The Grateful Dead – Same (1967)

frontcover1The Grateful Dead is the debut album of the Grateful Dead. It was recorded by Warner Bros. Records, and was released in March 1967. According to bassist Phil Lesh in his autobiography Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead, the album was released as San Francisco’s Grateful Dead.

The album was recorded primarily at Studio A in Los Angeles in only four days. The band had wanted to record the album in their hometown of San Francisco, but no good recording studios existed in the area at the time. The group picked David Hassinger to produce because he had worked as an engineer on the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow album (on the latter of which Jerry Garcia had guested as well as having suggested the album’s title). Demands by Warner Bros. resulted in four of the tracks, originally longer, being cut short. Phil Lesh comments in his autobiography that “to my ear, the only track that sounds at all like we did at the time is Viola Lee Blues. … None of us had any experience with performing for recording … although the whole process felt a bit rushed.”

The album was seen as “a big deal in San Francisco.” Even though this was true, it did not see much air play on AM radio stations outside San Francisco. It would be a couple of months before free-form FM radio stations began to take shape. Warner Bros. threw the band a release party at the Fugazi Hall in North Beach. Joe Smith is noted for saying he is “proud that Warner Bros. is introducing the Grateful Dead to the world.”

The song “Alice D. Millionaire” was inspired by an autumn 1966 newspaper headline “LSD Millionaire”, about the Dead’s benefactor and sound engineer Owsley Stanley.

In the original design for the album cover, the cryptic writing at the top read, “In the land of the dark, the ship of the sun is driven by the Grateful Dead”, with the phrase “Grateful Dead” in large letters. At the band’s request, the writing, except for “Grateful Dead”, was changed by artist Stanley Mouse to be unreadable. According to fan legend, the saying is from Egyptian Book of the Dead.

The band used the collective pseudonym McGannahan Skjellyfetti for their group-written originals and arrangements. The name derived from a corruption of a character name in the Kenneth Patchen work The Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer. (by wikipedia)

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 Greatful Dead live at the Golden Gate Park, April 1967

 

The Grateful Dead’s eponymously titled debut long-player was issued in mid-March of 1967. This gave rise to one immediate impediment — the difficulty in attempting to encapsulate/recreate the Dead’s often improvised musical magic onto a single LP. Unfortunately, the sterile environs of the recording studio disregards the subtle and often not-so-subtle ebbs and zeniths that are so evident within a live experience. So, while this studio recording ultimately fails in accurately exhibiting the Grateful Dead’s tremendous range, it’s a valiant attempt to corral the group’s hydra-headed psychedelic jug-band music on vinyl. Under the technical direction of Dave Hassinger — who had produced the Rolling Stones as well as the Jefferson Airplane — the Dead recorded the album in Los Angeles during a Ritalin-fuelled “long weekend” in early 1967. Rather than prepare all new material for the recording sessions, a vast majority of the disc is comprised of titles that the band had worked into their concurrent performance repertoire. This accounts for the unusually high ratio (seven:two) of folk and blues standards to original compositions. The entire group took credit for the slightly saccharine “Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion),” while Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) is credited for the noir garage-flavored raver “Cream Puff War.” Interestingly, both tracks were featured as the respective A- and B-sides of the only 45 rpm single derived from this album. The curious aggregate of cover tunes featured on the Dead’s initial outing also demonstrates the band’s wide-ranging musical roots and influences. These include Pigpen’s greasy harp-fuelled take on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little School Girl” and the minstrel one-man-band folk of Jessie “the Lone Cat” Fuller’s “Beat It On Down the Line.” The apocalyptic Cold War folk anthem “Morning Dew” (aka “[Walk Me Out in The] Morning Dew”) is likewise given a full-bodied electric workout as is the obscure jug-band stomper “Viola Lee Blues.” Fittingly, the Dead would continue to play well over half of these tracks in concert for the next 27 years. [Due to the time limitations inherent within the medium, the original release included severely edited performances of “Good Morning Little School Girl,” “Sitting on Top of the World,” “Cream Puff War,” “Morning Dew,” and “New, New Minglewood Blues.” (by Lindsay Planer)

And this was the start of a real brilliant career !

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Greatful Dead live at the City Park, Denver, September 1967

Personnel:
Jerry Garcia (guitar, vocals)
Bill Kreutzmann (drums, percussion)
Phil Lesh (bass, vocals)
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (organ, harmonica, vocals)
Bob Weir (guitar, vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) (Garcia/Kreutzmann/Lesh/McKernan/Weir) 2.07
02. Beat It On Down The Line (Fuller) 2.27
03. Good Morning, Little School Girl (Williamson) 5.47
04. Cold Rain And Snow (Ramsey) 2.25
05. Sitting On Top Of The World (Chatmon/Vinson) 2.01
06. Cream Puff War (Garcia) 2.25
07. Morning Dew (Dobson/Rose) 5.00
08. New, New Minglewood Blues (Lewis) 2.31
09. Viola Lee Blues (Lewis) 10.12

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