Dead Letters: The Very Best Grateful Dead Fan Mail Hardcover – 1 Oct 2011
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About the Author
Paul Grushkin’s Grateful Dead: The Official Book of the Deadheads (1983) is the most successful book about the Grateful Dead to date and one of the longest in-print rock music histories (24 years, 16 U.S. printings). He lives in Pinole, California
Top Customer Reviews
From the moment this quality hardback book is in your hands, you know that it is "different", from the novelty "window" that opens on the front, the fact that it is printed "landscape" style rather than the conventional "portrait" printing of a book. On opening, you will be faced with what I would describe as a book of illustrations with some narrative, and for me it is the illustrations that the book is all about. The pictures consist in the main of the envelopes sent to the GD's ticketing office, and what envelopes they are, some so elaborate that they must have taken hours to create the designs!
My advice is to put your favorite gig on, turn up the volume, and wander through this volume - bet you can't help but smile.
As a footnote, I'm surprised that the Amazon comments include the fact that Grushkin's book Grateful Dead, the Official Book of the Deadheads to be the most successful book relating to the band. Again that is essentially a "picture book" with a little narrative.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is no cash in book. The author, Paul Grushkin, isn't trying to squeeze some more money out of The Dead coffin. From the "pop open mailbox" on the cover, to the thick board used for the cover, to the paper stock, to the finely detailed and toned reproductions-this is how a book of artwork should be done. This is a legitimate look at a phenomenon peculiar to the Grateful Dead and their fans-most who wanted "a miracle"-tickets to a show. This is a great companion to the original book (see above) about The Dead. Together they paint a good picture of both the band and their fans/followers. The connectedness of the fans with The Dead is very evident from the beginning, and all through this book. Coming hard on the heels of the massive (73 discs) "GRATEFUL DEAD Europe '72" box set, both seem somehow connected. Even though this new book begins in 1983, it still brings up warm memories of the "early days" of both the band and their fans.
But the artwork has to be seen to be believed. From impressionistic styles, to sharply defined drawings to almost crude (yet innocent) child-like drawings. Most of them are full of color, the rest are sometimes finely drawn pen and ink impressions, or shaded pencil sketches-all designed to (hopefully) catch the attention of the ticket sales folks. In the best of these drawings, the more you look the more you see. It's easy to get caught up in any number of drawings in this collection-the good cheer, the good times, the good "vibes"-show a keen connection between band and fans. Sometimes you get the feeling that there's some kind of subliminal message thing going on here-maybe, maybe not. All of them were designed to attract attention and, hopefully get a response. Beginning with the words from the band asking Deadheads to unite ("who are you?", "where are you?", "how are you?"), the floodgates opened.
This book was done right. The accent is on the many envelopes and letters-all covered with imagination, a vibrancy, an innocence that defined the era. This book can be "read" from cover to cover, or you can casually flip through it-stopping at a drawing that strikes your fancy. Actually, the second method is preferable. Doing so holds your interest as your eyes randomly takes in a particular design, and you wonder (at least I did) who did that? What were they like? And where are they now? These letters are an evocation of the music and are part of the whole GRATEFUL DEAD experience. Listening to the band's music brings up memories of the first time I heard the band, in 1967. Just as the music has that ability, so do these fascinating letters, found, not only in this new volume, but in the first volume from many years ago. As Jerry Garcia writes in the Preface-"The Book of the Dead Heads is a celebration of the whole set of relationships involved in this long, strange trip". And that's what this book (and the first volume) are all about.
This isn't just a book filled with funny drawings from hippies. And it's not a look at a calculated move by The Dead to make more money. It's simply fan's connecting, in some way, with the GRATEFUL DEAD outlook-be cool, be nice, and good things will happen-perhaps a "miracle". These people were communicating with a band, an idea, a philosophy peculiar to those times. Even long after the '60's, many of these people thought (or hoped) that The Dead were theirs alone-along with a "few" friends. These letters were a way to connect with the band (and hopefully get "a miracle") in that time long ago when music and bands really did matter-far different than today. The graphics are, by turns, cool, funny, weird, and just plain psychedelic. Taken as a whole, these envelopes represent the music and good times between the Dead and their fans.
The GRATEFUL DEAD were one of the few bands that collected most anything-from their earliest beginnings, up through to the band's demise. Among all the posters, tickets, handbills, news articles/reviews, and general "stuff", these colorful letters are perhaps the most important. They speak of a different time, now long past. They're a connection from fans and followers to the band. Looking at virtually any one of these drawings is to open a door into another world. These letters can be appreciated as simple drawings, or (the best of them) can be seen as true art. Whichever way you decide-slip on your favorite music by The Dead, sit back and get lost in a colorful world from the past.
If you were lucky enough to have been there you know what I mean. If you weren't, then this is another window into some unique times and people. These letters are full of good times, good cheer, and a lot of whimsy. In today's hard world it's sometimes difficult to imagine a time when all this (and a lot more) was going on. The era of colorful Dead letters is a thing of the past-a feel of an anachronism. Looking through this book you get the feel of simpler times. When a vibrant, well thought out drawing might get you what you wanted-a chance to experience an evening with the GRATEFUL DEAD. And this book does that.
Here I have to say that if you're a fan of the band, and you like the above book-you should find a copy (if you don't already own one) of the first "volume" mentioned in the first paragraph. This latest book is built on the foundation of that first volume. While the book doesn't have the colorful, cosmic impact of "Dead Letters...", it does have a distinct charm all it's own. Included are many letters to the band from fans corresponding their thoughts and observations. A number of them are poignant and heartfelt. But it's the many (mostly b&w) photographs of the band, the fans, and the scene in general that give this book real depth. Also include are reproductions of posters, tickets, backstage passes, etc. that help give insight, and a real feel for The Dead phenomenon. This first 200 page volume is, in it's own way, every bit as interesting and informative as this new volume, and gives a feel for the Dead/fan connection. It deserves to sit alongside this new volume without a doubt. While out of print, it can still be found easily through Amazon sellers. Cheers.
Phil San Rafael, CA
A cursory glance, even by people who have no idea what's going on here, at the jaw-dropping art in this beautifully-designed and printed book, HAS to bring smiles and wonder to their heads. It's absolutely gorgeous!
But for those of you who know and appreciate what is represented here - the Dead Heads' creative drive and passion to express their love for and devotion to the music and magic of the Grateful Dead - this book will warm your heart and spirit. The labor of love? Not just the book itself, but what's contained therein.
These are not *jusT* fan letters - and the text gives the reader the historical framework to understand how truly remarkable is this little-known aspect of the Grateful Dead phenomenon.
The author, Paul Grushkin, should be given kudos for seeing this project through, with this spectacular result. It couldn't have been easy.
Check it out! Rosie McGee