Day 300: Baba O’Riley > Tomorrow Never Knows, 12/17/92

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The royalty of British rock includes The Beatles and The Who. So imagine how cool it was when the Grateful Dead combined songs from both bands into one epic encore of Baba O’Riley > Tomorrow Never Knows.

So the Dead played this combo 12 times total, 11 of which it appeared in the encore slot. Even if it was roughly played this just seems like such a great way to send folks home after a show. I know that Vince was a big factor in bringing back some of the Dead’s catalog that had fallen by the wayside, and introducing a number of new covers for the band, including these two selections. That said, I can’t help but wonder what these would sound like if Jerry or Bob had sung lead (or even Brent back in the day). Both Brent and Vince are well suited to the higher range of Baba O’Riley, but Tomorrow Never Knows could be anyone’s game.

The thing I like most about these tunes is that the Dead paid homage to the original, channeling that British rock vibe, but at the same time staying true to what made them the Dead.

The Baba synth part hides nothing. Jerry noodles a bit but really it’s Vince who kicks this one off with some powerful chords on his keyboard. Jerry digs in like a British rock god, replete with appropriate distortion. Vince handles the lead vocals here and it’s pretty good. I actually love Garcia’s playing here too. You can tell he is having a ton of fun with the song. The brief solo is distinctively Garcia though. After the “we’re all wasted!” line the band changes feels to a more tribal beat.

Vince leads the way into Tomorrow Never Knows. He manages some Sufi-like vocal inflections that speak to the songs original inspiration a bit, well at least the portions George Harrison contributed to this Lennon song. The Dead’s ability to recreate some of the sounds and the vibe of the original make this a really cool cover that maintains its Deadness.

Complete Setlist 12/17/92

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  1. Yes, I believe they did that on every version that I’ve heard. I used to think it was Phil but on closer listen maybe it is Vince.
    I’ve got a few old Deadhead friends who were really into the Talking Heads. Not sure what the connection is but they (Talking Heads) really never did it for me.

    • So it’s not just me?! I was thinking about this a bit this evening and I came to the conclusion that I’m not really into New Wave or “art rock,” which is a term I’ve heard used to describe the Talking Heads. I’ve always been much more into the blues-based aspect of rock & roll with the likes of Rory Gallagher, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers, Robin Trower, the original Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green. It was the Dead that turned me on to folk, country, and a number of other genres I never really delved into before. I guess what I’m getting at is that the Dead are about as “out there” as I get in my listening. For example, I love jazz, but really only the “cool jazz” type of stuff – Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, Sketches of Spain – you get the idea. Any time I heard the Talking Heads I was either unimpressed or simply thought: “meh…” That doesn’t mean I don’t think they deserve the plaudits they receive. Obviously they did something right and were very influential, but it’s just a case of different strokes for different folks as far as my listening preferences go.

  2. Fair enough; I can understand that. For me, Talking Heads were one of the first bands I really got into, but I love “out there” music, which can be pretty divisive. Their earlier stuff especially is out in left field most of the time, but yeah, it’s definitely a love or not thing.

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