The art work to “Down in the Groove”

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.

When he records those songs on June 16, three members of the group (Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Brent Mydland) join in to sing along.

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 record company, however, fears that the image without interpretation will be incomprehensible. They discontinued the collaboration with Griffrin.

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…



  1. The photo on the back of the sleeve is not “another picture of Dylan on stage during a sound check” – it shows Dylan standing on the back of a truck, which is parked curbside (see the “No Parking” sign in the background), while equipment is being unloaded. The young lady is standing on the sidewalk.

  2. Is it me, but I don’t see a piano in the cover shot. I always loved the cover, the album, not so much. I thought you had solved the mystery of the location of the back cover photo. Not sure I have ever heard of Dylan playing off the back of a truck. Least not post 1963.

  3. Nope.

    It is clearly a stage.

    However, it is just a low, riser-type stage that has been set up outdoors, in the street, just next to the sidewalk.

    Much like what often occurs at block parties or small, community festivals.

    The drum kit is set up to play and there are flags and a small sheet of fabric that have been hung to keep the sun off of the performers’ heads and out of their eyes.

    You can also see that there are fabric banners sttached to the front of the stage, just underneath Dylan’s feet.

    These likely carried the name of the event or the names of its sponsors.

    The stage has been set up in between a bus (possibly a school bus) and a regular-sized car, both of which are parked in the spaces adjacent to the stage, boxing it in.

    Hope this helps clarify the situation.

    ~ Lonesomefetter


  4. Yes – the truck – that is what I thought too….the caption confused me….
    but the article is indeed vey interesting.

  5. I’ve always thought the cover of him sitting with the guitar was a set photo from the “Emotionally Yours” video shoot.

  6. Peter C says: “I also thought that the Down in the Groove cover was from the “Emotionally Yours” video.”

    Excellent thinking. I’ve checked it and indeed it is. Strange I didn’t see that.
    The piano is clearly visible there. 😉

  7. If anyone knows anything about that ‘secret’ street gig, where that back cover shot was taken, I’d be very interested. I’ve never heard nor read about it.

  8. Over at the Expecting Rain forum, someone suggested that it probably was a set-up for a svene for the Hearts of Fire movie. Could well be possible.

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