Our blogmaster, Tim, received an uncorrected advance proof of Rock On, by Dan Kennedy, which he shared with me. The book chronicles Kennedy’s somewhat brief career as a marketing guy at Atlantic Records. As noted in the commentary on the book’s back cover, when Kennedy stumbles into this job, he “thinks he has landed a pass to the secret kingdom of rock and roll”, but as his tale unfolds, he learns that the activities behind the curtain at a major record label are a little less logical and polished than you might expect.
As I read, I could clearly pick up on Kennedy’s confusion at the all-too-common dichotomy that many of the proletariats at large companies feel while watching the activities of management; trying to square the belief that “I know more than these people” with the observation that “these people” must know something I don’t, because I don’t understand what they do or why they are in management.
As somewhat of a music geek and someone who works with the music industry at times, I was excited about the prospect of getting the lowdown from someone who was an insider. Alas, by the time I finished, I realized that Kennedy was never an “insider” — he was never treated like one, and certainly never felt like one. Instead, his time at Atlantic was spent under the black cloud of a rumored acquisition (with the layoffs usually tied to a takeover) and in the funk of trying to figure out what the people around him were doing.
His inability to “fit in” led to plenty of funny anecdotes, though. I don’t want to spoil the book for any potential readers, but let me say that his meeting with Duran Duran (in which he couldn’t figure out who one of the guys in the meeting was, despite replaying the video for “Rio” in his mind, and despite having professed being a “big fan” of that guy in particular) and his experience with The Donnas (who unwittingly ratted him out to his boss about the long lunches he was taking) were laugh-out-loud funny.
I would say the stories Kennedy tells about those situations and some others are in and of themselves worth the price of admission. It’s not a groundbreaking work of humor, but it was a quick and enjoyable read.
As a postscript, I harbor a bit of contempt toward Kennedy, because “Rock On” was the title I had previously come up with for the sitcom treatment I was thinking about writing up about a cheesy hair metal band from the 80′s that was getting back together to cash in on the retro fad; now, everyone will think I stole the title from Kennedy’s book. On the bright side, though, now I can bail on that idea, and hey — that’s one less thing to do for me.