When the Grateful Dead invaded German television


The Europe 72 tour was already well underway when the Grateful Dead pulled into the Bremen, West Germany. They had experienced a two weeks worth of hijinks, travel, and music by that point, but their biggest trip was about to take them into the strange confines of the legendary German music programme Beat-Club.

“We drive to Bremen tomorrow to tape a TV show called ‘Beat Club’ which is shown all over,” organist and vocalist Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan wrote in a letter to his family. “It’s sort of Germany’s American Bandstand but done a lot more tastefully, except there’s some law that says ya can’t dance in the studio, but we’ll get around it, and we have almost all the time we want, all afternoon & evening, so we can probably edit the tape and get the best performances for air-play.”

The Beat-Club was a landmark in television, providing most continental Europeans with their first look at major artists like Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper, Captain Beefheart, Fleetwood Mac, and David Bowie. The show was nearing the end of its run by the time the Grateful Dead arrived, and so it was decided that the group would play a quasi-set in front of the cameras. The audience was the band’s entourage and any station workers who happened to be floating around.

To try and get the blood flowing in the confines of a television studio, lyricist Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia’s partner Mountain Girl began to dance. “He and I both did that. But they didn’t want us in the studio,” Mountain Girl explained on the Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast. “That was the thing — the vibes were just kind of, ‘Get those people out of here.’ I think Bob may have stuck it out longer than I did. But we were trying to bring a little bit of life in there. It was pretty sterile.”

Throughout their time at the studio, the Grateful Dead wound up playing for around 80 minutes. That would make it one of the shortest Dead concerts of all time, but it greatly exceeded the average amount of time other bands would spend in the studio. The group played nine different songs, including two takes of ‘Playing in the Band’ and a full ‘Truckin’ > ‘Drums’ > ‘The Other One’ suite. In the end, only their performance of ‘One More Saturday Night’ made it onto television.

European viewers were getting a version of the Grateful Dead that wasn’t quite the real deal. The extended vamps that run through ‘One More Saturday Night’ are tempered down slightly for television consumption. Three of the band members have their names misspelt in the credits: the final “n” in Bill Kreutzmann’s is missing, Keith Godchaux’s surname has an extra “o” that makes it “Goodchaux”, and Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan’s last name was misinterpreted to become “McKerney”.

Check out the performance of ‘One More Saturday Night’ down below.

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