Day 32: Loser, 3/24/90

Grateful Dead Spring 1990 So Glad You Made It

I know that Bobby has his cowboy songs, but for some reason the imagery I always gleaned from Loser was of a smokey saloon in the old west with wooden floors and haggared men raising the pot with nuggets of gold culled from the day’s prospecting efforts. I know that the song itself is essentially timeless, as the concept of a gambler putting everything on the line for one more hand knows no specific era, but this is the imagery that I’ve always associated with the song.

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I read somewhere that when Phil was putting together the Without A Net album, or maybe it was Dozin’ At The Knick, regardless it was one of those two, this version of Loser was basically the last one left out of the final track listing. I don’t remember where I read this, but I seem to recall that the fact that this was ultimately left off of the record was a bit of a regret for Phil. Luckily, it was included on the limited edition Spring 1990 box set as well as the 2 disc compilation of that set, So Glad You Made It.

Jerry hits a few pickup notes and the whole band kicks right in. Immediately Bobby and Brent stand out to my ear. Bobby because he’s playing some lead-ish stuff and Brent is providing sustain on the Hammond B3. Jerry is in solid voice, and everyone sounds good during the chorus. I know the Dead didn’t always have impeccable harmonies live, but these are pretty solid.

Everyone crescendos for the “don’t you touch hard liquor line” before turning on a dime and settling back into the groove. Phil’s bass tone is nice and warm. I find his tone to be very sterile when I listen to some later era shows, but this is what I love. Fat and warm, yet articulate.

The solo section here gets a bit of a rough start, as it seems that Jerry is trying to find the right effect. When he finds what he’s looking for he just lets loose. Brent complements Jerry well, rising and falling dynamically with the Bearded Maestro. Weir arpeggiates some chords in additional to his typical choppy, mid-driven playing style. Phil gives the solo section a little extra oomph! as well, too.

Someone adds a touch of MIDI to the very end and with that the song comes to an end.

Complete Setlist 3/24/90

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  1. Jerry warms up a distorted tone (perhaps making sure he is ready for the solo) then breaks into this one cleanly. He’s croaking a bit but it suits the dangerous subject matter just fine. Brent stabs the keys meaningfully then washes them about. The drummers add sublime drama. I think you will dig this version, no matter who you are. A pause after the first chorus is needed to set up the next verse. It’s worth it because the momentum builds and the performance notches up. The song lifts to higher heights, anticipating the guitar solo, which is delivered with a heartily distorted signal. Once through and you know we’ll get another. We do, and it is a wailer – not in the sense of the pinched-tone harmonic ones of yesteryear, but a more rock version that blows the roof off. The final verse finds everyone “laughing” instead of “bragging” and that actually sounds better. Garcia has no chance of losing, except that Mydland inserts a very unwelcome bell-like fake synth patch into the last few bars. Why??

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