Dick's Picks Volume Ten

A Live Recording of December 29, 1977 at Winterland Arena in San Francisco

Released: 1998

Tracks

Jack Straw [7:06]
They Love Each Other [7:45]
Mama Tried [3:49]
Loser [8:30]
Looks Like Rain [8:39]
Tennessee Jed [9:09]
New Minglewood Blues [6:05]
Sugaree [14:19]
Promised Land [4:35]

Bertha --> [7:21]
Good Lovin' [6:51]
Playin' In the Band --> [15:48]
China Cat Sunflower --> [5:39]
I Know You Rider --> [5:27]
China Doll --> [7:24]
Playin' Jam --> [1:40]
Drums --> [2:39]
Not Fade Away --> [10:05]
Playin' In the Band [4:48]

Terrapin Station [10:29]
Johnny B. Goode [4:39]
(Filler from 12/30/77)
Estimated Prophet --> [10:47]
Eyes of the World --> [15:25]
St. Stephen --> [9:18]
Sugar Magnolia [9:53]


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Liner Notes:

Remembrance of Things Past

(And Yet, Still Present)

"We're gonna try to get everything just exactly perfect...on account of our new name is the Just Exactly Perfect Brothers Band."

On a crisp, clear late-December night in 1977, the Grateful Dead transformed the black-lit concrete barn that was San Francisco's Winterland into a stage of grand musical drama and mystery. An oft-told tale. So what else is new? Yet, so bold and unbridled, so raw and riotous was their playing, that 20 years later this night still remains vivid and deeply resonant for those who were there, its lines etched so sharply that it seems like just yesterday.

Over the past two decades, the show has evolved its own mythology, spoken of in tones of reverance, awe and wonder; its lore and legend passed down through oral tradition and hissy cassettes. For those of us in the house at Post and Steiner that night, it was easy to believe that the funky former ice palace was, in fact, Valhalla, where Odin sat in the top row, proudly watching his titans shake the firmament and tear the roof off the joint. A show for the ages.

Since the Fillmore West closed, Winterland had become the band's home base and house of the spirits. They had first played the hall over a decade earlier in 1966 and would close it for good in a year. A rectangular box with a crystal ball - high as it was deep, its uppermost rows flirting with Heaven, its open floor and raked seats encircled by balconies - the Dead made it feel like a living room. Every show had the vibe of a private party for 5,000. So beloved was this space and its goings-on that during its demolition more than a few Dead Heads rescued from the wrecking ball the very seats they'd sat in for years, doubtlessly the same ones from which they'll listen to this disc.

The train that left Terrapin Station in 1977 set course for what would be a watershed year; marked by the clarity, consistency and spirit focus of the band's playing and enlivened by the influx of new material. By autumn the music grew muscles and gained a Popeye-like swagger; raw, rollicking, audacious. By the year-end run in San Francisco, the locomotive was steaming at full speed.

The second gig of that four-night stand, 12/29 had an epic grandeur of sorts, decidedly human yet somehow larger than life. The band was downright athletic, bent on great feats. The result was a show of force and fire, as rough-hewn as it was rich in pure emotion. In the quaint, short-hand lexicon penned in certain enclaves of the Dead, the four-digit phrase "12/29" speaks volumes, a signpost to the ineffable. Huh? Where? Just a place we all went to and know was there, destination confirmed in the mere mention of the date itself. Call it a consensual reality of a surreal nature.

Wait a minute. We are just talking about a concert here, right?

Well, yeah, but...

From note one, the band roared with intent. The sound in the hall was LOUD like you'd never heard it, yet clear as a bell. By Garcia's second solo in Jack Straw, the shape of things to come was just as clear - frenzied joy. Or was it joyous frenzy? The energy level after the first tune revaled that at the peak of countless other shows. Jerry had trotted out his old Irwin "Wolf" guitar; last seen onstage in the Bay Area in 1975, an ax whose tone was highly emotive - rich, fat, round and sweet. It boomed, it rang, it sung, scorched and seared through a first set brimming with intensity.

The first set is remarkable alone for the sheer vigor and eclecticism of Garcia's playing. Listen to the soaring assertions of Jack Straw, the impossibly thick bass notes and inimitable odd bends and punctuations in They Love Each Other; the ring and sting of Mama Tried, the screaming chipped notes in Loser, the lithe, dancing cascades in the coda of Looks Like Rain, the chug and bubble of Tennessee Jed, the pure daredevil fury at the end of Minglewood, and on.

All night long, Garcia seemed more than willing to risk hitting the occasional bad note in order to find the ones no one else would imagine. Driven by Lesh's insistent thunder, Weir's endless inversions, and the drummers' constant chase, he had little choice. Nuances wre not admitted in the door, the band played with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The brute strength of the sound shook Winterland to its core, the old building surely bound to suffer Jericho's fate from within. By the time the first set ended in the wall of vibrato, the folk of Hunter's landscapes were made flesh, Chaos and Delight were happily wed, and the honeymoon was yet to begin.

Memory is mostly visceral, seems to live in the cells. Yet, a few snapshots and short reels imprint forever. This evening's most memorable are still sharply focused...

The hall is bathed in black light, the crowd a sea of violet, lilac and indigo. Playing In The Band has embarked upon strange and wondrous terrain - blue and haunting, dark and blossoming, torrid and tranquil - the band intimately huddled and playing with a synergy that defines the Dead at their best. As the music ebbs, Garcia exits the stage and lingers in the wings, leaving the others easing into a wash of cymbals, tinkling keys, gentle guitar swells and rock-a-bye bass. The reverie ultimately drifts to a near standstill. In that instant, in a moment of pure theater - the perfect moment, the only moment - he steps from the shadows and strikes the lost chord - the opening riff of China Cat, unheard onstage for over three years.

PANDEMONIUM! The roar of the crowd deafens the senses, all but swallows the music whole. As Weir adds his guitar figure, that roar - if it's possible - just grows more jubilant, more ecstatic. A moment of heart-leaping, jaw dropping, wild-eyed recognition with everyone attentive to all its implications. The sudden and unmistakeable glint of gold in a patient miner's pan. There are no words for this, only the moment.

The crowd's rapture fuels the band, who respond in kind, and so it goes, back and forth, the great circle that makes such things possible. The jam out of China Cat rises like an ever-cresting wave, the band riding the edge with reckless abandon, audience in tow, tempting the Fates to bring the surf crashing down and pull them under. And then...

There is more to say, but enough said. Words are exhausted, the proof is in the thing itself. So, go and listen. No, the map is not the territory, but until time travel is nailed down, it's as good as it gets. And it's pretty damn good. And, oh yeah, this ain't no background music - turn the fucker UP!

Like intrepid architects, tooled with spontaneity and invention, the Grateful Dead built grand structures without floors, walls or ceilings. And yet, the best of them still stand, as great buildings do, to be revisited or set foot in for the first time, thanks to a little magnetic tape and a good deal of foresight.

Here's one night that stands particularly well. A night where one encore was not enough, where the applause echoes still. A night where as we left the building, nothing else in the world mattered. Winterland, 12/29/77. We had been there. That didn't make us cool. Just thrilled.

- Michael Nash

12/29/97

Caveat Emptor:

This release was digitally mastered directly from the original half track 7 1/2 ips analog tapes. It is a snapshot of history, not a modern professional recording and although it may exhibit some minor technical anomolies, it is nothing more or less than just exactly perfect.

 

Credits:

Grateful Dead
Winterland Arena 12/29 & 30/77

Jerry Garcia: Lead Guitar & Vocals
Mickey Hart: Drums
Donna Jean Godchaux: Vocals
Keith Godchaux: Keyboards
Bill Kreutzmann: Drums
Phil Lesh: Electic Bass, Vocals
Bob Weir: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

Recorded by: Betty Cantor-Jackson

Tape Archivist: Dick Latvala
CD mastering: Jeffrey Norman
Ferromagnetist: John Cutler
Design by Gecko Graphics
Photography: Ed Perlstein

 

 



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Dick's Picks Ten is a nearly complete show from 12/29/77 at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco, CA. It is missing "It Must Have Been the Roses" and "Sunrise" between "Good Lovin'" and the first "Playin' In the Band". There is a special filler at the end from 12/30/77. This album was released in February 1998.



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