Thursday, May 10, 2012

5/10/72 Amsterdam: "Casey Jones," Joe Hill, and the Heady Topper


Again, sorry for the late post, but I hope to have tomorrow's up in a timely fashion.

When: Wednesday, May 10, 1972
Where: Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Holland
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs. I can't find much online, but this show is certainly worth buying.)
  1. Bertha, Me & My Uncle, Mr. Charlie, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Black-Throated WindLoser, Next Time You See Me, El Paso, He's Gone^, Chinatown Shuffle, Playing In The Band, Big Railroad Blues, Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed, Big Boss Man, Greatest Story Ever Told, Casey Jones
  2. Truckin' > Drums > The Other One > Me & Bobby McGee > The Other One > Wharf Rat, Beat It On Down The Line, The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion), Ramble On Rose, Sing Me Back Home, Sugar Magnolia > Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away
As always, my personal highlights are bolded.
^ Appears on Europe '72

Blair Jackson sets the scene perfectly for a magical Wednesday night in Amsterdam in 1972, so I'm going to leave her to it:
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam: exterior, c. 1920s...
... and interior today. Perfect set and settingfor a Dead show!!
When Amsterdam's gorgeous acoustically stunning Concertgebouw symphony hall opened on April 21, 1888, an orchestra and 500-voice chorus performed works by Bach, Handel, Beethoven, and Wagner. When the Grateful Dead played there 84 years later, they performed songs by Haggard, Holly, Parker, Reed, Kristofferson, Garcia, Hunter, McKernan, and Weir (among others). No doubt each show was transcendent in its own way for the sold-out audience of about 2,000, One was a lot louder than the other. And only one had dazed concertgoers searching the canals of Amsterdam looking for their blown minds afterwards. Yup, another skull-fuck of an evening on the Dead's Europe tour!
The performance on this show features fantastic playing throughout. Jackson suggests mentally dividing the second set into three sections: the 62-minute jam that starts the set and ends with "Wharf Rat," the short songs from "BIODTL" through "The Stranger," and the finale-medley-in-lieu-of-encore that closes the show. In addition, Bob Eaton writes a spot-on, no-nonsense review of this stellar show in the Deadhead's Taping Compendium, Vol. 1, which I will refer to most often in the points "Worth mentioning" below. I can only image what a Dead show in Amsterdam must have been like, especially in 1972. I'm sure the entire place was billowing with hash smoke and plenty of other items illegal pretty much everywhere else. The quality and length of this performance seem to bear out these suggestions.

The slowest part of this show is clearly the beginning, but it's just a slow start, nothing embarrassing. Still quite good by profane standards, but the "China" > "Rider" is lackluster in the context of the sublime versions so commonplace on this tour. By the time each of the singers is on his second pass, the band's in full swing and not looking back. I have to mention that this version of "Playin'" features an exceptional jam, intense and melodic. You know by now it takes a lot from this song for me to make special reference to the playin' (excuse the pun). Towards the end of the jam, Billy is swingin' hard on the traps, a taste of what's to come from him. Watch out for Kreutzman tonight, folks, he's a man possessed!! "Tennessee Jed" is a surprising highlight for me, featuring very strong, tight playing and a little extra from Jerry on the vocals. I've also got to mention "Casey Jones" because it's our Song of the Day! Surprise, surprise - it closes the first set. (There, I did it.)

Looks more like '74 to me, but it's tough to find
good picture of Billy at the kit from 1972.
They really get cookin' from jump in the second set. "Truckin'" is perfectly performed with an energetic jam fading into some of the finest two-and-a-half minutes of drumming you'll ever hear. This nasty barrage took me aback listening to the track, and it puts Kreutzman in the highest class of drummers (in my book): Blakey, Roach, Barr. It's jazzy, with subtle variations spinning into sudden changes in the beat, tempo, and rhythm. Truly phenomenal. Oh, and you know what comes next: *BOOM!* Phil's roll into "The Other One." Billy doesn't let up for a second here, and the jam that ensues is unlike anything I've heard on the tour so far.* First we get an extended, energetic manipulation of the theme, but instead of diving into the vocals, they get drawn off into a bluesy space by Billy's swingin' rides and Jerry's delta tone. The blues fades as the jam loses form, but after a while the song's theme re-emerges, and Bobby finally gets to sing the first verse. Before too long, they're back into another extended space with the drummer playing a crucial role. This one starts off halting and rhythmic feel, but before long it's fallen off the map and into the frightening abyss. Another energetic jam exploring the main theme follows, bringing with it the second verse, and at the end we get another brief space leading into "Me & Bobby McGee." Another unusual, country-ish song in the depths of a dark second-set jam. This one gives way to a very special "Wharf Rat," which Jackson notes is just the fourth of the tour. I'm not one to necessarily abide by the latter-day rule of thumb** that a Jerry ballad at its best finds a moment of complete silence, but this version comes close. There's an organic spontaneity to the stillness that really moves me.

From Jackson's set two, part two, all the songs are beautifully played. "BIODTL" has an enormous number of beats to kick it off (I count 25 total, but the first 15 were just Billy playing around with the beat). The vocals and the playing really inspire that pre-Primal jub-band sound! "The Stranger" phenomenal, but to me Jerry's solo lacks just the tiniest bit of the emotional intensity of the version from Frankfurt, still topping the list. "Ramble On Rose" delivers everything you could ever hope for from Jerry's soulful vocals and Phil's big, bouncing beat. Even the harmonies sound pretty good, in all their throaty splendor. The highlight of this section, however, has to be the "Sing Me Back Home" that reaches incredible heights for a stand-alone version not coming directly out of some deep jamming.

Part three really is an encore without the formality of leaving the stage, showing how firmly in the groove the band managed to get through the course of the night. It starts like a set-closer "Sugar Mags," but instead of Bobby wailing the ending, it all gets quiet for a few seconds. The wandering rhythm suggests "Good Lovin'," but I'm guessing Pigpen wasn't up for it tonight, so Jerry mercifully turns the beat to "NFA." The playing is everything we've come to expect from this jam sandwich on the tour, and I just can't get enough of it!! As the final track fades, you can hear that despite the 300 minutes of music performed that night, the crowd is hardly ready for the end.

I know I used this image already, but it's just so cool!!! Let's pretend this is at the end of "Not Fade Away."

Worth mentioning:
  • Eaton calls "Mr. Charlie" a standard version with "an outstanding Pig vocal." I can't disagree.
  • "Black-Throated Wind" is again a bit slow, but Phil's vibrato is spot-on, at least to my untrained ears.
  • Jerry's guitar fills between the vocal lines of "El Paso" are spectacular.
  • Jackson notes that the vocal interplay at the end of "He's Gone" that appears on the original Europe '72 release are actually from Dillon Stadium, 7/16/72. Europe, indeed!
  • Eaton likes "Chinatown Shuffle" better than I do, but I'm sure he's listened to it far more times than I have. I suggest you take his word for it.
  • "Jack Straw" in excellently played, but Jerry flubs a couple lines.
  • There's a magical moment in "Greatest" where Keith is playing a descending run while Bobby jumps in with a matching ascending run directly in his path. The rest of the song has exceptional energy, as well.

Song of the Day: "Casey Jones"

"Casey Jones" is one of the better known and least understood songs in the Dead's repertoire. It's frequent references to cocaine made it a fan-favorite for those seeking liftoff themselves, but the actual thrust of the lyric is clearly cautionary. Hunter notes, "I said the bad word - cocaine - and put it in a somewhat romanticized context, and people look at that as being an advertisement for cocaine rather than what a close inspection of what the words will tell you." Before we get into that, I need to tell everyone who may not know it the story of Casey Jones.

The historical Casey Jones, working for the Illinois Central Railroad.
From the annotated lyrics, we learn that he was born John Luther Jones, and got the nickname "Casey" from a town (Cayce, Kentucky) nearby where he was born. He ran the "Cannon Ball Express" train from Chicago to New Orleans for the Illinois Central Railroad, where his distinctive method of blowing the engine's steam whistle earned him the name the "Casey (or KC) Moan," but that's another song entirely (listen to track 5). On April 30, 1900, Casey Jones drove his freighter into another train

His friend and fellow railroader Wallace Saunders wrote the first song that memorialized his death, which became popular on the vaudeville circuit. The song was picked up by travelling folksingers, as well, and by the 1920s the story of Casey Jones's fate was a classic meme in American folklore.

I cannot allow this discussion to pass without noting another version of the story of Casey Jones written by the legendary Wobbly songwriter Joe Hill in 1911. In this version, Casey Jones scabbed on his railroad brothers on the South Pacific line, determined to run his load no matter what. After a bit of sabotage, Casey ended up in front of an elated St. Peter at the Pearly Gates:
"You're just the man," said Peter, "our musicians went on strike;
You can get a job a-scabbing any time you like."
As will happen, however, Angels' Union No. 23 finally caught up with him and cast him to Hell, where the Devil greeted him, "Casey Jones get busy shoveling sulfur / That's what you get for scabbing on the S.P. Line." When properly delivered - partly in song and partly in verse - this construction of Casey Jones's story is sure to bring a crowd to cheers, jeers, and laughs!!

The early days, feeling the power.
In this context, the Hunter lyric is another play on the folk theme of Casey Jones. While there is no historical indication that Casey was in any way inebriated (nor that he scabbed on his brothers, at least to my knowledge), the song plays off the cautionary lesson of all Casey Jones tales, this time warning the listener of the dangers of cocaine:
Drivin' that train
High on Cocaine
Casey Jones, you better
Watch your speed.
Trouble ahead
Trouble behind
And you know that notion
Just crossed my mind
When reading the chorus here (as opposed to hearing it screamed by 10,000+ fans), the message is clear that Casey Jones - flying high on cocaine at the levers of a locomotive - needs to check himself. The music is as basic as it comes for a classic rock tune. In fact, Garcia once told an interviewer that the way the song grates on you is by design:
[I]t's got a split-second little delay, which sounds very mechanical, like a typewriter almost, on the vocal, which is like a little bit jangly, and the whole thing is, well... I always thought it's a pretty good musical picture of what cocaine is like. A little bit evil. And hard-edged. And also that sinsongy thing, because that's what it is, a singsongy thing, a little melody that gets in your head.
The bridge verse, even more than the chorus, puts the warning in its starkest terms:
Trouble ahead
The Lady in Red
Take my advice
You'd be better off dead
Switchman sleeepin'
Train hundred and two
Is on the wrong track
And headed for you.
The Lady in Red has always been a literary reference to a prostitute of adulteress (The Scarlet Letter), and it's been said that Anna Sage was wearing a red dress when she dimed on John Dillinger to FBI the night he was murdered. The mark and the reference are again intended as warnings (as in "Easy Wind" as well), but the reference is also to a drug term: Lady Cocaine, reds (downers)***, or all together another upper (barbituates).

FURTHUR - Is that on Hwy. 84?
A comment on the web version of the annotations suggests Beat muse**** and Merry Prankster chauffeur Neal Cassady may be tangentially referenced as well:
  1. Casey is close to Cassady. 
  2. He was, a common user of barbituates and other amphetamines (likely linked to his death in Mexico).
  3. Known as "Speed Limit" to the Pranksters, he drove the bus.
  4. He commonly used the phrase "It just occurred to me...," very close to the ending of the chorus.
Speed Limit in his natural surroundings:
"Cowboy Neal at the wheel of a bus to never, never land."
I would suggest this is a second reference,
an inside joke of sorts, to commemorate a figure who bridged the generations of the mid-century countercultures. I further suggest this is more likely intentional than the pop reference alluded to when discussing "Mr. Charlie."

Considering Hunter's unique twist on a popular history, it's almost fitting that the message is so often misinterpreted. An entire generation (or two) of casual listeners are likely to think of Casey Jones only as Garcia's coked-out buddy, who met is fate with his hand on the throttle in more ways than one. But we know better.

*     *     *     *     *

Joe Hill: "Don't Mourn, Organize"

Born Joel Emmanuel Häggland in Gävle, Sweden in 1879, he emigrated to America with his brother Paul shortly after the turn of the century. He was a migrant worker, and ended up in San Francisco for the 1906 earthquake. In 1910, he became a worker-organizer for the radical union the Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW, or the Wobblies) in San Pedro, California, but he had ties to the local in Portland, Oregon. He gained his fame as a proletarian songwriter for such songs as "The Tramp," "There Is Power in the Union," "Where the Fraser River Flows," and "The Preacher and the Slave," set to the tune of "In the Sweet By-and-By" that coined the term "pie in the sky." His song "The Rebel Girl" highlights the importance of working class women in the movement to build power to combat the industrialists.
Joe Hill's mug shot, 1915.

In January, 1914, there was a double-murder in a grocery store in Salt Lake City, Utah, where a shot was fired in self-defense by one of the victims. Joe Hill was arrested after word got out that he had been treated for a gunshot wound on the night of the murders. He had been shot in a love triangle, and in order to protect his lover's reputation he didn't divulge her identity. Four other people were treated for gunshot wounds that night, but Joe Hill - infamous among the mineral industrialists of the West - was tried and convicted of the murders in what is now considered a massive miscarriage of justice. He never took the stand in his own defense, and many believe he chose to die as he could be of better use to the movement as a martyr than an organizer.

On November 19, 1915, Joe Hill was executed by firing squad by the State of Utah. His last word was, "Fire." Before his execution, Joe Hill wrote a letter to Bill Haywood, one of the heads of the Wobblies, that read (in part):
Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize.... Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah.
Wobbly lore holds that his cremated remains were sent in 600 envelopes to locals around the world. One of the envelopes containing ashes was confiscated by the U.S. Postal Service, and it contained a note that said, "Joe Hill was murdered by the capitalist class, Nov. 19, 1915." The contents was eventually released, but the envelope remains in the National Archives.


In 1930, Alfred Hayes wrote a poem called "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night" (below), which was eventually set to music by Earl Robinson in 1936. It was famously performed by Joan Baez (among other places) at Woodstock in 1969. You can listen to a version of the song here.
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,Alive as you or meSays I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,""I never died," says he."I never died," says he. 
"In Salt Lake, Joe," says I to him,
 Him standing by my bed,
"They framed you on a murder charge,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead." 
"The copper bosses killed you, Joe,
They shot you, Joe," says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man,"
Says Joe, "I didn't die."
Says Joe, "I didn't die." 
And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Says Joe, "What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize.
Went on to organize." 
"Joe Hill ain't dead," he says to me,
"Joe Hill ain't never died.
Where working men are out on strike
Joe Hill is at their side,
Joe Hill is at their side." 
From San Diego up to Maine,
In every mine and mill -
Where working men defend their rights
It's there you'll find Joe Hill.
It's there you'll find Joe Hill. 
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe you're ten years dead,"
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he.

- Morning Brewer


PS (Pairing Suggestion): 


Rockin' artwork, Alchemist! And you can pick out
some flavorful floaty funk on the right.
Seeing as this show is the band's all-around best performance since Frankfurt, I'm going to take a hint from that PS to feature another fantastic (imperial?) IPA available in a wondrous tallboy: the Heady TopperLike the Deviant Dale’s I suggested previously, this is a fantastic canned example at the intersection of the IPA and imperial/double IPA styles. However, they are quite different. Where Deviant Dale’s has huge body, deep color, and ample hopping, the Heady Topper showcases every possible component of the hops with malts solely used to make the delivery palatable. The fact that they both clock in at 8% ABV and utilize the tallboy can for the delivery of a big, bitter brew (and demand recycling on the labeling) makes me again tip my cap to both of these brewers. Keep up the good work, gentlemen!!

“DRINK FROM THE CAN!” the rim of this silver 16-ounce tallboy can demands from us. A bearded, bow-tied cartoon man in profile is pictured below, sipping from a pint glass, with rosy cheeks and the top of his head exploding with hop buds. The back of the can explains (reformatted for easier reading):
Heady Topper is an American Double India Pale Ale. This beer is not intended to be the biggest or most bitter. It is meant to give you wave after wave of hoppy goodness on your palate. Tremendous amounts of American hops will creep up on you, and leave you with a dense hoppy finish in your mouth. 
So drinkable. It’s scary. Sometimes I wish I could crawl right into the can. Freshness and control have always been my main concern when it comes to our beer. We are committed to providing you with an unfiltered and unpasteurized hop experience. 
Why do I recommend that you drink it from the can? Quite simply, to ensure a delightful, hop experience. The act of pouring it in a glass smells nice, but it releases the essential hop aromas that we have worked so hard to retain. If you MUST pour it into a glass, you may find that some of the hop resins have settled to the bottom – leave them in the can when pouring. This beer is perishable, and at its best when it is young, fresh and hazy. Keep it cold, but not ice cold. Drink this beer immediately, we are always making more.
-John Kimmich
The Alchemist
Waterbury, Vermont
DON’T BE A D-BAG, RECYCLE THIS CAN!
I really enjoyed this beer, but in keeping with my dogged determination to ignore directions, I needed to pour the entire thing into a nice, clean glass. Let me be clear about one thing: it wasn’t just hop resins in the can but actual bits of green hop flowers, as well!! The hop particles in the can are like a perpetual dry-hopping that ensures layers of aroma when you pop the can, even if you choose not to pour it out.

Cloudy hop resins (I ate the green hop flakes already)
If you choose to decant this one into a glass, the color is a light and hazy, but if you allow it to settle, you get a clear beer atop a sediment of particulate residue. The flavor is dominated by the hops, both with bitterness and citrusy/floral/piney flavor components, and there is just enough malt to balance this hop-bomb. And The Alchemist is right, the layers of hops unfold from a strong bitterness that stops short of violent, tons of that flavor, and unending aromas. At 8% ABV, it’s not to be trifled with, but with its dry finish and medium body, you can certainly imagine drinking several. Just be sure you’re not getting behind the wheel when you do!

As for food, I suggest pairing this beer with something snack-ish yet flavorful, like chips and guacamole. There isn't much body to the beer, so corn chips will give it a nice, salty complement. The guacamole is substantial enough to cover for the missing malt (if necessary) or soothe taste buds for anyone who isn't used to so much wonderful hoppiness!!


---------------------------------


* I agree with Eaton in the Compendium that this version of "The Other One" contains no less than six separate jams, not including the "Drums." Incredible!
** For those who don't know, once the Dead played more formulaic constructions starting around 1978 or so, there was a dedicated position in the late-second-set
*** I don't need to remind most of you that "Truckin'" brings us these tidings of sweet Jane: "Livin' on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine."
**** Cassady was not only the direct inspiration for Jack Kerouac's protagonist Dean Moriarty in On the Road, but Allen Ginsburg in Howl also referrs to the one who "copulated ecstatic and insatiate," as "N.C. secret hero of these poems."

3 comments:

  1. Another excellent post! The discussion of Joe Hill was great, though you left out his will, which I love. So, which is the better beer in your opinion, Deviant Dale's or the Heady Topper and...which would I like better? :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ahhhh, thank you, Sammy, for mentioning his last will. For those who are interested, check it out here:
    http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiJOHIWILL;ttJOHIWILL.html

    As for the brews, I prefer the Deviant Dale's just because I like a hefty malt backbone with my big hoppy monsters. However, both are excellent. If I were to suggest one for you, brother, I would probably recommend the Heady Topper, as the Mikkeller you had last time you came through was a bit too malty. The Deviant Dale's isn't as malty, but the Heady Topper is ALL ABOUT THE HOPS!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello. Well researched piece except for two things: 1) Blair Jackson is a man and 2) barbiturates are downers and amphetamines are uppers. Two different classes of drugs. Barbiturates act like alcohol, and that is why there have been so many deaths from the combination of booze and barbiturates-Jimi Hendrix and Brian Epstein being famous examples. In the 1950's-60's, before modern antidepressants came on the scene, a combination amphetamine/barbiturate was prescribed for a variety of mental/emotional ailments. It was successful, but obviously dangerous.

    ReplyDelete