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Dead of the Day: March 18, 1967

Winterland Arena
San Francisco, California
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This night is a quintessential, elemental piece of raw, primal Dead that just cannot be missed. The show opens with a fast and off-kilter Me and My Uncle, only the third one ever played. By the time the band gets into the next tune, though, they have found their feet and begin to really bust it. Throughout the night, the band switches from a pop sound on songs like Next Time You See Me to downright blues on Smokestack Lightnin’ to rock and roll with the likes of Dancin’ in the Streets, which includes a blow-your-socks-off early Dead jam on the backside. There is also more than enough psychedelic sound coming through at different times, pointing in the direction they would be heading down over the next couple years. By the second half of the show, the Dead are absolutely firing. Golden Road is fast and furious. Cream Puff War is transcendent, moving off into some truly mind-altering space. Same Thing comes in as over-the-top Pig blues but then morphs into a trippy, sweet jam with only a hint of the blues remaining. And the Dead just keep driving through to the end or, at least, the cut in Death Don’t Have No Mercy. The whole show makes you appreciate just how powerful the Dead were, even at this early stage.

The Golden Road has always stood as an odd Dead tune. One of the few songs they wrote that is actually credited to the band as a whole, the song made only a few appearances with surviving live recordings being even rarer (this date and May 5, 1967 are the only two). The band came up with the song shortly after their 1967 LA recording sessions. Having returned to San Francisco, Warner Brothers called and told them they liked the studio material, but felt the album needed a “strong single.” With that goal in mind, the boys set to work, crafting this little gem that attempted to capture the essence of the Haight-Ashbury scene. The title was also a large nod to the Dead’s fans, especially Sue Swanson, a good friend of Bobby’s who had become a sort of cheerleader for the band and also formed a fan club, entitled nothing other than The Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion. A great write-up on the song can be found here.

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