Confessions of a Dead Head by the Starburst Commander is a sweet little (under 100 pages) memoir of a guy whose first show was at Winterland in 10/74. He touches all the bases: hilarity on the highway; post-show coffee-shop hijinks; a borrowed account of meeting a band member; getting deep into the songs; emotional processing and catharsis at shows.
I enjoyed the book immensely and I recommend it to all.
The Starburst Commander moved to Mexico a few years back. I lost touch with him for a while, but we’re back in contact and we’ve made an arrangement to make his wonderful book available again.
Here’s an interview I did with the author in 2009.
And here’s an excerpt:
Dentist and I love “Stella Blue” and once listened to a live bootleg version of it more than 30 times in a row. We were on a construction site off of St. Stephen’s Road in Lafayette, CA. This was back in the cassette tape days, and by replay number six we had the timing down on the rewind.
“Stella Blue” is the perfect combination of brilliant musical and lyrical writing. This song is Garcia and Hunter in their element and at their very best. There is not one wasted word. Every line, every verse sets us up for the next line and the next verse. And when Jerry finishes it up on his guitar, we have a genuine masterpiece. It is as perfect as a song can be, and Hunter’s lyrics are a true reality check.
“Dust off those rusty strings just one more time.” It gets me every time. “Gonna make ’em shine” – that last hope of hopes. It is beautiful, but starkly lonely. It seems a brutally, pessimistically optimistic song.
Then – “There’s nothing you can hold for very long” – Stella Blue. Fuck me four times sideways. Like a lamb to the slaughter I follow every word. My emotions are pulled in every direction. Am I sadly happy or happily sad? This song leaves me longing for the knowledge of something I don’t quite understand, and Jerry’s solo continues to take me apart before he slowly puts me back together again. The pauses between his notes here are perfect evidence of his musical genius. Style over speed, quality over quantity. Never a blur, always succinctly clear. I find myself anticipating each note and the wait is sweet.
“It is truly a sweet little memoir that does what good memoirs do: it takes the intensely personal and uses it to speak to the universal. There is no way anyone who touched the scene in even the most superficial way will not find echoes of their own feelings beautifully expressed. Well worth a read.” – Steven Gimbel, author of Grateful Dead and Philosophy