It’s a Beautiful Day was part of San Franscisco’s burgeoning psychedelic rock scene in the late 60s. Essence of Now comes from the group’s second release Marrying Maiden from 1970. David LaFlamme played a key role in this release, performing as a vocalist, guitarist, and violinist (he was a soloist with the Utah Symphony before the group started). Jerry Garcia provided pedal steel guitar on this release, as he would for seemingly everybody in SF in the 1960s, including CSNY and its component members, Jefferson Airplane, and David Bromberg in addition to his work with the Dead.
Their best known song, White Bird, came from their self-titled debut and while they put out a few more albums they never reached the same level of success. Luckily they left behind these sun-dripped jams.
In the lead up to recording their 1970 release Hooteroll?, Garcia and Wales had a standing gig playing Monday nights at The Matrix in San Francisco. This track is a live recording of one of those sessions released on Grateful Dead Records in 1998 under the title Live Side Trips Vol. 1 featuring Bill Vitt on drums and long-time Garcia collaborator John Kahn on bass. Around that same time, Wales would sit in on organ for the Dead’s sessions for American Beauty. Kahn, Vitt, and Garcia would also joined with Merl Saunders on organ for a number of releases, including this cover of “I Second That Emotion”. An active studio musician, Wales appeared on the soundtrack to Alexandro Jodorowsky’s surreal masterpiece El Topo in addition to live performances with Jimi Hendrix and James Brown. Wales released one album of his own, 1976’s Rendezvous With the Sun. You can find a complete list of his credits on his website. You can also find this amazing picture of him flying an airplane organ:
I’ve focused more on Wales because he’s less known than Garcia and with Jerry I wouldn’t even know where to start. I can say that I’ve really been digging his playing on China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider on 12-6-73 in Cleveland lately, but honestly I’ve yet to hear a version of that I haven’t liked.
Meg Baird began her music career as the vocalist and guitarist of Philadelphia psychedelic folk trio Espers along with Greg Weeks before releasing a string of solo releases. “All I Ever Wanted” appears on her first solo record, Dear Companion which was released by Drag City in 2007. The tune was originally penned by John Dawson for the first New Riders of the Purple Sage album, which features Jerry Garcia on pedal steel, Mickey Hart on percussion, and Phil Lesh credited as a producer.
Dear Companion features a mix of covers, arrangements of traditional folk tunes, and original songs and it’s a treat from start to finish. She has since released two more solo records on Drag City, including Don’t Weigh Down the Light at the end of 2015, and has appeared on releases by Kurt Vile, Sharon Von Etten, and Glenn Jones. I couldn’t find much in the way of tour dates in support of her latest album, but if I were a betting man I’d say it’d be a pretty awesome show.
In my younger years I was told I needed to do a book report on a biography of somebody who I admired. Naturally, I chose a memoir of Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh entitled Searching for the Sound. Recently I’ve been listening to more live Dead and this time I might not re-emerge. Through the Grateful Dead Archive and a sweet live recordings app called Relisten I’ve been reliving the only cool period in my life, the pubescent deadhead period. Looks Like Rain in particular has really grabbed me, and I thought I’d post this footage from their 06/19/1976 performance from the Capitol Theater in New Jersey because it’s pretty representative of what I love about this song. There are a couple other recordings I’ve been digging, including one from the early 80s, which is a Dead period I haven’t really explored at all. Beautiful guitar work from Garcia and nice vocal work from Donna Jean Godchaux and Weir, who can both get shouty at times in my opinion. On the Europe ’72 recording of this song, Weir introduces it by saying it’s a “crying song,” which it certainly is. Weir also released a version on his 1972 record Ace. The lyrics were penned by John Perry Barlow, a frequent Dead collaborator who also wrote A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace in 1996, which has become something of a rallying cry for groups like Anonymous. You can see a video of him reading it here or read the full text here. It was released with musical accompaniment by Department of Records, who also produced the video. The full footage Dead show that this recording comes from can be found on Youtube.
There’s no need to add another Dead blog to cyberspace, so I probably will not post live Dead very often, but I can’t guarantee it won’t happen again.