by Patrick Roefflaer
Down in the Groove
- Released: May 13, 1988
- Photographer: Peter Carni
- Art director: Rick Griffin
In July 1987 Bob Dylan, accompanied by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, performs a few concerts on a double bill with Grateful Dead. Since the Dead covers quite a few songs by Dylan, he is even willing to play some songs along as a guest at their performances.
“We’ve always loved his music,” explains Jerry Garcia later, “and we still do. That was something we always wanted to do: Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead. So when we ran into him [in ’86] and we started about [a joint tour], he said okay. ”
That tour will take place next summer. They rehearse beforehand in Club Front, San Rafael, California. As Dylan didn’t even bring a guitar, he chooses one from Bob Weir’s collection. Bob goes for a pink one.
“He came by for a week or two or three,” Garcia continues. “We rehearsed and tried something out. We played some things and had fun and hung out together. ”
Dylan takes the opportunity to collaborate on two songs with the band’s lyricist, Robert Hunter.
Between July 4 and July 26, 1987, Dylan plays six shows with Grateful Dead: first the Dead plays a set of about two hours, then the band acts as backing band for Bob. At the back of the stage is a large oil painting by the legendary poster artist Rick Griffin. With his cover designs for Grateful Dead (e.g. Aoxomoxoa), Griffin has largely determined the image of the band.
The whole painting is assembled from five multiplex panels, each 4 x 8ft (1,20 m by 2,40m).
In the center is a steam locomotive, referring to Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming”. On the left: a skull, with harmonica and roses, images that together refer to the name of the backing band. On the other side is Dylan’s head, at the time of Bringing It All Back Home, with a lightning rod reflected in the lenses of his sunglasses. At the top a large logo “Dylan & the Dead”. The whole is surrounded by rays emanating from the central scene.
Griffin had previously created a design for Dylan’s previous LP, Knocked Out Loaded, but it was ultimately not used. This time again, he is commissioned by Dylan’s management to make a design for the cover. The somewhat vague description is a “psychedelic design”. That should suit the man made famous for his legendary posters in the San Francisco scene of the 1960s.
However, the artist has since evolved and comes with a completely different design: an acrylic painting of a rider in a canyon, above him a female figure visible in the clouds (reminiscent of famous poster “Pacific Vibrations”).
It is striking that the man sits backwards on his horse.
Griffin refers to the heyokha, a figure from the culture of the Lakota Indians. The heyoka is an unruly jester and satirist, to avert the dark forces, he speaks backwards and moves in a way that is opposite to the people around him.
The original painting was lost in a fire, but a number of sketches and preliminary studies have been preserved.
Instead, a more conventional photo is chosen. Peter Carni, a commercial photographer from Playa del Rey, portrays Dylan in the semi-darkness of the auditorium of a Hollywood church. It is almost a cliché image of the singer, seated in front of a piano, playing an acoustic guitar.
On the back sleeve is another picture of Dylan on stage. During a sound check he is talking to a woman, probably one of the singers – possibly his wife Carolyn Dennis.
Dylan & the Dead
- Drawing: Rick Griffin
- Released: February 6, 1989
- Drawing: Rick Griffin
- Photographer inner cover: Herb Greene
- Art director: Allen Weinberg
When a live LP of the tour of Dylan and the Grateful Dead is released eighteen months after the facts, it is decided to display the oil painting of Griffin that served as a background on the cover.
Finally the artist has made it!
The photo on the back, showing Dylan surrounded by his occasional supervisors, is also recycled. Herb Greene’s photo was originally used for performance posters.
Previously published in this series…
- The art work of Street Legal and the secret cover location
- The story of the art work on Bringing it All Back Home
- The untold story of the artwork on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits
- The Sleeve Art of Bob Dylan’s album: “Bob Dylan”
- The Sleeve Art of Bob Dylan’s Album: Slow Train Coming
- The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – the untold story of the artwork of the album
- Times they are a changin’: the album artwork
- The art work on Bob Dylan’s albums: The Basement Tapes
- The source of the artwork of “Another side of Bob Dylan”
- The art work on Bob Dylan’s “Infidels”: what’s in a name?
- The art work of Nashville Skyline
- Absolute Exclusive: Empire Burlesque and Biograph artwork
- The artwork to Knocked Out Loaded
- The Art Work of the Traveling Wilburys Vol 1 (guest visitor, Michael Palin)