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.

by | Permalink | Comments (12) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (12)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • 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!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.