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Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead Paperback – 25 Apr 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (25 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316154490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316154499
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 547,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Searching for the Sound In this ruthlessly honest bestseller, the bass player for the greatest improvisational band in American history tells the full, true story of his life, Jerry Garcia, and the Grateful Dead. of photos. Full description

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Junglies on 8 May 2005
Format: Hardcover
I believe that many readers of this book who are looking for the inside scoop on the Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll of the Grateful Dead are going to be disappointed. All of those elements and more are addressed but there is none of the rabid sensationalism that has been a feature of some of the stories about this band.
To be fair, I approached this memoir with less than my normal objectivity, I have been a fan for too long to take a dispassionate look. In fact I opened up the cover with a heady mixture of excitement and trepidation. Excitement at reading Phil's own words as a consumate insider and trepidation that it may be one of those ghastly ghosted tomes which would not serve the memory of the band well. Having just completed the book I can honestly say that I found it very easy to read, there are sufficient errors in it which tends to suggest it was mainly of Phil's doing, and it leaves the reader with a much different sense of events than they may have gleaned from others of this ilk other than from Dennis McNally's authoritative account. I would continue to press Robert Hunter, the band's resident poet in a more familiar guise as a lyricist, to produce his own story but I live in the eternal hope that he will heed my call.
This book is a delight for many reasons. Firstly I appreciate that the author does not duck the issues of the sex and drugs but acknowledges instead what we all know and that is that they are an integral part of the popular music scene and very few people who work in that area are non-participants. There is a caveat to my support and that is that there is not enough information out there about why musicians and others who work in the field resort to chemicals to begin with. Secondly, Phil Lesh does not drown the reader in too much material.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By G. A. Noble on 5 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book, Phil has a nice relaxed, subtle style that's witty and enjoyable to read. He doesn't cover every single thing that happened in detail, that would require a few volumes, I know a lot of the Deads history so this didn't matter.

What he does give is a very personal recollection of the main events and an insight into the personalities involved and the interaction between them over the years.

Phil deals with the darker side of the Dead with candor and honesty and is very open with his feelings. There is some great technical insight into the innovation that the Dead and their sound crew used to develop sound techniques and hardware with their various PA systems over the years which have now become industry standards. Such as using white noise and frequency analysers to neutralise the acoustics in any venue they were playing. They did this all manually when developing the technique, since then computerised equipment has been developed which does all this automatically.

A good read and if you're a deadhead, essential reading. It's not always pretty but with the Dead you get the real deal, pretty or otherwise.

I liked it !!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. P. S. Mcgain on 7 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
A very readable book that charts the evolution of a major and unique band. It is the first book that I have come across about the Grateful Dead that was written by a member of it and one who was an integral part of it during it's long life. Very much a 'warts and all' account of the good and not so good times experienced by the band. I was impressed by the quality of Phil's writing, showing great insight and making it clear that he is an articulate and erudite person. One might not have expected so much of someone who came through the drug excesses of the Hippy era. Even at the height of that period, he continued to be well read and knowledgeable on a range of subjects, musical, philosophical and political. The sort of book that you cannot put down. Even for those who know little or nothing about the band, this is still a fascinating read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By PhilS on 31 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
This was an interesting read for me, having been a GD fan for some 40 years (although not an obsessive in terms of researching all the background). Phil runs through his early life then recounts the history of the Dead from his point of view, pretty much in chronological order. The great Europe 72 tour is dealt with in the space of a few paragraphs, so for European fans a bit disappointing. Also, there is not much about the events post-the death of Jerry Garcia which I believe might have been interesting, but Phil was in fact ill for some of that period. Good book, good value, though. And quite well written.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 102 reviews
68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
It's all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago... 17 April 2005
By Bruce Crocker - Published on
Format: Hardcover
No one book can ever tell the entire tale of the Grateful Dead. Searching For The Sound by bassist and founding member Phil Lesh is the first book by a member of the band to focus on the band itself and Phil has a tale to tell and tells it well. The book starts with Lesh's birth and quickly moves on to his discovery of music. Then Lesh takes us through the embryonic San Francisco scene and on into the evolution of the Grateful Dead. The rest of the book focuses on Phil's intertwined life with the band, the band's extended family, and, ultimately, Phil's own family. It takes only the last dozen or so pages to cover the years since Jerry Garcia's death, but the subtitle of the book is My Life With The Grateful Dead and that name passed into history at the end of 1995. The drugs are there, but rather than glorifying them, a full reading of the book shows that, in the long run, the drugs took a heavy toll. Lesh's writing style is conversational and stream of consciousness and fits perfectly with the story he's narrating. Ultimately, it's a book about MUSIC, its creation, and its powers. In the spirit of the age of disclosure, I must admit to attending 27 Grateful Dead shows between Penn State '79 and Las Vegas '95 and have followed the band members in whatever incarnation since the death of Garcia. I don't think this makes me biased, but I thought you should know. I found the book to be an eye opener and it added context to a major part of my life during the last quarter of the 20th Century. A non-Deadhead should enjoy the book, especially anyone with a taste for biography and the history of rock. If you're looking for the description of one endless drug trip, stay away [or better yet, read the book with an open mind]. I enjoyed Searching For The Sound and would love to see Lesh give us another book sometime in the future.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
It's all about the MUSIC 19 May 2005
By Blind Mello Jelly - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is so refreshing to read a book by a musician who is in it for the MUSIC. I knew some background on Mr. Lesh. I'm not a rabid Deadhead...never quit my job and followed them on tour or anything, but I have seen them at least six times. I've read the books by Hank Harrison, Blair Jackson and Rock Scully and enjoyed them all, and have many of their CDs. But Lesh's book is a well-written memoir of what it was like being on that wonderous ride through that unique time in history. If you want to hear stories about shagging endless lines of groupies, or snorting endless lines of cocaine, go elsewhere. Lesh touches on the drug element in the band, but doesn't dwell on it....except for maybe the LSD experimentation which was so crucial the the development of the band. And I've honestly never read such a "dead-on" (sorry) description of the effects of mind-altering drugs. Lesh is obviously an intelligent man, and to be honest, he loses me occasionally when talking about electronics/sound/acoustics, but I knew enough about him to expect that.

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!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
What the professor, er I mean, the bass player is thinking 26 May 2005
By Michelaneous by Michele - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I'm so full of music and nostalgia, having just finished this book. I didn't want it to end. I'm exhausted--feeling like I just danced my way through a weekend of shows--and yet, so high on the memories, I'm thrilled and honored to write this review. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Phil, for writing "Searching For The Sound." It's a wonderful book. The best I've read about the Dead. Thank you for sharing everything behind that omnipresent smile you always seemed to have on stage.

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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I found the sound. 13 Jan. 2006
By Tha Notorious P.A.T - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"Look out of any window, any morning, any evening, any day."

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.
30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
The Best book so far on the Dead 17 April 2005
By R. J. Marsella - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Phil Lesh writes with an open and candid style that makes reading his account of the Dead's history an absolute pleasure for both Deadheads and other lovers of music. Phil's story starts off with the typical childhood stuff but rapidly moves to the music scene in Palo Alto and later San Francisco that ultimately coincided with the Summer Of Love and gave birth to the Grateful Dead. The Dead were certainly unique in all of rock in the way their music blended so many influences and Lesh's story clearly demonstrates how those strains of jazz, blues, country,and even classical influences came into play in the extended instrumental explorations the Dead were famous for. I was particularly intrigued by how he describes the influence of John Coltrane on his own muiscal development.

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.
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