Grateful Dead (album)

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This article is about the band's 1971 eponymous live album. For their 1967 self-titled studio debut, see The Grateful Dead (album).
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.
Producer Grateful Dead with Betty Cantor and Bob Matthews
Grateful Dead chronology
Historic Dead
Grateful Dead
Europe '72
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars [1]
The Village Voice A–[2]

Grateful Dead is the seventh album by the Grateful Dead, released in October 1971 on Warner Bros. Records, catalogue 2WS-1935. It is their second live double album, and also known generally 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 RIAA.[3]


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 concerts.[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] In its original issue on vinyl, this album also has the first acknowledgment by the band for its legion of fans, referred to as "Dead Heads" within an invitation to contact 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.

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, that had begun to attend multiple concerts in a row and collect live audio tapes of each concert, with a message reading:

Note: This 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

  1. "The Other One" (Bill Kreutzmann and Weir) – 18:05

Side three

  1. "Me and My Uncle" (John Phillips) – 3:06
  2. "Big Boss Man" (Luther Dixon and Al Smith) – 5:12
  3. "Me and Bobby McGee" (Fred Foster and Kris Kristofferson) – 5:43
  4. "Johnny B. Goode" (Chuck Berry) – 3:42

Side four

  1. "Wharf Rat" (Garcia and Hunter) – 8:31
  2. "Not Fade Away" (Buddy Holly and Norman Petty) / "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" (traditional) – 9:14

2003 Compact Disc 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) – 3:41
  10. "Wharf Rat" (Hunter and Garcia) – 8:31
  11. "Not Fade Away" (Holly, Petty) / "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" (traditional) – 9:12
  12. "Oh, Boy!" (Petty, Bill Tilghman, and Sonny West) – 2:50
  13. "I'm a Hog for You" (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) – 4:08
  14. Grateful Dead radio spot – 1:00


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


Grateful Dead

Additional musicians

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

Technical personnel



Year Chart Position
1971 Pop Albums 25[6]


  1. ^ Planer, Lindsay. Grateful Dead (Skull and Roses) at Allmusic
  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. ^