Its unthinkable now. A crusty old rock band packing up family and crew to play a series of concerts at the Giza Necropolis. To kick out the jams at the last wonder of the ancient world. But in September 1978, that’s just what the Grateful Dead did.

To bankroll the trip, the band planned on releasing a live album. It would have been their first live set since the abysmal Steal Your Face two years prior. The band was coming off a smokin’ summer tour and they had a new studio album, the Lowell George-produced Shakedown Street, in the can and ready for release that fall.

The concerts themselves have become a key chapter in Dead lore. The lunar eclipse the second night. The bedouins on camels, watching silently from the dunes. Merry Pranksters and Dead members hoisting a flag at the peak of the Great Pyramid. Nubian musician Hamza El Din and his ensemble jamming with the band. But, alas, the tapes were deemed unusable for a proper release. Of course in true Dead fashion, tapes of the show – recorded by the audience and the band alike (including Ken Kesey’s home movies of the trip) have been in Deadhead circulation since the band shook the sand from their guitar cases.

So now 30 years later, Rhino has finally released Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978 as a three-disc set. Two cds of music and 1 dvd of live footage. Rhino has the uneviable task of taking music that has been in free trader circles for years and trying to get people to buy it. In this case, the audio has been scrubbed clean and sounds fantastic. The dvd footage is a great improvement over the numerous bootleg versions I have seen over the years, and heck, the packaging is pretty darn cool. As with the monstrous Winterland 73 box that came out earlier this year, Rhino has done a great job of making it worth the money. The only gripe I could think of is that this is only a compilation of the last two nights rather than the full concerts (and is missing the mighty Terrapin > Sugar Magnolia from the night of the Eclipse), but this is not a Dick’s Picks release, a Vault release, but a proper live album. In the same spirit as Skullfuck, Europe ’72 or Reckoning and Dead Set. The only difference here is that it took 30 years to be released.

When the band returned home, they settled into Winterland for five nights of “From Egypt With Love” concerts. Two of which have served as source material for the latest installment in Rhino’s Road Trips series. During the shows, the band showed their vacation slides and jammed with Hamza El Din, Lee Oskar and John Cipollina.

Still coasting on the momentum from the near-perfect year of 1977, 1978 was a strong year for the band. At the end of the year, the band would say farewell to Winterland with an all-night marathon performance (documented on the great Closing of Winterland set), and Keith and Donna Godchaux would leave the band early in 1979 – ushering in Brent Mydland and the turbulent 1980s.

The band’s Egypt performances are still readily available in trading circles and at the Live Music Archive.

Grateful Dead at the Sound and Light Theatre, Giza, Egypt

9/14/78 – Thursday
Audience Recording with Hamza El Din opening set
Great Soundboard

9/15/78 – Friday
Audience Recording with Eclipse commentary
Charlie Miller Soundboard Remaster
Original ‘Betty Board’

9/15/78 – Saturday
Killer soundboard

Other 1978 Dead hotness –

January 8, 1978 Golden Hall, San Diego, CA

The famous “Jerry has laryngitis” show. While an all-Bobby show might sound unappealing to some folks out there (and without the courtesey of a ‘Weather Report Suite’ break out), think about it – the less Jerry sings, the more Jerry jams. He brings the heat. Fun show. Check it out.

January 22, 1978 McArthur Court, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Great sounding AUD/SBD composite of this mind-bending night in Oregon. Terrapin>Drums>The Other One is just amazing, with the mother of all Phil bombs leading off ‘The Other One’. Jerry takes a solo and jams on the ‘Close Encounters’ theme for a bit before taking the band into a crushing ‘St. Stephen > Not Fade Away’. Not for the faint of heart or squares.

July 8, 1978 Red Rocks Ampitheater, Morrison, CO

All three nights of the Red Rocks 78 run are pretty hot, but the show on the 8th is one of their all-time best. First set rocks, but the second set positively SMOKES. Triple encore with ‘Werewolves of London’ and it’s not even Halloween!

December 30, 1978 Pauley Pavillion, UCLA, Los Angeles, CO

Before shutting down Winterland in style, the band spent the previous night giving Los Angeles one hell of a “warm-up” show. Rivals the following night and Hamza El Din returns!

UPDATE – CHANGE ROCKS – Dead for Obama shows vanish from the Live Music Archive

As quickly as they were uploaded, all uploads of the October 13th 2008 Penn State shows have vanished from the Live Music Archive. They were in the Phil and Friends section. Not sure what the deal is, but its probably for the reasons that no shows from any post 95 The Other Ones/The Dead are on the archive. You know, I don’t know the answer to that question either. However, follow well these links for the goods –

the dead 2008-10-13 state college, pa ~ microtech gefell m20 > jk labs ecms-23 > sound devices 722 *24 bit*

the dead 2008-10-13 state college, pa ~ mg m20 > jk labs > sd 722 *16 bit*

“Hey man, what do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back when you throw it?”

“I dunno…”

“A stick. Just a stick.”