The Strand Lyceum

London, England

Not Fade Away>Going Down The Road Feeling Bad>Not Fade Away

Clap… clap, clap… clap, clap!! Almost as if the music was playing the band, the crowd sets this sandwich up with that familiar rhythm credited to Bo Diddley and co-opted by Buddy Holly and The Crickets for their 1957 tune Not Fade Away. Once the band joins in, things get cookin’ pretty quickly. There is a reason this song is one of the top ten most played in the Grateful Dead’s storied career: it’s a crowd pleaser and the backbeat lays down a really solid foundation for improvisational jamming. 

     In the spring of 1972, The Dead were traveling across Europe to spread their gospel to a new audience. They were a tight unit, and some would argue they were at their very best on this tour. But, the band was also in a transitional state at this point. Pigpen was very ill and would be dead by March of the following year. Keith and Donna had already joined and they were settling into their respective roles nicely, but they were still the new kids. Mickey Hart had left the group following financial improprieties perpetrated by his father, who briefly managed the band. Things were in flux, for sure. But that is perhaps why the band played at the level they did during this time. There was a different energy on stage and within the group, an altered dynamic, an urgency. Not Fade Away was as much a proclamation of a band standing their ground in the face of uncertainty as it was a proclamation of puppy love. It was a statement of purpose. And as the bread in this sandwich, the band played it as such.

     NFA>GDTRFB is a classic Dead song sequence that the band played often. In this case, they make it a “true” sandwich by closing it out with a Not Fade Away reprise. But, it’s the meat of this sandwich that’s the real star. Going Down The Road Feeling Bad chugs along like a reliable, old Buick. An American made masterpiece of traditional folk music popularized by the likes of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan prior to the Grateful Dead offering their interpretation of the tune. A road song for the heartworn and lovesick, its down-and-out lyrics provide a fitting counterpoint to NFA’s bombastic boasting. In fact, even the fact that Bobby sings Not Fade Away and Jerry sings Going Down The Road Feeling Bad feels like a lesson in contrast and comparison. The songs match not only their voices, but their personalities. Bob Weir was always considered the “ladies’ man” of the group, while Jerry was seen as the more introspective, emotionally vulnerable of the pair. 

     In this show from May 26th, 1972, GDTRFB benefits greatly from Donna Jean’s Muscle Shoals harmonies and Keith’s strident piano playing, but it’s Bill Kreutzman’s relentless hammering that really drives the point home. Billy builds the beat from a quick, but quiet rhythm in the beginning to a full-tilt assault as the band opens up the throttle around two and a half minutes in. 

     The combination of these two numbers also serve as a tribute to some of the Grateful Dead’s biggest influences. The Dead were truly troubadours, not only carrying songs throughout the land, but throughout time, introducing younger generations to the music that inspired them. And in a real way, they were preservationists, keeping the songs of early Americana alive as the rest of the music industry threatened to forget them.


Further listening: NFA>GDTRFB>NFA performed on 09/03/1972 at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado and Not Fade Away performed on 12/31/1978 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California.