The Golden Era of The Grateful Dead: 1982-87

I recently had the great fortune of driving down the west coast, ten days in the open spaces, with the radio constantly tuned to The Grateful Dead channel on Sirius X. And as wonderful as that truly was, I couldn’t help but notice a programming fixation with all eras but one – 1982-86.

Dave Lemieux’s exclusion of this golden age of the music is well documented in his Dave’s Picks selections. I just had no idea that the influence extended over Sirius X programming. Which obviously leaves me aghast. When will The Grateful Powers That Be realize the error in their ways?

This era offers ultimate and spell-binding versions from the catalogue including the hell-bent insanity of Jack Straw (Seattle ’83), the ecstatic electricity of China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider (NYC ’82), the crackling magic chest of Bertha/Greatest Story Ever Told/West LA Fadeaway (Oklahoma City ‘85), the plaintive epiphanies of Cold Rain and Snow (Augusta ’84) and pure tribal energy of Help on the Way/Slipknot (Hampton ’83).

Are these the best versions? Ah, what do I know of best? But must they be listened to? The answer to that is a most emphatic yes.

The Black Hole in Grateful Dead Releases

By my count, there have been 148 concerts officially released by The Grateful Dead. These releases have come in various incarnations, most notably Dick’s Picks, Road Trips and, the series of late, Dave’s Picks.The Black Hole in Grateful Dead ReleasesAnd while it is a boon for Deadheads to receive any recordings from the archives, a black hole has emerged in these releases – 1982-86 – which is coincidentally the years of my touring. A grand total of four shows have been released from this era –  amounting to only one third of the 1977 releases alone. Even if we excuse the release of all 22 shows from the 1972 European Tour, this works out to a lousy 3% of the releases from almost 20% of their touring years.The Black Hole in Grateful Dead ReleasesSo what gives with Dave Lemieux and company? Is it that these years were particularly weak? I would argue the opposite, that these years offer stellar shows with stellar versions of stellar songs.

Check out these recordings on the Grateful Dead archive and hear for yourself:

Greek Theater 1982/05/22 (Lazy Lightnin’-Supplication)

Madison Square Gardens 1982/09/29 (Loser, China Cat-Rider)

Seattle Auditorium 1983/08/27 (Jack Straw)

Indianapolis Sports and Music Center 1984/06/30 (Shakedown-Playin’-Terrapin)

Worchester Centrum 1984/10/08 (Terrapin-Samson)The Black Hole in Grateful Dead Releases

Augusta Civic Center 1984/10/12 (Cold Rain, Uncle John’s, Morning Dew)

Hartford Civic Center 1984/10/14 (Estimated Prophet)

Oklahoma Zoo Amphitheater 1985/09/02 (BerthaMe and My Uncle, Stagger Lee)

Henry J. Kaiser 1986/02/11 (Bird Song)

Hopefully one day Dave will wake up and get these shows packaged and shipped. (Providence 1986/03/30 is pretty good too.)

The Grateful Dead Is The Drug

I’m off to see The Grateful Dead this weekend in Chicago. dead-fair-thee-well-homepage-pfaAlthough tickets for the Fare Thee Well concerts were too expensive and The Dead’s marketing branch is selling 70-CD box sets for $700, the music remains the thing.

Santa Clara, CA - June 27:  performs on Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years Of Grateful Dead at Levi Stadium on June 27, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Santa Clara, CA – June 27: performs on Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years Of Grateful Dead at Levi Stadium on June 27, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

I was so wound up during my workout today – listening to The Dead – that I went through a series of adrenaline rushes, each one almost ending in tears, until I finally started to settle down after an hour and then had to do another hour to get my energy out. The Grateful Dead Is The DrugI saw my first Grateful Dead concert in Hampton, Virginia on March 9, 1983 and went on to follow the band over 12 years, seeing 48 concerts in such places as Lake Placid, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Boulder, Providence, Eugene, San Francisco, Miami and, yes, Chicago. The Grateful Dead Is The DrugKnown for a wide range of rock genres, The Grateful Dead will likely play much of their Americana at Saturday’s July 4th concert, including covers such as Me and My Uncle (John Phillips), Big River (Johnny Cash), El Paso (Marty Robbins), Me and Bobby McGee (Kris Kristoferson) and I Know Your Rider (traditional) as well as their own true America standards Jack Straw, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, and US Blues. The Grateful Dead Is The DrugDamn it, I’m getting worked up again.I need to breathe.