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Customer Review

75 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago..., April 16, 2005
This review is from: Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead (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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 7, 2006 3:26:53 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 7, 2006 3:37:54 AM PDT
theta says:
Re: "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."

I think that rather depends what drugs you mean. I was fairly taken aback at the abandon at which Lesh extols the supposed virtues of LSD in the beginning. The Dead's use of LSD eventually tapers off, maybe stops completely, but it's never clear why. Alcohol is probably Pigpen's eventual undoing, and although Lesh is a bit cavalier about alcohol toward the start, it's perhaps ironic that Pigpen alone refuses to touch LSD or marijuana. Cocaine and Garcia's heroin, which don't figure in at all in the hippie days, do take some kind of toll in SOME run (not necessarily a LONG one), but it appears to be Garcia's DIABETES that catches up to him thirty years on. Lesh's health problems MAY have to do with his later alcohol abuse and an indiscreet early shared needle (which is NOT how either LSD or marijuana is ingested), but note that his wife gets thyroid cancer at the same time. What's the moral? It may simply be "things happen" or even "we're all mortal". I think the book is ambiguous or ambivalent--or just unclear--about this stuff. Maybe Lesh thought, "My job is merely to report; draw your own conclusions," but he seems to have gone a little further--in my opinion, either too far or not far enough.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 10, 2008 12:49:04 PM PDT
I still think Rock Scully's book is the best one for people interested in the drugs, the scene and the touring, and it actually seems more of an insiders view than Lesh's book despite him not being a band member. Lesh's book is white washed in comparison. Scully says the other guys sometimes did'nt even ride in the same Limo as Garcia, he was so strung out he often did'nt bath for days. Both lesh and scully do reach a general conclusion that the music stagnated arond the late 70's, or very early 80's with scully saying the last truely spontaneous thing they did was play a show at an ansterdam bar in 1981. Whether this is at the hands of Garcias heroin addiction, Lesh's alcoholism , the deteriorating scene is open to contemplation. Lesh himself says he enjoyed the '73-'74 wall of sound era the most. While there were undoubtably numerous high points, It must have been hell to be in the Dead during those later years and Lesh barely even hints at it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2015 11:21:39 AM PST
Rock Scully's book is entertaining as anything I've ever read, but it appears that he's fond of telling the tall tale. (RIP, Rock). I've heard from insiders that it's worth taking his account with a grain of salt or three.

I agree that being in the Dead in the later years must have been fraught with frustration, like being in a marriage that has gone on way too long and is even toxic for the children. Another long hiatus in the early 80s would have probably done them good and maybe Jerry would be alive today if he could have taken the weight of the world off his shoulders. And to address theta's point, it may be that it was the diabetes that did Garcia in, it was probably the H that got him there. It was so discouraging to watch go from an engaged, bright, inventive performer in the 70s to just a nodding out shell in the 80s and 90s. I don't blame Phil at all for not dwelling on what must have been a very painful experience for him (and I'm sure there is some ambivalence about his own role in enabling Jerry's downward slide. Confrontation was not their strong suit).
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