Grateful Dead (album)

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Grateful Dead
A drawing of a skull with roses on it
Live album by Grateful Dead
Released October 24, 1971 (1971-10-24)
Recorded March–April 1971
Genre Folk rock, jam rock, blues rock, psychedelic rock
Length 70:12
Label Warner Bros. (#2WS-1935)
Producer Grateful Dead with Betty Cantor and Bob Matthews
Grateful Dead chronology
Historic Dead
(1971)Historic Dead1971
Grateful Dead
Europe '72
(1972)Europe '721972
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars [1]
The Village VoiceA–[2]

Grateful Dead is an album by rock band the Grateful Dead. Released in October 1971 on Warner Bros. Records, it is their second live double album. Although published without a title, it is generally known by the names Skull and Roses (due to its iconic cover art) and Skull Fuck (the name the band originally wanted to give to the album, which was rejected by the record company). It was the group's first album to be certified gold by the RIAA[3] and remained their best seller until surpassed by Skeletons from the Closet.

Recording and release[edit]

Unlike Live/Dead, the album contained several lead and background vocal overdubs. For the three new original compositions ("Bertha", "Playing in the Band", and "Wharf Rat"), the band invited Jerry Garcia associate Merl Saunders to overdub organ parts. This made the organ playing of Saunders more prominent than that of Pigpen, whose contributions tend to be buried in the mix.

"Playing in the Band" received a good amount of airplay, and became one of the Dead's most played songs in concert (a studio version was released the following year on rhythm guitarist Bob Weir's solo album Ace).[4] The closing segue of "Not Fade Away" into "Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad" also received airplay and became a fan favorite.

The album's cover art, composed by Alton Kelly and Stanley Mouse, is based on an illustration by Edmund Joseph Sullivan for an old edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.[3] Though the album has been known by the sobriquet "Skull & Roses", the original vertical gatefold cover unfolds to reveal the entire skeleton. The graphic became one of the images most associated with the band.

Opening track "Bertha" fades in on the original version of the album, in semblance of entering the performance space. A longer, full opening is used on CD/digital copies. More tracks from the same source concerts were later released on Ladies and Gentlemen... the Grateful Dead.

The 7" single release of "Johnny B. Goode" (a split single with Elvin Bishop) was actually the version from the album Fillmore: The Last Days. However, the version from this album was later used as a B-side on the re-release of the "Truckin'" single.

The album was remastered and expanded for the 2001 box set The Golden Road. This version, with three bonus tracks (two contemporaneous live tracks and a hidden promotional track) and the extended "Bertha", was released separately, in 2003.

Title and message[edit]

When the band submitted "Skull Fuck" (a contemporary euphemism for "blow your mind") as the album title, it was rejected by the record label. Ultimately the agreement was made that the album would be published without the title appearing anywhere on the record labels or cover artwork. Though the band refers to the album by this title, and it has long been known to fans (through interviews with band members, the Deadhead network and other outlets), the alternate, descriptive title "Skull & Roses" developed among distributors, music buyers and reviewers as a graphic incipit from the cover artwork.

Drummer Bill Kreutzmann explained the lack of a title on the artwork and labels, "...the original name was going to be "Skull Fuck". This was a time long before rap artists like Eminem numbed concerned citizens to the idea of offensive language in music. Warner Brothers freaked out on us. They said stores would boycott it and we wouldn’t be able to get it on shelves."[5]

Inside the gatefold of the original LP, the band reached out directly to its burgeoning fan base, which had begun to attend multiple concerts in a row and collect live audio tapes of each concert, with a message reading:

The mailing address is no longer extant.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."Bertha" (Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter)5:27
2."Mama Tried" (Merle Haggard)2:42
3."Big Railroad Blues" (Noah Lewis)3:34
4."Playing in the Band" (Hunter and Bob Weir)4:39
Side two
5."The Other One" (Bill Kreutzmann and Weir)18:05
Side three
6."Me and My Uncle" (John Phillips)3:06
7."Big Boss Man" (Luther Dixon and Al Smith)5:12
8."Me and Bobby McGee" (Fred Foster and Kris Kristofferson)5:43
9."Johnny B. Goode" (Chuck Berry)3:42
Side four
10."Wharf Rat" (Garcia and Hunter)8:31
11."Not Fade Away/Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" (Buddy Holly and Norman Petty/traditional)9:14
2001/2003 reissue
1."Bertha" (Garcia and Hunter) 5:40
2."Mama Tried" (Haggard) 2:42
3."Big Railroad Blues" (Lewis) 3:33
4."Playing in the Band" (Hunter and Weir) 4:30
5."The Other One" (Kreutzmann and Weir) 18:03
6."Me and My Uncle" (Phillips) 3:03
7."Big Boss Man" (Dixon and Smith) 5:11
8."Me and Bobby McGee" (Foster and Kristofferson) 5:43
9."Johnny B. Goode" (Berry) 3:42
10."Wharf Rat" (Garcia and Hunter) 8:31
11."Not Fade Away/Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" (Holly and Petty/traditional) 9:12
12."Oh, Boy!"Petty, Bill Tilghman, and Sonny West2:50
13."I'm a Hog for You"Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller4:08
14."Grateful Dead radio spot" 1:00


  • "Johnny B. Goode" recorded March 24, 1971, at Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco
  • "Big Railroad Blues" and "Not Fade Away / Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" recorded April 5, 1971, at Hammerstein Ballroom, Manhattan Center, New York
  • "Playing in the Band", "Oh, Boy!" and "I'm a Hog for You" recorded April 6, 1971, at Hammerstein Ballroom, Manhattan Center
  • "Mama Tried", "Big Boss Man" and "Wharf Rat" recorded April 26, 1971, at Fillmore East, New York, NY
  • "Bertha" and "Me and Bobby McGee" recorded April 27, 1971, at Fillmore East, NY
  • "The Other One" recorded April 28, 1971, at Fillmore East, NY
  • "Me and My Uncle" recorded April 29, 1971, at Fillmore East, NY
see Ladies and Gentlemen... for more from the last four dates


Grateful Dead

Additional musicians

  • Merl Saunders – organ on "Bertha", "Playing in the Band", and "Wharf Rat"

Technical personnel

Charts and certification[edit]


Year Chart Position
1971 Pop Albums 25[6]

RIAA certification

Certification Date
Gold November 15, 1971[7]


  1. ^ Planer, Lindsay. "Grateful Dead (Skull & Roses)". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (October 14, 1971). "Consumer Guide (19)". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Grateful Dead (Skull and Roses) at the Grateful Dead Family Discography
  4. ^ Scott, John W.; Dolgushkin, Mike; Nixon, Stu. (1999). DeadBase XI: The Complete Guide to Grateful Dead Song Lists. Cornish, NH: DeadBase. ISBN 1-877657-22-0.
  5. ^ Kreutzmann, Bill (2015). Deal. St. Martin's Press, New York. Chapter 10. ISBN 978-1-250-03380-2.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database-The Grateful Dead". Retrieved March 1, 2017.