If there is a more perfect song for New Year’s Eve than In The Midnight Hour I would like to know what it is. U2’s “New Years Day” would be a front runner for tomorrow, but today it’s all about the Midnight Hour.
A quick looks reveals that the Grateful Dead DID play In The Midnight Hour on New Year’s Eve in 1968, assuming the setlist is correct. Honestly, it’s a no-brainer and I’m surprised it wasn’t played at every NYE show that Pigpen was with the group. You don’t need me to tell you that this is a classic Pigpen rave up. But man, oh man, I don’t know if I can sing the praises of the rhythm section enough in this version.
So here it is, the logical choice for today. Enjoy!
As the opening chords ring out I have to wonder if there was some funk on the physical tapes from this show. Seriously, the energy is high from the get-go and the groove is dynamite. Pigpen leads the charge, and you can almost visualize him up on stage leading the proceedings here. Jerry’s first solo is a bit off to my ears and he seems to lose his train of thought so it’s back for another raucous verse. Phil really steps up his game in the next couple of verses. Listen to him pretty much from the 2 minute mark on for some funky blues bass. Jerry plays a groovy little riff a few times around 3:15 that blends in nicely with the groove and anticipates some of the what would come to pass in the funk genre in another 5-10 years. Pigpen gets behind the organ around the 4:30 mark and makes it scream and squeal while Jerry and Phil do their thing. Honestly, as much as I like primal Dead, especially Jerry’s playing, this version is all about the rhythm section. The drums and bass and the groove they lay down should be the talk of the town as far as this song goes. Jerry takes a very slow solo over the cacophony starting around 5:45 or so. His guitar sounds a bit out of tune (or maybe it’s an intonation issue?), and he seems to struggle to find the right lick to tease. It sounds like he might be trying to find “First There Is A Mountain” or “Joy To The World” but nothing concrete emerges. Back to Pigpen for another couple of verses and the song’s conclusion. All-in-all, a phenomenal tour-de-force song with an amazing contribution by the rhythm section.