In 1995, Bob Dylan wrote the following about the recent and untimely demise of legendary Grateful Dead bandleader Jerry Garcia: “There’s a lot of spaces and advances between The Carter Family, Buddy Holly and, say, Ornette Coleman—a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle.”
This gracious and profound observation can be applied to the band as a whole, as well. The Dead were many bands - a blues band, a jazz band, a rock band, a country band, an experimental band - sometimes all within the span of a single show. Hard as it may be to believe now, but in the summer of 1989, the Grateful Dead were at the height of their popularity following the unexpected success of their 1987 album In the Dark. The Dead played 74 shows in 1989, and helped secure their status as one of the biggest touring acts in history, behind only the Rolling Stones and the Who.
Fathom Events is teaming up with Rhino Entertainment to release a one-night only screening of the Dead’s never-before released July 12th, 1989 concert at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium. The screening will be on August 1st, which would have been Jerry Garcia’s 75th birthday. (Click here for more information.)
Digital Revolution had the pleasure (and challenge) of digitizing five 1” videotape masters of the concert for the film. 1” analog videotape was a popular mastering format in the 1980’s. With four channels of audio it is an oxide based tape. Oxide based tapes gain moisture over time. If the tapes are not baked before playback they could exhibit “sticky-shed syndrome.” This is when the oxide (the actual recording) rips off of the tape as it is being played.
At Digital Revolution, we baked the 28-year old tapes prior to digitization. Then we played them back using our Ampex VPR 3 with a Zeus Time Base Corrector. (Top of the line gear back then.) Fortunately, these masters were properly stored, and are now digitized and archived. 1989 is considered a peak year for the Grateful Dead, and the 7/12/17 RFK Stadium show includes some rarities. For example, four members sang four different solo songs during the show’s first set, including a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” Plus, singer and keyboardist Bruce Hornsby (who has played with - among many others - Hall & Oates and Dave Matthews Band) joins the band on two songs. Hornsby would go on to join the Dead on keyboards after the tragic death of Brent Mydland in 1990.
This landmark show from this iconic American band could have been lost had the tapes been stored somewhere just a bit more damp, or if too much more time had gone by. Now, this Grateful Dead show has been preserved for the ages. Enjoy the show!