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The Bus Came By and We Got On:

Thoughts on the Evolution of "The Other One"

In its prime, the thunderous, howling roar of The Other One's

crescendo often came over us like a giant wave of anticipation. Building

to a climax, the elements of this song would blow in with a full head of

steam. The initial clues of its arrival might be locked in the space of

an ever-tightening drum solo, or they might emerge in the hidden motif of a

galloping jam out of Truckin'. On occasion, the song would come rumbling

out of the soft melody of a delicious, meandering Spanish Jam, or rise from

the epicenter of a pyrotechnic space encounter. Some of my favorite points

of entry were those that seemed to soar above time like eternity in heat

breaking free in the wake of a spiraling He's Gone jam. The opening chords

often announced the pace, intensity, and rhythm of the song. Always the

same gripping melody and effervescent lyrics, evaporating without a trace,

eclipsed by a photon jam or spatial maneuver suspended in a vacuum of

concentration. Galloping along at the leading edge of the spiral,

travelling deep into space, a cast of thousands would lose themselves in a

new sense of place, one well-suited to exploring new frontiers of the soul.

A classic Other One could mean only one thing: here we are, alive and

dancing at the edge of the abyss.

I. Opening Up A Space for Transformation

That's It For The Other One stood for many years as a signature

song of the Grateful Dead experience. Each new iteration reflected stages

in the band's musical development. In its prime, this song could strike

like lightning, and it often gave the band a powerful vehicle for

discharging the effluent surplus of its Dionysian spirit. More

importantly, The Other One served as a proving ground for the band's

dynamic approach to musical exploration. The growth of the improvisational

components of this song often foreshadowed developments in the jam

structure of songs chomping at the bit to "break out" (like Born

Cross-Eyed, Truckin', Playin' in the Band, Eyes of the World, Let it Grow).

But by 1973, this role was shifting to other songs (most notably Playin'

in the Band, Eyes of the World, and of course, Space itself). From this

point on (and especially in the post-hiatus period), The Other One began to

settle into a more predictable format, exhibiting an ebb and flow of

intensity and concentration that more or less matched the creative and

dynamic energies of the band.

The original suite of tunes (Cryptical Envelopment=>Quodlibet for

Tenderfeet=>Cryptical Reprise) arrived on the scene in the Fall of 1967,

with a standout version from the Shrine Auditorium shows of November 9th

and 10th quickly establishing this as a song in tune with the temporal

structure of the times. The earliest known version on tape seems to be

from the Marijuana Defense benefit at Winterland on October 22, 1967.

These early versions open with a classically ambiguous, heartfelt

announcement reflected in the voice of an epic storyteller:

"The other day they waited

their breath was cold and baited

solemnly they stated

he had to die

he had to die...

And all the children learning

from books that they were burning

every leaf was turning

to watch him die

well, you know he had to die...

The summer sun looked down on him

his mother could but frown on him

and all the others sound on him

but it doesn't seem to matter...

And when the day had ended

the rainbow colors blended

his mind remained unbended

he had to die

he had to die"

===>and then off they would go into a brief (but soon to be expanded)

version of Quodlibet for Tender Feet. Galloping along at a full gait along

the leading edge of the curve, this structured portion of the song was

initially an instant, well-measured jam with a fairly tight space for

instrumental improvisation, usually guided by the loose cannon on lead

guitar who seemed hell bent on forging pathways for his fellow riders.

Background pulses from Pigpen's organ held the song in time while Phil's

bass oscillated across the wavelengths opened up by Jerry's soaring guitar

work. The drums gave the song a rhythmic balance teetering on the edge of

instability, and operated like herd dogs to keep the musical movement

within recognizable boundaries. After a few minutes, a sudden new twist

would be added to the lyrical tale (an early cumbersome version of this

tale would be refined and clipped to a more concise and essential form by

Februrary 14, 1968, as reflected on Anthem of the Sun; see Volume I, p.

144 for a snapshot of these early lyrics. ): in the midst of the Quodlibet

jam, up would swell a lyrical wave reflecting a first-person account of a

classically "mind-unbending" experience,

"Spanish lady come to me

she lays on me this rose

it rainbows spiral round and round

trembles and explodes

left a smoking crater of my mind

I like to blown away

the heat came round

and busted me for smilin'

on a cloudy day."

"comin', comin', comin' around

comin' around...."

"I was driven through the lily fields

when I came across an empty space

it trembled and exploded

left a bus stop in its place

the bus came by and I got on

that's when it all began

Cowboy Neal at the wheel

of the bus to never ever land"

"comin', comin', comin' around, comin' around

comin' around, comin' around...."

The seamless return of the epic story teller hems in the dramatic energy of

this first person narrative account and leaves us to ponder the meaning and

consequence of this mind altering experience:

"and when the day had ended

with rainbow colors bendin'

his mind remained unbended

he had to die...."

In the early 1968 versions, a short exit jam would quickly transform into a

rhythmic version of New Potato Caboose, and off they would go. By early

1969, this exit jam (called Cryptical Reprise) had grown considerably in

power and intensity, often evoking the feel of a magnificent stormy sunset

cast as a poignant coda to this tale of growth and death. From early 1969

through the late Spring of 1970, Cryptical Reprise often deserved the

acknowledgement of its very own exclamation point. Classic versions abound

from this period, beginning with the Fillmore West shows in late

February/early March (especially 2/28 and 3/01) and picking up a constant

head of steam straight through the May 1970 shows, as evidenced (in

spades!) by the 2-13-70 and 5-15-70a Fillmore East shows and the stunning

5-02-70 show in Binghamton.

Indeed, the entire Quodlibet=>Cryptical Reprise sequence was

acquiring dramatic new proportions during this period. Stellar versions

from late '69 and early '70 were clearly feeding on the anger and tension

reflected in the increasing hostility of the surrounding political

atmosphere. The space motifs within the Quodlibet jam were now driven by a

complex interplay of instruments working without the structure of a

conscious guiding hand. They would emanate primarily from Phil Lesh and

Captain Trips, the two players most adept at entangling their bandmates and

riveted audiences in one epic space excursion after another (notable

versions occurring on 6-21-69, 12-30-69, 1-03-70b, and 6-24-70a).

While the growth of this interplay can be felt in a few versions

from the latter half of 1970 (listen to 9-18-70), major transformations

were to emerge in 1971 as The Other One started to eclipse Dark Star as the

space vehicle of choice (as reflected in the well jammed versions from

4-28-71, 7-02-71, 8-06-71, 8-15-71, 10-29-71, and the full-blown

extravaganza from 11-12-71). Here the band began to stretch out the jams,

moving with seamless translation between jam and spatial motifs. With Keith

Godchaux on board, the song burst into full bloom during 1972 (I would

recommend the versions from 4-11-72, 5-10-72, 5-26-72, 9-09-72, and

12-10-72 (my first of many encounters), and especially the crackling, often

explosive jams from 4-26-72, 9-17-72, 9-28-72, and 12-31-72). In most

respects, the creative expansion of this song reached its pinnacle during

the summer of 1973 (exemplified in the versions from 5-13-73, 5-20-73,

5-26-73, 6-22-73, and 6-29-73). By the fall of 1973, the song was

beginning to wander. Perhaps the jamming potential had lost its political

edge with the changing political tide.

There would be a few worthy capstone performances from 1974 (most

notably 5-12-74, 8-06-74, 10-17-74, and 10-20-74), but the space vehicle

was shifting to explorations of the still uncharted territories of Playin'

in the Band, and the jamming energy was locked into expanded versions of

Truckin', Eyes of the World, and Let it Grow. These were songs that would

develop into major vehicles for intensifying the Grateful Dead sound,

especially when the band returned from its hiatus. But the jamming

intensity of these songs could not replace the exploratory dynamics of The

Other One as a vehicle for space exploration. Ironically, this is

reflected in the transformation of The Other One itself. After the hiatus,

The Other One became a more concentrated, compact jam-based song. Though

still introduced by the now familiar string of explosive bass chords from

Lesh, The Other One was now played through without the depth and attunement

to complex exploration that had been so important to the maturing of its

structure in the early 1970's. To the trained ear, this signaled major

changes in the band as a whole, and as the new sounds emerged, The Other

One was clearly assimilated into the resulting jam motifs, destined to

become just another song among songs. There would be a few stellar

versions along the way (most notably 7-17-76, 5-21-77, 11-01-77, 11-04-77,

11-05-77, 2-05-78, 8-13-79, 10-27-79, 12-05-79, 6-27-83, 8-19-89, 10-20-89,

and 5-06-90), but these were primarily a reflection of the shifting

emphasis from exploration to performance. The momentum of the show was now

driving the band, and the bus was caught in the vortex. The explosive

potential of the Quodlibet jam was especially prominent during the Fall

tours of 1977 and 1979, with some carefully developed approaches capped off

by a solid crescendo that could only peak the crowd meter (11-05-77,

8-13-79, and 12-05-79 stand out in this regard). By the early 1980's the

energy of the band was shifting to Fire on the Mountain, Shakedown, and the

rock and roll codas to the post-drums run of tunes.

II. The Mind Altering Experience Becomes Our Own

The 1969-73 musical development of The Other One (much like the

1969-70 versions of Dark Star) was remarkable for the affect it had on the

way people think and experience. On one level, the spacejams from this

period were drawing us out of the box into a space of attunement rich in

complexity and ambiguity. The intensive concentration required to follow a

maturing version of The Other One into Grateful Dead space was literally

"occupying" us. In the process, it played a remarkable role in

transforming our capacity to reflect on who we were becoming, what we were

experiencing in our lives, and what to make of our surrounding world. The

crucial element of this experience was being caught in the present without

the mediating interlude of language. When the band was on, we were on.

Being "on" meant living in a mindspace subtended by the musical interplay.

It meant being caught in animated suspension at the intersection of a

steady run of highly punctuated, often exploratory bass notes and a wild,

sometimes eerie cataclysm of high-end guitar notes, often played out

against an ethereal jazz background of percussion, keyboards and Weir's

exploratory, often discordant, guitar riffs. From the spring of 1969

through the summer of 1973, The Other One was a stellar vehicle for

transporting us to this magical space.

By Jim Tuedio

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