Searching for the Sound: My Life With the Grateful Dead Hardcover – Apr 18 2005
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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.)
Lesh, founding member of the Grateful Dead and bass-guitar visionary, adds his biography and his take on Dead history to the burgeoning literature about the band that is famous for its devoted fans, for keeping the spirit of the psychedelic sixties alive, and for rarely recording a commercial hit. After covering his childhood at a blistering pace (by page 12, he has flunked his army induction physical), Lesh turns his attention to matters musical, including meeting original Dead keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who seemed "greasy" but performed a "raucous blues stomp," and then encountering the rest of the Dead gang, not to mention psychedelicized novelist Ken Kesey and sundry other sixties notables. He rehashes some notorious incidents in the band's annals, such as when in 1970 at the infamous Altamont free concert, the Dead refused to take the stage because they were scared; the atmosphere there was so unsettling, Lesh says, that he decided "not to take any acid that day"--given how things turned out (a tripping spectator was murdered by the Hell's Angels "security guards"), fortunate forbearance on his part. Lesh also recounts the subsequent comings and goings of band members, the death of Jerry Garcia, and life as a more mature presence on the rock landscape. Very few bands stay together as long as the Dead has, and fewer still attract new fans. A literate piece of rock history by a genuinely historic figure in rock music. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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!
Our intimate circle of Deadhead cohorts--best friends, pals, passing and long-term acquaintances that began in Southern Illinois (particularly along with the fabulous and memorable cover group, "Uncle Jon's Band,") through our crew called "East Bay Deadheads For Peace" formed during one of many Berkeley Greek Theater shows, always called Phil "The Professor." I confess I never knew why until I read this book. Wow. Phil brings an intellectual integrity to the story of his own musical education and, of course, to the band--to the history of the music driving The Grateful Dead, and to all of us who continually flocked to see them play for us and for each other. Phil lets us in. Tells us what it was REALLY like. Even when I knew what was coming, I experienced the pains (and the joys) through a different and certainly wiser set of eyes. This book is written with true love and deep respect for all members of the band and above all, for THE MUSIC.
What amazes me most about his book is the clarity of Phil's memory. He recounts (particularly the early days) with such detail that I can't help but believe this is transcribed from personal journals. Passages like: "the whole urban symphony of Industrial Man, coming from near and far, high and low, finally weaving a shimmering web of discontinuous rhythm, and in the longest slow fade ever, subsiding over hours to a dull roar, felt rather than heard, only to rouse itself anew as the sky brightened with the light of another day." Whew! This amazing, true, brutally honest, funny, insightful memoir is full of such . . . such . . . stuff! And it's not just trippy memory-packed description that blew me away. When he describes the "dark and stormy night" that defined their Woodstock experience, he describes the faltering sound-system as an electrical edifice with "a saber-toothed crotch cricket of a hum."
To anyone who not only experienced the phenomenon that was (is) the Grateful Dead, and particularly to those who appreciate the value of music, I highly, highly recommend this read. I haven't felt this emotional over a book in a long, long time. I love you, Phil.
Michele Cozzens, Author of A Line Between Friends and The Things I Wish I'd Said.
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.
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.