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Jerry Garcia's favourite Rolling Stones album

Outside of being the mastermind of The Grateful Dead and many other projects, Jerry Garcia was a mammoth music fan. A musical sponge dedicated to anything and everything, when it came to music, there was no audio experience he was adverse to. For a man whose career was so extensive and evolving, this comes as no surprise.

Garcia had an uncanny ability to morph his sound into any shape, and whether that be in The Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage (NRPS), or The Jerry Garcia Band, Garcia was a man whose musical horizons and ambitions were unmatched by his contemporaries. A true genius, and one of the best guitarists to have ever lived, his musical efforts are timeless. 

On stage and in the recording studio, there will never be anyone quite like Jerry Garcia. Of course, a lot of this can be attributed to his tacit understanding of music and the way he soaked up every facet of it. He was a musical scholar, and one that left no stone unturned. Garcia, famed for his extensive record collection made up of thousands of discs, akin to something of a Library of Alexandria, and in this collection, Garcia pushed his already expansive knowledge to new levels. There were old and new records, all serving their purpose for a pioneering artist. He learnt lessons from every listening experience, a sentiment that a lot of musicians in contemporary times would do well to remember. 

When he was once asked what sort of music he listened to, Garcia explained: “Everything. Anything. If it’s good, I’ll listen to it, or if it’s around, I’ll listen to it. I listen to anything that turns me on. Or that somebody turns me on to.”

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One of these records that Garcia clearly thought was worth something was The Rolling Stones’ 1967 record Between the Buttons. An eclectic album featuring ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’, the project famously saw Brian Jones abandon his guitar in favour of a variety of different instruments such as the marimba, organ and even the kazoo. 

Between the Buttons was Garcia’s favourite Rolling Stones album by a country mile, which definitely stemmed from the varying dynamics of the songs, something that he was all too familiar with. It must have been a refreshing listening experience for the Grateful Dead leader, who was known to think that the band’s early material was “not that much of a surprise” and similar to early rhythm and blues. 

Garcia loved the album so much that he played the track ‘Connection’ with NRPS many times, something that was undoubtedly an incredible spectacle. He even played a psychedelic version of ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ with Bruce Springsteen saxophonist Clarence Clemons in 1989. Of course, it’s ironic that he loved the album so much, as retrospectively, The Stones haven’t showered it with a lot of praise, with Mick Jagger even labelling it “rather spoiled”, but that merely points to the differences with the vision of both artists.

It’s a real shame that there isn’t more information on Garcia’s love for Between the Buttons, but one thing is clear, he saw something in it that he didn’t in other Stones records. Yes, famously, he preferred The Beatles, but across his career, with many different projects, if you were lucky to find yourself in the audience there was always a chance he and the band would jump into a Rolling Stones cover. This was Jerry Garcia, he was full of surprises.

Listen to Garcia and Clemons’ version of ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’, below.