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Grateful Dead Bootlegs – The 90s


As a continuation of the new series on Thirsty Vinyl, this post covers the complete list of Grateful Dead bootlegs released on vinyl in the 1990s. The 90s were a difficult decade for the Dead and for vinyl records.

Jerry finally lost his battle with drug addiction and died on August 9th, 1995, and vinyl records officially took a backseat to new, “cooler” physical media formats like CDs and cassette tapes, which dominated mainstream and even backstream channels, including the bootleg scene which saw dozens of unofficial releases in formats other than vinyl.

Even though Jerry and vinyl had faded in ashes, embers of hope still radiated under the surface waiting to be rekindled in the decades to come, and while Grateful Dead bootlegs in the 90s were sparse, they did get back to what the Dead were truly all about – unequivocally legendary live performances.

“Someday, everything is gonna be diff'rent.

When I paint my masterpiece”

– Bob Dylan –

The 1st Grateful Dead bootleg released in the 90s was Mountains of the Moon from Big Bang Records, which was released in 1990. The album’s title refers to an early Dead classic found on side A of their 1969 studio release, Aoxomoxoa. The bootleg includes outtakes from spring of 1969, fall of 1967 and Warlock demos recorded on November 3rd, 1965. Side A also includes some interesting renditions of familiar songs, such as “St. Stephen (w/cello)” and “The Eleven (w/bagpipes)”, as well as a not so familiar outtake titled, “Barbed Wire Whipping Party”, which is pretty much just the band making noise after indulging in nitrous oxide at the Pacific Recording studio where they recorded Aoxomoxoa. All reports say the sound quality of this release is top notch.

The next Dead bootleg released in 1990 was Cosmic Death from Luxembourg's own, Flashback Word Productions. The album includes live recordings from the Dane County Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin from February 15th, 1973. Side A and B both provided separate, uninterrupted segments from the 1st set.

The next unofficial release in the 90s was another release from Flashback Word Productions with more death-centric cover art. Similar to the approach taken for the other release from Luxembourg in the same year, this bootleg includes uninterrupted live recordings from the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, California on August 13th, 1975. Side A includes the show's opening with a classic Help On The Way > Slipknot > Franklin's Tower and side B is a segment from later in the 1st set with Eyes Of The World > Drums > Stronger Than Dirt.

The next Dead bootleg on vinyl was Live in Oakland, released in 1992 by the unofficial record label, The Swingin’ Pig. The album is a compilation of songs performed live by the Dead at the Oakland Coliseum on their 3-night New Year’s run in 1988 (12/28, 12/29 and 12/31). Of note is the 2 LP album’s super official looking label, which looks more legit than legitimate record labels, but just for good measure reads, “UNAUTHORIZED PUBLIC PERFORMANCE.” It looks like underground record labels were starting to embrace the unauthorized nature of their business while still keeping it classy.

Next up was a bootleg titled, Live in Berlin – 25 Years On The Road. The album was released in 1992 and includes songs from the Grateful Dead’s live performance in Berlin, Germany on October 20th, 1990 from Internationales Congress Centrum, or the ICC, which may as well be a space station on some distant moon. Check this place out! The recording is sourced from one of several official Dead soundmen, Dan Healy, and is an official “Healy Mix”, which intertwines the soundboard and an audio recording seamlessly. Just for good measure and to keep Dead bootlegs consistent throughout each decade, this unofficial release is littered with incorrect song titles, i.e., Chekeroo (When I Paint My) Masterpiece, You Have to Step Uptown Toodeloo, and Walkin’ Blues.

The 4th and final Dead bootleg released on vinyl in the 90s touched another somber note captured in the decade to commemorate the death of the band’s original and most notorious promoter, Bill Graham, who died in October 1991. The album is called, The Bill Graham Benefit Concert, and was released by the Italian contrabbando label, Vinyl Virus in 1994. The unofficial, international release contains live recordings from Graham’s benefit concert held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on November 3rd, 1991. In addition to several Dead classics, e.g., Hell in a Bucket, China Cat > Rider and Wang Dang Doodle, as well as a juicy 24+ minute Truckin’ > The Other One > Wharf Rat, this release has songs from other special guests, such as John Fogerty, Neil Young, Joan Baez, and original highway man, Kris Kristofferson.

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