Review: A&R by Bill Flanagan

Posted: June 3, 2014 in Recommended Read, Reviews
Tags: ,

Originally posted at West of Mars, this review is being posted at its new home at The Rock of Pages.

When Bill Flanagan’s A&R first crossed my radar, I knew I had to read it. Even though it’s copyrighted 2000 and well past the date at which I knew I wasn’t going to realize my (short-lived) dream of being an A&R chick, I still needed to read this book.

It took awhile to get my hands on it. Years. And then it took years more for me to pull it out of the depths of my famed TBR mountain range and actually read it.
Once I did, however, I absolutely adored it.

Now, let me say that the music industry depicted in A&R doesn’t resemble the industry I’d gotten to know in the early 1990s, the industry I almost went to work for. That doesn’t mean it’s not real. In fact, this book resonates with truth. It’s that I was aiming for smaller labels, folks who don’t play on this scale. I’d have been sheltered from a lot of this — I hope.

And yet, there probably is no shelter. People like Booth and DeGaul and even protagonist (and naif) Jim Cantone can be found anywhere. This both widens the book’s appeal beyond us music biz junkies and takes away a lot of the glamour that we think of when we think about the music business.

The glamour is, in fact, kept to a minimum. Yep, there’s exotic travels that Jim gets dragged along on, but there’s also violence. Real violence. There’s sex — and quite bit consequences that go along with it. It’s a strength of this book that Jim can see all of this first-hand and retain his core values and focus, even as he realizes the hard truths of what your wardrobe says about you, and what it means to conform. Yes, conform. Even in the famously non-conformist music industry, you’ve got to find a way to fit in if you want to advance.

It’s a sad lesson, but then again, so are many of the lessons that Jim learns as the book unfolds. It may be rock and roll, but in this case, we’re not so sure we like it.

Uhh… we’re not so sure we like this world of rock and roll. The book? We loved.

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