Europe '72

Tour History

Europe ’72 was important for other reasons, too. It represented an experiment in applying their philosophy of shaping their business practices in accordance with their artistic philosophy, and that meant traveling with their extended family, bringing along wives, girlfriends, children and friends as well as a full crew complement. This ensured that they had the inspiration, comfort, and expertise necessary to successfully create, and record, their legendary improvisational alchemy.

In order to pay for the trip, the Dead arranged to tape every show with a 16-track mobile recording truck. The resulting album, a three-LP release entitled Europe ’72, captured some of their finest playing and demonstrated the degree to which they could move seamlessly between their fire-breathing Live/Dead-era exploratory guise and their more roots-oriented American Beauty/Workingman’s Dead persona. Those tapes would later make possible several additional releases, culminating in the mammoth complete tour boxed set released in 2011.

The tour also represented a swan song for their first front man, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who largely relinquished keyboard duties for the tour to newcomer Keith Godchaux. McKernan performed only one more time with the band after their return to the states before his tragic death at age 27 only a few months later, on 8 March 1973. Europe ’72 provided a moving epitaph for him in the form of three new songs by McKernan, his last recorded efforts with the band.

Those originals are part of the tour’s appeal for fans, but the caliber of the performances is what cemented Europe ’72’s place in the band’s history. Garcia complained afterwards that the pacing had been wrong, with too much work for it to be a real vacation and too much vacation for it to be a truly successful musical experience, but that may help explain the marvelous range of emotion and musical textures heard on the recordings. The energy of an enthusiastic (and well-rested) band, coupled with the leisurely determination to explore, mark the music the Dead performed in Europe as one of the peaks in their career. Overall, there is warmth and feel to the Europe ’72 shows that explain the eventual decision to release them in toto.

Going to Europe

The band’s  tour of Europe generated largely favorable press that often overlapped with the release of the live album documenting the tour, Europe ’72, which appeared only six months after the band returned to the states. This positive review of the LP also discussed the tour.

Grateful Dead group photo

For the Europe tour, the band’s legendary onstage chemistry was augmented—and challenged—by the addition of newcomers Donna Jean and Keith Godchaux.

Europe '72 Sticker

Designed by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, this sticker was included with the album Europe ’72, released in November, six months after the tour.

Time Out

The English press was especially enamored of the Dead, given the close relationship between the London and San Francisco countercultural/musical scenes of the late 1960s. The Dead’s arrival was a front-page story for many magazines and newspapers, including London’s Time Out.

Tour Itinerary

Planning for the tour was meticulous, as seen in the 28-page booklet provided to every member. The itinerary shown here mapped the ambitiousness of the undertaking.

Tour Personnel

Traveling in two buses, the Dead’s tour contingent comprised 46 people, from band to family and friends, engineers, roadies, lighting crew, and other staff.