Grateful Dead

Blair’s Golden Road Blog — Desert Island Dead

If you’re reading this blog post in mid-July, chances are I am sunning myself on one of Kauai’s white-sand beaches, or gazing at a humuhumunukunukuapua’a through my snorkel mask, or sipping a mai tai under graceful swaying palm trees. Then again, maybe it’s pouring rain on the North Shore and we’re stuck playing Uno in the house. Anyway, it’s vacation time for the Jackson family—our first exotic one in several years—and I’m taking a breather from writing and really kicking back for a couple of weeks. The trip also coincides with my 30th wedding anniversary. If only my wife had gotten to come along! (Just kiddin’. Got the whole family with us.)

I spent part of the week before the trip loading up my teeny iPod Nano with a bunch of Hawaiian and Grateful Dead music, and it got me thinking: If I was stranded on a desert island (I’ll take a tropical island, please) and I could only bring 12 Dead CDs/shows (sorry, no iPods in this fantasy—we’re making it hard!) to last me for a couple of months until I was rescued, what would I choose?

Question: Do giant box sets count as one, or the number of discs in the box? Well, fortunately the Europe ’72 megabox isn’t out yet, so that’s off the table for this discussion. Here’s my completely heartless and arbitrary ruling: No box sets containing more than six discs—so no ’73 or ’77 Winterland or Fillmore West ’69 or giant GD studio album box sets are allowed. But, yes, a four- or even six-CD Dick’s Picks would count as one. Hey, nobody said life was “fair,” so quit your whinin’! You’re lucky you’re getting a CD player and headphones!

Now, I suppose there are many of you who could be blissfully happy spinning nothing but shows from ’72-’74 during your time on the island. That’s cool. It’s your choice. However, I’d like to have a much wider span of the Dead’s history represented in my Desert Isle Collection, as I like all eras of GD music and would want to have a greater variety of different songs and styles at my disposal. And so, my 12 picks (in chronological order):

1. Road Trips Vol 2. No 2: Carousel 2/14/68. One of the best ’68 shows, with primo versions of Anthem material, plus other bonus tracks from the Northwest tour (and another bonus disc besides).

2. Fillmore West 1969 (the 3-CD Set). Tough to pick between Live Dead, which I’ve loved forever, or this one, culled from the same shows but including much more material, all of it great. I’ve heard Live Dead so much I can always replay it in my head.

3. Dicks Picks Vol. 4: 2/13-14/70. Besides the deservedly admired “Dark Star,” this has a killer “Dancing in the Street” and a super-charged “NFA” > “Mason’s Children” > “Caution.”

4. American Beauty. Taking a studio album? Yes! Simply because it is beautiful and moving beyond compare.

5. Rotterdam 5/11/72. I could get more Europe ’72 music by bringing the excellent Stepping Out 4-CD set, but this is possibly the best show of the tour (and the longest) with my favorite of the 11 (!) Europe versions of “Dark Star” and everything else that’s important.

6. The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack. There are better individual shows and sets from ’73 and ’74, but this has so much good stuff, I’m happy to have it representing that era.

7. Dicks Picks Vol. 33: 10/9-10/76. Some folks don’t care for ’76. I love it. If this only had Disc Two, with “St. Stephen” > “NFA” > “St. Stephen” > “Help on the Way,” etc., it would be worth having, but all four discs are strong.

8. Cornell 5/8/77. We can all pretend that there are better ’77 shows and this has been overhyped, but why accept less than the best? (It is not, however, the best show of all time.)

9. Frost 10/10/82. This show is juiced from top to bottom, and includes one of the best pre-“drums” segments I ever saw. A classic!

10. Santa Fe 9/11/83. One of my favorite versions of “Help on the Way,” a rare second-set “Let It Grow” and “Morning Dew” are among the highlights. It helps that I was there and it’s still fresh in my mind.

11. Grateful Dead Download Series Vol. 5: Hampton 3/27/88. I never get tired of this; the late ’80s at their most exciting.

12. So Many Roads: (1965-1995). Lots of rarities and oddities; not a “Best of” by any means, but the five CDs are packed with enough great and strange stuff from all eras that it’s worth having around, and I can always ignore the stuff I don’t care for.

Well, that was hard and frustrating, and no doubt a whole bunch of “essentials” will come to mind over the next days and weeks. But enough about me. What 12 Grateful Dead CDs/shows would you bring to this remote and beautiful island? They better be good, in case we’re shipwrecked together!


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mpace's picture
Joined: Sep 25 2009
What first comes to mind....

I'm gonna travel light and just say what comes to mind first....

Released: DP 12 - choice versions of China>Rider, Truckin', Scarlet, Eyes, MMU>Big River, Row Jimmy, and WRS>Mind Left Body Jam (I can really name every song on this set....)
For the full island effect I can also listen to the great disc ending song of Ship of Fools, and if I fully lose my mind waiting for someone to pick me up I can listen to Seastones over and over and over....

Unreleased: I'll go to Long Island and listen to Nassua 1973.... admittedly I have only heard the second half, but its my favorite of all time (please, please release this one!)

I went to see the captain, strangest I could find...

scott1129's picture
Joined: Jun 6 2007
10 titles to take to Tropical Island

1. So Many Roads
2. Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack
3. Greyfolded (Dark Star remix)
4. Warlocks box
5. 10/31/87 JGAB off Broadway
6. Legion Of Mary
7. Evening Moods
8. Reckoning
9. Diga
10. Merl Saunders And Friends

The Sky Was Yellow And The Sun Was Blue
People Stopping Strangers Just To Shake Their Hand.

cactuswax's picture
Joined: Jun 7 2007
desert island Dead

Ok, I'll play.
My fiancee/soon-to-be wife and I are headed to the Big Island ourselves to work on a farm for the entire month of October, so I better get my picks together too! It's tough though. In no particular order:

4/21/71 - best Hard to Handle, great Good Lovin' - Pigpen-fix filler for sure
2/28/69 - the best show of this run in my humble opine. Love this Eleven.
5/8/77 - You said it, Blair - justifies the hype.
10/31/91 - already a great show, even before Kesey stepped on stage. From there it becomes a classic.
Dozin' at the Knick - the Playin' and the return of the Mind Left Body jam. Chillsies.
12/02/73 (DP 14) - one of my favorite first tapes, I was ecstatic when it upgraded to a DP. Utter meltdown from Playin', followed by gorgeousness.
Grateful Dead Movie Box Set - big ol' batch of favorite stuff.
DP 4 (2/13-14/70) - Truly, an evening with the Grateful Dead. I hate to ever say things like "best Dark Star", but ... Best Dark Star?
DP 8 (Harpur 70) - another magical night with.
One from the Vault (8/13/75) - some of my favorite Phil moments ever. Killer, shining and bouncing performances.
American Beauty - for all of it's beauty... and American-ness.
Road Trips 1.4 - the From Egypt with Love shows of '78 outshone Egypt itself. Possibly my favorite Estimated ever. Whew.

I'm already thinking of 12 more that could've been here, but we'll leave it right there. Haven't read the rest of this thread yet, looking forward to checking everyone else's picks!

antonjo's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007

I forgot Greek Theater 7-13-84!

antonjo's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007
baker's dozen

*Fillmore West 3-01-69 (from Fillmore box) ~ "One man gathers what another man spills....except in California")
*Dick's 26 ~ 4- 26 & 27 -69 ~ ok, Time Machine, drop me right here.
*Dick's 4 ~ 2- 13 &14- 70 ~ Alligator -> Uncle -> Not Fade -> Mason's -> Caution...gotta have it.
*Rockin' the Rhein 4-24-72 (do Dark Stars get more epic ~ scary, exhilerating ~ than this?)
*Dick's 28 ~ 2- 26 & 28 -73 ~ arguably my favorite Dick's, esp. disc 4
*Winterland 11-11-73 (from Winterland box ~ ok, if Blair gets all of So Many Roads, I'm also taking set 1 from first night 11-09)
*Kezar Stadium 3-23-75 (just a half hour, doesn't count as a full choice, right? the Dead at their most stunningly experimental)
*Dick's 33 ~ Day On the Green 10- 9 & 10 -76 ~ Jerry knew Pete was in the house, and goes toe to toe (that Franklin's jam.....ahh)
*Road Trips 2 ~ Oct 77 (of course, Dick's 29 has twice as many discs....)
*Dick's 21 ~ 11-01-85 ~ a very special night....know every note. My favorite Brown-Eyed Woman ever. Can still see Bob throwing up his hands, "Wait a minute!"
*Capital Center 9-12-87 ~ this would make a great two-discer release, hint-hint (first & favorite Dew I saw, and one of my favorites ever...."feel good music/ in your soul")
*Download 5 ~ Hampton 3-27-88 (2nd row standing, will never forget Jerry's smiling "can't touch this" bravado during Fire)
*View From the Vault 6-14-91 (the last classic I saw, pre-drums set 2!)

Joined: Feb 17 2010
Ten for the Desert Island

Thank you, Blair Jackson. Blair combined CDs/official releases with unreleased shows. I separate them into two lists.

If we’re talking shows (in chron order):

1. 5-26-72 London
2. 8-27-72 Veneta
3. 5-26-73 Kezar Stadium
4. 11-11-73 Winterland
5. 5-19-74 Portland O
6. 6-26-74 Providence
7. 6-28-74 Boston
8. 6-14-76 Beacon Theater
9. 5-8-77 Barton Hall
10. 9-3-77 Englishtown NJ

If we’re talking CDs/Official Releases (again in chron order):

1. Live Dead
2. Ace
3. Winterland 73 Box Set
4. DP12 (6-26-74, 6-28-74)
5. Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack
6. DP33 (10-9-76, 10-10-76)
7. DP29 (5-19-77, 5-21-77)
8. DP15 (9-3-77)
9. DP10 (12-29-77, 12-30-77)
10. DP18 (2-3-78, 2-5-78)

Hey, I'm old school.

I won't even try to list Honorable Mentions (i.e., the shows or disks I'd seriously consider taking), or I'd do nothing else today. But it would include the shows on CNJ77's list that aren't on my lists, as well as 5-11-72 Rotterdam and 12-31-76 Cow Palace.

Joined: Nov 12 2007
I'd turn Bear Grylls into a Deadhead

with these picks:

DP 34 - my first show!
2/26/77 - open with first ever Terrapin, excellent Eyes into Dancin
2/27/77 - great closer of Terrapin -> Dew -> Sugar Mag
5/9/77 - the one after Cornell
4/16/84 - awesome space into an outrageous Other One
Europe 72 - first turned me on the the Dead
American Beauty
9/26/81 - hot show from start to finish
7/29/82 - I was there and just love the Crazy Fingers / Miracle
9/10/91 - Great show from MSG with Bruce and Brantford sitting in for the entire show

Happy Anniversary Blair! Enjoy the break and hopefully when you get back we'll have a football season!!!!!!

Deadicated's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007
Desert Island Dozen

Well, I just found out that all the posters are going to be made castaways on the same island and we are allotted a ration of choice Grateful Dead shows to mollify our stay.

11/11/67 It's going to be a very cosmic island. This will be listened to upon arrival as we prepare our living quarters.

6/19/68 This one will be accompanied by the organic materials that fellow musical travelers found just outside camp.

12/30/69 After being deprived of tuneage for two weeks because all our bateries died from the extreme heat, we are blessed with a crateload of Duracells dropped from a plane with Stealies on it.

9/18/70 This show will be partnered with the other two from the run that a FMT brought accompanied by party favors included in the crate of batteries.

12/05/71 Road trip. We pack up our stuff and head across the island to the lagoon with the waterfall - there we find coolers filled to the brim with each of our favorite beverages.

5/26/72 We listen to this and celibrate the midpoint of our time together roughing it on this gosh-forsaken island which is turning out to be a pretty cool place after all.

2/15/73 All of us gather as we start the second half of our stay and wait for the moment - that crucial brilliantly placed chord that chimes in the eternal Eyes of the World. Oh, yeah.

6/18/74 We all rejoice when we start this one up because it's one our all-time faves. It's air-guitar night so huge smiles come on our faces as we play along with Jerry's quote from "My Old Kentucky Home".

8/13/75 We're all in shock as we discover deadmike has smuggled in his killer bootleg copy called "Makebelieve Ballroom". After this celebration it turns out our island host, Blair Jackson, must have several of the castaways helicoptered to the mainland.

8/04/76 Tonight we go to the most dreaded place on the island - a makeshift hell that has been specially created to reproduce the conditions experienced 35 years ago. Somehow everyone comes out of the Other One in one piece as we live to make it just one more day.

5/19/77 The pentultimate night of our stay finds us in good cheer as all know that it's just a matter of hours 'til we go home. This night of ecstacy begins like no other because we've all just heard the best Sugaree ever played. (at least since we've been on the island.)

12/31/78 Everyone is numb and tired, but there's still a glint of reserve to tap into. Bill Graham has returned from the grave to do up the island and all the acts that performed that night have miraculously returned to rock our collective backsides into oblivion!!! As we head off the island, Uncle Bobo shouts, "You were the perfect audience!" Amen.

" Steal Your Jazz "

Joined: Mar 4 2008
Some good picks, some pans.

I'll start with some missed eras
1. 6/23/74 - Jai Alia Froton, Miami, Fl. The only Let It Rock and a Dark Star beyond . . .
2. 6/23/76 - Tower Theatre, Upper Darby - St Stephen, Dancing in the Streets and a Cosmic Charlie . . One of the best second sets ever.
3. Veneta 72 or 5/11/72. Take your pick both are beyond.
4. Live Dead - Can't live without it. Alternate 2/11/69 Fillmore East
5. Reckoning - or any of those shows from which this was culled in 81 - Acoustic Dead - Hell Yeah!!
6. Formerly the Warlocks - Nightfall of Diamonds as a alternate. 10/9/89 Second set is one for all time.
7. 3/24/93 - Great show. Very underrated in the last good year for the Dead.
8. 5/19 - 5/21/77 - Released as a Dicks Picks. It's awesome.
9. 2/19-24, 1971 Capital Theatre - Port Chester, NY - Some really great shows at a transition period.
10 - Go to Nassau - Great Early Brent Dead
Crippled but free,
I was blind all the time,
I was learning to see

Joined: Jul 19 2011
Top 10

1:1969-11-08 (Dicks Picks 16)
2: 1970-06-24 Capitol Theater (Jerry yplays all 4 sets ending with DS>Attics>DS>Smags>China Rider>UJB!
3: 1972-04-14 Live at Tivoli (my favorite Darkstar)
4: 1972-08-27 Veneta
5: 1973-11-11 Pauley Pavilion, Playing>UJB>Dew>UJB>Playing, not to mention the rest of the show
6:1975-08-13 Great Am. Music Hall (One from the Vault)
7: 1976-07-18 The Orpheum Theatre (LL>Supplication>Let it Grow>Drums>Let it grow>Wharf Rat>TOO>St. Stephen>NFA>St. Stephen>Wheel>TOO>Stella Bue>Smag) EXCUSE ME?! who hates 76?
8: 1977-04-23 (I would take the Cornell Scarlet-Fire over this one, but the rest of the show is better [yes])
9: 1977-05-22 (not just DP3 but the whole show)
10: 1977-12-27 (The best Peggy-O)

I'm sure there are some things missing, Maybe a Papa Jerry 80's style Dew....but there's my ten....plenty of jams to sit under the ocean stars and contemplate how the hell to get off that island.

Well, I know a little something you won't never know...


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