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A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead Hardcover – August 6, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Grateful Dead forever changed popular music by ushering in the psychedelic sound of the 1960s as they valiantly toured almost nonstop for three decades and consumed loads of illegal substances. Yet the most fascinating, and revealing, thing about the Dead is their fans the Deadheads: tie-dyed, drugged up and devoted in a way that makes Beatlemania look rational. What did the Dead have that fellow San Francisco bands Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Moby Grape lacked? As author McNally (Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America) explains in this entertaining and well-written book, the Dead built up their loyal following by treating fans as equals, as "companions in an odyssey." After improvisation, writes McNally, "the single largest element in the Dead's weltanschauung was their pursuit of group mind under the influence of LSD...." As the Dead's publicist for more than 20 years, McNally packs this 600-pager full of intimate details otherwise unavailable, such as the time the group's janitor vetoed a suggestion from multimillion-dollar promoter Bill Graham as too "commercial." On the other hand, McNally clearly dodges the more unflattering and controversial aspects of the musicians' lives offstage; indeed, every living member of the original lineup provides glowing endorsements on the book's back cover. But perhaps McNally thinks the Dead's underside has been done to death; in any case, with a little prettifying he still manages to pen the most exhaustively researched book on the band to date.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

McNally has been the Grateful Dead's official historian since 1980.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; 1 edition (August 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767911857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767911856
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Believe me, McNally's book is going to be the definitive Dead book from now on. Only Blair Jackson's GARCIA is in the same league. Not only is the whole story of the band told, but it's told well and is a terrific read. McNally is to be commended for concentrating on the band, their world, and their music without getting bogged down in their personal lives. That's not the point here. His decision to break the narrative flow with occasional interludes works, giving details on different aspects of the Dead's world that flesh out the story. My only quibbles (and they're small ones) are these: I wish he had included more about Tom Constanten and Vince Welnick--they were both members of the band (if briefly) and deserve a little more attention. And there is an occasional needless swipe at other artists like Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground (who did not hate their audience, as McNally claims). But aside from that, a great tale well-told.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a troubled book. For one thing, you've read most of it already if you've read the other 4 or 5 important books on the band that have come out since Garcia's death. He quotes liberally from all of them, including the hilarious but scarcely dependable "Living With the Dead" by Rock Scully. In fact, that's probably where you need to start - with Scully's book. For fun, to remind yourself that it was all about fun after all. Then treat yourself to one of the best biographies you'll ever read with "Garcia", then get a look at the dark underbelly with "Dark Star", and you'll begin to get a sense of the big stories from at least 3 perspectives. Then if you still need more read "A Long Strange Trip" to patch in the cracks. McNally's unbalanced but highly detailed work provides loads of names, dates, places, addresses, etc.; enough to keep trivia buffs and collectors busy for years. But the big questions (you know the ones) will still go maddeningly unanswered. I cynically opine in my idle hours that this is because access to The Band is still probably limited to those who don't kick up too much dust, like it always was. The Grateful Dead is still one of the most potent social and musical phenomena of the post war period, and their influence continues to echo (ripple?) throughout countless millions of lives, and will for the next several thousand years. (Stop and think about it. There will be Deadheads 1000 years from now.) This is a good but not great look into the origins of that organism.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book. I learned about the Dead, and the general environment that their characters, culture, and music developed in. The majority of the book chronicles the early years of the Dead, with less and less time being spent documenting the later years. At first, I was disappointed that not enough time was devoted to developing the 'characters'. Relatively few quotes are attributed directly to band members, and there is not much characterization of the band members in general. Towards the end of the book, more of this happens, and I realize why it was good that the majority of this book didn't concentrate on this. Its petty, and one-dimensional, and (most importantly) doesn't have a lot to do with 'The Grateful Dead' and their music.
I believe there are many more books which do more of the gossip thing, but this book is intentionally not about that. It carefully develops and follows the Dead, their music, and their cultural and musical upbringing. McNally does a great job of putting just the right amount of generic historical information within the story to give it some context and relevance.
The only thing I didn't understand, and wish he would have developed further are some internal conflicts within the band early on. He spends a good amount of time explaining that Jerry and Phil were pretty set on 'firing' pigpen and Weir. He never really explains why, except for a brief mention of Weir's general spaciness, and uninspired guitar playing. Pigpen was co-frontman in the early days, and for good reason. He was a great performer, and gave a side to the dead that was never replaced. McNally mentions they wanted a better keyboardist, but personally I loved Pig's minimalist approach, and organ sound.
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Format: Hardcover
I have just finished reading McNally's "truth be told" novel on the span of the Grateful Dead's 30 year adventure into the world of insanity and chaos.
Told from the point of view of an insider, rather than a biographer outside of the Dead community, McNally's book gives a great deal of insight into the multiple personalities, conflicts, exploits, and adventures that made the Dead Family who they were. His story, coming from someone who was there, is told in a very honest manner, and it is one that any fan of the Dead will doubtless find addictive and entertaining.
He doesn't write from the perspective of a fanatic, and doesn't sugar-coat anything. His stories are honest, yet he doesn't try and pass them off as fact, aknowledging frequently that other versions of the stories exist (honestly, who could actually expect anyone inside the Dead community to remember every little detail?). When times were good, McNally tells the story and takes the reader along on an adventure. When times were rough, he tells it, and while some of the stories, like those from the 90s, are hard for a fan like myself to read, he tells it like it is.
The structure of the book is very well done, using an obvious chronological organization, with occasional chapters acting as interludes that describe a Grateful Dead show from the unloading of the equipment, through the setbreaks, and to the band getting on their flight for the next gig. The organization is well done, and makes for a very interesting read.
The balance of the novel, however, gets off a little bit. He starts off with the very beginnings of each musician, and goes into great detail about how the Grateful Dead was formed, and about how they became the travelling behemoth that they were.
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