Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
On April 7, 1972, the Grateful Dead hit the stage at Wembley Empire Pool in London, kicking off a multi-city European tour. The 22-date outing would eventually be immortalized in the three-LP live album it spawned: Europe ‘72.
The tour has been chronicled heavily in band members’ memoirs, remembered for both its great musical output as well as its levels of unbridled debauchery, excessive even by the standards of the Dead. For the band at the time, the tour felt like a monumental undertaking that included both scores of people and mountains of gear. In A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, Dennis McNally cataloged everything that came along for the journey, which included: “seven musicians, ten crew, five staff, seventeen assorted friends, wives, girlfriends and children … They brought themselves and fifteen tons of instruments, a sound system, and a sixteen-track recording system which they would install in a truck as a mobile studio. There was also lighting gear and their first traveling lighting designer.”
That spring, the band’s lineup was in a state of evolution. It was their last tour to include founding member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who would pass away in 1973. The husband and wife duo, pianist Keith Godchaux and vocalist Donna, were firmly entrenched in the band. Mickey Hart was on hiatus after his father had stolen money from the band, leaving Bill Kreutzmann as the band’s lone drummer. Given both this blend of musicians and the high quality of the recording equipment, the shows have a unique sound that differs from other eras of the band’s music.
While many bands use live albums as an easy way of fulfilling their contract or rehashing their greatest hits, Europe ‘72 is very much a complete work in its own right. The 17-track, three record set contained practically a full album’s worth of new material mixed in with older tracks. There are six new songs that were never even included on any studio records, three previously unreleased covers and two instrumental jams. Given the album and tour’s popularity among Deadheads, in 2011 the band released a more exhaustive collection, Europe ‘72: The Complete Recordings, a 73-CD box set.
As Deadhead nation marks the album and tour’s 50th anniversary, we decided to put together our own form of celebration. Here’s a breakdown of live covers of every single track on the album.
The Travelin’ McCourys – Cumberland Blues (Grateful Dead cover)
Robert Hunter’s lyrics to “Cumberland Blues” attempt to capture the spirit of a coal miner’s folk song. As the opening track to Europe ‘72, the band played it as a fiery piece of country-rock, paying direct homage to the Bakersfield-country sound of Buck Owens. With its upbeat country-groove and plight-of-the-workingman lyrics, the song lends itself well to bluegrass interpretations and many acoustic outfits have followed suit. One recent cover comes from the Travelin’ McCourys, who have made it a staple of their live shows with feisty bits of fingerpicking.
Roots of Creation – He’s Gone (Grateful Dead cover)
“He’s Gone” is the first of the new Dead tracks to appear on the album. It is a mid-tempo scoundrel song about a nefarious man who skips town. Roots of Creation included a cover on their 2018 album Grateful Dub: A Reggae Infused Tribute to the Grateful Dead. In this live cut, they introduce a new instrument for the solo: the melodica, a keyboard with a blow tube.
Goose – One More Saturday Night (Bob Weir cover)
“One More Saturday Night” became a staple of the Dead’s live shows over the years, routinely played near the end of set two on Saturday nights, naturally. The Chuck Berry-inspired rocker first appeared on Bob Weir’s 1972 album Ace (also marking its 50th anniversary) The jam band Goose has earned a rabid fan-base in recent years thanks to their spirited live shows. Their take on “Saturday Night” includes enough guitar firepower to keep you going until Sunday.
The Infamous Stringdusters – Jack Straw (Grateful Dead cover)
“Jack Straw” contains one of lyricist Robert Hunter’s most visual narratives. It’s a dark tale of a multi-state murderous rampage, mixing in Jack Kerouac-style imagery of the American heartland. “Leaving Texas/Fourth day of July/Sun so hot, clouds so low/The eagles filled the sky.” Progressive bluegrass band the Infamous Stringdusters have played numerous Dead covers in concert. They performed this version of “Jack Straw” at the Blue Ox Music Festival in 2017. With its multiple-tempo shifts, the band captures the frantic energy of the title character’s horrific deeds, while still making it a joyful celebration of the open road.
Fats Domino – You Win Again (Hank Williams Cover)
“You Win Again,” was first written and recorded by country great Hank Williams. Since its release in 1952, the track has been covered by countless rock and country acts. The Dead played the song regularly in the early ‘70s, before completely dropping it. The Dead’s rendition steered closer to Fats Domino’s take on the song, emulating Domino’s signature New Orleans piano stomp. So, it seems only fitting to include Domino’s live track here.
La Horsa Bianca – China Cat Sunflower (Grateful Dead Cover)
The Dead first released its jaunty psychedelic fantasy track “China Cat Sunflower” on the 1969 album Aoxomoxoa. In concert, the Dead often paired the track with the folk song “I Know You Rider,” so much so that it’s difficult to find covers of “China Cat” by itself. The Ukrainian band La Horsa Bianca released an eclectic “live in the studio” cover of the track in January 2022, just before their country was invaded. “We’ve been playing ‘China Cat Sunflower’ for years as a live show encore,” the band wrote. “Translated/adapted into Ukrainian (because that’s who we are), simultaneously slowed down and sped up (because that’s what we do), it gradually transformed into something quite different to the song as written by Jerry and Robert.” Listen to the track and pray for the band and their country.
Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives – I Know You Rider (Traditional Cover)
“I Know You Rider,” sometimes simply known as “Rider,” is a folk standard with origins dating back more than a century. Many folk, rock, blues, and country musicians have covered it over the years. Here’s a latter-day rendition by country guitar slinger Marty Stuart, who infuses it with a mixture of country and rockabilly.
Brown Eyed Women – Brown-Eyed Women (Grateful Dead Cover)
These days, it seems like every large or mid-sized city has numerous Dead tribute bands. Most of these outfits have two drummers and/or at least a few guys with serious facial hair. The group Brown Eyed Women defies these stereotypes as an all-female Dead tribute band. In this clip from 2019, the band performs the song that inspired its name, “Brown-Eyed Women,” with solid harmonies and a rollicking mid-track guitar solo.
Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers – It Hurts Me Too (Tampa Red cover)
“It Hurts Me Too” is a blues standard most often associated with Elmore James, but likely first recorded by Tampa Red. The cover on Europe ‘72 was one of Pigpen’s finest vocal performances, showcasing his talents as a rowdy blues singer. Hound Dog Taylor was a great Chicago bluesman and the first artist to record for the famous blues label Alligator Records. Taylor does not hold back on this live rendition of “It Hurts Me Too,” putting all his heart and soul into the performance.
Wynonna Judd – Ramble On Rose (Grateful Dead Cover)
“Ramble on Rose” is one of the Dead’s most character-laden tracks. Everyone from Jack and Jill, to Jack the Ripper, to Wolfman Jack show up in the lyrics. In early 2020, it was Bob Weir making an appearance, joining Wynonna Judd on stage to play the track. Judd’s deep voice seems tailor-made to bring all the song’s great characters to life.
Katie & Andrea – Sugar Magnolia (Grateful Dead cover)
The duo Katie & Andrea dub their sound “Acid Americana.” In this backyard video filmed in 2020, the duo covers the Dead’s classic hippie love song “Sugar Magnolia” with a heavy amount of steel guitar and plenty of sentiment. All that’s missing is the adoring crowd.
Phil Lesh & Friends featuring Joan Osborne – Mr. Charlie (Grateful Dead Cover)
“Mr. Charlie” is one of the few Dead songs to be co-written by Pigpen. The Dead played its final performance of the song on this ‘72 tour as they dropped it from their repertoire following Pigpen’s departure and passing. Members of the Dead have revived it in recent years with their various bands. One of the best renditions comes from Phil Lesh & Friends. In this take from 2006, the band is fronted by Joan Osborne, who belts out a thunderous take. Even with Lesh performing, listening to Osborne’s voice there’s no doubt we can call this a cover.
Levon Helm – Tennessee Jed (Grateful Dead cover)
“Tennessee Jed” is a country rock song that tells the story of a man receiving repeated reminders that he needs to head back to the Volunteer State. In 2009, Levon Helm, the one-time drummer for the Band, delivered this New Orleans-style take on the song on The Late Show. It’ll make you want to head back to Tennessee, too.
Dwight Yoakam – Truckin’ (Grateful Dead cover)
“Truckin’” holds the distinction of being one of the Grateful Dead’s first bona fide hits, or at least, one of the first tracks that non-Deadheads could easily identify. It’s a fast-paced, country rock shuffle telling the story of the Dead’s arrest in New Orleans. Country crooner Dwight Yoakam first recorded “Truckin’” for the 1991 tribute album Deadicated. He later included an extended live version on his 1992 album La Croix D’Amour. In the intro, Yoakam describes the track as a “psychobilly journey.” He delivers the lyrics with a laidback drawl, almost as if the arrest were inevitable.
Triple Trouble – Epilogue and Prelude (Grateful Dead covers)
On Europe ‘72, the Dead included two instrumental jams that appear back-to-back: “Epilogue” and “Prelude.” In early 2022, a guitarist playing on the YouTube channel “Triple Trouble” recreated a shorter version of both on his hollow electric guitar. In his very capable hands, the jams come across as if they were early rock ‘n’ roll songs from another universe.
Robert Plant – Morning Dew (Bonnie Dobson cover)
“Morning Dew” has been an essential part of the Dead catalog since the very beginning. First written and recorded by Bonnie Dobson as a folk tune, the Dead recorded a cover on their debut album and used it as the closing track to Europe ‘72. In 2002, former Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant released a rendition on his album Dreamland. With a live version on The Tonight Show, he delivered a cover that captured the spirit of ‘60s psychedelic pop rock.
If that’s not enough, click here to listen to more Dead covers.