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

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  930 ratings  ·  61 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...more
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
Grateful Dead
5th out of 28 books — 11 voters
Please Kill Me by Legs McNeilChronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob DylanLove is a Mix Tape by Rob SheffieldOur Band Could Be Your Life by Michael AzerradPsychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
Best Non Fiction About Music
107th out of 757 books — 610 voters

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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...more
Justin Hampton
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 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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
Dithreabhach Creidmheach
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!
Chris J
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
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...more
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
Great book so far. A lot of detail is covered on the influence poets, writers and artists had on the Grateful Dead, their music, lyrics and sociological experiments that continued and evolved over 40 years.. From folklore to Rimbaud, Howlin Wolf to composer John Cage, the Bible to Kerouac and Ginsberg, from comic books to the literary horror of Mary Shelly, it seems nothing was off limits in the strange trip they created.
The book stayed informative but sped through the mid to late periods of the...more
Wesley Blixt
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
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 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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.
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.
Jerry Oliver
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
Brandon Daviet
Great book, but I don't remember reading it! :-)
Matt Tillett
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
It was a decent book. It taught me much more than I would ever expect to know about the Grateful Dead. I enjoyed following their journey from a member of the "family." I wish the writer was better and he had a much, much better editor. There were times when it was hard to understand the meaning of the sentence. I think a little to much time with the heavy stuff has caused there to be some writing issues. Read this book if you enjoy the GD or if you want to experience the 60's and 70's!
Kjersti Egerdahl
Sep 19, 2008 Kjersti Egerdahl rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: superfans
I mostly read this as research for work, so it's not my topic of choice, but the book does a good job of throwing in all the dates and details and stories a fan would want to know: it's the major authority on the band's history. It really sheds some light on the strange emotional passivity and carelessness inside the band at the heart of this lovey-dovey fan phenomenon. Jerry Garcia comes off as a criminally (and ultimately fatally) passive slob in his personal life.
Bryan Winchell
This is a very comprehensive history of the Grateful Dead, concentrating especially on their start-up years of 1965-1973. It's well-written and fair---not always complimentary to this beast of a band that consumed so many lives on its way to becoming one of the top touring acts of the 1980s and 1990s. Lots of fun anecdotes, as well, and if you are at all interested in 1960s history, it does a good job of showing their place in those turbulent, fascinating times.
Mar 16, 2008 Pvl marked it as to-read
I heard the author interviewed on a local radio station. He was drawn into the Grateful Dead circle during his time researching and writing the Kerouac book that I also have on my to-read shelf.

From the authors comments, it sounds as though the book will go into the long proud history that links Thoreau with the Beat Generation poets and finally the counter-culture and the Grateful Dead. I'm really looking forward to this read.

The indispensable starting point for anything Dead-related. The research is deep, the writing is engaging, and McNally finds a great balance between insider details and scholarly objectivity. He also errs on the light side of the later-period darkness. In comparison to, say, Robert Greenfield's "Dark Star" (which chronicles the tragic banality of Jerry Garcia's heroin addiction) this turns out to be a totally right-on approach.
Confession: I've been a Deadhead since the mid-'80s and I adore their music and everything they stood for. But even if you're not a Deadhead, this book is an amazing read. The author was "family", so he writes with authority and passion about this cultural phenomenon that will never be duplicated. I could hardly put this book down, even though I knew the story very well before I read it!
A.G. Pasquella
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
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.
Aug 01, 2007 Rin rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: deadheads
I gotta say this book wasn't so good. It was a smidge biased and also glossed over a lot of the .... pain in the ass of being the dead. it glosses over things like drug use and infidelity with a soft lens that frankly left me feeling like someone didn't want me to end up hating them. in the end.... i just ended up not liking the book. I'll def. read another Dead book someday, though.
Dean Prichard
3 1/2 stars. It would have been more enjoyable without the "interludes" and the author injecting himself into the story. The part of the book after 1977 or so seems rushed. It took me a long time to read this as I keep stopping to listen to the concerts he was talking about on archive.org or CD. There is a lot of great stuff I had no idea about which this book turned me on to.
A fine account of the Dead by an insider. It's full of detail, perhaps more so than a casual fan will want. Yet Heads may well find little new here. I read a bunch of Dead non-fiction about 8 years ago and this one stands out over some of the others (like Scully's), but the best is still Blair Jackson's biography of Jerry.
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