Community-driven media: Log in or Visit
2 |

The Timeline of “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire on the Mountain”

In my journey to build a rabbit hole of information for modern fans of the Grateful Dead, I have thought long and hard about two of their pillar songs: “Scarlet Begonias” and “Fire on the Mountain,” and what would be the best way to present them on the site.

I realized that I couldn’t possibly analyze either song’s lyrics without first acknowledging and documenting the kinship of the two songs in the live setting over the years.

“Scarlet Begonias” came first, arriving in 1974, but once “Fire on the Mountain” made its debut in 1977, the two were almost always played as a pair.

That’s why for this post, rather than looking at the lyrical content of either song, I’m just going to stick with the live performance aspect of the two songs together.

We will cover each song, lyrically and historically, as standalone posts.

For the scope of this post I will only include versions by the Grateful Dead. Since Jerry’s death in 1995, there have been lots of other bands to play this pair of songs. We may come back and update it someday to bring the timeline up to the present day. The music never stopped…

I’ve done my best to include notable versions from each era, but feel free to let me know in the comments if there are any glaring omissions.

Grateful Dead – “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire on the Mountain”

Hearing the progression over the years is always interesting. The early days of the song are more heavily-weighted here, because they just are.

However, I did include at least one from each year of the band, because in addition to celebrating a wonderful jam, we are also documenting history here.


The debut of the pairing came on March 18th, 1977 at Bill Graham’s Winterland Arena in San Francisco.


The “Scarlet” > “Fire” from Cornell 5/8/77 is arguably the most famous Grateful Dead two-song segment of all time. This is required listening for new Deadheads. It’s also possibly one of the best ways to turn a newbie on to the music of the Dead. It’s smooth like butter, and the transition between the two songs is stellar. Not to mention — entirely accessible, even for someone who likes their music to be on the tamer side.


The Grateful Dead were at the top of their game in the Spring of 1977. They played “Scarlet” > “Fire” a lot during that time period, and all renditions are excellent. Here’s another, in Alabama, just 9 days after 5/8/77.


One more buttery 1977 recording, this one from Portland, Oregon in the fall.


Another supremely popular rendition from early 1978. This one is a little bit more upbeat and zippy, which some prefer to the 5/8/77 recording.


Last show before the trip to Egypt. Supposedly Dick Latava’s favorite “Scarlet” > “Fire.”


Another must-hear version, in my opinion. This one comes from the Closing of Winterland, New Years Eve 1978, when the Dead notoriously played until 6am and then served anyone who was still there breakfast in the lobby of the arena.

They opened the night with “Sugar Magnolia” > “Scarlet” > “Fire.” The official video includes the “Sugar Magnolia” and is in full HD quality.


The longest “Scarlet” > “Fire.”


We’re getting into the thick of it now. Late 1980 into early 81 was a great period for both Jerry’s vocals and guitar playing, in my humble opinion.


In Spain!


Summer tour 1982 in Austin, TX.


At the Jamaica World Music Festival in Montego Bay. First set started at 5am. “Fire on the Mountain” performed at sunrise. What a time. “Scarlet” starts at 58:44.


At the legendary Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center in Upstate New York. According to comments on the Youtube video from people who were there, the sky was filled with lightning that night. Real fun and bouncy version.



Ah, 1984. Craggly Jerry in the depths of his demons. Still ripping it on guitar, and this is a prime example.


Getting thick in the summer of 1985.


This one is not on YouTube, but I did find the full show on the archive. Rumor has it that they cut the show short this night due to a man who stripped down and started masturbating in the front row.

Note that this is also the final “Scarlet” > “Fire” prior to Jerry’s diabetic coma in July of 1986. “Fire on the Mountain” was played without “Scarlet Begonias” two times during summer tour after this (6/22/86 and 7/4/86).


First post-coma “Scarlet” > “Fire.”


Audience tape from the Spring of 1987.


Popular show from the Spring of 1988, on video!


From the Crimson, White, and Indigo DVD, which is embedded here in its entirety.


A real treat from the Spring 1990 tour, with video! Just one week before the epic “Eyes of the World” with Branford Marsalis on 3/29/90.


Comments on headyversion note that some people ran scared out of the venue during this. It rises out of “Victim or the Crime,” pretty dark madness to it all.


1992 was not the best year for the Grateful Dead. This one isn’t terrible, and at least it’s on video.


Summer tour 1992. Jerry plays well, just tune out the vocals.


Spring of 1993. Not the worst, but certainly nowhere near the best.


Jerry misses a lot of vocals and croaks his way through it. Another tough year for the Grateful Dead. We’re getting into slimmer pickings here, but something about it remains fascinating.


Great latter day rendition, at MSG. Super long, clocking in at 33 minutes.


Some say that this “Scarlet” > “Fire” in Seattle was not only the last great one, but also possibly the highlight of all of 1995 for the Grateful Dead.


The last one played by the Grateful Dead. Pretty rough at certain moments, if we’re being honest. But it is what it is. This show featured the notorious gate-crashing incident, just one week before the band made their last stand in Chicago.