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Grateful Dead Gear - The Band's Instruments, Sound Systems, and Recording Sessions, From 1965 to 1995 (Softcover) Paperback – November 1, 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

After college Blair became a writer/editor for BAM, the California Music Magazine, and for the past two decades has been a writer/editor for Mix, the leading sound and production magazine in the U.S. Jackson has three books about the Grateful Dead published - the most recent was Garcia: An American Life, published by Viking/Penguin in 1999. He also was the publisher/editor of the Grateful Dead fanzine The Golden Road from 1984-1993. He co-produced the Grateful Dead box set So Many Roads in 2001 and, in 2004, the Jerry Garcia box set All Good Things.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Backbeat Books (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879308931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879308933
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,158,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is frickin' amazing, and I'm the opposite of a knob-twiddling gearhead pedal fetishist. I didn't know what ANY of this tech stuff is, and have never played an instrument myself, but this book is so full of the INSIDE SCOOP, with interviews from everyone from the bandmembers, to Owsley/Bear (whose radical concepts became the foundation of modern concert amplification for all bands that followed, not just the Dead), to the loyal and inscrutable road crew, to the various producers of the band's studio albums, to every luthier and gadgetologist who ever lusted in his heart to see a piece of his gear in action on the Big Stage, that it's one of the most fascinating, articulate, and intimate books ever written on the Grateful Dead, period.

It may seem a tad pricey, but the printing job is deluxe. Mark my words: it's a fantastic gift idea for any Deadhead you love, but will probably fly under the radar of most casual Dead enthusiasts because of the off-putting premise of being all about the hardware. As it turns out, this witty book is actually more about the human software: the passion for discovery and exploration that drove the evolution of this music and this sound, and made the Grateful Dead the *new* best band on Earth nearly every time they went out on tour ('till '91 or so, at least -- so shoot me for saying it.)

I'm not just raving about this book because Blair and I have worked together on projects like the "So Many Roads" box set. Frankly, I wasn't even sure I was going to buy it, since I'm so not the target demographic for a book about whether 'tis better to use graphite for a guitar neck or not. But I'm sure glad I did, because I feel like I have a much deeper picture of what the band was up to on the other side of the Laminated Curtain, all those many years.
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Format: Paperback
I will state that I have played guitar for more then 30 years so I am offering this review with some bias. That said...

Overall, the book is well written and researched. However they should change the title/description to something more generic geared towards the common fan. At first glance, the book seems to be about the technical aspects of the Dead's instruments and equipment but it is really more of a historical background of what they used and played and why. I was hoping for real tech information such as: close-ups of Garcia's pedals and wiring diagrams, close-ups of each member's racks. In-depth information about each rack unit/processor and why it was used and selected, more on Irwin's guitar customization for Garcia's guitars, A detailed review of how each member got their tone and sound. In other words it would be great to see an in-depth book about the real tech stuff rather then the background of why, when and what the band used. I also noticed that several Dicks Picks album covers and other dead cover art was used thru-out the book. I failed to understand why these were necessary other then adding visual filler and visually enhancing the era being discussed. I would have rather seen more in-depth close-ups of the equipment, cables, cabinets, etc. There are several shots of the band using the equipment but not many specifically of the equipment. I did enjoy the pages on studio recording techniques and aspects. I also enjoyed that the book is chronological in presentation showing the progression of equipment over the years. I just felt that there should have been more about the equipment and hook-up, etc rather then the history behind the selection and usage.
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Format: Paperback
Grateful Dead embraced innovation with enthusiasm. Their musical explorations are the stuff of legend, and their technical exploits, including the first live / studio blend (Anthem of the Sun), the first 24 track recording (Aoxomoxoa), their embracing of audience tapers and their ground-breaking work in concert recordings through the From the Vault and Dicks Picks series are fairly well known. Jackson's book takes us deeper into the technical side than anything previously available in the extensive shelf of Grateful Dead documents (which is now well over two metres and continuing to grow as the significance of the Grateful Dead phenomenon continues to seep into the awareness of people who care about music).

As other reviewers have noted, this is not a book to take gearheads into techie heaven. It does take the general student of the Grateful Dead to a more comprehensive understanding of the broad sweep of instruments and equipment used across their 30 year career. As such, it is most valuable addition to the Grateful Dead library. It is well written and easily understood.

There is probably a book of equal length just in Garcia's Irwin guitars, or Mickey Hart's drums, or the Wall of Sound and on and on. Hopefully, Jackson will inspire specialists to delve into those subjects and more in greater depth. Certainly, this is an excellent overview of a space that needs deeper exploration.
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Format: Paperback
This book makes gear geeking a pastime appealing to anyone who enjoys the Grateful Dead's sound as it evolved over the span of over 3 decades. The author even spends some time, particularly with Garcia, on the gear plucked before the band found form. This book details aspects of the band's quest that the band's members actually concerned themselves with on a daily basis: the nuts'n'bolts, the cords and plugs and cables and strings and instruments and amps; imagine reading a detailed account of King Arthur's various legends: details of Excalibur handle, the armor he wore or the idiosyncracies of his horse - all serving to increase understanding of his knights' adventures. At the outset, Jackson states clearly that this book is not absolutely comprehensive but if you want to read about the music of the band beyond description, Grateful Dead Gear is absolutely essential. It is also quite an enjoyable read.
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