Dave's Picks Vol. 2

Recorded at Dillon Stadium, Hartford, CT (7/31/74)

Released: 2012


Scarlet Begonias [8:21]
Me and My Uncle [3:14]
Brown-Eyed Women [4:49]
Beat It On Down the Line [3:38]
Mississippi Half-Step > [8:01]
It Must Have Been the Roses [5:24]
Mexicali Blues [3:45]
Row Jimmy [8:51]
Jack Straw [5:12]
China Cat Sunflower > [9:03]
I Know You Rider [5:56]
Around and Around [5:03]

Bertha [5:38]
Big River [5:13]
Eyes of the World > [18:30]
China Doll [4:47]
Promised Land [3:29]
Ship of Fools [6:19]
Weather Report Suite [17:08]
Part I
Let It Grow
El Paso [4:54]
Ramble On Rose [6:27]
Greatest Story Ever Told [5:56]

To Lay Me Down [8:09]
Truckin' > [17:53]
Mind Left Body Jam > [7:24]
Spanish Jam > [5:40]
Wharf Rat [9:31]
U.S. Blues [6:01]
One More Saturday Night [5:43]
Uncle John's Band [6:26]


Liner Notes:

“Wave That Fla-ag…”

We like to believe that the Grateful Dead and Dead Heads always existed inside a blissful bubble of their own making and merrily went about the serious business of having fun completely apart from the world around them. And to an extent, that’s true. As Bill Graham once said, the Dead provided “something we all need--time out. That’s what it all gets down to. What an inexpensive occasional escape it is.”

But in the last week of July 1974, there was no escaping the heavy changes that were happening in the real word. The entire country was transfixed by the spectacle of President Richard Nixon’s presidency unraveling. A botched office break-in at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. by some Nixon operatives in June 1972 had somehow snowballed and spiraled into an enormous national crisis. There had been arrests of high-ranking officials, resignations and firings, court subpoenas, a mysterious newspaper source named “Deep Throat,” Nixon going on TV to tell America, “I’m not a crook,” and months of Congressional hearings that drew millions upon millions of viewers every day. Could the President of the United States really be impeached?

Apparently. On July 27, the House Judiciary Committee formally recommended that Nixon be impeached for obstruction of justice. (He had “lied, cheated, whoa-oh for so long.”) On July 29, the House Judiciary Committee agreed on a second impeachable offense: abuse of power. And on July 30, as the Grateful Dead’s road crew was putting the last pieces of the group’s gargantuan Wall of Sound onto the makeshift stage at Hartford’s Dillon Stadium for the following afternoon’s show a third charge--contempt of Congress--was added to the Articles of Impeachment. Yes, indeed. Tricky Dick Nixon was goin’ down!

As fate would have it, the Dead were all over FM rock radio that historic week with a sly anthem called “U.S. Blues,” from their brand-new LP, From the Mars Hotel, which was sitting at #30 with a bullet (as they say) on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart after just three weeks. Even though the catchy chorus urged us to “Wave that flag, wave it wide and high!” this wasn’t some patriotic call to Honor America (one of the conservative catchphrases of the day) or support the embattled president. On the contrary, Robert Hunter’s playful lyrics celebrated rock ‘n’ roll as an expression of the Dead’s America (“Red and white, blue suede shoes”), claimed Uncle Sam as their own free spirit (“been hiding out in a rock ‘n’ roll band”) and, with a wink, chose two very unlikely figures to brag about: Showman and huckster P.T. Barnum and a Chinese detective played by an American in the movies: Charlie Chan. Was the exhortation to “Wave that flag” sarcastic? Cynical? Ironic? Or maybe the flag was the “freak flag” Hendrix sang about in “If 6 Was 9.” Whatever, it was the perfect upbeat song for that strange and unsettling summer.

Hunter and Garcia had another song on Mars Hotel that also worked as a metaphorical commentary on the grim state of affairs in the U.S.: The ballad “Ship of Fools,” with its stirring admonition: “Don’t lend your hand to raise no flag / Atop no ship of fools.” (I’ve seen intimations in recent years that Hunter might have directed that song in part at the Dead, but that never crossed my mind for a second when the song came out originally.)

By the time the Grateful Dead circus rolled into Hartford on the last day of July ’74, they had played nearly two dozen shows since the March unveiling of the Wall of Sound. That sounds like a lot, but actually the logistics of transporting, setting up and tearing down the mammoth system--with its hundreds of loudspeakers, racks of amplifiers, and the scaffolding it all required--were so formidable that the group actually played fewer shows than they normally would on tour. That spring, and on the summer tour leading up to Hartford, the Dead played on consecutive nights only in one city, Miami (6/23-24); the rest of the shows had at least a full day separating them, sometimes more. It’s hard to say whether having more breaks between shows kept the musicians fresher on tour, or stymied the momentum they typically built playing two or three nights in a row. But this much we do know: The band played tremendously well all year, and if they were as we learned later, felling a little burned out from ten years on the road and physically and financially burdened by their dream sound system, it wasn’t reflected in the music.

I did not attend the ’74 Dillon Stadium show (I had relocated to the West Cost in the fall of ’73), but I did see the Dead there two years earlier, on July 16, 1972 (a show remembered today mostly for guest appearances by the Allman Brothers’ Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, and Jaimoe at the end of the second set), so I know what the setting was like--a small, nondescript minor league football stadium (capacity 20,000), with low bleachers on the sides and a grass field. it was (is) located near the Connecticut River on one side and beautiful Colt Park on the other. (Samuel Colt invented the six-shooter in the mid-1800s and moved to Hartford shortly thereafter.) I seem to recall that in the distance beyond the stage on the north end you could see the old brick Colt Armory and a big sign with the company’s name on it.

The stadium hosted rock shows infrequently--the Beach Boys were the first in ’65; the Stones caused a near riot there in ’66; the Dead, Yes and Alice Cooper/J. Geils Band all played in the that summer of ’72; and in ’73 both Santana and the Allman held court at Dillon. It was the perfect size for the Dead in 1974 since they’d outgrown theaters on the East Coast (though they still played them from time to time) and needed bigger venues to meet the ticket demand and more space for the Wall of Sound. Though the group had already played in Boston and Providence in late June (in arenas), they hadn’t played the New York metro area since September ’73, so the Hartford concert drew heavily from that region. The temperature at showtime was in the high 80s and humid--you play the East Coast outdoors in mid-summer and you take your chances.

The Wall of Sound was an imposing sight--there had been nothing else remotely like it before. Rather than using left-right PA clusters, with the instruments and vocals routed to those side loudspeakers, the WOS consisted of tall stacks of speakers--each dedicated to a different instrument (or two)--set up behind the musicians. So, for instance, Phil had two stacks of 18 15-inch speakers that rose some 45 feet into the air, while Bob and Jerry each had single, slightly shorter stacks of 10 double-12-inch speakers. Other stacks were devoted to stereo drums and piano. Vocals came from a honeycomb-like central cluster of smaller speakers and tweeters hanging behind Billy’s drum kit and from smaller sets of 12-inch speakers at the bottom of a couple of other stacks, which also acted as de facto vocal monitors for the musicians, eliminating the need for front stage monitors. The overall visual effect was a jagged skyline, or the Grateful Dead’s Cathedral of Sound!

If there was a weakness in the WOS, it was the phase-cancelling double-microphones, which occasionally distorted or exaggerated sibilance. But in general, the system was a sonic marvel. It was unquestionably the cleanest sound reinforcement system ever developed up to that point, and it sounded best outdoors at a place like Dillon Stadium, which was largely free of reflective surfaces of any kind--unlike the basketball arenas and convention centers the Dead mostly frequented in those days. (The Photographic record of the Wall of Sound is tilted so heavily towards outdoor gigs--Reno, Santa Barbara, Hollywood Bowl, Roosevelt Stadium, etc.--it’s easy to forget that the great majority of WOS shows were indoors).

This Dillon Stadium concert is one of just a handful of three-set shows the Dead played in ’74, so it gives a nice overview of the band’s extensive repertoire--heavy on the ‘70s--over the course of more than three-and-a-half hours of music. (And that’s not counting the 20 minutes of noisy electronic weirdness Phil Lesh and Ned Lagin pummeled the unsuspecting crowd with during the break between the second and third sets, not included here.)

In the first set, the combination of “Mississippi Half-Step” > “It Must Have Been the Roses” (which had not appeared on an album yet) is striking and powerful, as are “Jack Straw” and, especially, the stately “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider.” I love those joyous post-”China Cat” jams from ’74.

As usual, things open up more in the second set. A majestic “Eyes of the World” clocks in at over 18 minutes and visits all sorts of interesting melodic and rhythmic spaces along the way before dropping down into a spare, haunting version of “China Doll.” Garcia invests all his ballads in this show with so much passion--two songs later it’s the new “Ship of Fools”; in the third set, both “To Lay Me Down” (one of the best versions ever) and “Wharf Rat.” Bob really shines on the second set-ending version of “Weather Report Suite,” which features a particularly long and dynamic “Let It Grow.”

The last set opens with a strong “El Paso” (I bet the narrator in that song gunned down the “wild young cowboy” with a Colt revolver!), but a few songs later moves into another dimension with the jam following “Truckin’.” This is the Dead at their exploratory best, as they charge and amble and wander and fly down one road after another in search of who-knows-what. There’s a full-fledged “Mind Left Body Jam” (named by the late vaultmeister Dick Latvala for its similarity to a chord progression of a Paul Kantner tune Garcia Played pedal steel on called “Your Mind Has Left Your Body,” off the 1973 Kantner/Grace Slick/David Freiberg opus Baron Von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun), and also a “Spanish Jam” that gradually emerges out of a passage where Keith is playing some slow blues riff and Garcia is unleashing deeply fuzzed wah-wah chords.

After that long stretch resolves at a searing “Wharf Rat,” the band takes a collective breath and then launches into a solid “U.S. Blues,” bringing the crowd back to rock ‘n’ roll terra firma, celebrating summer and Weird America and each other! “Can you use / Them ol’ U.S. Bluuuues?” Yes, indeed! Then it’s “Saturday Night” (on Wednesday) and to end the day, “Uncle John’s Band,” sweet and soulful, a feel-good sing-along to send everyone back into that crazy world.

Nine days later, Richard Nixon resigned.

--Blair Jackson



Grateful Dead

JERRY GARCIA: Lead Guitar, Vocals
PHIL LESH: Electric Bass
BOB WEIR: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

Produced for Release by DAVID LEMIEUX
Executive Producer: MARK PINKUS
Archival Research: NICHOLAS MERIWETHER/USCS Grateful Dead Archives
Art Direction & Design: STEVE VANCE



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This album was released in May 2012.

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