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Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead Paperback – March 31, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


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.” 

About the Author

Peter Conners is author of a collection of prose poems, Of Whiskey and Winter, and a novella, Emily Ate the Wind, as well as editor of an anthology of avant-garde writing, PP/FF: An Anthology. He is founding co-editor of the online literary journal, Double Room: A Journal of Prose Poetry & Flash Fiction. His writing appears regularly in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. He lives with his wife and three children in Rochester, New York, where he works as Editor and directs marketing for the non-profit literary publisher BOA Editions.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306817330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306817335
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Conners is author of the memoir, Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead (Da Capo Press, 2009). His new book, White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg, was published by City Lights in November 2010. He is currently at work on an oral history of jam and festival bands titled JAMerica to be published by Da Capo Press in fall 2013.

His other books include the prose poetry collection Of Whiskey and Winter and the novella Emily Ate the Wind. His next poetry collection, The Crows Were Laughing in their Trees, is forthcoming from White Pine Press in spring 2011. He is also editor of PP/FF: An Anthology which was published by Starcherone Books in April 2006. He lives in Rochester, New York where he works as Publisher of the not-for-profit literary press BOA Editions.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Christian Crumlish on February 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
Pick up just about any history or memoir of the Grateful Dead and you'll hear about bluegrass, the Acid Tests, Live/Dead, Europe in `72, the hiatus, and the Pyramids in excruciating detail. Then the years start to fly by, punctuated by the occasional happening: hit song and tour with Dylan in `87, return to Europe in `90, and then all of a sudden Jerry is dead and we're into that nebulous post-Grateful period that continues to this day. This is understandable, but for Dead fans like my self who got on the bus in the 1980s, this leaves out a big important part of the story.

During the long period between album releases, when perhaps various bandmembers' rebellious proclivities were beginning to catch up with them, the Dead scene experienced something of a third wind. Perhaps it was the advent of the "just say no" years and the growing need for a refuge for the disaffected youth of that era. Garcia famously called the Dead tour the last remaining great American adventure. Certainly my own experience when I stumbled into the parking lot in 1984 was a stiff sense of incredulity: how was this through-the-looking-glass society existing in parallel with the malls and office parks of the Reagan 80s? How were we getting away with this? How could it possibly last?

As we know, it couldn't last. It was a bubble of sorts, but its surface tension held for a crucial stretch of years, long enough to sustain this pocket of the counterculture until reinforcements could arrive, tune up, plug in, and rock out.
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112 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia R. Knowles on July 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book fills a niche as an accurate and entertaining account of what it was like to follow the Grateful Dead, and what the shows and lifestyle were like as a "deadhead." The problem is, Peter Conners writes well enough that you want more. I wanted him to answer some of his own questions and maybe show some insight into his own observations. But the entire experience is presented without any real insight on the author's part. Without that insight this is just a self-indulgent account of a young man with a protracted adolescence. He never answers the initial question about why middle class white kids want to act poor and scrounge around the country in crappy cars following a band.

I was on `the scene' about 10 years before the author. I sang Jerry's songs as lullabies and my son grew up listening to the Garcia/Grisman music for children. My husband is in The Grateful Dead Movie. Does that make us Deadheads? Not by this author's description. I never needed LSD to enjoy a show, I never stopped showering, I never frightened people around me by losing consciousness, I was never a freeloader, and I never put my family or work second to attending a show. Conners doesn't explain why the Dead, for him, came before having a college education or a job. The only thing the Dead seemed to help him focus on was using drugs and avoiding the responsibilities of adulthood.

For young people reading this book, I want you to know that we weren't all high, tripping, dropouts doing illegal things to support ourselves. Some of us, Jerry included, had excellent work ethics. It is an unfortunate stereotype that deadheads are remembered as dirty, drug-using, freeloading and self-serving.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Falso on March 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
I am surprised that a book like this hasnt been written about deadheads before. Anyone who enjoyed the dead will immediately connect with this book. It was as much about experiencing great music and a great music scene as it was about being goofy kids having fun. And it sure was a lot of fun.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jared Wolfsen on January 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Conners does a very good job of revealing what it was like to be a Deadhead in the late '80's. He has an eye for detail and the book doesn't drag at all. I read the book because I was also a deadhead and I wanted to see what kind of job he would do and was pleasantly surprised. The book is well written and the flow is good. His writing is focused and he chooses to concentrate on a few key moments. If you were into the Dead, you'll probably enjoy the book.
The one drawback is that I don't know if someone who wasn't into the scene and didn't know anything about it would enjoy the book? I read it looking for friends that might crop up, things I would remember, etc. but not sure if someone from the outside who is interested in learning about The Dead and Deadheads would be satisfied and find it entertaining. I would hope so.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By B. A. Clary on May 25, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I heard about this book on the Sirius/XM show "Tales of the Golden Road" when Peter was a guest. I decided to give it a shot although Gary Lambert (unfairly) ripped the title, specifically the "tales of a...". I knew I would like the story having an affinity for the Dead. I wasn't old enough to catch the Dead but their music, while in high school, lead me to other national touring acts that embodied similar experiences. The stories were excellent mixing personal experiences with well researched cultural and historical nuggets dispersed throughout. What was a pleasant surprise was how much I enjoyed Peter's writing style and the strange organization of the book. I highly highly recommend everyone read this book if you have even a casual interest in live music and the live music experience.
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