Book Review – This is All a Dream We Dreamed, An Oral History of the Grateful Dead |

Book Review – This is All a Dream We Dreamed, An Oral History of the Grateful Dead

February 27, 2016

By Linda Tulett

By virtue of the authors – Blair Jackson and David Gans, two well-known Book Cover image this is All a Dream We Dreamednames when it comes to the Grateful Dead – this latest book on the Grateful Dead is more than just engaging; charming, Book Cover image this is All a Dream We Dreamedheart-warming at times, and most definitely enlightening. Being a huge fan of the band, seeing my first show back in the spring of 1985 in Hartford Connecticut, I was more than eager to open my mind to even more tidbits and stories about the band, the music and the scene that changed my life and shaped who I am. This band shaped a culture, and this book is an insiders view.

“You’ll find stories you haven’t heard before, possibly from voices that may be unfamiliar to you. We hope the way these tales unfold will shed new light on history you might already know.” – Blair Jackson and David Gans….

Whether long time fan or someone seeking a look inside the history of the band, this book will offer you glimpses into not only who the band was, what they set out to do, how they did it, the ups and downs, the twists and turns, and everything and everyone who made it all work. It paints a picture, colorful and quirky, of a band’s early and humble beginnings, and takes you on their journey from playing in small spaces to the large stage. There is a larger understanding of their reputation for being the major psychedelic jam band throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s, up to Jerry Garcia’s untimely passing.

With eleven chapters, this book captures your interest and holds it through each of the over 400 pages of short stories and interviews with the who’s who of the scene surrounding the Grateful Dead. There were the familiar: Ken Babbs, Betty Cantor-Jackson, John Cipollina, Tom Constanten, David Crosby, Sam Cutler, Miles Davis, Carolyn and Clifford and Annabelle Garcia, Donna Godchaux, Bill Graham, Wavy Gravy, Dan Healy, Bruce Hornsby, Robert Hunter, Paul Kantner, Alton Kelley, Country Joe McDonald, Rosie McGee, Dennis McNally, Stanley Mouse, David Nelson, Steve Parish, Courtenay Pollock, Danny Rifkin, Sara Ruppenthal, Merle Saunders, John Sher, Rock Skully, Cameron Sears, and Owsley Stanley to name a few. Then, the not-so-familiar, or maybe even unfamiliar: Allan Arkush (Fillmore East staff), Steve Brown (Grateful Dead Records employee), Tom Davis (Saturday Night Live comedian), Jon Ezrine (Grateful Dead fan and guitarist all his own), Bill Giles, (British Grateful Dead fan), David Harris (MoJo Navigator magazine), Gail Hellund (Grateful Dead secretary), Eileen Law (Grateful Dead fan liaison – who knew we had a liaison?), Steven Marcus (Grateful Dead Ticket Sales manager), Connie Bonner Mosley (early Grateful Dead family member), Michael Nash (Grateful Dead fan and writer), Dave Parker (Grateful Dead accountant), Alan Senauke (Columbia University student), Peter Tork (musician and emcee at Monterey Pop Festival), and John Zias (Grateful Dead fan)…. really just to name a few…..

And, then, of course, there were quotes from members of the Grateful Dead, including items dusted off from history with Pigpen, Jerry, Brent and Vince as well as those presently still with us in Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kruetzmann and Mickey Hart. It really says something about the effort and detail that Blair Jackson and David Gans put out; all of these names in one book, words straight from band members, their peers and collaborators, diverse fans, and family members, weaving a plethora of stories into a beautiful and seamless colorful tapestry of tales.

The book starts as it should, in the early days before they were the Grateful Dead that we all knew and loved, and continues through time, exploring the unexplored, peeling back the layers upon layers of what made the scene, the band and the culture they created. The interviews and snippets put together by Jackson and Gans have, in some way, recharged my love for this band that still has a profound effect upon my life and the life of so many others. There are stories and memories shared in this book that I’ve never heard, perspectives unknown until I began to turn each page, feeling the paper and watching the words rush at me. Chapter upon chapter, quote upon quote…. each as riveting as the last. Jackson and Gans have really painted quite a masterpiece that shows why this band has touched so many lives.

The closing of the book contains eight Codas, concluding remarks and tales from Courtenay Pollock, the Tie-Dye Man; Gary Lambert, the creator of the Grateful Dead Almanac; Ned Lagin, a student at MIT who hosted a radio show on campus and interviewed Pigpen; a discussion with Susan Crutcher about editing the Grateful Dead Movie; The Ruth family who lived on a bus and followed the band around the west coast and who came up with what we know today as the Terrapin Turtles symbol of fan-hood; Dave Leopold, one of many fans who had an opportunity to share his memories of being a Deadhead in the early eighties; dedicated tapers Jim and Doug Oade, who taped many shows from the 80’s, discussing gear, venues and security issues before the Dead officially blessed the taping in 1984; and concluding with Cameron Sears talking hanging out with Al and Tipper Gore.

The most touching chapter for me was the last, entitled, “Summer Flies and August Dies.” It allows folks to share their last memories of Jerry, the last time they saw the band, or what it all meant to them. As Phil Lesh is quoted, “[Dylan’s] ‘Visions of Johanna’ is such a great song, and [Jerry] had such an identity with it. It’s a mystery to me why we didn’t start playing it earlier. Even without the teleprompter, he could usually remember most of it. And his guitar playing is just so moving. I just love the song, and I love his rendition of it. It’s him. It’s really him. ‘The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face.’ Whew. Yeah.”

Blair Jackson and David Gans have created quite a living chronicle. According to a website called, “Goodreads”, it earned a 4.3 out of 5, which is pretty great. I’d give it a 6, but I’m biased as my decades of love for this band. A book that explores areas of the scene not well known, telling tales of happenings not so public, and shedding a bright and beautiful light on the band and music that gave us what we know today as the jam band scene. So, whether you are a part of the new generation of fans of the Grateful Dead or you’ve known and loved them for decades, this book is bound to share a tale you’ve never been told, just as Jackson and Gans set out to do. Feel free to dive in, open your memory bank and discuss what has been shared or what is missing. Either way, this oral history put together by Jackson and Gans is bound to grip every reader and make you crave more – more stories and more music.

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