We put this list together back in 2010 and since then a number of these incredible moments in Grateful Dead history have surfaced on YouTube. A few are audio-only YouTube clips, but a handful show the bliss and emotion from the crowd as they realize what they are seeing.
The Grateful Dead were a revolutionary act in a number of different areas. The Dead were one of the first major groups to change their setlist on a nightly basis and succeeded in making each show different. Throughout the years, the Grateful Dead built up a massive repertoire that made it easy for them to let certain songs fall by the wayside. Also, the group – or particular members of the group – weren’t interested in performing several tunes from their early days in the later years. Yet, the fans always seemed to wanted to see these rare songs and once in a while the band obliged.
This week’s B List looks at what I think are the ten best bust outs the Grateful Dead broke out over the course of their career. Some of the entries contain songs that disappeared for over a decade while others feature tunes that only went away for a few years. What mattered most to me was a combination of the crowd’s reaction, the quality of the tune and the quality of the performance. Let’s get down to business…
10. Cryptical Envelopment – 9/23/1972 > 6/16/1985 [791 Shows]
The studio version of That’s It For The Other One on Anthem of the Sun contains four sections, one of which is sung by Jerry Garcia and called Cryptical Envelopment. The Dead would play Cryptical into and out of The Other One from the late ’60s through the early ’70s, at which point the tune disappeared from the rotation until a fateful evening in 1985 at the legendary Greek Theater in Berkeley. The group performed Cryptical four more times that year and then never again.
9. Casey Jones – 11/02/1984 > 06/20/1992 [549 Shows]
There were all sorts of theories as to why the Dead stopped playing Casey Jones after 1984 including that Jerry promised not to play it – with its reference to being high on cocaine – as part of a plea bargain stemming from one of his arrests. We’re not sure what the actual reason was, but Deadheads went fucking bananas when the group busted out Casey Jones at RFK Stadium in 1992. The drummers used a locomotive airhorn during the Drumz segment and then used it again to kickoff the break out at the end of Space. READ ON for my eight favorite Grateful Dead break outs…
8. Ripple – 10/16/1981 > 9/3/1988 [459 Shows]
Not only did the Dead throw down at the Capital Centre on September 3, 1988 for two above-average sets, they also delivered a gorgeous electric version of Ripple as the encore. I get chills listening the crowd go ape-shit on this audience recording. Supposedly, a Deadhead with a terminal illness made a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation for the group to bust out Ripple. Luckily for everybody, the band complied.
7. New Speedway Boogie – 09/20/1970 – 02/19/1991 [1,371 Shows]
[Video From 9/24/91]
In February 1991, the United States was in the middle of the Gulf War and on the 19th were about to launch a ground assault on Iraq. With that in mind, the band launched into the biting New Speedway Boogie for the first time in over 20 years that night at the Oakland Coliseum Arena. I wish there was an audience copy on the archive so we could hear the reaction, but the soundboard version does allow us to hear how well the group performed the emotionally-charged tune.
6. Death Don’t Have No Mercy – 04/26/1970 – 09/29/1989 [1,320 Shows]
[Video From 10/9/89 Multi-Cam]
The Grateful Dead treated the Bay Area crowd to their first rendition of Rev. Gary Davis’ Death Don’t Have No Mercy in nearly 20 years on September 29, 1989. The group was firing on all cylinders as they started what would turn into an epic fall tour. Jerry tore the tune up from the opening notes to the last.
5. Here Comes Sunshine – 02/23/1974 – 12/06/1992 [1,213 Shows]
[Watch The Crowd Go Ape Shit]
The future of the Grateful Dead was in doubt after Jerry Garcia became ill following Summer Tour 1992. The group canceled their fall tour to allow their leader to heal and returned for a few shows in early December. At one of these December shows, the Dead dusted off the beautiful Here Comes Sunshine with a new arrangement. While I’m not a fan of the arrangement, I – and if you listen to the audience, plenty of Deadheads in attendance – was thrilled to see the song return to the fold.
4. Attics of My Life – 10/28/1972 – 10/09/1989 [1082 Shows]
As far as bust outs, you can’t beat the Hampton shows from 1989. Over the course of the two “Formerly The Warlocks” shows, the group dusted off Dark Star, Help On The Way, Slipknot! and this gorgeous Garcia/Hunter tune from American Beauty. I can’t even imagine what the vibe was leaving The Mothership that night.
3. Box of Rain – 07/28/1973 – 03/20/1986 [777 Shows]
The “let Phil sing” contingency finally got their way after a prolonged period of no Phil vocals that ended in Hampton on March 20, 1986 with the bust out of Box of Rain. This first set closer sent many Deadheads to the venue’s payphones in an attempt to share the news with their buddies. After a fairly terrible Althea, Bobby stepped to the mic and said “now we’ll show you that practice makes perfect” before the band launched into a solid version of Box of Rain.
2. Dark Star – 07/13/1984 – 10/09/1989 [359 Shows]
While Dark Star had been performed five years previously at the Greek, making this the shortest gapped break out on this list, so much had changed for the band in the period between that night at the Greek and this night at The Mothership. Tons of new fans had gotten on “the bus” and there were still plenty of fans who weren’t lucky enough to be at The Greek or at any of the spots where the group had performed Dark Star. There’s nothing quite like the extended audience reaction to this break out of Dark Star.
1. Unbroken Chain – 03/19/1995 [Never Performed]
For many years rumors circulated among Deadheads that the band would finally perform Unbroken Chain, the Petersen/Lesh classic from Mars Hotel. The rumors finally panned out a Sunday night at The Spectrum in Philadelphia during what would turn out to be the group’s last show at the venue. To say the crowd exploded with delight would be a major understatement. The Grateful Dead’s last major bust out would turn about to be the best.
- Previous B List: 15 Epic Phish Bust Outs
That’s my take on Grateful Dead bust outs. Were you at any of the shows? Do you feel differently about the quality of these break outs or think other bustables deserve to be on this list? Let us know by leaving a comment below…