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Over the course of two tours, an Eastern-rooted swing in the spring and a mostly Western and Midwestern trek in the fall, the Dead played what many consider the tightest, most consistently satisfying shows of their career.
"It's as close to a flawless Grateful Dead tour as I've ever heard," says band archivist David Lemieux.
"Everyone wanted to say, ' All right, this is the time to make a statement and not just be a psychedelic weirdo hippie band.'" As a record-company ad that year read, A NEW DEAD ERA IS UPON US – which, as the band would learn, was both a blessing and a dead were coming off a troubled few years.
In 1973, beloved founding member Ron "Pigpen" Mc Kernan had died as a result of a longtime drinking problem.
As the recording sessions started to drag throughout the winter of 1977 – and the band faced the possibility of not finishing the record before going on tour – Steve Parish, a member of the crew (and later Garcia's manager), came up with a novel idea: Nail the studio door shut. "But we were under the gun, and it kept the guys in there."The finished album, , was the Dead's most polished, professional effort to date, foreign adjectives that didn't necessarily thrill everyone in the band.
He really enjoyed the process."But the process was slow.
At Davis' suggestion, they agreed to work with a pop-oriented producer: Keith Olsen, who had just produced a huge hit album for Fleetwood Mac.
"We were trying to make a real record for Clive," says Hart.
For the Dead, Barton Hall was just another stop, and a fairly out-of-the-way one.
The only thing Donna Jean Godchaux remembers about it is how cold it was.
Rex Jackson, a member of the Dead's hardworking, hard-rocking crew, had died in a car accident in September 1976.