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Grateful Dead

How I Got Into The Grateful Dead

Steven Santarpia Grateful Dead

A young Steven Santarpia had no clue who The Grateful Dead were. I was very naive about music. The Grateful Dead were not on my radar until 1987 when I went to college in New London, Connecticut. Before that, my group of friends either listened to WNEW (New York City) classic rock or WLIR new wave/alternative music. I listened to classic rock. At the time, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the music of The Smiths or The Cure or even R.E.M.. The Beatles were my favorite band, so I listened to classic rock. The Grateful Dead were hardly played on WNEW. Every once in awhile they would play a studio version of Casey Jones or Truckin. Thats about it. Nothing to really get excited about. Listening to the station, you would have thought Supertramp, The Moody Blues and Jethro Tull were the shit. I’m still upset with the path the music station took us down. I listened to a lot of awful music in high school because of that radio station.

Grateful Dead – Giants Stadium 7/9/89

When I went to college, it seemed like everyone there had a Grateful Dead poster in their room. That’s all you heard in the hallways at the dorm. It was everywhere. Girls were dressed in tie dye skirts. The guys in GD shirts. I just couldn’t grasp what was going on. Why were so many people into the Dead? One of the first nights at college, a bunch of us went to hang at a small beach area on the Thames River. There was another group of people also hanging there when we arrived. All of a sudden, they played the song US Blues on their boombox. Then, they all started to dance. I was like, “what the fuck is going on? Why are all of them dancing and why are they dancing like that?” They could care less who was watching. They were just into it and having a blast. It was culture shock to the tenth degree for me.

steven santarpia

My second encounter at college with the Dead, I was getting high with two Jeff Spicoli like dudes in their dorm room. They both had long blonde hair, they had surf boards, an electric guitar, and an amp in their dorm room. So getting high in their room was certainly a good time. They had this huge bong and some very good weed. They were playing acoustic Dead from the early 70’s. What I mostly remember from this listening experience was the dialogue between band members in between songs which seemed odd at the time. The amount of time in-between songs also seemed quite long. And every time band members were speaking, the Spicoli dudes told us to hush so they could hear what they were talking about.

Another person I hung out with from time to time at college was this hippy chick (unfortunately, I don’t remember her name) who was very cool. Every so often, she would knock on my dorm room door, ask if we had any weed or bong water. She was a big Deadhead, who was also into the band X from L.A. and the Cro-Mags. She was always talking about the Dead. There seemed to be a bunch of people I met at that time who were Deadheads who were also into punk. You don’t see this combination much these days. Every so often, I would later see people from college at Grateful Dead shows. It was always cool to see them losing themselves in the music. Just like I remembered them from college. 

Europe 72 was my gateway into the band. The first song that stood out to me from the album was Cumberland Blues. I think this was around 1988. I never heard anything like it. The music just exploded, and then settled back in and I loved it. You could pick out Jerry, Bobby, or Phil and just ride whatever tasty thing they were playing. 

My group of friends from home started to get into the Dead and the live tapes started to trickle in. My first few tapes were Swing Auditorium 2/6/77, Binghamton 11/6/77, and Cornell 5/8/77. We listened to these tapes all the time. 

The night that I officially became a Deadhead was 7/9/89 Giant Stadium. It was my second show and the experience I had was a religious one. From this show on, the Dead became an addiction. I finally grasped what the Dead were all about and it opened my third eye. I also learned taking public transportation from Giants Stadium to Long Island while under the influence is a very bad idea.

Grateful Dead Links

6 From The Vault 

Time Crisis

Sirius – Grateful Dead Channel

Dick Latvala notebook: January 7, 1978 – February 17, 1979

GD Internet Archive

Tales from the Golden Road

Grateful Dead Miscellany

By Steven Santarpia

Steven Santarpia is my name. I'm a big fan of both Radiohead and The Grateful Dead. The two best bands i've ever seen live. For the Grateful Dead, I mostly saw New York area shows. My first Grateful Dead show was in 1988. I've done a lot more traveling to Radiohead shows. My first Radiohead show was in 1997.

Favorite musical artists include The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Band, Radiohead, REM, Animal Collective, Sonic Youth, Beastie Boys, Bjork, and The Grateful Dead.

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