Dead Bust Outs

Dead Bust Outs

The Grateful Dead are famous for many things. Among them, the length of their shows, letting shows be taped, and the variety of setlists.

And of course their fans. The Deadheads.

Many Deadheads kept setlists during the show. And some of them occasionally and ecstatically found a diamond: the Dead played a song that they hadn’t played for a long time. Often years.

These occasions came to be called “bust outs” and here are some of the famous ones. There are others, but I thought these 10 (plus 1) were a nice selection.


Box of Rain

Look out of any windowAny morning, any evening, any dayMaybe the sun is shiningBirds are winging or rain is falling from a heavy sky

On 20 March 1986 when the Dead closed their first set at the Hampton Coliseum (Hampton, VA) with “Box of Rain” it was the first time they’d played the song in 13 years or 777 shows!

Listen to the crowd’s reaction when they realize what’s being played.

Dead Bust Outs

So what was the show thirteen years before? Non other than Watkins Glen on  the 28 July 1973.

Attics of My Life

In the attics of my lifeFull of cloudy dreams; unrealFull of tastes no tongue can knowAnd lights no eye can seeWhen there was no ear to hearYou sang to me

Maybe there was something about the Hampton Coliseum, but on 9 October 1989 the Dead played Attics for the first time in 17 years…or in Dead terms, 1,082 shows!  This time as the show’s encore. The crowds realization is a bit delayed until the vocals begin, but then it is definitely reacted to.  And love the ticket!


The previous time was on Saturday 28 October 1972 at the Cleveland Public Hall, Cleveland, OH.  They played it in the middle of the second set.

Here is a link to the whole show:

Grateful Dead, 10/28/72…Cleveland Public Hall

Black Throated Wind

Bringing me downI’m running agroundBlind in the light of the interstate carsPassing me byThe buses and semisPlunging like stones from a slingshot on Mars

On Friday 16 March 1990 at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD. the Dead play “Black Throated Wind.” It was the first time in 16 years or 981 shows.

The previous time was in the middle of the first set on October 19,. 1974 at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco. Here is the link to the whole show:

Black Throated Wind, Winterland Arena, 19 October 1974

St Stephen

Wishing well with a golden bell, bucket hanging clear to hell,Hell halfway twixt now and then,Stephen fill it up and lower down and lower down again
Lady finger, dipped in moonlight, writing what for?Across the morning sky.Sunlight splatters, dawn with answer,Darkness shrugs and bids the day good-bye.


As much as “St Stephen” may be associated with the Dead, there were long stretches that the song was absent.They played it on 9 June 1976 at the Boston Music Hall for the first time in 5 years…

The previous time was during the second set at the Ohio Theatre in Columbus, Ohio on 31 October 1971. The song is not available separately. Here is a link to the whole show.

Grateful Dead @ the Ohio Theatre 31 October 1971

…and when they played it on 11 October 1983 , it was the first time in 4 years.

Four years earlier, at the Nassau Coliseum  at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY on 10 January 1979.


If my words did glow with the gold of sunshineAnd my tunes were played on the harp unstrungWould you hear my voice come through the music?Would you hold it near as it were your own?

For such a great and well-loved song, one would think the Dead would play it all the time.  Not only did they not play it all the time [only around 40 times total!], but there were both spurts and gaps. They had first played it live on 19 August 1970.

Twice in 1970, they played it over different nights at the same venue: 8/18 & 1/19 at the Fillmore West, 9/17 & 9/20 at the Fillmore East, and 11/7 & 11/8 at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY.

When they played it on 25 September 1980 at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco it was the first time in 9+ years AND between that date and slightly more than a month later on 31 October at Radio City, they would have played it 25 times!

29 April 1971, Fillmore East, NYC

25 September 1980, Warfield Theatre, San Francisco


Then when they played it on…

16 October 1981, Melkweg, Amsterdam, Netherlands

…it would not be until 459 shows later on 3 September 1988 that they’d play it again.

3 September 1988

Not only was the the last song of the 2-song encore, it was be the last time that the Dead played the song.

Bird Song

All I know is something like a birdWithin her sangAll I know she sang a little whileAnd then flew onTell me all that you knowI’ll show you snow and rain

The  Dead must have been in a nostalgic mood on 25 September 1980, because they played”Bird Song” for the first time in 7 years.

They’d played at at the Providence Civic Center on 15 September 1973

Whole 1973-09-15 show

They opened their September 25, 1980 show at the Warfield with Bird Song.

Whole show

New Speedway Boogie

Please don’t dominate the rap, JackIf you? ve got nothing new to sayIf you please, go back up the trackThis train’s got to run today
I spent a little time on the mountainI spent a little time on the hillI heard someone say better run awayOthers say better stand still
From the Song Facts siteIn his book of collected lyrics (A Box Of Rain), Dead lyricist Robert Hunter wrote that he penned “New Speedway Boogie” in reply to “an indictment of the Altamont affair” by rock critic Ralph J. Gleason, hence the lead-in lyrics, “Please don’t dominate the rap Jack, if you’ve got nothing new to say.”
Altamont was only 9 months earlier when the Dead played it at the Fillmore East on 20 September 1970. The show is only available via streaming

It would not be until 19 February 1991, 1,371 shows later, at the Oakland Coliseum Arena that the dead played it again.

Cryptical Envelopment 

23 September 1972  – 16 June 1985 [791 Shows]

From a Glide Magazine articleThe studio version of That’s It For The Other One on Anthem of the Sun contains four sections, one of which is sung by Jerry Garcia and called Cryptical Envelopment. The Dead would play Cryptical into and out of The Other One from the late ’60s through the early ’70s, at which point the tune disappeared from the rotation until a fateful evening in 1985 at the legendary Greek Theater in Berkeley. The group performed Cryptical four more times that year and then never again.

23 September 1972

Palace Theatre, Waterbury, CT 

Full show only available

16 June 1985
Greek Theatre, University of California

Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One > Cryptical


Casey Jones

Once again, on would think that such a great song as Casey Jones would appear at least a few times during tours. Not so with “Casey Jones.

Played on 2 November 1984 and then not again unt 20 June 1992, 549 Shows!

2 November 1984
Berkeley Community Theatre, Encore

20 June 1992
RFK Stadium, Washington, DC

Here Comes Sunshine

23 February 1974 – 6 December 1992 [1,213 shows]

Again from Glide Magazine: The future of the Grateful Dead was in doubt after Jerry Garcia became ill following Summer Tour 1992. The group canceled their fall tour to allow their leader to heal and returned for a few shows in early December. At one of these December shows, the Dead dusted off the beautiful Here Comes Sunshine with a new arrangement. While I’m not a fan of the arrangement, I – and if you listen to the audience, plenty of Deadheads in attendance – was thrilled to see the song return to the fold.

23 February 1974
Winterland Arena, SF, CA

Whole show only available

6 December 1992
Compton Terrace Amphitheatre, Chandler, AZ

Open the show with…

Dead Bust Outs

Death Don’t Have No Mercy

04/26/1970 – 09/29/1989 [1,320 Shows]

On September 29, 1989, the Grateful Dead treated the Bay Area crowd to their first rendition of Rev. Gary Davis’ Death Don’t Have No Mercy in nearly 20 years. The group was firing on all cylinders as they started what would turn into an epic fall tour. Jerry tore the tune up from the opening notes to the last.

The 1970 version is unavailable, but listening to the 1989 recording tells you that some realize what is happening.

Unbroken Chain

Album release June 27, 1974 > March 19, 1995

If the Dead “never” played Unbroken Chain live and then played it nearly 21 years after they had released a song on their From the Mars Hotel album, is that a breakout? I vote yes.

From the Live for Live Music site:

It only took 21 years, but by the time March 1995 rolled around the Grateful Dead had decided it was finally time to deliver the debut live performance of Phil Lesh‘s smooth-rock ballad, “Unbroken Chain”, during a performance at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA.

The easygoing song, co-written and sung by Lesh, originally appeared on the Dead’ 1974 From the Mars Hotel studio album, though it would take over two decades for “Unbroken Chain” to make its live debut on March 19th, 1995.

The Dead then played it nine more times including their last show on July 9, 1995 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

It was one of those songs Deadheads wondered would ever be played. And when it finally happened those Heads knew they’d heard history.

Here is an audience recording of the March 19 performance. Listen to the crowd reaction as those who know realize what it is they are hearing.

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