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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Books


2015, being the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Grateful Dead and the 20th anniversary of the death of Jerry Garcia, is an absolute frenzy of the written word, part of a broader orgy of production and consumption, Mr. Supply and Ms. Demand doing the cha-cha.

This post is mostly about the deluge of essential reading hitting the streets, and a little about other pulp and glue crossing my screen. It's about books as it relates to JGMF.

I expect 2015 to be the front of a wave of Dead and hippie consumerism that I expect to last through at least 2019 (Woodstock) and, for the Garciaverse, 2020 (25th anniversary of Jerry's passing).

The good news is that we are experiencing a huge bulge of amazing looking written word. The bad news is that we are experiencing a huge bulge of amazing looking written word - an embarrassment of riches. I'll just list 'em in bibliographic order as I have them, which is surely non-canonical.

Please feel free to leave comments, and good reading!

Barnes, Barry. 2011. Everything I Know About Business I Learned from the Grateful Dead: The Ten Most Innovative Lessons from a Long, Strange Trip. New York: Business Plus.
  • This ought to be on every B-School syllabus, IMO.

Bernstein, Andrew J. 2013. California Slim: The Music, the Magic, and the Madness. Xlibris LLC.
  • This is really nicely done - I learned a lot about a very particular scene, things flow really nicely and it's an interesting set of stories. Some excellent Garcia color (playing an early arcade game, for example, and lots of black coffee). I gathered up various setlist and other data. 

Browne, David. 2015. So Many Roads: The Life And Times Of The Grateful Dead. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press [a member of the Perseus Books Group].
  • I have commented on this somewhere - on a few furtive glances, it looks canonical.
  • Pretty good notice by Ryan Little in the Washington Post, sounds reasonable enough. What will have been a stream of names to him will be a stream of beautiful sociometric data, to me, more a feature than a bug. And then it sounds like the stories are good, the writing is nice. I also don't mind his critique, that "these books" (if I can put it that way) don't really reckon on more scales, or tilt them, ignoring the bad stuff. It's a legitimate position to take, as, I am sure, will be the balance that Browne necessarily had to strike as a writer. The review makes me even more eager to tear through this book.
  • Reading Notes.
Davis, Tom. 2009. 39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss. New York: Grove Press.
  • A great read into some of the many ways in which genius and mania and all kinds of other factors can produce and reflect human amazingness and frailty. Wonderful stuff, lots of craziness. He deals mostly straightforwardly with the drugs, though one key question goes unanswered. The chapter on Hepburn Heights is essential reading for understanding Garcia in the early 80s. I gathered up various little Garciaverse crossings, and a few biggies (like Hepburn Heights, the drugs, but also Sirens of Titan). It's a rather charming read.
Gissen Stanley, Rhoney, with Tom Davis. 2013. Owsley and Me: My LSD Family. Rhinebeck, NY: Monkfish Book Publishing Company.
  • Amazing insider's perspective on some wild times. For me, some of the key material centered on the Carousel Ballroom, the Tuesday Night Jams at the Carousel, a few other Garcia nuggets and lots of all-around color. Rhoney is a smart, tough cookie and went through some wild stuff with Bear and the whole scene. Rhoney and Tom Davis seem to have become very close during this collaboration as Davis was dying, I gather. And on p. 271, she quotes Bear saying that Davis turned Garcia onto Persian.
Jackson, Blair and Gans, David. 2015. This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead. Flatiron Books.
Jarnow, Jesse. 2016. Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press.
  • Read as of Thanksgiving, need to annotate.

Kramer, Michael J. 2013. The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • I have not gone through this one and pulled quotes and all the rest of that, but I have finished it. With one major exception, I absolutely loved his discussion of The Common in 1969 - a topic on which I have been gathering materials, reflecting, writing for a good long while. Kramer even scooped me with the picture of Garcia in the Bluto shirt and leather hat, speaking out at the first meeting of The Common, which I had been wanting to use. And I agree that The Common represents an attempt to define a civic space -- in part. But, two things: first, he's telling half the story - I think you have to tell the complementary stories of public and private spaces and the ebbs and flows between and across them. My "Jerry and the Jeffersons" material, in  which The Common figures quite prominently, tries to do that. Second, the whole argument that these contexts within which rock music did its thing involved the construction of the civic seems banal, not in the sense that it's not right, but in the sense that it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Kramer's research is glorious (including some killer sounding archives), his citations look great and the book is well-edited; it is super-smart and wonderfully written. But I guess the claim that rock music had civic contours and connotations is one that I would have stipulated ex ante. What is counterintuitive about this claim? The cases are interesting, the Viet Nam stuff was very informative, and I enjoyed it - but as a piece of argumentation it fell way short of my expectations. 

Kreutzmann, Bill. 2015. Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.


Loren, Richard, with Stephen Abney. 2014. High Notes: A Rock Memoir. Demariscotta, ME: East Pond Publishing.
  • This was also a charming read, easy on the eyes and some great, straightforward narration of Richard Loren's tenure with Garcia and the Dead, among other things. The Rowans and the Stinson Beach scene come through reasonably clearly for the first time, totally idyllic sounding, "until it wasn't" as Peter Rowan has been known to say.  I'll have notes on this at some point.
  • Reading notes

McGee, Rosie. 2013. Dancing with the Dead: A Photographic Memoir. Rohnert Park, CA: Tioli Press & Bytes.
  • Incredible insider-with-camera images and stories from the Dead's very earliest days through 1974. Rosie writes beautifully, the stories flow better than they often do in this genre; perhaps there's less putative verbatim dialogue. Anyway, highly recommended - I gathered up lots of neat color and data. Essential for Garciaverse/JGMF/GOTS/Fate Music.
McNally, Dennis, ed. 2015. Jerry on Jerry: The Unpublished Jerry Garcia Interviews. New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers.
  • I made a fair number of marginal notes, but somehow left my read of this feeling like I didn't get that much out of it. But when I went back to transcribe, I had ten pages of notes. I came away thinking it was a quite beautiful work, helping Jerry along with an ex post self portrait. The book lays out a bunch of Jerry's personal, intellectual, creative, musical architecture, but at a nice manageable pace. The whole work lilts and breathes and it reads delightfully.
  • Reading Notes.
Minkin, Bob. 2014. Live Dead: The Grateful Dead Photographed by Bob Minkin. Insight Editions.
--haven't even unwrapped this yet.

Nash, Graham. 2013. Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life. New York: Crown Archetype.
--to read


Richardson, Peter. 2014. No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead. New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • Essential, canonical source. Loved this book, a great, rich read, a beautiful set of three long narratives through the themes of ecstasy, mobility and community - exceptionally well conceived and executed. I learned a lot about the San Francisco avant-garde scene, and Wally Hedrick in particular, that I did not know - this is bedrock cultural material for Garcia. I learned a few new things about the Dead, in part via Richardson's work at the amazing GD Archives at UC Santa Cruz, but also just by novelly composing materials that I thought I already should have known. I am woefully unschooled in cultural history - Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence is a frequent companion, but otherwise I just don't take in much of that. It struck me in Richardson's hands as a fresh angle that cast some very interesting light, beautifully rendered, well-written stories. I hope this book gets read by more than Deadheads, but by anyone who is interested in digging a little more deeply into postwar American culture.
Selvin, Joel. ?2014? The Haight: Love, Rock and Revolution: The Photography of Jim Marshall. San Rafael, CA: Insight Editions.
-- Haven't gotten to this, may not for awhile. Looks amazing.
 
Weathern, George, and Vincent Colnett. 2004 [1978]. A Wayward Angel: The Full Story of the Hells Angels by the Former Vice President of the Oakland Chapter. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press. (Originally Richard Marek Publishers.)
  • Very interesting for understanding the Hells Angels, of course, and therefore of indirect but considerable interest to one contemplating the Garciaverse.
  • Why is this here? It's a long story.

Weiner, Howard F. 2014. Positively Garcia: Reflections of the JGB volume 1: 1972-1984. New York: Pencil Hill Publishing.

  • Great read, well put together, rich with material. I have not yet "processed" this, meaning I go through and pull quotes and date stuff and do all of that. It will be quite a project. This is the first book about the JGB (scooped again!) and it's a great entry in the touring-fan-memoir genre - Weiner is funny and interesting, he writes well, and he is a very perceptive listener. This is print version, albeit well-written and autobiographical, of the kinds of things I try to do in listening notes here.
  • I have commented on and engaged Weiner's approach to JGB 11/4/81 in Albany, interesting to follow his path.

18 comments:

  1. I have read a bunch of these books, though not all of them. I can vouch for the Kramer book (The Republic Of Rock). It's a nice cross between academic and cultural, and covers a lot of new ground. If you think you know all about "The Fillmores" I hope you are ready for the questions about Fillmore Far East when the Professor includes it on the final.

    The George Wethern book (A Wayward Angel) is a stranger beast. Not exactly literary--Wethern was Sonny Barger's second in command back in the bad old days. And Wethern wrote the book when he was in the witness protection program, and needing a buck, and many people whom he had or could testify against were still around, so the truth value has to be weighed carefully.

    Nonetheless, Wethern says that he was one of Owsley's chief lieutenants (the conveniently deceased Terry The Tramp was the other, apparently), so whatever you think of his truth quotient, it's still a rare glimpse into the disturbing underground in which the Dead walked back in the day. Wethern's explanation of the founding of The Carousel is rather different than everyone else's story.

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  2. I have updated this post with some placeholder reflections on these books. I am thinking about starting a thread for each book -- there will be a lot of books coming down the pike in the next six months, continuing (via some decaying function) through 8/17/2019, or thereabouts. It would be nice to have some good way of discussing them.

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  3. I am really surprised not to find Richard Loren's memoir "High Notes" in this list - I thought it would be first on your reading list! Perhaps you already read it some time ago.

    Not really Garcia-related, but I'll mention John Glatt's new book "Live at the Fillmore East and West," a month-by-month chronicle of Bill Graham & the two Fillmores. Very much an anecdotal "sixties-legends sex & drugs" book for a popular audience (most of the book seems to be about Janis Joplin), it's not a book to turn to for rigorous factual accuracy, but it's full of colorful interview material, including a few Dead stories; similar to Greenfield's book "Bill Graham Presents."

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  4. Oh, I did read Loren. Very good. Now, where did I put it? ...

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  5. I found my copy of Loren, in a place whence it could have disappeared for a very long time, glad I located it! Have yet to collect my annotations, but really enjoyed it.

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  6. I can highly recommend David Browne's new book So Many Roads. It's a quick sprint through the Dead's career, but very well-done - Browne focuses on the band's history rather than their cultural context, and seems to have gone out of his way to find new info that hasn't been in previous books. There's a lot of new interview material, and practically every page has some quote I haven't seen before.

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    1. My copy should arrive any day. That is great to hear. I hope the forthcoming Gans-Jackson and Kreutzmann books also contain new material, though I also fear it because I can't even process what we already have. Case in point - I have never gone through Signpost to a New Space and typed up my many notes. It's chock full of good stuff.

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    2. Greene has arrived. I have only had a chance to peek into it, here are a few totally initial impressions.

      1) it's beautiful to look at and nice to handle, a nice, appealing book. Kudos to Da Capo for getting this done.

      2) The jacket blurbs signal the seriousness, authors Blair Jackson, Eric Alterman, Robert Greenfield, Will Hermes, Alan Paul, and Sheila Weller, who have written, respectively, Garcia, Springsteen, Garcia, 1970s New York music, the Allman Brothers, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. So add one to the "must memorize and consult before saying anything at all" category, which only LIA can do, along with Arnold (ongoing), LIA (ongoing), Jackson 1999, McNally 2002, Lesh 2005, and I'd add Richardson 2014 to this "omnibus" category. Greene 2015 has to be added to the list.

      2) I had time to take one glance at it. I love his tiling approach, 17 time-slices (which is Grafstein's 1992 definition of an institution, recall).

      3) I put an eye on chapter 8, entitled "Mill Valley, California, February 19 to March 4, 1975", not least because I have written up some stuff around a single dark, but maybe, quite possibly, musically redemptive Sunday a few weeks earlier in the very space Greene engages, Bob and Frankie's house (and Weir's new studio) in Mill Valley, February 2, 1975.

      4) I could immediately see that Greene 2015 will become, effectively, a primary source. There is no sourcing of any specific names, dates, places, events which are accounted for in exquisite detail. I understand that this is respectable (and probably highly functional) practice, a conveyance of the memory and material straight from the sources, unsourced. This is pointillist stuff of the highest order, stunning richness, clarity, depth of color from a variety of vantages, totally serious write up of aamazing human stuff that happened.

      5) I will have to go through it with a fine-tooth comb to hand and a particular set of electronica (spread sheeets, documents, web pages) to eye.

      6) That's going to take time, have no idea when that will become available, maybe a good long while.

      5) It's going to take time to do that,

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  7. I put an inattentive eye on some more pages of Browne 2015, and every page contains new information. Wow. He chased down Batdorf of Rodney and Batdorf and has all kinds of Brent color, every member of the band has new depth, time is pinned down quite nicely, all of it. This is the real deal.

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  8. What is Greene 2015? I don't see it on your list above and I'm not familiar with anything new by Herb Greene, so...?

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    1. He meant Browne--as in me, David Browne and my book "So Many Roads."

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    2. Yes, exactly. Thanks, David! I still haven't read the book because I know I'll need a lot of time and focus, which are in short supply right now.

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  9. JGMF -- Not sure this went through first time around. Thanks for reading my book. I'm honored.

    Of course you would think the civics idea is obvious. I'm not surprised given your sensitivity to the topic at hand. Most historians (most people sadly), however, tend to think of the rock counterculture as totally about "blowing your mind" and the like, missing the ways in which it was that to be sure, but also generated a lot of serious talk and consideration about questions of community, freedom, obligation, systems and how they might work, economics, political representation, and what it meant to belong or not belong to a larger society. So the surprise to me is that. It was fun, but serious fun, for those involved, in all senses of the word serious. To you, this is shooting fish (or Phish? No!) in a barrel; to most historians and people, it was just a barrel of laughs and nothing more. You reading the book is preaching to the converted, I suppose.

    One other note. I think, though could be wrong, that the Bluto photo was taken by one Annie Leibovitz. There are a few other photos attributed to her that are in the GD archive, though when I reached out to her archivist, he said they had nothing on the photo being taken by her. She was a staff photographer for the Berkeley Folk Music Festival that year and hanging out with J Garcia and that scene (those great photos she took of Garcia at a diner in Marin!).

    Thanks and I'll be reading (saw your more recent posts on The Common--and yes, it'll be fixed from the Commons (damn you extra "s") in the paperback edition),
    Michael

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  10. PS Part of what's also weird about the civics and citizenship that countercultural rock generated (the "serious fun") was that it also took place within—not against—new kinds of American economic and military power, hip capitalism and, in Vietnam, the very strange phenomenon of what I call hip militarism (think Apocalypse Now surrealism, while fictionalized, as not that far from actuality). It's the way a kind of Nation—Woodstock Nation, or around the world a kind of Woodstock Transnationalism—arises from American domination...that's another surprising and weird quality to countercultural rock. Something like that.

    Thanks again for your amazing research and blog (and soon, book? I hope so).

    Best,
    Michael

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    1. Well, it is my great pleasure, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Right, what's obvious from one lens is surprising from another, and I should allow for that. I am sure this is a useful corrective, to historians, as you say and also to others, like Carole Brightman, who lament the supposed apolitics of the SF hippies (in the Prankster tradition). I would argue they had a pretty coherent political philosophy, you demonstrate very clearly that they were developing ideas about and actively working through important forms of civic engagement, and I think the long-run consequences of all of this are there for us to see in progress around issues such as gender equality, environmentalism, social justice, hell, even local and organic food.

      It seems like disciplinary differences loom here. Naturally enough, given my home discipline, I see politics and civics everywhere, but that might mean that I take as obvious (to me) what needs to be unpacked, elaborated, thought through (e.g., by you for historians). In my field, it would also be de rigueur to lay out the counterarguments, and to try to identify how we depart from received wisdom. Maybe I was having too much fun reading and learning from you, but I didn't pick up enough (for my taste) of, as I said above, why the civic side was counterintuitive. Who is making the argument that hippiedom was all atomized individuals engaging in merely transactional sex, drugs and rock n roll? Brightman comes pretty close to accusing the Dead of this, while serious Berkeley hippies were fighting juntas and the like, but it's not an argument I have come across very often. I have not sought it out, to be sure.

      Photog "Annie" is Annie Leibovitz? Holy smokes, I had no idea. Great, great pull on the Bluto picture. It may be my favorite Garcia picture.

      Yes, I am slowly developing a book called Fate Music, about Garcia's life beyond the Grateful Dead. It'll still be a few years (I want to be in print by 2019, for Woodstock-Altamont fiftieths, though the deadline has kept traipsing through the years, seemingly without a care in the world).

      Again, thanks!

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    2. Oh, and on "hip militarism", I was thinking a fair bit (again, maybe you say this and I missed it - I read this as a "leisure" book, since this is my hobby) - that what you have captured with officialdom's version of hipdom eventually gave us Top Gun and the post-9/11 "Navy: A Global Force ... For Good" recruitment campaign. And so much more, of course, but these two came to mind. The latter also has a video gamey feel that tips the importance of technology and the whole mediation thing. There a million extensions one could take from your analysis of this, and watch it play out over the intervening decades, to say nothing of the preceding ones (black jazzers and black GIs in the 50s).

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  11. I really enjoyed Andrew Bernstein's California Slim. Interesting guy. I was sorry the book ended when he ceased being a Willie Nelson groupie. I wonder how his marriage turned out?

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