Friday, May 25, 2012

5/25/72 Strand Lyceum: "Comes a Time," "Wharf Rat," Justice Part II, & Porter


When: Thursday, May 25, 1972
Where: Lyceum Theatre, London, England
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs)
  1. Promised Land, Brown-Eyed Women, Big Boss Man, Black-Throated Wind, Tennessee Jed, Mr. Charlie, Jack StrawChina Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Me & Bobby McGee, Good Lovin', Playing In The Band, Brokedown Palace, Casey Jones
  2. Me & My Uncle, Big Railroad Blues, Chinatown Shuffle, Ramble On Rose, Uncle John's Band > Wharf Rat > Dark Star > Sugar Magnolia > Comes A Time, El Paso, Sitting On Top Of The World, Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad > One More Saturday Night
As always, my personal highlights are bolded.

Not a bad spot for a Dead show in 1972, eh?
The show opener of "Promised Land" is a bit choppy, with a few flubbed lyrics and a halting ending where not everyone is on the same page. However, that's picking nits because this show is hot, hot, hot!! I really enjoy Jerry's vocals on "Brown-Eyed Women," a classic from the tour that I haven't raved about nearly enough. Along with "Ramble On Rose," it's among my favorite "short" songs on the album, and this version is a stellar performance. The versions of "Mr. Charlie" and "Jack Straw" leave nothing to be desired: flawless vocals, tight instrumentals, and very to-the-point. On another tour, these could be show highlights!

As we get into the meat of the first set, the "China" > "Rider" stands out - despite its uncharacteristic mellow energy level - for stellar melodic jams and delivering high-impact emotion in a subtle manner. We get another fantastic version of "Good Lovin'" a couple songs later, which gets the crowd (and myself) frothing at the mouth. The "Playin'" shows how versatile this song is. After listening to it from each show on the tour, it's still fresh and the jams interesting. Well done, fellas (and lady)! We're then treated to a very rare and beautiful "Brokedown Palace." The emotional depth of the vocals make this one a special treat, even if they had played it more frequently. Between the harmonies and the simple yet emotional instrumental performance, however, this song rests upon a separate plane with the likes of "Attics of My Life" and the a-capella versions of "And We Bid You  Goodnight."

The second set starts off with several shorter songs, each of which is well played. The best is "Ramble On Rose," with Keith stepping up big during the intro with some inventive chords and solid throughout. Everyone turns in fantastic performances in a playful and loose rendition of this classic. But the set really takes off on from there with an unusual (for the tour) mid-set "Uncle John's Band" that sets up an amazing jam sequence, featuring the heavily jammed bridge/reprise that doesn't stop with the final vocal. It drops directly into a superb version of "Wharf Rat." Again, the song has a fantastic instrumental and vocal performance from Jerry. He delivers the "I'll get up and fly away" section with remarkable anger to cap off an epic version. 


"Wharf Rat" segues seamlessly into a beautiful "Dark Star" that is dominated in the first half by fascinating and light melodic jamming. Even the spacier jams are devoid of screaming terror, but the entire song is as intense as any, just without the darkness. About 15 minutes in, the theme emerges with clarity, dropping into the vocals. In the 19th minute, an amazing rhythmic sequence emerges with Billy seemingly at the helm. This one gives way to a fabulous "Feeling Groovy Jam" filled with joyous emotion. At one point, Phil almost sends it into "Good Lovin'," but they stick with the theme. Jerry also plays with a bit of tension, but the rest of the band is having such a fun time exploring the "Felling Groovy Jam" he has to return. He sticks around just long enough to grab Phil and leap of the deep end into what becomes a dark and weird space. By the 32nd minute, the whole band reaches a dissonant and cacophonous meltdown, and "Sugar Magnolia" rises from the ashes shortly afterwards. This version is smoking hot, with a bit of leftover chaos and feedback towards the beginning.


From there we get my favorite "Comes A Time" of the tour, a bit slower than the wonderful version from Frankfurt. The raw emotion comes through with intensity throughout this exceptional version, inspiring me to feature the song in a special second edition of the BONUS SONG OF THE DAY, PART II!! Again, this has been a very special and meaningful song in my life for quite some time, and listening to it here brings back memories.... It's followed by "El Paso," a relatively mellow interpretation the death-song conclusion to the incredible jam sequence. What a ride, and the set isn't even over yet!


Jerry decides to go old school, kicking the band into an incredibly energetic "Sitting on Top of the World." Great rendition of this unusual song!! From there, it's time for another great "GDTRFB" that gets the crowd (and the band) fired up before a scorching "Saturday Night" finale. I can't say enough about this show, and the second set is as good as you can get. The Dead are making the most of their final stand across the pond, and it makes me a bit melancholy to think there's just one more show left.


Worth mentioning:
  • I haven't mentioned "Big Boss Man" enough on this blog. One of the most over-played blues songs in the catalog, the Dead do a respectable but unremarkable job with it regularly, especially on this tour. Pigpen pays homage to the fans and the scene by changing one of the lines to "sure get stoned at night" (instead of "sure gonna sleep at night").
  • "Black-Throated Wind" is played quite slowly, and Bobby again misses a couple lyrics. Sounds to me like he's a bit off, at least so far.
  • I can't help but think that "Tennessee Jed" is a bit ironic. They seem to be having so much fun on this tour (and at this show), but Jerry's still singing about heading back to Tennessee!


Song of the Day: "Wharf Rat"

Today's Bonus Song of the Day, Part II, comes to us as the Dead delivered at the Lyceum on 5/25/72: a rare and special second Jerry ballad!! This song signaled the dawn of a new era, debuting on 2/19/71 at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, the band's first show without drummer Mickey Hart. It indicated a new level of craftsmanship in the band's songwriting and performance, conjuring emotion and showing their ability to nimbly changing directions in an instant. 

Hunter tells us the story of a man who encounters an elderly, down-and-out drunk by the docks. When asked for a dime for a cup of coffee, he responds, "I got no dime / But I got some time to hear your story." The story the old man tells him is moving, sad, and a lesson to the audience:
My name is August West
And I love my Pearly Baker best
More than my wine
... More than my wine
More than my maker
Though He's no friend of mine
Jerry Garcia drew this picture, calling it August West,
his only piece of visual art connected to his music.
There was an historical figure in the temperance movement named Purley Baker, who headed the Anti-Saloon League for roughly two decades starting in 1903. August West continues his tale:
Everyone said
I'd come to no good
I knew I would
Pearly believed them 
Half of my life
I spent doing time for
Some other fucker's crime
Other half found me stumbling around
Drunk on burgundy wine.
They take us to the bridge, literally and figuratively, as we hear the old man recount his story. To me it is the story of his survival in the face of his greatest enemy: self-doubt.
But I'll get back
On my feet someday
The good Lord willing
If He says I may
I know that the life I'm
Living's no good
I'll get a new start
Live the life I should
He's conquered that doubt with hope, against all odds and in the face of certain failure. His hope is his salvation, and his refrain of, "I'll get up and fly away," recalls the similarly named folk song. As with most down on their luck, his mind returns to his greatest memory - Pearly Baker - and he's convince she's been true to him. With that, the narrator is struck with his faith in his true love, turning introspective:
I got up and wandered
Wandered downtown
Nowhere to go but just to hang around
I got a girl
Named Bonny Lee
I know that girl's been true to me
I know she's been
I'm sure she's been
True to me
The old drunk's story, whether based in truth or delusion, clearly resonated with the man. Is he convincing himself of that Bonny Lee has been true? Will he call her? Go to her? Or will he get a drink instead?

BONUS: Song of the Day, Part II: "Comes a Time"

As I noted in a previous post, "Comes a Time" has long been an incredibly moving song for me. It's a relatively simple lyric, the imagery is stark and the message is moving. The chorus sums it all up:
Comes a time
When the blind man
Takes your hand
Says: Don't you see?
Gotta make it somehow
On the dreams you still belive
Don't give it up
You've got an empty cup
Only love can fill
Only love can fill
As we find in the annotated lyric, the powerful image of the blind man asking if you can see alludes to Tiresias in Sophacles's Oedipus, Dylan Thomas's poem "Was There a Time," Raymond Carver's "Cathedral," and no doubt other literary works. But it's the message of following your dreams through darkness and light that is resonant for me. A fellow traveller once told me early on my path fighting for justice that it is critical that we surround ourselves with others in the struggle because we will fail more than we succeed. We need comrades to catch us when we fall if we're to continue to fight.

The other stirring image from the song is that of the empty cup, also employed by Hunter in "Ripple." Again, we learn from the annotations that the image echoes the W.B. Yeats poem "The Empty Cup," and that the Cups in tarot signify emotions. The empty cup reference from this song is later followed by the moving lines:
You can't let go
'Cause you're afraid to fall
Till the day may come
When you can't feel at all
This song is sad and stirring, but it's not hopeless. That is why it has always been such a resonant song for me. To me, the finest versions were played later in the 70s at a much slower pace. Check out my absolute favorite from the Boston Music Hall on 6/12/76. Listen to the full jam starting with "Let It Grow" for the full effect.



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Civic Duty: My Week as a Juror in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Part II

Calling my previous post on my experience as a juror "Part I" tied me into revisiting it before the end of the tour. My initial thought was that it was emotionally taxing being on the jury, and I wanted to sit on it for a bit, and in the back of my head I wanted to discuss it when I explored "Wharf Rat" for the Song of the Day, as it contains one of the Dead's few references to the justice system.*

Overall, the experience was emotionally exhausting. As I mentioned previously, the charges were for murder and conspiracy in what was essentially a turf war between two groups of drug-dealers. Regardless of the criminal activity that underlay the murder, listening to the details of a crime that caused a tragic loss for one family inspired self-reflection about my own life and my place on the jury. It's a tough thing to stand in judgement of another person, weighing the facts to make an incredibly serious decision, made tougher by our instructions not to discuss the trial with anyone in our lives or even with other jurors.

The attorneys were both quite good, building their respective cases around their professional strengths. The prosecutor relied on emotion and oratory, telling the story from the perspective of the killer and the aftermath from the perspective of a grieving mother. However, her delivery was occasionally choppy, a feeling we can all identify with in some way. The defense attorney questioned details and testimony, using incisive cross-examination and a conversational ease of delivery in making his case as strongly as possible. At times, he came off a bit too slick, though, in part because of his fine suit and flashy watch.** In all, both lawyers did an excellent job making their cases and carrying out their charges.

We listened to three days of testimony and closing arguments before we were left to deliberate as a jury at about 3:30 pm on Friday. We chose a jury fore-person by "consensus," however the decision was made when I was out of the room. The person who volunteered would have been the very last person I would have chosen, and upon opening the deliberation it became clear that he wasn't interested in  (or capable of) steering a healthy discussion to build consensus. However, I had already identified a number of jurors who shared many elements of my own worldview, particularly with regards to building consensus through the respectful exchange of ideas. Together, we were able to help direct the discussion and keep the foreman in check.

I'm not interested in recounting the details of the case or of the deliberations, but there were several questions about the validity of some of the evidence. The judge was clear that as jurors, we were each to weight everything we had heard and arrive at a conclusion based on her explanations of the law. There were a few jurors who were not immediately convinced of the facts, and we ended up carrying the deliberations into Monday.

The backgrounds and experiences of the various jurors played out a bit in the discussion, and it took a bit of effort to ensure that everyone could speak their minds. As you may expect, the difference between the more aggressive members of the jury and those who were more reserved was generally found along gender, race, and class lines. In addition, the majority of jurors never questioned the testimony of police personnel and other witnesses in positions of authority in any way. Their reasoning was that they would have so much to lose if they offered misleading or limited testimony, but these jurors did not consider the manner in which the system protects those individuals, evidenced by the rarity of consequences of those with authority. Unfortunately, there is little time for consciousness-raising during a jury deliberation.

After a lengthy discussion, we arrived at a consensus, convicting the defendant on all counts. In the end, the judge came to talk with the jury and answer any questions we had. Apparently, the topics of our discussion were hotly contested before the trial, as well. We also learned that there were a number of defense witnesses that did not answer their court summonses, not surprising in a neighborhood drug case. In the end, it was an instructive experience, and I'm glad I won't have to sit on another jury for several years.

Here are a few more lingering thoughts before I put this one to bed:
  • When you're given the opportunity to choose your own authority figure, it's best not to choose the old white dude - and that applies to me as well.
  • If you're ever in a situation where someone in authority is not carrying out his/her responsibilities, your best bet is to identify allies and take control of the situation. Don't ask for permission, just do what needs to be done. There is strength in numbers, and allies allow any negative reaction to be more easily deflected and redirected.
  • I don't believe it's any coincidence that we were left to deliberate with an hour left in the work week. Everyone in that room had their own work to tend to, and a conviction is more likely with a quick deliberation. With a consensus decision as important as this, it's critical that everyone involved arrives at a conclusion they can live with. The defendant more than anyone deserves the benefit of a complete deliberation.
  • At the end of the day, if you weren't there you don't know what happened. Depending on who or what they believe, the jurors could have come to any of a number of different 
  • Upon serious reflection over time, I have concerns about a legal system that allows confessions to be used in court. Despite the legal protections in place, there is a basic imbalance of power in any interrogation. Interrogation techniques are aimed towards getting a specific answer, not finding the truth.
  • I believe the verdict in this case really only affected one man - the defendant - and his family. To some extent, I could see it as a relief for the family of the deceased, but ultimately nothing will change in the neighborhood. The drugs are still being sold, and for all I know there are still murders happening between these same two crews. None of that would be affected by the outcome of this trial.
  • I can't say enough about the staff in the courtroom. They listen to all the details we heard as jurors, plus more information that isn't part of the testimony. This courtroom only hears homicide cases, and as emotionally draining an experience as it was for a week of my life, I can only image what it must be like when that is your entire work life. It take a certain type of person who can leave the work at work and come back every day.
  • I look forward to staying in touch with several other jurors I got to know through the trial. It's always great to meet interesting, good-hearted people who love Philadelphia like I do.

- Morning Brewer


PS (Pairing Suggestion): 

Where the pale ale was favored by the upper classes of English society, the porter was historically the beer of the English working class, favored by laborers after a day of their toils. It was the precursor to the stout, and today there are several distinct sub-categories. All are some grade of dark in color, featuring some degree of roasty flavor and an overall malty profile. However, the style (particularly the American versions) may feature quite a bit of hop bitterness and flavor, but all are build upon a malty foundation. Outside of the States, brewers are far less likely to attempt to define the line between a porter and a stout, but it's often recognized as a degree of roastiness and/or color, with porter usually showing some ruby or garnet highlights against the light. However, a range of these qualities appear within the style, as well.

The least dark sub-category is the brown porter, which may be quite dark indeed, but it always falls shy of black. It is malty and often displays some degree of roast with a moderate body and restrained hops. Relatively few American versions are produced, but be sure to check out the London porter from Fuller's and the Taddy porter from Samuel Smith's, both fine examples that are readily available. The Steelhead from Mad River is a notable American version. Pair any (or all) with a shepherd's pie for a hearty meal.

The robust porter is just that, flavorful and moderately full-bodied. Again there's plenty of malt, particularly roasted malt, that contribute a sweetness behind a strong chocolatey flavors. There may be quite a bit of bitterness from hops, but also benefitting from acrid qualities of roasted malts. Most American porters fall into this category, so some may be quite hoppy (and pretty strong). There are plenty of fantastic examples, but the benchmark for me is the Walker's Reserve from Firestone Walker, a heady brew to be sure!! If you've never had it and like porters even a little bit, track this amazing beer down. Some of my other favorites are the Black Butte porter from Deschutes, the porter from Anchor Brewing, the porter from Bell's, and the Edmund Fitzgerald out of Cleveland's Great Lakes B.C. For a different (and fantastic) take on this style, try the smoked versions from Stone or Alaskan Brewing or the vanilla porter from Breckenridge; they're all delicious!! I could drink these beers all night, but to me they go really well with a bacon cheeseburger.

Finally, the Baltic porter is quite similar in history to the Russian imperial stout, as the English style drifted eastward, gaining strength, body, and flavor along the way! While often quite dark, this beer is rarely (if ever) truly black. It is often brewed with lager yeast, and in that respect it can be compared to a strong version of a schwartzbier. These beers occasionally flirt with 10% ABV, but they most commonly fall in the 7-8% range. The BJCP succinctly summarizes the style:
A Baltic Porter often has the malt flavors reminiscent of an English brown porter and the restrained roast of a schwartzbier, but with a  higher OG*** and and alcohol content than either. Very complex, with multi-layered flavors.
For excellent Baltic examples, check out the Finnish Sinebrychoff, the Polish Okocim, or the Russian Baltika #6. American interpretations are often "imperial porters" (supercharged robust porters), but a couple I've enjoyed are the Gonzo from Flying Dog, Victory's Baltic Thunder, or the fantastic version from the dark-beer experts at Duck Rabbit. Worth noting is the uncharacteristically mild Carnegie from Carlsburg, Sweden, that clocks in at 5.5% ABV. Try pairing the strong, clean versions with a fruit sorbet or gelato, but for the giant American versions I suggest a spicy curry.

Again, I will be serving a delicious London porter in honor of the Lyceum shows at my party tomorrow. Hope to enjoy a pint with you!!


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I can think of the jail break in "Jack Straw," getting busted by the heat in "The Other One," and the New Orleans references in "Truckin'" as other justice-system references. If you can think of any more, please leave them in the comments section below.
** After the trial was over, we learned from the judge that the defense attorney had previously been a judge and that he had taken the case on a pro bono basis.
*** OG = original gravity, or density, i.e., more sugars before fermentation

3 comments:

  1. Second one is prison, babe, the sheriff's on my trail, and if he catches up with me I'll spend my life in jail.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice catch, thanks for lookin' out!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was referred to your blog yesterday as I'm listening to Europe 72 shows for the first time (other than the original album while in college in 1973). Great companion reading material, thanks.
    So, another example is Viola Lee Blues:
    "The judge decreed it, the clerk he wrote it.
    Clerk he wrote it down indeed-e
    Judge decreed it, clerk he wrote it down
    Give you this jail sentence you'll be Nashville bound"

    ReplyDelete