Grateful Dead
Live album by
ReleasedOctober 24, 1971 (1971-10-24)
RecordedMarch 24 – April 29, 1971
GenreFolk rock, jam rock, blues rock, psychedelic rock
LabelWarner Bros. (#2WS-1935)
ProducerGrateful Dead with Betty Cantor and Bob Matthews
Grateful Dead chronology
Historic Dead
Grateful Dead
Europe '72
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[1]
The Village VoiceA–[2]

Grateful Dead is an album by rock band the Grateful Dead. Released on October 24th, 1971[3] on Warner Bros. Records, it is their second live double album. Although published without a title, it is generally known by the names Skull and Roses (due to its iconic cover art) and Skull Fuck (the name the band originally wanted to give to the album, which was rejected by the record company). It was the group's first album to be certified gold by the RIAA[4] and remained their best seller until surpassed by Skeletons from the Closet.

Recording and release

Unlike Live/Dead, the album contained several lead and background vocal overdubs. For the three new original compositions ("Bertha", "Playing in the Band", and "Wharf Rat"), the band invited Jerry Garcia associate Merl Saunders to overdub organ parts. This made the organ playing of Saunders more prominent than that of Pigpen, whose contributions tend to be buried in the mix.

"Playing in the Band" received a good amount of airplay, and became one of the Dead's most played songs in concert (a studio version was released the following year on rhythm guitarist Bob Weir's solo album Ace).[5] The closing segue of "Not Fade Away" into "Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad" also received airplay and became a fan favorite.

The album's cover art, composed by Alton Kelly and Stanley Mouse, is based on an illustration by Edmund Joseph Sullivan for an old edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.[4] Though the album has been known by the sobriquet "Skull & Roses", the original vertical gatefold cover unfolds to reveal the entire skeleton. The graphic became one of the images most associated with the band.

Opening track "Bertha" fades in on the original version of the album, in semblance of entering the performance space. A longer, full opening is used on CD/digital copies. More tracks from the same source concerts were later released on Ladies and Gentlemen... the Grateful Dead.

The 7" single release of "Johnny B. Goode" (a split single with Elvin Bishop) was actually the version from the album Fillmore: The Last Days. However, the version from this album was later used as a B-side on the re-release of the "Truckin'" single.

The album was remastered and expanded for the 2001 box set The Golden Road. This version, with three bonus tracks (two contemporaneous live tracks and a hidden promotional track) and the extended "Bertha", was released separately, in 2003.

The 50th Anniversary Edition of Skull and Roses was released on June 25, 2021, in CD, LP, and digital formats. The CD includes a bonus disc of songs recorded live at the Fillmore West in San Francisco on July 2, 1971.[6]

Title and message

When the band submitted "Skull Fuck" (a contemporary euphemism for "blow your mind") as the album title, it was rejected by the record label. Ultimately the agreement was made that the album would be published without the title appearing anywhere on the record labels or cover artwork. Though the band refers to the album by this title, and it has long been known to fans (through interviews with band members, the Deadhead network and other outlets), the alternate, descriptive title "Skull & Roses" developed among distributors, music buyers and reviewers as a graphic incipit from the cover artwork.

Drummer Bill Kreutzmann explained the lack of a title on the artwork and labels, "...the original name was going to be "Skull Fuck". This was a time long before rap artists like Eminem numbed concerned citizens to the idea of offensive language in music. Warner Brothers freaked out on us. They said stores would boycott it and we wouldn't be able to get it on shelves."[7]

Inside the gatefold of the original LP, the band reached out directly to its burgeoning fan base, which had begun to attend multiple concerts in a row and collect live audio tapes of each concert, with a message reading:

Dead Freaks Unite: Who are you? Where are you? How are you?
Send us your name and address and we'll keep you informed.
Dead Heads, P.O. Box 1065, San Rafael, California 94901.

The mailing address is no longer extant.

Track listing

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Recording notesLength
1."Bertha"Jerry Garcia, Robert HunterApril 27, 1971, Fillmore East5:27
2."Mama Tried"Merle HaggardApril 26, 1971, Fillmore East2:42
3."Big Railroad Blues"Noah LewisApril 5, 1971, Hammerstein Ballroom3:34
4."Playing in the Band"Bob Weir, HunterApril 6, 1971, Hammerstein Ballroom4:39
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Recording notesLength
1."The Other One"Weir, Bill KreutzmannApril 28, 1971, Fillmore East18:05
Side three
No.TitleWriter(s)Recording notesLength
1."Me and My Uncle"John PhillipsApril 29, 1971, Fillmore East3:06
2."Big Boss Man"Luther Dixon, Al SmithApril 26, 1971, Fillmore East5:12
3."Me and Bobby McGee"Fred Foster, Kris KristoffersonApril 27, 1971, Fillmore East5:43
4."Johnny B. Goode"Chuck BerryMarch 24, 1971, Winterland Ballroom3:42
Side four
No.TitleWriter(s)Recording notesLength
1."Wharf Rat"Garcia, HunterApril 26, 1971, Fillmore East8:31
2."Not Fade Away/Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad"Buddy Holly, Norman Petty/traditionalApril 5, 1971, Hammerstein Ballroom9:14
Total length:70:12

The four sides of the vinyl album were combined as tracks 1–11 on CD reissues.

2001/2003 reissue bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Recording notesLength
12."Oh, Boy!"Petty, Bill Tilghman, Sonny WestApril 6, 1971, Hammerstein Ballroom2:50
13."I'm a Hog for You"Jerry Leiber and Mike StollerApril 6, 1971, Hammerstein Ballroom4:08
14."Grateful Dead radio spot"  1:00

50th Anniversary Edition bonus disc
No.TitleWriter(s)Recording notesLength
1."Good Lovin'"Rudy Clark, Artie ResnickJuly 2, 1971, Fillmore West17:47
2."Sing Me Back Home"HaggardJuly 2, 1971, Fillmore West10:16
3."Mama Tried"HaggardJuly 2, 1971, Fillmore West3:08
4."Cryptical Envelopment"GarciaJuly 2, 1971, Fillmore West2:25
5."Drums"KreutzmannJuly 2, 1971, Fillmore West5:13
6."The Other One"Weir, KreutzmannJuly 2, 1971, Fillmore West15:51
7."Big Boss Man"Smith, DixonJuly 2, 1971, Fillmore West5:27
8."Not Fade Away"Holly, PettyJuly 2, 1971, Fillmore West3:57
9."Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad"Traditional, arranged by Grateful DeadJuly 2, 1971, Fillmore West9:39
10."Not Fade Away"Holly, PettyJuly 2, 1971, Fillmore West2:35
Total length:76:26

Note: More songs from the April 25 – 29, 1971 shows at the Fillmore East are included in Ladies and Gentlemen... the Grateful Dead.


Grateful Dead

Additional musicians


Production – 50th Anniversary Edition

Charts and certification


Year Chart Position
1971 Pop Albums 25[8]

RIAA certification

Certification Date
Gold November 15, 1971[9]


  1. ^ Planer, Lindsay. "Grateful Dead (Skull & Roses)". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (October 14, 1971). "Consumer Guide (19)". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  3. ^ Shackleford, Tom (March 24, 2021). "Rhino to Reissue Grateful Dead's 'Skull & Roses' Live Album for 50th Anniversary". Live for Live Music. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Grateful Dead (Skull and Roses) at the Grateful Dead Family Discography
  5. ^ Scott, John W.; Dolgushkin, Mike; Nixon, Stu. (1999). DeadBase XI: The Complete Guide to Grateful Dead Song Lists. Cornish, NH: DeadBase. ISBN 1-877657-22-0.
  6. ^ Bernstein, Scott (March 24, 2021). "Grateful Dead Confirms 'Skull & Roses' 50th Anniversary Reissue". JamBase. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  7. ^ Kreutzmann, Bill (2015). Deal. St. Martin's Press, New York. Chapter 10. ISBN 978-1-250-03380-2.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database-The Grateful Dead". Retrieved March 1, 2017.