Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rock On

I am going to recommend some things over the next few days that are worth engaging with. Today I would like to share a wonderful summertime read.

McSweeney's contributor Dan Kennedy's memoir of his job at a major record company as it was sinking, Rock On (An Office Power Ballad) has been described as This Is Spinal Tap meets The Office, which is apt. Any book that begins by quoting my one of life verses is onto a good start.*

Like many of his self conscious, snarky comrades (Bill Simmons, AJ Jacobs, Chuck Klosterman, Sarah Vowell, etc.) Kennedy is self effacing to a fault, consumed with his place in life, career and society, understanding that any success he sees is a facade which will one day be ripped down for others to see him as the loser he really is. He reminds me of someone I see every day in the mirror.

Rock On is hilarious much of the time, whether the author is realizing he does not know who Fat Joe is during a meeting about an ad campaign for Fat Joe, his crush on his boss, or lucking into an ad campaign in which he (as a white guy) tells Motown execs what MoTown means to Black America. It is even poignant when describing the reactions of individuals to a layoff (good for ministers). It is especially insightful when describing an ad campaign for a line of razors (Intuition) coinciding with a new Jewel album and single (Intuition) in which she sings of not selling out.

At times it is all at once, especially as he describes the day he is laid off and the aftermath. His description of his final day at work and layoff meeting reminded me that I was not alone when downsized and depressed. The email he wishes he had sent to his coworkers is priceless, as is his description of an Iggy Pop concert in which Iggy verbally abuses all the high powered sellouts paying his bills by running record companies instead of creating art. However, my favorite passage imagines Dr. Phil trying to scare a young Einstein and Picasso into following a real career path instead of following their dreams.

The book has many faults, including a bit too much cutesy nicknaming and inner dialogues, but these are forgivable offenses because it is a diary, memoir and therapy. We expect this. While some hope such writing has seen its final days, I hope not. It is the way I write. It is the way I think. It is the self awareness of the protagonist that I connect to and it is the mix of cynicism and hope that I exhibit daily.

If you love music, have ever wanted to work inside the music industry (which I wanted for years) or wondered what goes on in a record company- you will love this book. In fact, if you liked Body Piercing Saved My Life, Assassination Vacation, The Year of Living Biblically, anything by Bill Simmons, Chuck Klosterman or McSweenys, do yourself a favor and read it this summer (it will take only a day or 2).

more on Dan, his book, including excerpts, games, links and reviews. Be sure to read the joke "how many record executives does it take to change a lightbulb."

* "God, what a mess, on the ladder of success. Where you take on step and miss the whole first rung."- Bastards of Young by the Replacements

No comments: