Skeletons from the Closet:
The Best of Grateful Dead
A line drawing of a skeleton holding a record, a woman holding a rose, and a man holding the woman
Cover art by John Van Hamersveld
Greatest hits album by
ReleasedFebruary 1974 (1974-02) (LP)
October 1988 (1988-10) (CD)
LabelWarner Bros.
WS 2764
Grateful Dead chronology
Wake of the Flood
Skeletons from the Closet:
The Best of Grateful Dead

From the Mars Hotel
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic [1]
Rolling StoneMixed[2]

Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead is the first compilation album from rock band the Grateful Dead. It was originally released in February 1974. As with other such packages, the album was a way for Warner Bros. Records to capitalize on the Dead's back catalog, after the band had left the label. It was followed three years later by a second compilation, What a Long Strange Trip It's Been.[3]


Upon fulfilling their contract with Warner Bros. Records, the Grateful Dead left the label and started their own production and publishing arm for the release of their albums and other projects. After Wake of the Flood was successfully released on the independent Grateful Dead Records, Warner Bros. compiled Skeletons from the Closet as a "best-of" package, with tracks representing six of the band's nine albums on their label (along with a track from Bob Weir's solo album, Ace).[4]

Eight of the tracks are from Dead studio recordings, and two are from live albums. However "Turn On Your Love Light" is an edited version, that first appeared on the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders album The Big Ball, rather than the complete version from Live/Dead. "One More Saturday Night" is a live version from Europe '72. Though "Mexicali Blues" is from Weir's solo album, he is backed by the Grateful Dead. Nothing is presented from previous albums Anthem of the Sun, Grateful Dead or Bear's Choice, nor versions from singles.

Title, cover art & release

The album title is a pun, referring both to the idiom and to the fact that these are Grateful Dead tracks from Warner Bros.' "closet" (and skeletons being iconography associated with the band). The artwork for the front and back covers of the album was created by John Van Hamersveld. With no input from the band, it only vaguely represents the imagery associated with the Grateful Dead, and is not in keeping with the tone of previous releases.

The front cover shows a somewhat demonic, red-toned man (with flames reflected in his sunglasses), Botticelli's Venus holding a rose (presumably a reference to American Beauty, the album most-heavily represented), and a smoking skeleton spindling a prescient gold record on its extended middle finger. The stem of the rose touches the record, as a stylus. The back cover depicts three men seated around a diner table playing cards, with a globe trophy in the center. A book of matches bears the ecology symbol. Outside in the background, a flying saucer (from The Day the Earth Stood Still) hovers over a futuristic Dymaxion car whose designer, Buckminster Fuller, sits in the driver's seat. The structure in the distance depicts the Johnson Wax Administration Building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The three men depict Marlon Brando from The Wild One, a portrayal of Jesus in academic dress, and Cesar Romero as The Cisco Kid.[5]

Skeletons from the Closet was certified as a Gold Album in 1980, thereafter becoming the best-selling release by the band. It remains so despite the abrupt mix of styles presented (due to the band's stylistic evolution while signed with Warner Bros.), and despite a paucity of live performances, for which the band was more highly regarded by fans and critics.[6]

The album was first released on CD in 1988.

Track listing

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Original AlbumLength
1."The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)"The Grateful Dead2:07
American Beauty5:09
  • Garcia
  • Hunter
4."Sugar Magnolia"
  • Weir
  • Hunter
American Beauty3:15
5."St. Stephen"
  • Garcia
  • Lesh
  • Hunter
6."Uncle John's Band"
  • Garcia
  • Hunter
Workingman's Dead4:42
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Original AlbumLength
1."Casey Jones"
  • Garcia
  • Hunter
Workingman's Dead4:24
2."Mexicali Blues"Ace by Bob Weir3:24
3."Turn On Your Love Light" (live, January 26, 1969 at Avalon Ballroom)
The Big Ball compilation6:30
4."One More Saturday Night" (live, May 26, 1972 at Lyceum Theatre, London)WeirEurope '724:45
5."Friend of the Devil"
American Beauty3:20


Technical personnel


Chart Position
Pop Albums 75[7]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[8] 4× Platinum 4,000,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Lankford, Ronnie D. Jr. "Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead". AllMusic. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  2. ^ Scoppa, Bud (April 25, 1974). Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead, Rolling Stone
  3. ^ Woodward, Jake; et al. (2003). Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip. Dorling Kindersley, ltd. p. 165.
  4. ^ "Grateful Dead Discography". Dead Disc. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  5. ^ Hamersveld, John. "Question About Grateful Dead Album Cover". Google Answers. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  6. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database-Skeletons from the Closet". Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  7. ^ "Grateful Dead - Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  8. ^ "American single certifications – Grateful Dead – Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved December 14, 2018.