Thursday, May 3, 2012

5/3/72 Paris: "He's Gone," May Day, & Maibock

When: Wednesday, May 3, 1972
Where: Olympia Theatre, Paris, France
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs)
  1. Bertha, Me & My Uncle, Mr. Charlie, Sugaree, Black-Throated Wind, Chinatown Shuffle, China Cat Sunflower^ > I Know You Rider^, Beat It On Down The Line, He's Gone, Next Time You See Me, Playing In The Band, Tennessee Jed, Good Lovin', Sing Me Back Home, Casey Jones
  2. Greatest Story Ever Told, Ramble On Rose, Hurts Me Too, Truckin' > The Other One > Drums> The Other One > Me & Bobby McGee > The Other One > Wharf Rat, Jack Straw, Sugar Magnolia > Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away  E: One More Saturday Night
As always, my personal highlights are bolded.
^ Appears on Europe '72

The Olympia Theatre is a magnificent, historic hall. It was created by Joseph Oller, founder of the Moulin Rouge, in 1888, squeezed into a dense block not far from the Opéra. It was een the home of one of the world's first roller coasters!! By 1972, it had hosted the likes of La Goulu, Edith Piaf, the Beatles, James Brown, Bob Dylan (under a huge American flag at the height of the Vietnam War) and others. The American archetypes of the Dead's music - rough-skinned gamblers and cowboys - must have been reminiscent of Hemingway's decidedly American presence and prose in Paris a half-century before.

Phil Lesh in his element.
This show is a scorcher, and I have no doubt the energetic, perceptive, and vocal crowd had more than a little to do with that. Throughout, there are cat-calls and unison chants in both French and English, not to mention righteous eruptions of applause at all the appropriate junctures. And Phil Lesh owns this show from start to finish, particularly the second half of the second set.

The "Bertha" opener is played exceptionally tight and fast, with great vocals from Jerry and stupendous accompaniment from the rest of the band. The whole first set is fantastic and worth listening to, so don't let my highlights and descriptions limit your listening. I like "Sugaree" particularly for Phil's contributions on bass, and Jerry's stellar vocal performance. Like the rest of the versions on this tour it lacks the huge jam you would find in 1977, but it's very focused and to the point. "Chinatown Shuffle" follows with great playing from everyone, particularly Bill's flurries on the drums.

"He's Gone" is finally starting to settle into the arrangement we're familiar with, as Jerry finds a bit more bounce after a flat opening. His first solo is delivered with the snap we relish from future versions, and overall the playing is focused and a bit more adventurous than previous versions. "Playin'" has fantastic jamming in the middle section, and I am still amazed by the depth and intensity they pack into this song throughout the tour.

The highlight of the first set is clearly "Good Lovin'," played with intensity and sung with passion. The pace is again fast, and Pigpen delivers the opening verse with flair. Phil crashes through the starting gate first, and the rest of the band follows close on his heels. After a forceful and frantic first jam, Pigpen lands on a new rap, patiently singing, "You can hear my baby call / Up and down that hall." The tempo picks up a bit, and the new rap soon morphs into the familiar, "I come every time she calls / With her leg up against the wall." The jam turns dark and spacey - very odd for the typically rhythmic "Good Lovin'" - and Pigpen seems to be grasping for familiarity with his "jump in the saddle and ride" rap. As the beat begins to emerge, Phil seems to tease the breakdown from "Midnight Hour" before Jerry launches the jam into orbit. What a track! The band seems to have adopted "Good Lovin'" as their biggest first-set jam tune, feeling out the room and one another for the deep exploration to come.

We're treated to a surprising and touching version of "Sing Me Back Home," the autobiographical song by Merle Haggard* written about a touching experience in prison. The lyric tells the story of a prisoner's unusual last request while on his way to pay the ultimate price for his crimes: that his guitar-playing friend play and sing the song his mama sang to him as a child. Like most, this version is spectacular, though I have to tip my cap to the version from Veneta 8/27/72 as the best. Still, with Jerry, Donna, and Bobby on the harmonies, it always sends chills up my spine. Obviously, the crowd feels the same, as the end of the song is met with roaring applause from the Parisians. The "Casey Jones" that closes the first set starts a bit slow, but Keith lights a match towards the end, and during the final energetic flurry the organ (I'm guessing that would be Pigpen) puts it over the top.

The second set begins with Bobby and Phil introducing both the Godchauxs, and it sounds like Bobby refers to Keith (or possibly someone in the crowd) as "His Holiness with the bald spot." The ensuing version of "Greatest" picks up right where the "Casey Jones" left off - fast and furious! A  few good version of short-format songs follow, but the "Truckin'" sets the band off on a fantastic frenzy of jamming. It doesn't take long for the jam to fall into "The Other One," which starts with an ethereal intro rather than the furious drop and spiraling lines we've heard so often. It's a nice change of pace, though, and it's fitting because the first iteration of the theme is played at a leisurely pace. Phil sends the jam into a low, slow orbit, which builds into the first verse, over 13 minutes into the track.

Out of the vocals, the jam is played with brief fury, and Keith gives us a ripple (reminiscent of a Kyle run after a SCI climax) that serves as a cue for Bill to take his solo. A couple minutes in, the crowd again erupts in appreciative applause, but Billy K. isn't done yet! Towards the end, Phil joins him for a drum-and-bass duet, which foreshadows the bass solos that graced the following two years. This crowd knows how special this is, and as Phil drops into the rolling intro to "The Other One" they show their love yet again. This time, the band jumps in for a ferocious jam on the theme, but before long it drifts past orbit into the deep space. After a while, I notice Bill isn't playing, then I can't discern any piano or organ. Bobby's rhythm guitar is strangely absent, too, and I realize we're being treated to another duet, this time with Jerry joining Phil.** It's dark and weird, very different from the jazzy rhythmic splash heard just a few minutes earlier.

Once they get back on stage, the rest of the band jumps right into "Me & Bobby McGee," a very unusual choice to be sure. It lacks the mortality theme of "El Paso" or "Me & My Uncle" that were regularly plugged into these deep jams in 1972, but it's got that focused, country twang. It's a far cry from the psychedelic "Uncle" played at Aarhus, but it's an interesting experiment the crowd seems to appreciate. From there, it's back to "The Other One," of course, for another scorching jam and the final verse. The band releases the tension with a fantastic "Wharf Rat," a much-needed conclusion to the frenzied exploration through outer space and two lovers' hitch-hiked ride in a big rig's cab.

Do you know how hard it is to find
a picture of Donna and Pigpen?!?
"Sugar Magnolia" has the feel of a finale, played at a very fast tempo. Towards the end, Phil blows the roof off, and the rest of the band is right there with him. Then they miraculously find another gear and absolutely destroy the tail end of "Sunshine Daydream." Obviously they can't stop there, so everyone quickly regroups around the familiar pulse of "Not Fade Away." They don't let up even a bit from the first bar all the way through "Goin' Down the Road," though the pace and energy throws Jerry off a bit trying to ease off the throttle for the "And We Bid You Goodnight," but we forgive him the stumble considering the amazing jam we just witnessed. He tinkers with the theme a bit, as a drunk dancer trying to play off a stumble as a jig. To close "GDTRFB," Donna and Pigpen grab the reigns (Jerry and Bobby may have lost their voices by now), and the song goes down in a blaze of glory!! But they're not done yet.... They wrap up "NFA" with maybe a bit less energy than they started it with, but it remains one of the greatest versions of this pairing I've ever heard. Of course, the crowd is relentless in demanding more, so the band encores with "Saturday Night." As the music starts, Bobby makes a sales pitch to pick this one, their new single, up after the show. Oh, and it rocks!! The final track fades with the crowd clapping unabated, but there's always tomorrow night.
Worth mentioning:
  • I had to highlight "BT Wind" because like so many versions on the tour, it's a perfectly delivered Bobby tune!
  • There are so many great versions of "China" > "Rider" (pretty much every show to be honest), but this one made cut for the record. In the liner notes, Steve Silberman calls this version "the platonic ideal - a silver locomotive powering through a narrow mountain pass at midnight, showering sparks." However, the transition isn't spotless to my ears, but Jerry fools around with the rhythm an plays it off perfectly. Silberman also provides a great quote from David Crosby describing Bobby's guitar work: "Weir was another lead player, not the rhythm player you would expect. Along with Phil's completely unorthodox bath melody, that's what enable the band to play three running melodies simultaneously It was a completely new way for an electric band to play, and no other group has done it successful."
  • "Ramble On Rose" is excellent, and it sounds nearly identical to the version released on the record.
  • The "Jack Straw" that follows the conclusion of the medley built around "The Other One" is very good, though not spectacular. The ending is particularly strong. It deserves a highlight, but I've already used so many in this show!!

Song of the Day: "He's Gone"

Seeing as the band is finally ironing out its finer points, today's Song of the Day is "He's Gone." After performing this Garcia/Hunter composition for the first time in a Danish TV broadcast just over two weeks previously, the Grateful Dead played this song five times before they settled on this (near) final arrangement. You can find the annotated lyrics here.

The song starts with a loping guitar line over a slow beat, and Garcia quickly starts telling a tale of woe, betrayed by someone close to him:
From the album cover.
Rat in a drain dish
Caught on a limb
You know better but
I know him
Like I told you
What I said
Steal your face
Right off your head
As Deadheads will know, Steal Your Face became the name of the band's most recognizable logo after it graced the cover of an (ill-fated) album of the same name. In this song, however, the image is of being robbed blind. The musical accompaniment raises up with some extra bounce in the rhythm from Phil Lesh on bass, and Jerry takes off on his solo. The lyric develops with images of a steam locomotive and a cat on a tin roof, the unbelievable nine-mile skid on a a ten-mile ride, and of course the Deadhead refrain, "Nothing left to do but / Smile, smile, smile."

Ultimately, the bridge verse - delivered with such longing in the performance from this show - paints a picture of desolation and even despair, with the narrator seeking escape from the reality of betrayal.
Going where the wind don't blow so strange
Maybe up on some high cold mountain range
Lost one round but the price wasn't anything
Knife in the back and more of the same
Same old rat in a drain ditch
Caught on a limb
You know better but I know him 
As with "Jack Staw," the lyric comes full circle, ending where it started. In the best performances of this song, however, the band used the end of the lyric as a springboard into what was often an expansive instrumental jam that capitalized the rhythmic versatility afforded by the slow pace.

This song may be interpreted sorrowfully, mourning a lost comrade, and it was often played as a tribute following the death of someone close to the band. However, it's been well documented that it was written in response to their former manager Lenny Hart absconding with something around $100,000 belonging to the band in March, 1970. This experience was so difficult on his son, drummer Mickey Hart, that he chose to leave the band a bit less than a year later, despite the fact that his band-mates asked him to stay. Lenny was arrested while acting as a reverend in San Diego while "baptizing Jesus freaks" (according to Rolling Stone) in the summer of 1971. Mickey would sit in with the band again in October, 1974, before rejoining the band on a regular basis following their hiatus in 1976.

*     *     *     *     *

May Day

May Day was celebrated around the world just a couple days ago. When I was a kid, I remember leaving flowers on my neighbor's porch, ringing the doorbell, and making a run for it. This tradition has its roots in the European spring festivals celebrated on the first of May, with blossoming of the may tree the raising of the maypole, the anointing of the May Queen, and other merriment.

The Worker's May Pole, c. 1894. Read the
accompanying poemby Walter Crane here.
There is another May Day tradition celebrated throughout the world: International Workers Day. Like the struggles of working people around the world, the origins of the holiday are disparate, but they're united in method and purpose. In  1894, Rosa Luxemburg published a history of the holiday What Are the Origins of May Day? in Polish. She notes Australian industrial workers held a general strike on April 21, 1856, protesting for the eight-hour workday. It was planned as a single action, but they continued this as an annual tradition that spread to industrial workers in other countries.

In October, 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in America set May 1, 1886 as the target date for establishing the eight-hour workday, and labor unions across the country planned for a general strike on that day. As many as a half-million workers struck on that day, taking to the streets to show their solidarity. In Chicago, as many as 40,000 workers marched, including many of the former scabs who had been called into the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company during the company lockout. However, more scabs remained inside, and on May 3, a crowd of workers from across the city waited to greet them getting off their shift. Union leader Arthur Spies called on the crowd to remain calm and non-violent:, but before long the police and Pinkertons (mercenaries hired by the company to break the union) surrounded the crowd and fired upon them. Two workers were killed by police gunfire.

Flyer announcing the rally at Haymarket.
Organizers quickly printed leaflets promoting a rally to protest the murders and continue the call for the eight-hour day (see right). The event was held the following night in Chicago's Haymarket Square. Arthur Spies opened the rally with this statement of purpose:

There seems to prevail the opinion in some quarters that this meeting has been called for the purpose of inaugurating a riot, hence these warlike preparations on the part of so-called "law and order." However, let me tell you at the beginning that this meeting has not been called for any such purpose. The object of this meeting is to explain the general situation of the eight-hour movement and to throw light upon various incidents in connection with it.

The proceedings went smoothly for quite a while, and even the Mayor had stopped by on his way home, only to leave the subdued rally early. Around 10:30 pm, the police arrived, and the mellow tone quickly turned violent. A bomb was thrown, killing a policeman and wounding six others. As the crowd was fleeing, the police fired on them, killing four and wounding as many as 70 others. The day would live on in infamy as the Haymarket Massacre. A total of eight demonstrators were convicted in 1887 - four (including Spies) were executed, one was sentenced to death but took his own life in prison, and three were pardoned by the state in 1889.

An artist's depiction of the Haymarket Massacres.
Albert Parsons was another of the executed Haymarket martyrs. Born in Alabama, he served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He later settled in Texas, where he worked as a progressive newspaper editor and met his wife Lucy, a former slave. As a dedicated Republican, he fought for the rights of freed slaves, and eventually the couple moved to Chicago in 1873. As the two became more involved in urban politics, they soon embraced socialism and then anarchism around 1880 in an effort to ease the suffering of the dis-empowered. After her husband's execution, Lucy continued organizing throughout her long life. She summed up the long view of the anarchist program: "Anarchists know that a long period of education must precede any great fundamental change in society, hence they do not believe in vote begging, nor political campaigns, but rather in the development of self-thinking individuals."

The Second International met in 1889 in Paris, and agreed to commemorate the Haymarket martyrs on the anniversary of the riot in 1890. May Day was officially recognized as International Workers Day at next meeting of the Second International in 1891. It remained a day of rallying for the eight-hour day until laws were passed in the 1930s in the US and much of Europe. Since then, it has remained an international day of worker solidarity and a rallying day for movements on the left.

- Morning Brewer

PS (Pairing Suggestion): 

In honor of May Day, the featured beer is the Maibock, a light-colored, medium-bodied German lager traditionally served in May with the coming of spring.*** As with most lagers, hops provide subtle bitterness to balance for the dominating malt flavor. Like all bocks, the Maibock is relatively strong (above 6% ABV), perfectly suited for the occasionally cool early-spring weather.

So far in May we've been getting some warm weather mixed with cooler, wet days here in Philly, so I'm going to pair this beer with a quinoa salad, easy to serve warm or chilled. To make it at home, cook the quinoa with some broth and water (one part dry, rinsed quinoa to 1.25 parts liquid). Saute some onions and garlic with some fresh, savory herbs. Dice some mushrooms and let them sit in a bit of balsamic vinegar for a  few minutes before tossing them in with the garlic and onions. I like to add some greens (collards, kale, chard, or even spinach) and cook until they're soft. Add some diced sweet peppers just before you're done in order to keep a bit of crunch. Mix the cooked veggies with the quinoa, and mix in a dressing, either sweet or tart depending on your taste. If you want to play with the two, try a vinaigrette with raisins or a sweet dressing with capers.

Never had a great Maibock? Try tracking down one of these:
  • Ayinger makes one of the best German examples, if you can find it.
  • The Munich brewery Hoffbrau does another authentic version.
  • Hacker-Pschorr also is one of the originals.
  • Gordon Biersch does a great job making German styles, so check out their Golden Bock.
  • Rogue's flagship brew, Dead Guy Ale, is actually an ale, but they claim it fits the category. I'm not sure I agree, but I'm including it anyway.
  • Sierra Nevada came out with their interpretation, the Glissade, a couple years ago. Maibock with a twist. For their 30th anniversary, Sierra Nevada included another version of the Maibock in collaboration with homebrewing legends Charlie Papazian and Fred Eckhardt. Track it down if you can find it!
Enjoy your May, everyone. With all these great Dead shows over the next three weeks (or so), I know I'll be enjoying mine!!


* Unlike Johnny Cash, whose immortal "Folsom Prison Blues" often comes to mind as the quintessential country prison song, Merle Haggard actually served hard time. That this is a true story - a condemned prisoner requested he play and sing him a familiar farewell - adds emotional weight, which the Dead capture, singing the chorus as a soulful derge in decent harmony.
** In the liner notes, Steve Silberman gushes over a similar instrumental duet between Phil and Bobby. I missed that one on first listen, but it seems like Phil got the duet idea in his head and wouldn't let it go!
*** The Maibock (May) is closely related to the Helles (pale) bock, and most consider them to be slight variations on the same style. Since Bock can also mean "goat," the Sly Fox brewery in Downingtown, Pennsylvania holds a goat race at their annual Maibock Festival. 

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