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Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead Paperback – April 25, 2006


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Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead + Garcia : An American Life + A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316154490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316154499
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Right in time for the Grateful Dead's 40th anniversary, eccentric bass player extraordinaire Phil Lesh has delivered fans a most welcome gift: his autobiography. There are many books out there about the Dead told from the perspective of roadies, journalists, third party observers, and fans. However, with the exceptions of Jerry Garcia's ramblings in Garcia: A Signpost to New Space and Conversations With the Dead, Lesh's Searching for the Sound is the first time a founding member of America's favorite band tells their own story of what it was like inside the Grateful Dead. And what a wonderful, strange tale it is.

Phil Lesh, considered the most academic of the group due to his avant-garde classical composition training, literate mind, and passion for the arts, decided to write his story himself. Written without the crutch of a ghostwriter, Searching for the Sound might be considered disjointed in places, but overall it comes across as conversational, intimate, informative, and candid (particularly regarding topics of drug use and death). If you are familiar with the band and their extended family, their history, the sixties' musical milestones and influences and all the band's famous tales (the Garcia/ Lesh "silent" confrontation, being busted on Bourbon Street, the Wall of Sound), you may be a little disgruntled there is not much new here in the way of content. However, what is "new" and totally satisfying is Phil's warm, optimistic perspective on the many events that helped shape his life. As described by Lesh, his life's journey, much like the Dead's music, is "a [series] of recurring themes, transpositions, repetitions, unexpected developments, all converging to define form that is not necessarily apparent until it's ending has come and gone." For the many fans who enjoyed the fruits of his life pursuit of sonic explorations, Searching for the Sound is a welcome addition to their Dead library. --Rob Bracco --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh has written the memoir one might have expected: energetic and flawed, but sure to be loved by fans. Lesh joined the band's original members—Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzman and "Pigpen" Ron McKernan—in 1965 and helped morph the legendary outfit from its beginnings as a jug band to the unique, psychedelic improvisational jam band that spawned arguably the most loyal, iconic audience in popular music history: the Deadheads. What a long, strange trip it was. For 30-plus years, from being the house band for Ken Kesey's acid tests to stadium tours in the 1980s and '90s, the band pioneered a new paradigm for musicians, operating as an extended, albeit dysfunctional, family. Along the way, three keyboardists died, two managers robbed the band, bad deals were signed, massive debt was accrued and drug and alcohol problems flared. In 1995, the trip finally ended (or did it?), when Garcia died. Lesh infuses his prose with his wacky personality, which is endearing, but also maddening, especially when he's rendering acid trips or discussing music. Indeed, many fans who twirled ecstatically at Dead shows will struggle to follow Lesh's extended explanations of the band's compositions. Also, the second half of the band's life gets short shrift. Nevertheless, Deadheads will surely celebrate Lesh's honest, intimate remembrances. (Apr.) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The book is well-written and for the most part easy to read.
R. Banfield
What makes this book about the Grateful Dead refreshing is that it was actually written by a band member (Phil Lesh, of course).
Mark Twain
Great narrative, good story, well written memoir from an insider and how he felt in expressing his love of music.
Stuart R. Dvorin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Crocker on April 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
No one book can ever tell the entire tale of the Grateful Dead. Searching For The Sound by bassist and founding member Phil Lesh is the first book by a member of the band to focus on the band itself and Phil has a tale to tell and tells it well. The book starts with Lesh's birth and quickly moves on to his discovery of music. Then Lesh takes us through the embryonic San Francisco scene and on into the evolution of the Grateful Dead. The rest of the book focuses on Phil's intertwined life with the band, the band's extended family, and, ultimately, Phil's own family. It takes only the last dozen or so pages to cover the years since Jerry Garcia's death, but the subtitle of the book is My Life With The Grateful Dead and that name passed into history at the end of 1995. The drugs are there, but rather than glorifying them, a full reading of the book shows that, in the long run, the drugs took a heavy toll. Lesh's writing style is conversational and stream of consciousness and fits perfectly with the story he's narrating. Ultimately, it's a book about MUSIC, its creation, and its powers. In the spirit of the age of disclosure, I must admit to attending 27 Grateful Dead shows between Penn State '79 and Las Vegas '95 and have followed the band members in whatever incarnation since the death of Garcia. I don't think this makes me biased, but I thought you should know. I found the book to be an eye opener and it added context to a major part of my life during the last quarter of the 20th Century. A non-Deadhead should enjoy the book, especially anyone with a taste for biography and the history of rock. If you're looking for the description of one endless drug trip, stay away [or better yet, read the book with an open mind]. I enjoyed Searching For The Sound and would love to see Lesh give us another book sometime in the future.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Blind Mello Jelly on May 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It is so refreshing to read a book by a musician who is in it for the MUSIC. I knew some background on Mr. Lesh. I'm not a rabid Deadhead...never quit my job and followed them on tour or anything, but I have seen them at least six times. I've read the books by Hank Harrison, Blair Jackson and Rock Scully and enjoyed them all, and have many of their CDs. But Lesh's book is a well-written memoir of what it was like being on that wonderous ride through that unique time in history. If you want to hear stories about shagging endless lines of groupies, or snorting endless lines of cocaine, go elsewhere. Lesh touches on the drug element in the band, but doesn't dwell on it....except for maybe the LSD experimentation which was so crucial the the development of the band. And I've honestly never read such a "dead-on" (sorry) description of the effects of mind-altering drugs. Lesh is obviously an intelligent man, and to be honest, he loses me occasionally when talking about electronics/sound/acoustics, but I knew enough about him to expect that.

It's rare you get to read a book by a dedicated musician, and not a *ROCKSTAR*. Listening to the Grateful Dead taught me a lot about listening to music in general. After appreciating the dynamic between Garcia, Lesh and Weir, I was able to move on to Coltrane, Garrison, Jones and Tyner and many more great combinations after that. I've always admired Lesh as a musician, but now I also admire him as a writer, a husband and a father. Go in peace, Mr. Lesh! Thanks for the great read!
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Marsella on April 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Phil Lesh writes with an open and candid style that makes reading his account of the Dead's history an absolute pleasure for both Deadheads and other lovers of music. Phil's story starts off with the typical childhood stuff but rapidly moves to the music scene in Palo Alto and later San Francisco that ultimately coincided with the Summer Of Love and gave birth to the Grateful Dead. The Dead were certainly unique in all of rock in the way their music blended so many influences and Lesh's story clearly demonstrates how those strains of jazz, blues, country,and even classical influences came into play in the extended instrumental explorations the Dead were famous for. I was particularly intrigued by how he describes the influence of John Coltrane on his own muiscal development.

Garcia emerges from this as the Jerry we all know and love. A true musical explorer of the first order.

Anyone who loved the Dead will surely enjoy reading this. Anyone who didn't "get" the Dead should read it anyway because it will give you some insight into what the music was all about.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tha Notorious P.A.T on January 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Look out of any window, any morning, any evening, any day."

Box of Rain by The Grateful Dead

Searching for the Sound tells the story of The Grateful Dead, America's original psychedelic improvisational rock and roll band, through the eyes of one of the found members - bassist, Phil Lesh.

In the book, Lesh writes in a conversational, eloquent tone as he recalls all the good times and all the bad times. Lesh tells the story of how The Dead went from playing at Ken Kesey's Acid Tests to playing at sold-out stadiums thirty year later?

A great factor of the book is the honesty in Lesh's writing. He doesn't sugarcoat the things that were going on - he tells the real story. He tells how drugs brought the band together and how they eventually tore the band apart. He recalls the death of three keyboardists and the beloved Jerry Garcia.

Though drug abuse and death are recurring factors throughout the book, it is not all dark. Lesh also fondly remembers impromptu free shows in San Francisco, Woodstock, The Pyramids, and many other legendary events.

In my opinion, the only bad part about the books is that the language gets a bit too technical when he is talking about musical composition and theory. Aside from that aspect, I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone, Deadhead or not.
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