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Europe 1972Skull and roses

Imaginary Studio Releases

Dick's Picks 20 reviewDick's Picks 32 review

Grateful Dead bootleg reviews

The Grateful Dead
Exercises in imaginary albums: 
1972 - '73 | 1976 - '77 | 1983

Imaginary Studio Release: 1972 - '73:
Hunter's dream 1971 & 1972 Dead album -- and others
Sunshine 1972 Day Dream

Q. Were you sorry that all that great original material on EUROPE '72 and SKULL AND ROSES was never recorded in the studio?

Hunter: To me, all that material was sort of the kicker follow-up album to AMERICAN BEAUTY ... I personally would've liked to hear those songs on an album of their own.

Garcia: I concur. Instead, we dribbled some of that music all the way up through WAKE OF THE FLOOD.

-- from the Blair Jackson joint interview, Jan. 31 1991


Interesting idea; Hunter's songs got spread over several albums for reasons that owed less to art and more to getting out of debt. But what if things had gone differently? Let's see how they might have turned out.

First, the [then-] new songs that appeared on those two albums

Bertha [debuted 2/18/71; appeared on "Grateful Dead" ] 
Wharf Rat [debuted 2/18/71; appeared on "Grateful Dead"] 
Playing in the Band [debuted 2/18/71; appeared on "Grateful Dead" and then "Ace"] 
Mr. Charlie [debuted 7/31/71; appeared on "Europe '72" ] Brown-Eyed Women [debuted 8/23/71; appeared on "Europe '72" ] Ramble On Rose [debuted 10/19/71; appeared on "Europe '72" ] Jack Straw [debuted 10/19/71; appeared on "Europe '72" ] Tennessee Jed [debuted 10/19/71; appeared on "Europe '72" ]

This might have strained the limits of vinyl for time, but certainly makes for a solid serving. Had Pigpen's body and the band's credit both been in better health, it might have happened.

But isn't Hunter rather leaving a gap? What about all the other Hunter material composed & performed at that tine?

All the songs to consider:

Bertha [debuted 2/18/71; appeared on "Grateful Dead" ] 
Wharf Rat [debuted 2/18/71; appeared on "Grateful Dead"] 
Playing in the Band [debuted 2/18/71; appeared on "Grateful Dead" and then "Ace"] 
Loser [debuted 2/18/71; appeared on "Garcia" ] 
Greatest Story Ever Told [debuted 2/18/71; appeared on "Ace"] Bird Song [debuted 2/19/71; appeared on "Garcia" ] 
Deal [debuted 2/19/71; appeared on "Garcia" ] 
Sugaree [debuted 7/31/71; appeared on "Garcia" ] 
Mr. Charlie [debuted 7/31/71; appeared on "Europe '72" ] Brown-Eyed Women [debuted 8/23/71; appeared on "Europe '72" ] Ramble On Rose [debuted 10/19/71; appeared on "Europe '72" ] Jack Straw [debuted 10/19/71; appeared on "Europe '72" ] Tennessee Jed [debuted 10/19/71; appeared on "Europe '72" ] Comes a Time [debuted 10/19/71; eventually appeared on "Reflections"] 
He's Gone [debuted 4/17/72; appeared on "Europe '72"]

In addition, we might potentially consider:

To Lay Me Down [debuted 7/30/70; appeared on "Garcia"] 
Stella Blue [written before 1970; debuted 6/17/72; first appeared on "Wake of the Flood"]

First, we see what Hunter meant about the songs being spread out: one would have to buy four albums to hear all the songs, and two of those were multi-volume live records -- a diluted presentation indeed. Probably he expected something more like this:

Bertha / Loser / Bird Song / Deal Greatest Story / Wharf Rat / Playing in the Band

Sorta slim by modern standards, but just about par for the standards of 1971. "To Lay Me Down" could be considered for an eighth song, but isn't likely; the band had stopped performing it [last heard 9/20/70], and we might wonder if Garcia chose it for his solo album because the band had given it up (they didn't play it again until 1973). In retrospect, one might wonder why TLMD wasn't on "American Beauty"; perhaps they thought it to be as played out as "Mason's Children" was. "Bird Song" was similarly abandoned for almost a year after 8/24/71 -- having been performed a mere 13 times.

Looking back to the previous two albums, another candidate for the eighth song might be something sung by Pigpen. But what? "Big Boss Man" and "The Rub" were cover tunes, as was "Good Lovin'", and the 1970 - 74 studio albums showed them strictly devoted to originals. ("Empty Pages", anyone?). I guess Pigpen just wasn't in a songwriting mood at the time.

Recording could have taken place in May and June (with a quick vacation to the Chateau d'Heron on 6/21), and their album release on 9/24/71 would then have been a studio album instead of the real-life live release. No reason recording in June should delay the late July debuts of "Sugaree" and "Mr. Charlie", so that leads us to our hypothetical 1972 album:

Sugaree / Mr Charlie / Brown-Eyed Women / Ramble On Rose Jack Straw / Tennessee Jed / Comes a Time

Bobby's "Ace" album was recorded before they left for Europe, so that would be the time this hypothetical Dead album would have been made.


Chances are, however, against them making exactly this album -- Bobby had already performed three songs co-written with John Barlow, plus one written on his own; they were bound to be considered for studio time.

Further, new songs came into performance during 1972 & 1973 faster than the Dead could record them -- no sooner did they begin their European tour than they introduced "He's Gone"; then the first gig after their return debuted "Stella Blue" written back in 1970. Among the colossal number of debuts heard on 2/8/73 were three that wouldn't find space on the "Wake of the Flood" album: "China Doll" and "Wave That Flag" would have to wait until 1974, and "They Love Each Other" would not be recorded until 1975.

Perhaps the answer would be that they would release two 1972 albums, as they had in 1970; sticking with chronology, we get this

the pre-Europe '72 album (in a sense, the original "Steppin' Out"!)

Sugaree / Mr Charlie / Brown-Eyed Women / Ramble On Rose / Jack Straw / Tennessee Jed / Mexicali Blues / One More Saturday Night (Comes a Time)

I put "Comes a Time" in parentheses because its frequency drops noticeably in 1972; for whatever reason, Garcia didn't choose it as much as he had in 1971. After nine more (increasingly rare) appearances, it disappears entirely until 1976, which might be the better year (and imaginary album) in which to place it.

This would leave us with:

Chinatown Shuffle [debuted 12/31/71] 
Black- Throated Wind [debuted 3/5/72] 
The Stranger [debuted 3/21/72] 
Looks Like Rain [debuted 3/21/72] 
He's Gone [debuted 4/17/72] 
Stella Blue [debuted 6/21/72] 
Mississippi Half-Step [debuted 7/16/72, but sound-checked 6/21/72]

-- which would be a rather languid album, even for them; "Half-Step" and "Chinatown" are the only up-tempo songs in the batch. We'd probably have to throw in Bobby's "Cassidy" to help out, like this:

Mississippi Half-Step / Black-Throated Wind / Looks Like Rain / The Stranger Chinatown Shuffle / Cassidy / He's Gone / Stella Blue


But wait! you protest; that could short-change "Wake of the Flood"! Not really; remember all those debuts from 2/8/73? Here they are:

2/8/73 debuts: Eyes of the World China Doll Here Comes Sunshine Wave That Flag They Love Each Other Loose Lucy Row Jimmy

Wow! That's almost an album in itself -- one more song, and it would certainly be good to go. Say, didn't we leave a Hunter/Garcia composition unused earlier ---? "To Lay Me Down" returned to the rotation in November. Well, it's stretching to make a point. In fact, if Pigpen hadn't become so ill, I'd expect him to have another song to put in here. You may recall that Bobby wrote songs too, but the "Weather Report Suite" wouldn't be ready until September. Should we also wait that long? Because the real "Mars Hotel" album had only ONE Bobby song on it. That's right, only one -- and it's "Money Money". Meanwhile, Phil has two. Does that seem right to you?

Alright then: let our mythical-ethical-icicle-tricycle 1973 album be front-to-back Hunter/Garcia tunes; Bobby will get two on the next album. Recording would take place in late April, possibly for a summer release (just in time for the RFK gigs!). In September, we begin to see new material ....

Weather Report Suite [debut 9/07/73 & 9/08/73, plus bits of the Prelude as far back as 1969] Sing Your Blues Away [debut 9/08/73] To Lay Me Down [reactivated 11/09/73] US Blues [debuts 2/22/74] Roses [debuts 2/22/74] Ship of Fools [debuts 2/22/74] Cassidy [debuts 3/23/74] Scarlet Begonias [debuts 3/23/74] Money Money [debuts 5/17/74; retires four days later] Unbroken Chain [almost certainly debuted 3/19/95] Pride of Cucamonga [not played]

"US Blues", of course, is just "Wave That Flag" with new (and better) lyrics, so that could wait for the inevitable live album (recorded, in this case, at Winterland in October). And "Cassidy" we already felt compelled to use earlier -- which is fine; despite its debut in 1974, it wasn't a regular song until 1976.

That leaves us with:

Scarlet Begonias / Sing Your Blues Away / It Must Have been the Roses / Unbroken Chain Money Money / Weather Report Suite / To Lay Me Down / Pride of Cucamonga / Ship of Fools

Once again, TLMD looks like a weak contender -- Garcia had two new ballads at this time, leaving it up to Phil & Bobby to provide most of the up-tempo songs. No wonder this song didn't see release by the band until 1981 ;-)

No matter; we have enough for an album without it -- even if we omit thrice-played 'Money Money' [a tie with 'If I Had the World to Give' for the least-performed original song put on album by the band] -- and one that represents the band at the time.

Meanwhile, some might ask: should we leave out 'Unbroken Chain' because this lineup never performed it? You've got to be kidding!

Imaginary Studio Release: 1976 - '77
1972 - '73 | 1976 - '77 | 1983 

The first tour of 1976 was June 3rd through July 18th; after a pair of early August shows, they resumed touring September 23rd thrugh October 15th. Following a New Years Eve show and a pair of warmup shows in February, their Spring '77 tour began on March 18th and concluded on June 9th.

In some ways, these tours represent their own, unique year in the
evolution of the Grateful Dead. 1976 found them introducing 7 new songs, reprising 4 of the barely-performed songs from 1975, and revamping several older songs.

Some of the new material had appeared on REFLECTIONS, more would appear on the TERRAPIN STATION album, some would have to wait until 1978 for vinyl preservation; a few songs.

1976 can fairly be seen as the lead-in to 1977, which rose to a peak in the late Spring, culminating in the June Winterland shows. In those 75 dates, they established & refined a new approach to their concerts. Listen to Keith, and you can hear a clear identity to this 'era' not continued in later '77 shows. Perhaps there would have been more, but then Mickey broke his arm, and fans had to wait until it healed before the band returned to the stage. When they returned (a single show on September 3, then a full tour beginning September 28) they were no longer quite the same band; the drums were stronger, and Keith seemed less interested in contributing.

Many good shows followed, but the magic of late 1976 & early 1977 had given way to a new intensity. For various reasons, the album that would have represented this band was spread out, and thereby diluted. Let's see what new material they were offering at the time:

Might As Well [new]
Cassidy [performed only once before, on 3/23/74]
LLRain [revival, already recorded]
They Love Each Other [rearranged]
Lazy Lightnin' / Supplication [new; already recorded by Kingfish]
Dancin' in the Streets [rearranged]
Samson and Delilah [new]
It Must Have Been The Roses [not changed]
The Wheel [already recorded, but new to performance]

Mission in the Rain [new; previously recorded by Garcia's other band]
FOTD [substantially changed]

High Time [revival]
St Stephen [revival; new arrangement]

Sugaree [rearranged for longer solos]

Comes a Time [revival]

Peggy-o [revival]

Happiness is Drumming [sole appearance of primordial FOTM]

All New Minglewood Blues [substantial rearrangement]

It's All Over Now [technically a revival, but very few known
before 1976]

Terrapin Station [new]
Estimated Prophet [new]

Fire on the Mountain [technically new, despite 6/28/76's "Happiness is

Sunrise [new]

Jack-a-roe [new]

Passenger [new]
Iko Iko [new]

>>TERRAPIN STATION album released<<


Recording sessions began in Sept 1975 for REFLECTIONS and Feb 1977 for TERRAPIN STATION. So, conceivably, there were these unrecorded songs to choose from:

Might As Well
Lazy Lightnin' / Supplication
It Must Have Been the Roses
Dancin' in the Streets
Mission in the Rain
Samson & Delilah
Comes A Time
Minglewood Blues
It's All Over Now
Terrapin Station
Estimated Prophet
Fire on The Mountain


What a serving, huh? Now, there were reasons why these were released at various times, by various personnel, but we need not concern ourselves with that. Clearly, there was a LOT of material to choose from -- more than could be piled onto a CD, let alone a vinyl platter which would suffer a loss of sound quality & dynamic range after 17 minutes of music per side.

In my alternate world the albums would Just Exactly Perfectly represent the band's evolution.

So: what if .....

Alternate History: a 1976 Dead album (Let's call it BACK FROM THE DEAD)

Might As Well*
Lazy Lightnin' / Supplication
It Must Have Been the Roses*
Dancin' in the Streets
Samson & Delilah
Comes A Time*
It's All Over Now

Not a great album, maybe, but certainly a fair representation of what they had on offer at the time.

"Mission in the Rain" was abandoned after June, so must be viewed as an experiment that (for whatever reason) didn't ultimately satisfy the band (which may be why they didn't record it in the first place). All the same, four of these songs were recorded for REFLECTIONS [marked *], so my imaginary 1976 album was already half-recorded by the end of 1975
[REFLECTIONS was released Feb '76]. Of these, only "Might As Well" was actually a new song. Of the remainder, three are cover tunes -- two of which they had played before [admittedly, though, "Dancin'" was substantially changed]. "Lazy Lightnin'" would have posed a challenge to learn, but Kingfish managed it, so it's entirely reasonable that the band could have learned & recorded these four songs in the first months of 1976. After all, look how many they learned in the five weeks that separated
12/31/72 and 2/8/73!

"Peggy-o" and "Minglewood" could easily be included to make a ten-track album. Being cover tunes, though, they seem less important, and can be used as B-side filler if not shifted to the next album. "Dancin" would probably not include the chromatic riffs heard in concert, as it was common at the time to abbreviate album versions so as to include more titles. All the same, these recordings might well have exceeded the time limit; I would expect "It's All Over Now" to be regarded as the weak link, and possibly
used as a B-side. 

In my alternate world, this would have been released in time for
Christmas '76. Meanwhile, we already have the follow-up -- recording to occur [as it did in real life] in Feb 1977 ...

Minglewood Blues
Estimated Prophet
Fire on The Mountain
Terrapin Station


Now THAT would have been a nice album to see on 7/27/77. Even so, there's too much for a vinyl album here -- hence my bracketing of "Iko" and "Jack-a-roe". "Minglewood" and/or "Peggy-o" might also have to wait until 1978 for vinyl enshrinement (as "Minglewood" did in real life) or (again) be used as B-sides / bonus tracks.

Possibly all four cover tunes could be combined with "Equinox" for a third album, but that would result in a strange compilation -- it wouldn't really cohere. Also, whatever "Equinox" may have been to the band, it was never performed, so therefore must necessarily be viewed as filler (I know, I know: what about "Unbroken Chain" -- At least it was performed eventually!)

In these semi-imaginary albums, we see a better representation of the band's development from 1976 through 1977. On the other hand, we'd lose a fast song from TERRAPIN STATION ["Dancin'"], and add fuel to Phil's perception that the band had too many slower songs. For proof, just drop "Passenger" and see what's left!


Footnote: The 1978 follow-up album could have looked something like this:

Shakedown / Minglewood / Peggy-o / From the Heart of Me / Good Lovin / I Need a Miracle / Stagger Lee / It's All Over Now / If I Had the World to Give / [Jack-a-roe]

Rather heavy on the cover tunes [4 out of 10], but Jerry & Bobby had both put considerable composition into the material on their solo albums. In their defense, "Good Lovin'" and "Minglewood" had been in the band's regular repertoire back in the Pigpen era, so might well have been seen as a return to their roots. Add in "Iko - Iko", and it would be even more so -- perhaps it would have been better if they'd devoted one side to new originals and the other to cover tunes, like so:

I Need A Miracle / Shakedown Street / From the Heart /Stagger Lee / (If I Had the World to Give) Good Lovin / Jack-a-roe / It's All Over Now / Peggy-o / Minglewood / Iko-Iko

and called it ROOTS. Now that looks like an R&B Dead album worth


As for "France" or "Serengetti", well, they just don't seem to belong on a Grateful Dead album (neither appear to have ever been performed). You can throw them in if you want to! :-)

*Gracious appreciation to John Scott, Mike Dolgushkin, and Stu Nixon for the amazing research that went into Deadbase, without which all these conjectures would not have been possible.

Imaginary Studio Release: 1983
1972 - '73 | 1976 - '77 | 1983

After Brent joined the band in 1979, they issued an album of new material in 1980, but any further material had to wait until 1987's IN THE DARK. While two of the Garcia - Hunter songs on that album had only debuted the previous December, most of the material dated from much earlier; in fact, there was quite enough for an album by mid-1983, as a quick glance at debut dates reveals:

8-28-81: Good Times [Brent] 
8-28-82: Day Job & West L.A. [both Jerry tunes] 
9-15-82: Touch of Grey [Jerry] 
9-17-82: Throwing Stones [Bob] 
4-13-83: Maybe You Know [Brent] 
3-23-83: My Brother Esau [Bob] 
5-13-83: Hell in a Bucket [Bob]

Let's compare this with the previous album by this lineup: Two [or three] Brent songs; three Jerry songs (one slow & bluesy, two faster), and three Bobby songs. They actually had *more* songs than they'd had for the 1980 album; GO TO HEAVEN had to be filled out with "Don't Ease Me In", a cover tune dating from their earliest days.

Clearly, the problem was not lack of material but lack of interest -- as was well-known at the time (as show-goers from that era can attest). But this doesn't have to bother us; there are enough decent-quality soundboards in circulation to cobble a fair approximation of what that album could have sounded like.

Oh, I can hear some of the hardliners now: "Why bother?" After all, some of these songs came to lead the lists of concert unfavorites -- and there are good reasons for that. I too left my share of shows early when a bazillionth performance of "Throwing Stones" started up; late in the second set, this was a sure sign that whatever was going to happen that night had already happened, and one might as well get out before the crush. And "Day Job" is famously known as the only song dropped at the audience's request -- perhaps the sharpest clue to how Deadheads might differ from the Dead themselves.

But art is shaped not just by what is included but also by what is not. GO TO HEAVEN formed its own unique view onto the band, ranging from Jerry's bluesy "Althea" to Bobby's dense ballads; Jerry's Berryesque rave-up to Bobby's nascent jam vehicle "Feel Like a Stranger"; Brent's middle-of-the-road songs to Mickey & Billy's strange percussion interlude. It wasn't a complete picture of the band overall, but it was a solid take on the newest avenues the band was pursuing.

The early 80s didn't find the band really breaking any new stylistic ground; that had already been done in 1980, if not earlier (this could be said of the 1987 recordings as well). But compiling the songs debuted in that time reveals a similar pattern to that found on GO TO HEAVEN: several bluesy songs (this time, Brent more than Jerry); an old-fashioned rave-up in "Day Job" (more New Orleans than Berryesque, but still) and good rockers in "Bucket" and "Maybe You Know"; a truly promising jam vehicle in the early renditions of "Throwing Stones" (although they later chose a different approach), and Bobby's middle-of-the-road "Esau".

Of course, it's important to have good examples of each. I chose the following:

"Good Times" 5-22-82 
"Maybe You Know" 4-15-83 
"Touch of Grey" 10-09-82 
"Day Job" 10-15-83 
"West LA" 10-09-82 
"Hell in a Bucket" 7-13-84 
"Throwing Stones" 10-15-83 
"My Brother Esau" 7-15-84

Obviously, some favorites played into my choices, but mainly we're limited by the paucity of good soundboards from this era. I leaned to earlier versions of Jerry's songs because his vocal strength diminished in 1983 - 85; also, the dates chosen above reflect a conscious desire to avoid officially released products.

Bobby's songs typically took time to come into form, and he was criticized for choosing to perform songs that had insufficient polish. Let us not forget, though, that this band is a group effort, and suffered at the time from a rather low ebb of interest; Bobby may have found public performance to be the only way to get his bandmates interested. Whatever the cause, "Esau" and "Bucket" don't really stand up until 1984, so I chose from the Greek performances that year. 7-15-84, incidentally, may be better represented by the mono Audience recording, as the guitars are very low (and drums very high) in the Soundboard mix.

"Throwing Stones", on the other hand, benefits in a different way from early neglect; lacking finished form, it defaulted to some distinctly free-form improvisation. What the eventual triumphant arrangement gained in finished songwriting became our loss for mystical examination, and relegated the song to a predictable end-of-set resolution. Descriers of this song who mourn the lack of jamming should look to 1982 - 83 renditions for some startling surprises; 10-10-82 is popular enough in trading circles and provides a fine example.

Brent is another issue. Being the 'new guy', he had to jump on to an already-moving train -- even if, in retrospect, it was slowing down. Good as his songs sounded on the HEAVEN album, they didn't shine in concert, and it was 'back to the drawing board' for him. To his credit, he dug back to roots just as easily as he had taken to commercial pop; "Good Times" is a strong party-time blues, and "Maybe You Know" is charged with a palpable enthusiasm. For my money, we could also throw in "I Don't Need Love" from the 7-15-84 Greek soundboard (which -- unlike the rest of the show -- sounds better than the Aud for this song). 7-15-84's performance is lovingly embellished with Jerry's nuanced guitar, and a true band effort, showcasing Brent's ability for elegiac performance.

This is actually too much music for an early 80s album, stretching thin the time allowed by vinyl for high-quality sound. As on 1987's IN THE DARK, one of Bobby's or Brent's songs would have to be relegated to 'B-side' status -- probably the same song, "Esau", since Brent has only two and nobody would seriously consider omitting a Jerry song. This might have been resolved simply by editing down solos and post-jams (as was done with "Dancin' in the Streets" in 1977), in which case we can justify a longer length today by supposing a 'restored and expanded' edition, including "Don't Need Love" as a bonus track. And this, I have found in the last few weeks during my commutes to & from work, makes for a fine album indeed.

What the heck -- as long as we've gone this far, we might as well have a "Women Are Smarter", which debuted 7-02-82. Any suggestions for a particular date? :-)
Ramble On Joe

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