Not at all unwilling to call the boys out on their bullshit, including crap records and shows -- but also written by someone who worked for the band as their publicist for years and definitely understood every aspect of their ethos and relays it perfectly, for the most part -- I only felt things were very occasionally slightly discolored by the author's (I wanted to write "narrator's," as though the book were written by a figment of the band's collective consciousness) choice to refer to himself in the third-person as "Scrib" instead of simply opting for the less intrusive "I," and sometimes his conservative deployment of full-throttle lyrical description of the music didn't match my understanding of the songs or the playing, especially in terms of chords and notes et cetera (I won't go back through to search for examples -- just that sometimes I felt like the flights of ecstatic descriptive fancy were technically a little off). The best bits were about how the songs came together, how Jerry's old bluegrass/folk friend from Palo Alto came back around with lyric sheets that saved them from having sub-mediocre psych lyrics like in "Cream Puff War" and really made the band what it is, as much as the long jams built on what Lesh called "bleshing," all five or six or seven players playing like the fingers on a hand, all unified. And of course there's everything about Jerry's physical dissolution that started when he started smoking heroin during the '77 spring tour -- found it very odd that the significance of that tour wasn't really covered and realized that its absence probably gave Peter Conners the idea to write the excellent Cornell '77: The Music, the Myth, and the Magnificence of the Grateful Dead's Concert at Barton Hall, which I read before this and loved, which ultimately is why I decided to read this, because I wanted to delve deeper into all this, a nostalgic trip for the soundtrack and experiences of my mid-to-late teenage years I'm more than happy to revisit and appreciate these days again from a completely different perspective, on the other side of so much other music listened to and loved and so many other bands seen live -- to quote promoter Bill Graham: they're not the best at what they do, they're the only ones who do what they do.
If there is anything you learn about the Dead in this book is that it is all about the music.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< After my first Grateful Dead show at the Philadelphia Spectrum I was hooked and addicted to the people and scene surrounding the band and it's concerts. Finally, I found people that shared my sick addiction to music. The Grateful Dead was all of this rolled into one vibe. After Jerry died I was like many other's in search of a similar vibe to surround a band, a tour, a culture of fans. PHISH, to this very day have been my favorite band. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> So I decided to get this book to learn a better history of this amazing band that exposed me to this new way of living and thinking and being. The Dead was not my favorite band. But they were the one band that launched this change of direction in me and my life. I'd even recommend it to anyone that is into the psychedelic era, the 60's in general of just the history of a band that was a cultural phenomenon that will have it's mark on American music forever.
One of the funniest stories McNally told is when the band members were in Washington D.C. in 1993 and were taken on a tour of the White House by Dead Head Al Gore (who was dressed in a three-piece suit), Jerry Garcia wore sweatpants that day. The perpetual drug scene around the band, their disorganization, and just flat out weirdness turned a lot of people off, and I can completely understand why someone wouldnt like their music. As for me, I consider myself to be the biggest Dead Head who never got to see them in concert.
Widely considered to be the ultimate compendium for Grateful Dead history, Dennis McNallys A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead is an extremely dense book. It has taken me a long time to finish it, but it was extremely well-written and contained a lot of information that I did not know prior to picking it up. I wish it hadnt taken me so long to read, but at times it felt like information overload - I mean, I love the Dead but I dont need to know absolutely everything!
A more skilled biographer, or perhaps one not so intimately linked to the Dead (McNally served as their publicist.), could have crafted this into a very powerful, if difficult, object lesson for an entire community. As it stands, there's plenty of unique tidbits in here that make it important for anyone trying to understand why the Dead meant so much for so long to their audience, but hard to wade through if you're not a Deadhead.
The book moves along at a good clip and covers all the bases in the Dead's world, touching on the music, the personalities, the ups and downs, the conflicts, the changes, the romances, the politics, the relationship between the band and its fans, et cetera.
Their influences (Jugband, Classic Rock, Jazz, Blues, Country and Bluegrass) have provided the starting point for many of my investigations into the various facets of American music.