The Long Play with Al Neff" is a continuing Sunday evening Feature on The
GOAT. This year, Every Sunday Evening, Album Rock WXYG, The GOAT will
feature a full album at 8:00 PM from the halcyon musical days of 1972.
1972 was another amazing year in Album Rock history. Another year of tough
choices every week. So many great ones to choose from.
We hope you’ll tune in next Sunday evening, October 9th for Europe '72, a
live “triple” album by the Grateful Dead, released in November 1972. It
covers the band's tour of Western Europe in April and May that year, and
showcases live favourites, extended improvisations and several new songs
including "Jack Straw" and "Brown Eyed Women". The album was the first to
include pianist Keith Godchaux and his wife, vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux,
and the last to feature founding member Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who died
shortly after its release.
European tour was expensive and logistically complicated, and the band's
record company hoped that a live album would recoup its costs.
Consequently, the entire tour was recorded, with highlights making it onto
the final release. Europe '72 is one of the most commercially successful
and critically acclaimed albums by the Dead. It was one of the first
triple-record rock albums to be certified gold by RIAA; the album has
since been certified double platinum. A second volume was released in
2011, in conjunction with the release of the entire 22-date tour as Europe
'72: The Complete Recordings.
Prior to the Grateful Dead's 1972 tour of Western Europe, the band had
undergone several changes in personnel. Drummer/percussionist Mickey Hart
left the group in early 1971, making Bill Kreutzmann the group's sole
drummer once again. Keyboardist Keith Godchaux was recruited, in September
1971, initially to augment founding member Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who had
been hospitalized and was experiencing increasingly poor health.
Additionally, Godchaux's wife Donna (a former session singer who had
worked with Percy Sledge and Elvis Presley) officially joined the band as
a backup vocalist in March, shortly before the tour commenced.
As the band became more popular and they were booked into larger venues,
the touring entourage encompassed extra road crew, administrative staff,
friends and relatives, growing to 43 people who became known as the
"Grateful Dead Family". The tour began with two nights at the Empire Pool,
Wembley on April 7–8, 1972. It progressed through Denmark, Germany
(including an appearance on the TV Show Beat Club) and France. The Dead
returned to the UK to play the Bickershaw Festival on May 7 (Kreutzmann's
birthday), progressing through Continental Europe again (including a show
recorded for Radio Luxembourg).
The final show was the last that featured McKernan as a lead vocalist; he
performed at one more show the following month before retiring from music,
dying in March 1973.
By the time the tour started, lead guitarist Jerry Garcia had switched
from using the Gibson SG to a 1959 Fender Stratocaster. He had become
increasingly influenced by country and traditional American music. Songs
such as "Jack Straw" stemmed from these influences, while "Cumberland
Blues" and "Tennessee Jed" had lyrics relating to American historical
culture. "Truckin'", which was then the band's biggest hit single, talked
about the band's experiences on the road. The Dead began performing "China
Cat Sunflower" (from Aoxomoxoa) as a medley with the traditional "I Know
You Rider", linking their psychedelic past with the group's new direction.
The band hoped that the expensive trip to Europe would be financially
offset by the release of a live-album documentation of the tour.
Consequently, the Dead’s record label, Warner Bros., paid for the band to
travel with a professional 16-track recorder.
Europe '72 was the third live album by the Dead in as many years,
showcasing how the group's reputation was based on live shows. The album
contained mostly new material, in addition to live arrangements of tracks
found on previous studio albums. Garcia continued his songwriting
collaboration with lyricist Robert Hunter. Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir also
collaborated with Hunter, though the pair subsequently fell out, leading
Weir to collaborate with John Perry Barlow after Europe '72. Pigpen made
his third singing-songwriting contribution to a Dead album, writing "Mr.
Charlie" with Hunter. The new songs were never officially released in
studio form except "One More Saturday Night", which came out as a single
to promote the tour and then appeared on Bob Weir's solo album, Ace.
Consequently, Europe '72 was treated as a new-material release as much as
a live retrospective, and the new songs on the album were considered
definitive versions. Although Europe '72 is billed as a live album, the
songs were subject to various studio overdubs, particularly vocals.
Several of the songs with Garcia on lead vocals were pitched sharp by as
much as a half-step. Weir later said that the overdubbing was a mutual
decision by the band and the record company, and both were happy to polish
up the album for release.
Europe '72, like other Grateful Dead cover art, was designed by Alton
Kelley and Stanley Mouse (known as Kelly/Mouse studios). The album was
originally published as a triple-LP with an accompanying booklet. In
contrast to the band's previous albums, the artwork is set against white,
mostly-empty panels of (originally) a triple gatefold sleeve. The front
cover shows a large "Truckin'" foot stepping across the Atlantic to
Europe. The back cover depicts the corresponding "Truckin' Fool" smashing
an ice cream cone against his forehead. Airborne drops of ice cream are
drawn as a text ambigram, indistinctly spelling the word "LIVE".
The inside credits list all 43 members of the touring entourage such as
Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia. A color booklet contains photos of
European sites and the concerts (including part of the entourage waiting
to board a DFDS ferry at Newcastle), references to Revelation and the
Feast of Fools, and a long account of how the tour split into two
factions, the "Bozos" and the "Bolos". The conclusion is the first
appearance of the epithet "There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert".
Europe '72 was released on November 5, 1972, reaching No. 24 in the
Billboard charts. The album was the first to feature Keith and Donna Jean
Godchaux. It was also the last to feature McKernan. Several songs on which
he sang lead were retired after the tour's finale at the Lyceum.
An edited version of the album's "Sugar Magnolia" was released as a 7"
single, with "Mr. Charlie" as the B-side.
Europe 72 was a commercial success, remaining in the US album charts for
24 weeks. It has since become one of the most successful Grateful Dead
albums in terms of sales, and has been certified Double Platinum, selling
over 1,000,000 copies.
The album was well received by music critics. Tom Dupree's contemporary
review in Rolling Stone praised the sound fidelity and musicianship,
especially Garcia's lead guitar playing: "He displays more sheer savvy of
the guitar fretboard and its incorporation — but not sublimation — into
the rock milieu than anyone I can think of". He also said "there are riffs
of all kinds liberally scattered throughout". In 2015, the journal listed
the album as number 19 in their top 50 live albums of all time. A
retrospective AllMusic review praised Pigpen's contributions, ranking them
as some of the best in his career, and noted the triple-LP format allowed
the group's extended concert jams to be presented faithfully on record. A
retrospective in Modern Drummer said Europe '72 was "a snapshot of the
Dead at what many believe was its musical peak, before fatal drugs took
hold, tight and hungry to explore spiritual spaces within music."
The Grateful Dead
• Jerry Garcia – lead guitar, vocals
• Bob Weir – rhythm guitar, vocals
• Phil Lesh – bass guitar, vocals
• Ron "Pigpen" McKernan – organ, harmonica, vocals
• Keith Godchaux – piano
• Bill Kreutzmann – drums
• Donna Godchaux – backing vocals
• Robert Hunter – songwriter.
Tune In and Turn On next Sunday Evening, October 9th and every Sunday
evening at 8:00 PM for The GOAT'S "The Long Play with Al Neff.” Don’t
forget, right after the “Long Play”, we do a “Replay” of this week’s GOAT
GUEST DJ SHOW.