The Betty Boards Are Here
Rhino just released this year’s Grateful Dead box set, “July 1978” and we are enthusiastically digging in to this gem of a tour that started in Kansas City and ended at Red Rocks. One of the exciting aspects of this release is the source — five of the long-lost “Betty Boards” that have been cleaned-up and spit-polished. No one, not Healy or Bear or any of the MOB crowd, could capture the Dead the way Betty Cantor-Jackson did when she was running the soundboard.
It was a sad story that led to the auctioning off of Betty’s storage locker, with years of tapes in it. Fortunately, the contents fell into the right hands (ultimately Rob Eaton) and the results are spectacular. Pristine sound, muscular but nuanced, and well balanced.
Besides the music, the box sets usually have great artwork and this box is no exception. Paul Pope is an American graphic artist and his stuff has a Dark Knight-esque feel to it, brooding and imaginative — the perfect Dead “tone.”
The long essay in the book that accompanies the box is by the great Nick Meriwether, who runs the Grateful Dead Archive at UC Santa Cruz. Nick frames his piece with a powerful concept he calls “Absence Redeemed” and you have to read it to appreciate the intellectual hat trick he pulls off.
But the reason I wanted to post is because of an editorial in the Kansas City Times that ran on the eve of the Dead’s 7/1/78 show at Arrowhead Stadium. First, a major metropolitan daily running an editorial on the Dead? Those were different times! And the tenor of the editorial is perfect — a little stream of consciousness, a little time travel and a palpable sense of pleasure. Also, one of the best one-line descriptions of the Dead I’ve ever read. See if you can pick it out.
Summer of ‘78
In the summer, time and memory seem to melt together. You can’t remember when you first heard the music, but you remember it where you heard it, and maybe the boy or girl you were with. The reach of remembrance definitely depends on longevity and the range of reminiscence muddles memory in direct proportion to the time span. A lot of the people who stopped by Brush Creek on a hot, hazy Sunday to hear Stan Getz (still looking like a boy) were thinking of the Four Brothers saxophone section of Woody Herman’s Third Herd and the Summer Sequence (Early Autumn) tenor sax solo of 1948. Younger friends of Stanley Getz were thinking about a later musician who came back from Sweden and had a lot to do with letting the United States know about the beauty of Brazilian jazz. And so it is with the Grateful Dead, a super group that will be at Arrowhead next Saturday with others. Now they are veterans, growing older with all of us, but their peaceable cult remains loyal and is bigger. Stan Getz has always kept it simple, and the Dead really are a big, amplified country band with a modern brain. The Getz group and the Grateful Dead: Was in ’48, ’58 or ’68? In 1978 it’s just nice to say Hi, no big deal, just hello and good wishes.