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Tuesday, September 13

Mickey Hart was born on Sept. 11th. in 1943. Today's show is the first full show after Mickey came back. 6-17-75 at Winterland

 Mickey Hart was a trained percussionist who was a competitive drummer. Billy K was more like Animal from the Muppets. When they came together it was like an "eight-armed beast" and the sound of Primal Dead was born.

It's an oft-told story of the "Lenny Hart scandal", in Grateful Dead lore.  Due to personal reasons that had nothing to do with his dad and the embarrassment of the band being ripped off by his father, Mickey left the band in February of 1971.  This was around the time the band had pulled back from the cosmos down into the watering hole and the music of their youth. The band, all through 1970 to 1974, the Dead were so creatively fertile that many of their best loved songs came from those years. When the Grateful Dead went back to one drummer, they became a more nimble, swinging ensemble that was capable of turning on a dime. When Mickey was there, the band would just ooze raw power out of the speakers. Mickey was a perfect fit for the early years' cosmic explorations.  However, two drummers made it hard to turn as quick as Jerry and Bob and Keith could. Phil kept up with the quick changes but double drums behind you is a machine that wants to plow ahead.  By himself, Billy had the jazzy chops to swing with the one-minded realm the band was trying to create. The band gestalt, if you want to sound pretentious.

Every deadhead knows the story about how the Winterland run in 1974 was possibly going to be the Dead's last shows. The band was tired and worn out from constant travel and playing all over the world.  They had gotten used to having one drummer and not having to pay another band member also freed up some money to pour into Owsley's massive Wall of Sound. The band had two versions of this massive sound system that would leapfrog from gig to gig. So one half of the crew was constantly driving while the other was working and they were all partying as hard as any band in the 70's.  When the wheels started to come off in 1974, the band decided to take an open-ended hiatus after the closing of the tour at Winterland. Through the backstage machinations of the crew, they managed to sneak Mickey's drums into the venue without telling Billy. Right before soundcheck, they told Billy, who was not happy with the situation but in true GD fashion more or less said "fuck it, let's play" and the rest was history. 

The band had released two albums on their own label, Wake of the Flood and Live from the Mars Hotel and while Jerry was gigging around the Bay Area, the rhythm devils got up to their old tricks and fell right back into old patterns. Francis Ford Coppola saw the Grateful Dead and decided to ask the band, mainly the drummers, to work on the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now. After jamming together on the soundtrack, they put together so many percussion instruments the Beast was born. The boys eventually get together at Weir's ranch to play and see if anything came out of the session.  This freedom to explore, which included Mickey's infamous box of crickets, birthed what became the album Blues for Allah. In today's hyper-consciousness of anything Islam, the title might not have made the cut but the music certainly does. The record includes some of the most popular and long lasting songs the Dead ever wrote. It combined the jazziness of 73' with the exploration of 74' and is in the running for my favorite Grateful Dead album.

 In 1975, the band played the side two, "Blues for Allah" section a couple of times live. The first was at the SNACK concert in Golden Gate Park, the famous "One From the Vault" release, which features my favorite Bill Graham introduction and then this show. This show was billed as Jerry Garcia and Friends. What happened was the first two-set show in 1975 and one of the handful of times  "Blues for Allah" was played. The music was so new that "Help on the Way" didn't even have the lyrics yet. The opening "Crazy Fingers" is one of my favorite versions of the song.  It's not a long show. It has a few tunes that were in rotation like a beautiful "Peggy-O" and "Deal", as well as "Beat it on Down the Line". After the first few tunes, they pretty much play the album as it was tracked. The only tunes they didn't play was the instant classic, "The Music Never Stopped" and Weir's instrumental etude "Sage & Spirit" which is a beautiful tune. I remember hearing that Weir would play "Sage & Spirit" over and over again as a warm-up exercise and when he nailed it, he was warmed up and ready to play. Enjoy the show! Happy Belated Birthday, Mickey.

Greg Heffelfinger

Set 1

Crazy Fingers 
Beat It On Down The Line 
Big River 
Me And My Uncle 
Help On The Way * ->
Slipknot! ->
Franklin's Tower 

Set 2

Blues For Allah ->
Stronger Than Dirt Or Milkin' The Turkey ->
Drums ->
Stronger Than Dirt Or Milkin' The Turkey ->
Blues For Allah 
Sugar Magnolia 

U.S. Blues 

* = no lyrics

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