Overview: 10 shows to represent the Godchaux era
of the Grateful Dead
Keith & Donna Godchaux arrived at just the
right time -- the band had moved to a stronger song orientation, and
Keith proved able to follow them into any musical territory they
ventured. This ushered in a full maturing of all the directions they
had so enthusiastically been pursuing since the summer of 1969.
1. Fall 1971 - March
1972: hit the ground running. Keith has no trouble fitting in,
and the band picks up where they'd left off two months before,
despite the loss of their front man. Bobby adds new songs, Pigpen
rejoins by December, and Jerry takes up the Stratocaster which will
define his sound for the remainder of his career. Donna joins during
the March shows at the Academy of Music shows, and they're ready for
the Spring [European] tour.
Common Favorites: 10-26-71,
11-7-71, 12-15-71, 12-31-71, 3-23-72, 3-28-72
Default: 3-28-72 is now
readily available as DP-30
[although you should really seek out 11-7-71]
2. European tour April 7
- May 26, 1972. Often regarded as their best tour. Often
regarded as their best tour. Pigpen & the Godchauxs are all
fully integrated, making for a fuller sound with two full-time
Common Favorites: it would
be shorter to list the few shows that aren't favorites. Inarguable
favorites include: 4-14, 4-24 [ROCKIN'
THE RHEIN], 4-26 [ HUNDRED
YEAR HALL], 5-10, 5-11, 5-23, 5-26 [featured in EUROPE
72], and STEPPIN'
OUT [compiled from British dates on this tour]
be faulted, brilliantly capturing the mood & magic of this
unique time in the band.
3. Summer 1972. After
appearing onstage for one show in June, Pigpen takes another
leave. The band soldiers on, not knowing what or when they will
again perform with their friend & front man.
Common Favorites: 7-18-72,
7-26-72, 8-21-72, 8-24-72, 8-27-72
Essential: 8-27-72 is no
default, but one of the landmark performances of their career.
Download the 'Serafins' version at GDLive.com.
4. September - December
1972. 'Playing in the Band'. With Pigpen still off-duty, they
embark on another great tour -- excited by plans for their own
record label. Latvala's reputed favorite PITB* & Dark Star** are
both found here.
Common favorites: 9-10,
Pick 23], 9-21, 9-27 [Dick's
Pick 11], 11-13**, 11-17/18*/19, 12-10/11/12
Pick 11 is
regarded by some as (another) candidate for Their Finest Show Ever,
and a well-recorded one at that.
5. Feb 1973 - Aug 1973. One
door closes as another door opens; massive volumes of new material
launched in Feb, and Pigpen dies in March. The summer tour features
some long three-set shows, including the last time they would share
a stage with the Allman Brothers Band, 6/10/73.
Common favorites: 2-9,
2-15, 2-17, 3-26, 5-20, 5-26, 6-10, 8-1
pairs two nice shows from February (the last two, incidentally,
before Pigpen died). Neither is among the listed favorites above,
but this release quickly shot to the short-list of favored DPs.
6. Sept - Dec 1973.
The ship is launched: the release of WAKE
OF THE FLOOD inaugurates their own record label. Some
personnel variations occur here, as they try including horns on
stage for some September shows, and Donna bows off in late November
for the last part of her pregnancy.
Common favorites: 9-12-73,
11-11, 11-14, 11-17, 12-2, 12-6, 12-18
includes the best parts of 11-30 & 12-2.
7. 1974: full glory.
released, Wall of Sound system completed. By the end of the year,
their retirement is announced [and filmed].
Common favorites: 2-24,
5-19, 6-16, 6-18, 6-23, 6-26, 6-28, 7-31, 8-6 [partly used for Dick's
Pick 31], 10-18 (used in the GD.
combines the best portion of two June shows [6-26 & 6-28]. On
the other hand, serious devotees will prefer the 5-disc
smorgasbord of the movie
8. 1975 - 76: experiment
& transition. Mickey Hart rejoins. Although retired from
touring, the jamming continues -- resulting in one of their most
eclectic records, BLUES
FOR ALLAH. By 1976 they return to touring, revamping old material alongside some
Common favorites: 8-13-75,
6-11-76, 6-12-76, 7-18-76, 10-03-76, 10-10-76 [now part of Dick's
Pick 33], 12-31-76
FROM THE VAULT [8-13-75] was the inaugural Vault release,
and for very good reason.
9. 1977: The eagle soars
again. Having reloaded their stock for half of 1976, they spend
half of 1977 blowing away their past with a tighter, more organized
approach to their jams. The band that joked about being 'just
exactly perfect' comes closest to it here. TERRAPIN
STATION recorded & released.
Common favorites: Feb run,
March run, most May shows (5-4 thru 5-9, 5-17, 5-19, 5-25), 6-9,
10-11, 11-5, 12-29
Default: No collection could be complete without 5-8-77's mighty, mighty
10. The end of an era
(1978 - Feb 1979). The Godchauxs' last year. Still, they play at
the Great Pyramid in Egypt, and record one more album [SHAKEDOWN
STREET]. The year closes with one last performance at
Winterland, now available on DVD [Closing
of Winterland]. Donna & Keith finish out Jan & Feb
1979, but the era had already ended; new blood would be needed
for the next step. But that's another article
Common favorites: 1-23-78, Dick's
Pick 18 [compiled from three shows in Feb 1978], 4-15-78,
5-10 & 11-78 [Dick's
Pick 25], 6-25-78, 7-8-78, 9-15-78, 11-24-78, 12-31-78,
1-10-79, 1-20-79, 2-17-79
Pick 18 has proven one of the more enduring & popular
As final note, it should be
remarked that some serious devotees of the band consider this to be
the *only* era worth serious collecting -- and some go so far as to
make October 1974 the cutoff date. Truly, there is something to be
said for the intuitive energy and extensive improvisation of their
music from late '71 to late '74. On the other hand, the
band became more adept at constructing sets in the later years, of
which the songs acted as component parts even when they weren't
directly segued. Garcia said in later interviews that the band
simply became 'more concise'. Let your own ears be your guide, and
form your own opinion :-)
Ramble On Joe ©