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: Mar 18 2010
Let's play

Since this is hypothetical, and quite far from realistic, I would utilize the new desert island technology of recording every show on to a single disc. This is accomplished of course without sound loss, and not only will I have every Dead show ever performed on the Island, there's still room for 11 more. It's dizzying, the possibilities...

jonapi (not verified)
before it glowed the mind slowed soaked slept shined

Just twelve, you say?
Mmmmmm. I think some random finger-sticking would be in the spirit of the endeavour; chance operations for a sandy shore. (em)balmy evenings greet the improvisational encounter; blue sky heralding inner adventure.
when in doubt, affix the jewel cases in paddle-like conform; row like jimmy before complacency and madness manifest. over-familiarity the curse.

no order. would be impertinent.....

Roscoe Maples Pavilion, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, February 9, 1973 - dry heat, sweating liquid, imbibing sunshine. Eyes to the heart and fly fly fly; wrapped in Angel Pie while the city lights glow and the train rolls gently by.

Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO, July 8, 1978 - energy propel and sandstone frame; forward motion as Samson bounces. dark heart of a solo prophet, inner journey in the small hours; tendrils spread, polyrhythmic feelers towards the unknown. late at the station and a howl at the moon.

Parc des Expositions, Dijon, France, September 18, 1974 - wall of whatever; black throat coat and the stretched rabbit's tail. silver apples of Morton's moon after the a band of many directions. caution the intake when there's an early start; universal Mind at whatever the Time. before radiation the vegetables were sweet. popping another tab and stopping at the Fool.

Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA, October 9, 1989 - interjections at all points; adrenalin rush through the black hole. slipped into no-mind on a heated floor. dripping with diamonds and the aluminum medicine. crab-walk through a paper screen. window blowing warmth but the cube is giving all. inspiring tantric chants in it's aftermath until the visions come.

Dick's Picks 36 - Bear necessities; frequency ring under a tangerine pillow. communal chatter from the beings bring comfort. bird's circle the futon. menthol and whiskey trips where the left arm meets the Head. meant to sound like this; four limbs delivering raindrops on the roof. darts in the ether; tequila fancy on the railroad. impassioned losing amid sprightly temperature. cocoon-like comfort greeted by hugs at the knees in morn; a child's openness and a grab at the paper decoration.

Dicks Picks Vol. 10 - estimated beauty and those first notes of a china cat; mine the rich seventies seam, joyous admittance in chaotic fog and cresting waves. ecstatic jubilation; wood and skin and string and current. holy voices making things possible.

Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, Washington, DC, June 10, 1973 - tender begins. waving for all i'm worth. nickles and dimes on a dusty bar. here it comes; melancholy in the night. why? i don't know. familiar setting shapeshifts. looking out as the hops play their tune. another one-man trap meet and feeling fine. drenched but dandy, the instinct calling the tune.

Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD, June 27, 1984 - hello Brent, nice to meet you. help slip franklin, the air burning; show me the eyes, show me the eyes! what a friend that came before. bitter plant but that's okay; assume the taste. cracked ribs loosened with rhyme. pain suppressed by the silver-bullet; wrists twist, it's own snake in the River. a case of twelve halfway in. a gift for Being. i imagined, it came. same lights glowing as it fades away...

Dick's Picks 27 - spatial strafe; in the depths of loss the darkness enlarges the pupils. drums pan the spectrum. Cancer turmoil Healed, two cabinets into the Void. plant medicine inhaled as i come Up; warm enveloping as his Soul journey begins.

Dick's Picks 25 - two friends and one death that showed my Heart the way; hunched in the unfamiliar familiar. tubular access to the temple of Smoke. my Soul entered by white light like space dust on the tongue. pouring into my Heart, He passed through me. Goodbye to the material world, Dad. how to explain visible fractals that rush all senses? through me and out the Other side. third eye opens, tears on the arms wrapped tightly. broke down while rolling and all thanks to another estimated solo. I Speak In The Hushed Tones When I Speak At All.

Dozin' At The Knick - jungle sine waves; initial immune system it accompanied. a thank to Brent. whistle in the humidity; saturated immersion. pulse pulse pulse. pulse. Pulse. syncopate and abandon. drop and turbulence. if the thunder..........; sing me sweetly home angle multiple anticipate spread pool heart-flash-rate-back-rate. under feet pulled when the moment demands.

Paramount Theater, Portland, OR, October 2, 1977 - a fire in one's own mountain; the thirst for new illumination. sunrise at night strangely enough and all the better for it; maybe the night of too much. schedule adjusted in literature heat. bourbon sofa for the MVP? feeling it grow and another other.

for today.
but not tomorrow.

Mr.TheEleven's picture
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Joined: Nov 28 2010
One more

16 - "Without a Net," 1989. Great, tight, inspired, latter day Dead. Best ever "Victim/Help."

Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.

Mr.TheEleven's picture
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Joined: Nov 28 2010
OK, here goes, in rough

OK, here goes, in rough chronological order:

1 - Anthem of the Sun. By far my fave Dead "studio" album.
2 - Yes, Blair, Road Trips Vol 2. No 2: Carousel 2/14/68. For this 61-year-old Head, '68 is THE year.
3 - Two from the Vault, 8-24-68. Because, after all, '68 is the THE year of the glorious hot passionate psychedelic Dead mess.
4 - Fillmore West late Feb./early March 1969, the complete box set. I paid for it, I own it and I'm taking it to my island. Sorry Blair, but as Kurt Russell's Snake Plisken says in John Carpenter's "Escape from L.A.," "your rules are really starting to get on my nerves." But if you're gonna physically block me, then "Live/Dead." As a matter of fact ...
5 - "Live/Dead," late Feb./early March 1969. The Holy Grail of GD recordings. Best ever versions of Dark Star/St. Stephen/The Eleven all on one disc. 'Nuff said.
6 - "Grateful Dead (Skull and Roses), 1971. Featuring the Dead once again as their original tight, muscular fivesome, this two-disc set sounds Phatter than ANY other Dead disc (that's a compliment). Best ever version of "Fade/Road." Way less expensive and much more effective than Prozac.
7 - "Three from the Vault," 1971. More great second incarnation quintet Dead. Many delights, including a wonderful early "Bird Song," fairly different than what the ode to Janis evolved into.
8 - "Europe `72," 1972 (duh). A "live" Dead disc never sounded this clean and tight (especially the vocals), undoubtedly due to the reported subsequent studio overdubs once the boys were back in the Bay Area. Definitive versions from the greatest Dead tour ever of "He's Gone," "China/Rider," "Sugar" and so much more.
9 - "Hundred Year Hall," 1972. More greatness - and more great jamming - from the greatest tour ever. But wait. There's more.
10 - "Rocking the Rhein," 1972. Even MORE great Europe '72 Dead, especially disc three with its INSANE jamming, including second-best "Dark Star" ever.
11 - "Dick's Picks 18," 2-3-78, 2-5-78; Best DP ever, IMHO, especially the jam-heavy discs 2 and 3, highlighted by Jerry's simply beautiful, inspired, transcendent, goose-bump-producing soloing into to "Eyes." I play it whenever I'm at the dentist. Pain be gone!
12- "Grayfolded," 1969-1995. Portions of 26-years-worth of "Dark Stars" spliced together into one two-hour "Dark Star." Brillant and perfect for 2 a.m. Sunday morning when you are really, really, REALLY high.
13 - "So Many Roads," 1965-95. So much great music on its career-spanning five discs; worth the price of admission alone for the 2-18-71 "Beautiful Jam" and the 7-27-73 "Watkins Glen soundcheck jam."
14 - You need something to read on the island, right? In that case, "A Long, Strange Trip" by Dennis McNalley, and;
15 - "Garcia" by one Blair Jackson.
Sorry for any tpyos. I'm hammered on Scoth at 12:30 a.m. after a VERY long day at wrok.

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

Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.

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Joined: Jun 6 2007
bocephuz...

Yep, all classics...

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Joined: Apr 12 2009
1.) One From The Vault -

1.) One From The Vault - classic Bill Graham intro " on lead guitar and vocals.. Mr. Jerry Garcia.. Would you welcome please.. The Grateful Dead" and wham first chord to a Help/Slip/ Franklin's of which I have every note memorized.* 2) Veneta 72 _ you can feel the hot sun and the acid. Jerry's melting wah wah work on best Playin ever. * 3) Buffalo 79 _ Dancin' >Franklin's with Brent's funky synth.* 4)Silver Bowl'92 _ laid back Scarlet>Fire

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Joined: Jun 6 2007
Aloha...

Back from Kauai. It's been great reading all these suggestions and seeing how they converge and diverge. So many great shows and discs have been mentioned! Y'know, I was so busy and had so little time to get my iPod ( a new technology for me) together before the trip, I didn't actually end up bringing that much Dead. Here's what I ended up taking in my rush: The Austin '71 Road Trips, the Denver '73 Road Trips, Dicks Picks 12 ('74), Dicks Picks 14 ('73), Dicks Picks 4 ('70), Dicks Picks 28 ('73), 6/9/77 Winterland, Reckoning, Cornell '80 Road Trips, Fillmore West '69 compilation, 4/1/88 Road Trips, Crimson White & Indigo ('89), So Many Roads Discs 2 and 3. And a WHOLE BUNCH of my pretty extensive Hawaiian music collection--lots of Gabby Pahinui, Sons of Hawaii, Rev. Dennis Kamakahi and a slew of vintage Hawaiian stuff from the '20s through the '40s.

And you know what--because we were traveling with another family and had, between us, four kids ages 15, 17, 19 and 20, each of whom had their own iPods, I'd say most of the time we were listening to non-Dead and non-Hawaiian music. As a result I heard a lot of My Morning Jacket (whom I already liked but was not THAT familiar with), Of Montreal (no thank you), Dr. Dog (OK), She and Him (nice retro sound), Flight of the Conchords (love 'em!), Neon Indian (pretty cool), Flying Lotus (trippy electronic), The Harder They Come soundtrack, assorted reggae, and a slew of other acts I've now forgotten. Their choices didn't always fit my mood the way Dead and Hawaiian do (I've tested this music in Hawaii over the course of more than a dozen trips the past 30 years), but you don't want to be a complete music fascist (or do I?), so I tolerated it--most of the time. Sometimes I insisted on Hawaiian at the end of the day. Occasionally a welcome request for a '74 "Eyes" would come in from the back seat of the minivan, and for our nighttime ride from Lihue, on the southern end of the Island, back up to Haena, in the extreme north, after we all saw the new Harry Potter movie one evening, HAD to be a FW '69 "Dark Star."

And I did drink at least one mai-tai every day.

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Joined: Jul 25 2011
4-14-72 7-12-69 2-27-69 6-7-6

4-14-72
7-12-69
2-27-69
6-7-69
10-15-76
5-3-72
8-6-71
8-1-73
2-23-74
12-29-77
7-8-78
3-18-77

new_england_dead's picture
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Joined: Apr 1 2010
Seeing we can add a bonus disc

One that I forgot was the Road Trips Vol 3 No 3 which is great seeing we can add a bonus

That 73 period had some great stuff when Phil did "Box of Rain", "Eyes of the World" was played at nearly every show but we didn't know the songs name and the reggae style "They Love Each Other". I just played part of One from the Vault this morning and that has probably my favorite version of Help\Slipknot\Franklin on it. I am also fond of "On The Road Again" and the 74 version of "Scarlet Begonias" and China\Rider especially from DP12.

DP 12 Providence/Boston June 74
DP 28 Lincoln/Salt Lake City Feb 73
One From The Vault American Music Hall 1975
Reckoning Fall 1980
Ladies and Gentlemen April 1971
Postcards for the Hanging
GD Movie Soundtrack
SF 12-31-72
Washington DC 6-10-73
Williamsburg 9-12-73
Chicago 7-25-74
Tuscaloosca 5-17-77

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Joined: Sep 18 2007
No '73, Blair?!

I love reading all of the desert island lists here, but Blair, no '73! Admittedly, I don't have your expertise and we all have our favorites, but I would be tempted to forego the 10 picks and bring the Winterland '73 box only! I think it would occupy me for a few months by itself.

Jeff VanderVeen
"May the 4 winds blow you safely home."

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