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A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,342 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
The complete history of one of the most long-lived and legendary bands in rock history, written by its official historian and publicist–a must-have chronicle for all Dead Heads, and for students of rock and the 1960s’ counterculture.

From 1965 to 1995, the Grateful Dead flourished as one of the most beloved, unusual, and accomplished musical entities to ever grace American
Paperback, 736 pages
Published August 12th 2003 by Three Rivers Press (first published August 6th 2002)
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The Real Book of the Dead by Collette SinclaireInterviews With the Dead, Part 1 by Collette SinclaireMessages From Heaven by Collette SinclaireCaptain Trips by Sandy TroyA Long Strange Trip by Dennis McNally
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,198)
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Feb 06, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Widely considered to be the ultimate compendium for Grateful Dead history, Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead is an extremely dense book. It has taken me a long time to finish it, but it was extremely well-written and contained a lot of information that I did not know prior to picking it up.

The book follows the Grateful Dead from their 1965 gig at Magoo’s Pizza in Menlo Park, CA to Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. McNally was the official band historian be
Cal Pearson
Mar 21, 2009 Cal Pearson rated it it was amazing
I'm proud to classed as a Deadhead! This is ace book. I'll get down to writing a proper review when I get back from my long, strange trip!
Gabriel Clarke
Jul 16, 2016 Gabriel Clarke rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Mostly, I've been re-reading this whilst listening to a lot of Dead shows in roughly chronological order (73-74 and 77, finishing returns IMHO thereafter). It's a compelling, tragic story that covers the last decade of the Dead in about a tenth of the space the first decade gets. But perhaps that's entirely proportionate. McNally was deeply embedded in the band's infrastructure as both historian and publicist for about 15 years but his perspective is unflinchingly warts and all. Garcia's daughte ...more
Justin Hampton
Mar 02, 2013 Justin Hampton rated it it was ok
Whew. This was a long, rambling, occasionally enlightening but ultimately shambolic and overlong tome on one of the '60s counterculture's most enduring institutions. In this way, it's not unlike the band at its most aimless and self-indulgent. Granted, there's a lot of ground here to cover, from the band's freewheeling early days to the many financial missteps to the band's obsession with sound and fidelity to a full-on cultural phenomenon which garnered the regard of much straighter business en ...more
Michael Lawrence
Jul 09, 2008 Michael Lawrence rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Deadheads, Psychedelic Folks, Jesus
Recommended to Michael by: A grate friend.
Shelves: music
Instead of writing a review I will just cut and paste something I had written about my experience with the Grateful Dead. It's sums up the reason I bought this book in the first place.


After my first Grateful Dead show at the Philadelphia Spectrum I was hooked and addicted to
Feb 07, 2013 Hoagie rated it really liked it
I didn't follow the Grateful Dead around the country and I only saw one live show. I'm a big fan of the Dead, however. I owned all of their recordings on vinyl at one point or another. I have enjoyed the improvisational freedom of their music since hearing it for the first time in 1967. Their influences (Jugband, Classic Rock, Jazz, Blues, Country and Bluegrass) have provided the starting point for many of my investigations into the various facets of American music. This book traces the Dead's h ...more
Jerry Oliver
Sep 09, 2014 Jerry Oliver rated it it was amazing
Wow. What a long strange read it's been. This was the epic rock and roll band biography. I have to give it five stars because it inspired me to dig deeper into the Dead and the individual members music more than ever and as a result of that growing in my own understanding of music. If there is anything you learn about the Dead in this book is that it is all about the music. Really man, no matter how much psychedelics, fame, women, personal drama, hangers on and more came through there lives when ...more
A.G. Pasquella
May 17, 2011 A.G. Pasquella rated it really liked it
An enjoyable trip. I definitely learned a lot about The Grateful Dead. McNally was The Dead's publicist so he was right in the thick of things for decades. Unfortunately it often seemed as though he was trying to cram in the names of everyone The Grateful Dead ever came into contact with-- in one sentence he mentioned seven people! Still, a fun read about a band I knew little about.
Chelsea Ursaner
Oct 18, 2012 Chelsea Ursaner rated it really liked it
It felt a bit like reading someone's diary and I found the writing to be rudimentary at times so I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't meant to be a novel. And when McNally tried too hard to sound literary that was almost worse than when he just gave the story plain and simple. As an 'inside history,' it does what it promises and you're so sad to see Jerry go at the end.
Jan 13, 2014 Chris rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal. Gave me a whole new appreciation of one of the most important bands ever. Even if you're not a deadhead, and not necessarily into jamband music, I'd still recommend it for being so well-written and engrossing. You'll learn a lot about the 60's counterculture and the evolution of improvisational rock.
David Ward
A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead by Dennis McNally (Three Rivers Press 2003) (780.92). Author Dennis McNally has the inside scoop here on the old hippie boys' club. My rating: 7/10, finished 2005.
Sep 05, 2014 Barbikat60 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can see that McNally tried to be objective but you can clearly see the disdain that he had for Rock Scully and Sam Cutler. I find that a bit unfair being that his idol Phil Lesh was quite the garbage head and he glossed over that fact. Otherwise, he wrote an interesting and insightful book. I have a little more respect for Bob Weir as a musician after reading this book. I have to read Steve Parish's book. I believe it will give me the needed balance between all the books I've read about the Gr ...more
Eric M
Mar 01, 2016 Eric M rated it really liked it
It is interesting comparing McNally's account to Rock Scully's. There are definitely some inconsistencies, most notably for me being the retelling of Kreutzmann's outburst in Paris where he smashed a window. According to Scully it happened in their Europe '72 tour out of frustration in not being able to pick up any women, while according to McNally it was in a later Europe tour in '74, motivated by desperation in becoming lost. Another notable difference is how Owsley was manufacturing the Sunsh ...more
Jul 27, 2015 James rated it liked it
As the band's longtime publicist, Dennis McMally had a pretty intimate perspective for telling the story of the Grateful Dead, and he makes use of it in this comprehensive biography of the band, which travels from the group's early days in San Francisco to their sad farewell to Jerry Garcia.

All of the band members get their time in the spotlight, but as the group's defining presence, Jerry is a key focus. McNally stretches back to Garcia's childhood, taking us through the loss of his father, his
Laraine Ryan
Apr 28, 2015 Laraine Ryan rated it did not like it
This is a documentation of every concert ever played and every thing of interest that might have ever been covered in the press.

It's a good reference book for someone who wants to have access to all of that information.

Not readable though. It might have been better as a historic timeline of all concerts and songs and notable happenings.

There are many resumes of people too. Anyone who comes on the scene gets all their credits it. You know, the kind of thing you read on the program of a play you
Chris J
Apr 07, 2014 Chris J rated it it was ok
My motivation in reading McNally's history of the Dead stemmed from the curiosity I had regarding their first-half of the 1970s musical style. One who is familiar with the Dead knows their style during this era to be a mix of electric and acoustic, with a strong bent toward folk/rock as well as "cowboy" and Appalachian music. Sadly, few paragraphs within the 620 pages of text touched upon my points of curiosity. So, because of this, I ultimately felt disappointed with the book. There were other ...more
Jul 13, 2009 Michael rated it it was ok
I am a casual Dead fan but recently have been drawn in while learning to play and sing some of their songs: Ripple, China Doll, Bertha, Box of Rain, Uncle John's Band. My curiosity was further piqued by the Dead-centric "Psychedelic Posters" exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.

To learn more about the band and its legacy I picked up this book on Goodreads' recommendation.

I was dismayed to learn that the author served as the Dead's publicist during the mid-late Jerry era. That did not bode well for
Aug 07, 2011 Mark rated it did not like it
Shelves: music, biography
Whatever brownie points McNally acquired with Garcia with his excellent book on Kerouac, he squandered in this book when he inserted himself into it as a major figure (aka, "Scribe") rather than focusing solely on the history of the band (this, after all, was to be their long awaited "official biography"). While he indeed did so, there was not an awful lot said that I hadn't previously heard through other sources. It is infinitely distracting and irritating for the author of a biography to prete ...more
Jul 07, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it
This is a book that I read soon after it came out about 10 years ago, and pulled off my self recently to re-read in light of the recent culminating concerts. This is a very thorough history of the band from 1965 - Garcia's death.
Wesley Blixt
Sep 25, 2009 Wesley Blixt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McNally has all the scholarly chops of a true historian -- as he should since he earned a PhD in History at UMass Amherst before started following the band in 1978. At that point, DESOLATE ANGEL, his dissertation-turned standard bio of Kerouac had just been published. Although he spent the next 30 years with band -- half of that with Garcia -- and has more stories than he will ever have time to time tell, this book maintains its academic rigor throughout . . . so much so that you may find it ted ...more
Apr 26, 2011 Nora rated it did not like it
I picked this 600-odd page up off my friend's bookshelf, and not being a Deadhead, still told myself I'd read up into the point where the Dead became famous, and then I'd stop. (I like reading cultural/subcultural histories, and I was more interested in learning the band's backstory than reading about their days as a cultural phenomenon.) I got farther than that, to around page 250, and then I just had to put it down. Basically all 600 pages might have well have read, "the Grateful Dead shit gol ...more
Mar 20, 2011 Zinger rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
Some people see the bus and get on. Others see the bus, but don't get on, and then there are those that don't even see the bus.

It was nice to get more of the background on the Dead, the members, their operations, and more. The book included plenty of the bad that was part of their story.

The book mentioned a couple of the shows I had been to, and several "old stomping grounds" when I used to live in the Bay Area. A fun flashback to memory lane.

I also have several musicians that I had never listen
Aug 29, 2015 Veleniki rated it really liked it
Just finished this after catching a Santa Clara show and as I approach the 30th anniversary of my 1st show in a few months. The nostalgia is strong right now but I found it a very approachable read.
Oct 27, 2009 Nick rated it really liked it
it was alright but the author put stuff very slow and i couldn't really connect with it so i stopped reading it i only got about one forth way through it. the reason i didn't really like the book is the author would take things way to slow then come up with something random i just couldn't comprehend. i am sure if i wasn't rushed to finish it like we are here i would be able to finish the book with a full understanding of it.i now know that the book i pick has to be at least under 300 pages for ...more
Aug 03, 2014 Jww added it
A great overview of the history of this seminal band and the era that spawned it.
Nov 05, 2015 Sam rated it it was amazing
This large and comprehensive book makes a fantastic gift.
Matti Karjalainen
Dennis McNallyn "A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead and the Making of Modern America" (Corgi, 2003) on kattava bändihistoriikki amerikkalaisen musiikki-instituution mittavaan uraan. Grateful Deadin "pitkässä, oudossa matkassa" riittää kertomista ja kirjoittamista, ja bändin palkkalistoille kuulunut kirjailija suoriutuu urakastaan varsin hyvin: käsitellyksi tulevat mitalin molemmat puolet. Negatiivisia puolia ei unohdeta, mutta toisaalta monia rockhistoriikkeja nykyisin ...more
Dec 01, 2015 Grant rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anybody who likes the Grateful Dead-a must-read
This is a great history of the band, their 'family', insights into their music, and a pretty well rounded description of the psychedelic trip called the GD. Lots of names and places, info behind the songs and happenings, and overall an impressive bit of work by the guy who was their observer/archivist of happenings from the start. Starting in 1962 and through the time up to and beyond Garcia's death, this book greatly enhanced my love and appreciation for the music, the band, and the brilliance ...more
Brandon Daviet
Mar 26, 2014 Brandon Daviet rated it really liked it
Great book, but I don't remember reading it! :-)
Matt Tillett
Jul 11, 2008 Matt Tillett rated it it was amazing
Bias aside, this book is and excellent history of the world's most un-rock rock band. Well-written, fact-paced, and full of humor, this book could easily appeal to non-fans interested in rock history, and the immense effort involved in producing/managing headstrong musicians. Unlike other authors of Dead biographies, McNally doesn't make you feel like he's saying "man" every 15 seconds and snapping his finger while delicately balancing a filthy bong on his knee. It's a historical account written ...more
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