Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Oct 68: Hartbeats run-down

[edit: blogger trashed the formatting of this, so I had to clean it up -- sorry if you tried reading all this and gave up!]

Special thanks to Light Into Ashes for his feedback and corrections to this.

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. ( 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 Taper's Compendium, 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 amenable to) 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 and others jamming and 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 performs with Elvin Bishop on 10/8, but it's questionable if he actually plays on any Dead material -- nearly all the info about these shows that I've seen claims that he does, but I mostly disagree; 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 there w/r/t correct running order or what belongs to what date.  I suspect that some stuff may be missing, and, 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).

whole show:
(alternate disc 1:
(There is also a GEMS transfer, not at LMA, that is mixed down to mono.)

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 take the vocal on the first Death Don't, which is played on each of these tapes.  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 for now. 

The Seven
The first known rendition of this little-played theme?  This, 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-fuelled 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 on a drumkit until almost 10 min in.  The outro melody segues into

-> Cosmic Charlie
The earliest version of this, played briskly.  Garcia sings the lyrics.  There's no bass here at all (unless it's a tape mix issue?).  Did Lesh not know the song yet?  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.

“Next Time You See Me” (blues shuffle in A, instrumental)
 A 12-bar blues riff in A, which they played again on 10/10 and is similar in form to "Next Time You See Me" (or "Schoolgirl"), but that seems to be about the only connection.  It's 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 Garcia and Lesh, which is pretty cool.  The tape fades as it's ending, so there's not really a segue into the next jam. 

Jam 1
Kind of an Em-A7 vamp, with a similar feel to Dark Star, but definitely not the same thing.  Very nice indeed.  There's a dark, moody ending, then they kind of vaguely noodle in this same vein and then quietly shift to

The Other One (instrumental)
Quietly comes up out of silence.  Pretty standard O1 jamming, then after 9 min they shift gears into a quieter, more melodic kind of thing.  By 11:30 they're screwing around with string scrapings and volume knobs.  Little tape dropout at 12:14? It doesn't sound like anything's missing

-> Jam 2 /(cuts) 
This emerges out of the spacey haze.  The bass here is heavier and feels more prominent -- I am feeling confident that everything up to this point has been Phillip Chapman Lesh, but I wonder if this is now Jack Casady instead?  It could have been possible to hand off the bass during the spacey jam after the Other One.  Anyway, the bass plays a simple, clear bassline in E(?) and Garcia picks up on it, zipping around. I like this.  He loses steam after a few min and gloms onto the theme while the bassist goes off.  Unfortunately, This cuts off in mid flight.

The tape cuts back into to applause and tuning.  Garcia: “Is Elvin here?  Elvin here? Got his whole scene here?  Too much.  We're gonna let Elvin play.  This guy who's been playing the bass here is Jack Casady, if you're wondering.  This band is called Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats."   Hmm.  Understandably, one might assume that Jack Casady had been playing the bass for some time now, but my ears tell me otherwise.   Maybe it was him on the preceding Jam?  Maybe there's some stuff missing thanks to that cut?  Maybe these reels are out of order?  But I am feeling very certain that Lesh has been on the majority, if not all, of this tape so far.  Anyway, 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
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, Casady, and one drummer, who I suspect may be John Chambers, the drummer from Elvin's band of this period and who also appears on the later 12/24/68 Matrix jam with Harvey Mandel, Garcia, and Bishop (though there's apparently a different drummer named Joe Chambers who also played at these Matrix jams; so who knows?).  But maybe it's Kruetzmann, or someone else entirely.

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
Bishop, Casady, and what sounds like two drummers at first, but the drummer in the left channel seems to vanish after a couple of minutes.  Casady solos after about 6 min (compare this with Lesh earlier), 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? OK,” and then cuts off. 

Casady & Garcia, Olompali 1968, by Peter Risley

10/10/68 Matrix
5186 has the first and second halves reversed.  I have no idea which is correct, but I'm inclined to think 4513 is the right order, although though they do dive right in with a pretty heavy jam!  The sound on 5186 seems slightly better though: less bleedthrough and warble during the dead air bits.  There's no extra music, though, just different tracking. 

note: the Tapers' Compendium (and elsewhere) list Jack Casady as playing bass on this night.  I disagree; it sounds exactly like Phil Lesh to me (compare any of this with Casady's playing on the Elvin Bishop stuff on 10/8, or on the 12/16/68 tape below).  Casady also sat in this night with Jimi Hendrix at Winterland, and while it's possible that he also played at the Matrix that same night, I think it makes it even less likely that it's him.

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 fast, 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."

“Next Time You See Me” (blues shuffle in A, instrumental)
Same deal as 10/8, now played slower, and with harmonica. 

"The Rub" (another blues shuffle in A, instrumental)
Another blues instrumental with harmonica, again with a somewhat similar feel/structure to "Ain't It Crazy/The Rub". This is as good a place as any to point out that they were playing several tunes associated with Pigpen after ostensibly "firing" him from the band.

(Look Over) Yonder Wall
Marvin sings the vocal and plays harmonica.  The Dead never played this had played in 1966, but it was also a blues staple that they all 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 baseline, 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 baseline 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.

Garcia: "...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, then 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 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 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.  Has anyone gotten to the bottom of that one yet?  [I see, belatedly, that JGMF's list of existent Matrix tapes has 10/28/68 labeled as the Steve Miller Band, nothing for 10/29, and 10/30 as "Dead jam"]

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 baseline 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.  It seems out of place on the tape, given that the following track is...

/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.  Garcia brings it to a halt by re-centering the rhythm and Lesh takes it right into Lovelight.  This is less exciting for 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: it's mainly just them setting up.  Lesh noodles a Dark Starry riff.  Garcia: "I don't think we have any 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 more developed and tightened up.  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 messing around 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.  This isn't the same "Next Time You See Me" blues thing present on the other tapes, it's something different with a different 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 tune from 10/8 and takes the first solo, Garcia second.  Fine, but nothing too remarkable.

//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 ending to me.


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 two 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.

??/??/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, again minus Weir and Pigpen, plus organist Howard Wales and apparently others (including a flute player) was taped by Bear, who apparently labeled it "Hartbeats" (per Deadlists).
  • 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


Several folks 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 was 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.


  1. Nice work! Some small comments:

    10/8 - It's a matter of dispute just where Jack Casady comes in... I thought that Phil stepped out after Cosmic Charlie & Casady played all the jams after that (note, for instance, the difference between the "Next Time jam" here & the one on 10/10 where Phil's playing), but then the bass on the Other One is pretty Lesh-like, so I can't say for sure...

    10/10/68 - The "Next Time" jam on 10/8 and 10/10 isn't Next Time, of course, but some similar cover tune. (The Dead never played Next Time like this.) The "Rub jam" isn't The Rub either, the Dead didn't play it like this. The Dead had played Yonder Wall before, though - at the Matrix on 12/1/66 (with another guest singer/harmonica player!) - what strikes me is that they're playing familiar blues covers for the guest, but not Pigpen tunes.

    10/30/68 - The St. Stephen fragment intrigues me, it's not connected to anything but cuts in & out. My guess is it's a fragment from a mostly-taped-over reel. (In a quiet part of the tape later on, you can hear faint music bleed-through that sounds like the Other One.) It's also unique because it's temporally out of place, the Dead didn't do this bit in St. Stephen for a couple more months...but they quote Stephen here... Actually it reminds me of the post-Stephen jams they did in the earliest Stephens back in June '68; they stopped doing that bit live in mid-'68 to tighten the song up, before bringing a tougher version back in Jan '69; this is kind of an intermediate version.
    - The Clementine jam is basically a straight instrumental version of the song - structurally each section is close to the 1/26/69 version, though of course the playing's different. (It's instructive to compare them! Sad that we just have rehearsals, instrumentals, or half-remembered performances of Clementine from this period, but no "finished" version.) When they return to the Clementine riff after Prisoner of Love, it's more of a loose jam on the theme.
    By the way, JGMF misidentifies Phil's bass-line as the Seven, which it isn't.
    - Elvin doesn't play the same "Next Time"-type jam they did on previous nights, this is a different riff closer to "Everything's Gonna Be Alright."
    - I used to think Casady was playing on the second Dark Star here, based on other people's assertions, but now I don't hear it, sounds like Phil to me...

  2. Ayee, right, that's my mistake about the 10/30 "Next Time"/blues tune. Thanks for that catch! Different thing altogether. I will change that. I agree with you that labeling those blues tunes "Next Time" or "The Rub" isn't particularly accurate, but they're similar enough in form to those songs that I can see why they were labeled that way by someone, and

    re: Phil vs Casady on 10/8, I'm sticking with my theory that it's Phil on nearly all of the Dead stuff on 10/8: the bass on the music after Cosmic Charlie just sounds too much like Phil, to my ears. The last jam before the Elvin Bishop stuff is the only thing that's still giving me pause: the touch and attack doesn't sound very much like the way that Phil sounds on everything else, and it does sound more like Casady to me (though I'm not nearly as familiar with his style). But I'm less sure about this then I am about Phil being on everything *before* this. I'm also not hearing enough difference in the bass playing on the 10/8 vs 10/10 "Next Time" -- 10/8 is noticeably faster, but both versions sound like Phil to me.

  3. And as it happens, a new "upgrade" of 10/8/68 just got put into circulation today - haven't heard it yet, but the notes say Jack Casady plays only in the Elvin Bishop set.

    The thing is, that "Next Time" jam on 10/8 - the bass playing didn't seem much like Phil to me, it doesn't interact with Garcia very closely, sticking to a low backing groove. (In the same jam on 10/10, the bass playing seems to have more swing in it, it's played more walking-bassline style. Of course they're backing a harmonica player so they're playing a bit differently.)
    But in the 10/8 jam, there's a spot after 13 minutes where the bass stops playing for a while, then when it comes back, it's more active and Phil-like to me, and remains that way through the following mellow jam and the Other One. Then after the Other One the bass retreats to a more repetitive riff, as you noticed...then the tape cuts.
    So I don't know. One possibility is that Phil & Jack were literally trading the bass at different points in the jam. Or, it's all Phil, kinda nodding off and losing interest onstage. It's possible that a reel is missing after the tapecut, so when Garcia says Casady's been playing with them, he's talking about a missing set of music. I'll remain agnostic on this.

  4. Hmm. I relistened to the 10/8 "Next Time" and I still suspect it's Phil -- the bass in spots like @1:50, 4:40, 9:35, right before 13 min, etc, all sound like it could be Phil to me. I suppose he and Casady could have swapped out during that guitar break, but it just seems like an awkward move to make. I think one reason the 10/10 version could sound more like Phil is that it's a little slower and with more room for Phil to pull away from the groove. I'm more inclined to think that either some music is missing after that more Casady-like Jam (10/8) cuts off, or that when Garcia says "this guy who's been playing the bass here is Jack Casady," he's not referring to any significant length of time and that Casady had just been warming up briefly (which would make sense if they were handing things over to Elvin & co?). But it's so hard to say that I'm happy to remain agnostic as well.

    1. I'm inclined more toward some missing music (especially since Garcia says 'this band is called the Hartbeats' right after saying Casady's been playing). Ideally a team of Casady experts would weigh in on this vexing question, but really, trying to discern fine bass-playing distinctions in a dull blues shuffle is an exercise for true fanatics only!

      Now that it's been concluded Casady doesn't actually play on any of the Dead song themes, it strikes me as an intriguing lost possibility...what WOULD a Casady Other One or Dark Star have sounded like? (Or, on the other hand, how would Phil have played Pooneil?)

  5. Wow - I am not sure how I am going to integrate all of this, the post and the comments. It feels like I would need to start from scratch, but that's daunting, too.

    Right now, I will just say I am glad you mostly enjoyed this stuff! People dismiss it as noodly wankery, which I get, but I think there is some serious stuff being attempted here.

    Oh yeah, on the interpretive point: sure, 5/21/68 is the GOTS Ur-moment. But Hartbeats is part of the flux of the period, and the poster is what it is.

    Hopefully I can get around to more at some point, we shall see. In the meantime, thanks!

    1. A lot of it is noodling...but intentional noodling, or 'public rehearsals' in a way...the Hartbeats has that classic Garcia time-has-no-meaning feel, just drifting on clouds of endless music til dawn.
      Other than the blues stuff I find the Hartbeats very enjoyable - not very energetic, but full of wee-hour small-club dreaminess.
      More importantly, there are some beautiful moments of improv here, and lots of things we don't have in Dead tapes of the time. Imagine late-'68 Dead shows with Clementines, Sevens, 20-minute Dark Stars and extended freeform instrumentals...

      The "Jerry Garrceea and His Friends" billing is interesting too, considering Garcia himself wanted to cast off any notion of his being central to the band. ("This band is called Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats," he pointedly tells the first night's audience.)
      I see it as partly just rock-poster economics (Garcia was a known name, and "Mickey Hart and Friends" wouldn't entice many people to the Matrix!) - but it also inaugurates the kind of "Garcia and friends" billing often seen at the Matrix a couple years later.

      Garcia's frequent disclaimers to the audience are also intriguing - he wants to explain what's going on and lower expectations, but he may also hint at the limited intent behind the Hartbeats shows - "experimental...just goofing, nothing serious, we don't have anything in mind...just screwing around."
      In part this could be deflecting any Dead hopes in the audience, or even sort of apologizing for the raggedy nobody's-listening-anyway format; it's also typical Garcia behavior.
      And it may point out a gap between his and Phil's approach to the shows. Phil might have had a different idea of what the Hartbeats could be, but as far as we know he lost interest after a few shows, whereas Garcia was happy to keep "screwing around" at the Matrix month after month, having found a fun but aimless low-expectations situation he could thrive in.

    2. I do like these tapes -- I didn't think much of them in the past, but I had never done a close listening like this before. But I also really like the ambiance of any Matrix tape I've heard: the Crosby 12/70 tape, of course, and also the John Fahey and Sandy Bull live releases from 1969. As for the music's lack of 'energy', it struck me as funny that Mickey's memory was of how loud and intense it had been, which seems like the opposite of the recording. I wonder how different it sounded in person? I do agree, too, that Garcia & Lesh were attempting to push the boundaries of what the Dead had been doing during these nights.

      JGMF, given that 5/21/68 is ground zero for GOTS (at least on tape), I suppose you could maybe argue that Garcia's liaisons with Casady represent his first solo 'side trip' (was Casady his most frequent non-GD collaborator pre-NRPS/Wales/Kahn/Saunders?). I still see these Oct 68 Hartbeats shows as being more closely related to the Dead than as a further step in Garcia's path to his own side career, though. I suspect that Lesh's recollection is being influenced ex post facto by the setlists and info that's currently available -- I don't think Lesh 'stepped away' from the Hartbeats so much as I think the he & Jerry just worked out their drama with Bob & Pigpen and got on with their business; and if that mysterious Feb 69 billing is correct, Lesh didn't even step away from the Hartbeats anyway, which is further fuel for my theory that the Hartbeats weren't actually a 'side project' at all and were more of a goofy name for an unusual Grateful Dead situation. Lesh doesn't ever seem like he had much interest in the all-night jamming that Garcia clearly relished.

      w/r/t the 'Jerry Garia & Friends' billing, I'm not making too much of it: the Matrix held 100 people and they were (in theory) supporting Elvin Bishop anyway, so I doubt they were concerned either about drawing much of a crowd or about disappointing anyone who may have come expecting the full GD experience. My theory is that Peter Abram would have billed it as the Dead were it for not for Chet Helms, so he just went with Garcia's name (funny spelling as a nod to Helms) without bothering to ask. Garcia's regular dismissal of what they're doing as "not serious" just seems in line with how self-effacing he was about almost everything else.

  6. Looking back in my notes, I found this, from Sandy Troy's Garcia bio (from 1994!) prob via JGMF's old reading notes:

    “The Hartbeats was an interesting side trip for Garcia, but it wasn’t enough by itself to hold his attention... However, the short break opened his eyes to the advantages of playing with other musicians when his schedule would allow it, and in 1969 he began doing more of that. This extracurricular performing allowed Garcia to scratch his musical itches in a way – he could play music he liked that the Dead didn’t ordinarily do, and he could try out new instruments and new techniques” (121).

    An understandable interpretation (esp for 1994), but I'm not buying it -- he'd already started playing with other musicians months before this, and the Hartbeats were already his bandmates, experimenting with mostly their own material.

    1. Troy was generalizing in that quote - that was a very brief overview in which he mainly seems to be thinking of the New Riders in '69...

      But the Hartbeats are part of Garcia's progression: from playing in general "rock jams" at the Carousel, to playing in specific "Garcia & friends" configurations occasionally at the Matrix, to playing in one Garcia & organist band every week at the Matrix.
      From the Dead point of view, the Hartbeats were an unimportant dead end, rare experiments with different band formats; but from a Garcia-centric perspective, the Matrix jam sessions were another step on the road to the Garcia Band.
      I think 10/8/68 was Garcia's first time playing at the Matrix since 1966? And yet, he must have been quite happy with the venue's possibilities since, as you noted, he immediately started jamming there almost every week he could that winter, in multiple musical configurations - a pretty significant step, and the Hartbeats gigs seem to be what nudged him in this direction.
      Hartbeats shows themselves were apparently just a fraction of the jams Garcia played at the Matrix, but since they're available on tape, they get attention as part of the Dead story, while all Garcia's other nights there remain shadowy.

  7. That's a fair point. I hadn't attached the same significance to the fact the Oct 68 Hartbeats shows initiated Garcia's 2-year association with the Matrix, but I do think they distort our view of the period and Garcia's nascent side-trip aspirations because of their availability. I still feel that the May-June Carousel and Dec 1968 Matrix jam sessions are more significant markers in the "road to the Garcia Band" progression (i.e. his realizing the creative possibilities allowed by playing music outside the Dead), but at this point it seems like splitting hairs.

    btw, do we know what happened at the Matrix in Dec 1968? The Chicken on a Unicycle and JGMF lists don't seem to indicate any proper 'shows' booked at all, just a lot of jam sessions (including, I can't help but notice, Phil Lesh on 12/23). Did Garcia, Mandel, Casady et al take advantage of having an empty club at their disposal, similar to how the Dead & co had the Carousel at their disposal for open jamming a few months before?

    Maybe someday if/when those Dec 68 tapes start circulating, we'll come back and rewrite all this yet again.

  8. It is hair-splitting at this point, whether the Hartbeats are seen as part of Garcia's 1968 embrace of outside-the-Dead jams, or more a strictly Dead exercise... Given that the '68 Hartbeats as we have them include a couple outside musicians, it's a fuzzy distinction.

    JGMF may be the one to ask about what was going on at the Matrix. The Chicken on a Unicycle site hasn't been updated in years, and then there's the issue of misdated tapes serving as spurious sources for Matrix dates.
    It seems to me that the "official" Matrix bookings only partially indicate who played there - with the numerous substitutions, unlisted jam sessions, or unknown musicians showing up, all we can do is speculate in a cloud of possibilities.

    I notice that the Matrix seems to have been mostly closed from March-August '68. I don't think it's coincidental that after it re-opened it suddenly became a kind of open-jam-session club in place of the Carousel's jam nights. Small surprise that Garcia was first in line to take advantage of this!

  9. Minor point: on 6/24/70 the announcer who begins the early show says, "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 wonder how a promoter (or whoever the guy is) in New York would even know that the Dead had been billed this way, but I do think it adds a little more weight to my (admittedly hairsplitting) thesis that the Hartbeats were more of an "incarnation" of the Dead (much like the acoustic sets with variable participation) than a discrete side project... or at least that the band was seeing it that way by 1970.