Monday, April 27, 2009

DeadBase X Book Review

This is the granddaddy of all Grateful Dead books and a must have for any tape trader or Dead fanatic. It's subtitle is The Complete Guide to Grateful Dead Song Lists. The key words in the title are that it is a complete guide to the song lists - much more than just the song lists themselves.

This reference book contains such an interesting and thorough breakdown of Grateful Dead set list information that I don't even know where to begin describing it.

While I have never read DeadBase from one page to the next (that's not the idea), I have referenced the book frequently during the writing of this blog for information such as the following:
  • when a song started being played
  • when a song stopped being played
  • how often the song was played
  • what set was the song played in usually (and all exceptions)
  • what songs frequently came before and after

All of that type of information is available at a glance for any song the Grateful Dead played. And that is just the beginning. You can see breakdowns of the timings for tapes after tape that shows how long each song is (and transcribes every spoken word between songs). What is the longest known version of Eyes of the World on tape, you ask? Well it was June 1th, 1963 clocking in at 21:05 (took me less than a minute to get that info).

There are also counts of how many times each song was played year in year out and a ton of Deadhead demographic information that the Deadbase X team collected through surveys of Dead tapers and fans.

The most enjoyable part of Deadbase is the show reviews in which a variety of reviewers gives a summary of the concert. I've read reviews of mainly later Dead shows and I think that every review is fromm someone who attended the show. There are over 400 concert reviews in Deadbase.

When I bought Deadbase X a few years ago, I had to buy it directly from the authors as it is now out of print. I was able to get included several of the annual "DeadBase Yearbooks" from 1989 through 1992. These yearbooks have pictures from many shows, show reviews from every show in the given year, ticket stubs and venue seating charts from every show.

The guys from Deadbase really know how to capture the Grateful Dead experience because they chronicle things like "what people were talking about in the parking lot" for each show too. If you have great memories of Dead shows, I guarantee you the DeadBase books will unearth memories you have long forgotten and this can be a very sweet (and bittersweet) proposition.

As an aside, I had the pleasure of a brief e-mail exchange with one of the authors of DeadBase when I purchased the books and I mentioned off handedly how surpised I was that it had already been 10 years since the Grateful Dead ceased to be (due to Garcia's death). He wrote back a note and we briefly discussed how it had been too painful to even listen to the music for a long time after Jerry's death.

At the time when I ordered DeadBase X, (it must have been 2005) I had just started listening again and it was very emotional for me - but also very positive. My renewed interest in the Grateful Dead experience and music led to me re-collecting all the music, buying all of the books again, and ultimately the creation of this blog. It was nice to hear from the author himself about his experience, and I've enjoyed DeadBase X ever since.

DeadBase X Book Rating on a Scale of 1-10: X.0 (10.0)

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