From the Mars Hotel

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From the Mars Hotel
A painting of a multi-storey hotel on Mars
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 27, 1974 (1974-06-27)
RecordedMarch 30 – April 19, 1974
StudioCBS Studios,
San Francisco, California
LabelGrateful Dead
ProducerGrateful Dead
Grateful Dead chronology
Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead
From the Mars Hotel
Blues for Allah

From the Mars Hotel is the seventh studio album by rock band the Grateful Dead. It was mainly recorded in April 1974, and originally released June 27, 1974. It was the second album by the band on their own Grateful Dead Records label. From the Mars Hotel came less than one year after their previous album, Wake of the Flood, and was the last before the band's then-indefinite hiatus from live touring, begun in October 1974.[2]


The Grateful Dead returned to the studio at the end of March 1974, having readied another batch of songs. The majority were again composed by lead guitarist Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter and featured Garcia's lead vocals. However, "Pride of Cucamonga" and "Unbroken Chain" were both written and sung by bassist Phil Lesh with the assistance of poet Bobby Petersen. This was the only time he would sing two songs on a Dead studio album, and they would be his final lead vocal work for the band until 1985. Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir contributed "Money Money" with writing partner John Perry Barlow.

The band chose to return to Coast Recorders on Folsom Street in San Francisco, where they had recorded "The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)" as a single for their first album, in 1967. The studio had since been purchased by CBS Studios and refurbished. They produced the album themselves with engineer Roy Segal. According to Segal, Garcia liked the room because it had a more "live" sound than the Record Plant, where the band had recorded their previous album. Garcia had played in CBS Studios earlier in the year with Art Garfunkel during the sessions for Angel Clare.[3]

Many of the Garcia-Hunter songs had been played live for up to a year or more. "U.S. Blues" had started life as "Wave That Flag" in February 1973 before being dropped and heavily rewritten; however, "Scarlet Begonias" had been introduced only in the month prior to recording. Weir's "Money Money" was arranged in the studio. A separate version of "China Doll" (also introduced in February 1973) was recorded for the previous album Wake of the Flood, but not used. Lesh had recorded demo versions of his two tracks during sessions for that album. Though Garcia had played pedal steel for the band, John McFee (of Clover) guests on the instrument for "Pride of Cucamonga". Electronic composer Ned Lagin (who frequently sat in during the group's live performances between 1970 and 1975) played synthesizer on "Unbroken Chain".

As previously, the band felt stifled by studio confines. Commenting later about the sessions, drummer Bill Kreutzmann said "The studio felt contrived. It couldn’t offer the freedom of playing something live, nor the satisfaction."[4]

While recording the album, the Grateful Dead were testing a massive touring P.A. system called The Wall of Sound. A contemporaneous test performance of the sound system was released as Dick's Picks Volume 24.


The album's cover art was created by Kelley/Mouse, who had previously created artwork for the band's American Beauty, Grateful Dead, and Europe '72 albums. The front depicts an actual San Francisco building, juxtaposed in an extraterrestrial landscape. The real Mars Hotel was a derelict flophouse, at 192 Fourth Street, that had been the temporary residence of Jack Kerouac[5] and was previously used as a location in David Bowie's promotional film for "The Jean Genie".[6][7][8] It was demolished during the Yerba Buena redevelopment – footage of which is seen in The Grateful Dead Movie – and is now the site of the Moscone West Exhibition Hall. In competing against existing distribution channels, albums on the Grateful Dead label became subject to counterfeiting. In response, and to help consumers recognize higher-quality, official pressings, the word "authentic" was embossed in a vertical column on the left margin of the cover.

Flipped image of From the Mars Hotel album cover, showing "Ugly Rumors" text.

The working title for the album was "Ugly Roomers". Kreutzmann said it was "a self-deprecating dig at ourselves, but we changed it to 'rumors' out of respect to the boarders at the hotel."[9] After another title change to From the Mars Hotel, the punning spelling "Ugly Rumors" was retained in stylized Aztecan text on the front cover, as rotated mirror writing.

The rear cover depicts the band as the "ugly roomers", in the guise of cartoon characters lounging in a room in outer space, watching television. Lesh wears a pharaonic nemes, Garcia a space helmet and Kreutzmann a galea. Weir is a space-clown marked with a "Z". Keyboardist Keith Godchaux bears a halo of lightning bolts and backing vocalist Donna Godchaux, who had recently become a mother, is depicted as a madonna. The image was created from a group photograph taken in the lounge of a hotel in the Tenderloin district.[10][11]

An edit of "U.S. Blues" was released as a single (b/w "Loose Lucy").

Four of the songs from the album remained in live rotation throughout the band's existence. "Scarlet Begonias" in particular became an extended-jam highlight, later usually paired with a segue into "Fire on the Mountain," while "U.S. Blues" was a preferred encore. "Ship of Fools" and "China Doll" were played with less frequency. For many years, Deadhead lore maintained that "Unbroken Chain" would only be performed at the band's final concert; it was finally broken out on the band's penultimate tour in March 1995 and performed at their final concert on July 9, 1995. "Money Money" was played three times, in May 1974, and then dropped by the time of the album's release, as the perceived misogyny of the song was worrisome to certain band members. "Loose Lucy" was dropped after 1974 and resurrected in 1990. Only "Pride of Cucamonga" was never played live.

With the collapse of the band's label and the move to Arista Records, the album was out of print for many years. In 1984 an audiophile-quality pressing was released by Mobile Fidelity Records, using half-speed mastering. The album's first CD release was in 1985, and it has remained in print since a 1989 CD self-release by Grateful Dead Records.[12] It was remastered and expanded as part of the Beyond Description (1973–1989) box set, in 2004. This version was released separately by Rhino Records, in 2006.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[13]
Christgau's Record GuideB–[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[15]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[16]

Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote of the album: "Brighter and more uptempo than Wake of the Flood (which is not to claim it's 'high energy'), with almost as many memorable tunes as American Beauty. Robert Hunter is not progressing, however—even 'U.S. Blues,' an entertaining collection of conceits, seems received rather than found. And a Weir-Barlow song about money is just one more way for rich Marin hippies to put women down."[14]

It was voted number 556 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[17]

Track listing[edit]

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

Side one
No.TitleLead singerLength
1."U.S. Blues" 4:37
2."China Doll" 4:09
3."Unbroken Chain" (Phil Lesh and Robert Petersen)Phil Lesh6:45
4."Loose Lucy" 3:23
Side two
No.TitleLead singerLength
1."Scarlet Begonias" 4:19
2."Pride of Cucamonga" (Lesh and Petersen)Phil Lesh4:16
3."Money Money" (Bob Weir and John Perry Barlow)Bob Weir4:21
4."Ship of Fools" 5:22
  • Sides one and two were combined as tracks 1–8 on CD reissues.
2004/2006 reissue bonus tracks
9."Loose Lucy" (alternate take recorded August 7, 1973) 4:43
10."Scarlet Begonias" (live at Winterland, San Francisco, California, October 16, 1974[a]) 9:09
11."Money Money" (live at PNE Coliseum, Vancouver, British Columbia, May 17, 1974[b])
  • Weir
  • Barlow
12."Wave That Flag" (live at Springfield Civic Center, Springfield, Massachusetts, March 28, 1973[c]) 5:34
13."Let It Rock" (live at Jai-Alai Fronton, Miami, Florida, June 23, 1974[d])Chuck Berry3:22
14."Pride of Cucamonga" (acoustic demo recorded August 4, 1973)
  • Lesh
  • Petersen
15."Unbroken Chain" (acoustic demo recorded August 11, 1973)
  • Lesh
  • Petersen


  1. ^ Another track from this concert was later released on The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack
  2. ^ Later released with complete concert on Pacific Northwest '73–'74: The Complete Recordings
  3. ^ Later released with complete concert on Dave's Picks Volume 16
  4. ^ Another track from this concert previously released on So Many Roads


While studying law at St John's College, Oxford, in the 1970s, Tony Blair (UK prime minister 1997–2007) helped found the rock band Ugly Rumours, as a singer-guitarist. The group was named for the mirror writing on the cover of From the Mars Hotel.[18][19]

The group Animal Collective sampled "Unbroken Chain" for their song "What Would I Want? Sky", on their EP Fall Be Kind, receiving praise from Pitchfork Media and Sputnikmusic for their usage. It was the first sample ever cleared for use by the Grateful Dead.[20]


Chart positions[edit]


Year Chart Position
1974 Pop Albums 16[21]


  1. ^ Ham, Robert (December 28, 2018). "Record Time: New & Notable Vinyl Releases (December 2018)". Paste. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  2. ^ "Grateful Dead Discography". DeadDisc. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
  3. ^ Jackson, Blair (2006). Grateful Dead Gear. San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books. p. 144. ISBN 0879308931.
  4. ^ Kreutzmann, Bill (2015). Deal. St. Martin's Press, New York. Chapter 12. ISBN 978-1-250-03380-2.
  5. ^ Morgan, Bill (1 May 2003). The Beat Generation in San Francisco: A Literary Tour. City Lights Books. ISBN 9780872864177. Retrieved 14 November 2016 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Selvin, Joel (1 April 1996). San Francisco: The Musical History Tour: A Guide to Over 200 of the Bay Area's Most Memorable Music Sites. Chronicle Books. ISBN 9780811810074. Retrieved 14 November 2016 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ David Bowie & Mick Rock (2005). Moonage Daydream: pp.140-146
  8. ^ Gordinier, Jeff (31 May 2002), "Loving the Aliens", Entertainment Weekly, no. 656, pp. 26–34
  9. ^ Kreutzmann, Bill; Eisen, Benjy (2015). Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-250-03379-6.
  10. ^ Jerry's Brokendown Palaces (14 November 2012). "Mars Hotel, 192 4th at Howard Street, San Francisco, CA". Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  11. ^ Wake of the Flood; Grateful Dead Records, 2004. Liner Notes: Joel Selvin
  12. ^ "Grateful Dead From The Mars Hotel". Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  13. ^ Iyengar, Vik. "From the Mars Hotel". AllMusic. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: G". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 24, 2019 – via
  15. ^ The Grateful Dead Album Guide Archived 2013-12-28 at the Wayback Machine, Rolling Stone
  16. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  17. ^ Colin Larkin (2006). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 189. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  18. ^ Mark Ellen talks about Tony Blair in Ugly Rumours. Film 90788 (YouTube video). YouTube. 1990. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  19. ^ 'He even wanted to rehearse' by Kamal Ahmed,, 27 April 2003, Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  20. ^ Rosen, Jody (23 November 2009). "Animal Collective Fall Be Kind Domino". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  21. ^ "Artist Search for "grateful dead"". Retrieved 14 November 2016.

External links[edit]