Praise for "Off the Record"
David Menconi is a Music Critic for the Raleigh, North Carolina-based News & Observer. As such, he knows a lot about the seamy ins and outs of the music business and puts them to colorful, sometimes disturbing use in this, his first novel.
TAB, the Tommy Aguilar Band is an eccentric rockabilly/surf/punk/garage band trio who captures the ears of a local clubowner and a hard-to-please Music Critic. While the club owner scrupulously attempts to mold the trio’s raucous and riveting stage act into a saleable commodity, the critic touts the group in print, hoping to snare a piece of their inevitable national success.
Enter a powerful and unspeakably cynical regional promoter. He too spots TAB’s promise and the raw genius of Aguilar but knows that acts are easier to handle when backed into a corner. The promoter surreptitiously sabotages the band’s tours, independent record distribution, and even has their instruments stolen. Broke and starving, TAB views the conniving bigshot as a savior and dumps the club owner.
Once TAB is signed, the well-connected promoter simultaneously turns the band into stars and begins screwing them. Secret mixing sessions dilute their sound, he lures the Music Critic into writing puff pieces for a major rock magazine and the self-destructive Aguilar’s unquenchable spontaneity and rebellion is quashed by a ready supply of heroin.
The increasingly self-loathing Music Critic sees most of these dirty deeds but keeps them "off the record" until someone finally ends up dead.
Menconi’s work is strongest when it chronicles figures and circumstances identifiable to longtime industry watchers. Though Off The Record loses some narrative steam at the end, this knowledgeable, cautionary tale embraces the gut-kick power of a tell-all biography. Musicians and media types will find this one well worth reading. — Ken Burke, Blue Suede News (Summer ’01)