Day 362: Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower, 8/13/75

Grateful Dead One From The Vault

Picking a single favorite Grateful Dead song is an endeavor in futility if you ask me. However, of all the established song sequences the Dead played over the years my hands-down favorite it Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower

Really my only knock against Help On The Way/Slipknot!/Franklin’s Tower was that the Help/Slip section dropped out of the repertoire for years at a time for a couple of different spans. But that just made it that much more revered when the band brought it back. They simplified some of the diminished runs over the years, but the gist of it remained the same.

This is one of the earliest performances of the sequence and it shows, but in a good way. There’s a certain energy and sense of the unknown that accompanies a song that you haven’t worn like a glove for years. As the last Help/Slip/Frank for this project it seemed only fitting to hearken back to the song’s genesis to see how far it’s come in the past forty years.

One From The Vault is another must-have album, if you ask me. The Blues For Allah material was so important for many different reasons and the live rendering of that material is simply phenomenal. Plus there are plenty of other choice cuts on the album as well. It’s not difficult to understand why it was the first vault release at all.

Omitted in the playlist here is the Bill Graham introduction, but you can hear the end of it as the band continues to vamp on the opening F minor chord and launch into a fully formed Help On The Way. Phil is all over the place in the upper register and the sharp, accented hits on F minor slide away effortlessly. The tempo is definitely faster here, faster than it would be in later years and that sense of urgency provides energy, fuel for the fire. Jerry deftly handles the lead vocals as well as all of the little runs between lines. Bobby and Donna are trying to re-create the intricate backing vocals of the studio version and I’d say they succeed with much greater consistency than they fail. Keith’s electric piano adds a sonic foil to the sharper attack of the guitars.

Slipknot is in full effect here, and the band plays the full extent of the “whips” as JDarks calls them. The following A minor jam is always a foray into the interesting. Jerry’s tone remains clear and sharp, Keith’s piano more tapered, and the percussion chugging along. They move, eventually, into a chromatic progression for a few measures that gives way to a placid span, the calm before the storm, if you will, when the diminished runs return en route to Franklin’s Tower.

Franklin’s kicks off with it’s typical bounce and never looks back. Phil keeps things moving quite nicely here, and the band is attuned to dynamics as well, bringing it down during the verses and adding a bit more oomph! during the chorus. A shorter version of Franklin’s, notably the solos, which is understandable since the song was in it’s infancy – this was the second time they had played it live. There’s a reserved energy throughout the song though, as if something is just waiting to explode and the band is trying their hardest to not to let it escape too early. A little past the 5 minute mark the flood gates open and Jerry is off with the rest of the band closely behind. It seems like we’re in for the long haul here, but Jerry pulls up short about a minute later and they tag the chorus again, very softly, before one more charge to end the song.

Complete Setlist 8/13/75

Other Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower DFAY Selections

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  1. Sometimes I forget this CD is in my collection but once upon a time it was the only GD show many of us had on disc. And we played the hell out of it. There were bootleg cassettes around, of course, but the sound quality of this release was phenomenal at the time.
    MLK day of ’92 (no class that day at ISU, obviously) a friend and I decided to celebrate by dropping a hit and listening to this relatively new release. Those were great times and every detail of this show is etched into my brain, much like many go-to shows or favorite albums.

    • Great story Mike! The Dead have provided an embarrassment of riches for us to listen to and I too often forget about this album. But then whenever I re-visit it I wonder what took so long. There are so many highlights it’s difficult to highlight a single standout aspect of the show. Luckily that’s not necessary because the whole thing just plain rocks.

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