Day 193: Ripple, 4/29/71

Ladies and Gentlemen The Grateful Dead

Ok, I know I got on my soapbox a couple of days ago about Friend of the Devil, but that’s just because I think a song like Ripple is just as, if not more deserving of the hype that FOTD gets.

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I’ve actually used Ripple as a lullaby for my boys before. I think that’s one of many great applications for this particular tune. The challenge is remembering all the words in the proper order! Luckily I have a forgiving audience. (Although my 3 year old continuously points out that in the song Summertime, Daddy sings “catfish are jumping” while Mommy sings “fish are jumping.” Apparently that’s a huge discrepancy!).

For being such an awesome song Ripple has a small footprint viz. performance history. Perhaps the vocals were just too hard to get consistently right live or the tune was too slow? Perhaps it’s vibe was outpaced by larger audiences? Regardless it was only played 40 times. 25% (so ten) were between August 1970 and this date. After 4/29/71 it was performed again until the 15th anniversary shows in October 1980. I was played at pretty much every show of those east and west coast runs. After that a mere 5 performances, including 2 more in December 1980, one each in May and October 1981, and the final live airing of Ripple occurred on 9/3/88.

It sounds like someone is a bit out of tune here. Jerry? Nevertheless, the vocals are spot on. You can hear the audience clapping and keeping the beat with the rest of the band. The three part harmonies actually work for the most part. A rarity in the live setting! One thing the chorus certainly misses in the mandolin part. I’m surprised Jerry or Bobby didn’t try to re-create it, but oh well. It just dawned on me that I have no idea what Pigpen was doing while this song was being performed. I detect no keys, and he was the only keys player at this point. Did he pick up a percussion instrument or did he just take a break? I’m curious. The last verse takes on that great singalong quality and you can tell the band really enjoys it, as does the crowd by the rapturous applause.

Complete Setlist 4/29/71

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  1. I was lucky enough to be at that Cap Centre show in ’88. Sometimes it pays to linger after the show’s “over”. Definitely a unique moment in my dead show history…almost eclipsed by all the tears outside of those who busted a move early then found out what they missed.

  2. Not played often electrically, this version is plenty sweet at times and holds its own to the more-familiar acoustic ones out there. This starts with at least one guitar a bit out of tune and the singing must weave around as a result. A big, warm reverb fills out the mix and the crowd can be heard gently clapping along for a while. Garcia sings it well, given that it is a bit low in pitch for his range. The harmonies are understated and tasteful. The final, wordless chorus gets rocking big-time, and the crowd chants like the chorale of kids it was. This is a welcome inclusion in this release full of welcome inclusions.

  3. Wolf, that must have been pretty special at the Cap Center. I never understood why people felt the need to rush out of shows before the encore. Maybe a few had to set up some post show vending but for everyone else, what were they thinking? You’re at a Dead show, where else would you rather be. Sure they may play a lackluster US Blues, but even a slight chance that they might play something special made it worth sticking around. It was much easier to relax and take your time getting out, enjoy a beer in the lot and let those in a hurry thin out before leaving.
    I learned that philosophy when my Grandpa was taking me to baseball games as a kid. Why leave early? You’re at the ballpark, where else would you rather be? And sure, the home team probably won’t make an incredible comeback…but if they do you certainly don’t want to be on the highway.
    And you don’t want to be unlocking your car as the GOGD breaks out Ripple.

    • Mike, I both agree and disagree with you re: leaving early. It used to be that I never left a show until the lights came on. However, in recent years I’ve found myself ducking out a bit early. Usually it’s because the set has gone so late that the next day is going to be brutal with the kids. I can think of a show last year I went to with my wife and she was concerned about the sitter staying too late, so we left really early. I’m still a bit miffed about that, but what can you do. If I had my ‘druthers, and wasn’t guaranteed being woken up by a toddler at 6am the next day I’d stay until the end every time though!

    • I hear you, Mike, and obviously I agree. However, the Cap Centre was a special case, as Prince George’s County Police were the most militant security force I ever encountered in any concert-going experience. You could count on being yelled at to vacate the premises as soon as the lights came up, all the way to your car and out the gate. Sticking around there was definitely inviting abuse, but that night I’m glad I swam against the stream!

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