Thursday, April 29, 2010

Club Front Street Shakedown!

Artifacts of the Week: Shakedown Street Artifacts!
Club Front pix, Shakedown Street promo 45 and 8-Track
Tape of the Week: a 3-Decade Survey of Club Front Rehearsals

Put on your Zoot Suit because this week, Dark Star Palace is going to take a trip on down to Shakedown used to be the heart of town! Yes, in the heart of the funk by the steamy canals of East San Rafael lurks the true heart of the Grateful Dead universe.  You could make a case for other Dead sites like 710 Ashbury, the business office at 5th and Lincoln, or even Olompali or Market/Van Ness if you can spin a real good tale.  But, for those of us in this space called Dark Star Palace, Club Front takes the cake and screws the pooch, too. Used by the band to write/ rehearse/ record/ overdub nearly all of their records from the late 70's on, used by the roadies and equipment crew to store and maintain all of their instruments and gear, and used by about everyone in the Dead's organization to meet, greet and hang-out or sleep...well, you think that there is nothin' here that can interest you, well, well, can never tell!

Take a gander at some of the pix we snapped on a recent visit to the Dead's old studio/rehearsal hall/equipment facility/hang-out joint, and compare these with some amazing shots that David Gans took at 20 Front back in the 1970's and 1980's (be sure to check out David's Flickr blog to see more of his amazing Grateful Dead photos), as well as some of Roger Ressmeyer's shots of Front Street's recording gear during the Warfield run in 1980. While you check these photos out, you can stream a few different rehearsals we dug up from Club Front from the 70's, 80's and 90's. We'll pair all this Club Front-love with several Shakedown Street artifacts and toss in a few videos for good measure. Hell, you'll even find out how Club Front helped Bob Dylan go Born-Again (music that is, not Jesus). So don't tell me this town ain't got no heart!  You just gotta poke around....

This week, the Artifact(s) of the Week contain some pure 1970's gems....(can I hear a the disco duck!). We've got the 1978 Dead-gone-Disco classic, Shakedown Street- on 8-TRACK no less! We also have the Shakedown Street Promo 45/single in MONO (and stereo too).  For some reason, I always thought that this album sounds best in mono. Seems to the folks in the Palace that you need a '77 TRANS-AM blasting the AM-radio mono mix as you cruise around East San Rafael with the windows down, tunes blaring, smoke danglin' from the lip and a big 'ole grin on yer face.  Can you feel that 90 degree heat? Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart... 'cause I can hear it beat out loud! WHEW!

In particular, this 8-track is a real treat.  When did these things die out anyway?  Around the same time when Betamax was introduced?  And Mono...was mono really an essential promotional audio release vehicle in the late 1970's?  Even the Beatles had phased out official mono mixes by 1969, so this seems really interesting that Arista deemed a mono mix necessary.  AM radio must be the answer! That, or they realized Garcia's love of mixing to tiny 5" speakers in the center of Front Street's Neve 80-series mixing console (can I hear a YEAH! for a future Palace blog on these speakers? Indeed, the Palace has an original Dead-used pair of these Hard Trucker's gems that we will check out soon).

Now, the Shakedown Street album was recorded at Club Le Front from July 31 to August 18, 1978. Work was stopped so that the band could head off to Egypt and jam at the pyramids under the Dark Star. It was released on November 15, 1978 (as Arista, AB 4198). The Shakedown Street single was released in April, 1979 (Arista, AS 0410) as a 3 minute, 46 second single mix. It was released as a double-A side with Shakedown in stereo on one side, and mono on the other.  This was many, many months after the original single pairing of Shakedown / France was released as a 45.  From what I have found out, no 45 picture sleeve was ever put out...just the generic Arista sleeve (why was the great Shakedown Zoot Suit man not used?  Why was it used instead for the Good Lovin' 45?? Weird). The copy at the Palace is the DJ-only, "leased" promotional version.

Visiting Club Le Front was quite interesting.  I had always wanted to visit, but before the days of GPS devices and Google Maps, it proved to be somewhat more difficult to find.  I headed to East San Rafael with my wife and 7-month old son only to find that...well...not all that much had changed since it's 70's heyday.  It was still sketchy on the street... drug deals were taking place in the hotel complex right across the street from the studio (you can see that same building in the pix of Robert Hunter and Betty Cantor-Jackson on Sonny's motorbike). I just said hello and waved and stopped in to chat with a few folks at the local businesses on the steet (car repair, storage facility, etc.). What was interesting was that out on the curb, if you listened really intensely, you could still hear some Dead tunes playing in mono on an AM radio down the way...only to be interrupted by a Hell's Angels cruising on down the avenue.

In doing a bit of research on 20 Front, I learned that it had been taken over by a pluming supply company after the Dead moved up to Novato in the early 1990's. I tracked down this pluming company's manager, because I thought it would be great for the Palace to preserve the 20 Front Street sign before it completely fell apart.  Glad I called this guy, because he let me know that he actually had his team put that sign up well after the Dead moved out! Amazing that it looked so cracked and aged already. He said that "20 Front" was originally just painted on the front of the building and was pretty they repainted the building and put up the sign.  
When I asked about other artifacts that may have emerged, he said the place was "a bit nasty," or something along those lines, when they took the lease over from the owner. Sounds like there were some areas for roadies/engineers to crash that hadn't been cleaned since Jimmy Carter's time. This pluming crew then gutted the entire building and "found a few drumsticks and stuff, but nothing worthwhile."  He closed out by saying that several members of the Dead had come by after Jerry Garcia died and were very nostalgic of the old club and walked through the building to see how it had all been transformed from a Rock and Roll haven into pluming supply madness!

This week's Tape of Week will actually be a survey of three decades of Club Front rehearsals!  I've linked a few streams of some interesting sessions from 1975, 1987 and 1992.  The 1987 sessions are quite famous, as these tapes are the best surviving examples of Bob Dylan jamming and collaborating with the Grateful Dead.  We all know that the official release from their 1987 tour was a bit of a letdown...OK...a total letdown (besides the great cover). Was this due to Bob insisting to monitor the mixes on a boom box? Jerry thinks so! Anyway, these tapes are a real thrill.  I remember when I first saw bootlegs come out on CD of these sessions in the early 1990's when I was in Boulder, Colorado.  I believe they came out under the title of "the French Girl."   

Bob Dylan credited these sessions for his "rebirth" with music, and sure enough, Dylan's "Never Ending Tour" kicked off right after his round of playing with the Dead.  In his autobiography, Chronicles Volume 1, there is an amazing section how he walked out on these rehearsals at Club Front (ready to quit) and wandered down Front Street into a dive bar down a few blocks from the studio...he walks in, he sees a soul band playing in the corner, a heavenly light strikes him from above and the Bard receives a vision for how he will sing, phrase, write and perform going forward in his life.  Thank you Grateful Dead!  Thank you Front Street! I've just added some shots of this bar in case you want to see the old sailors bar off of Front Street that completely altered Bob Dylan's career.  Even had a few drinks there to celebrate before seeing Bob and Phil play a show a block away. Some of Bob's best work has come directly from that vision in this must be ready when opportunity knocks!

Anyway, these rehearsals below are an amazing window on the band as they work up new tunes, jam on old standards, joke around (great stuff on the 90's stream), and lay the groundwork for magical jams to come... Hope you enjoy!!
In terms of videos of the Grateful Dead at Front Street, here's one from the 1990's:

And now for some Shakedown's from NYC 1980 and Germany 1981:

For those of you craving even more detail on the Shakedown Street release, this info comes to you from DeadDisc:

  • Good Lovin' (Resnick/Clark)
  • France (Hart/Weir/Hunter)
  • Shakedown Street (Garcia/Hunter)
  • Serengetti (Hart/Kreutzmann)
  • Fire On The Mountain (Hart/Hunter)
  • I Need A Miracle (Weir/Barlow)
  • From The Heart Of Me (D. Godchaux)
  • Stagger Lee (Garcia/Hunter)
  • All New Minglewood Blues (Tradition arr. Bob Weir)
  • If I Had The World To Give (Garcia/Hunter)
Bonus tracks on CD version released in the Beyond Description box set in 2004 and as a separate CD in 2006;
  • Good Lovin' (Resnick / Clark) - Studio outtake featuring Lowell George, 7/28/78
  • Ollin Arageed (Hamza El Din) - Live, Egypt, 9/16/78
  • Fire On The Mountain (Hart / Hunter) - Live, Egypt, 9/16/78
  • Stagger Lee (Garcia / Hunter) - Live, Egypt, 9/15/78
  • All New Minglewood Blues (Traditional) - Live, Passaic, 11/24/78
  • Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
  • Donna Godchaux - vocals
  • Keith Godchaux - keyboards
  • Mickey Hart - drums, percussion
  • Robert Hunter - lyrics
  • Billy Kreutzmann - drums, percussion
  • Phil Lesh - bass, vocals
  • Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
Additional musicians:
  • Jordan Amarantha - percussion
  • Matthew Kelly - harp
  • Steve Schuster - horn (on From The Heart Of Me)
Additional musicians on CD bonus tracks:
  • Lowell George - lead vocals (on Good Lovin' studio outtake)
  • Hamza El Din - oud, tar, hand clapping, vocals (on Ollin Arageed)
  • The Nubian Youth Choir - hand clapping, tar, vocals (on Ollin Arageed)
  • Producer - Lowell George
  • Co-Producer - Dan Healy
  • Associate Producer - John Kahn
  • Engineer - Bob Matthews
  • Engineer (Serengetti only) - Brett Cohen
  • Horn arrangements - John Kahn
  • Artwork - Gilbert Shelton
  • Assistants - Ramrod, Steve Parish, Bill Candelario, Robbie Taylor, John Hagen, Jeffrey Boden, Betty Cantor-Jackson, Harry Popick, Brett Cohen, Sue Stephens
  • Recorded and mixed at Club Le Front, San Rafael, CA, 7/31/78 - 8/18/78
  • Mastered by George Horn at the Automat, San Francisco
  • Serengetti recorded by MERT at Meta Tantay, Carlin, Nevada
The Dead chose Lowell George as producer in an attempt to get away from the 'in charge producer' role that they had whilst recording Terrain Station with Keith Olsen. According to Garcia: "We chose Lowell George because we wanted someone who understood band mechanics."
Bill Kreutzmann commented in an interview;... Lowell was really like a member of the band more. If we were working on a song and he didn't feel it was going right, he'd just grab a guitar and come into the studio and show us how he felt it. That was one of the ways he'd communicate, and it worked great. I had a tremendous amount of respect for him. The recording was interrupted by the Egypt tour in 1978. After that tour the Dead cancelled shows in the UK to finish Shakedown Street so that it would be released for their tour in the US in late 1978. Lowell George was not available for the final stages of putting together the album and the production work was completed by John Kahn

Related releases
Two singles were released in conjunction with this LP:
A promotional single comprising two versions of Shakedown Street was also distributed:
A third single included one song from Shakedown Street:
Released on CD in 1986, Arista ARCD-4198.
A remastered, expanded version of Shakedown Street was included in the box set;
This remastered, expanded version was released as a single CD in 2006.
Good Lovin', Shakedown Street, Fire On The Mountain and I Need A Miracle were included on;
The Shakedown Street CD release was included in;
Fire On The Mountain was included on;
During the week that Shakedown Street was released the Grateful Dead appeared on Saturday Night Live to promote the album. They played three songs I Need A Miracle, Good Lovin' and Casey Jones. Casey Jones was included on the compilation album;


  1. I lived on front street around 1993 with someone who was very close with members of the dead and the extended dead family. It was only for a short time but those days were packed with some truly unforgetable times. I went and ate at the pier 15 restaurant with sue stephens and annette flowers as well as some friends from Portland of those friends being David Warrington.I also made it back stage/all access to the Chet Helms concert met Wavy Gravy,Greg Allman,Creek Hart....just an incredibly good was fuckin sweet ..straight up....I wish I could go back and relive those experiences but I wouldn"t trade those memories for anything..especially the time I spent at the Warfield hearing Jerry weave his way thru Senor, I wasn't 10 feet from him and the sounds he and JGB created were nothing short of was surreal..sublime and supernatural..Today I'm back in Riverside RI reminiscing on those memories built to last.... :P over and out

  2. I currently work in the warehouse and I love it.
    Its really cool knowing how much history is in the building. The only thing that is still original to Club Front would be the store front of the building. Wouldn't it be cool to remove it and recreate it in a museum or somewhere people could tour it?

  3. I'm not even sure what is original: judging from pix, the doors/windows have been swapped out, the sign is post '93, etc. But ironically, the hookers are still out front!