32 years ago tonight, the Grateful Dead played their first show of 1987 with a hometown performance at San Francisco Civic Auditorium, which would later be renamed the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in honor of the famous concert promoter. Unbeknownst to the band and their then-growing legion of Deadheads at that time, the concert would start a year which would see the arrival of the only top-10 single of their career, “Touch of Grey”, which set the band on a course towards a level mainstream popularity they’d never experienced in the first 20+ years of their career. Also unbeknownst to them and their fans, the January 28th, 1987 performance heard the band cover The Beatles‘ “Get Back” for the first and only time in their career.
The show that night featured a mix of fan-favorites from the Dead catalogue, as the band opened with “Shakedown Street” and filled the rest of their two sets and encore with “Row Jimmy”, “Bird Song”, “Jack Straw”, “He’s Gone”, “Eyes of the World”, “Sugar Magnolia”, and “U.S. Blues”, just to name a few. Their performance of “Get Back” was arguably the highlight of the night, and came in as just the second song of the night behind a 13-minute “Shakedown Street”.
The band stuck pretty close to the song’s original performance structure established by the “Fab Four” when it was released as a single in April 1969, just a few months prior to the arrival of the Dead’s own Aoxomoxoa LP. Bob Weir took the vocal duties, although he did have to stretch his vocal range to the point of almost cracking during the verses. It’s strange to think that the Dead only covered the popular Beatles tune once throughout their 30-year run, particularly considering that its country-drawn rock sound is sonically in line with their own. Deadheads and Beatles fans can check out the video below to hear the performance of their 1987 live cover.
Grateful Dead – “Get Back” [The Beatles cover] – 1/28/1987
[Video: Kevin Tobin]
Setlist: The Grateful Dead | San Francisco Civic Auditorium | San Francisco, CA | 1/28/87
Set One: Shakedown Street, Get Back*, Peggy-O, Walkin’ Blues, It Must Have Been the Roses, It’s All Over Now, Row Jimmy, My Brother Esau, Bird Song, Jack Straw
Set Two: When Push Comes to Shove, Samson and Delilah, Black Muddy River, He’s Gone, Spoonful, Drums, Eyes of the World, Black Peter, Around and Around, Sugar Magnolia
Encore: U.S. Blues
*Beatles cover, only time played by Grateful Dead