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A psychedelic painting featuring a skeleton holding two fossilized eggs in the center.
Studio album by Grateful Dead
Released June 20, 1969 (1969-06-20)
Recorded September 1968 to March 1969;
Pacific Recording in San Mateo;
Pacific High Recording
in San Francisco
Genre Psychedelic rock, experimental rock


80:44 (2003 reissue)
Label Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
WS 1790
Producer Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead chronology
Anthem of the Sun
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars [1]
Robert Christgau A[2]
Rolling Stone favorable[3]

Aoxomoxoa is the third studio album by the Grateful Dead.[4] It was originally titled Earthquake Country.[5] Many Deadheads consider this era of the Dead to be the experimental apex of the band's history. It is also the first album with Tom Constanten as an official member of the band. Rolling Stone, upon reviewing the album, mentioned that "no other music sustains a lifestyle so delicate and loving and lifelike".[6] The album was certified gold by the RIAA on May 13, 1997.[7]

The title of the album is a palindrome created by cover artist Rick Griffin and lyricist Robert Hunter. According to the audio version of the Rock Scully memoir, Living with the Dead (read by the author and former Dead co-manager himself), the title is pronounced "ox-oh-mox-oh-ah". The words "Grateful Dead" on the front of the album, written in large, flowing capital letters, are an ambigram that can also be read "we ate the acid".[8] The artwork around the bottom edge of the album cover depicts several phallic representations.[9]

In 1991 Rolling Stone selected Aoxomoxoa as having the eighth best album cover of all time.[10] Though Courtney Love has often claimed to be on the album's back cover,[11] historical research has shown that she is incorrect.[12]

Making of the album[edit]

In Grateful Dead history, Aoxomoxoa had a number of firsts connected with it. It is the first album the band recorded in or near their hometown of San Francisco (at Pacific Recording Studio in nearby San Mateo, and at the similarly named Pacific High Recording Studio in San Francisco proper). It is the first studio release to include pianist Tom Constanten and percussionist/drummer Mickey Hart as permanent members. It was also the first to have lyricist Robert Hunter as a full-time contributor to the band, thus initiating the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter songwriting partnership that endured for the rest of the band's existence. It was also the first time the band would put emphasis on acoustic songs, such as "Mountains of the Moon" and "Dupree's Diamond Blues." Lesh played acoustic bass for the first time, commenting that "the fun part of that was trying to play in tune with no frets to guide my fingers, just like a violin."[13]

The lengthy sessions for the album would put the band deeper into debt with Warner Bros. Records—specifically, a total cost of $180,000 for Aoxomoxoa; it was their most ambitious and costly venture to that date.[6] It would be the last time the band would ever run up such high studio bills.

The 2003 reissue (also part of the Golden Road boxed set from 2001) includes three studio jams (including an early version of "The Eleven") from the original aborted eight-track sessions for the album, and a live version of "Cosmic Charlie" recorded early in 1969.


The group had already initiated recording sessions for the album when Ampex manufactured and released the first 16-track multitrack recording machine. It offered 16 discrete tracks for recording and playback (model number MM-1000). This doubled the number of tracks available when they recorded Anthem of the Sun the previous year. As a direct consequence, the band spent eight months off-and-on in the studio not only recording the album but getting used to—and experimenting with—the new technology. Garcia commented that "it was our first adventure with sixteen-track and we tended to put too much on everything...A lot of the music was just lost in the mix, a lot of what was really there".[5] As a result, Garcia and Lesh went back in the studio in 1971 to remix the album, removing whole sections of songs, including a choir singing on "Mountains of the Moon", an a cappella ending on Doin' that Rag, and a great deal of sounds difficult to identify on "What's Become of the Baby". The result, with the same catalog number, WS1790, but with much of the original's experimental character removed, can be identified by the legend on the back cover that reads, "Remixed September, 1971". The original mix was later planned for CD release, but the original master tapes could not be located. The master tapes were finally located and used for The Warner Bros. Studio Albums vinyl box set, marking the first time the 1969 mix has been available since the 1971 remix replaced it. The 2013 high definition remastering for download uses the remixed version, although promotion related to this release declares that only "produced from the original analog master tapes in 2013, using the original album mixes".[14]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, except where noted. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "St. Stephen" (Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Robert Hunter) 4:26
2. "Dupree's Diamond Blues"   3:32
3. "Rosemary"   1:58
4. "Doin' That Rag"   4:41
5. "Mountains of the Moon"   4:02
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "China Cat Sunflower"   3:40
7. "What's Become of the Baby"   8:12
8. "Cosmic Charlie"   5:29
2003 reissue bonus tracks
No. Title Length
9. "Clementine Jam" (Garcia, Hart, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, Weir) 10:46
10. "Nobody's Spoonful Jam" (Garcia, Hart, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, Weir) 10:04
11. "The Eleven Jam" (Garcia, Hart, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, Weir) 15:00
12. "Cosmic Charlie" (Live) 6:47


Grateful Dead
Additional musicians
Technical personnel
Reissue personnel
  • James Austin – production
  • Joe Gastwirt – mastering, production consultation
  • Michael Wesley Johnson – associate production, research coordination
  • Cassidy Law – project coordination, Grateful Dead Archives
  • Eileen Law – archival research, Grateful Dead Archives
  • David Lemieux – production
  • Peter McQuaid – executive production, Grateful Dead Productions
  • Jeffrey Norman – additional mixing on bonus tracks


  1. ^ Planer, Lindsay. Aoxomoxoa at AllMusic. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
  2. ^ Grateful Dead at Retrieved June 18, 2011.
  3. ^ Novelli, Adele (July 12, 1969). "Aoxomoxoa". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 18, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Grateful Dead – Aoxomoxoa Images", Discogs. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Garcia: An American Life by Blair Jackson, Penguin Books, 1999, pg. 162.
  6. ^ a b Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip by Jake Woodward, et al. Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2003, pg. 99.
  7. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database-Aoxomoxoa". Retrieved February 28, 2009. 
  8. ^ Peters, Stephen (1999). What a Long Strange Trip: The Stories Behind Every Grateful Dead Song, 1965 – 1995. Da Capo Press. p. 35. ISBN 1-56025-233-2. A closer examination of the top half of the flamboyantly lettered 'Grateful Dead' heading reveals a line that appears to read 'We ate the acid,' a statement which isn't too hard to believe after a cursory listen to the thickly filtered vocals of 'Rosemary' or the haunting vacuum of 'What's Become of the Baby'. 
  9. ^ "Grateful Dead Album Covers", Live Grateful Dead Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  10. ^ "Rolling Stone '​s 100 Greatest Album Covers", Rate Your Music, list adapted from November 14, 1991 issue of Rolling Stone. Retrieved on July 29, 2006.
  11. ^ Kenneally, Tim, and Bloom, Steve (April 1996). "Who Killed Kurt Cobain?", High Times via Justice for Kurt. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  12. ^ "It Wasn't Courtney", Grateful Dead Guide, January 1, 2015. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  13. ^ Phil Lesh: Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh, Little, Brown and Company, 2005, pg. 138.
  14. ^ Glasser, David (October 11, 2013). "How Airshow Remastered the Grateful Dead Studio Albums", Airshow Mastering. Retrieved February 7, 2015.