Why did the Grateful Dead stop playing ‘St. Stephen’? » bbnworldnews.com/

There were plenty of “holy grails” floating around the extensive Grateful Dead catalog. In fact, there are as many different tracks as there are Deadheads, and the definition of a “holy grail” will certainly change between each fan and their own experience. For some, hearing a classic like “Casey Jones” in the 1990s was tantamount to a religious experience, despite it being one of the band’s best-known songs. Meanwhile, you could still hear devoted followers shouting “Aligator” long after it was finally shelved.

For most fans and followers, it was generally accepted that “Dark Star” was the holiest of “holy grails”. Played nearly every night in the late 1960s, “Dark Star” began to become less frequent as the Dead brought in more jam vehicles like “Playing in the Band” and “Bird Song” to explore the outer cosmos of the music. After the band went on hiatus on the road in 1975, “Dark Star” was only performed 37 times over the next 20 years, with just six performances during the 1980s.

If ‘Dark Star’ was the main hunt for Deadheads, ‘St. Stephen’ was definitely a worthy runner-up. Casual fans might find a version of the song on the 1969 album Aoxomoxoa, but this recording is just the tip of the iceberg. The studio version does not include the “William Tell Bridge” section of the song which was played frequently in the 1960s, nor does it turn into “The Eleven” like most versions at the time. Truly dedicated Deadheads love to quote the late ’60s combination of ‘Dark Star’, ‘St. Stephen’, ‘William Tell Bridge’ and ‘The Eleven’ as the Primal Dead.

But as the dead began to turn away from acidic psychedelia, ‘St. Stephen’ has become a song lost in time. In fact, it was a bit too much of its time – after 1971 the song wasn’t played at all until 1976. In between, the band members took the time to explain to the audience who was clamoring for the song why she was no more. on the set list.

During their appearance at the Bickershaw Festival on May 7, 1972, Bob Weir told the crowd, “If it could put some mind at rest, we forgot ‘St. Stephen.’ I mean we forgot it. We can’t play it anymore. We don’t know how. Weir calls it “The Water Under the Bridge” and even claims, “We might try to rebuild it one day. You know, listen to the record and copy our licks.

Less than a year later, on March 21, 1973, in Utica, New York, Phil Lesh got the crowd moving again. “For all of you ‘St. Stephen fans, we don’t do that song anymore,” Lesh claims. Weir also chimes in, saying, “The bitter truth. We had to stop doing it because you loved him too much.

However, Jerry Garcia is the one who finally set the record straight. Stephen ‘more?’ The truth is, we did it to death when we did it – when we did it, we did it,” Garcia told Mary Eisenhart in 1987. “We actually had two periods of time when we did it – we rearranged it. later for three voices, with Donna. And we did it, and the people who missed it, it’s a shame, you know? We may never do it again.

“It’s one of those things that doesn’t work so well – we were able to make it work then because we had the power of conviction,” he added. “But I don’t think our current sensibilities would allow us to do things the way they were, anyway. We would have to change it a bit.

A year later, Garcia was asked again about the status of ‘St. Stephane’. “When we stopped doing ‘St. Stephen’, we stopped doing it – we exhausted it… ‘St. Stephen ‘has some real goofy shit in it,’ Garica said. “There are little idiosyncrasies and verses that are different from each other, and if you can’t remember everything, it’s a piece of material that’s unnecessarily difficult. It was made tricky. There’s a bridge in the middle that doesn’t really fit.

“It’s interesting…because there are several things that work really well,” he continued. “But ultimately, the stuff that doesn’t work outweighs the stuff that works; and why he does so is simply a matter of memory: ‘Let’s see, what verse is that?’ They are not interchangeable; they must be done in order. So in that sense, a song like ‘St. Stephen is a cop. He’s our musical policeman: if we don’t do it the way he wants, it doesn’t work at all. This means that he is inflexible.

Lesh alluded to similar ideas in his memoirs, In search of sound. “Jerry was never satisfied with the fact that the bridge had to be played and sung in a slower tempo than the rest of the song,” Lesh said. “He felt he was losing momentum. » On Halloween Night, 1983, ‘St. Stephen’ was last dusted and remained off the band’s sets until Garcia’s death in 1995.

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Source: faroutmagazine.co.uk


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