Praise for "Off the Record"
Novel explores the flip side of fame
One of the most important cogs in the rock machine is myth — the building and marketing of public perception. Andrew Loog Oldham, the Rolling Stones’ early producer and manager, addresses this subject throughout his thoroughly readable new book, “Stoned: A Memoir of London in the 1960s,” which reveals how the legendary bad boys’ image was carefully tended and burnished in those first years.
Myth-making, as practiced in almost every episode of VH1’s popular “Behind The Music,” is also a subtext of the enjoyable “Off The Record,” rock critic David Menconi’s fast-paced quasi-fictional peek behind the scenes of the music industry.
Menconi, who writes for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., creates vivid characters and situations in this crisp tale of the rise and fall of the Tommy Aguilar Band (TAB), a trio loosely based on Nirvana and Raleigh alt-country poster boys Whiskeytown.
Aguilar is deeply troubled well before the money starts rolling in and the heroin problems mount. With his penchant for starting riots in nightclubs and taste for gunplay around the house, the talented singer-guitarist is plainly headed for a bad end.
Matters heat up when a mob-connected king-making concert promoter decides to take TAB under his wing. First, though, he must wrench control from the down-at-the-heels clubowner and manager who is one of the trio’s most ardent supporters.
Among several deftly penned characters is Ken Morrison, the local rock critic who leaps on the TAB bandwagon when it looks as if it will further his sagging career. The ethics-challenged Morrison helps cement the TAB myth — averting his eyes when the needles come out.
After a quick rise to the top, nearly everybody in this page-turner flames out. Along the way, Menconi gives us a largely fact-based glimpse of the corruption and greed at the heart of the music business, an industry in which musicians are like infantry — the first to die and the last to get paid.
“Off The Record” — available at Amazon.com and most bookstores — is the evil twin of “High Fidelity.”
Incidentally, for more on the fictional TAB, check out www.offtherecordbook.com, a sharply realized site that recalls the initial “Blair Witch” web destination.