Sigh. Motivation slid away, then I was out of town for a bit, and I am now wrapping this project up without any grand sense of occasion and with my tail between my legs. Sorry, folks!
PART 5: BACK TO THE CONTINENT
5/10/72 Amsterdam, Other One #8
Truckin' is, I believe, the shortest one of the tour so far, with less than 90 seconds of jamming after the final verse. This is a little surprising, given the odyssey that is to come, but so it goes.
As the Other One rolls off, it feels to me like they are using a gentler touch than many of the preceding versions. Pig's organ is swirling around in there. I am digging the little call & response thing Jerry plays with himself @2:15. @3:40 they rather abruptly fall off the cliff and free-float for a minute. Billy starts a slow 12/8 swing under this and it gets bluesy. Very nice, though it doesn't last long, and by 6 min they're back in free-float space. Keith starts getting assertive, Billy seems to be looking for a groove to hook into, and by 7:45ish Jerry finds an Other One variant and pulls everyone into that orbit; this is kinda skewed, kinda jazzy, kinda messy, three different things happening at once, but all super cool. @9:30ish they transition back into the Other One proper, perhaps a bit awkwardly, but all are fully back in it by 10 min. Bob sings the first verse @11:30, and then almost immediately Jerry nudges them into atonal weirdness.
By the mid 14's they're getting into dinosaur territory: Jerry yawping away, Bob peeling off feedback, Phil scuttering around below. They're doing the full insect crawl by 15:30, but this doesn't feel overwhelming or all that evil: curious prehistoric cockroaches, not chaotic agents of destruction. @17 min Keith reappears, then @17:35 Pigpen's organ makes a brief cameo (he's usually not too interested in these heavy space jams) @18:25 Jerry is now scaling to a Tiger peak with some monster Phil power chords and feedback below. Very intense! but it never reaches the climax, and when Billy reenters @20ish min, they take off flying. Whoa...okay? but then Jerry & Bob both suddenly disappear for nearly a minute and let Keith take the lead. Unexpected left turn there, fellas. When Jerry returns, nothing catches fire right away and it sounds like they're all wondering about the Other One. Billy eases back in, Bob and Jerry do-se-do in the open air for a bit. Then back into the Other One @24 but don't really settle into it, and a few digressions happen (I really like the bit @27 min when Billy swings into a 6/8 feel still with the Other One happening above). On paper this sounds unfocused, but jeez, it sounds really sweet to me. Back into the Other One yet again. Heads up @29:05, cuz I love that figure Jerry plays a few times here. @30 min everyone drops out yet again as Jerry keeps going with Bob in support, then Phil -- they're still clearly playing the Other One, not "space," even as it all drifts apart. This whole segment from 30-34 min is amazing. @32ish, Bob takes things in a really pretty direction, not quite a "theme" jam, but he and Phil are on the same page and Jer is cruising over it in a minor key. Even compared to the other E72 moments like this, this feels uniquely beautiful.
@34:20 they transition as perfectly as can be into Bobby McGee. I am aware that not everyone agrees whether or not Bob's cowboy songs are too intrusive in the middle of a huge jam like this, but I can't think of a sweeter thing that could have happened right at this moment. They wrap it, and back into two more minutes of Other One, then the second verse, and on into Wharf Rat.
The 20 minutes (!) between the first verse and Bobby McGee is all-timer stuff for this tour. I can see how someone might not appreciate how they never all coalesce into one sustained thematic jam, but I think that their powers of ultragroupmind chaotic spontaneity are occurring at their highest levels here. It's a very different manifestation of this than on 5/3, which of course is also another high point, and I can't say that I like one more than the other -- but it's amazing that within a week they played two versions that are so powerful yet so different.
5/11 Rotterdam, Dark Star #8
An unusually long 1 hour 22 minute jam, at the end of an unusual show (Playing opened the 1st set, and the first Morning Dew of the Godchaux era opened the 2nd)... but I have felt ambiguous about this one ever since the cassette era. Dark Star's pre-verse jams are beautiful, but it has always felt to me (and still does) like they're all moving in the same direction but not entirely locked in. @4:15ish things tighten up a bit; I hear Pigpen on maracas and a more forward-driving jam takes shape. But by 5:25 Jerry seems distracted enough to start tuning up, the temperature drops a bit, they drift a bit, then @7:30 they find it again and change direction into a breezy, minor-keyed jam (a bit like Phil's 'jazz jam' in feel, although the bassline isn't explicit). It breezes along, flying close to the ground, quiets down and it seems like they're ready for a triumphant return to Dark Star (@13:38 Phil even cues it up), but... Billy takes a drum solo. for almost four minutes! whut?
@0:00 (next track) Phil returns and duets with Bill for two more minutes, until Jerry emerges. Ok, this is pretty. It's just the three of them for a while, then @4:40 Jerry plays a repeated note like a fanfare to get everyone in line (Bob appears @5) and then back into Dark Star for real. @5:30 he sings the first verse. They head for the dark side, then @8:15 Jerry lets out the butterflies and tries to draw everyone back into the light (Pigpen also joins in on organ). But no one is much committing to anything here, which seems to the tone of this Dark Star in general... eventually they slide down into a sparse spacey place; verrry slowly it gets weird enough for Jerry to get Tigerish by 15 min, Phil finally starts dropping some bombs, and @17:30 Billy makes a grand reentrance like a thunder cloud - very nice effect indeed. Build and build, but no real climax. @19:20 they telepathically shift gears into a brisk country-ish jam (Pig back on organ), which is short lived. Phil lets off a crystal clear Bird Song tease (!?) at 20:30, they turn off into an uptempo, minor, mellow Playin-ish jam, and @22 Jerry disappears and leaves Phil to solo. Um, okay. Jer returns, they keep going in this direction, it builds to a head around 25:35. The final minutes of this are a lot of indecision... Jerry strums Caution, Phil teases Truckin', then Bird Song again a few times, Jerry doodles over it all, and finally @30:30 Bob nudges them into Sugar Magnolia.
Jerry gets his Caution (#5) after Sugar Mags ends -- the last Caution ever! -- a very nice 16 1/2 min of rumble. Not a lot stood out to me, but it's got a pleasing bustle to the whole jam and, like Good Lovin (see below) this features some extra verbal dexterity from Pigpen. There's a nice moment @9:20 they all drop out for Billy and egg him on as Pigpen returns to the mic. Pig is also jamming away on organ when not singing, and in the last minute he also throws in the first verse of Who Do You Love (see also 4/14). They simmer down for a minute, then move into Truckin', which feels less energetic coming at the tail end of a long jam. There's a minute of jamming after the final vocal and then down to a stop.
Some beautiful moments, but nothing really transcendent and with way too much casting around for something to happen. It's still a mighty fine Dark Star in contrast with, well, nearly everything else -- but by E72 standards, it ain't hitting the mark for me. And why the heck was Phil teasing Bird Song multiple times? I can't think of any other occasion of Phil playing the guitar riff to a song, let alone one they weren't playing at the time (Bird Song, as you may recall, had been put in storage from Aug 71 to July 72). But really, this is maybe the only jam of the whole tour that I would call overrated.
Anyway, Good Lovin' #10 is only 12 minutes tonight, and the band never turns up the heat too much, but this is worth a listen since Pigpen is in extra witty form tonight. The rap is an expansion of the "take your time, drive slow, use extra grease" sermon he's been working at over the past couple versions (the guy really missed his calling as a life coach), and there are some great one-liners in here: the standard bit about his lady calling from down the hall with her leg up against the wall is spiced up a bit when Pig fixes himself a drink in the kitchen and offers this astute assessment: "I helped investigate the situation -- planned my strategem -- and proceeded to go into action. I ain't going to go into no details. But there was a long, sweet, sweet lovin' confrontation." Oh yeah. Also, this appears to be the first time that Jerry took it upon himself to play Pigpen's organ during the song itself!? Well, hey now. Do we know what that was about?
5/13/72 Lille, Other One #9
This was a free outdoor show to make up for a sabotaged theater gig (lots of info here, or read the whole story in comic book form!). Given that, you (or at least I) might assume that this Other One wouldn't be particularly heavy duty, but you (I) would be incorrect. Like Rotterdam, this Truckin' has no real jam (90 seconds) before it collapses into Drums. The Other One surges along, strongly but nothing unusual at first. @4:30 they fall off the cliff and float in a bright, hazy space for a few minutes -- I hear Keith playing some unusually pretty harmonies behind Jerry here. @7:50ish Billy returns and establishes an uptempo groove and things take off. Jerry is spiraling away into the skies with everyone buzzing away in his wake. He ignores a blatant push from Phil to get 'em back to the Other One, then leads the transition himself a minute later @10:15. Bob sings the first verse, then they keep jamming the O1 groove -- Jerry vanishes and Keith and Phil both take the lead for a minute. When Jerry trickles back in @12:30, it seems to be the catalyst for the rhythm to drop out. Spaciness ensues. I didn't make a note exactly when, but Pigpen has been repeatedly playing a 2-note figure that sounds like a police siren and a bit irritating. @13:45-14:45 there is a weird shift in the stereo mix [thanks to Light Into Ashes for pointing out that this must be a patch from an alt source, since the prior circulating source has a reel flip here -- weird that Jeffrey Norman wouldn't fix the stereo image, though]. Anyway, rather than fully spacing out, they instead find a driving jazzy groove that is nevertheless pulling towards atonality, with all of them straining hard at the leash. This is pretty sweet!
@15:20, Jerry cuts the lines and they're pulled into atonal weirdness -- I do like these stretches of slow-burn transition to total chaos. @16 Phil drops in something like his jazz theme bassline, but it's too late: Jerry's on wahwah and you know what that means. All of a sudden we're on the side of the mountain in the middle of a storm. By 17:40, Phil's dropping bombs and Jerry's in Tiger mode (@18 min an echo effect is added which is pretty cool). Full meltdown Tiger shred by 18:40. Oh yeah. They're all in! Bob feedback, Phil bombs, Billy free jazz. And they keep at it (Pig's doing that damn police siren thing again at 20ish min). There's not a single climax, but @20:40 they ease off and splash around as Jer delivers a regal oration over the smoldering ruins, then starts arpeggiating as the troops begin fall back in line. @22 min they have found another direction, with Billy driving the groove with his toms and everyone tentatively finding their place. Phil is clearly thinking about the Other One again, but nope, not yet. This is a cool jam! Jerry takes off and they're all pushing hard behind him during 23-25 min. Great! @25:40 Jer abruptly pulls back to the Other One (I approve of those those Phil chords!), @26 he hits the wahwah for an extra dose of amazing sound. @27:50 Bob sings the 2nd verse, and the ending crashes nicely into He's Gone. Okay! First time for that segue, I believe.
Whoa. I had heard this ages ago, but had no memory of how hot this was. Maybe it's surprising that an outdoor gig in a lovely town park (some pics) inspired such a sustained shredding Tiger jam. But wowzers, they've got some fire under them in the second half of this one. I look forward to taking that ride again.
5/16 Luxembourg, Other One #10
This was a late night show (12-3am) in a tiny theater for an international radio broadcast (hence the doofy Top of the Pops guy). Truckin has 3:25 of jamming after the final vocal: they drift off into a spacious vista that gets airier and airier and drifts away into just Drums.
The Other One begins as usual. Jerry peaks around 2 1/2 min and they press onwards, slowly easing back. Following the established pattern of the last few, things eventually get pretty spacious, but tonight Jerry stays in full-blown Other One mode and presses forward, rarely letting himself be swept off course. Everyone else seems happy to float contentedly off track, but Jer stays the course, and by 7 min they're fully back in the O1 groove and Bob sings the 1st verse. They carry on, Jerry still refusing to be nudged elsewhere, but the groove slowly dissolves and @9:13 Jerry relents with with a sudden loud feedbacky yowl that lets everyone fully space out. @10 I hear Pigpen doing that irritating 2-note siren thing again. Some Big Phil chords, however, make this feel pretty nice! After another Other One hint @10:40ish, Jerry gives in to the pre-Tiger skronk. He builds to a fast Tiger that peaks at 11:40 then simmers down, but Phil's not letting him off that easy and starts slamming big chords at 12:40. Well played, Phil. And yet @13:50 Jerry is sneakily trying to bring them back into the Other One again! They don't all take the bait right away, and there's some nice tug of war for a couple minutes, but at 17:45 they all cleanly jump back into the Other One for real. Second verse, outro, and then they stop to tune up. A paltry 19 minutes!
Well, that was probably the most "inside" Other One of the tour, even with a (quick) Tiger meltdown. Jerry just won't let go of the Other One groove! Not surprising given the circumstances, I suppose, but this sounded relatively constrained even compared with the 4/16 TV broadcast. Ah well. That's what they get for breaking the sequence and skipping Dark Star.
5/18 Munich, Dark Star #9
This has an unusually long prelude/intro tonight (including some guitar tuning) and on the box set, Dark Star proper begins @1:47. Pigpen is adding maracas again. The pre-verse jam stays very close to the DS theme: very beautiful and peaceful, but not very exploratory. @4 min Jerry sends a wonderful searing note trailing feedback out into the cosmos. @5:30 there are some big reverb tank bangs from Garcia's amp. Keith is present but a pretty minimal presence in all of this, not doing much. The only really notable thing happens @9 min when Bob initiates a brisk uptempo jam, very happy and very pretty - not a 'thematic' jam, but some really lovely stuff nevertheless. @12:45 it tumbles right back down into the DS theme. They make a fairly dramatic/triumphant statement here before getting to the first verse @14:40. @16 min some intense Phil chords begin the space jam. Phil sounds really fired up here, actually; Jerry is content to chip away at some fragmented & feedbacked notes, but Phil is really throwing down some serious chord action. Everyone else watches them from the sidelines. Go Phil! He backs off around 20:15 and Jerry keeps picking atonally ahead, with Bob tracing around the edges. Really sparse stuff. @21:30 Jerry clicks on the wahwah mid-line (I am always a sucker for when he does this) and @22 min starts messing with his volume knob; @22:25 Keith appears also doing some volume swells on piano... come to think of it, I'm not sure how he's doing this, since I thought he didn't have a pickup on his grand piano until that summer (when Bear rejoined the crew). Anyway, this sounds awesome, very trippy. @24ish it finally starts boiling over and into Tiger territory. It gets nasty, peaks, eases off by 27:20ish, and they all come together for the transition into Morning Dew at 28:20. Dew!! This is the first ever Dark Star > Dew (out of of nine total in 1972-74). It ends, then Billy quietly takes a drum solo for a minute and a half (!?) with Phil noodling along at the end, and then into Sugar Magnolia.
This Dark Star isn't a special one in the big picture, but again, it's incredible that a jam this tasty can be considered "lower level." The brisk jam before the first verse and Phil's flamboyant chording at the start of the space jam were memorable moments. Plus, y'know, Morning Dew was back.
Good Lovin' #11, sadly, marks the beginning of a hard falling off for Pigpen on this song. He is MIA for the first 3:45 of the jam, which begins unusually with Bob taking a 1970-71 style "solo" before Jerry tentatively takes the lead. It seems like he's staying out of the spotlight, waiting to see what Pigpen's going to do... and when Pig finally appears, he does a little jog through his "4 day creep" bit for a couple minutes, then they bring the Good Lovin' riff up underneath him and usher him out. Jerry plays the organ on the final reprise of the song itself. 12 min total: a similar length as 5/11, but a far cry from that version's wit and creativity.
One more to go, folks!