Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Grateful Dead - 1969 Dark Star set to vintage 1950s San Francisco film

The Grateful Dead's Dark Star is one of the finest group instrumental improvisations of the rock era.

Dark Star is a sort of enormous musical riverscape that flows, meanders, occasionally becalms, and finally regathers itself to provide an always exhilarating trip through the rapids down to the sea.

It evolved during performances mainly from 1968 to 1974. It started off as reasonably short instrumental but by the early 70s it had grown into a sprawling beast of a thing that varied from jazzy syncopation to intense freeform meltdown.

The most famous Dark Star is probably the one on the band's 1969 Live / Dead album however my own favourite Dark Stars are the 1970 ones. Anyone familiar with the Live / Dead version will notice the change in form and mood. The 1970 Dark Stars are nearly all tightly structured, gorgeously melodic, and rather cheerful and sunny affairs that lack any of the darkness and occasional noodling of the later (and longer) 1972 -74 ones.

So, here's a nice short (20 minutes) version that, although not as majestic as some of the later 1970 Dark Stars (check out the sublime 14th February 1970 Fillmore East version on Dicks Picks Vol 4), does feature some lucid Jerry Garcia lead. The jam in the second half is particularly joyful. This is chill-out and pick-you-up music.

It's also nicely set here to this vintage 1950s film of San Francisco directed by Tullio Pellegrini. This is the San Francisco the Dead grew up in. Full of vintage cars, trams, behatted pedestrians, and even a visit to the zoo.
Whoever is responsible well done!

Shall we go?

Grateful Dead - Dark Star Live at Thelma Theater, Los Angeles on 11th December 1969

Listen to the full show here
Grateful Dead at the Thelma Theater, Los Angeles - 11th December 1969

The original film 

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