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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 – March 1969
Studio Pacific Recording, San Mateo
Pacific High Recording, San Francisco
Length 38:07
Label Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
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 Grateful Dead studio album.[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]

Background and development[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 as a permanent member. 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."[11]

The lengthy sessions for the album would put the band deeper into debt with Warner Bros. Records—specifically, a total cost of $180,000 (US$1,163,466 in 2016 dollars[12]) 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.

An edit of the track "Doin' that Rag" was released on the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders compilation The 1969 Warner/Reprise Record Show.[13] Since this set stayed in print through the late 70's, it provided a sample of the original mix for some years after the full album became available only in a remixed version.


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 that had been 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, "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]

Garcia and Lesh went back in the studio in 1971 to remix the album, removing many parts present on the original release, including a choir singing on "Mountains of the Moon", many difficult-to-identify sounds on "What's Become of the Baby", and an a cappella ending for "Doin' That Rag," omitted due to an early fadeout. It also used different vocal takes on some songs, most noticeable on "Dupree's Diamond Blues." The result, with the same catalog number (WS1790), but with much of the original's experimental character removed, can be identified by the "Remixed September, 1971" legend on the back cover. For unknown reasons, the song timings on the first CD release from 1987 refer to the original mix, not the remix (varying most significantly on "Doin' That Rag," which was edited from 5:15 to 4:41, and "China Cat Sunflower," which was edited from 4:15 to 3:40).

The original mix was later planned for CD release, but the original master tapes could not be located. After the masters were finally located years later, they were 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, in 1972. The 2013 high definition remastering for download uses the remixed version - even though promotion related to this release declared "produced from the original analog master tapes in 2013, using the original album mixes".[14]

Cover artwork[edit]

Courtney Love has often claimed to be featured among those photographed on the album's back cover.[15] Love's father, Hank Harrison, had close ties to the band at the time, and had worked as their manager. Love's claim was corroborated by David Gans in 2011,[16] but further historical research has shown that she is incorrect; the girl often identified as Love was actually Bill Kreutzmann's daughter Stacy, who was the same age as Love at the time the photo was taken.[17][18] Vince Guaraldi had become friends with members of the Grateful Dead, and supposedly sat in with them on occasion. He appears on the album's back cover crowd shot taken by Tom Weir. He is the one by the horse.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written 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 (12 July 1969). "Aoxomoxoa". Rolling Stone. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. (37): 36. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  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. [permanent dead link]
  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" Archived August 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine., Rate Your Music, list adapted from November 14, 1991 issue of Rolling Stone. Retrieved on July 29, 2006.
  11. ^ Phil Lesh: Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh, Little, Brown and Company, 2005, pg. 138.
  12. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved October 21, 2016. 
  13. ^ " entry" at Retrieved Jan. 2016
  14. ^ Glasser, David (October 11, 2013). "How Airshow Remastered the Grateful Dead Studio Albums", Airshow Mastering. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  15. ^ Love, Courtney. Interview with Nardwuar the Human Serviette (November 15, 1994).
  16. ^ "Fact: Courtney Love Was On The Back Cover Of The Grateful Dead Album "Aoxomwoxoa"". Feel Numb. April 4, 2011. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  17. ^ "It Wasn't Courtney", Grateful Dead Guide, January 1, 2015. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  18. ^ Cross, Alan (February 1, 2015). "Sorting Out the Grateful Dead's Aoxomwoxoa Photo". A Journal of Music Things. Retrieved November 7, 2015.