Three months after John Lennon was gunned down by a madman, I hopped on a bus headed from the Nanuet Mall to the Port Authority. Howdy New York, howdy Grateful Dead. My first show was a blockbuster, although I didn't realize it then. I walked into MSG as Jerry ripped his way through a most exotic Feel Like a Stranger jam. Althea was next followed by a long blues jam after which, Weir screamed, C.C.C...C.C. Rider, Hi! I was vaguely familiar with these songs, but I hit pay dirt with "Ramble On Rose," a rousing version of my favorite tune. Garcia's guitar screeched and squealed, tuned into an unusual frequency, for just this night. I couldn't appreciate the nuance at the time for it was my debut as a critic.
From the third tier, sitting next to me were my non-Deadhead high school friends who were sleeping. I was confused by quick-picking numbers like Deep Elem, El Paso, and Birdsong. The set ended most abruptly with a hot Minglewood. Very strange. We also had tainted weed, the kind that gives you a headache, makes you cough, but doesn't get you right.
China Cat >Rider > Samson, Estimated, UJB, Good Lovin' and U.S. Blues, but I couldn't connect with the never ending spiral jams. That was a shame because the Grateful Dead would never play a hotter Cat > Rider. The Cat is long and wonderfully understated, and the Rider seethes, but I'd yet to crack the Dead language barrier. After worshipping the tapes a few months later, I also realized that Stranger, Althea and Rose were all time great versions.
Well at least I was there. It twas a legendry night in the Garden.
Tangled Up in Tunes available at www.tangledupintunes.com