What is a Jam Sandwich?
A Jam Sandwich is three of more songs, played sequentially, without a significant break between them. Jam Sandwiches typically transition smoothly from one song to the next with little indication that one song is ending or another song is beginning. These "sandwiches" often feature extended periods of jamming as the band works out how to make the jump between songs.
The Grateful Dead became known for many things in their 30 year run from 1965 to 1995. They were wide-eyed optimists who explored free love, drugs and communal living in the 60's. They were technological pioneers who pushed the limits of amplification with their ""Wall of Sound" rig in the 70's and experimented with MIDI sounds in the 80's. In the 90's, they were among the elder statesmen of rock-n-roll when tragedy struck its final blow to the band so many millions of Dead Heads loved and adored.
But, another thing the Grateful Dead are known for are the long-form jams they performed during their live shows. Often within the context of multiple songs tied together like pearls on a string. Those are Jam Sandwiches.
One of the most famous examples of this technique was the "Playing in the Band" sandwich, which was a staple of their live shows. This sandwich typically consisted of three songs: "Playing in the Band," "Uncle John's Band," and "Morning Dew." These songs were chosen because of their musical and lyrical themes, which were often linked to each other and created a cohesive musical journey. The songs would be played in succession, with the first and last songs serving as bookends, and the middle song serving as the centerpiece of the musical experience.
The "Playing in the Band" sandwich was often a highlight of the Grateful Dead's live performances and was often met with enthusiastic applause from their fans. This sandwich allowed the band to showcase their musical prowess and improvisational skills, as they would often stretch out the middle song, "Uncle John's Band," into a long, meandering jam that would showcase the virtuosity of each band member. The jam would often incorporate elements of the other two songs, creating a unique and unpredictable musical experience for the audience.
Another famous example of the Grateful Dead's song sandwiching technique was the "Terrapin Station" suite. This suite consisted of several songs that were linked together to tell a story, and it was typically performed in its entirety. The "Terrapin Station" suite was a showcase for the band's musical and lyrical abilities, and it was a demonstration of their ability to create a cohesive, story-like musical experience for their audiences.
The Grateful Dead's song sandwiching technique was not limited to just a few specific songs. They would often take several songs and link them together to create extended musical journeys, which would allow them to showcase their musical skills and improvisational abilities. This technique was a hallmark of the Grateful Dead's live performances, and it was one of the reasons why their concerts were so highly regarded.
And it wasn't just limited to their live performances, either. They would often utilize this technique on their studio recordings. For example, on their album "American Beauty," they linked several songs together to create a flowing musical experience. This album was a showcase for the band's musical and lyrical abilities, and it demonstrated their ability to create a cohesive musical journey for their listeners.
Hovering over the "Jam Sandwiches" menu option will trigger a drop-down menu to appear. Click on any date to read my analysis of a Jam Sandwich performed on that date. A hyperlink in blue will take you to the Internet Archive where you can listen to that show for free.
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