The Grateful Dead share new rare footage of 1989 concert
Credit: Warner Bros.

Revisit Jerry Garcia’s isolated guitar on ‘Bertha’ as part of The Grateful Dead’s 1972 show

We’re taking a look back at some unique audio which captures The Grateful Dead’s 1972 performance at Memorial Hall in Kansas City. It’s uniqueness lay in the fact that the audio is of the isolated guitar of Jerry Garcia.

The Grateful Dead’s live show is the stuff of legend. As famed for transporting you to another dimension as they were for relentlessly hitting the open road. The group quickly garnered a fierce live reputation after forming in the higher plains of the counterculture movement in San Francisco, back in 1965.

By 1972, The Grateful Dead were a formidable experience and led by Bob Weir, Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia the group began to cultivate a unique fandom. Deadheads are happy as can be when they’re on the road heading to the next show to watch a Dead gig. You’d think they’d get bored but if you know The Grateful Dead then you know that no two shows are ever the same.

It has become a vital part of the band’s iconography and one that is duly warranted. The group are the kings of the jam session and have always found singular ways to change up songs and generally let the ‘vibe’ guide the composition. It has led to some single songs lasting up to 48 minutes. The clip below is a little shorter but it’s no less an indictment of the band’s noodling power.

Brought to us as part of a series from YouTuber First Last, the audio is taken from the right channel of the mixing desk and predominantly features Garcia’s guitar. First Last has created some work to isolate Garcia’s guitar further and it makes for a fascinating listen. While you can find the entire show we thought we’d focus on ‘Bertha’.

Released the year prior as part of The Grateful Dead’s self-titled album, the track is a distillation of everything that was fascinating about the band in the early days. The track, not named after a mechanical fan in the band’s rehearsal room, was according to Robert Hunter, “some vaguer connotation of birth, death and reincarnation. Cycle of existences, some kind of nonsense like that.”

With this interpretation, the song manifests a much larger thematic discussion and makes references to Buddhist teachings as well as evoking the feeling of reincarnation. What’s really magical about the isolated guitar track below is that with this knowledge you can hear Garcia’s own instrumental interpretation.

To add further fuel to the fire, you can be sure that every member of The Grateful Dead are doing the exact same thing. And that’s what made the Dead one of the best live bands on the planet and kept Deadheads on the everlasting road.

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