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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Joined: Jun 4 2007
I'm Surprised Nobody Has Mentioned

The Closing Of Winterland 12/31/78

This show has always been up there near the top of manys favorites lists right along with Veneta '72, Fillmore East 2/70, Cornell 5/77, Harper College 5/2/70, Oakland 10/9-10/76, NYE '87, Hampton 10/8-9/89, Meadowlands 10/16/89, Nassau 3/29/90 ect.

zepthompson's picture
Joined: Nov 1 2010
no particular order

3 from the vault

what a long strange trip its been

in the dark

DP 4
DP 8
DP 16
DP 28
DP 29

Dozin at the Knick


5/8/77 & 8/27/72

JackstrawfromColorado's picture
Joined: Jan 2 2009
Without a Net =

All time favorite Althea.

"It's got no signs or dividing line and very few rules to guide"

Joined: Jun 4 2007
if i had the time...

...i'd grab these:
DP 15
DP 18
April Fool's RT
DP 28
Ladies and Gentleman
DP 4
GD Movie Soundtrack

Joined: Aug 21 2007
Can o' worms

You really opened it up this time bj!!!
And I appreciate it and am laughing

skwimite's picture
Joined: Feb 17 2008
out of order

8-24-68 (for Cryptical thru Lovelight)
2-27-69 (whacha think?)
2-14-70 (Alligator thru AWBYG!!!)
5-2-70 ( fun vibe all the way)
9-19-70 (amazingly subtle Dark Star...shhh or you'll miss something)
9-20-70 (for the acoustic set)
8-6-71 ( you are there!)
11-7-71 ( makes you howl like a hippie)
5-13-72 (Excellent Truckin thru The Other One)
5-20-73 ( Truckin thru Stella Blue)
5-25-77 (superb 2nd set)
12-29-77 (I was there!)
My yardstick was what shows do I listen to repeatedly and never get tired of. Plenty of "better" shows no doubt, but these would get me through, although I can't set them in any particular order. What I like about this question is seeing other peoples choices of shows I'm unfamiliar with. Thanks. Checkin' 'em out.

Joined: Oct 18 2009
My 12

1) Dick's Pick's Vol. 15 - Supremely underrated show in front of 150,000 8 miles from my current house. All time favorite Eyes of The World
2) The Closing of Winterland - Historic of corse and the DVD has made me fond of it. But also a great snapshot of 1978 and '79
3) Boston Garden 5/7/77 - everything seems perfect (see: Terrapin>Sampson and Delilah)
4) Dozin' At The Knick - My all time favorite Row Jimmy and Brokedown Palace, and disk two is to die for.
5) Downhill From Here (audio rip) - Feel Like A Stranger, Built To Last, Standing On The Moon
6) Reckoning - acoustic is important
7) Dick's Picks 29 - trust me
8) Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 2 - some more 80s material, plus i love Throwing Stones
9) Europe '72
10) Dick's Picks Vol. 18 - Always loved the Cold Rain and Snow and a really interesting Scarlet>Fire
11) Without A Net - All time favorite Bird Song
12) So Many Roads - even if only for that beautiful So Many Roads

Joined: Nov 1 2010
tropical island picks

1. Dick's Picks 18 - I know the levels are a little hot, but so is the show. This has one of my favorite Scarlet Fires, an epic Estimated Eyes with one of my favorite angelic Jerry segues, a spacey Playin for '78, great 1st set songs including a rare Duprees, and a blistering Deal Music closer (nice job Dick!)

2. Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack - this is a great summation of all the highlights of the last 5 in '74 and it definitely makes up for Steal Your Face.

3. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Grateful Dead. This is a compilation of a few nights in April 71 at the Fillmore East. This has the best Hard To Handle I have ever heard, 4/29/71. The Alligator > Drums > Jam > GDTRFB > Cold Rain is one of a kind. morning dew. King Bee, RIpple, Dark Hollow, The Rub, a rare '71 Dark Star > St. Stephen with TC. I'm not a big fan of '71 but this is awesome!

4. Veneta '72 - this is burned into my brain from so many repeat listens. Esp. Bird Song, Playin, Jack Straw, Dark Star > El Paso, Sing Me back Home, so many great songs. The stage announcements also make this show unique.

5. 5/7/72 - Dark Star > Drums > Other One > Sing Me Back Home is classic. The Lovelight > GDTRFB > NFA is great and has one of my favorite Lovelight jams.

6. 4/8/72 - Dark Star > Sugar Mag > Caution!! This is the version on Steppin Out with the GD.

7. 4/29/72 - FREAKY Dark Star plus another Caution after Sugar Mag. 1st set opens with Playin.

8. Paris '72 - 5/3-4/72 - if the entire Europe '72 tour weren't being released, this would make a great 3 or 4 disc release. 5/3 is very together and it has the China > Rider from Europe '72. 5/4 strikes me as a slower more tired show (maybe up the night before tripping?) but the Dark Star gets WAY out there.

9. 2/9/73 Stanford - I know there are a bunch of good shows from the next 2 months of touring, but I think this show has a great vibe. There are 7 songs that are first played. Weir introduces Sugar Mag as their new single, and it broke big as hell in Pittsburgh. :D

10. Dick's Picks 12 - Highlights from the Providence and Boston shows 6/26, 28/74. One of my favorite China Riders ever. SOLID.

11. 5/8/77 - Another one that's burned into my brain. Best Dancin I have ever heard. By miles. I still turn it up and jam when I hear it on the GD channel. I don't think it's overrated or gets a bunch of good reviews because "everyone" has it. It's just that good.

12. 4/1/84 - ok this is subjective. It's one of the first tapes I got that sounded really good. But check it out on archive! The Help Slip Franklins glides, the Terrapin is great, Dew out of Space, nice Bob vocals on Good Lovin, 1st set has a nice FOTD, Big RR and Esau. I have good memories of listening to this show.

Joined: Nov 1 2010
and i forgot 6-18-74, so

and i forgot 6-18-74, so 4-2-89 has to go.

Joined: Nov 1 2010
i meant 6-19-76, also am

i meant 6-19-76, also am changing 3-1-69 for 8-13-75


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