A LONG STRANGE TRIP: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead

Dennis McNally, Author
Dennis McNally, Author . Broadway $30 (704p) ISBN 978-0-7679-1185-6
Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
Paperback - 684 pages - 978-0-7679-1186-3
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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. (Aug.)

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