THE LONG PLAY

 

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.

The 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.


 

 

 

 

Home     Streaming     Back to top of page