Like any formidable memoir from a counterculture veteran, Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead is heavy on sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. You know the kind I'm talking about: hotel after-parties that snap into orgies, acid trips that trail across decades and more than 2,000 concerts that begin in small clubs and lead to gigs alongside the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
But Bill Kreutzmann, founding drummer of the Grateful Dead, has produced more than just a tourist's guide. What emanates, maybe more than he intended, is a testimony to friendship and profound sadness when it abruptly ends.... The book is dense with acid trips and capers on both coasts and overseas. Dead fans will enjoy juicy stories. [Deal] reads like Kreutzmann is on the next barstool slapping your back between laughs.” Chicago Tribune
"A frank and revealing look at the group's touring adventures, complex interpersonal relationships and equally intricate music-making, and at Kreutzmann's own life, including his drug and alcohol issues, the inspiration of Native American chief Rolling Thunder and his mother's tragic suicide death." - Billboard.com
"Kreutzmann doesn’t mince words or pull any punches." - The San Diego Union-Tribune
"[Deal] offers plenty of insight, opinion, observations and analysis that are unique and of great interest to fans." - Houston Press
"A candid, freewheeling autobiography." - Philadelphia Daily News
"Admitting that Bill Kreutzmann will give equal space to the drugs along with the drums and dreams captures in a nutshell what made the Grateful Dead such a precious commodity all those years: they told the truth and didn’t try to hide anything. And that’s just what drummer Kreutzmann does, from page one." - The Morton Report
"What is different from other rock biographies . . . is Kreutzmann’s everyman observation. . . . It is a personal tale of universal intention told with humor and the sense of fun that was crucial to the experience of a Grateful Dead concert and the counterculture itself. Like the daily lives of every hippie freak (or an acid trip), it wasn’t always easy street, but it was always an adventure." - Counterpunch.org
"Kreutzmann is casual, matter-of-fact, unaffected and down to earth in a way that makes you feel you've known him for a long time. He can be blunt and brutal at times, but he always feels honest, which for me is the key to a memoir like this. He doesn’t sugarcoat and doesn’t make excuses. Being in the Dead meant lots of drugs, sex and mayhem, and the pages are laced with all of it." - VintageRock.com
"His informal style lends itself well to the increasingly fast pace of his life as he discovers the pleasure of music, his passion for playing and his abiding devotion to the Dead as they coalesced in the mid-Sixties." - GlideMagazine.com
Angry, defensive, often inarticulate, this memoir by the Dead's founding drummer is frustrating to read. Much of it appears to be barely edited transcripts of Kreutzmann talking. It can be assumed that his collaborator, Benjy Eisen, assembled the manuscript, but if he did any fine tuning, it is not readily discernible. Kreutzmann's accounts of his drug use and abuse are constant and tiresome, and, though he has gone through rehab twice, there is little insight into what this process was like, or why he used drugs in the first place. The book's last 40 or so pages, which recount Jerry Garcia's death and its aftermath, are tremendously moving, and here the work finally hits its stride. This leaves the reader wishing that the rest of the story had been told with as much emotion and understanding. VERDICT Deadheads, by the very nature of their dedication, will not want to skip this, in spite of its problems. Casual fans and others won't have much reason to pick it up. [See Prepub Alert, 11/10/14.]—Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY
"[Jerry] Garcia got Captain Trips. I got Bill the Drummer."Readers dropping into Grateful Dead drummer Kreutzmann's stream of memory may be surprised by only one overriding theme: namely, the frequency of bitter episodes of discord, always roiling under the surface of a good-time psychedelic jug band that slowly emerged as a stadium-filler. Kreutzmann himself isn't shy of dishing and of sharing wounded feelings. Whereas the late, lamented, outwardly thuggish Pigpen "was the sweetest guy anybody had ever met," the band tensions were sufficient that he didn't bother attending keyboardist Keith Godchaux's funeral ("Brent [Mydland] was our hot new keyboard player and we couldn't have been happier about that"), and he was incensed when Mickey Hart, the more inventive percussionist of the ensemble, was slated to turn up for a farewell concert, a moment of enmity that Kreutzmann doesn't sufficiently explain—just as some of the patently evident bad blood between him and bassist Phil Lesh goes without comment. Much of the bad behavior, especially once the band started earning real money, Kreutzmann ascribes to cocaine ("cocaine has its place…but it's a detrimental drug, make no mistake"), painkillers, booze, and, in Garcia's case, heroin. Drugs, the reader will not be surprised to learn, form another overriding theme: "So, for the record, the drummer from the Grateful Dead smokes weed and thinks it should be legal," he writes. "Is that any surprise?" Not in the least, and the chief problem with this unenergetic memoir is that there are no surprises, just a kind of grandfatherly "let me tell you, kid, back in the day we…" approach to events, repetitive, fuzzy, full of dropped names (Dylan, Belushi, Joplin), and mostly good-natured—though sometimes surprisingly peevish. Die-hard Deadheads will be curious though not richly rewarded for their troubles.