THE Virtual Museum: Set Lists

First, an apology–I haven’t put up a new post in a long time, for a variety of reasons–two international trips, buying some large collections, blah blah blah. So here’s a long one with a lot of unique images, to make up for it. The topic today is SET LISTS. A set list, for those who don’t know, is the list of songs that an artist or group puts together to play at a particular concert. These days, an artist or band member will put together a set list, and someone from the road crew will usually type it up, print out copies, and tape them on the stage in front of where the singer and musicians will stand. In the past, they were usually hand written, and the originals can be quite collectible. Some artists play different sets of songs every night of a tour–Bob Dylan is legendary for this and there is even an online competition to guess which songs he’ll play on a given night (“The Never Ending Pool”) and a listing of which songs he’s played at almost every show in his 49 year career (“Bob Links” ). Most artists will draw from a group of songs they’ve rehearsed, and while they usually include crowd favorites, they’ll try to mix up their sets, for their own amusement as well as that of their audience. I love collecting handwritten set lists, as artifacts and an insight into the creative process. Here are some of my favorites. First here is a Bob Dylan set list (with a great guitar drawing) from a very early show in New York sometime in 1961. This predates his first album, and is almost certainly from an early club date somewhere in Greenwich Village.

Next is a much later Dylan setlist, from a rehearsal during the 1980’s. It looks to have been written over a period of time, with Dylan formulating which songs he’s thinking of playing. He’s abbreviated most of the titles, writing “Shelter” instead of “Shelter From The Storm,” which is common for him and many other artists. And serious Dylan fans should definitely check out Alan Fraser’s absolutely incredible online discography, Searching For A Gem.

And since we love Bob so much, here a very special Jerry Garcia handwritten set list of
mostly Dylan songs from the “Dylan and the Dead” tour of 1987. In his memoir Chronicles Dylan writes at length about this tour, and how the Dead pushed him to perform songs he’d written, but hadn’t played in many years. Dylan resisted, even walking out of the rehearsals this list dates from. Frustrated, he wandered into a nearby bar, and once inside, he saw a singer who’s technique inspired him and gave him insight into how he might indeed perform some of his songs that the Dead were so eager to play. He returned to the rehearsals, and surprisingly agreed to sing the songs the Dead had asked for. This set list is particularly historic, as Garcia has written his choices on the back of a xeroxed set list in Dylan’s hand, listing the many covers that he wanted to play, but eventually were dropped in favor of his own songs. Of course you can find out almost anything imaginable about the Dead online, and probably the best setlist resource is Deadbase.

Next up is a very rare Velvet Underground set list written byJohn Cale with annotations by Sterling Morrison from one of the band’s shows at Poor Richard’s in Chicago during June and July, 1966. These were notable shows, as they took place without Lou Reed (who was in a New York hospital with hepatitis) and Nico (who was in Ibiza.) Angus MacLise, the

band’s original drummer, joined for these shows, with Mo Tucker switching to bass, and vocals handled by Cale and Morrison. This list was written out on stationery from a restaurant blocks from the venue (discovered through the miracle of Google maps !) The Velvets too are extensively documented, and on Olivier Landemaine’s superb website, one can find the most extensive discography imaginable, as well as information on ever known date the band ever played–it’s at

How about some (relatively) recent artists, you ask ? Well here’s a very rare Nirvana setlist, handwritten by Dave Grohl (Nirvana’s guitar tech, Earnie Bailey, told me he wrote most of them.) This set list is almost certainly from the Red Hot Chili Peppers/Nirvana/Pearl Jam tour date at Del Mar Fairgrounds on December 28, 1991. There are many websites which document Nirvana’s tour dates and the songs they played at each show, including the Nirvana Tour Guide at Nirvanaguide .

And here’s a Smashing Pumpkins setlist, handwritten by Billy Corgan, for their show at the Melbourne (Australia) Royal Agricultural Showgrounds on January 23, 1994. This was written on hotel stationery–as they sometimes are–but just which hotel is a mystery, as its name is obscured by the duct tape you often find on setlists (used to attach them to stages, monitor speakers or drums.) I’m sure there are websites documenting the Smashing Pumpkins tours as well, but I found the information for this one on, a great wiki for researching tour dates and sets.

And finally to the year 2000, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication Tour. We’re not sure which date this setlist comes from, but it’s in the hand of lead singer Anthony Kiedis, who wrote this on the reverse of the list for another show.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this survey of setlists; we are always interested in buying handwritten setlists, and continue to offer them for sale at Recordmecca, including the Dylan 80’s set list, Smashing Pumpkins and the Chili Peppers.


Great post Jeff! Do you, by any chance have the VU set list for sale?…..i hope you're well!..Nuno

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