Thursday, July 12, 2012

El Paso - Grateful Dead Song Review

El Paso is really notable for a couple of different reasons:

1. The Dead played it hundreds of times throughout almost every year from the song's introduction in 1979  right through 1995

2. Jerry basically solos the entire song (when he's not singing backing vocals on  the chorus)  - including right over Bobby's verses too

What's not to love? The song's melody is so infectious that it's an absolute classic (written by Marty Robbins). El Paso was a familiar and upbeat 1st set major key song. No wonder the boys relied on it so heavily.   I've never heard an El Paso where the band "stepped out" while jamming (ie playing outside the main key or adding rhythmic variations).  But, El Paso is an easy crowd pleaser and no doubt helped set the tone for some of the best shows in the Grateful Dead's history.

Here's a great version on youtube from Vegas 1994 (a show that I attended). Bobby is playing an acoustic and there's some great background vocals by Jerry on that video.

El Paso Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 8.7

Disclaimer: This is part of my blog that reviews all things Grateful Dead for fun. Music is a beautiful thing because it is so personal and subjective, so keep in mind that this is one man's opinion.


Sundar said...

Mike, Like you, I came of age in the 90s the Grateful Dead context at least. Yes I have always loved this song. An upbeat rhythm with some catchy undulations. I saw the boys just a few days before this show in Eugene, 94. That was huge for me. I saw them only once after that, in 95 Portland, where I sensed some very deep displacements...something was amiss...and a month or so later he was gone. So 94 always has a special place in my heart, for nostalgic reasons...doesn't beat 93, but still...

GiantsMetsOregon said...

I agree with everything you say; except I'm fairly sure that the song was introduced way before 1979. Bobby also used to do Marty Robbins' "Big Iron" with a few of his side project bands.

GDmike said...

I'll check Deadbase, but you're probably right.

GDmike said...

I saw most of my shows in 1994, and I have eagerly listened to everything from Eugene because I briefly moved up to Portland and had many friends at U of O. Eugene shows were awesome, my friends all raved about the energy and the scene.... you were STOKED to be there nice!!