Friday, May 4, 2012

5/4/72 Paris: "Brown-Eyed Women," Beer Wars, & Mead

When: Thursday, May 4, 1972
Where: Olympia Theatre, Paris, France
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs)
  1. Greatest Story Ever Told, Deal, Mr. Charlie, Beat It On Down The Line, Brown-Eyed WomenChinatown Shuffle, Playing In The Band, You Win Again, Hurts Me Too, He's Gone, El Paso, Big Railroad Blues, The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion), Casey Jones
  2. Good Lovin', Next Time You See Me, Ramble On Rose, Dark Star > Drums > Dark Star > Sugar Magnolia^, Sing Me Back Home, Mexicali Blues, Big Boss Man, Uncle John's Band, 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.

This show is a great example of how the Dead didn't need to play fast to bring a lot of energy and tension to a performance. The beginning of the first set is played very well, but at a much slower pace than the previous night's performances of many of the same songs. The set really gets going with "Brown-Eyed Women," which sounds so similar to the released version (pretty much my favorite version) it's surprising they're not the same. After the song ends, we can hear some interesting crowd banter, with a woman yelling to her friend (apparently across the hall), "I'm over here!"
OK, so I already used this photo (I think).
But I just learned it was actually taken at this show!

The "Playin'" that follows is vigorous, focused, and tight, just the way we've come to expect it on this tour. Again, it's a bit slower, but the tempo seems to provide more room for exploration in the jam - not the frantic, terror-filled excursions we find in some versions but nuanced and interesting nonetheless. The slower pace of "It Hurts Me Too" just makes it even more subtle and emotional, really highlighting the nuance in Pigpen's voice. The tempo picks up a bit on "Big Railroad Blues," and the instrumental performances are as good as they come. Everyone is on the same page, almost expecting one another's ideas before they are played. My personal favorite of the first set is "The Stranger." I don't think this version is quite as soulfully delivered as the version from Frankfurt the week before, but it's still phenomenal. I haven't listened to the two back-to-back, but to my ear it may be a bit slower and the instrumental performance isn't quite as tight.

Again with the "Good Lovin'" that blows the doors off!! Wow, this version is fascinating. It's not played at anything close to the breakneck speed of some recent performances, but it's still got some great jams and new vocal forays from Pigpen. For this one, Pigpen channels his inner grease monkey, saying he's going to "slip a little grease into the transmission." He goes on to explain:

Fixin' to do a little greasin', do some pleasin'
Shift your gear, mama
Slap a little more greast to it
Shift your gear one more time
Time for overdrive
We go a long row to hoe
Amazing how he keeps coming up with this stuff!! Reminds me of something that I remember reading about some of the early Dead shows, like '67 or '68, when Pigpen would take it as his mission to leave the crowd in an orgiastic state after each show.

Maybe it worked this time, as they have a false start on the "Next Time You See Me" that follows. Bobby says they lost electricity to part of the rig (maybe a cord got unplugged during a amorous tussle backstage?), but the interesting thing to me is the limited accompaniment highlights Jerry's lead on the intro. Is it me, or does it sound closer to a slow-bluesy Clapton or Buddy Guy? A little slower, the rhythm with a bit more soul. We get a second listen as they re-start the song, and to me it's different than the rest of the tour. Again, this one is played a bit slower than usual, and I think it draws great attention to Pigpen's vocal delivery.

The "Dark Star" here is adventurous and varied. About eight minutes in, the jam tuns into a melodic/rhythmic juggernaut bearing only the slimmest resemblance to the main theme. After an ample exploration of the newly discovered theme, the jam gives way to the first verse and immediately plunges into space. This space is more than spooky, but less than terrifying. I'll call it paranoia-inducing, for lack of a better term. Billy keeps with the same emotional theme through the brief drum break, after which the band returns to the "Dark Star" with heavy jamming. After a bit, they arrive at a bravely played "Mind Left Body Jam" that suggests (at least to my ears) part of "Uncle John's Band." They leave the realm of structure and arrive at a scorching jam that finds release. The theme from "Dark Star" emerges beautifully, as a glimmer of light breaking through a fog. Really remarkable!

The version of "Sugar Magnolia" that follows is the one that made the record, which you can recognize right away from the ethereal introductory bass chords. It's even hotter in context, coming out of "Dark Star." I think the original vocals sound even better than the re-recorded ones on the record. It's so smokin' hot that Bobby responds to the crowd's cheers after "Sunshine Daydream" by saying, "We're gonna catch our breath here for a minute."

A few songs later, it's almost like they realize they're running out of town, but they still want to do something special for this spectacular crowd. No time to start this one properly, so they jump straight to a soulful rendering of "GDTRFB" before an extremely terse "NFA" finale. The crowd is berserk, and the recording cuts rapidly to a rockin' "Saturday Night" farewell to the rowdy and tuned-in Paris crowd, capping a great pair of Dead shows in the midst of an amazing week of music at the Olympia Theatre.

The marquee of the Olympia Theatre during the incredible first week of May, 1972. A very special thanks to reader Philipe Sicard for passing this along photo and the one above, published in 1972 in the French magazine Rock & Folk.
Worth mentioning:
  • After going on about how faster doesn't necessarily mean better, it's hard to compare this version of "Greatest" after the barnstorming version that started the second set the previous night.
  • "Chinatown Shuffle" is excellent, with the drums really setting the tone throughout. 
  • Jerry is still fooling around with the intro to "He's Gone," alternating the older, flatter line the more nuanced one that ends up taking hold in future performances. Great solo, too. Honestly, it should be a highlight, too.
  • "El Paso" is really hot, particularly Keith's fills between vocal lines, and Jerry, as usual, nails the pirouetting melody that meanders throughout the song.
  • Why is it always a four-day creep with Pigpen? It seems like whenever he talks about getting back from a binge, he's been out for four days. And after four days, his lady-friend isn't pissed that he disappeared. All she wants to do is get him to bed, even though he wants to sleep it off. Maybe four days is his consort's magic window between being pissed he split and totally writing him off. The questions we'll never know now that Pigpen's gone.
  • "Ramble On Rose" and "Jack Straw" are both excellent, squeezed in before the "Dark Star." Both songs are beautifully performed with the extra intensity from the priming the band got over the course of "Good Lovin'."
  • This version of "Sing Me Back Home" is again slow, but very moving. Donna nails the vocals, really pushing this one over the top. Amazing!
  • "Big Boss Man" deep in the second set? It's gotta be a highlight!! It's played slowly but energetically and precisely. My ear is drawn to Jerry's solo, where he perfectly reproduces the entire chorus melody with verve.

Song of the Day: "Brown-Eyed Women"

"Brown-Eyed Women" was one of the first songs off the Europe '72 album that got me thinking about Garcia/Hunter as phenomenal song-writers. The poetry, composition, and delivery of this song thought 1972 never fails to strike an emotional chord with me. As I came to explore the wonderful hobby of homebrewing, I came to an even deeper appreciation of this song, telling an historical tale of a Depression-era bootlegger.

The opening bass notes get the song off to a skipping start, with the beat close behind. The lyrics begin with the narrator yearning for a lost time, when men worked the land with their hands and women told him, "Come to me."

The opening line of the chorus - "Brown-eyed women in red grenadine" - has often and humorously been mistaken for "Brown-eyed women in red leather jeans." But it's the next line when we learn what this song is really about: liquor and the soothing effects it has on dreary days.

We're transported back to Prohibition time, 1920, when all there was to drink was the literal and metaphorical dregs of the whiskey jar - no doubt watered down to stretch the juice. We're then on to "1930 when the Wall caved in" - the Depression that followed the Wall Street crash of 1929 - and "he made his way selling red-eye gin," another term for cheap, rot-gut liquor.

Another pass through the chorus, along with stellar lead play from Garcia and a surprisingly traditional bass line from Phil Lesh, and we're treated to a bit of biographical information on our narrator:
Delilah Jones was the mother of twins
two times over and the rest were sins
Raised eight boys, only I turned bad
Didn't get the lickings that the other ones had
As we arrive at the bridge, we get some more biography, this time of Delilah Jones:
Tumble down shack in Bigfoot County
Snowed so hard that the roof caved in
Delilah Jones went to meet her God
and the old man never was the same again
Apparently, the narrator got his hard-living streak from his mother!! The annotations online provide a tidbit not found in the published volume: a reader suggests that Bigfoot County is another name for Del Norte County on the extreme Northern California coast, bordering Oregon, where the earliest sightings of Bigfoot were reported during the area's mining and logging heyday.

We then learn that our narrator learned the craft of fermentation and distillation from his father, who had him "cut hick'ry just to fire the still." Was it any good? "Drink down a bottle and you're ready to kill."

For me, this song (like "Ramble On Rose") showcases Hunter's remarkably compelling storytelling ability with fine song-writing from Garcia.* The instrumental performance is always straight accompaniment, never venturing far afield into anything resembling a jam, and the combination of tight rhythm, emphatic bass-thumps, glorious piano fills, and stellar lead play and vocals from Garcia makes the versions from 1972 my absolute favorites.

*     *     *     *     *

Beer Wars: The Three-Tier System & the Battle for America's Beers

Anat Baron and her film's poster.
Some readers may be familiar with the film Beer Wars, a documentary by Anat Baron (former head of Mike's Hard Lemonade) on the state of the American beer industry. To sum it up quickly, a vibrant and rapidly growing craft beer industry is producing delicious beers of all colors and flavors. Their niche is also growing at an amazing rate (about 10% per year). However, the mind-boggling majority (around 90%) of beers sold in the US is light lager made by one of three giant corporations using a high percentage of adjuncts (rice, wheat, oats, etc.) that give the drink some alcohol but not much flavor, body, or color. The film explores many of the historical reasons why the market is so thoroughly dominated by corporate swill, such as:
    1. The American beer landscape didn't always look this way. Before Prohibition, there were nearly 2000 relatively small, largely independent, and almost exclusively regional breweries in the US.** They could not legally practice their craft in those dark years, and many folded.
    2. After Americans were allowed to legally buy beer, the laws regulating it changed. Namely, the federal government put in place a "three-tiered system" to (theoretically) separate the production, distribution, and sale of alcohol. Under this system no company that did one of those functions could do either of the others, and it was designed with the intention of creating checks and balances to protect the consumer.
    1. During Prohibition and the wartime rations that book-ended those dark days (as well as the explosion of industrial food production), the American palate moved from distinctive regional and ethnic cuisine towards plain, sweet flavors (sweet ketchup instead of acidic tomatoes, sweet sodas instead of bitter beverages like beer and coffee, even the decline of black coffee!).
    2. From the post-WWII period through much of the 1980s, ales of any sort were hard to come by in America. Most Americans had never tasted an ale's spicy esters, fruity phenols, or bitter hops. They didn't know what they were missing!!
    1. Following Prohibition, the brewing industry rapidly consolidated, to the point in the 1980s that well over 95% of beer sold in America was made by some subsidiary of either Bud, Miller, or Coors (BMC). These companies were essentially in a race to create the blandest beer possible to meet the "tastes" of the consumer. 
    2. OH!!! Those beers the Average Joe loves happen to be the cheapest to produce! What fortunate monopolists!! This "lucky" turn allowed these giants to leverage grain and hop producers with their unbelievable market domination. Pretty soon, the only malt you could find had the most boring flavor, and all the grains were identical to be processed by giant brewing machinery.
    3. The distributors naturally became dependent on one of these beer-hemoths, and before long the manufacturers dictated many business decisions made by the distributors, like what to carry, how much, what products to display in what areas of the beer case, etc. What could the distributors do? They were (relatively) small companies begging for scraps from corporate giants!
So, let's imagine it's 1970, and I just got back from a trip to England or Belgium. That flavorful ale I had over there was AMAZING!! Who knew it could be so delicious? Where can I buy some now that I'm home? Nowhere. Where can I learn to make it at home? Nowhere. At least not in the US, because homebrewing was illegal under federal law. That changed in 1978 when innovative homebrewers like Charlie Papazian convinced Congress to follow the lead of the UK (1963) and Australia (1972) and change the law.

Fast-forward to the 1980s, and a few select American beers like Anchor Steam, Sam Adams Boston Lager, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale changed the consumers' options. That, along with homebrewing, created the first wave of the American craft beer renaissance. Today, we are on the second (or third) wave of that renaissance, but craft beer producers (including the ones listed at the beginning of this paragraph) have continued to struggle for their place in the market with the likes of BMC. Retailers tell the beer reps they don't decide what gets stocked on what shelves, and a quick glance reveals the vast majority of the cooler (particularly the prime spots at eye level) is dominated by light lager of the BMC brands. Meanwhile, the distributors tell those same reps that they need to move a certain amount of one of the big-boys' products or they'll lose the account, and likely their business. The checks and balances of the three-tier system have gone the way of those in our government: dominated by the largest and greediest of corporate interests.

Beer Wars tells a piece of the fascinating story of Sam Calagione and the Dogfish Head Brewery. Sam was a quirky New England prep-school kid who just didn't fit the mold. In his 20s he discovered great beer and brewing, and before long he had the idea (and the loan) to start Delaware's first brewery in decades. Then someone told him state law forbade it. Oops!! Luckily, he found some helpful lawmakers, and now he is one of the most innovative and recognizable independent brewers in the country.

The film also tells part of the story of Rhonda Kallman, co-founder of the Boston Brewing Company, makers of the Sam Adams beers. She left the wildly successful company to invest all her money in starting her own brand around a new idea: beer and caffeine. She called her product Moonshot, a flavorful light lager infused with the peppy chemical found in coffee, tea, and many sodas. There have been coffee beers before, but that was more for flavor than affect. Rhonda's idea was to blend two of America's legal vices into a craft beer. She tells the story of being squeezed by retailers and distributors, while BMC tries to push her out of the adolescent market. Even her former partner, Jim Koch (not one of those Koch brothers), declines her invitation to become a ground-floor investor. The film ends with her carrying another six-pack to another bar after groveling to BMC for a handout, only to be rejected.

Not surprisingly, Moonshot folded in July of 2010 (after the film was released), and my heart goes out to Rhonda and her family. She was a pioneer in my favorite industry (craft beer), and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to be an attractive, middle-aged woman (and mother) hawking her beer from bar to bar. She (understandably, again) misinterprets Koch's refusal to invest in her company as him sensing a threat to his beer empire. The saddest part is that she doesn't seem to realize that the problem is she's trying to sell a horrible product!! It's not sweet like Four Loco and lacks its high-octane uppers, so it won't appeal to the mass drinker looking for a buzz and some energy. It's trying to appeal to the craft beer drinker, but at its core it's just another thin, boring lager... with a silly marketing ploy!!

The critical piece Rhonda didn't seem to account for in her business plan is that craft beer drinkers are discerning, drawn to quality over gimmicks. If you're going to play a marketing game, you'll need a billion-dollar budget, and even that doesn't always work.*** She found success on the business side of Boston Brewing, and she never claimed to brew Moonshot herself (I assume the recipe was contract-brewed by another brewery). The most successful brands in craft beer come from breweries that have honed their craft and do one of two things (or some combination of the two):
  1. Focus on brewing classic beer styles to perfection (Anchor, Brooklyn, Sam Adams, New Belgium, etc.), or
  2. Blaze trails across consumers' taste buds (Sierra Nevada, Stone, Dogfish Head, etc.). 
But they're all rooted in the creativity of an artist, the reproducible procedures of a technician, and the neuroses of a scientist. Their products succeed in a hostile market first and foremost because of quality, not brand management.

The first wave craft beer renaissance collapsed on itself in the 1990s because the product was seen as a commodity, not a craft. Eventually, the market was flooded with low-quality products, and new consumers stopped flocking to good beer, in large part because it just wasn't that good! The wave passing through the market today has the wisdom of that experience on its side, and many breweries are actually pulling out of some of their more distant markets to focus on the markets where they first found success. Part of the calculus is that they don't want new breweries to erode their base market, but it's also because - like the true purveyors of craft that they are - they aren't willing to sacrifice quality for quantity. They respect the beer, and they respect their consumers' discerning palates.

- Morning Brewer

PS (Pairing Suggestion): 

I'm mixing it up for today's PS, so I recommend tracking down a bottle of mead for this one! Since Paris isn't particularly known for its beer selection, this show begs to be paired with some honey wine. There are several styles of traditional mead (dry, semi-sweet, and sweet; still or sparkling), but they are all made simply with water, honey, and yeast. Since honey lacks the minerals of malt, fermentation is encouraged by the addition of yeast nutrients. Many meads from around the world are also fermented with apple cider (called a cister), other fruits (melomel), hops and malts (braggot), and many other variations.

Mead is also the traditional honeymoon beverage, as honey has long been considered a fertility aide and aphrodisiac. It's also an extremely simple fermentation to do at home, so long as you have a lot of patients. Taking my inspiration from Paris, I suggest pairing your mead with a fresh baguette, some real brie cheese (not that Presidente stuff), and some fresh grapes. By the time the "Saturday Night" encore rolls around, you'll be flipping out with the rest of them!!


* You could say the same about the Weir/Hunter collaboration "Jack Straw" (and quite a few others), as well.
**This year, the number of breweries in the US surpassed pre-Prohibition levels for the first time.
*** See Bud's American Ale, Zima, or countless other brands of swill you've probably never had more than once or twice.


  1. For quite an interesting and hilarious press article about the 1972 Paris Dead's adventures by Jerry Hopkins for Rolling Stone called "The Beautiful Dead hit Europe" click on ""
    or just click "The beautiful Dead hit Europe"


  2. Wow, Philipe, what a tale!! It sure paints a picture of a cultural invasion of Paris's high society. Thanks for sharing it with us!!

  3. I have the olympia theater picture in better quality if you want