The Who’s Pete Townshend joins Grateful Dead for ‘Wharf Rat’ on Rockpalast in 1981
The Grateful Dead have jammed with pretty much everyone worth their weight in rock ‘n’ roll gold and beyond. The iconic jam band have welcomed everyone from The Beach Boys to John Belushi to grab a guitar or some bongos and join them on stage to let loose and give the audience a treat. A positive who’s who of the rock and roll world has graced the spotlight with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir.
On March 28th, 1981 the band welcomed another guest of seriously high-esteem as the principal songwriter and lead guitarist of The Who, Pete Townshend, meets the band on stage for a three-song set that had enough power to bring the entire house down.
The Grateful Dead were on tour (shockingly) in Europe following a short run at the Rainbow Theatre in London with a final show in the German city of Essen. The band left the English capital and made their way to the German city for a feature-length performance on the legendary TV show, Rockpalast.
The television show was at the height of its power and was managing to bring in some notable rock ‘n’ roll acts when they invited the West Coast counter-culture kings, The Grateful Dead to join them in front of the TV cameras. The band weren’t exactly the punk-fired acts the show had become accustomed to, but the Dead had an ace in the hole they were ready to breakout.
That ace was none other than lead guitarist Pete Townshend. While The Who may have been in a bit of a creative lull at the time, Townshend joined the Dead for a rollicking performance that proved he wasn’t done with rock and roll just yet. Despite his numerous issues, alongside the Dead, Townshend was once again feeling at home on the stage.
There’s an extended ‘Drums’ segment which highlights Bill Kruetzmann and Mickey Hart who were joined by The Flying Karamazov Brothers before Townshend joins at the end of the band’s second set. To see the guitarist once again enjoying himself harkens back to the time Bob Dylan was also invigorated by The Grateful Dead.
The great guitarist joined The Grateful Dead for the often covered ‘Not Fade Away’ and the performance is -near-perfect. It marks the colliding of two rock powerhouses. A collision that continues when the band begin the Garcia-led ‘Wharf Rat’ and the feistier Bob Weir number, ‘Around And Around’.
Townshend slipped off stage before The Grateful Dead closed out the performance with ‘Good Lovin’ but left a lasting impression on the audience both inside the studio and sitting at home. It may have been a brief encounter but the moment the Dead met Pete Townshend is still a brilliant clip to revisit.
So sit back and watch The Who’s Pete Townshend join The Grateful Dead for a three-song-set that marks both acts as legends.