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Best of China Cat Sunflower> I Know You Rider


The Best Versions Project differs from the lists in the Grateful Dead Taper's Compendium in what Ribot_for_President calls good taste and common sense. This project isn't necessarily definitive, and its not an invitation to debate. Its a list of solid versions that you all ought to hear. For more information about the processes used to create these lists, please check the, About the Projects section on the home page.

And now...

The Top 10 Versions of China Cat Sunflower> I Know You Rider

3/7/70 - Star Theatre, Phoenix, AZ - STREAM AUD

9/9/72 - Hollywood Palladium, Hollywood, CA - STREAM SBD

4/2/73 - Boston Garden, Boston, MA - STREAM SBD

5/26/73 - Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, CA - STREAM SBD

10/19/73 - Oklahoma City Fairgrounds Arena, Oklahoma City, OK - STREAM SBD

5/19/74 - Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR - STREAM SBD

6/26/74 - Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI - STREAM AUD

10/28/79 - Cape Cod Coliseum, South Yarmouth, MA - STREAM SBD

3/9/81 - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY - STREAM SBD; AUD

6/16/90 - Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA - STREAM SBD

Honorable Mention:

2/1/70 - The Warehouse, New Orleans, LA - STREAM SBD

12/6/73 - Cleveland Convention Center, Cleveland, OH - STREAM SBD

8/5/74 - Civic Convention Hall Auditorium, Philadelphia, PA - STREAM AUD

8/16/80 - Mississippi River Festival, Edwardsville, IL - STREAM AUD

9/20/90 - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY - STREAM SBD

Historically Significant:

9/30/69 - Cafe au Go-Go, New York, NY- First Pairing - STREAM AUD

8/27/72 - Old Renaissance Faire Grounds, Veneta, OR- Springfield Creamery Benefit - STREAM SBD

3/16/73 - Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY- First "Feelin' Groovy" segue jam - STREAM SBD

10/17/74 - Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA - STREAM SBD

12/29/77 - Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA - Post-Retirement Bustout - STREAM AUD

7/8/95 - Soldier Field, Chicago, IL- Last Time Played - STREAM SBD


In the first C>R thead, a contributor stated, "some of those early ChinaCat > The Eleven are pretty interesting, but I don't really reach for any versions prior to being paired w/ Rider. YMMV." My mileage does vary. The 3/16/68 Dark Star > China Cat Sunflower > The Eleven from So Many Roads d.1 is a particular fave. Other stand-alone CCSs (not an exhaustive list)...

2/23/68 & 2/24/68 - Dick's Picks #22:
DS > CCS > 11 > Lovelight
Alligator > CCS > 11 > Alligator > Caution

3/17/68 - Download Series #6:
New Potato Caboose > CCS > 11 > Caution

6/8/68 - Fillmore West Box Set Bonus CD:
He Was a Friend of Mine > CCS > New Potato Caboose

4/26/69 - Dick's Picks #26
Dupree's > Mtns > CCS > Doin' That Rag

11/8/69 - Dick's Picks #16
CCS > IKYR > High Time

But ultimately, it's all about the jams, and he is right that the China>Rider pairing is where it's at. What makes those early stand-alone versions so fun is the jams into and out of CCS (the seques into 11 are particularly exemplary), not CCS itself necessarily.

For the record, here are some stand-alone recs from The GD Taper's Compendium Vol.1...

China Cat Sunflower:
2/3/68 - Portland, OR
6/5/69 - SF, CA (followed by Sitting > Dark Star)

I Know You Rider:
7/3/66 - San Francisco, CA
5/2/70 - Binghamton, NY - Dicks Picks #8
5/15/70 - New York, NY
3/31/73 - Buffalo, NY (electric - wow!)


China Cat> Rider's Evolution:

So here we are, sifting through a near continuous stream of China Cat Sunflower->I Know You Rider spanning 22 years and well over 500 versions. Naturally, when something as significant to a person(s) life work involved a growing process, there is going to be a before and after period. With China Cat>Rider there are several before and afters, spotted throughout the years. While not an entirely unique characteristic for a song by this band, it does live in the upper echelon of the GD Pantheon.

The most significant before and after for this band involved the process by which they came upon the Weir driven end of China Cat that led the way into Rider. In later years, this would be complemented by a high screaming group of sustained notes from Garcia, ala 9/14/91, or 6/16/90. At the pairings inception this transition did not exist and the means by which they got from Point A to Point C varied night to night, sometimes just a slight variation on a previous theme, while others exhibited wild primal dead sections. Example of this type can be found on 12/5/69, 12/12/69, and 1/10/70. I lead from 1/10/70 because this is our first clear hint at the possibilities to be explored in the future. On 1/10 it is just a sprinkle, only a quick lick from Jer and/or Bob, but far from anything coherent or worse yet, cohesive. This version is also notable due to the 4:04 mark of China Cat, when the second important development took place, The addition of the Feelin’ Groovy Jam on 3/16/73, is woven into the fabric of the transition for the first time.

Just 3 weeks later on 2/10/70 it seems like someone in the band, crew, or at the shows, had made a point to mention the lick from 1/10/70. Because the initial stages of its development begin and remain part of the pairing’s evolution for the next year and a half. On this one, it is sloppy (when compared to a summer 72) but evident of a conscious attempt to revisit that same theme. Here again they teeter on the edge of a Feelin’ Groovy Jam. You can follow the path of the transition’s progression starting from 12/5/69 and listening to 1/10/70->2/10/70->3/1/70->3/7/70->6/6/70->7/11/70-8/19/70->10/4/70->10/23/70-10/28/70->2/19/71.

At 2/19/71 we pause. This may be a very significant point in the history of the tune, although it may also be 2/21/71. On these two nights a line in the sand is drawn. The fully formed, powerful Weir led, Garcia closing, ending of China Cat is established and with a few exceptions in the following summer such as 7/2/71, 7/31/71, the transition becomes their official vehicle to move from China Cat into Rider for the rest of their career. This is not to say that versions previous to 2/19/71 do not bear a strong resemblance, in fact it is quite the opposite. You can track this segment from date to date and actually listen to the thought process of the dead as they debate and discuss how to attack and weave their web. You can pinpoint moments where the next line in the passage is nailed down for the first time, and you know it, because it pops up at each night after. In the end it would take them appx 79 attempts before the whole thing gelled.

The extension of this form of analysis reveals that while those February 71 shows sealed what the mold would be, that the mold would need to be made of an amendable substance, just in case something needed to be dropped in. As the future of the Dead started defining itself in 1972 the timing of transition from China Cat changed a bit, it mostly resulted in a more thick full transition, less open to looseness and more directed at building tension until the release that was I Know You Rider. Great examples of this are 7/25/72, 8/21-24-27/72, and 9/9/72. The mold was re-shaped again soon after the final fine tuning of the summer and fall of 72 of the aforementioned transition. It seems, looking back to early 1970, that they had two avenues to take and they chose one and went with it. All the way, 100 times or more trying to make it as good as was possible. Then when they felt they had accomplished that, and just over a week after the loss of Pigpen, or a week to the day, depending on your opinion, with their entire world expanding and contracting while they sat and watched the goings on, the Feelin’ Groovy Jam made it’s first official appearance as the segment to provide the space between the transition jam, which became the real ending of China Cat, and Rider. This was the pinnacle, by 1974 they had taken both themes that emerged from their original 1969 and early 1970 jams and developed them into a tightly wound monster.

On 10/20/74, the Grateful Dead played their “last” show. Of course we now know they came back and were full time again by 1977. Between 10/20/74 and 2/3/79 the pairing was only played one time. That on 12/29/77. And never again did it, or any other Grateful Dead tune carry the Feelin’ Groovy Jam as an integral element in it’s life. Of course this is all just obsessive speculation on my part.

China Cat Sunflower

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Jerry Garcia

Look for a while at the China Cat Sunflower
proud-walking jingle in the midnight sun
Copper-dome bodhi drip a silver kimono
like a crazy-quilt star gown
through a dream night wind

China cat
China cat
China cat
China cat

Krazy Kat peeking through a lace bandana
like a one-eyed Cheshire
like a diamond-eyed jack
A leaf of all colors plays
a golden string fiddle
to a double-e waterfall over my back


Comic book colors on a violin river
crying Leonardo words
from out a silk trombone
I rang a silent bell
beneath a shower of pearls
in the eagle winged palace
of the queen Chinee


Note: The chorus appears in the studio version, but was dropped very early on in live performances (if indeed it was ever played live).

I Know You Rider

Lyrics: Traditional
Music: Traditional

I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
Gonna miss your baby, from rolling in your arms

Lay down last night, Lord, I could not take my rest
Lay down last night, Lord, I could not take my rest
My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the West

The sun will shine in my back door some day
The sun will shine in my back door some day
March winds will blow all my troubles away

I wish I was a headlight on a north-bound train
I wish I was a headlight on a north-bound train
I'd shine my light through the cool Colorado rain


Note: Early versions also included the following verse...
I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log
I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log
Than stay here in Frisco, be treated like a dog

The GD played the "China>Rider" pairing more than 500 times over the course of their 30 year career. But unlike some songs we've discussed, it was played well (with spirit and more than a few enthusiatic Garcia voice cracks in the "I wish I was a headlight" line) until the very end. Needless to say, this was a monumental undertaking that required weeks of hand-wringing for us to sort out. We were pretty undecided until yesterday, and I still sense some dissention among us. (Hopefully, the GD crew will chime in on this thread to suggest other versions that didn't quite make the official lists.)

The Annotated "China Cat Sunflower"
Lyrics & Background "I Know You Rider"