The succinctly titled Grateful Dead record “Live/Dead” almost had a very different name.
“[The band] came up with the artwork and brought it down to a big meeting with all of our people,” Joe Smith said. “And the title was ‘Skull Fuck.’”
Joe Smith, one of our favorite sources for interviews with music legends, worked with the Grateful Dead for almost a decade after signing the group in 1967. When we talked to him last year before the release of our Jerry Garcia episode, he still remembered that meeting well.
“I said, ‘I think we’re going to have a little problem with that … You worked all this time. You’ll sell 20 records in head shops, and they won’t pay you.’ So they said, ‘OK, what do you want to call it?’ I said, ‘Live/Dead.’ And that one sold about 600,000 double albums.”
Smith worked with the band during their first six albums with Warner Bros. , sending them to New York to record after they were barred from the LA studios.
“It was a trip for eight, nine years with the Grateful Dead … They did so much acid that it was very hard to separate reality from make-believe with them.”
And Jerry Garcia was always trying to get Smith to join in.
“Jerry said, ‘You’ll never understand the music until you turn on with us.’ I wouldn’t breathe around them. Wouldn’t drink anything. Wouldn’t eat anything,” Smith remembers, laughing.
What’s Smith’s favorite Dead song? He said he’s a big fan of “Ripple.”