Day 73: Mission In The Rain, 6/12/76

Grateful Dead Road Trips 4.5 album cover artwork

Although the Dead were on touring hiatus from October 1974 to June 1976 it’d be unwise to say that the band was unproductive in that period. Not only was Jerry working on The Grateful Dead Movie, but the whole band was recording Blues for Allah, Bobby was working up an album with Kingfish, and Jerry put out his Reflections solo album.

Mission In The Rain was one of the cuts from Reflections that briefly appeared in the Dead’s repertoire when they returned to the road in June 1976. The band only played the song 5 times, all in June of 1976, of which this is the third one ever played. Of course, Mission remained a staple of Jerry’s solo canon and a number of nice versions exist on Jerry releases (we may get to those in time).

There is some fiddling around before the slow, minor key intro to the song begins. The pace here is like molasses in January, but after one verse Phil’s bass riff signals a change to the bouncier meat of the song.

Donna adds some very nice, soft backing vocals here. This is still an early version of the song, relatively speaking, and it is that much better with Ms. Donna Jean on board. Keith throws down some nice riffs, but it seems that Phil and Bobby are a bit tentative here. You can almost tell that they everyone outside of Jerry, Donna, and Keith are a bit unfamiliar with the tune. Nevertheless, Jerry delivers a nice solo and Keith complements him quite well. The interaction between those two had yet to devolve too much. Phil is on point with the changes, but seems to play it safe.

Garcia and Keith are leading the dynamic shifts here and the interplay between those two is really what strikes me as interesting about this version of the song. The final instrumental passage is filled with a number of nice exchanges, and the song ends fairly unceremoniously.

Complete Setlist 6/12/76

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  1. Lunchbox,
    Great dissection of this song at that time. It truly was in it’s early stages with the group and you almost feel the group looking at Jerry for cues how and where to go with it. I do have a number of JGB versions that are much more confident sounding. Heading out to work in a short bit and will have to cue up this set again or whip out a pure Jerry to start the day.
    A reminder it is tax day, not sure the Dead had any song directly about taxes, but there must be a lyric or 2 that allude to it in some fashion.

  2. We fade up into that space in-between songs, where on-stage chatter often centers on what to play next. Bob says “Hey, we haven’t done ‘The Wheel’ in a while,” (he is right — it had only ever been played once before, earlier in the month) but Jerry already has other ideas. So he leads this in with the minor-key guitar figure then begins crooning. “I must turn down your offer,” he sings, but he does take up that offer of Bob’s in the second set. At the pause after the first lines, Phil drives into the song proper exuberantly and a tad fast. The band has no choice but to follow at that pace. I kind of like it that way. Jerry reins it in just a little but it stays snappier than usual. The guitar solo is a minor miracle of melodic twists and the mix is really swell here. So many versions of this kind of drag, and now we have a sprightly one to hear. As he sings about satisfaction with the San Francisco rain, some grit comes into Jerry’s voice and I do believe this is one of my favorite versions ever. It is one of only five times the Dead ever played this live, and I am totally perplexed by that. Garcia’s solo band did it many, many times and I sort of like the Grateful Dead’s take on it better. It wraps tightly.

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