Welcome to the sixth installment of Dead Notes, where we find the Grateful Dead in the Fall of 1970, gigging at the famed Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY. Between 1970 and 1971 the band played the theater 18 times, placing it thick in the pantheon of Dead venue lore alongside historic nights at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East and West.
As the sixties came to a close, the psychedelic setlist center pieces of yore (“Dark Star” and “The Other One” in particular) began to slowly disappear, replaced with a series of individual songs anchored by heavy Pigpen fueled R&B (see Dead Notes #1 & #4). Shows also began to include an opening acoustic set with many new songs beginning to work their way into the repertoire – especially from the American Beauty album and its predecessor, Workingman’s Dead — two albums that once again found the Dead shedding their skin. Donning a rural Americana vibe, a unique fusion of bluegrass, rock & roll and folk and with a heavy dose of country music, the Dead soon found themselves at the forefront of the country-rock movement with 5 of the 10 tracks on American Beauty receiving radio play on both AM and (at the time underground) FM radio.
Though not a single or a song widely heralded in the Dead’s canon, Pigpen’s “Operator” was performed just a scant 4 times between it’s August 1970 debut and this version, which was the last time it was ever performed live. Opening with an odd feedback blast that strangely mimics the jug band intro of the studio version, Jerry settles in with rhythmic ease and breaks all twelve-bar standard blues rules, by adding an extra bar, giving the song a swing that allows Pig to rap his woman woes, and need for just one number, to a not-buying-it switchboard operator. Problem is, Pig is not quite sure where his lady may be – she left upon midnight and may be hanging around down Baton Rouge. But it’s cool, as she could be hanging around a steel mill or working the house of blue lights – maybe catching that getaway bus out of the Northwest as Phil, Billy and Mickey’s subtle percussive notes resonate her slow escape. But Pig’s alright, as frankly he doesn’t care where she is going, or where she has been, as long as she’s doing it right.
(download for ‘operator’ can be found in the link above)
To bad Bear ended up in prison in 1970, otherwise these shows would be available in a sbd. This is the dead period of sbds because Betty didn’t start recording for the band till 2/18/71 at the Capitol Theatre.
This is a gem