The Book

Praise for "Off the Record"

Metro magazine, November 2000
Philip Van Vleck

“Off The Record”

David Menconi, the staff rock critic for the Raleigh News & Observer, has written a novel entitled “Off the Record,” in which he charts the very abrupt rise and fall of a rock trio known as the Tommy Aguilar Band (which goes by the acronym TAB). It's a knowledgeable look at the music business from the inside out and should be required reading for anyone who thinks they want to be a rock 'n' roll star.

Menconi has been a pop music journalist long enough to become intimately acquainted with the "off the record" side of the music biz. The rumors and stories he's heard, and the strangeness he has witnessed first hand, would, if put down on paper, easily rival the copy he has published over the years. He's finally found a home for all that accumulated, unprintable data, and it forms the bedrock upon which events transpire in “Off the Record.”

TAB consists of the lunatic frontman-singer-songwriter-guitarist Tommy Aguilar; an incredibly normal, musicians' musician, bass player named Michelle Rubin; and a heavy hitting, opportunistic drummer named Ray Roby. Other principle characters are music journalist Ken Morrison, a mid-sized market ink slinger with a knack for self-promotion and an ethical blind spot the size of a highway billboard; rock club owner Bob Porter, a guy who earned a Purple Heart in the U.S. Army and earns another one via his involvement with TAB; and promoter/booker Gus DeGrande, the all-time sleazoid music business parasite, so corrupt and so thoroughly mercenary that if he were to come to life suddenly, he'd immediately be given the presidency of Sony Nashville.

With this dead-on set of music biz characters Menconi spins a cautionary tale of some considerable magnitude. The novel is a well-written page-turner, rich in the sort of detail that can only come from one who's spent his career talking to bands in cramped green rooms after gigs, interviewing hundreds of musicians, standing in clubs listening to live rock week after week and following the byzantine workings of the business.

For those of us who do what Menconi does for a living, Off the Record is virtually trade talk, albeit very organized trade talk. Everything in the story, from the band members to the gigs to the music to the rock clubs to the major label denizens, is so familiar that it's almost like TAB's crash-and-burn history really happened. For readers who don't work in the music biz, or write about it, Off the Record promises to be an eye-opening account of a hidden world. Menconi's prose has an immediacy that will put you right in the middle of the sonic blast, as a TAB song happens on stage, or take you into the record label executives' offices as they do what they do so well. The easiest way to find Off the Record is to go online at and search the author or the book title. You can buy the book right there. Make sure to check out the TAB web site -­ -- where you can get to know the cast of characters and actually hear some TAB songs. I'm serious.


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