the original LP is sped up nearly a quarter tone. The Trucking'-Morning Dew sequence on the LP is sharp in pitch as well.