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“Grateful Dead: The Only Band That Would Have a Movie Soundtrack Longer Than the Film itself”

Now, being a Grateful Dead audiophile is a full-time job, and one I’m hardly equipped to take on right now, obviously. In fact, I seem to remember hearing about a podcast featuring former Pitchfork critic Rob Mitchum and some other dude just getting on and talking about Dead bootlegs for an hour every week (a seeming logistical fallacy, since you can’t, like, listen to ’em vinyl, dude). 

They do, anyway, occupy a pretty decent sector of my mind, with some of my favorite live albums they can claim being Europe ’72; Dead Set; Pacific Northwest ’73-’74: Believe it if You Need it; The Closing of Winterland; Truckin’ up to Buffalo [1] and, surely, the aforementioned The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack. This last one, in a sense, is the granddaddy of them all: six hours of live concert audio footage that, you might say, capture the band in their prime. This is, of course, compared to the two-hour total running time of the film itself The Grateful Dead Movie, in a sense begging the question of why they toted that da** video camera with them to Winterland [2] at all. 

Now, the movie soundtrack is noteworthy for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above but also another unfortunate one: I can’t seem to figure out how to listen to this sucker, without you know actually BUYING it on Amazon or something crazy like that (and I don’t have my CD player at my place right now so that would just open up a can of worms). For whatever reason, which might approximate copyright infringement, it’s not really available on archive.org: most of the nights have just setlist and no audio on the concert page, with the exception of the first night, October 16, 1974, which offers some of the shi**iest audio you’re likely to encounter on that site on the most thorough searches. In fact, I even pulled up two earlier shows on Archive: War Memorial from 03-31-73 and Capitol Theatre from 07-29-74, that have pretty solid sound quality. Really, I’m not really sure when this bootlegging stuff started and when it was behooved to the point where you could record five-star live albums and leak them onto the Internet. It was probably sometime immediately following Europe ’72, with the listening public still finding its proverbial head spinning in the wake of the otherworldly, oblong and prolix Dead/Set (1969). 

But TGDMS is, direly, unavailable on both Spotify and YouTube (typically Spotify tends to be a little more liberal than YouTube, letting me embed links in my posts and whatnot), and I didn’t get any Apple or Google Play results when I googled the album. And sure, there are a million, gazillion Dead albums available on Spotify and archive.org, often good enough to make your coworkers jealous when you put them on, and all that fun stuff. But I guess the type A, sycophantic blogger in me will not rest until he clamps down the exact pinnacle of this band’s touring career, on an artistic level, and da**ed if I can rule out that it might be that 1974 five-night set at the Winterland, when they were strapping young lads, relatively speaking to their typical, embraced prime of Live at Barton Hall (1977), but still could expand a song out into spooky, verbose territory a la “The Other One,” which slays disc two of the soundtrack. And come on, “Bertha” is just the perfect opener, a quintessential anthem for cracking a beer and dancing around in your tie-dye, for, yes, longer than a typical running time of a movie, if’n you’ve got the gumption. 

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[1] Sadly like the movie soundtrack this gem is also unfeatured on Spotify, tragic indeed for its authoritative live version of their late breakthrough “Touch of Grey” and a killer “Man Smart, Woman Smarter.” 

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[2] I’m not exactly sure what it means but there is kind of a soft spot in my heart for the fact that this five-concert run that comprises The Grateful Dead Soundtrack took place at Winterland, likewise the home of the awesome four-CD The Closing of Winterland that I must have bought with my student loans a while ago, and denizen of the band’s beloved home base of San Francisco.

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