Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 31, 1968: Winterland Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Santana/It's A Beautiful Day

The cover for the video of The Grateful Dead's performance at the last show at Winterland in 1978
The Grateful Dead turned New Year's Eve into a Bay Area institution. If you include Jerry Garcia shows and guest appearances, the Dead played 24 of 26 New Year's Eves in the San Francisco Bay Area, including every year from 1970 to 1991. The Dead were the last of the intact ballroom bands from the psychedelic 60s, and it was an axiom that the Dead carried on the tradition started by Bill Graham of an all-night New Year's Eve show, with rock bands until dawn. New Year's Eve shows at the Fillmore, Winterland or the Avalon in the 60s are always described as "legendary," and they probably were. Yet despite that, we have almost no information about any of those events: no reviews, no eyewitness accounts, no photos, only the most fragmentary of tape evidence and not even any setlists. How do we know the shows were legendary?

Yes, yes, I know, everybody was way gone and no one recalls a thing, and so on. But wasn't that true of every show? Somebody must remember something, right? Therefore, in honor of the title of this blog, I am going to try and assess what little information there is about the Grateful Dead's New Year's Eve show on December 31, 1968. The Grateful Dead played the last show at Winterland exactly ten years later. What do we know about their first New Year's Eve Winterland performance? What can we reasonably assume? Why do we know so little? If we are lucky, I can inspire some long-dormant memories in the Comments, and a vivid flashback or two may eventually give us some real context. I myself think the 1968 New Year's Eve show must have been a remarkable event, and I find it frustrating to have such a high profile show and so little actual information.

What Do We Know About The Grateful Dead's Performance?
We know one very important fact about the Grateful Dead performance on New Year's Eve, 1968, even if it is a frustrating one. We know that the Winterland New Year's Eve show was the first attempt by the Dead's engineers to record the band live on 16-track tape. This was probably the first attempt to record any band live on 16-track tape. The band had been working with Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor at Pacific Recording in San Mateo throughout the fall, recording an album tentatively titled Earthquake Country. They tried working with 8 tracks and then 12 tracks, but did not like the tinny sound that resulted. Ampex was a high tech company located near Pacific Recording, and the band befriended the engineers and persuaded them to deliver one of the first 16-track recorders ever built to Pacific instead of Columbia Studios in Los Angeles.

The band and their engineers even got some of the Ampex engineers to agree to help them sneak the heavy recorder out the door and out to Winterland, which is how the attempt to record at Winterland came about. The Dead, at this point, weren't particularly planning a live album, but just generally experimenting with recording. Since they tried to record most or all shows anyway, it obviously seemed like an interesting experiment to try recording the band in sixteen tracks instead of two, so they snuck the machine out the door and off to Winterland.

Not surprisingly, recording the Grateful Dead in sixteen tracks was a daunting technical exercise that failed. However, the band was enamored enough with the experiment that they chose to try recording at the Avalon Ballroom a month later (January 26, 1969). That time, however, the band got it right, figuring out whatever technical problems had plagued them at Winterland. However, 16-track tape was very expensive and the Dead were famously cash poor, so they simply taped over the Winterland material in order to record at the Avalon. If I have the timeline correct, they also taped over much of the Avalon material, too, when they recorded the subsequent month at Fillmore West, so any traces of the original Winterland show are long gone. We do have Live/Dead to show for it (and the 10-cd Live At Fillmore West), so I'm thankful for that, but any Winterland recordings ceased to exist within a month.

I have to assume also that with their engineering crew working with brand new technology, any efforts to record the band the "regular way" were pushed to the wayside. I have no idea about outputs and inputs, or any of that, but I have to figure that the reputedly huge 16-track Ampex box swallowed up all the available space, and there was neither opportunity nor motive to record a tape using the 2-track recorder they used on the road. It may have been as simple as there being no extra room for the smaller tape deck. I have to assume that any BGP recording equipment was pushed aside also. As a result, though, when the Fillmore West 16-tracks were erased, there appears to have been no other recordings.

Deadbase XI does have a partial setlist for New Year's Eve '68:
Midnight Hour
Dark Star>
  St. Stephen>
  The Eleven>
  Turn On Your Lovelight. 
Assuming "Midnight Hour" was actually played at midnight, and that the list was continuous, that sounds like a pretty cool way to start the New Year. However, we know no such thing. First of all, where does the list come from? If it's a memory, I hope whoever it was is reading this blog. In any case, if it's a memory, it's probably just the highlights of the show. The more intriguing possibility is that this list comes from a tape box. Perhaps while the New Year's Eve tape was erased, the tape box was at least still legible? If true, then we would at least have some confirmation that the named songs were actually performed. However, I do not know Deadbase's source for the partial setlist [update: superb research by a Commenter reveals that one piece of tape endures: a recording of "Midnight Hour." However, it seems to have featured members of most of the bands, and so was probably recorded at an early morning jam, not at midnight, so we don't have a clue what was played at midnight. Of course, they could have played the song twice).

The New Year's Eve Order Of Battle
Until about 1970, Fillmore and Fillmore West concerts had a different structure than modern rock concerts. Generally, all three billed bands ("on the poster," I like to say) performed twice, in round robin fashion. The opening act would perform the 1st and 4th sets of the evening, and the headliner the 3rd and 6th sets. Thus while the Grateful Dead typically played two approximately hour long sets on nights they played the Fillmores, the sets were separated by the other two acts. I have been able to estimate a typical schedule for a regular Fillmore West show (based on some research of my own and an eyewitness account of the Saturday, March 1, 1969 show. For those interested in the details, see Appendix 1 below). If the Grateful Dead headlined a Fillmore or Fillmore West show from 1967 to 1969, the evening usually looked something like this:
  • Opening Act:   8:00-8:45pm and 11:45-12:30am
  • Second Act:     9:00-10:00pm and 12:45-1:45am
  • Grateful Dead: 10:30-11:30 and 2:00-3:00am
"Closing Time" was officially 2:00am in San Francisco, but it could be overlooked if there were no drinks being sold (the Fillmores had no bar), no fights and relationships with the cops were good.
Thus while most Fillmore shows ended before 2:00, late running shows for the likes of the Dead were manageable. For many bands, including the Dead, the first sets would be shorter than the allotted time. Headliners like the Dead were probably allowed to play as long as they wanted to for their final set.

With this framework in mind, I have attempted to speculate on what the New Year's Eve 1968 schedule may have looked like. Keep in mind that we have nothing to go on--I don't even know what order the bands came on, or even when the concert started. But here's my educated guess of the evening's running order [update: an eagle-eyed Commenter has noted that the poster identifies the show as running from 9:00pm to 9:00am, so I have revised the pre-midnight timing somewhat]:
  • It's A Beautiful Day 9:00-9:40
  • Santana                   9:50-10:30
  • Quicksilver             10:40-11:40
  • New Year's festivities? 11:40-12:00pm (complete speculation on my part)
  • Grateful Dead         12:00-1:00am
  • IABD                       1:15-2:00am
  • Santana                    2:15-3:00am
  • Quicksilver              3:15-4:15am
  • Grateful Dead          4:30-5:30am
  • Jam session?            5:30-6:15am (it appears there was a big jam)
  • Breakfast                  6:00am-9:00am

I have assumed that the Grateful Dead started their first set at midnight, presumably with "Midnight Hour," but I may be pasting later experiences onto the past. Maybe the Dead had started at 11:30, and were roaring through "St. Stephen" at midnight, and they turned on strobe lights and set off fireworks. No one actually knows. But there were four bands, and the Dead in their prime, and it was a long night, so something must have happened. Here's hoping my post sparks a long-dormant flashback [update: another Commenter finds a source who recalls that QMS played at midnight, starting out with "Dino's Song."If this memory stands up, then I would invert QMS and the Dead on the proposed schedule].

Appendix 1: Fillmore West Scheduling
I know that all three bands on Fillmore West posters played twice around, so that means there were 5 set changes. Shows generally started at 8:00pm. I know that headliners were told to do two one-hour sets, as this was a crisis for visiting English bands like The Who and Cream, used to doing much shorter shows. In the earlier days of the Fillmore, opening acts played much shorter sets, like 30 or 45 minutes. However, when there were multiple headliners, every headliner probably got an hour.

Based on the lengths of various surviving live tapes (not just the Dead), a lot of bands played first sets considerably shorter than their allotted time, and often second sets as well. Most bands were used to doing 40 or 50 minutes and did not have two hours of material. By 1969, however, even second acts had a number of albums, and were prepared to play two long sets at Fillmore West, so sets probably ran closer to full length. Bands almost all used the Fillmore West sound system, so the set changes were considerably shorter than they would be today. The Grateful Dead were one of the few exceptions to this rule, as they used their own sound system, so I allotted more time for their first set change in my schedules. Keep in mind also that bands had considerably less spare equipment in the early days, and while the set changes were easy, a busted amplifier or something could cause a time consuming headache.

My outline of a Fillmore West schedule was borne out, and to some extent guided by, a detailed description of someone who attended the Saturday, March 1, 1969 show at Fillmore West, featuring the Grateful Dead, Pentangle and Frumious Bandersnatch. Our correspondent had to be out of the Fillmore West by midnight, so I had to speculate more about the late night sets. On that night, the Dead's first set was 45 minutes and the second set was 67 minutes. Keep in mind that their allotted time would also be taken up with some tuning up and stage business prior to the show, usally not preserved on tape.

Appendix 2: Notes On The Other acts, December 31, 1968
Happy Trails by Quicksilver Messenger Service, released in March, 1969
Quicksilver Messenger Service
December 31, 1968 was the last performance of the classic quartet lineup of Quicksilver Messenger Service. John Cipollina (lead guitar), Gary Duncan (guitar, vocals), David Freiberg (bass, vocals) and Greg Elmore (drums) recorded the debut album (released May 1968) and the legendary Happy Trails, released in March, 1969. Happy Trails, recorded in November of 1968, mostly at Fillmores East and West, was the album that immortalized Quicksilver, but that lineup of the band was already gone by the time of its release. Gary Duncan quit the band after the 1968 New Year's show, and he would not return until the next New Year's Eve (at Winterland with the Jefferson Airplane). However, when Duncan returned, he brought singer Dino Valenti with him, and the musical character of Quicksilver was never the same.

However, while it is easy to sentimentalize the final performance of the Quicksilver quartet, in fact they were a tired, unhappy band who had not written or likely even performed a new song in a year. They had been playing the same main numbers over and over for two years, and while they had it down to a powerful formula, it had nowhere left to go. I'm sure that Quicksilver put on a good show New Year's Eve, and it probably sounded like Happy Trails, but only those who were seeing them for the first time would have been really impressed.

Santana was some months away from signing with Columbia Records, and their debut album would not be released until August, 1969. However, they were a popular local group who were often second billed at the Fillmore West, and they headlined smaller halls around the Bay Area. Given that they did not have an album, they were hardly unknowns. The late 1968 Santana band did not have the same lineup that would be made iconic in the Woodstock movie. In December 1968, Santana was
  • Carlos Santana-guitar
  • Gregg Rolie-organ, vocals
  • David Brown-bass
  • Doc Livingstone-drums
  • Marcus Malone-congas
By March 1969, Livingstone and Malone would be replaced by Michael Shrieve, Mike Carabello and Chepito Areas.

We do have a pretty good idea of how Santana sounded at the time--a very good idea, in fact. Santana had played Fillmore West just two weeks earlier, co-headlining with The Grass Roots for four nights from December 19-22. In 1997, Columbia Legacy released  a two-cd set of highlights of Santana's performances that weekend as Live At The Fillmore West '68. While not as incendiary as the version of Santana which would follow, they were already a terrific band, and way ahead of their time, so they must have rocked the house in a big way. While Quicksilver was just repeating themselves, Santana was very much a New Thing, and the crowd must surely have recognized it.

It's A Beautiful Day
It's A Beautiful Day, just like Santana, had not yet released their first album, but they were a popular live attraction already. Just a month earlier (November 28-30), IABD had co-headlined a weekend at Fillmore West with the new British band Deep Purple (who had a hit with "Hush") and San Francisco funksters Cold Blood. It's A Beautiful Day had formed in late 1967, and had been through a variety of players, but the lineup had stabilized by the end of 1968 into a powerful group.
  • Patti Santos-vocals
  • David LaFlamme-electric violin, vocals
  • Hal Wagenet-lead guitar
  • Linda LaFlamme-organ
  • Mitch Holman-bass
  • Val Fuentes-drums
It's A Beautiful Day's first album was released in mid-1969, to huge acclaim, and it got massive FM airplay in San Francisco and elsewhere. Songs like "White Bird" and "Hot Summer's Day" were staples of FM rock radio for many years. However, due to serious management disputes between bandleader David LaFlamme and manager Matthew Katz, a series of lawsuits has made the band's albums, particularly the first one, very difficult to get on cd. As a result, IABD was never really able to capitalize on the resurgence of interest in classic rock bands in the '80s and 90s.

Wolfgang's Vault has several nice recordings of IABD from mid-1968, performing most of the first album. Although subsequent performances were no doubt more nuanced, it is clear from these tapes that IABD had their whole sound completely figured out, which is why their first album was so good. In many ways, It's A Beautiful Day was one of those groups like The Doors or Devo who have their musical identity completely determined by their first album, but were unable to progress much beyond it. IABD was probably pretty impressive to the Winterland crowd, as they were already at their high water mark.

Millard Agency
In 1968, the Grateful Dead were booked by the Millard Agency, the talent agency wing of Bill Graham's music industry empire. Graham had loaned the Dead some money in mid-68, and they had apparently agreed to be booked by Millard in return. Among the other groups booked by Millard at the time were Santana, It's A Beautiful Day, Cold Blood, Elvin Bishop and Aum. It was not a coincidence that those groups regularly appeared with the Dead during the 68-69 period. New Year's Eve 1968 was a big deal, by any standard, and with the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver topping the bill, the show was going to sell out. Graham's bookers had the sense to make sure that their own agency's bands were on the bill that night, to make sure they got heard. To be fair, Santana and It's A Beautiful Day were terrific live acts that must have gone over well with the crowd, but there was a distinct business reason to choose them over other local acts.

Appendix 3: Fillmore West, December 31, 1968-Vanilla Fudge/Richie Havens/Cold Blood
BGP inaugurated another New Year's Eve tradition in 1968, namely having multiple concerts in the Bay Area, rather than just a single event. Besides the high profile Dead/QMS show at Winterland, another concert was held at the Fillmore West. The Fillmore West was about a mile from Winterland, and less than half the size, but it was still a substantial hall for the era. I think the three bands were chosen specifically because they appealed to a somewhat different audience than typical Dead or Quicksilver fans. Vanilla Fudge were the inventors of "Heavy Rock" and had a very East Coast style; Richie Havens was a mostly solo folk artist, and local favorites Cold Blood played horn driven funk. Although both concerts were advertised on the same poster, I think the Fillmore West bands were selected to appeal to people who wanted to attend a New Year's Eve rock concert, but not by San Francisco band. Admittedly, Cold Blood were local, but they weren't an "acid rock" band, and in any case they were booked by Millard, so they were going to be on this high profile bill. 

I'm not particularly interested in the '68 Fillmore West New Year's Eve concert, per se. However, once again we know absolutely nothing about the show. If any information surfaced about the concert, it might be possible to triangulate a little bit about the Winterland show, with respect to set lengths, New Year's celebrations or special add-ons. Once again, all information about any San Francisco New Year's Eve concerts in the 1960s seems to have gone down the rabbit hole, with only the faintest traces left at the surface. New Year's Eve in San Francisco must have been truly legendary, because no one seems to remember a thing. Here's to hoping there's still some flashbacks yet to come.


  1. It's sad that some of the Dead's New Year's shows of the '60s have so completely disappeared....along with most of the other shows they played in the '60s, of course! Still, you would expect some stories.

    Due to touring schedules, it took some time before the Dead started regularly playing Bill Graham's New Year's Eve shows. Their first was on 12/31/66 (the "New Year's Bash" with Jefferson Airplane & Quicksilver).
    On New Year's Eve 1967 they were coming home from shows in Boston. And on New Year's Eve 1969, once again they were playing in Boston! Indeed, by 1970 the Dead's New Year's score was San Francisco: 2, Boston: 1....

    There is a hint about the schedule in the poster for the 1966 show:
    While the 12/30 show is listed as "9 p.m. until 2 a.m. $2.50", 12/31 is quite a sprawling evening: "9 p.m. until 9 a.m. with breakfast $5.00."
    Though in a few years the Dead would become notorious for playing until dawn (usually at the Fillmore East), in late '66 it must have been quite a challenge for three bands to fill out 12 hours, unless there were a lot of intermission festivities going on! Perhaps you'll have another post on that...
    Anyway, the 1968 poster again specifies 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. & "includes breakfast". (The times are admittedly hard to find in the poster, but they're at the top!)

    Interestingly, the show is billed as "The Fillmore Scene at Winterland." I don't know how many posters said that, but it's an interesting phrase, implying that the usual Winterland shows were different from "the Fillmore scene" - do you have insights into that?

    As for the setlist:
    I imagine Deadbase would have gotten Dark Star>Stephen>Eleven>Lovelight from someone's memory since they couldn't have access to the Dead's tapeboxes - but, considering the Dead's limited repertoire at the time, and the amount of time they had to play that night, I think we could be about 100% certain they played that medley even if no one remembered a thing!

    As for the Midnight Hour - I am happy to report that it SURVIVES in the Dead's Vault.
    David Lemieux reported in one of the Taper's Sections:
    "This show holds very special meaning in the history of recorded music, as it was the first ever live concert recorded to 2-inch 16-track tape. Unfortunately, the band had the big shows at the Avalon coming at the end of January, 1969, so the reels to 12/31/68 were erased to record the Avalon shows (hey, tape was expensive!), with one lonely Midnight Hour left on tape, featuring all of the musicians who performed that night in an all-star jam. The sound on this 16-track recording is very poor, filled with distortion, but it’s still a very unique historical document."

    It's interesting to hear that the Midnight featured all of the bands playing together. (I'm reminded of the 7/16/66 show at which Ralph Gleason reported that the Dead & the Airplane played Midnight Hour together with Marty Balin, Pigpen, Joan Baez & Mimi Farina singing....which, ironically, is not on our tape of that night.)
    Given that it's the one piece of the night that survives, I would guess it was the last thing on the tape: the end-of-the-night jam. Then again, maybe it was just on a separate reel?

  2. (continued...)

    By the way - we don't know whether Bear taped independently or not. Nothing can be deduced from our not having his tapes. The only reason we have the Avalon run of Jan 24-26, for instance, is because Bear was ALSO running his own 2-track reels at the same time that the 16-track was recording.
    The surviving collection of Bear's tapes from Dec '68/Jan '69 is so spotty & random, there's no way to tell whether he originally taped all those shows or what might've happened. My own feeling is that since he'd just started re-taping the band in mid-'68, at that point no effort was made to keep or take care of the tapes, and many were lost or erased.
    Your speculation may be right, though - with the 16-track running, Bear may have felt there was no need to run his usual 2-track as well; and the reason he did so at the Avalon may have been due to the New Year's recording screwup!

    You say that the Dead were not particularly planning a live album. I think they were. It doesn't seem plausible to "sneak" the big 16-track recorder off to Winterland as an experiment, and that's not quite the way it happened... The Dead never intended to use their usual 2-tracks as album material, and the effort to bring the 16-track I think indicates their seriousness.

    We have an interview from December 18, 1968, where they specifically mention recording for a live album.
    GARCIA: What would be nicest would be to take one complete show with no editing and just say here it is, man.
    WANGER: The perfect night.
    GARCIA: Right - it could happen, and on the chance that it might happen sometime, we record.
    WEIR: And invariably, the really good, perfect performances are never on tape; which is, of course, the way it should be.
    GARCIA: [We'd like to] get some and say, we're gonna do four or five hours of whatever we do - everything that we can pull out of our hats. Like, really do a huge number that just goes on and on; it has millions of changes and goes millions of places.

    Also, Bob Matthews said in an interview for the Grateful Dead Gear book that they leased the 16-track from Ampex for the live recording.
    "Ampex said, 'You're crazy. You can't do that, it's not portable.' We said, 'Oh yeah? Then why does it have wheels?' They lost that round, and we put it in the back of the truck and took it over the Winterland for the Dead's New Year's Eve show. Unfortunately, we used some off-brand microphones that needed a bunch of batteries and constantly failed... We had so many problems that the tapes ended up not being usable. But that was the first live 16-track recording anywhere, and even though it didn't work, Ampex was a little impressed. And then, when...we went to do the Avalon, we got ten people with ropes and we carried it like a sedan chair up the stairs into the Avalon."

  3. Thanks for the link to the '68 interview, LIA!

    Can I ask again for sourcing on your quotes? It's so easy to put pages numbers and sources in, since you're getting the stuff from somewhere. If you use a source but don't cite it, the rest of the community (me, anyway!) has to go back and reconstruct your cite in order for it to be really usable. Since you're already in the materials, it'd really advance the whole agenda forward! For example, I design my "reading notes" to carry the reference information attached to every little quote, tidbit, etc.

    Thank you again for all you do, and Happy New Year!

  4. Thanks for the suggestion - oddly enough, I did source every quote in this comment? (Except I didn't provide a GD Gear page # for 79, by the way.)

    It's easy enough to cite in short comments like these; but it's all but unmanageable in long posts where I'm juggling dozens (or hundreds) of quotes, editing some, moving or removing some... Some posts I could hardly bear to write if I had to keep citation notes straight as well. Personally I may prefer just doing a general bibliographic appendix rather than noting page #s etc for each individual quote. (Remember, I would also have to keep the note numbering straight even after an extensive editing & shifting process, for people to even be able to find the right note.) I understand the value of being "a source on the sources," for others who also want to do some research digging; but the time factor involved in writing these things is already about as much as I can take.

    So, when in doubt about a quote source, feel free to ask!

  5. LIA, thanks again for your fantastic research and comments. Some quick responses:

    >Great detective work on the 9pm to 9am part. I will have to revise my timetable in the post.

    >'The Fillmore Scene at Winterland' was a common enough phrase on BGP posters. Since many events were held at Winterland, including the Ice Capades, I think it was a general indicator that there would be no differences: no reserved seats, multiple sets, light show, etc. For people who had only been to a show or two at the Fillmore, that would be helpful information. On a subtler level, I think it was indicating that pot smoking would be tolerated, not always a given in the 60s.

    >>it's great to know that even a fragment of "Midnight Hour" survives. However, if it was part of the all-star jam, it would seem it would have gotten played at about 6 in the morning. If that's the case, what did they play at Midnight?

    >>you are right to say that I mis-stated that the Dead weren't planning a live album. It would be more accurate to say that the Dead weren't planning a live album for their next record (as they were working on Aoxomoxoa), so they were still in the "research and development" of live recording. Thus the fact that they did not come out of NYE '68 with usable tape was not in itself a problem.

    1. I've always been curious about how blatant pot smoking was at different venues over the years. Was it tolerated by Graham and essentially the police at Winterland or the Fillmore(s) West, though a no no at the Fillmore East, as I believe smoking of any kind wasn't allowed there? I may be totally wrong on that. Either way, I'm interested in how toleration and enforcement varied around the country at large over the years, I wonder if anyone has ever written about that in detail? I would imagine it's been done by now.

    2. That would be interesting. I don't think it has been done at any level of seriousness, no.

  6. I understand what you've said, LIA. Hate to be a pest. This is supposed to be a fun hobby and if anything gets in the way of you posting, it's not worth it!

  7. The other times Midnight Hour surfaced in 1968, it was played as an encore. (Even in 1970, it was still often the encore or last song.) So that, plus the "all-star jam" in the song, makes it pretty certain to be the last thing played.

    So what did they play at midnight? Well....Sugar Magnolia wasn't available yet! And I hope they wouldn't start Dark Star amidst the cheers & din of midnight... My own preference is that they started off the year with the crashing gongs of Morning Dew!
    (The most frequent opener at the time was Schoolgirl, so that's a possibility, though rather conventional. They also often opened with Lovelight - though it would be a few months before they started doing "Lovelight sandwiches" and using it both to open & close a show!)

    The Dead's live-album plan as of Dec '68 is an interesting question. I think their plans at that point may have been rather unsettled or indefinite - Garcia's quote in the interview I mentioned gives an indication:
    "This next album is going to have lots of songs on it 'cause we've been into lots of songs lately... At this point it's pretty amorphous. Like, we have lots of material, and we have much of it recorded, but we haven't decided exactly how to put it together, or exactly how we're going to present it, or whether it's gonna be a double album or a triple album... 'Cause we've got lots of different kinds of material. We have jam session stuff, we have all kinds of live scenes. Our material, at this point, is getting to be so's getting to where we can do almost anything inside of anything else."

    That shows us how big & vague their plans were! At that point, the Dead had recorded all of, what, five or six songs for Aomomoxoa? (And at the time of the interview, they may have already decided to re-record it all.)
    I think their "album plan" as of Dec '68 may have been the same as their "album plan" was in Dec '67 - keep going in the studio, but record some live shows, and try some kind of combination on the upcoming album. At that point, it may not have been a definite, separate "one live album, one studio album" concept.
    (Quicksilver, at the same time, were also recording a combination live/studio album - I think Happy Trails was almost done at that point? - so it would be natural for the Dead to think along the same lines.)

  8. Yes, "Midnight Hour" was played at midnight...or close to it anyway. Two guys rode in on horses, naked - a black guy on a white horse and a white guy on a black horse. Actually they had diapers on but removed them on stage.

  9. TVD, this is a truly awesome detail. Did the horses enter through the crowd, or onto the stage?

    It also sounds like there were two "Midnight Hours" that NYE.

  10. The horses came through a side door, back stage area...rode through the crowd a bit (very crowded of course) and then the guys got on stage. Frankly, one of the few details of the show I actually remember -it was just one big "foggy" adventure.

    There was no reserved seating in Winterland. Many people headed right for the floor; the venue was horseshoe shaped, with the stage under one arm. I always tried to get upstairs, opposite the stage, behind the light show for the best view. It paid to get in line early. If you were late you might end up behind the band.

    1. I believe there is a photo in rolling stone issue 717 of the horse in the crowd. I'm still trying to track it down.

    2. Jessie, it would be great if there actually turned out to be a photo of this seemingly mythical event.

  11. I found the following comment on an Archive review of the 11/6/68 studio tape (of all things) -
    "I was at the New Year's Eve, 12/31/1968 show at Winterland. Donkey and diapered New Year Baby Bill Graham coming in before Quicksilver opened with "All I Ever Wanted to Do Was Love You" after midnight."

    If an accurate memory, it means Quicksilver was the midnight band!

    Someone reviewing the date on said he was there and it was a very energetic show; his email is available (perhaps even still current) though I haven't tried writing it... Someone on also said they saw this show - though irritatingly, said nothing at all about it, except that they didn't know who the Dead were and went to this show only because they couldn't get a ticket to see Vanilla Fudge at the Fillmore!

  12. The QMS memory is a fascinating detail indeed. It would certainly change my speculative schedule of the evening. Maybe the Dead played before QMS? It would explain why they didn't play Midnight Hour at midnight.

    It just shows that I was falling prey to the assumption that what happened in the 70s had always happened. There was no reason that QMS couldn't be the midnight band (I think the song was "Dino's Song").

  13. Someone get a hold of Mickey! Seems he remembers the show. From a recent Relix interview:

    Relix: What is your favorite holiday show as a fan or performer?
    Mickey: The Grateful Dead, New Year’s Eve, 1968/1969 New Year’s Eve. We had all the guitarists and drummers in San Francisco onstage and played “Midnight Hour” all night.

  14. A fascinating detail. NYE 68 would have been Mickey's first as a member of the Dead, a point that eluded me until you found this quote.

    Of course, to Barry Melton's point, it may have just seemed like 'all night,' but it's interesting that it stuck in his mind so many years later.

  15. I was at that NYE concert. I thought Quicksilver was on stage at midnight and the Dead played from about 12:30 till daylight when the Diggers put on a free pancake breakfast. Turn on Your Love Light seemed to go on forever..I also recall a 15 minute bass solo somewhere in the Dead's set.
    Quicksilver was great with John Cippolina playing through his mid-range horns instead of speakers to get his patented sound. I used to go to a warehouse on Treat Street where Santana and It's a Beautiful Day rehearsed-one of my pals was living in a loft there. Saw Santana play as the Santana Blues Band at the Straight Theater on Haight in '68. Saw Allman Joy,(the Allman Bros.) there too. I sure got to see tons of wonderful music during my 16-18th years in SF. Wouldn't trade 'em for anything!

    1. The Mid-range horns, I forgot all about that, but yep he sure did, thanks for bringing that up.

  16. Wow, if the Dead had to play from about 12:30 till daylight (or even half that time), at the point when their repertoire was the smallest it's ever been, it's no wonder they had to play Midnight Hour "all night" or Lovelight went on "forever!"
    By the time breakfast rolled around, everyone must've been even more fried than the pancakes...

  17. "Treat" is my favorite Santana song. I have long wondered if the title had something to do with Treat Avenue/Street in the Mission district. If they used to rehearse in a warehouse there, it means it probably does. Man, that would've been a great place to be.

  18. Excellent detective work, all! Very interesting stuff. According to Bill Graham's autobiography "Bill Graham Presents," it was Fillmore stage manager Jim Haynie who played the role of New Year's Baby wearing a diaper beginning on 12/31/66, for the next 10-15 years, and would usually throw his diaper into the crowd once he got off the horse and hit the stage. There is also a photo of the 12/31/66 show in this book, with members of the Dead, Airplane, and QMS all onstage together.

    In photographer Gene Anthony's book "The Summer of Love," there are 2 pages of photos of Haynie riding the horse through the Winterland crowd with a spotlight on him. In one photo he is standing up on the horse with outstretched arms, diaper and all. It doesn't say what year the photos were taken, but I assume it's 12/31/66 since the book covers the time period between November 65 - January 67, as stated in the intro.

    For QMS fans, there is a recording of the 12/31/67 Winterland show out there on the web. Not the best sound quality, can't tell if it's an AUD or SBD (probably AUD), but it's an interesting document for the time.

    There is a color photo of the Dead onstage from 12/31/68 in the book "Grateful Dead Built To Last 1965-90." TC is in the photo.

    ChicoArchivist, "Treat" is a great song. According to the liner notes of the Columbia release "Santana Live at the Fillmore '68," the song used to be called "Trick or Treat" and "Treat or Trickster." Carlos states, "At that time there was a festival called Trip or Freak at Winterland. The title of the song comes out of that."

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  20. Long time ago, drove up from Berdoo to catch the show. So as I remember it the house was packed, audience was stoned on LSD (being passed around by the handful!) and of course weed. Memory is bad and I had just turned 16. So with faulty memory here it is. Show started with It’s a Beautiful Day, thing I remember was the electric violin. Next was Santana (or were they first?) Bill Graham mentioned they would be releasing their first album soon (definitely mentioned that). The cowbell the drummer played was unique and of course Carlos was phenomenal, very polished band! Then came Quick Silver (by now I’m wasted on LSD and trying to get off the balcony fearful of a fatal fall). Next come the Dead, they play their set and things slowed a bit, but the house was alive and the party on, all very cool. Then the two old dudes, black and white on horses in diapers, soon to be naked. Some doves were released and then all bands did a jam session. Another round of bands, perhaps Santana went before Beautiful Day, anyway then Quicksilver, then close with the Dead. Well by now it had been an all-night affair and most people were pretty well exhausted. Breakfast was then had by all brought by a local organization (the Diggers?) buffet style and it was good, very good. Don’t know what time it was but exiting Winterland it was morning, weather was nice, as I remember it unseasonably warm. For me next stop was Golden State Park, seemed a lot of the crowd was there.
    Now back to the midnight jam, god I could be wrong but I thought it was Turn on Your Lovelight that was jammed, but I’m not sure, so much of the night was a blur of music, people and drugs. Maybe the Dead closed with Lovelight as was their habit at the time.

  21. Don, thank you so much for this. I had thought that they would have had to go twice around the bands.

    Santana had definitely been signed by December 1968 and had already started recording. Graham may have jumped the gun on assuming a release, but they were definitely talking about it.

  22. Hello all, I'm glad this being spoke about so many years later. It is a moment in time for myself and many others sure. With a coulple of older guys, my friend with a car
    and myself, age 16, we set off from San jose arriving a Winterland somewhere around 9pm. Some wine, weed and LSD for takeoff makes who was playing when we just walked though a door by two cops I thought, a wee bit sketchy but the vibe was perfect. To this I still retain the perception of seeing Janis Joplin trading swigs with a cop or security person in front of the stage, stage left. Maybe! But later when my brain I definetly one donkey or horse carrying a rider in a diaper, positively! Later I read in A Rolling Stone that it wears Bill Graham himself. And my recollection is that after the New Years celebration Quicksilver Messenger Service kicked off with "All I Ever Wanted To Do Was Love You", it was my first Grateful Dead show with so much more. Finally got shirt from the vault which I gave to my daughter who saw them when she was four and about a month before Jerry passed. What a long strange trip indeed, thank you for the bits and pieces.
    Raymond Arechiga

  23. There was another recording made of the Dead's set, an audience tape by one Stephen Barncard no less! He remembers it as taking place at the Fillmore but apart from that he definitely seems to be talking about this New Year.

    "When my girlfriend, Ellen Burke came out to join me for Christmas (1968 in Los Angeles), we got fearful of earthquakes and decided to go back to Kansas City by way of San Francisco. When we got up there, it was really more of what I was looking for. The air was cleaner, the musical atmosphere better — What a city!

    "During this trip, I saw The Grateful Dead for the first time on New Year's Eve (December 31, 1968) at The Fillmore. I had never liked their records very much. Seeing them live, I went "Woah! Who's that groovy guy with the beard singing St. Stephen and Dark Star. It was great. I actually taped it. I had a little Norelco tape recorder with an SM 57. I guess I was one of the first tapers, it just wasn't a big deal back then, nobody minded. I wish I still had the tape; it was either stolen or lost. Anyway, the show left an impression on me. So did San Francisco. My girlfriend and I went back to Kansas City for a little while, I went back to KUDL/KCJC-FM and then that first CSN record came out."

    Moving from LA to SF to avoid earthquakes, what was he smoking? Maybe his tape will surface one day.

    1. How odd that there are two known lost tapes of this show!
      It's possible Barncard taped a different show, though... The Dead played at the Fillmore West on Jan 2-4, 1969, and I suspect it would be easier for him to misremember the date than the venue. Bringing a tape recorder to an all-night New Year's show with bands he hadn't seen before strikes me as a little odd (but possible).

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  25. I was at that show. It was great, and the all-nighter plus the breakfast cost $8.50, if memory serves. I worked at the Bank of America, and a friend who also worked there (whose aunt owned the Sinaloa Night Club) offered to introduce me to Santana and to jam with the band. I was too intimidated by Carlos' talent, but said I would love to attend a practice with my friend. He asked, but Carlos said they had enough "fans" at their practices, and if I wasn't willing to jam, the invitation was rescinded. My best friend's sister eventually married Dave Lovell (who I went to high school with) who had replaced Gregg Rollie in "William Penn and His Pals," another local Bay Area band, when Rolie joined Santana. Great memory, that concert. Quicksilver was, in my opinion, the best band onstage that night. The breakfast was pretty good as well.

  26. I was confused. Dave Lovell didn't replace Rolie in William Penn, it was the other way around. I think it was because he got my friend's sister pregnant.

  27. I found this interesting: "However, while it is easy to sentimentalize the final performance of the Quicksilver quartet, in fact they were a tired, unhappy band who had not written or likely even performed a new song in a year. They had been playing the same main numbers over and over for two years, and while they had it down to a powerful formula, it had nowhere left to go. I'm sure that Quicksilver put on a good show New Year's Eve, and it probably sounded like Happy Trails, but only those who were seeing them for the first time would have been really impressed." I was at Winterland that night, and did not realize that this was the last time the original Quicksilver played together. I had seen them many times. What I remember is that they played louder than I had ever heard them -- uncomfortably, uncharacteristically loud, but not especially good -- and my friend Ned and I went up in the balcony to listen. But, yes, they did seem tired that night and we left to head back to Marin during their late set. Maybe around 4 am or so?

    1. Thanks for the eyewitness account. So QMS played a set around midnight and a set around 4am? Very informative.

    2. First of all i would like to say that Quicksilver is my favourite band. I have never seen them live. I am from Vienna and was in California from 1973-1975. I myself envy you that you have seen the band live so often. If you say that QMS hasn't written any new tracks in the last year, that's probably not entirely true. What about the tittle track happy trails or calcary ? And didn't the Dead play the same tracks again and again during this time, see the set list of 68/69 or I. A. B. Day ? It's possible that you were tired that evening ? And why is the band unhappy ? The band, that was probably already clear, was in the process of disolving. On the other hand you contradict yourself you think it's possible that they were really good like on Hapoy Trails and then everything is not good again. Nobody knows about you. Maybe you were already overtired yourself and simply too spoiled by too much good music ?

  28. I was there that night on Christmas break from my freshman year in college. I don’t remember much about any of the acts except for Santana. And this memory is true of every time I saw them which was frequently because they seemed to open for everybody in those days. As soon as the very first note was heard and the first beat on the conga everybody in the building jumped up and started dancing. Never saw anything like it!