Growing Up Dead
Peter Conners
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Buy *Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead* by Peter Conners online

Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead
Peter Conners
Da Capo Press
288 pages
March 2009
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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More than several books have been written about the hippie dropouts who religiously followed the San Francisco band the Grateful Dead. The stories are pretty much the same - a relatively normal, usually white middle-class kid listens to the band's music, becomes a follower, then a fanatic, and traipses after the band as they travel from city to city. This is that story.

It is not told very eloquently. Apparently the author uncovered the Dead in 1985, well after the band's heyday. The most original of these types of stories normally comes from the original Deadheads, those faithful who were there in the mid-Sixties and actually became a part of the musical caravan until 1985 and even later. Conners is a latecomer, and his tale just doesn't carry the weight as that of the oldtimers'.

He attended nearly 100 Dead shows nationwide between 1987 and 1995. In truth, that's not many concerts. In eight years, that's only about one concert per month. There are probably fans who have seen that many shows and don't even come close to calling themselves Dead heads.

Getting back to the lack of originality here, a chapter titled "Once a Prankster, Always a Prankster" provides profiles of each band member. Here is what it says, in part, about Jerry Garcia, the band's leader, womanizer, and heroin fiend: "In 1947, Jerry lost the top two joints of the middle finger on his right hand in a wood chopping accident." That's a pretty significant statement that receives no further elucidation. That makes no sense. The entire portrait of Garcia is dull and lifeless and almost glosses over the fact that he went AWOL from the army and was a terrible husband. This is the figure Conners lionizes.

Not a terrific book on a band that has somehow occupied an important spot in the evolution of electric music. Maybe you had to be there, a part of the frenzy and the acid tests and the Summer of Love, to truly appreciate them. To feel like you were on the bus. Because if you weren't there, they seem to be little more than a messy band with mediocre songs (save for the few gems) that somehow cultivated rabid fans.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2009

Also by Peter Conners:

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