Live/Dead is the first official live album (and fourth overall) released by the rock band Grateful Dead. Recorded over a series of concerts in early 1969 and released later the same year, it was the first live rock album to use 16-track recording.

A painting of a woman floating above a casket holding a banner reading "DEAD" behind a background with the word "LIVE"
Live album by
ReleasedNovember 10, 1969
RecordedJanuary 26 – March 2, 1969
LabelWarner Bros.-Seven Arts
Grateful Dead chronology
Workingman's Dead

In 2005 the tracks "Dark Star", "St. Stephen", "Death Don't Have No Mercy", "Feedback" and "We Bid You Goodnight" were released, in their original sequence and with a new mix, on the respective February 27, 1969 and March 2, 1969 discs of the Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings box set (the first 1:34 of "Dark Star" can be found on the previous track, "Mountains of the Moon"). "Feedback" and "We Bid You Goodnight" were also released on the triple disc, highlights release Fillmore West 1969.

Recording edit

To assuage debt accrued with their record label from their recent album Aoxomoxoa, as well as fulfill their record contract, the band decided to record a live album. They were also interested in releasing an album more representative of their live performances and actual musicianship, as opposed to the in-studio experimentation of previous albums. The band's soundman, Owsley "Bear" Stanley, asked electronics designer Ron Wickersham to invent a microphone splitter that fed both into the PA and the record inputs, with no loss in quality.[1] The songs were recorded with an Ampex 16-track machine.[2]

Kreutzmann later explained, "We got our hands on the latest in recording technology — a sixteen-track recorder (which, of course, is antiquated these days) — and we hauled it up the steps of the Avalon, and later the Fillmore West, and we became the first band ever to make a live sixteen-track recording. We weren’t trying to make history; we were just trying to record a live album. ... Studio versions could never do those songs justice, but advances in live recording (some of which were at our own hands) meant that we could bring the live Dead experience to vinyl".[3]

"We're not performers, strictly speaking, and we can't manufacture intensity in a recording studio… we're musicians more than anything else"

Jerry Garcia[4]

Unlike in later years, in early 1969 the contents of the Dead's set lists varied little. They improvised the medley of "Dark Star"/"St. Stephen"/"The Eleven" several times a week, which enabled them to explore widely within the songs' simple frameworks. The "Dark Star / St. Stephen" pairing was taken from the February 27, 1969 show at the Fillmore West; "The Eleven" and "Turn On Your Love Light" were from the January 26, 1969 show at the Avalon Ballroom; "Death Don't Have No Mercy," "Feedback," and "And We Bid You Goodnight" were recorded March 2, 1969, at the Fillmore West.

Two songs had seen previous release. "St. Stephen" had appeared in a studio version on Aoxomoxoa and "Dark Star" as a single. "The Eleven" was named for its unusual, complex time signature (11

Title and packaging edit

The title has a double meaning. It refers both to the band (the "Dead") playing live, and is an oxymoron, contrasting the two words in apparent contradiction. The artwork, created by Robert Donovan Thomas (aka Bob Thomas), also illustrated this juxtaposition. The word "Live" is seen on the front cover, and the word "Dead" fills the back cover of the gatefold.

The original Warner Bros. LP [#2WS 1830] included an 8.5" × 11" bi-fold insert with Celtic symbols and lyrics for "Saint Stephen", "The Eleven", and "Dark Star". The tracks are presented as one continuous concert. As such, vinyl copies are pressed with automatic sequencing, for stacking on a record changer (Record One containing sides 1 & 4 and Record Two containing sides 2 & 3). CD versions present the track segues without interruption.

Release edit

The album was a financial success for the band in the eyes of their label, Warner Bros. Keyboardist Tom Constanten commented that "Warner Bros. had pointed out that they had sunk $100,000-plus (about $820,000-plus adjusted for 2023) into Aoxomoxoa ... so someone had the idea that if we sent them a double live album, three discs for the price of one wouldn't be such a bad deal."[2] It was the final album with Constanten, who left the band in January 1970.

A six-and-a-half-minute edit of "Turn On Your Lovelight" was issued first on the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders album The Big Ball in 1970, and later on Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead. A two-and-a-half minute edit of "Dark Star" was released on the soundtrack album for Zabriskie Point, an Antonioni film for which Garcia created additional music. The album's version of "St. Stephen" appears on the 1977 Grateful Dead compilation What a Long Strange Trip It's Been, but fades out during the final verse.

Live/Dead was expanded with hidden bonus tracks as part of the 2001 box set The Golden Road (1965–1973), and has a longer intro on "Dark Star". This version was released separately in 2003.

Reception and legacy edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [5]
The Village VoiceA+[6]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [7]

The album was met with very positive reviews, with Village Voice critic Robert Christgau writing that it "contains the finest rock improvisation ever recorded"[6] and Rolling Stone magazine's Lenny Kaye saying it foreshadows "where rock is likely to be in about five years".[8] In his ballot for Jazz & Pop magazine's 1970 critics poll, Christgau ranked Live/Dead as the third best popular music album.[9][nb 1]

In retrospect, AllMusic notes that "few recordings have ever represented the essence of an artist in performance as faithfully as Live/Dead",[5] while Grateful Dead scholar Blair Jackson regards it as the best psychedelic rock album of the 1960s.[10] Engineer and author Michael Hageloh claims that with the album, the Dead "spontaneously create[d] the form now known as 'jam rock'" and became "legends with a generation-spanning cult following".[11] Drummer Bill Kreutzmann comments "It was our first live release and it remains one of our best-loved albums. Its appeal was that it took great 'you-had-to-be-there' live versions of songs like 'Dark Star' and 'The Eleven' and put them right in people’s living rooms."[3]

In 2003, the album was ranked number 244 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[12] and 247 in a 2012 revised list.[13] It was voted number 242 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[14]

Track listing edit

Side one
No.TitleRecording dateLength
1."Dark Star" (Garcia, Hart, Hunter, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, Weir)27 February 1969, Fillmore West23:18[a]
Side two
No.TitleRecording dateLength
1."St. Stephen" (Garcia, Hunter, Lesh)27 February 1969, Fillmore West6:31[a]
2."The Eleven" (Hunter, Lesh)26 January 1969, Avalon Ballroom9:18
Side three
No.TitleRecording dateLength
1."Turn On Your Love Light" (Deadric Malone, Joseph Scott)26 January 1969, Avalon Ballroom15:05
Side four
No.TitleRecording dateLength
1."Death Don't Have No Mercy" (Reverend Gary Davis)2 March 1969, Fillmore West10:28[b]
2."Feedback" (Constanten, Garcia, Hart, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, Weir)2 March 1969, Fillmore West7:49[c]
3."And We Bid You Goodnight" (Traditional, arr. by Grateful Dead)2 March 1969, Fillmore West0:35[d]
  • The four sides of the vinyl album were combined as tracks 1–7 on CD reissues.
2001/2003 reissue bonus tracks
8."Dark Star (single version)" (Garcia, Hunter)2:45
9."Live/Dead radio promo"1:01


  1. ^ a b Later remixed and released with entire concert on Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, Disc #2
  2. ^ Later remixed and released with entire concert on Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, Disc #9
  3. ^ Later remixed and released with entire concert on Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, Disc #10, and Fillmore West 1969
  4. ^ Later remixed and released with entire concert, in unedited form, on Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, Disc #10, and Fillmore West 1969

Personnel edit

Grateful Dead
  • Produced by Grateful Dead, Bob Matthews, Betty Cantor
  • Executive engineer: Bob Matthews
  • Engineer: Betty Cantor
  • Consulting engineers: Owsley, Ron Wickersham
  • Sound: Bear
  • Art direction: Ed Thrasher
  • Cover art: R.D. Thomas

Sales charts and certification edit

Billboard chart

Year Chart Position
1970 Billboard 200 62[15]

RIAA certification

Certification Date
Gold August 24, 2001[16]

Notes edit

  1. ^ As Christgau explains in the article, "eligible albums were those issued between October 1, 1969 and October 31, 1970."[9]

References edit

  1. ^ Phil Lesh: Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh, Little, Brown and Company, 2005, pg. 142.
  2. ^ a b Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip. Jake Woodward, et al. Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2003, pg. 104.
  3. ^ a b Kreutzmann, Bill (2015). Deal. St. Martin's Press, New York. Chapter 7. ISBN 978-1-250-03380-2.
  4. ^ Classic Albums - The Grateful Dead: Anthem to Beauty (DVD). Rhino/Wea. 1999.
  5. ^ a b Planer, Lindsay. "Live/Dead". AllMusic. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (July 10, 1969). "Consumer Guide (6)". The Village Voice. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  7. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  8. ^ Kaye, Lenny (7 February 1970). "Records". Rolling Stone. No. 51. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. p. 44. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  9. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1970). "Jazz & Pop Ballot 1970". Jazz & Pop. Retrieved May 23, 2020 – via
  10. ^ Jackson, Blair (2006). Grateful Dead Gear. Backbeat Books. p. 79. ISBN 9780879308933.
  11. ^ Hageloh, Michael (2019). "An Annoying Musical Interlude". Live from Cupertino. Post Hill Press. ISBN 9781642931716.
  12. ^ 500 Greatest Albums: Live/Dead at
  13. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  14. ^ Colin Larkin (2006). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 111. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  15. ^ "Grateful Dead Chart History – Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  16. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database-Live Dead". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved February 28, 2009.