Playing in the Band
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|"Playing in the Band"|
|Song by Grateful Dead from the album Grateful Dead|
|Recorded||April 6, 1971|
|Venue||Hammerstein Ballroom, New York City|
|Grateful Dead track listing|
"Playing in the Band" is a Grateful Dead song. The lyrics were written by Robert Hunter and rhythm guitarist Bob Weir composed the music. The song first emerged in embryonic form on the self-titled 1971 live album Grateful Dead. It then appeared in a more polished form on Ace, Bob Weir's first solo album (which included every Grateful Dead member except Ron "Pigpen" McKernan).
It has since become one of the best-known Grateful Dead numbers and a standard part of their repertoire. According to Deadbase X, it would end up as the fourth-most played in concert Dead song in their long career with 581 performances (not counting isolated reprises), trailing only "Me & My Uncle", "Sugar Magnolia", and "The Other One".
"Playing in the Band" was introduced at least by the June 19, 1968, show from the Carousel Ballroom, in which it appears somewhat indistinct from the preceding and following jams. It was also included on Mickey Hart's 1972 Rolling Thunder solo album within "The Main Ten", making reference to the song's time signature of 10/4. "The Main Ten" appears on Dick's Picks Vol. 16, from their performance at the Fillmore West on November 8, 1969. On that set, it appears in the middle of "Caution (Do Not Stop On The Tracks)".
During the time of, and during their tour of Europe, "Playing in the Band" was moved around, in some cases starting the show, and in some cases during the second set. Second set versions of this song extended into the nine- to ten-minute range. By 1973, however, the song had solidified its position as a first set ending song, succeeding Casey Jones. By this stage the song could extend into the twenty-minute mark. A good example of "Playin'" as an extended first set closer is the 23 minute version performed on New Year's Eve (31 December), 1976, and released in 2007 on "Live at the Cow Palace". The longest live version of "Playing in the Band" ever performed was on 5/21/74 at the Hec Edmunson Pavilion in Seattle, Washington. This standalone version ran 46:26. By the 80s, the song would be a second set feature.
Beginning in the winter of 1973, the song would go on to begin or bookend a lot of the Dead's jam medleys. Evidence of this can be found on Dick's Picks; Volumes 20 & 24, and then again also The Grateful Dead Movie soundtrack. Usually if not always, Weir would alter the line "Some folks up in treetops / Just look to see the sights" to "Some folks up in treetops / Just looking for their kites."
- The Annotated "Playing In The Band" lyrics and commentary