Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead

Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead

4.6 9
by Peter Conners
     
 

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A colorful journey from straight-laced suburban kid to “Deadhead” nomad to mid-thirties dad, against the backdrop of the late ’80s and mid-’90sSee more details below

Overview

A colorful journey from straight-laced suburban kid to “Deadhead” nomad to mid-thirties dad, against the backdrop of the late ’80s and mid-’90s

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Poet and editor Conners (Emily Ate the Wind) offers a perspective often missing from other Dead chronicles: that of one of the suburban teens in the late 1980s and early 1990s who dropped out of high school and/or college to follow a band whose members were 30 years their senior. Unlike most Dead fans (and rock critics) from the 1960s and 1970s, the band's music wasn't the most important thing to Conners and his Gen-X companions-the focus was on "becoming and living as a Deadhead outside the Grateful Dead concert." So while Conners offers some earnest and often hilarious chapters about his teenage stoner life ("One of the problems with teenage drug abuse is that you never get to know what your adult brain would be like without it"), his most inventive chapters offer second-person accounts of what really went on at a typical Dead show in the 1980s. "You are thrilled. You score acid. You smoke the Indica. You eat some mushrooms.... The situation is post-verbal." (Apr.)

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Library Journal

Poet Conners begins this part memoir, part social history with his middle-class upbringing in upstate New York and his allegiance to the high school stoners. After a 1987 Grateful Dead concert, he became addicted to the band as well as the Deadhead trappings of LSD, marijuana, tie-dyed shirts, Volkswagen campers, and good karma. He finished high school; attended, dropped out, and then re-entered college; sold drugs; and worked odd jobs-always focusing on the next Grateful Dead concert. After 1992, Conners became progressively disenchanted with the scene, turning to jam bands such as Phish, playing his own music, and beginning a writing career. Beyond his engrossing personal story and breezy style, Conners never explains his motivation to embrace the hippie ethos and follow a band that had defined an era, 20 years earlier. His quest for an alternative countercultural family, which eventually turned sour, seems anachronistic and simply the result of a misspent youth. Recommended for Dead followers and rock music fanatics.
—Dave Szatmary

Kirkus Reviews
Poet Conners (Emily Ate the Wind, 2008) revisits his eight-year odyssey following the Grateful Dead around America. The Dead's three-decade career, which ended with Jerry Garcia's 1995 death, was partially divided into two notable periods, pre- and post-MTV. In 1987, the video of their midlife anthem "Touch of Grey" spawned a renaissance and a new generation of Deadheads. That same year, 16-year-old Conners jumped "on the bus," making the Dead a way of life. Here he details his journey as a diehard fan, reading Beat literature while consuming LSD, smoking pot and hopping from show to show. Descriptions of concerts and the bazaar-like parking-lot scenes are interspersed with memories of the author's small-town upbringing in Pittsford, N.Y. Conners was a witness to the end of the Dead's golden years. By 1990, the band had moved from playing relatively intimate venues to selling out huge stadiums, attracting an undesirable element looking for kicks rather than music that soon outnumbered the tight-knit caravan of traditional Deadheads. By 1995, it was all over, forcing the author to search for alternatives. A decade later he finds himself with wife and kids, working in an office, weighing his past. Much of that weighing is self-indulgent self-glamorization. One scene shows Conners tripping on acid and getting his thrills by laughing in people's faces; the author's ex post facto explanation that he was an all-knowing trickster teaching those unaware people something about themselves rings hollow. Paragraph-long bios of each band member, plus CliffsNotes-style treatise of the Beat Generation, the Merry Pranksters and Woodstock, may be useful for neophytes but will likely annoy his principalaudience of nostalgia-seekers who have been there and done that. Insightful and entertaining at times, but frequently, aggravatingly hipper-than-thou.
From the Publisher

Publishers Weekly, 1/26/09
“Offers a perspective often missing from other Dead chronicles: that of one of the suburban teens who dropped out of high school and/or college to follow a band…Earnest and often hilarious…What really went on at a typical Dead show in the 1980s.”

Kirkus, 2/1/09
“Insightful and entertaining.”

Dennis McNally, author of A Long Strange Trip
“The hardest part of being the Grateful Dead’s publicist was convincing the media that Deadheads were diverse, thoughtful, and not infrequently accomplished. If I’d just had a copy of Growing Up Dead, I could have simply handed it out. The Deadhead subculture was rich and fascinating, and this book is a terrific documentation of it.”

Library Journal, 3/1/09
“Part memoir, part social history…[Conners has an] engrossing personal story and breezy style…Recommended for Dead followers and rock music fanatics.”

David Gans, host of the Grateful Dead Hour
“This is a very important addition to the Grateful Dead bookshelf: an honest, articulate, celebratory, and inspiring account of life on Dead tour in the 1980s. Peter Conners does a great job of describing the magic.”

Tucson Citizen, 4/9/09
“[Conners] attended nearly 100 Dead shows nationwide, traveling from place to place in a Volkswagen camper and, amazingly, lived to write about it.”

New York Post, 4/12/09
“[Conners] tells of his ‘long, strange trip.’”

The Onion (A.V. Club), 4/16/09
“What’s most valuable about Growing Up Dead is how easily Conners delineates the Deadhead mindset…He’s also good on the many, sometimes subtle ways this seemingly formless scene forms its own definite hierarchies…Growing Up Dead is a mixed bag, but an admirable one, not unlike The Grateful Dead itself.”

Albany Times Union, 4/16/09
“Part memoir, part music appreciation.”

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 4/24/09
“Isn't that a great title?...Anyone who ever loved any band or musician with a deep passion will identify with much in Conners' story…Also an entertaining look at a subculture.”

Augusta Metro Spirit, 4/29/09
“Stunning narrative…A must have for Deadheads, art fans, and cultural fiends.”

PopMatters, 3/30/09
“A Quick read precisely because Conners does not skimp on the riveting, less-than-flattering details…The narrative is exciting…As a personal memoir, Peter Conners’ Growing Up Dead is readable and honest, revealing…A pretty, good story.”

Rochester City Newspaper, 5/13/09
“The terms ‘Grateful Dead’ and ‘memoir’ don't usually mix, but in Peter Connors new book the two become synonymous…The book also tackles the psychedelic culture of love, music, and drugs.”

Princeton Record Exchange blog
“Fun and fascinating book…Written with intelligence, insight and humor, here’s a book that music buffs of any and every stripe can enjoy and appreciate.”

Relix, Aug/Sept 2009
“[An] honest, thoughtful, and an entertaining read.”

NPR: All Things Considered “Three Books” segment, by teacher writer Will Layman
“No music fan is more invested than a follower of the Grateful Dead. Peter Conners' new memoir, Growing Up Dead, chronicles the exhilaration of falling in love with music as if nothing else in life even remotely matters. Conners was an aimless 16 year old when he first heard the whirling, improvised rock of his heroes. He describes guitar runs that send "sparkler streams across the arena" and writes that the sound of a keyboard "swirls down your cochlea, expanding into warm chocolate behind your eyes." Music fans will understand: That's not LSD imagery but just the way music sounds when your surrender has no limit.” 

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786752157
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
03/31/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
803,555
File size:
1 MB

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