Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead Rehearse Together in Summer 1987: Hear 74 Tracks

dylan and the dead

Image via Wikimedia Commons

In the mid 1980s, Bob Dylan found his career hitting an unmistakable low point. In his autobiography, he recalls “Everything was smashed. My own songs had become strangers to me, I didn’t have the skill to touch the right nerves, couldn’t penetrate the surfaces. It wasn’t my moment of history anymore.”

For a while, Dylan toured with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, and it only led him to one conclusion: “Tom was at the top of his game and I was at the bottom of mine.” It was time to pack things in, to exit music altogether.

Before he could retire, Dylan agreed to do some shows with The Grateful Dead. In the summer of 1987, the singer-songwriter traveled to San Rafael, California to rehearse with the band. But it turned out to be trying, more than he could have ever imagined. In Chronicles, Volume 1 he writes:

After an hour or so, it became clear to me that the band wanted to rehearse more and different songs than I had been used to doing with Petty. They wanted to run over all the songs, the ones they liked, the seldom seen ones. I found myself in a peculiar position and I could hear the brakes screech. If I had known this to begin with, I might not have taken the dates…. There were so many [songs] that I couldn’t tell which was which-I might even get the words to some mixed up with others.

Dylan eventually excused himself from the studios, intending never to return. But an encounter with a local jazz band — call it a simple twist of fate — brought him back. Dylan and The Dead started playing through his big repertoire. It was tough sledding at first. “But then miraculously,” he adds,  “something internal came unhinged.” “I played these shows with The Dead and never had to think twice about it. Maybe they just dropped something in my drink, I can’t say, but anything they wanted to do was fine with me.”

It’s a great little story. Even better, the rehearsal is recorded for posterity. Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can sit back and listen to 74 tracks, which includes some classics — “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Maggie’s Farm,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” and more.

You can stream all of the tracks right below, from start to end. Or find individual recordings here.

Note: Do you want to hear Sean Penn read Bob Dylan’s autobiography for free? Just head over to and register for a 30-day free trial. You can download any audiobook for free. Then, when the trial is over, you can continue your subscription, or cancel it, and still keep the audio book. The choice is entirely yours. And, in full disclosure, let me tell you that we have a nice arrangement with Whenever someone signs up for a free trial, it helps support Open Culture.

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Comments (12)
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  • Iguanaseeyou says:

    @1 AC Don’t deface this good page with your filthy vulgarities, boy. Without opening this page I would probably never have known that these existed for the public. Without reading Note: I would never have known that there is an audiobook version of Chronicles other than the lame one that came out originally that does what your expletive says. I paid full price for it and never got beyond disc 1 it was so hokey.

    Thank you open culture for delivering this RSS to my computer. What a great way to start the day.

    BTW AC I live out in the sticks and streaming anything is worse than rabbit ear b&w tv. Guess it’s for those folks who live in downtown Silli Valley City.

  • Bob says:

    I’m sure Jerry and the boys bathed Bob in waves of healing vibrations to rekindle the spirit of the greatest poet of this age.

  • Mark says:

    Just awesome to hear this incredible historical log of these incredible musicians. Its cool to be privy to them crafting their art. Makes me feel a closer part in the music as a listener. I always enjoyed the Grateful Dead albums that were live and the collections of their rehearsals in the bits and pieces I have heard over the years. I only got to see them alone in 1987 as I missed the shows they did with Tom Petty and Dylan. I no longer have the bootlegs from that year, so I really appreciate this posting!

  • j everett says:

    These folks are tres hip and welcome, supportive members of the human race.

  • Thanks so much for making the music available…the story was moving…it’s cool hearing about the struggles of our heros…the struggles, makes us heros of us all…

  • @c_kenn says:

    I had to listen to see if this tour was as bad as I recall when I saw Dylan and the Dead at The Meadowlands back in the day. It was.

  • mike says:

    c_kenn, maybe you caught a bad show, or maybe it just wasn’t what you expected. I saw the final show at Anaheim, and it was awesome. Absolutely amazing.

  • Elizabeth Bouma says:

    Today I lost what will most likely be the most talented musician I will ever have known my whole life – since I was seventeen. Even though Brett Neils was more of a Prog Rock music fan – Genesis was probably his most favorite band (when Peter was still lead singer and collaborater), the only thing I wanted to listen to tonight was Jerry and Bob. The more I ponder why a life so young gave up so soon, is simply due to the fact that two things were missing from Brett’s life that these boys had: a strong independent spirit that wasn’t afraid to take their music on the road, and the brothers in arms to give him the courage, talent and community he needed when the opportunities did arise. Rest in Peace, Brett; tonight let the big boys carry you home.

  • ama says:

    I had the privilege of seeing Mr. Dylan with Mr. Petty, as well as with the Dead, and I would say that I never thought that Mr. Dylan was less than A+ quality. I am grateful (no pun intended) that he was able to find inspiration through the style that the Grateful Dead embraced from their 60’s/LSD haze roots. That is, go out and play as an ongoing conversation rather than as an orchestrated performance.

    I find this article oddly written though; “Before he could retire…?” COULD? was there some deal that prevented this retirement from happening until he was MADE to perform with the Dead? Please writers, editors, keep it tight! Sloppiness like this devalues everything you write.


  • James Gardini says:

    I saw the Dead and Dylan at the Meadowlands, Went with my 2 brother in laws we heard one of the most surprising ,enjoyable shows I;ve ever seen.More important seeing Jerry looking over at Dylan and smilebecause he was having the time of his life.Now after reading this story I know why he was being reborn right in front of me it was show that I will never forget.

  • Jeffrey McMeans says:

    I saw the Anaheim show and totally agree. Loved it all.

  • Jean Schmidt says:

    What are the final 4 tracks: 71-74? Thanks!

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