Day 234: Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks), 12/12/69

Grateful Dead Dave's Picks 10 album cover artwork

I would have picked this Caution sooner, but I was hesitant to isolate it from the Alligator that precedes it. See, I really like Alligator, but the song is split in two by 7 minutes of drums. That’s too much drums for me. I can tolerate up to about 3 minutes of drums, but after that… yawn.

After listening to this release a few times I decided that I’m ok with isolating the Caution as it’s the clear highlight of the second set.

I recently saw someone point out the relationship between Caution and Them’s “Mystic Eyes.” Apparently Phil even admitted that they pretty much lifted the bassline right from the song to serve as the foundation of Caution.

Check out this video of Them playing Mystic Eyes and see for yourself.

Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) remains one of my favorite Pigpen tunes. As far as I’m concerned the only thing that would have made this version better would have been some harmonica from Pig, but other than that this is 23 minutes of groovy bliss.

Caution emerges fully cooked already out of Alligator. Phil prowls the backend here to pleasing effect and Jerry leads the band all over the place. Phil revisits the main bass riff again and again. TC gives the organ a workout in the 4th minute to great effect, leading the proceedings for a short while. It’s pretty clear that Phil and Jerry are driving the bus on this one though. Around 6:30 TC interjects an R&B groove that re-directs the band. The thing that stands out here is that through all of this the band has been able to maintain their groove the whole time. This isn’t a cosmic exploration like some other songs this is very much groove-based and as such demonstrates the range of abilities of this band. Pig starts singing around the 8:40 mark. The entire band pretty much drops out except for some drums and some well-timed guitar licks from Garcia. There’s a big crash at the mention of mojo hand, and the groove seems to completely devolve, but wait! Billy is right there to pick up the pieces in a flash and the groove is re-established and cooking with gas in no time. Flirting with the ethereal but settling back into the groove. Never trust a prankster! The band continues building their jam before dipping into another valley in the 14th minute. The respite is brief though as they work their way through a familiar chromatic progression before getting back to the groove. Listen to Phil right around 15:30, too, his bass tone is just nasty for a few measures there. It’s sublime. There’s another mention of mojo hand in the 17th minute with accompanying cacophony, but the pattern repeats. Jerry finds a line and rides it. Mickey adds some percussion we haven’t really heard yet and before long we’re grooving again, partly due to Phil, partly to the drummers. The groove-based jamming continues as the band heads into a rowdy session of Feedback.

Complete Setlist 12/12/69

Previous Caution DFAY Selections

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  1. It’s interesting to think about the Dead playing this little club gig 4 months after playing in front of hundreds of thousands at Woodstock. It certainly doesn’t slow them down any. Thelma is full of rowdy energy and this song is a great example. This is where Dave’s Picks shines — he pulls out a weird gem that was completely hidden.

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