Day 240: Brokedown Palace, 9/27/72

Grateful Dead Dick's Picks 11 album cover artwork

Back to back songs from 1973 earlier this week and now back to back 1972 selections. There certainly was something about that 1972-1974 period.

I don’t know what Brokedown Palace conjures up for others, but for me it’s very much an elegy of sorts. The “fare thee well, fare thee well, I love you more than words can tell” line is one that really symbolizes the song for me and whenever I hear it I tend to think about those loved ones who have left this world before their time. It’s kind of bittersweet in that sense because the melody is so beautiful but the emotion that it evokes for me personally skews to the sad. I think that really speaks to the beauty of the song though. It’s not so much a lament in my mind, but an avenue to reflect on and celebrate how these people touched my life.

As a result I love the song and I’m always thrilled when it appears on a release. It seems like this is a song that always delivers and is one that fans always hoped to hear at shows.

Brokedown Palace makes a gentle entry into the set here. There’s not much fancy going on here, but it is well played. The vocals are very good, especially for this song and in the live arena.  For me the vocals really dictate what constitutes a good version of this song. I love Phil’s little fills right around the 2:00 mark too. They’re very minor but add a wonderful melodic touch to the song. Jerry solo here glides flawlessly like a figure skater skating a winning routine. Have I mentioned Keith yet? Because his playing throughout caters to the song so well. Perhaps it’s just tonality of the acoustic piano, but it fits the song like a glove. The do-do-dos at the end are a bit shakier vocally, but the gang is really trying so they get points for effort. Clearly the crowd likes it as you hear them roar once the song ends.

Complete Setlist 9/27/72

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  1. Every time I hear this song I’m taken back to my early to mid 20s and a warm summer night at an outdoor show. No other Dead song fills me with nostalgia quite like this one.
    Although I’m primarily a 70s guy when it comes to the Dead, I always equate this song with the Brent years even though I didn’t see it live until Deer Creek 92. Maybe that’s because when I first got deep into their music my friends were pretty much always playing tapes from the 80s.
    I had a tape from a live FM broadcast, maybe from Cleveland but I’m not sure, and at the end of the show the DJ comes on and he’s hoping they’ll come out for an encore. He’s all excited as they come back out and Jerry plays a couple notes and some hippy starts screaming, “Yeahhhh! Brokedown!!!” The DJ says, “I don’t know what you’re on man, but…I’ll take three dollars worth.”

    Interesting, Lunchbox, that this song makes you think of loved ones who passed before their time. You’re probably familiar with the run of shows the Dead played after Bill Graham died. During the last night Ken Kesey spoke near the end of Dark Star and mentioned hearing Brokedown Palace and realizing it was about his son who died before his time.

    • I was just reading about that show with Kesey in Blair Jackson’s biography of Garcia actually. It’s not mentioned there but now that you remark on it, Kesey connection sounds familiar to me. I must have heard it somewhere else at some point. Truly one of my favorite Dead songs.

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