The band always actively encouraged their fans to tape the shows, even when people like Dylan were trying to prosecute bootleggers, and Deadhead culture was all about trading tapes for years. But they did keep a huge archive of their own recordings of shows, and in the 1990s they started releasing them. The selections for the series were initially made by their archivist Dick Latvala, so they called the series ‘Dicks Picks’. The series is still releasing new stuff I think (not sure though – I believe Dick died) and it’s reached about 36 releases now I think. But they only ever came out on CD. So about 3 years ago Brookvale Records in NYC started releasing them on 180g vinyl. They only press 2000 copies of each one and they’re pretty expensive. Still I was really excited for obvious reasons.
A couple of people asked me about the Grateful Dead track I played. It was ‘Franklin’s Tower’ played at a concert in Florida on May 22nd 1977, from the album ‘Dick’s Picks Volume Three’
The thing with the Dead is that their studio albums are mostly nothing like the live shows for which they were famous. Apart from a couple, the studio albums mostly sound like decent rock or country rock albums and even the few live albums they released never really foregrounded the long jams that they were famous for as much as they could have done.But in practice they were never interested in recording much and they treated the songs from the albums the way John Coltrane treated the Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook.
So far of the 4 volumes that’s definitely the best track for a party tune, I think, although I might turn on to some others later down the road. I’d been carrying that around in my bag for months and could never quite find the right moment to play it, and wasn’t entirely sure if it would work until a couple of days before the party I saw Jo dancing around the kitchen while I was listening to it at home ;). I’m pretty sure ours is the only copy on the planet that’s been played at a sweaty underground disco party!
The Dead are a massively important band partly for their unique take on rock-as-jazz-as-psychedelic-dance-music and partly for the way they built a community around themselves and always partially eschewed the rock star life (a huge amount of the money they made from touring went into their charitable foundation). Jerry was simply the most lyrical and fluid of all the great rock guitarists in my opinion – the one who came closest to the skill of the Indian musicians that people like he and Coltrane so admired. It always kind of bothers me that the west coast acid-rock psychedelic formation – which is still going strong in the US amongst people who follow the ‘jam bands’ and go to festivals in the Pacific North-West, seems never to connect at all with the East Coast deep jazz -deep disco -deep house tradition that we really come out of (it’s extraordinary when you think about it that Joe Claussell has never done a Dead remix…come on Joe!). It’s cool for me if we can bridge that gap for 10 minutes from time to time.
There’s always a certain snobbery towards the Dead from almost anyone whose been influenced by the punk / post-punk orthodoxy which the vast majority of anglophone intellectuals still seem to buy into, but as I remarked at a recent UEL seminar – Jerry Garcia never advertised car insurance…
For every party there are always 2 or 3 records I know I will play at some point in my set, with the rest being more or less improvised on the spot. These crucial records usually depend on my mood(s) in the preceding weeks, influenced by change of seasons, real life events, personal or not, etc. I’d have a bit of a revival with the Noir Désir song “Le Vent Nous Portera” (as it always seems to happen at this time of the year) recently and so kinda built my set around it. This was the first time the record was played at the party and it was a bliss seeing the reaction of the crowd, not only from the French gang. The original is a beauty, the edit is perfect, and this went down a storm. Goosebumps every time.
I pretty much prepare my set in a similar way. I know I want to incorporate 2-3 specific records for sure and get inspiration from real life events and mood(s) of the preceding weeks.
This time was a bit special though because I hadn’t seen the room beforehand, so I was ready to go in a few possible different directions. When I saw the venue, with its kind of “homy” feel, I had the feeling that it was possible to go wide and deep in the selection.
One for the jazz heads 🙂 My pick is John Klemmer, Free soul. Since a night in Plastic People, a couple of weeks before the party, with Abdul Forsyth playing for the first time in a while, I felt like listening to this track during the night. It is really an intense piece of music with such a bad groove coming from drum and bass duo! I also felt it was the right tune to play alongside Carlos Garnett, “lil dear”: top track as well!