“Grateful Dead,” the Dead’s second live double album, was released on October 24th, 1971 on Warner Bros. It was the group's first album to be certified gold and remained their best seller until surpassed by “Skeletons from the Closet.” This huge poster was created to promote the album in record stores.
When the band first submitted "Skull Fuck" (a contemporary euphemism for "blow your mind") as the album title, it was rejected by the record label. Bill Kreutzmann said, “Warner Brothers freaked out. They said stores would boycott it and we wouldn't be able to get it on shelves." Ultimately the agreement was made that the album would be published without the title appearing anywhere on the record labels or cover artwork. Although the band refers to the album as “Skull Fuck,” it has long been known to fans by the alternate, descriptive title "Skull & Roses" developed based on the cover artwork.
The album's cover art, composed by Alton Kelly and Stanley Mouse, is based on an illustration by Edmund Joseph Sullivan for an old edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Though the album has been known as "Skull & Roses", the original vertical gatefold cover unfolds to reveal the entire skeleton. The graphic became one of the images most associated with the band.