Tuesday, April 24, 2018

3/3/76: I could wait forever / I've got time

courtesy gdsets.com

This show first popped on my radar a while back when I was thinking about Garcia playing outdoors sans GD, but I only just got around to giving it a close listen.  A couple things:

First: good gravy, this is a really nice aud tape!  The whole terroir thing is happening in a serious way here.  One of the gold standards for this period, in terms of sound quality, is the well known 3/6/76 recording made by Pat Lee & friends at Seattle's Moore Theater, but Don Wolfe and Matt Williams' 3/3 tape may be an even more satisfying listen in terms of atmosphere.  The Lane County Fairgrounds Auditorium is more like a big vaulted shed holding around 800ish, and while the tapers succeeded in capturing the intimacy of the space, this is one of those tapes that still inspires a cognitive dissonance between what you know and what you're hearing: to me, this sounds like I'm experiencing the JGB at a house party or maybe a small bar, in the company of a few friends, all very enthusiastic and very attentive.  One great moment of many is when Donna steps up to sing her gospel feature, "A Strange Man," which was brand new to most of the crowd.  They love it, and she has them in the palm of her hand: maybe one of the better Donna vocal moments from this era of the JGB, made all the more sweet by the particularities of this great tape.

Second: in terms of performance, this is a pretty solid early '76 JGB show.  Granted, that's a period that tends to rub many folks the wrong way because of the slowness of the material.  At times I agree (3/6/76, I'm looking at you), but typically I can get down with this stuff just fine.  All we have of this night is the second set, but it's still a satisfying 90 minutes of music. An early "The Way You Do the Things You Do" has a delightful energy to it, and dig how Keith and Jerry slip in a subtle hint of I-VII for a sec in the jam (the "Fire on the Mountain jam" or Eb-Db in this case).  "Friend of the Devil" is divine; "I'll Take a Melody" and "Mystery Train" are satisfying, but not standouts for the period, and the Rolling Stones' "Moonlight Mile" is done about as well as they did it -- I don't mean to sound back-handed, but it's a tough song to pull off!  Much better, however, is this great version of "I Want to Tell You," which they played only a handful of times in early '76 and then dropped abruptly.  Garcia returned to it for a few post-coma shows in 1986-87, then brought it back with the Dead in 1994-95, but these 1976 versions are the real deal, with solid vocals, energetic delivery, and a few minutes of jamming that finds a nice little space to nestle into (more I-VII/"FOTM" again, somewhat similar to the jam in "Lonesome & A Long Way From Home").  The segue into "Sisters and Brothers" is sweetly done and makes for a nice little combo.  A final rarity closes the show, their take on Ray Charles' "Talkin' 'Bout You," not quite as hot as some of the Legion of Mary versions, but par for this lineup.

Finally, if you read the not-so-fine print on the poster, you may notice that the show was put on by Acidophilus Productions/Springfield Creamery, which may ring a bell for any committed deadhead.  Garcia's connections to and performance history in Oregon probably warrant a small book of their own, and the Creamery folks also produced the "Second Decadenal Field Trip" [and potluck!] on the 10th anniversary of their first one (see Blair Jackson), the 1983 and 1984 Hult Center shows (in Eugene), and maybe more.   Unlike the more storied fairgrounds that are a few miles down the road in Veneta, the Lane County Fairgrounds are, I believe, in the middle of downtown Eugene, so this could hardly have been a psychedelic backwoods tribal stomp.  From a pragmatic standpoint, this show may have been just a midweek add-on to two bigger gigs (a Friday in Portland and a Saturday in Seattle), which wasn't unheard of.  There's an Old & In the Way listing for 5/8/73 at Churchill High School (Eugene) and Garcia/Kahn shows at South Eugene High School in June '82 (JGMF), all of which were adjacent to larger gigs in Portland.  Other Dead/Garcia trips to the northwest seem to have been either bigger "professional" productions or college gigs (besides those Hult Center shows), and I have no idea what other events, if any, were organized under the Creamery's auspices.  But I suspect that there must be some story behind Garcia's playing for the Springfield Creamery on a Wednesday night in downtown Eugene, and I'd love to know what it is.

8/28/82: bring a dish to pass (acidophilus not required).  courtesy deadlists.

And the biggest question, of course, is... was this guy was in attendance?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Oct 68: Hartbeats run-down

July 2019: This has been revised substantially in parts -- mostly concerning 10/8/68 and the presence of Jack Casady, plus some other small tweaks.  Special thanks to Light Into Ashes for his continued feedback and corrections to this, and to JGMF for a lot of key information and insight.  

New sources for 10/8, 10/10, and 10/30 were released after the original post was written, but because these are now categorized as "Garcia" shows, they are not accessible at archive.org, unlike the older transfers. 

3/3/68: I think... I need... a... side project!

"Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats" is often writ large as an Event in early Grateful Dead history, despite being only a couple of small gigs on a handful of weeknights in October 1968, in the middle of the very brief period when Bob Weir and Pigpen were, sort of, "fired."  The nature of these gigs has been interpreted in a couple of different ways since then.  The "official" version probably originates with McNally's biography:
On October 8, Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats -- Hart, Kreutzmann, Garcia, and Lesh -- began a three-night run at the Matrix... It was satisfying, and the Hartbeats gigs would continue throughout the fall of 1968, but it was musically inchoate and never did find a center.

Hart repeated the basic story in an interview from 2000:
Well, it was sort of weird. I think Jerry was fighting with Bob, and Pigpen did something…I can’t remember what it was. You know, everybody fights. I think Bob and Pig were on the short list at that time, so I believe it was me and Kreutzmann and Jerry and Phil. Elvin Bishop sat in. We just wanted to play instrumental music; we didn’t want to play Grateful Dead music. We went to The Matrix. They were putting us up on the marquee -- they asked, “What’s the name of the band?” and Jerry said, “Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats.” That was how that was born. We just played instrumental music. I remember vividly that it was a coffee shop, only like 15 feet to the wall. We played facing the wall -- and it was long. These poor bastards sitting there drinking cappuccino had no idea what was about to hit them. [laughs]  Jerry had his twin [sic; his Fender Twin amp], and we were playing like maniacs. (digitalinterviews.com via Wayback Machine)

In his book, Phil Lesh describes the Hartbeats with regret, as a kind of detour that was fortunately avoided:
Mickey formed a side group (Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats) to play the kind of free-rave stuff we were trying to develop. I felt confused and depressed by what had happened at the meeting [the "firing"], and I only came out a couple of times to play with the Hartbeats. That depressed me even further: the music didn't feel right to me. I especially missed Pigpen's warmth and organic greasiness.  Eventually realizing our mistake, and thankful that we hadn't yet burned our bridges behind us, we quietly left the Hartbeats behind.  (Searching for the Sound)

It's hard for me to shake the suspicion that a little unintentional revisionism isn't happening, or at least a discrepancy between intention and performance.  The whole "Bob and Pigpen were fired" sequence of events is interesting for what it reveals about the band's (well, Garcia's and Lesh's) ambitions and frustrations, but musically it always felt like a non-event to me.  Anyone who has been in a band can probably attest to some similar kind of friction at some point ("everybody fights") but this particular friction just happens to have been recorded for posterity and repeated often enough to give it the historical weight of a milestone.  The actual recorded evidence doesn't suggest that much was amiss: it's hard to think that anyone would say that the music from earlier that year was lacking in any way, period, let alone due to Weir or Pigpen; the three "proper" Dead shows from October are among the best of the year; and regardless of what Hart or Lesh says, these Hartbeats tapes have a lot of Grateful Dead music on them.  

I always assumed that the Hartbeats moniker was more of an in-joke than an actual band or "side project" or any real kind of departure from the path.  In the Taping Compendium Vol. 1, Matrix owner Peter Abram recalls that the Hartbeats shows came together on very short notice: "It would have been called Grateful Dead Jam or something like that, but Chet Helms got freaked out because he was having them at the Family Dog event the following weekend [at the Avalon Ballroom on Oct 12-13] and he insisted that they not play," hence the name change (13).  In their more recent oral history, This is All a Dream We Dreamed (2015), Jackson & Gans don't make as much of it as McNally or Lesh do: in discussing the "firing," they note "there were no Grateful Dead gigs without Weir and Pigpen, though the others did play a few loose jam session shows at the Matrix as Mickey and the Hartbeats" (118).  And on JGMF's list of Matrix tapes ("I think this is the batch held by Joe Buchwald"), these 10/8, 10/10, 10/30 tapes are each labeled "Dead jam."

Interestingly, however, despite Garcia announcing on the first that "this band is called Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats," the gigs were actually billed as "Jerry Garrceeah (Garcia) and his Friends" [sic].  Despite Garcia's famous refusal to assert any formal leadership over the band, it seems noteworthy that a "Grateful Dead Jam" that was organized "to play the kind of free-rave stuff" that he was pushing the band to develop further (and Weir and Pigpen were, to some extent, less able to support) did initially bare his name at the door.

The Matrix, Oct 8-27.  courtesy jgmf

Another thing worth considering is Elvin Bishop's presence.  He didn't just drop by to jam: his band was on the bill, and it wasn't just any old gig.  Bishop had just left the Butterfield Blues Band and gone solo and, as far as I can tell, these Matrix gigs may have been (or were intended to have been) his new group's debut -- I haven't seen any listings for Bishop's band earlier than this, and he seems to have become a fixture at local Bay Area clubs immediately after. (Although, interestingly, the 5/21/68 Carousel jam tape begins with a long stretch of Garcia, Kaukonen, Casady, and Hart jamming, then ends with a few Bishop-led blues numbers).  Holding a freeform Grateful Dead Jam on the same night as the debut of a local up-and-coming guitar hero's new solo band seems like an unusual double bill: I wonder if the "Hartbeats" were doing this partially to offer support to Bishop as he broke in his new group?  It turned out to be a good thing they were there, since Bishop's group evidently wasn't ready to play on the first night: "my band was supposed to be playing here tonight, but we had a little trouble and one of the members of the rhythm section couldn't make it, so we're just gonna sort of be jamming... within a couple of weeks we hope to have the whole thing together and it's really gonna be nice.  As for this jam session, no promises."  Again, this sounds about as casual as can be, but it must have been planned enough in advance for there to be a poster advertising both Bishop and Garcia (Bishop is billed through 10/12, with another band Marvel Farm booked for the last two dates).

Elvin Bishop, 1969, courtesy discogs

So, now, for a little music.  What follows is a cleaned-up version of my listening notes, but I was surprised that a bit of it contradicted or corrected information that I had seen about these recordings over the years.  I don't know if this stuff is news to anyone else, so I'm not claiming that this is any major revision to the general record.

the lineup: Garcia, Lesh, Hart, and Kreutzmann.  Elvin Bishop leads an impromptu grouping on 10/8 that does not include Garcia, Lesh, or Kruetzmann(?).  Bishop also sits in with the core four (ha!) on 10/30.  A harmonica player and singer identified as Marvin (Gardens?) sits in on 10/10.  Jack Casady has been identified in the past as playing on parts of 10/8 and 10/10.  [update:] he is present on 10/8/68, but my current belief is that he is only playing for a few minutes on the circulating recording, with a portion that is missing.  See below.

the "jam" label: I think this is an overused and often unhelpful way to label this music.  So I use it here to mean a piece of music that either contains recognizable elements of a song but appears to be primarily improvised and wanders atypically far from its structure, or a piece that appears primarily improvised and unconnected to any other known song structure.  Grateful Dead tunes that are played here similar to how the Dead played them but without vocals will be labeled "instrumental." 

correct song order: The question has been raised about whether or not these tapes are in the right running order.  I am confident that no material is duplicated across these three sets of tapes (which was in question in one of the 10/30/68 filesets), but I'm not going to speculate as to correct running order or what belongs to what date.  I suspect that some stuff may be missing, particularly from 10/8.  As I understand it, Peter Abram's documentation of his master recordings was not always very accurate.  C'est la vie.

And, finally, before you plunge in, here is some actual film footage of the Matrix ca 1967 -- though unfortunately not of the Dead -- to help get you in the right state of mind (courtesy JGMF).  For some background info on the Matrix's history, see JGBP.  According to a SF Bay Guardian piece (again courtesy JGMF; full text here), the Matrix had recently been closed and reopened with improved soundproofing and a newly constructed 6x24 stage (!?), but no air conditioning.

newest source: jg1968-10-08.141647.hartbeats.sbd.boswell.smith.sirmick.flac24
(there is also an earlier GEMS source of this same transfer that is mixed down to mono.)
older source (streaming) at LMA: https://archive.org/details/gd68-10-08.sbd.belaff.17691.sbeok.shnf
(alternate disc 1: https://archive.org/details/gd1968-10-08.sbd.gasperini-bunjes.25757.flacf)

[update] JGMF has shared this information (here) about the 4-track 15 ips vault reels (presumably copies of Abram's masters?)
Jack is definitely listed on some of the 4-track Vault reels for 10/8/68. I think the bass is given as follows:
tape1: Phil
tape2: Phil
tape3: Phil (presume end of set I), then Casady (presume start set II)
tape4: Casady for the end of the GD material, then just "bass" for the Elvin material
tape5: "bass" (Elvin material)
tape6: Phil
tape7: Phil
This is a tricky one to parse, for reasons I will get to in the 10/8 rundown below.  For what it's worth, I believe that a 10" reel @15 ips = 48 minutes, and 7" @15 ips = 24 minutes.  I'm not sure what size the master reels were, and it's hard to piece together the reel breaks given the number of dropouts and what I assume are edits that were made between songs at some point down the line.

I also think that the traditional labeling (and JGMF's note above) that there were two "sets" may not be accurate, in the sense that we are used to thinking of GD/JGB shows as having two sets with a long break in between.  For all we know, the musicians may have been playing more or less all night with long, casual breaks between songs, but no stated "set break" -- there's no way to tell from the tapes, but the idea of playing multiple sets probably may not have applied at a laid back jam session like this.  At any rate, I am feeling confident that Casady's appearance is not marked by any set break (see below).

Clementine jam ("The Six")
It is delightful that the first sounds on these tapes are Garcia calling for Betty Cantor, who's voice is (barely) heard chatting with him about something.  "Yoohoo, Betty!"  Are there other instances of her voice on a Dead tape?  This first jam begins tentatively, is preempted by an amp problem, then restarts: this one is mainly a jam on the two-chord Clementine vamp that they had been working with, but includes a middle section based on a different chord progression, with Lesh's Coltrane-derived bassline making some isolated appearances.  It sounds very much to me like an earlier version of the tune they play on 10/30 that Lesh calls "The Six" (the whole thing is 6/8).  To me this is more interesting than genuinely moving, but it's still quite pleasant (though way better on 10/30).  [See Light Into Ashes on the state of Clementine in mid/late '68].  Then Garcia hits the gas in the last couple of minutes and moves things right along into...

-> The Eleven (instrumental) -> Death Don't Have No Mercy
I'm blissing out here: the full force of the Dead is missing, obviously (as are the vocals), but this Eleven is pretty hot in spots.  Garcia does sing the vocal on the first Death Don't, which is played at each of these shows.  While it inevitably suffers some in comparison with full-blown Dead versions, the sparseness of these renditions is wonderful and, to me, powerful.

Garcia informs the audience, not for the last time, that they shouldn't be impressed by any of this.  "This is, uh, experimental.  This business of us playing, this format, is largely experimental, so, uh, be warned.  Also, you can feel free to harangue us."  One could make a few things of these repeated disclaimers, but I will resist my armchair psychoanalysis for now. 

The Seven
I believe this is the first known rendition of this little-played theme.  It frankly sounds like a rehearsal: the drummers start playing a pattern, Garcia and Lesh join in playing along in 7 for while, and at 3:30 they begin the actual "Seven" theme over and over with little variation or improvisation.  Were they not comfortable enough to solo over it?  That's surprising, given how developed the Eleven was by this point, but that's what it feels like here -- compare it to the full-blown rocket-fueled version that the Dead played on 9/29/69 where Garcia really cuts loose.  It falls apart at the end and stops pretty abruptly.  Garcia again halts any applause, but quizzes the crowd on the time signature: "Is there anybody who was able to count that? Anybody know what time it was in?"  Somebody does.

Dark Star (instrumental)
Light and crisp, but totally involving and very enjoyable.  Garcia plays the verse melody instrumentally.  Neither drummer gets behind his kit until almost 10 min in.  The outro melody segues into

-> Cosmic Charlie [updated]

The earliest live version of this, played briskly.  Garcia sings the lyrics.  His guitar is very loud, drowning out Lesh's bass almost entirely in spots, but Lesh is audible during the quieter moments (thank you, Light Into Ashes, for this correction!).  Numerous sources report that the Dead struggled with this song during the Aoxomoxoa sessions the month before, and they didn't play it live until Jan 1969.

Blues Shuffle in A (instrumental) [updated]

A 12-bar blues riff in A, which they play again on 10/10, and is somewhat similar in form to "Next Time You See Me," but definitely not the same song.  Compare this also with the Dead playing "Schoolgirl" on 10/20/68 re: whether or not this is Lesh or Casady on bass.  I think it's Lesh.  The jam itself is not very exciting, imho.  Garcia gets in some nice licks, but this is pretty loose and it sounds like more of a workout for the drummers and Lesh than for Garcia.  The last few minutes, however, abandon the blues form for a nice back-and-forth exchange between guitar and bass, which is pretty cool.  The tape fades as Garcia is quietly trickling, then fades back in mid-trickle with apparently no music missing and they carry on, so it's safe to call this a true segue into

-> Jam 1 [updated]

Everyone else calmly futzes around; At 2:50 Garcia starts a vamp that grows into the next theme proper, kind of an Em-A7 vamp.  The feel is similar to Dark Star (or David Crosby's Wall Song, which hadn't been written yet), but it is definitely not a "Dark Star jam."  Very nice indeed.  This sounds very much like Phil Lesh to me.  There's a dramatic, moody ending, and what sounds like a clean stop, then applause.  The tape has a long stretch of silence, then fades back in with some clear Other One noodling.

The Other One (instrumental) [updated]

Again, I am feeling sure that this is Phil.   Around 11 1/2 minutes of Other One-isms, things dissolve to quiet spaciness: lots of the usual scraping, volume swells, and general spooky insect effects that are familiar from a lot of spacey "primal Dead" jams.  BUT: it is clear that two instruments are making these sounds, and then at 13:22 (this copy) another bass guitar sounds a note on the right stereo side.  Unless I'm missing something, this can't be Phil, who's still busy with his weird space sounds.  I think this is where Jack Casady plugs in.  This new bass starts playing a few more notes as Garcia saws away, then starts a very distinct and confident bassline that Garcia immediately picks up on.

-> Jam 2 /(cuts)  [updated]

The bassline is dominating here, with a heavier feel.  I think this is now Jack Casady (playing his own bass, not Phil's), and that Lesh steps away.  I had previously been skeptical that Lesh would have handed things over to Casady in the middle of a spacey jam, but that's exactly what it sounds like now.  Anyway, Garcia picks up on that bassline and starts zipping around it as the drummers slowly turn up the heat. I like this!  Garcia sounds like he backs off and cedes the spotlight more to Casady, who goes off.  By 7 minutes, one of the drummers starts playing a cowbell that calls the Other One to mind, but unfortunately this cuts off in mid flight.  Nooo!  The tape cuts back in with some quiet tuning/noodling, applause, and then Garcia speaking:

"Is Elvin here?  Elvin here? Got his whole scene here?  Too much.  We're gonna let Elvin play.  This guy who's been-- who, uh, played the bass here, is Jack Casady.  If you are wondering.  This band is called Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats."

So what the heck happened?  Well, we're clearly missing some music here -- all of which, I'm guessing, features Casady instead of Lesh.  How much music is unclear: maybe it's just the remaining few minutes of that jam, maybe a lot more.  Sigh.

Bishop takes the mic: "Equipment folks, where can I plug my amplifier in?  Hello, my name's Elvin Bishop and my band was supposed to be playing here tonight, but we had a little trouble and one of the members of the rhythm section couldn't make it, so we're just gonna sort of be jamming, but, um, in the future, like I have three chicks singing with the band, they can really sing, they're from Boston, they sing like angels and they're beautiful, so within a couple of weeks we hope to have the whole thing together and it's really gonna be nice.  As for this jam session, no promises."

"Jam, Jam, Jam" = 3 blues instrumentals [updated]

Bishop & co. blaze through three shorter blues instrumentals, all with simple but clear heads and arrangements -- I'm sure these are actual songs, but at this point I can't muster the energy to go figure out what they are.  I hear Bishop, a bassist, and one drummer.  My guess is that Casady is not the bassist: the vault reels just list an unnamed "bass" (as opposed to Casady, who is specifically named as playing on the Dead's material), and the bassist on the final jam (below) doesn't sound like Casady.  The unnamed drummer (just "drums" on the vault reel) might be John Chambers, the drummer from Elvin's band of this period, who also appears on the later 12/24/68 Matrix jam with Harvey Mandel, Garcia, and Bishop. 

After the third tune, Bishop calls for Hart: "Is there anyone in this audience -- I understand there's a certain drummer who might be interested in coming up and playing after this number.  Mickey? Want to do a few numbers after this one?"

Prisoner of Love
Mislabeled "Prisoner Blues" (or "Baby Please Come Back to Me" on 10/30), this is a Percy Mayfield song that Bishop later recorded for his group's first album.  He sings the vocal, and invites Hart up when they're done: “Thank you very much! Mickey? A little jamming?”

Jam 3 [updated]

Bishop, the bassist, and two drummers at first, although the drummer in the left channel seems to vanish after a couple of minutes.  I don't think the bassist is Casady.  Bishop calls for a bass solo around 6 min in, and it sounds pretty basic and much more restrained than everything else I have heard from Casady.  They jam some more, Hart (I assume) solos at around 15 min, and they groove quietly before ending at 20 min.  Nothing here much captured my attention, to be honest.    The tape ends with Bishop asking, “uh, anyone else wanna come up and play? Okay,” and then cuts off.

Then, according to JGMF, there are two more vault reels with Lesh back on bass.  I don't know what to make of that, particularly if we also have to account for some missing music by Garcia, Casady, and the drummers before Bishop's set.  That seems like a very long night, even by these guys' standards.

Casady & Garcia, Olompali 1968, by Peter Risley

10/10/68 Matrix
older source (streaming) at LMA: https://archive.org/details/gd68-10-10.sbd.miller-ladner.4513.sbeok.shnf

note: the Taping Compendium (and elsewhere) list Jack Casady as playing bass on this night.  I disagree; it sounds exactly like Phil Lesh to me.  Casady also sat in this night with Jimi Hendrix at Winterland, which I think makes it pretty unlikely that he is also heard on these tapes.

Jam 1
Lesh and Garcia start off tentatively with a repeated 9-note figure that they play in unison, then start varying and dancing around - very cool.  Basically it starts as a B-E vamp that Garcia plays - 3ish min he starts soloing.  @6:25 he strays to B-A, giving it a "Fire On the Mountain" flavor (note that they explore a similar theme on the 5/21/68 Carousel tape).  This is sizzlin' -- nice buzzy, happy vibe.  I like this a lot.  @9:30 there's more FOTM.  @12ish min some bluesier licks from Garcia.  18:40ish seems like it's moving in another direction with a more minor feel, but then it's back to a slower B-A vamp @19:30ish min.  Some heat @21 min!  This has lulls, understandably, but they keep whipping it back up into high gear.  Nice!  Especially given that there are only two melodic instruments, this is some jam!  The drummers are throwing down, too, but the mix is very Garcia-heavy, which obscures some of what the rest are doing.  Pretty clean stop at 27 min. 
"We're just, uh, playing-- thanks.  We're just goofing, that's all we're doing here.  That's all you're doing here.  Nobody's up to anything serious.  How many police are there here?"

It's a Sin
Garcia takes the vocal.  Same deal as the other vocal blues tunes: nothing facemelting, but there's an airy darkness to all this that I like.  Very different from the uptempo, strutting feel of Elvin Bishop's stuff on 10/8!
"Thank you [coughs].  Oh lord.  Aw, now what?" [someone: Sing it Louie! C'mon Louie!] "Hey does anyone want to come up and sing a song or something?  [?: Pete!] No man, not you.  Hey, Marvin's here, Marvin do you have harmonicas, would you like to, uh, sing?  You don't have any harmonicas?  Do we have any harmonicas?  There's one, there's somebody with one."

Blues Shuffle in A (instrumental)
Same basic idea as 10/8, now played slower and with harmonica. 

(another) Blues Shuffle in A (instrumental)
aka "The Rub jam": another blues instrumental with harmonica, again with a somewhat similar feel/structure to "Ain't It Crazy/The Rub," but no real explicit connection.

(Look Over) Yonder Wall
Marvin sings the vocal and plays harmonica.  The Dead never played this had played this back in 1966, but it was also a blues staple that many musicians in that scene surely knew: it was on the first Butterfield Blues Band record and also on Junior Wells' wonderful Hoodoo Man Blues, of which Garcia was a big fan. From the general chatter afterwards, it sounds like Marvin leaves the stage.

New Potato Caboose/Clementine jam 
Lesh starts a casual bassline, Garcia strums along.  Pretty!  This is cool.  There's a New Potato Caboose feel to this at first, and Garcia plays the opening NPC riff at 3 min.  @4:50 they shift to the Clementine (Coltrane-esque) bassline and stick with it for a while -- it still has that NPC feel, but Lesh keeps close to that bassline throughout.  Kind of a mash-up of both, but it feels pretty natural (I wouldn't be surprised if Lesh played this in some NPC jam, but I spotchecked a few and didn't hear anything).  After 10 min, Garcia brings it back to the NPC vamp before things move into darker areas; there's a cool spacious feel to the ending, and I liked this!  Ends at 21:27 with no segue.

The tape cuts in with Garcia saying, "--probably will show up pretty soon," which is followed by laughter and cheers.  Who?  Some more noodling, a tape cut and some bleedthrough, and then Lesh and Garcia begin playing some slow blues for maybe a minute, which is like a slow intro to

Lovelight jam -> drums ->
This starts slow and quiet, just Garcia and Lesh at first, but picks up tempo after 2 minutes or so (this intro is tracked differently on different copies).  Reel splice/cut @9:46.  A strong, loose Lovelight jam that winds naturally into Drums, which gets into an Other One groove midway through.

-> Jam (Caution/Other One) -> Death Don't Have No Mercy
Garcia and Lesh hit a big E chord at their re-entry, however, like an Alligator jam.  There's kind of a mixed Lovelight/Other One feel here, now in a minor key, a little more like an Alligator jam after a while?  At 4 minutes, they get into a clear Caution groove, and tilt back and forth between Caution and Other One territory for the duration, with the Other One finally winning out.  Pretty cool.  Hart gets on glockenspiel during the come-down at the end, but instead of Dark Star they opt for Death Don't, which again sounds lovely in such a sparse setting.  There's a cut as Garcia and Lesh discuss something afterwards.

Dark Star (instrumental) -> The Eleven (instrumental) ->
They tune for a few minutes while Hart bonks around on glockenspiel, and then they kick off Dark Star.  On this version, imho, they sound a little spent, like they're getting to the end of the night.  Nevertheless, they work it for a good while, then move into another fine but not very remarkable Eleven, and then

-> The Seven
Garcia starts comping the chords again right away as Lesh plays the bassline.  They work through both themes of this "song" and, though Garcia still doesn't cut loose, this is definitely a more involved version than 10/8.  There's some applause, and the tape cuts.


Evidently the first run of shows was satisfying enough to be repeated on Oct 28-30, despite some outstanding Dead shows happening in the interim (10/12-13 and 10/20/68!).  According to Deadlists, this second Hartbeats run was still advertised as "Jerry Garcia & Friends" in the newspaper, and Dick Latvala stated that tapes of the 28th, 29th, and 30th were in the Dead's vault.  I see, belatedly, that JGMF's list of existent Matrix tapes has 10/28/68 labeled as the Steve Miller Band [not accurate, apparently, but the labeling on many of those tapes is iffy], nothing for 10/29, and 10/30 as "Dead jam" -- 10/28 did happen, as reported in the SF Bay Guardian piece: "Last Monday [10/28], Jerry Garcia, freaky lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead, dropped by to jam with three or four friends, and the club made its usual closed night an admission-free affair."

older source (streaming) at LMA: https://archive.org/details/gd68-10-30.sbd.sacks.1205.sbeok.shnf 
JGMF has also posted his own listening notes for this one.

Dark Star (instrumental) -> Death Letter Blues
I really like this!  The Dark Star is nothing particularly too intense, but Garcia and Lesh weave endless lines around each other forever.  Really wonderful!  And a really smooth segue into this sole performance of Son House's Death Letter Blues -- Lesh is still grooving on Dark Star as Garcia changes gears, reminding me of his comment in his Signpost to a New Space interview that Dark Star and the blues have the same essence, despite their different forms.  A tip of the hat to Lesh and the drummers, too, who keep Death Letter Blues bouncing along engagingly without any other rhythm instrument -- one thing that dings a lot of 60's "white rock guys playing the blues" stuff for me is the leaden-ness of the rhythm section, but this is a fine example that transcends that.

"Thank you.  I might explain that we're really here just playing, just goofing, I mean we don't have really anything in mind or anything.  Yeah.  We're just thrown together by fate.  And so we're, uh, playing Fate Music.  Call it Luck Music.  Fateful..."

The Other One (instrumental) /cuts
Lesh starts the bassline and Garcia jumps right in.  This gets pretty heated and is very good indeed.  One notable moment happens around 7:40 when they both lock into the same 5-note figure, repeat it a few times, then spin off into another key -- I wonder if this an example of the kind of stuff they wanted to try, but couldn't with Bob and Pig being comparatively "limited" in their playing?  But from start to finish, they maintain a pretty high energy level for the whole jam, which, like Dark Star, is quite long by 1968 standards.  Near the end (15:45) it sounds like Lesh hints at Lovelight, and they ease back a bit, but the tape cuts with clearly more to go. 

/St. Stephen jam/ (fragment)
This is a 90 second chunk of them jamming the simple riff that would, in a few months' time, become the instrumental bit after "one man gathers what another man spills" in St. Stephen.  It seems like the first time they added this little instrumental break was 1/25/69, but in 1968 they were just returning to the St. Stephen riff.  It cuts off in full flight.  I don't know what to make of this.  [update] Light Into Ashes made this comment, which I wanted to add here:
I suspect the reason no 10/29/68 tape circulates is that Abram was taping over part of that show on 10/30. The Other One jam sounds pretty continuous after the cut, with probably only a small amount missing. Stephen, I think, is all that's left on that reel from the music that was being erased.  I speculate that the Stephen fragment is in there because Abram threw on the reel during the Other One flip and accidentally pressed 'play' or 'FF' for a bit before he resumed recording (or perhaps the reel just hadn't been rewound all the way to the start).
/The Other One jam -> Lovelight (instrumental)
About 100 secs of Other One-ish jamming -- but I'm not sure if this is a continuation of the preceding Other One jam or not, but my guess is that it is.  Garcia brings it to a halt by re-centering the rhythm and Lesh takes it right into Lovelight.  This feels less exciting to me, but they maintain the energy, and end it like the Dead would typically do.  Garcia thanks the crowd and the tape fades.

This is mislabeled on older copies: it's mainly just them futzing around (the newest transfer just labels it "tuning and noodling").  Lesh noodles a Dark Starry riff.  Garcia: "I don't think we have any [guitar] straps.  I'll sit down if it'll make it--"   They vamp a little bit of a New Potato Caboose-esque thing.  Elvin Bishop gets his gear set up and plugged in, but for some reason...

"The Six" (Clementine jam)
...Lesh suggests "wanna try the Six?" and Bishop comps along quietly before dropping out after a couple of minutes.  This is the same piece that begins the 10/8 show, but now sounds more developed and has been tightened up a bit.  It has a couple of different sections, but it begins with the same Clementine vamp and never seems to leave 6/8 time (I can't quite tell if there Lesh is playing with the rhythm by playing a line in 7 then in 5, coming out even with the time).  I do not hear The Seven anywhere in here, but I'm in so deep at this point that I may be missing the obvious.  This is quite nice: slower and with a moodier feel than 10/8, but more confident.  Again, like 10/8, Garcia weaves it into

-> The Eleven (instrumental) -> Death Don't Have No Mercy
It takes them about 2 minutes to settle into the usual Eleven; parts of this felt a little hectic and rushed, other parts really dug in and wailed.  Very nice overall.  Garcia whips up a neat little walk-down transition into Death Don't, which is lovely once again.

Then Garcia then calls Bishop back: "Well, where's Elvin, where'd he go? Where'd that skunk go?" and Bishop plugs back in.  "What're we playing?"

Jam? (mislabeled "Prisoner Blues") -> blues instrumental (funky blues in D)
This jam is a highlight for me: it's definitely some instrumental tune, starting off in a New Potato Caboose kinda zone, but clearly it's own song (I'm hearing the chords as D7, G, Bbmaj7, A; any musicians want to check this?)  I love this!  Drifty, dreamy jammy vibe to this that sounds fantastic, very different from everything else Bishop plays on these shows.  He solos first, sounds fantastic, and Garcia takes the second half.  The last minute or so of this track segues into the following blues jam, fades out, then fades back in with the tape having backed up so nothing is missing -- someone could edit and retrack this [edit: this refers to the older copy].  This isn't the same "Blues Shuffle in A" present on the other tapes; it's something different with a funkier feel, more of a grinding workout for both guitarists.

Prisoner of Love (mislabeled "Baby Please Come Back to Me")
Garcia calls for a vocal mic for Bishop, who reprises his Percy Mayfield tune from 10/8 and takes the first solo, Garcia second.  Fine, but nothing too remarkable.

[update] Light Into Ashes speculates, and now I think I agree, that these two final jams are actually from another night, possibly the night before, which may have been taped over (see his comment below).  That idea makes perfect sense, given the repetition of material and Garcia's comment to the crowd, but for now it remains another big question mark. 

//Clementine jam (cuts in).
Lesh plays the Clementine bassline throughout, but they don't play anything else from "The Six" that I recognize.  Bishop is gone, and at first just one drummer is audible, but by 2:30 the second drummer appears; this could be a tape mix snafu, or maybe someone just needed to use the john.  Nothing fancy here, just a nice groove, and it seems to pull up rather abruptly (someone's calling out something inaudible) and ends.

They tune up and Garcia again deflects the applause. "That's not necessary... we're primarily just screwing around.  And, uh, so don't expect anything that isn't screwing around.  'Cuz everything we're doing is just screwing around unless otherwise stated in advance."  Some more lengthy tuning and dead air.  "Ok, let's play!"  Lesh hints Dark Star and cheekily suggests, "a little bossa nova?"

Dark Star (instrumental)
Divine.  Fades at 19:20 to silence -- sounds like the tape cuts at the end.


And that was it for the Hartbeats.  Or was it?  The Dead were busy from November onward and thankfully got the bees out of their collective bonnet, cutting the definitive Live/Dead in four months' time.  Garcia, of course, didn't stop performing with others, and there are more sets of tapes that circulate with this Hartbeats label, which is misleading: apart from another nod to the proto "Fire on the Mountain" theme, there's nothing on these other tapes that are much like the Dead's material.  The three Oct 68 shows count as Grateful Dead shows to me -- unusual, certainly, but still far more like the Dead than not.  These other two tapes feel more like Garcia-jamming-with-others, like the 5/21/68 Carousel or 7/28/68 Olompali jams.  Maybe, as Lesh says (above), he stopped showing up, which meant that these jams would naturally sound a lot less like the Dead.  [edit: although maybe he didn't: he's listed in the personnel for a 12/23 Matrix jam session]

(and a newer transfer not at LMA)

The lineup here is Garcia, Jack Casady, and two audible drummers on each jam, one of which frequently plays percussion: Spencer Dryden is the given name for first jam, David Getz for the second, and I would presume that Mickey Hart is playing on both?  (see here) The Matrix's own records indicate that it was just a jam session, but per Deadlists: "Bill Gadsden said he copied from Peter Abram 'two reels with 45 minutes apiece of Garcia, Spencer Dryden, Casady, Getz, etc from 12/16/68.' ... Dick Latvala stated in an interview 'There are tapes of 12/16/68 marked Hartbeats at The Matrix, but I don't know if that's really accurate.'"  See jgmf's and Light Into Ashes' comments here for some discussion.

[edit: interestingly, the JGMF list notes a "Casady, Garcia, Hart & Dryden Jam" for 12/6/68, and a "Winter [Johnny?], Casady, Garcia & Bishop Jam" for 12/16/68.  Hmm.  Garcia is definitely the only guitarist on this existent tape, whatever the actual date is.]

The first jam starts after much tuning/dead air, and is about 41 minutes of mostly pretty uneventful blues jamming; the last 10 minutes picks it up and by the end it's pretty intense, but it's not enough to save it.  The second jam is a much more varied affair and much more enjoyable: starting with a sultry semi-latin feel, this one overall feels more rhythmically engaging to me and gets into more exciting spaces.  After a long bass solo, the last stretch (starting around 26 min) is an extended 2-chord vamp a la "Fire On the Mountain" (probably the source of the erroneous "The Creator Has a Master Plan" label that sometimes travels with this one; that Pharaoh Sanders tune has a similar endless 2-chord vamp, but the record hadn't been released at this point, and there's no other similarity).  It goes on for a bit too long before wrapping things up with a pseudo-calypso kind of feel.  OK, then!  Nice energy levels and intensity for this one.  The two drummers playing gives this a lot of its sizzle.

"10/21/68" [updated]

More from the same vintage as 12/16/68, although not necessarily from the same night.  Collector/taper Jeff Knudsen's copy of a tape that had been in limited circulation since the 1990's was digitized at Lossless Legs, containing the circulating 12/16/68 material plus five additional jams ("jams #3-7").  The dating seems to have been mixed up with a tape of Garcia jamming with Casady and Kaukonen at the Jefferson Airplane's home studio that is sometimes labeled 10/21/68 (but is actually 69?), and it's the provenance of these five jams isn't clear, but "10/21/68" might as well stick until something better comes along.  The sound quality is not great and the tape speed seems to run pretty fast, so I have not yet done a close listening to these.  Another update may follow if/when I do.

??/??/68 - Michael Parrish mystery fragment
A lesser-known tape (not at LMA) of two jams: undated, in low quality sound, too fast, and with globs of noise reduction applied (excited yet?).  The first jam is a nice poppin' groove, @4-5 min there's a FOTM feel once again (I-VII, not sure what key it's in since the tape is so speedy), and I think it sounds like Casady is on bass.  It's hard to make out if there are one or two drummers because of the muffled sound.  But overall there's a driving, light feel to this, very uptempo -- not too bad at all, but it cuts at 13:19.  Bah.  The second jam is just a repeat of the 12/16/68 second jam, but in way worse sound quality and considerably speedier.


The name, however, didn't go away just yet, and these handful of post-68 Hartbeats sightings give further credence to the idea that "Hartbeats" was short-hand for, basically, "Grateful Dead Jam":
  • 2/24 & 2/26/69 -- no one seems to know what the story is with this mysterious newspaper listing for "Mickey Hart and the Heartbeats (Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesch, and Bill Sommers)" [sic, sic, and sic] with Fruminous Bandersnatch at the Matrix; see Lost Live Dead.
  • 8/28/69 -- a Family Dog jam with the Dead and friends -- again minus Weir and Pigpen, plus organist Howard Wales and others, including a flute player -- was taped by Bear, who apparently labeled it "Hartbeats" (per Deadlists).
  • At the Dead's 6/24/70 early show at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY, the announcer introduces them: "The people onstage with me now have many names.  One is Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats; one is the Acoustic Dead; but they're all part of a wonderful group, the Grateful Dead."  I can't think how a promoter in New York would have known to call them the Hartbeats, unless he knew about the Family Dog performances (above), or it came from the band itself -- it couldn't have been known even to most serious Dead Freaks at the time.  I think this is further evidence that the Hartbeats were seen as an "incarnation" of the Grateful Dead, much like the acoustic sets with variable participation by bandmembers and some New Riders.  Granted, that may have been how the band saw it by mid-1970, but not in 1968... 
  • July 70 - "Mickey Hart and the Hart Beats, with Jerry Garcia" at the Matrix.  Maybe this was more acoustic Dead (this?), maybe cosmic jazz odysseys with Howard Wales, maybe something else altogether.  Light Into Ashes admirably wades into the quagmire here
courtesy Deadlists


Some have identified this Hartbeats "period" as a starting point for Garcia's concurrent musical life outside the Dead.  This may be splitting hairs, but I don't quite see it that way.  The earlier stuff with Jack Casady, sure: that 5/21/68 Carousel jam, the 7/28/68 trio jam at Olompali, the later not-exactly-Hartbeats stuff mentioned above.  December 1968 seems to have a flurry of documented extracurricular activity (per JGMF's list): Garcia played at Matrix jams with Harvey Mandel on 12/17, with Casady again on 12/18, with Bishop and Santana on 12/23, and with Mandel again on 12/24 (this one circulates, and was officially released in Mandel's Snake Box set), and with Al Kooper on 1/20/69.  [edit: JGMF's Matrix tape list includes even more -- I'm starting to think that this unknown Dec '68 stretch may have been a more significant period than we know, given the dearth of available recordings].  He went to spend many more nights at the Matrix with the New Riders, then Howard Wales, then Merl Saunders, but apart from the one-off "band" with David Crosby, Garcia, Lesh, and Kreutzmann that lasted a few nights in Dec 1970 (see Lost Live Dead), these were all relatively "organized" affairs that leaned closer to proper bands or side projects.  I do agree with a statement Light Into Ashes makes somewhere that Garcia's connection with Merl Saunders essentially ended this kind of amorphous public jamming, since it gave him a regular outlet for non-Dead music: by 1970, Garcia was working regularly with three pretty different bands, more or less simultaneously.  But while these three initial Hartbeats shows may be at the heart of this, they still feel like outliers in the stream of "Garcia on the side" activity: members of the Dead playing Dead material, with no real concept beyond digging deeper into Dead improvisation.

Another way to listen to these tapes is in the context of power trios, which were apparently on Garcia's and Hart's minds after Cream played in the Bay Area in March '68 (see Light Into Ashes).  Garcia and Hart were so inspired by them that they apparently discussed forming a trio with Jack Casady; I doubt that any of them were all that serious about it, but if you're looking for a place to map the origin of Garcia's "side trips" outside of the Dead, that seems to me like the place to do it rather than the Oct 68 Hartbeats tapes.  Casady, of course, went on to play more in this format with Hot Tuna.  Personally, however, I think Phil Lesh had an ideal melodic and improvisational sense to really make the most of such a format, and it's a pity that he didn't do more of this.  These Hartbeats tapes are a virtually unique example of Garcia and Lesh playing over a long stretches as nearly equal lead voices, and they provide nearly as much of a showcase for Lesh as they do for Garcia.

And, finally, jazz fan that I am, I can't resist pointing out that Miles Davis was playing a residency at the Both/And club in San Francisco in October 1968 (per Plosin), and I would imagine that the various Hartbeats & friends all would have been interested in checking that out.  Miles' music wasn't in full-blown Bitches Brew mode yet, but his sets typically featured songs that were based on increasingly simple ideas with minimal harmonic guidelines, segued one into the next, and were played with a very loose sense of structure and little adherence to any strict arrangement.  Could that have been an influence on the Dead and maybe even a small influence on their approach in these shows?  It may be wishful thinking, but I would say it's not out of the question.