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Columns > Patrick Buzby

Published: 2003/01/23
by Patrick Buzby

Dead Notes

A few notes on 8-25-72, after one listen to
"Truckin’" and two to "The Other One" (four days
For the collector, the allure of an excerpt from a
"lost" show from a major period. This was the last
night of a four-show run preceding the legendary
Veneta performance, yet for years only part of set one
was around. Now, via Gans, we have a slice of set
two. Yet another two-track mix from back in the day,
thick-textured, everyone present and accounted for.
A look through Deadbase reveals that the Dead
alternated "Dark Star" and "The Other One" almost
every night in ’72. Such a limited set of vehicles,
and yet the journey was different each time. This was
an "Other One" night, and, as was often the case,
"Truckin’" revs up the engine. The boys are tight
during the vocal section, with the usual small
details: Phil walking, Keith trilling into the first
verse, Jerry offering subtle moody blues during the
"sweet Jane" verse, an unexpected kick from Bill
during "back where I belong." And yet many of us will
undoubtedly zone out during this part, and if it were
not for the notes-taking I may have as well.
Vocal section ends at 5:15. For the next several
minutes, basically blues cruising. Phil plays through
Jerry in his inimitable way during the first minute or
so. Various ideas thrown out, but nothing truly
holds. Around 9:30 things subside a bit, and at 10:20
Keith begins hinting at spacier realms by putting wah
on his piano. Jerry follows suit. At 11:00, though,
Jerry gets close to the standard post-vocal "Truckin’"
riff, yet again it doesn’t take hold. Old-timey slide
blues at 12:00. By 12:39, though, Phil begins to
break out of the mold, and at 13:00 the band leaves
Phil alone. As usual, he hints at alternate
tonalities to the standard E – A at some points, D at
others. Power chords. After two and a half minutes
from this, the band re-emerges for "The Other One."
(Noticeable click when the track changes – bummer.
Being a collector means learning some new vocabulary.
A few weeks ago I knew nothing of sector boundary
errors, MD5’s and the like.)
On into "The Other One." Back when I was trying to
get into Zappa’s Shut Up’N Play Your Guitar, I had the
idea of perceiving the solos as moving in waves of
intensity, peaking and subsiding and peaking again.
That worked for a while, until I moved on to other
notions. "The Other One" is a case study in the
"wave" principle. Pretty much the typical spinning
for the first two minutes, subsiding at 2:09 and
moving into introspection, with oddball stuff from
Keith and Jerry, before intensifying again at 3:10.
Jerry rides a repeated riff to the top at 3:45, but at
4:05 it winds down once more and the band moves into
deep drones. By 5:00 it is a "spacy whirl" (as it
says in my notes) with some fast flam triplets from
Mr. Kreutzmann.
Paul Simon warned of people "talking without
listening." The dilemma of jazz: how to listen and
talk at the same time? I remember listening to the
free interplay of Keith Jarrett’s piano and Charlie
Haden’s bass and imagining Jarrett trying to give an
answer while Haden kept changing the question. The
’72 Dead could pull off some fluid
conversationalizing. Phillip Larkin spent much of a
book griping about jazz from bebop on, but
begrudgingly gave it up for Ornette’s Free Jazz,
noting that he found himself repeating the phrase "If
the sun were to doubt it’d immediately go out" while
he listened. The Dead had the same doubtlessness.
It’s so rare that one gets a sense of clashing
agendas, impositions, unless one devises a way of
listening to pull them out.
Some ideas come and go, but by 6:15 the band locks
into the standard pre-verse riff, with Weir stepping
to the mic at 6:28. At 7:07 they launch the
post-verse expedition with a Keith flourish, Phil
bombs and more of those triplets from Bill. A minute
or so later Bill punctuates on the toms and cymbal
bell as the band heads for space. Notes for the next
passage: "9:18 agitation, 9:55 mice, 10:20 heavy
The goal of the journey could come at a few different
points. At 10:55 the band locks into jazzy
introspection with some unique harmonics from Weir.
One could perceive Weir as the leader for a while,
though no one else lets up. At 15:35 there is a
memorable Jerry theme (one of the few things I
recalled distinctly from the first listen when I did
the second). At 16:00 the band is closer to standard
"Other One" terrain, but soon it subsides completely
and we get hints that the reel is running out, and the
tape dies with Weir hinting at the "Weather Report
Suite Prelude."
In Derek Bailey’s book on improvisation he talks of
the idea of "mutual subversion" – the act in
collective improv of not joining another player in the
idea he seems to be suggesting. The Dead, especially
Phil, seemed to have an innate tendency towards
"mutual subversion." They seldom lock together with
the intentionality I hear in Phish. It can be
frustrating following the changing currents, yet it is
a stimulating challenge that keeps me (and no doubt
many others) coming back.

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