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 7th May 72 .The Bickershaw Festival

"For all our muddy friends

THE GRATEFUL DEAD." 

    Thus spake the announcer as the Dead launched into "Truckin'" - the start of a mammoth 245 minute show that was to feature great versions of "Dark Star "and "The Other One" as well as lengthy Pigpen workouts on "Good Lovin'" and " Lovelight " . It also introduced many heads to the new songs -" Ramble On Rose" and "Tennessee Jed "and was notable for the degree of interaction that the band members had with the audience, perhaps due to the adverse circumstances in which we all found oursleves. .

The Dead take to the stage in the early evening-the high point of the festival for many .

Its been 35 years a comin' folks, read the review here

view the Bickershaw T-shirt

Set one . :Truckin', Sugaree, Mr. Charlie, Deal (all of those who taped the show insist this number was not played), Beat It on Down The Line, He's Gone, Chinatown Shuffle, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Black Throated Wind. Next Time You See Me. Playin' . Tennessee Jed. Good Lovin', Casey Jones. 

Set Two. Greatest Story Ever Told , Big Boss Man, Ramble On Rose, Jack Straw. Dark Star > Drums > Other One > Sing Me Back Home. Sugar Magnolia. Lovelight > Going Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away. E : One More Saturday Night. 
(order uncertain )
Recordings available on the tape circuits.

       The whole show exists as a Soundboard tape , according to the late and surely great Dick Latvala, keeper of the Dead vaults. When I e-mailed him about the Bickershaw sets Dick was kind enough to answer a few questions .  He did not say whether the soundboard tapes were eight or two track . I asked him if there was any chance of the show emerging as a Dicks Picks , but he nixed the idea." Its a long way down the line for release ", he said "there are a lot more shows that are better that I want to release first ". 

   Fortunately we now have a goodly portion of the missing first set released in pristine quality on the recent UK 72 four Cd set. These tracks were included :
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • Mister Charlie
  • Big Boss Man
  • Playing In The Band
  • Good Lovin'
  • Ramble On Rose
  • Turn On Your Lovelight
  • Going Down The Road Feeling Bad

click on the photo to see a larger version

This is a real tribute to the quality of the music played at Bickershaw as it comprises a hefty chunk of the four disc set , which had heavy competition in the form of the formidable Lyceum shows .

Of course now the whole thing is available officially which just goes to show that if you can survive long enough the music industry will eventually , possibly, just might , out of the goodness of their hearts of course ( and cos they need the money ) fufill your dreams ..

Hi

Are you aware that the 16-track 'official' recordings made by the Dead of their entire 1972 Eurpean tour have now been released as part of a box set? This includes their performance at Bickershaw (confirming your set list to be correct in its omission of Deal).
I'm still working my way through the concerts and haven't yet reached Wigan but, given the quality of the music so far and my memory of the day, I'm pretty sure it will be something special. Rhino will also release the individual concert as a stand-alone sometime soon.

That Sunday was one of the highlights of my life. I aready loved the band but had been disappointed by their performance at the Hollywood Festival 2 years earlier. At Bickershaw they played their socks off and yes, with the 20-minute break between sets and the pauses for re-tuning (necessitated by the cold weather and the on-stage heaters), they were there for 5 hours. The new release contains 3 hours 58 minutes of music (and a little banter).

Regards

Chris Hardman

   The recordings of Bickershaw - both the audience and sbd version -have been consistently on my most listened list since I aquired them 15 years or so ago. I listen to the show not only because it was my first Live Grateful Dead experience, but also because its one of a series of fine European shows and is typical of the Dead at one of their most potent periods. I maintain that Europe 72 was THE peak time in the early 70s .There are some great 71 and 73 shows but they don't cut it quite the same for me as the summer 72 shows and perhaps the show in Fall 72 in Oregon . Certainly the Europe bash saw the Dead became the ultimate Psychedelic/country/jazz/blues band , a strange hybrid of many musics whose vastly wide repertoire was unlike that of any other band in the world. No one else was this diverse. Bickershaw saw the Dead at damn well near their best on occasions and certainly the second part of the show is at fever pitch throughout.

    However there are also many high points in the first set as well , including the fiesty version of Playing and a triumphant twenty minute Good Lovin' delivered by Pigpen . Its worth noting that the first set ended with the multitude (including several hundred villagers who had entered the site for free when the security goons had decamped earlier on ) grooving, bopping , flailing , drumming and singing along to the chorus of ' Casey Jones " .

A truly magic ending to the first epic set.

Above photo courtesy of Jules ©. Contact him to obtain a copy of the photo (minus the filter ) .

       Sbd recordings of most of set two are freely available and there are various audience recordings of the whole show in circulation , the sound varies on these from distant , to good, to very good quality - depending on the source.The sbd -which begins at Dark Star and continues to the end of the show- is of excellent quality . A poor to average quality SBD of part of set one exists - but only  about 45 mins worth and in the wrong order.I prefer the aud tape of the first set to this version ,as Phil is overwhelmingly loud and distorted , theres lots of hiss and it sounds drekky to say the least.

   The audience tapes also capture moments that do not exist on the soundboard .There were fireworks set off during Dark Star and everyone on the aud tape can be heard going "whooooo", a truly magic moment .As I write this I have the vision of the fireworks going off above the stage, for once the sky was clear and crisp (although it was still cold ) and the band onstage were framed beautifully by the exploding starshells. I just wish there was a photo of that moment , so you could all get a good idea of what those of us who were there saw on the night . The aud tape is worth getting just for this moment alone, a little piece of history preserved forever and which you cannot hear on the soundboard . 

TAPERS.

    At least four tapers were present at the Festival. Three were British . One - ( Bob C ) has this to say about his recording....

for what its worth I*did* tape the new riders and the dead; the new riders tape screwed up; cheap c 60's; and I missed the first part of the dead . I got the dark star/other one including the oohs and ahs but the quality of my boot is probably not as good as any others. I actually took 2 tape decks; one was the cassete for the dead and the other that 1 7/8s reel to reel that I did beefheart and other stuff on ; can't remember why I took 2 now ...............
bob c

Simon P's tape is the only complete version that I have come across so far. Another guy ,Chris J , also taped all of the show and the New Riders but has misplaced part of it. Quality of both these versions would be rated as fairly good to just listenable . Deadbase lists Deal as being played but all the tapers contest this hotly, as they are positive they recorded the entire show and it was NOT played.

    The other taper , whose aud tape is of good quality and whose identity is unknown to us, obviously had to have had a good postition and quality equipment to have made such a good audience recording in such foul conditions . I'm sure a complete recording exists from this source, but I've only ever managed to pick up the edited version which is minus Casey Jones , Mr Charlie and Truckin'. I sourced it from a guy in the mid west who said he got it direct from a friend who had a huge collection and who let him tape whatever he wanted . This gentleman unfortunately disappeared off the radar so we can't now find the original source. The tapes he had were obviously an edit to fit most of the show onto two C90 Cassettes as they were in the wrong order and missing the three tracks above.

The complete recordings

    The good news is that all of these versions of the show have now been brought together , worked over digitally and are now being disseminated amongst the taper community. You can read the details of how this was achieved Here

Jerry meets with heads backstage

Photo© Wombat


At this gig i was one of only a very few (were you one?) who got over the fence ,went backstage and met Jerry sitting on the back step of a truck. Inside other members of the band were checking equipment. Security said to Jerry that they would remove us, but Jerry said let them stay and we (5/6?) remained and spent a while talking to him. I remember him asking me about a pink (i don't believe it now!) cardigan Iwas wearing with GD and NRPS knitted into it in another colour (red?). Anyway we were allowed to stay and when the Dead performed i positioned myself under the stage on a plank a few feet off the ground. The show was great.

daveattheplough

 A Taper speaks !

    I've been bugging the taper . SP , to let us all know about the equipment he used and how he went about taping the Dead for many months and at long last he's responded with his recollections of the show.


     "I can’t remember when Bickershaw was first announced. I saw the Dead the first night at Wembley and don’t remember thinking then I’d be seeing them again so soon afterwards. Maybe, like the Lyceum gigs, it was announced whilst the tour was in progress. The papers were full of the Dead playing for up to nine hours, doing a run through their entire back catalogue and the organisers confirmed they’d leave it open-ended to let the Dead play as long as they wanted. My friend Carl and I were at University in Manchester so it was only a short trip for us to get to Wigan. I’d already taped the Dead at Wembley - yep, I’m afraid it was probably me that unleashed that shitty recording on the trading community. I’d only bought the machine (a small mono Philips portable cassette recorder with whatever cheap mike came with it) on the day of the show so had no time to experiment with it. Despite having good seats about 20 rows back, we had a security guy standing right next to us so I kept the mike down on my lap, not realising how indistinct the recording would turn out. Naively, I assumed that whatever my ears heard would also get picked up by the mike. Anyway, I decided to try and make a better job of it at Bickershaw.

    Having been to the Hollywood and Bath festivals in 1970, I was disappointed when we reached the festival site. Probably the rain didn’t help but the whole atmosphere was bad – it felt like (and probably was) an industrial wasteland. From somewhere we commandeered a huge plastic sheet which, when it rained, we could sit on and pull up, over, and around ourselves, leaving a small hole at the front to look through and point the mike out of. Apart from when the Dead were on, it just seemed to rain most of the time. Being a student, and a newcomer to taping, I didn’t have, and couldn’t afford, many tapes, so I’d gone with enough to tape about 10 hours (although with the unlikely possibility that the Dead would actually play for 9 hours, I wanted to save as much as I could for them). I did manage to tape bits of other acts – mainly ones I thought my brother might like as he hadn’t been able to make it to the Festival. So I had some parts of Hawkwind, Country Joe, Wishbone Ash and bits of Stackridge and Jonathon Kelly. When the Dead came on, I hadn’t learned to just leave the tape rolling so I switched off and on between songs, thus missing all stage talk except the Happy Birthday bit. Sadly, only my tapes of the Dead remain - shortly after the festival I taped over the other music.

    Enjoyed the New Riders although not as much as I’d expected to. I’d bought Powerglide that day somewhere on the festival site. And then the Dead. At least the rain had stopped and I think for once we stood up to watch. The whole festival area by now looked like a disaster area, with silhouettes moving through the mud against a backdrop of flickering fires. It was getting cold once the sun went down and, even from a distance, you could see the vapours being spewed out by the heater cannon on stage. Deadbase shows them as having played "Deal" during the first set but, until someone comes up with a tape that proves me wrong, I know they didn’t. Although I was switching my recorder off between songs, I know I didn’t miss any (whereas at Wembley, I knew I’d missed the encore when I ran out of tape). It was a far more mellow show than at Wembley and they took their time, easing into it gently. I was astonished and delighted to get both Dark Star and The Other One in the same show. Am I imagining it or were the words of Casey Jones flashed up on a screen with a bouncing ball tracking them? I’m sure that the screen was used at another point but there memory deserts me.
A wonderful set from the Dead – what was it- 5 hours? Certainly the tapes run for more than 4 and a half. On balance I enjoyed the festival, but it doesn’t hold the same memories for me that Hollywood and Bath in 1970 do."


The Dead SPEAK !
The boys took the opportunity to interact with the crowd on quite a few occasions during the show. Here's a transcript of what they said . 

After Beat It On Down The Line
Weir;
"Hey there's some sunlight over there for all you people "

Phil ?, 
"Lets hear it for the sunlight "( cheers from audience)  .

    Weir:
    "I understand that that bill they were trying to push through the legistlature here was defeated "
    Garcia   :
    "Which one , the one about sunshine ? ". 
    Weir;
    "the night assemblies bill. It was defeated last night. 
    (cheers ) it ,means  that you guys can go ahead and have all the festivals you want ..... if you can do something about the goddamn weather."

    (The night assemblies bill was essentially an attempt to outlaw festivals , but it fortunately was chucked out by parliament in a rare show of common sense) 

    The crowd make requests for Sugar Magnolia and other songs .
    Weir : "listen , up here thats all quite unintelligable". 

    On hearing crowd requests for St Stephen. 
    Weir:
    "We done forgot St Stephen, I mean we forgot it .We can't play it anymore, we don't know how, water under the bridge We may someday. We may reconstruct it , listen to the record to cop our licks. (cynical band laughter)"

    The band then play Truckin' ,they did not resurrect St Stephen again until 6-9-76 

Jerry G chats to the crowd, Photo © R. Ellis Repfoto 1972

   A note from Wombat about the photos of Jerry sitting in the truck featured on this page.   

The b&w photo with Garcia sitting on the back of the truck is actually the Rolling Stones Mobile and my mate Soapy is clearly seen amongst the crowd - my wife thinks that I'm in there too but I think that I was too stoned to care.

The photo was taken whilst the New Riders were playing and the tapes were rolling - it was probably still 8-track then before the upgrade to 16-track so that would solve the question you asked of Dick Latvala.

Wombat

    The seventh of May is Bill Kreutzmann's birthday.Weir informed the crowd thus before the band played Good Lovin':

    Weir:
    "Folks  we got ourselves a birthday boy with us tonight  , its our drummer Billy and I'd like to thank you and ask you to join in helping me and all of us all to wish him a great day and happy birthday to Billy." ( band plays shambolic Happy birthday tune whilst crowd sings along , at finish , huge cheer )

    Before  China Cat Sunflower

    Lesh:We got a slight technical problem here, which will no doubt be ironed out in mere seconds. 
    Weir: In the meantime , you can all huddle a bit closer together for warmth . cause you're gonna need it.
     

    After RAMBLE ON ROSE, the band comment on the stink from the dozens of fires  . 
    Unknown band member:
    "What's on fire"
    Weir:
    "I don't know what you're  burning out there ,but it smells rotten." 
    Phil? "It must be my shorts "

    Unknown band member : "Hi mom "
    Weir 
    "Everybody's burning their old socks ( laughter) and its disgraceful, disgraceful . "
    Pig ?: to the crowd- "Howdy "( cheers ) 
     Weir
    "Listen. Is  everybody cold " 
    Crowd
    "No "
    Weir; (in wonder ) 
    'far out !"


At some point during the set a guy ran on stage and threw his arms around Kreutzmann . This may have been Playing In The Band, because after this song Weir can be heard to say

    "(unintelligible ) thought Billy was Jesus."

    Dennis Poole clarifies 

    I was sat on a board between the 2 front stages and so could hear Bob Weir clearly. 
    He said "Dont' worry folks, just another straightjacket case who thought Billy was God."

Eyewitness accounts of the Dead's show 

    Out In the Cold Rain & Mud. 

    "Through a scanner darkly".

    Somewhat vague shot of the band taken from BC's 8mm film of the festival. Note Tie die PA stacks .

    The excitement, the sights, the sounds, the sex, the drugs, the smells, the cold, the mud and the "You are Lobby Ludd  and I claim my £5" toilet paper
    (hard) supplied by Virgin Records (it ran out early Friday evening)

    As I remember...
    The Sunday had dawned cold but dry, the rain had been intermittent but heavy over the weekend. In the early afternoon Country Joe McDonald, only armed with an acoustic guitar, tried to keep us entertained for what seemed like hours ..."Gimme an F"..."2,4,6,8". Meanwhile the 'quippies' were slowly building the Deads' P.A., carefully matching the tie-dyed front cloths. The high board  (novelty) diver had released several hundred thousand gallons of water from his tank at the front of the stage (which was on a little mound), the mud was now knee deep. Eventually The New Riders of the Purple Sage took to the stage for a rocking set that sent the sound of pedal steel soaring high over the crowd.

    Then it was time...
    A large yellow backcloth with a giant Stealy in the middle was unfurled and billowed in the wind... suddenly everybody's dreams came true, I remember the band playing "Dark Star" as the sun sank into the murky haze...

    Perhaps it was all a dream we dreamed one afternoon, long ago.
     

Gavin

"Is this a Garcia I see before me ?"

Another muted shot from BC'S film of the festival.

Mike Ward writes  

The dead's "live in europe, '72" album shows the crowd scene in front of the stage and two
of our group is just in the left side of the frame.

in the following link, the top four heads in the back and to the right is us - i'm not sure if that ugly guy on the far left is me (*i hope not!:) but i can see jimmy stephan and dewy bunnell's face is the one bisected at the far right hand corner.   Dewey is also in "america" and got us onstage - then he left after one or two songs and left us there - we eventually settled right behind phil lesh's position.  I never heard him play before but after standing next to his amp all night,  i couldn't get his rhythm out of my bones the whole ride back to london (which made the cramped trip back pleasant!)

http://www.iowrock.demon.co.uk/bickershaw/images/garcia.jpg
 
For the record, i think i was standing outside the picture's frame, to the right - that other guys too ugly for me (i'm ugly but not like that:)

Phil had small LED's on his guitar neck to see his fret points better in the dark (i don't know how common that is but i thought it was pretty neat!). 

A very detailed account of the Deads show can be seen here at Mike Plumbley's IOW Fest site .

Ex Bickershaw vets in Brighton UK can be contacted here

 
Other Grateful Dead pages on the archive site. 

The Bickershaw Menu

If you have any info regarding the festival please get in touch Contact us

Other Bickershaw links.
 
  • The Bickershaw diaries-

    Mike Plumbleys saga at Bickershaw, with more photos and extensive first hand observations of his time at the festival. 

  • Repfoto- massive collection of commercially available photos of Bickershaw for sale and view
  • Mothergrumble Magazine-article on Bickershaw and Lincoln 72

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