Saturday, August 3, 2013

Grateful Dead: Sugar Magnolia

For our Bubbling Under Hit this Saturday, we turn to a group with immense popularity but who had only one Top 40 hit. The Grateful Dead is not typically known as a singles band. Of the several singles the band had released, “Touch of Grey” not only broke into the Top 40, but it also was a Top 10 release in the US.

Five additional singles charted within the Hot 100 and today we are featuring the one that preformed the worst of that number peaking at #91. Ironically, it was the second most often performed song by the Dead and is a favorite among fans. While it appears on a number of bootlegs and commercial releases, two versions are notable: its initial studio version from “American Beauty” and a live version that was edited for single release from the triple album set “Europe ’72.”

It is that particular version that we will initially feature as it was the single edit that charted. The longer album version featured here was recorded on May 4, 1972 at the Olympia Theatre in Paris. Because the vocals on the original live recordings were often problematic, the band overdubbed their harmonies direct to the same track that held their vocals. “Europe ’72” was the last LP to feature Ron “Pigpen” McKernan as he would die in 1973.

American Beauty

“Sugar Magnolia” was written by Bob Weir and Robert Hunter and was inspired by Weir’s longtime girlfriend Frankie. The song was originally released on the 1970 studio album “American Beauty.”

Although “Truckin’”/“Ripple” was the single release from the album, “Sugar Magnolia” received a considerable amount of album rock airplay. “Sugar Magnolia” was also featured on a five song EP that Warner Brothers issued for jukebox play.

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