Gone Digital: Grateful Dead, BERTHA (Live at The Fillmore East, New York, NY 4/27/71)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

It was April 27, 1971, when Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Grateful Dead hit the stage at the Fillmore East in New York City. The band's performance of "Bertha" from that night kicks off Grateful Dead (Skull and Roses) Expanded Edition, the forthcoming reissue of the group's beloved second double-live album.

"Kicking off Skull & Roses, 'Bertha' is the first official recording of a Garcia-Hunter song since the remarkably strong batch of 1970's double bill of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, and it certainly keeps up the A-level songwriting from the previous year's magnificent output," David Lemieux said via Youtube. "'Bertha' remained an important part of the Dead's live repertoire, played consistently from 1971 to 1995, a testament to both how much the band loved playing it, and how much Dead Heads loved hearing it."

"'Bertha' I think is probably some vaguer connotation of birth, death, and reincarnation," Jerry Garcia told 92.1 WLIR in New York back in 1978. "Cycle of existences, some kind of such nonsense like that. I wouldn't be surprised, but then again, it might not be."

"Well, there is a real Bertha, but the real Bertha was not a she, the real Bertha was an it," Garcia said a year later to WMMR in Philadelphia. "The real Bertha was this sort of military spec fan - that is to say the kind that spins around and you plug into the wall that we used to have in our old office. The thing had something that was like - must have been a drill motor press put on it - you know, an incredible high speed motor that was adapted to this fan, and when you plugged it in, it pushed the body of the fan across the room. It wouldn't stay in one place and circulate air, it actually propelled itself, and this thing would bump into the walls, and it was just incredible, you know, this huge, overpowered fan. And we called it Bertha." 

Grateful Dead (Skull and Roses) Expanded Edition is set for release on June 25, 2021. Listen to "Bertha" live below.

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