Sunday, February 4, 2018

Hells Angels Forever tracks

Saunders and Garcia, 9/5/73

In a fit of obsessive completionism, I took it upon myself to rip the otherwise-uncirculating Garcia music [edit: see below] from a youtube video of the "documentary" Hells Angels Forever.  The movie has little to recommend unless you're already really in love with the Hells Angels, and I won't even begin listing the problems that I have with it.   Garcia was involved in financing it, and a number of familiar names are thanked in the credits (Richard Loren, Steve Parish, Ramrod, Bill "the kid" Kreutzmann), but I don't know the full story other than the fact that the production was apparently a total fiasco, taking ten years and three directors to complete.  But the movie remains precious for preserving a small few minutes of live footage of Garcia, Saunders, Kahn, and Kreutzmann performing outdoors on a boat at a Hells Angels party on 9/5/73 (there's no other known recording; the tape that circulates with this date is bogus, but [edit] according to JGMF there is an uncirculating tape of this show -- see comments).  There is barely any known footage of Garcia performing with Merl Saunders, and this was apparently also Garcia's debut performance on his iconic Wolf guitar. 

Unfortunately, there's not much music to hear, but what is here is interesting in its own way.  There is a small bit of them very quietly playing what sounds like Georgia On My Mind as accompaniment to a Hells Angel wedding during the party (the film is edited to look like it, anyway), and then a truncated version of That's All Right Mama, edited down to a small bit of the tune itself and one shorter Garcia solo.  Then, over the film's closing credits, there's a studio recording of It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry that I've never heard anywhere else, with some prominent piano [edit: the crowd noise beforehand is from the preceding song (by Willie Nelson) that ends the movie and fades into Train to Cry as the credits roll].  The credits list That's All Right and Train to Cry as being performed by the Jerry Garcia Band and, while That's All Right clearly is obviously not the JGB, I wonder if this Train to Cry might be the 1975 JGB with Nicky Hopkins?  It doesn't sound as much like Keith Godchaux to me, but I'm not positive.  The credits list Garcia's involvement as being from 1973-1977, so it's possible -- or maybe it could be a Compliments outtake with session pianist Michael Omartian?  or something else entirely?  It fades out with the end of the film, lopping off the final few seconds.  I'm not sure what to make of it.  The song was barely played live at all by any of the later 70's JGB lineups, and it had already been included on the original Live at Keystone 2LP, so it seems like an unusual choice for a studio recording.  But apparently the JGB did a lot more recording than initially saw the light of day, so who knows if this track was done specifically for the film or was something laying around that Garcia donated to the project. 

Midway through all this, I realized that actually was an official released soundtrack.  Discogs lists an Australian-only(?) RCA Victor LP release with That's All Right Mama and Train to Cry; the track lengths suggest that it's no more than the fragments of music actually used in the film.  I'm not holding my breath that the original tapes will surface, but it would be cool to get the LP to hear these tracks in better quality than VHS>youtube -- until then, though here are the three tracks that I ripped from youtube for you completists (I'm assuming there may be one or two of you).  It sounds like some speed correction wouldn't hurt, but I left it as it was.


  1. That zippyshare link seemed like it wanted me to do some dangerous things, confusing and frightening me.

    Is Merl playing a B3, or is he playing piano?

    As I understand it, here's the setlist for the night:

    Train to Cry
    Someday Baby
    That's Alright Mama
    Second That Emotion
    Harder They Come
    After Midnight
    How Sweet It Is

    Super interesting that Train to Cry sounds like studio. No idea about that.

  2. Hmm. Zippyshare can have some dodgy popups, but I don't know of a better reliable free filesharing site for stuff like this. If anyone else has a prob, I can email a different link directly.

    Yes, Merl's only playing an electric piano on the two live tracks.

    I'm pretty sure that Train to Cry is studio -- the sound of his voice seems like the giveaway to me, as does the sound of the piano.