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Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead Paperback – May 31, 2016
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“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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
BILL KREUTZMANN co-founded the Grateful Dead in 1965 with his musical cohorts Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and Phil Lesh. As the drummer in that band for all 30 years until they disbanded in 1995, he performed more than 2,300 concerts and played on every one of their albums. He continues to play music in various bands including Billy and the Kids. He lives on an organic farm in Hawaii.
BENJY EISEN has written for Rolling Stone, Esquire, Relix and so on. He lives in San Francisco, where he is at work on a novel. Upon completion of Deal, he cut a deal with Kreutzmann and is now his manager.
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Oh sure, you can bet Billy opens up with you, about all the dark days. You're shocked that Billy could trust you so much, to reveal so much. ("I've been much more open in this book than I ever was between my bandmates." pg 321) You're shocked, to say the least, how much he's been through. Not just the five wives, but how his oldest daughter disowned him. Or the two rehab experiences he had. Sure, Billy was upset when Pigpen died, or Janis, or when Keith died in that car crash, after leaving the band. However, when Billy confesses how his therapist told him to stop enabling his mother's drug habits, even tho she said she'd kill herself if he didn't keep the money flowing, and then when she did exactly that, you can just feel the heartbreak. Or how upset Billy was, when Brent O.D.ed from speedballs, right before he intended to clean up. But the darkest days in Billy's life, he tells you, all happened in 1995. "The worst year of my life", he bemoans repeatedly. Jerry had his fatal heart attack, the band imploded, his dad died, his girlfriend Pamela had lung cancer, and his drinking and drugging became uncontrollable. Of all the stories Billy shares, the breakup of the Dead was his saddest, in many ways. Maybe because it meant so much to him, and the death took so long to occur. The scene became toxic, sometime between Jerry's diabetic coma, and Brent death. Everybody in the band had become strangers to each other. It was a job, not a shamanistic cosmic journey. Jerry's playing had lost its spark, as his heroin use became so severe, that he's nod off during a solo, and had to be reminded what song he was playing. Or what the lyrics were. The Grateful Dead might have been headlining stadiums, but their playing had become so shabby, that Bruce Hornsby refused to play with them anymore. Even the audience behavior had become toxic by '95. Something had to give. After Jerry died, Billy couldn't even face playing the drums. Finally, as Billy gets you up to date with his life today, he cheers you up, by telling you about how he got his life turned around. The second rehab worked. He learned to love drumming again, and could once more listen to the Grateful Dead music, and play with his former band mates. Billy divorced his fourth wife, whom he never loved, and married his soul mate. They live in a beautiful home in Hawaii. Billy finishes his story on a note of hope.
Of course, we aren't ever going to meet Billy Kreutzmann, or hang out with him for months on end, earning his trust, so he tells us his life's intimate details. However, out of the great love Billy has for the Deadhead community, he made the decision to trust his readers, with these amazing stories about his life, and his band. Even tho I never read Lesh's bio, I read other books on the Dead, so I know that DEAL breaks a lot of previously uncovered ground. Consider reading this, with a copy of a picture book like "Grateful Dead Family Album", to help visualize the colorful cast of characters that Billy calls friends. Pull out your Dead collection, and play it in the back round, as you read. Maybe put the book down from time to time, if you're able, to reacquaint yourself with the Egypt 78 movie, the Winterland movie, Festival Express, and the recently released Veneta Oregon concert from 1972. At certain spots in the narrative, Billy says that this or that event, can be found on Utoob. The book accomplished more that just revitalizing my love of the Grateful Dead, or feeding my appetite for war stories from the heyday of hippiedom. I really got to know Billy Kreutzmann. It brought me insight to a band, that I've always loved. When a book can not only teach you about an era and a band, but also share the life wisdom of a revolutionary figure in American culture, then that's a book that matters. Kreutzmann's DEAL is the real deal.
The book is a quick easy read. Kreutzmann discusses the different time periods of the Grateful Dead. The 1960's were happy times and it was the psychedelic era of acid and marijuana. That was when that special band chemistry really gelled. The 1970's were a turn in a different direction with destructive drugs like cocaine and heroin. Then the 1980's and early 1990's were out of control. He points out that the last 15 years of the GD were the band's least favorite because they weren't connecting musically and at that point it just became a huge business. Since he can afford beach front property in Hawaii it must have been a real big business.
I did not realize that during most of their live performances Kreutzmann was either tripping on psychedelics, stoned on pot, high on cocaine, or high on opiates. And I can only assume that the rest of the band may also fall into this category. Somehow over the years I convinced myself that they used drugs recreationally after work, not during work. He definitely restates through out the book that it was irresponsible constant drug use that killed members of the band and many of his friends. He makes it clear that the over drug use ultimately destroyed the Grateful Dead. I don't think humans are supposed to live their entire lives hiding under the influence of substances. There is a lot of candid discussion of his constant drug use with a recurring theme of “don't try this at home.”
Bill lays it out clearly that his life has been mostly about playing drums in rock and roll bands. Being a responsible citizen was not in his plan. He left a broken home when he was 16 years old. He never finished high school. He had no real musical training but learned to play by ear. He was an absentee father. He has been married five times. And he has fathered children who he does not know. We like him for what he contributed musically to the band, not for his character.
His writing style jumps around chronologically through out the book. And since this is an autobiography and not a text book, I'm not sure why there is a 25 page index in the back of the book. Overall I would have appreciated more details on the daily experience of being in the Grateful Dead and less fluff filler material.
Reading this book will influence your current beliefs on what you think the Grateful Dead was and what they really were. Sometimes things are better left alone and not uncovered.