In this week’s column, featured columnist Brian Bavosa takes a look at the The Dead’s legendary Europe ’72 tour, along with the impending 60+ CD release…assuming you were lucky enough to snag one.
The old saying goes: There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert. If that’s the case, what can one say about an entire tour? Especially one as special, and as much of a landmark as the famed 22-show, Spring run of 1972? Often lauded as one of The Dead’s high-water marks, Europe ’72, as it is commonly referred to, is quite simply an extremely important time in the band’s history.
[Europe '72 artwork by Kelley/Mouse]
So, when the announcement came that The Grateful Dead would officially be releasing the entire tour in a 7,200-copy pressing, $450, limited edition boxed-set, even the most die-hard of Deadheads were at least slightly taken aback. However, within four days of the pre-sale, the allotment was sold-out, leaving many who wanted to purchase this historic piece of history out of luck.
The band quickly decided they would still release more units – at the same price tag of $450 – but without the commemorative packaging, something that simply doesn’t sit right with me and a number of others. Today’s column will focus not only on the magical time of the Spring of ’72 in Western Europe, but also allow me to chime in -and ask your opinion through PFPS’s 2nd ever poll - about what The Dead should have done after the initial sets sold out.
READ ON for more of this week’s Postcards From Page Side…
Originally released in late ’72 as a triple, vinyl album (and later as a double-live CD), Europe ’72 proper was a collection of highly overdubbed cuts from the tour’s best moments. It is also no mistake that The Dead released multiple other shows and compilations over the years from this tour, including Hundred Year Hall and Steppin Out: England ’72 : they felt it was of significance, too. It was the last tour for founding keybordist, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan before he died in ’73, while also the first for the next keyboardist to reign over the ’70s, Keith Godchaux, and his wife Donna Jean (who many fans either love or hate for often singing off pitch, as many claim). While the initial release definitely does a good job of capturing the sounds and genres that defined the band in the early ’70s, the impending box set will certainly paint the full picture of what was transpiring in the world of the Dead around this time.
For instance, the booklet released with the intial album also mentioned how the tour was split into two groups: The Bozos and The Bolos (you can see pictures of the band in masks in the booklet and elsewhere, etc.), another aspect of the prankster-ish humor The Dead always carried with them throughout their career. But, on the other hand, I have always wondered what the members themselves must have felt playing some of their bluesier numbers, or tunes like He’s Gone (where the overdubs add a lot to the released version), knowing that the end was certainly near for their brother, Pigpen, who personified their late ’60s and early ’70s sound with his organ swells and dirty vocals. I assess that this led the band to perform certain songs, and shows of this tour with a little more, well, spirit.
But, I digress. I could sit here all day and talk about the music itself, yet I’m sure this box set will gladly do the talking for me, so what I want to get back to after giving a little bit of history and insight into the tour is just how you, the reader, feel about this upcoming release. Were you able to get your coveted box set? Do you feel $450 is too much to shell out? Or do you come from the rabid fanbase that simply wants to own a slice of The Dead’s history and could care less about the packaging and will gladly pay the whole price for the music? Will you try your hand at eBay, where I’m sure some of the 7,200 units will likely end up? Or lastly, will you be one of I’m sure who will be many to simply wait for someone to post this online and download it “illegally?”
Regardless of your stance, one thing is clear: we have never seen a release – by just about any band – of this size and magnitude. Sure, others release live concerts nowadays as they happen digitally, or other artists have tried to re-release their entire studio catalogue, but to release over 60 discs, totaling 70+ hours of music and extra, “unearthed” goodies from the band’s vault, many fans have to be jumping for joy that this set is being given the “proper” Deadhead treatment.
After all, Deadheads have always been among the most loyal of music fans throughout the last 45 years and a nod to one of their most lauded tours has to show that The Dead are what Bill Graham said many years ago: “They may not be the best at what they do, but they are the only ones who do what they do.”
GRATEFUL DEAD EUROPE 1972 TOUR DATES
All shows included in their entirety
April 7 Wembley Empire Pool, Wembley
April 8 Wembley Empire Pool, Wembley
April 11 Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle
April 14 Tivolis Koncertsal, Copenhagen
April 16 Aarhus University, Aarhus
April 17 Tivolis Koncertsal, Copenhagen
April 21 Beat Club, Bremen
April 24 Rheinhalle, Dusseldorf
April 26 Jahrhundert Halle, Frankfurt
April 29 Musikhalle, Hamburg
May 3 Olympia Theatre, Paris
May 4 Olympia Theatre, Paris
May 7 Bickershaw Festival, Wigan
May 10 Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
May 11 Rotterdam Civic Hall, Rotterdam
May 13 Lille Fairgrounds, Lille
May 16 Theatre Hall, Luxembourg
May 18 Kongressaal – Deutsches Museum, Munich
May 23 Strand Lyceum, London
May 24 Strand Lyceum, London
May 25 Strand Lyceum, London
May 26 Strand Lyceum, London