For fans of the Grateful Dead, there’s always cause for celebration. Most every new day brings with it the anniversary of some memorable show, sometimes even multiple. But for Deadheads in 2022, particularly the spring months, it’s a particularly special time as we celebrate the Bay Area psychedelic forefathers’ momentous 1972 tour of Europe.

Author Howard Weiner has penned over half-dozen books relating to the Grateful Dead, and his latest work, Europe ’72 Revisited: 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead’s Legendary Tour, tackles the band’s European vacation, one show at a time. In this excerpt Weiner has graciously shared with Live For Live Music, he chronicles this week in Dead history with the band’s legendary April 21st show for West German TV show Beat-Club, April 24th at Rhinehalle in Dusseldorf, April 26th at Jahrhunderthalle in Frankfurt, and April 29th at Hamburg’s Musikhalle.

Check out chapter five below and click here to order Europe ’72 Revisited: 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead’s Legendary Tour by Howard Weiner.

Beat-Club, a music program broadcast from Bremen, West Germany, was born in the same year as the Grateful Dead, 1965. Eventually, the show reached cult status amongst German youth. Beat-Club evolved with the times, incorporating go-go girls to dance to the music and integrating psychedelic backdrops and colorful imagery while musicians played. This stage hosted the premier musical acts of the day.

On April 21, 1972, the Grateful Dead set up on the Beat-Club stage and sound checked “Loser” and “Black-Throated Wind.” After they were introduced, the band proceeded to play for eighty-three minutes. Out of this dynamic set of music, only “One More Saturday Night” was aired on Beat-Club. Five decades later, the entire Beat-Club video was shown in select theatres nationwide at the 4th annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies in 2013. The video of this show was never officially released as a DVD, but the show can be found online in the strangest of places if you navigate right.

A triumphant “Bertha” opener sets the tone as the band digs in and performs as if this is just another concert on their magical journey across Europe. Garcia looks super hip in a black leather jacket. His bushy, black beard is neatly groomed, and his demeanor is stoic. A slow-moving tie-dye/psychedelic backdrop glides across the screen as the band jams. The closeups of the Dead are superb. As “Playin’ in the Band,” begins, Donna joins the festivities. One of the highlights of this video is watching Jerry unload early in “Playin’” as Donna softly sways. Donna looks amazed by the guitar virtuosity of The Bearded One. Pigpen’s vocals impress during a swinging presentation of “Mr. Charlie.”

The Grateful Dead had difficulty capturing the X factor in recording studios throughout the years. On this occasion in Bremen, they were essentially performing a concert without a live audience, and the results were fabulous. Fifteen years later, the Dead successfully used this format of setting up as if they were performing live when they recorded In the Dark, which turned out to be their most successful commercial album.

A lively “One More Saturday Night” is followed by a second serving of “Playin’ in the Band.” Redundancy is not an issue here as the band doles out another wild and wicked round of improvisation—fusion fireballs galore. TV for Tivoli (4-17-72) and Beat-Club both feature essential footage of the Dead during this legendary tour. The Tivoli segment is more song-oriented. Beat-Club rages with numerous flights of free-flowing improvisation.

Since this wasn’t a live show, a song could be restarted when the musicians weren’t feeling it. There were minor missteps early on in “Sugaree,” the second “Playin’,” and “Truckin’.” The Grateful Dead could play through anything, but on these occasions, they proclaimed a mulligan and started over. The “Truckin’” jam was cooking along, but the band skipped the chorus reprise and let their drummer lead them into “The Other One.” A clock was ticking out their allotted stage time.

The last “Other One” on 4-16-72 was a twisted tease of anticipation without the volcanic eruptions associated with this tune. The Beat-Club rendition is the complete opposite. The band blasts away from the get-go and there’s an abundance of succulent “Other One” meat. Garcia’s shrieking leads blaze a trail through a path of pounding bass detonations. The jam dissolves, reorganizes, and strengthens before Weir sings, “Spanish lady comes to me she lays on me this rose.”

Between verses there’s an aural inferno before the jam dissolves into a dreamlike state, drifting in and out of consciousness—time out of mind terrain. With a subtle shifting of tempo, the jamming becomes more furious than before—Garcia’s searing leads spiral round and round in a tight blizzard of sound. “Escaping through the lily fields I came across an empty space,” howls Weir. On this day, Apollo 16 landed on the lunar highlands of the moon. All this cosmic improv captures the flavor of the day. Back in Bremen, the Grateful Dead’s allotted studio time is almost done. Instead of an abrupt ending, the band noodles away as they resist the temptation of breaking into a new tune before improvising a climactic instrumental fanfare.

As the Dead pushed into the heart of Europe, they would now be playing for audiences that spoke and understood less English. Their first show for a German audience was on April 24 in Rhinehalle in the town of Dusseldorf. In 2004, this concert was officially released on CD as Rockin’ the Rhein with the Grateful Dead. The Dead opened with “Truckin’” and followed with “Tennessee Jed.” It’s a wonderful one-two punch that introduced Dusseldorf to their long, strange American trip, and then the narrative zeroed in on a guy named Jed and his longing for the state of Tennessee.

There’s another solid mid-set offering of “China Cat” > “Rider”. By design, it seems like Jerry’s laying back on these European versions to create a certain vibe and sound that shines a light on the contributions of Bobby and Keith. After this tour, restraints were forsaken. Garcia went off on extended “Cat” jams, especially 1973 through 1974.

In the second half of the 4-24-72 opening set we get another torrid “Playin’ in the Band” with a resounding ending jam. The extra “Playin’” practice at the Beat-Club paid dividends. Pigpen and Jerry hammer the blues in a noteworthy “Next Time You See Me,” and a train ride on cocaine puts the set to rest.

An upbeat “He’s Gone” with two stinging Jerry solos ignites set two. The “Goin’ where the wind don’t blow so strange” bridge isn’t part of the song yet, but these neophyte versions of “He’s Gone” are a treat to listen to. Picking up off their excellent previous set performance of “Next Time You See Me,” the band digs into “It Hurts Me Too.” Pigpen’s channeling the pain and Jerry’s bending strings and draining all the blues his guitar can muster. After “El Paso,” the Dead transport Dusseldorf to a place where mankind has never been before.

Liftoff is smooth as the Grateful Dead enter the celestial space of “Dark Star.” The optimistic mood shifts as the music becomes dark and heavy. The band’s advancing rapidly without a compass. Gravity, time, and reason are suspended. The sounds lead the jam into a black hole. The band rallies with furious playing to find their way back to the melody line. As Jerry sings, his voice grabs and hangs onto the first word, “Darrrrrrk star crashes.”

“Shall we go, you and I while we can? Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds,” sings Jerry, and then the Dead open the trapdoor to another universe. They are way out there, floating trillions of miles from Mother Earth. Phil’s in his glory, guiding the symphony with bass runs and bombs. Garcia’s noodling lights up the sky like a crowded constellation. Billy and Phil push, pull, and stretch the musical landscape. Garcia’s guitar velocity becomes terrifying. We are headed toward an abyss enveloped in a vortex. Keith and Bobby add essential stokes to the madness. Is this art, an experience, or an experiment? It’s all three, a musical mind-melt of the highest degree in terrain that only the Grateful Dead could navigate.

Imagine a twenty-year-old German fan coming to this show in Dusseldorf on April 24. Let’s call him Franz; the classic rock fan who has only heard a few Grateful Dead songs on the radio. Franz would be expecting a rock and roll show where the band leader whips the crowd into a frenzy as they introduce the band’s anthems and then play them as they had in the studio: “Casey Jones,” Truckin’,” and “Friend of the Devil.” That would be groovy.

But unless someone dosed Franz with some of Owsley’s primo acid, listening to this “Dark Star” will be a bizarre experience, possibly bordering on boring. This is the antithesis of giving the audience what it wants. Even a European Deadhead in the crowd might be confused by this outrageous musical exploration. Where did these guys get the balls to play this kind of music in front of any audience?

The Grateful Dead had an artistic drive and devotion that mirrored legends like Bob Dylan and Miles Davis. Trusting and following their musical instincts was paramount. If their records sold, or the audience enjoyed their live performances, that was great. But these heroic performers weren’t going to be shaped by the expectations of record producers or their fans. Dylan stood tall when he went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival as he broke the hearts of those in the folk movement who loved him. Miles Davis changed the direction of jazz with his groundbreaking fusion album Bitches Brew, although many old-school jazz fans and fellow musicians felt betrayed. Throughout their careers, Dylan and Miles never flinched; they always followed their artistic instincts, and the world of music is light-years the better for their conviction.

The Grateful Dead never really had a Newport or Bitches Brew moment. They benefited from not being as commercially popular as Dylan or Miles early in their careers. Learning how to play as a band during the Acid Tests set the Dead out on an unpaved road without speed limits, highway signs, or exit ramps. And their rabid and unique fan base supported the band’s every move unconditionally. But for the Dead to be playing this kind of music in front of European audiences was beyond brazen.

Back in Rhinehalle, after twenty-five minutes of “Dark Star” disorientation, Weir strums a familiar rhythm and sings, “Me and my uncle, went riding down, South Colorado, West Texas bound.” Garcia’s picking is attentive on this nice little version, but it doesn’t pull the band out of the “Dark Star” vortex. However, upon return, the band can explore “Dark Star” anew. With early hints of “Wharf Rat,” the jam takes a euphoric turn as it moves rapidly in various directions. As if they’re peaking on a collective trip, they pull out pieces of past jams and weave them together. There’s a touch of everything in here: “Caution,” “The Eleven,” “Alligator,” “Other One,” “Uncle John’s Band.” It even sounds like they’re time traveling and previewing traces of future tunes like “Throwing Stones.” Anything’s possible in the “Dark Star” framework.

After fifteen minutes of further “Dark Star” disorientation, Garcia’s clearly playing the song’s melody line. It sounds like Jerry’s headed towards the second verse, but he flicks the switch and a mellifluous segue leads to “Wharf Rat.” They are still deep in the haze as they glide through the “Rat.” Jerry sings sweetly on this odd version that offers little in the way of jamming. A hypnotic spell has been cast over Dusseldorf.

A more appropriate title for the official release would have been “Blowin’ Minds in the Rein.” Finally, the Dead rock the Rein with a “Sugar Magnolia,” “NFA” > “GDTRFB” > “NFA,” “One More Saturday Night” finale. The best jam of that grouping belongs to “Sugar Magnolia.” What a wonderful and weird evening it was in Dusseldorf!

The band’s Bozo and Bolo busses arrived in Frankfurt on April 26 to play a show at Jahrhunderthalle. As the Dead locked into a groove of inspired playing show after show, they were now performing in some of the finest venues in Europe. Describing Jahrhunderthalle in a 1997 interview, Bob Weir said, “It looks like a regular concert hall, made out of wood and velvet and stuff like that, but it’s made entirely out of plastic. It’s a great-sounding little hall too.”

The gig was the first show from this tour selected for an official release. Hundred Year Hall, a two-CD compilation from 4-26-72, was released shortly after Jerry’s death in 1995. Hundred Year Hall includes fifteen of the twenty-eight songs performed that night in Frankfurt. There have been errors in various sources as to how many songs the Dead played in the first set of 4-26-72. The correct answer is twenty, the most of any set from this tour. Savor this list:

  1. Bertha
  2. Me and My Uncle
  3. Mr. Charlie
  4. He’s Gone
  5. Black-Throated Wind
  6. Next Time You See Me
  7. China Cat >
  8. I Know You Rider
  9. Jack Straw
  10. Big Railroad Blues
  11. Playin’ in the Band
  12. Chinatown Shuffle
  13. Loser
  14. Beat it on Down the Line
  15. You Win Again
  16. El Paso
  17. Tennessee Jed
  18. Greatest Story Ever Told
  19. The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion)
  20. Casey Jones

My favorite portion of this overwhelming set is the five songs before “Casey Jones.” The second Europe ’72 performance of “You Win Again” is short and charming. Jerry’s buttery licks segue into honky-tonk piano chopping from Keith. Now that they’re down South in Hank Williams’ country, the Dead dish out edgy renditions of “El Paso” and “Tennessee Jed.”

It’s “Story” time in Frankfurt. The Dead wisely ride their momentum into a diabolical “Greatest Story Ever Told.” Jerry storms ahead as the band scrambles to keep up with their inspired leader. Garcia’s en fuego from the get-go. He steps into overdrive and never takes his foot off the gas. The first “The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion)” of the tour follows. It’s a heavy Pigpen original, and like “Mr. Charlie,” it fit in well with the direction the band was headed. Ensuing versions of “The Stranger” improved as the tour rolled on.

Pigpen and company kick off set two with a rowdy romp through “Good Lovin’,” followed by a fine version of “Dire Wolf.” The stage is set for masterpiece theater. As is common practice on this tour, Weir delivers his “Truckin’” preamble, “To the benefit of you chart watchers out there, this here song that we’re going to do now rose straight to the top of the charts, that’s Number One, Numero Uno, Big Apple, in Turlock, California. That’s a fact, you can check it out. You may never heard of it, but they love it there.”

Frankfurt would soon be loving “Truckin’” too. Garcia’s licks fill the space between and underneath Weir’s emphatic singing. The band delivered excitement and flawless execution on this tune all tour. As the band progresses through the instrumental crescendo, Garcia’s firing on all cylinders—rampage city. The jam rises, falls, and rises again. The jam after the chorus reprise is concise and robust as it pivots towards “The Other One.” Billy takes his drum solo and then Phil’s rumbling blasts incite a thirty-six-minute “Other One.”

There’s no teasing here as Jerry and the boys unleash a series of aural tornados. One surge fuels the next surge—atomic jamming. Suddenly, there’s a decision to reverse course. It’s all purposeful as Garcia’s guitar streams like a summer breeze. Weir works up some funky chords and the jam dissipates into a peaceful abyss.

As a listener, you’re stripped of your sense of place. Did Bobby sing the first verse yet? Where am I? Does the band know where they are? Seemingly out of nowhere, Bobby sings: “Spanish Lady come to me she lays on me this rose.”

Phil’s conducting the symphony and Garcia’s garrulous guitar work shines on as they toy with the song’s melody line. Phil suggests a “Clementine” jam and the band joyfully rides that theme for a while. The Grateful Dead have lots of time to burn so they go into orbit—shrieking grinding noises and some “Tiger” space. They don’t overstay their welcome in never ever land—lots of jazzy jamming follows. They glide back into “Other One” terrain and the jam is lean, mean, long, and linear. This rendition meets all the requirements to be classified as a masterpiece.

“The Other One” segues into a sublime “Comes a Time,” which transitions into “Sugar Magnolia.” This amazing block of music makes up disc two of Hundred Year Hall. It’s been a long and rewarding evening of music, and the Grateful Dead are ready to punctuate this show with an exclamation point.

Another Pigpen tour breakout, “Turn on Your Love Light,” sets Frankfurt on fire. Garcia’s breaking away from the pack as his mates tear it up. This combines the frenetic energy of a ’69 version with the gleaming virtuosic mastery of the Dead’s ’72 sound. The jam spins hotter, faster, and quicker. Pigpen settles in for his second verse and the band backs him call-and-response style. The music almost comes to a stop after Pig passes on a rap. Garcia sparks the instrumental back up with some bluesy licks. Clear the tracks! Here comes the Love Light Express.

“Love Light” mixes with “Caution,” “Mystery Train,” and any song that has a locomotive pulse. Fierce jamming rolls to a danceable beat. The breaks are disabled, the music’s out of control. Bobby, Billy, and Phil pound as hard as they can. During one segment, Weir and Garcia cook up a funky rhythm—ghosts of Isaac Hayes and Shaft. This nine-minute instrumental is considered part of this seventeen-minute “Turn on Your Love Light,” but it’s really a breakaway jam on its own. Garcia suggests a “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” riff. It seems like the right connection.

On this enchanted eve in Frankfurt, the band’s truculent in their approach. Everything will sound good, even as they debate the next tune. After Jerry tosses out some “GDTRFB” melody lines, Billy strikes a “Not Fade Away” beat, and Bobby and Jerry follow suit. After such an impressive and long set, an entire “NFA” > “GDTRFB” > “NFA” is highly unlikely. Jerry again baits the hook with “GDTRFB” as the rest of the band toys around with “Not Fade Away.” Eventually, the tug-of-war ends with a satisfying version of “GDTRFB”. “One More Saturday Night” rocks the set to conclusion.

After two nights off, the band resumes their psychedelic bombardment of West Germany with a gig in Hamburg’s Musikhalle. Europe’s vast history fascinated and influenced the band all tour. Lesh, a classical music aficionado, was thrilled to learn that Johannes Brahms had conducted symphonies in this very hall. “Playin’ in the Band” and “Sugaree” start the festivities as the Grateful Dead continued to find ways to change the dynamics of their sets. Hamburg gets socked with a “Playin’” blitzkrieg before they get a chance to settle in. There are fine performances of “Big Boss Man,” “Jack Straw,” and “Big Railroad Blues” as the fourteen-song set unfolds. Overall, this show doesn’t have the momentous sweep of the first two shows in Germany. However, this is Europe 1972, and there’s always something epic looming in set two.

“Greatest Story” gets the engines pumping to start set two. The “Going where the wind don’t blow so strange” bridge was added to “He’s Gone” in the second hole. It wasn’t all that smooth on this night, but the “He’s Gone” bridge was an essential addition to what would become a Dead anthem. A leisurely paced “Next Time You See Me” was a prelude to the evening’s main course.

It’s “Dark Star” night, and Jerry’s euphoric noodling dominates early. The Hamburg rendition is one of the prettiest you’ll ever hear. Jerry’s leads sparkle, shimmy, and pile on top of each other—a parade of loveliness. The good vibrations lead to a “Feelin’ Groovy” jam. Garcia’s steaming and streaming. The cheerfulness must dissipate, as the Dead need to slip into the black hole of “Dark Star.” The music floats serenely, nothing too abstract or weird, and then Jerry triumphantly leads them to verse.

Garcia’s garrulous guitar picks up the conversation where he left off before verse. Garcia discovers water in space, and he goes for a scuba dive. As his licks snorkel on, Phil’s bass rapidly bubbles below. Weir and Garcia exchange funky rhythm runs. Billy’s intense drumming introduces a swinging jazz segment. The gripping jam proceeds fluidly until it lands in “Tiger” space. Every movement succeeds without anything being overbaked. As if they’ve satisfied their mandatory allotted European “Dark Star” time limit, the transition to “Sugar Magnolia” happens precisely at the thirty-minute mark.

After a lively charge through the “Sugar Mag” verse, Weir proclaims, “Rock and roll!” Jerry obliges by breaking out the steam shovel. It’s a very hot and wonderfully performed “Mag” that easily could have been selected for the Europe ’72 album. A driving blues stampede through “Caution” segues into “One More Saturday Night” to end the set. Hamburg is treated to an “Uncle John’s Band” encore, the first of the tour. There are a few cobwebs on this encore, but everybody’s favorite uncle was back in the mix.

As the Bozos and Bolos rolled across Continental Europe, the musical rewards of the tour soared. The tapes reveal a series of never-ending musical peaks. The four West Germany shows smoked, but surprisingly, the band didn’t play “Ramble on Rose,” the sweetest of new Jerry ballads there. The Dead’s next advance was into France, with a pair of shows in Paris.

Howard Weiner’s Europe ’72 Revisited: 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead’s Legendary Tour is available now.