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: Nov 1 2010
3-1-69 2-13-70 - best dark

2-13-70 - best dark star
8-27-72 (for all of the europe 72 crap that has been released, re-released and re-re released, you still have forgotten the best show of 72)
2-9-73 best/first eyes
6-19-75 sweet show, especially H>S>F, ll rain, let it grow, cosmic C
4-16-78 best peggy o, great show
6-28-85 (if i grab anything from june of 85 i am golden)
10-16-89 - i was there
7-14-90 here too, amazing eyes.

but this is a trick question, because i would need some jgb too.

JerseySchwartz's picture
Joined: Jun 5 2007
Sep 4 John K Band Stone

Sep 4 John K Band Stone Pony Asbury Park NJ

JerseySchwartz's picture
Joined: Jun 5 2007
Top 12

1 Rhythm Devils Play River Music
2 Garcia Wheel
3 Seastones/B Weir Ace
4 Carousel Road Trips vol 2 #2
5 D Picks 22 Lake Tahoe
6 Live/Dead
7 Three from the Vault
8 100 Year Hall
9 D Picks14 Boston Music Hall
10 One from the Vault
11 For the Faithful
12 View from Vault 4

Be Here Now East Coast Dead Headcount

July 24 Further PNC (use lawn to walk across during soundcheck)
Aug 11 Stone Pony 7 Walkers
Aug 14 Bob Dylan Convention Hall
Sep 4 John K Band Stone Band

Joined: Nov 1 2010
My 10

1. Dick's Picks Vol. 3
2. Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack
3. Dick's Picks Vol. 12
4. American Beauty
5. Colgate, 11.4.77
6. Boston Garden, 5.7.77
7. Europe '72
8. Reckoning
9. Veneta, 8/27/72
10. Cornell, 5/8/77

What can I say? I'm partial to '77.

Joined: Jun 7 2007
One small correction

The Veneta '72 show was actually at the Old Renaissance Faire Grounds.... the '82 show that was at the Oregon Country Fairgrounds (not county... which makes sense, seeing as how Oregon is a state, not a county.) Apologies for the error.

Joined: Jun 7 2007
My Twelve

My list has 9 official, 1 sort-of-official, and 2 supplementary shows

1. Road Trips 2.2 (Carousel Ballroom 2/14/68)
2. Fillmore West 1969
3. Dick's Picks 8 (Harpur College 5/2/70)
4. Europe '72
5. Steppin' Out With the Grateful Dead (England '72)
6. Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack (Winterland Arena Oct' 74)
7. Formerly the Warlocks... (Hampton Coliseum '89)
8. Without a Net... (Fall '89 and Spring '90 tours compiled)
9. Dozin' At the Knick (Knickerbocker Arena '90)

10. Downhill From Here (a DVD-only release, but I have an audio rip of the soundtrack)

11. Oregon County Fairgrounds, Veneta OR 8/27/72
12. Barton Hall, Cornell University 5/8/77

Joined: Nov 1 2010
If I were stranded...

that would mean something weird had happened, so I think I would just try to go with the flow and listen to whatever it was I had along before the weirdness occurred.

However, that would not be the Grateful Dead movie soundtrack. Whoever made the decision to truncate certain songs to match the movie versions made a bad choice. I've been able to listen to the soundtrack exactly once before putting it back on the shelf in the "nice try, but wrong" category.

Joined: Jun 4 2007
Most of those choices are a given blairj -

I agree with....

1. Dicks Picks Vol. 4: 2/13-14/70
2. Dicks Picks Vol. 33: 10/9-10/76
3. Rotterdam 5/11/72 (from the soon-to-be-released E72 box)
4. Grateful Dead Download Series Vol. 5: Hampton 3/27/88

but I would add these

5. Road Trips: Vol 4, Number 1: Big Rock Pow Wow 69 (I'd substitute this for Live Dead for the same reasons and the Fillmore box which I missed the boat)
6. Dicks Picks Vol. 29: 5/19-21/77 (I prefer these over Cornell)
7. Grateful Dead Download Series Vol. 9: Pittsburg 4/2 & 3/89
8. View From The Vault III Shoreline 6/16/90
9. Dozin' At The Knick
10. Terrapin Station (Limited 3CD Collector's Edition)
11. Formerly The Warlocks box
12. Nightfall Of Diamonds

Now if I were trapped somewhere in Hawaii, I'd tweak the list a little to substitute a few of the above for these albums.....

Led Zeppelin - How The West Was Won
Yes - Yessongs
The Allman Brothers - Fillmore East
Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland
Govt Mule - Dose
Soft Machine - Bundles
Steve Vai - Passion And Warfare
Mike Keneally - Bakin' At The Potato

Joined: Jun 17 2007
One track for an entire 2 week Beach Vacation


1. Take "So Many Roads"
2. Put in Disk 2, Song 2 --Beautiful Jam - from Port Chester 2-19-71
3. Put on Repeat and see how many times you can listen to it in row. By the 3rd time you should have a tear in your eye. That JAM can bring me to another plane of being anytime I listen to it.

I could probably make a 2 week Beach Vacation on this track alone.

Joined: Jul 18 2011
Thats tough... (i added a bonus disc hah)

I would choose...

1) Dick's Picks 4 - Haven't listened to it enough, but the Dark Star is great and ya gotta have some primal dead!

2) Dick's Picks 5 - While I'm not crazy for this DP, the first set is just SOO well played its ridiculous, and not mention the encore with Around and Around > Johnny B. Goode.

3) Dick's Picks 8 - Surprised Blair didn't have this one. Best Other One ever? its quite textbook and reaches the far depths of the cosmos. And yes the Viola is amazing. Great DP

4) Dick's Picks 10 - Theres nothing bad you can say. Everything is perfectly played, return of China > Rider, and its a unique one. Amazing eyes, JBG, sugar mag, LLR, playin, EVERYTHING

5) Dick's Picks 15 - Have you heard this NFA!?!! yowsa. Everything else is great. Not to mention a version of Half Step that I have found nothing even comparable. Epic show.

6) Dick's Picks 16 - I love it! Disc 2 and 3 are mindblowing. Some of the best exploratory jamming I've ever heard. I can't get enough.

7) Dick's Picks 18 - A long time favorite (and my Wisconsin bias need not show). Best Music Never Stopped ever. And thats the one song I have no problem saying there is a best ever. Its perfect. Other one!!! Scarlet Fire!!! Wharf Rat, whole first disc! 18 is forever in my heart

8) Dick's Picks 23 - While this DP as a whole is not my favorite, the Other One is out of this world. I would take the other one by itself. The playin' and me and my uncle are also legendary versions. And who doesn't obsess over Sept. 72!?

9) Dick's Picks 36 - Dark Star > Morning Dew. Other One. Playin. Sept. 72. nuff said.

10) 1984-03-31 - the most underrated show ever? The first set is DP 5-esque... meaning every song is perfectly played. Favorite LLR ever. The scarlet fire and hes gone are also excellent. 2nd half of 2nd set leaves you searching for better, but this one is close to my heart. Would take the 1st set alone.

11) 1989-07-(17-19) - Don't know if it's fair, but Alpine 89. Must i list all of the songs? Everything is epic

12) 1972-10-18 - I have to have the Playin>dark star>dew>playin. I just couldn't leave without it

13) (can we include a bonus disc? :) ) Mine would consist of my favorite Morning Dews, 1994-03-27, 1992-03-23, 1987-09-18, 1985-11-02, 1974-10-18, 1972-12-31 and.......


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