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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johnbrosnan's picture
Joined: Jul 19 2011

I was wondering if someone was going to mention Without A Net.

deadmike's picture
Joined: Jun 13 2007
About others ...

I'm not sure btw what records with non-GD artists/bands I would bring because there are so many ... but the following would be greatly missed if I couldn't bring them ...

1. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Box Set (2001) (Of course I would miss some of the bonus tracks from the latest remastered versions but this box set contains everything else CCR have made since their days as The Blue Velvets, and on six CD's only ...)

2. Colosseum - Morituri Te Salutant (a 4-CD compilation)

3. Allman Brothers Band - Archive No.4: Nassau Coliseum 5-1-73

4. Santana - Lotus (1974)

5. Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush - Real Live! (2001)

6. Quicksilver Messenger Service - Happy Trails (1969)

7. Jefferson Airplane - Bless It's Pointed Little Head (1969)

8. Quicksilver Messenger Service - Quicksilver (1971) (or a CD-R with the best songs from Just For Love, What About Me, Quicksilver and Comin' Thru')

9. Parliament - Live/P-Funk Earth Tour (1977)

10. Yello - Yello By Yello: The Anthology

11. Allman Brothers Band - The Fillmore Concerts

12. Redbone - The Witch Queen of New Orleans (European issue of Message from a Drum but with a different cover).

I would surely miss many really nice non-Dead albums ... Bob Marley - Live (1975), Colosseum - Live (1971), a nice CD-R compilation of Led Zeppelin, several jazz records and others ... :-O

Micke Östlund,
Växjö, Sweden

My record collection:

deadmike's picture
Joined: Jun 13 2007
Lovely ...

I'm stuck on making lists since way back when ... :-D

The twelve albums or shows I should bring are these:

1. Live/Dead (What can I say? Maybe I have been listening to this album many many times in the past 32+ years as well and could possibly replicate the album in my head as well, but still ... I got to have it - also because of the artwork, since I really enjoy looking at album covers. This is the album I want to be played at my future funeral - it's the main soundtrack of my life. I can't live without it, and I crave a copy in my coffin when I'm dead and gone ... in case I wake up in a heavenly future ... *s*)

2. One From The Vault (I used to have the bootleg Makebelieve Ballroom on really bad vinyl, so this show was my first choice when I had my first tapetraders ad published in The Golden Road issue 5. Eyes of the World ---> Stronger Than Dirt are two of the three Grateful Dead tunes I have on my cellphone, a Sony W595 btw),

3. American Beauty (is the most obvious studio choice)

4. Terrapin Station (is the second most obvious studio choice but I need the remastered version of course since I really love the live Dancing in the Streets)

5. Skull 'n' Roses (a record which means a lot to me and because of the artwork as well as reminder of the Dead Heads unite "ad")

6. Europe '72 (a good compilation of the classic tour)

7. 2-11 and 2-13-70 (I have the 2-11 Dark Star jam on bootleg and I love it. I have the last set from 2-13-70 on mini disc, because it is essential. I would make my own CD-R's compilation with this music since I'm not equally interested in 2-14-70)

8. Dick's Picks Vol. 29 (Atlanta 5-19-77 was probably my first 1977 show on tape and since I'm a 1977 buff in Grateful Dead years speaking, at least I got to have this one)

9. The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack (but I would surely miss the Steal Your Face cover)

10. 8-27-72 (I have the DVD ...)

11. The Closing of Winterland (I used to have it on tape and I have fond memories of it)

12. 3-23-75 (I have it downloaded from Wolfgang's Vault but used to have it on not so good tape copy, Since I like Miles Davis of the 70's, this short performance is the closest the Dead got to Miles' music.)

If I could take a bonus record, I would make my own CD-R compilation of live and studio tracks from 1966-69. And of course I don't dislike the 1980's in GD music but I'm not sure what I would choose from that era.

Micke Östlund,
Växjö, Sweden

My record collection:

Joined: Jan 13 2010
one last thing

the other day someone was talking to me and they said they saw the GD before "Jesse" died.


Joined: Jan 13 2010
Mr. Know-it-all sez...

it was 7/9/95 (the last show).

excellent point.

Joined: Jan 13 2010
oh yeah "baker's dozen"


Joined: Jan 13 2010
wow. lemme try...

Steppin' Out

We DO get rescued eventually, right?

I'll sneak the Stooges' Funhouse along somewhere. and NY's Live Rust. and Funkadelic's Maggot Brain. and some Zep (Mothership).

But those are the DIDs that came to mind most immediately.

Joined: Jul 18 2011
Soldier Field

I can not believe NO one would take the last show, 8/9/95! If nothing else, you take it as historically correct recording of what was going down right at the end. It may not be as beautiful, but it is important. Thats all I have to say about that.

Joined: Jun 6 2007
Break out the boogie boards

in no particular order...
Binghamton NY 4-12- 83
Greek 6-14-85
Merriweather Post 6-27-84
Autzen Stadium 8-22-93
Hampton 10-9-89
Nassau Coliseum- Halloween 1979
Manor Downs 7-31-82
Dijon, France 9-18-74
Pauley Pavilion 11-17-73
Avalon Ballroom (10-12-68 or 10-13-68)
Portland Memorial Coliseum 5-19-74
MIT Kresge Plaza 5-6-70

Joined: Feb 3 2011
Desert Island

I would need far more variety than just GOGD. So in no particular order, and with no unreleased concerts and only one compilation (Sonny Boy Williamson was not an "album" artist), here is a baker's dozen:

John Coltrane: A Love Supreme
Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue, Sketches of Spain, Bitches Brew
BB King: Live @ Regal
James Brown: Apollo I & III
Love: Forever Changes
Allman Bros: Fillmore
Sonny Boy Williamson II: Essential
GD: Harpur 70 (whatever D's Ps that may be, this was my first unreleased tape in my collection, got it on cassette Fall '71 with no date or venue, just "Electric Dead")
Muddy Waters; Newport


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