Praise for "Off the Record"
"Rock Lit 101"
David Menconi's "Off the Record" (Writers Club Press/iUniverse.com) could become a touchstone for rockers who've been through the mill, in much the same way all musicians swear by the satire/reality of "This is Spinal Tap."
The book strings together every unsavory incident of legend and rumor about the biz you can imagine, into the tale of the Tommy Aguilar Band (TAB) of Raleigh, N.C. TAB's tragic rise and fall is hurried by an evil concert promoter who jerks everyone's strings including the anarchic Aguilar (part Kurt Cobain, part Jerry Lee Lewis, and a total nutjob) -- only to capitalize on the inevitable flameout.
The double-edged sword of fame is the least of a musician's worries here, given the catalog of misdeeds and manipulations that occur. Among the business-as-usual examples: how the money from a million-selling album is diverted to everyone but the artist.
Menconi, a critic at the Raleigh News & Observer, kept a file for years of all the unprintable behind-the-scenes stories he heard and read about. He now gleefully lets them all loose as a work of fiction -- but he swears that just about everything in the book really happened, to someone. Just not to one band.
Unlike the movie "Bandwagon" -- about a Raleigh indie band surviving infighting, neuroses, grueling tours and record-company bozos -- this is a cautionary tale so seamy that any redemption at all comes as a shock. And it's a partial roman a clef. Most of the characters are composites, yet some entities have the thinnest of veils -- the still-popular (though past its prime) Spandex band, Arrowhead; the top rock magazines, Rockslide and Bounce; and Ryan Adams, the Raleigh musician who made good in Whiskeytown, is named outright as a guy about to start his own band. He also shares Tommy Aguilar's views on fame.
In "Spinal Tap"/"Blair Witch" fashion, there's a real Web page up as a tribute to the fictional TAB (at OffTheRecordBook.com) complete with discography, bio, sound clips (by 6 String Drag's Kenny Roby), message board, fake Musichound Guide entry, press clippings, the bass player's tour diary and more, all best appreciated once you've read the book.