Book Review: “Grateful Dead Gear” by Blair Jackson (Backbeat Books)

Grateful_dead_gear I have always been a “gearhead.” In fact, I’m almost as interested in the technology of rock and roll as its sound. I distinctly remember arguing with a guitarist buddy of mine in a band long ago because when I was waxing nostalgic about some cool piece of recording equipment he just looked at me and said “I’m a musician, not a technician” which pretty much meant that all those cool knobs and flashing lights on the soundboard held no interest for him whatsoever.

Now, this guitarist buddy of mine was a fan of the Grateful Dead so I am not sure how much he would enjoy “Grateful Dead Gear” by Blair Jackson but my guess is not much. To say that this book is detailed is to say that the Middle East is “complicated” as there is more than enough info in the 287 pages to keep any Deadhead happy for weeks.

Covering the history of the band from their days as the Warlocks to 1995 when Jerry Garcia passed away, “Grateful Dead Gear” details every guitar, amp, drum set, keyboard, PA system, outboard effect and more that the band employed both live and in the studio. It also looks at the technology and techniques that the Dead used to record their albums as well as a helpful source of albums (including officially released albums, the “Dicks Picks” series and bootlegs) to get an idea of what they sounded like at the time. Do you have to be a Deadhead to like this book? Well I don’t think you have to be a Deadhead per se but at least being a gearhead and casual fan would make the whole thing more enjoyable. If not then the detail may overwhelm anybody but the adventurous music fan. That being said, I always like to mention whenever the subject matter is the Grateful Dead that if you are one of those people whose knowledge of the band is framed by the stereotypical stoned Deadhead dancing to a 25 minute version of “Turn On Your Lovelight” you must give them a chance. The Dead have released such a wide variety of music that there is bound to be something in their canon that will be of interest to most rock and roll fans. I’m not saying that you will become an instant fan, but you will certainly get to appreciate a band that was a unique part of rock and roll history. They pumped out a lot of good stuff. Have a listen and find out for yourself.