An introduction - Bob

2007 marks the 30th anniversary of what many consider to be the Grateful Dead's Annus Mirabilis, 1977. This blog was created to both honor and critique that year.

The idea is simple, we're both going to do our best to listen to as much material from this magical year and offer commentary where appropriate. This is my intro. Murph's will follow. Most likely this blog will take a dialogue approach though we'd hope that people will feel free to comment and if anyone wants to join our exploration and post just contact us.

Some background on '77:

While the Dead refuse to be defined by their studio efforts, 1977 saw the release of one of their finest efforts, Terrapin Station which included the title track as well as "Estimated Prophet" which would quickly become concert staples. These songs are noteworthy because of their quality. They also serve as benchmarks and cornerstones of future performances. Benchmarks because a seasoned listener can tell a lot about an individual show by a few seconds listen to an "Estimated" (should it appear). Cornerstones because they efficiently reflect the lineup of the band as well as the show's mood. Further, you'd be hard-pressed to find a truly great post-77 show where either "Estimated Prophet" or "Terrapin" were not played.

The real story of 1977 is told via the quality of the concerts. There are many reasons for this:

·The quality of the performances are top-notch

·The song catalog is incredibly rich; the Dead are able to cull from vibrant and complex new material as well as reinvent staples that they have been performing for nearly 10 years.

·The lineup:
Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals)
Bob Weir(guitar/vocals)
Mickey Hart(drums/percussion)
Billy Kreutzman(drums/percussion)
Phil Lesh(bass)
Keith Godchaux(keys)
Donna Godchaux(vocals)

There is an important caveat here. This is, perhaps, the strongest lineup for the Dead but it only works when Keith and Donna are on. Too often one or the other is not but 1977 represents a year when they are on a lot. The contribution that an in-tune Donna brings to the band cannot be overstated. The same can be said for a more-or-less sober Keith.

·Finally, thanks to Betty Cantor there exists an enormous quantity of sparkling soundboard recordings of many 1977 shows.

These are so-called Betty Boards. Their presence in the trading community turned many people on to the Dead -- particularly the 'gateway drug' of choice for many Dead prophets: 5/8/77. Now that Deadheads are a few keystrokes away from listening to a high-quality stream of nearly any show it is hard to imagine how important these Betty Boards were. Not much longer than ten years ago 'generation' was still an important quality of any recording. As any seasoned analog trader knew, the number of generations you were from the source recording the worse your duplicate sounded. This was more crucial for source recordings that were less-than-perfect to begin with. Any time there is a heirarchy like this, human nature seems to dictate that we organize likewise. Thus, newbies had a hard time getting low-gen recordings of many primal shows. But Betty Boards sounded great right out of the box so it was relatively easy for even a new trader to get their hands on crispy recordings from 1977.

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