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A&R: A Novel Hardcover – June 6, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (June 6, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375502661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375502668
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,277,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

One character in Bill Flanagan's sharp, exceedingly funny first novel thinks A&R stands for "Assault and Robbery," but he's wrong. In the music biz, it means "Artists and Repertoire," and an A&R man is a talent scout expected to sign up bands with major record labels, tell them he's protecting their vision, and then rob them blind. The book's protagonist, WorldWide Records A&R man Jim Cantone, is too kind to do this. He sincerely wants the best for his discovery, the vaguely 10,000 Maniacs-like group Jerusalem. His entertainingly sleazy boss, J.B. Booth, prefers the slightly Jewel-like Cokie Shea, a coat-check girl who slipped her demo tape into his jacket and walked off with a contract and his unwanted adulterous paws all over her. The downtrodden A&R girl Zoey Pavlov was about to sign Jerusalem when Cantone beat her to the punch, so she seethes with loathing, misinterpreting his every word in a plausibly paranoid, bitter way. Meanwhile, the millionaire founder of WorldWide, Wild Bill DeGaul, should be paranoid, because his underlings are Machiavellian piranhas, but he's always jolly and full of ganja-scented high spirits. He whisks everybody off to frolic in Brazil and takes Jerusalem to his Caribbean private island to record their debut CD, with idyllic and horrific consequences.

A&R is as witty and knowing about the music world as Primary Colors is about politics, but it's not really a roman à clef. You don't need to guess who WorldWide's bestselling pop diva Lydya Hall might correspond to in real life to savor the drama of her tough-love rescue by Wild Bill when she's "sucking the glass snorkel" (addicted to crack) and unable to deliver her Christmas album. Flanagan (a bigwig at VH1 who wrote superb books about songwriters and touring with U2) makes you more interested in his characters than their counterparts. He nails the self-delusions of music types affectionately, even when they're behaving abominably. Brilliantly, he shows how even the coldest betrayal of friends and principles for cash is cloaked in pious, bogus words. "Moral jujitsu," Cantone calls it. "Doing the right thing gets flipped around to become evidence of selfishness." Flanagan is also good at sussing out people's motives and milking misunderstandings for comedy. When Cokie drunkenly succumbs to her discoverer, J.B. Booth, she's no victim. "While she could resist his love talk and was not bullied by his anger, she could not handle the sound of him whining and begging. So she gave in, as much to be able to lie down as to make him shut up." Afterwards, she knows that "the easiest time to dump a man was right after sex. He'd gotten what he came for and his instincts were telling him to run away." Cokie plays J.B. like a fine violin. And as a satirist, Bill Flanagan has perfect pitch. --Tim Appelo

From Publishers Weekly

This panoramic, episodic and occasionally trenchant portrait of the scheming and treachery of the Artists and Repertoire part of the music world teaches a commendable (if familiar) lesson, but not always as subtly as it could. As the book begins, Jim Cantone, a fresh-faced father of two from Maine, has just been made senior vice-president at Worldwide Entertainment, a pop record label. He observes the verbal sniping of a normal day's work with bemusement gradually turning into hardened wisdom. CEO Bill De Gaul and president J.B. Booth, similarly histrionic, driven men, struggle for control of the company. Through underhanded manipulations, Booth finally manages to have De Gaul fired, leaving him in charge of the company and forcing Cantone to make some tough choices. Flanagan simultaneously keeps readers entertained with two mildly satirical success stories: that of Black Beauty, a black lesbian group that reappears throughout the book as a stereotype of a "politically correct" act of "unglamorous black women playing Woodstock era folk-rock," and that of Cokie Shea, a coat-check girl and aspiring country singer who metamorphoses into a star. Cokie is the novel's one memorable creation, less an embodiment of greed or na?vet? than an individual, with feelings and a soul. Seasoned music journalist Flanagan (U2 at the End of the World) is clearly wise about the ins and outs of the industry, but his knowledge occasionally leads him astray, making for long explanations and character biographies that may clarify events but retard the momentum. The faux journalism of his nuts-and-bolts style fails to make his story more believable. Although the novel is witty and has its fair share of thrills (including muggings in Brazil and a storm on the high seas), it falters too often and risks too little. 6-city author tour. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Bill Flanagan is the author of two previous novels, A&R and NEW BEDLAM, as well as two non-fiction books, WRITTEN IN MY SOUL and U2 AT THE END OF THE WORLD, and a humor collection, LAST OF THE MOE HAIRCUTS. He has written for Esquire, GQ, Rolling Stone, Spy, Vanity Fair and many other magazines and newspapers.

Flanagan is also executive vice president and editorial director of MTV Networks for which he created and oversees the series VH1 STORYTELLERS and CMT CROSSROADS. Flanagan has produced, executive produced or co-produced countless hours of television, including specials for NBC and ABC, two concerts from the Clinton White House, and The Concert for New York City after the September 11 attacks. He is ombudsman of the Sundance Channel series SPECTACLE: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH....

Flanagan is an on-air essayist on CBS NEWS SUNDAY MORNING. He has been interviewed on TV by Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer, Conan O'Brien, Jeff Greenfield, Bryant Gumble and Charlie Rose. He has twice guest-hosted for Charlie Rose and hosted PBS's special BOB DYLAN AT NEWPORT. He has also appeared in documentaries by Peter Bogdanovich, Julien Temple, and the BBC, been a guest on Terri Gross's FRESH AIR on NPR, and a talking head on PBS's American Masters.

Flanagan grew up in Rhode Island and graduated from Brown University. He is married to Susan Gallagher. They have three children and live in New York City.

Customer Reviews

The main flaw is that the characters are sorely underdeveloped.
That being said I still think this is a great book, a really fun read.
MJR reader
Suck it up & read this book--you'll literally laugh AND cry.
John Paul Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kevin on July 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Being a huge fan of music and interested in the backroom dealings of the industry, I just had to read this book. After reading almost the whole thing in one sitting, it didn't disappoint.
A&R is an intriguing novel of power-struggle and greed set against the backdrop of the cut-throat music industry. Not the usual story of up-and-coming bands getting taken advantage of by their record companies, but one of how record execs themselves fall prey to one another.
Jim Cantone lands a once in a lifetime job as head of A&R at a major record label. Instead of just discovering and nuturing new talent, Jim quickly learns that alliances and loyalty play a bigger role in surviving. Having to deal with back-stabbing, conniving co-workers and attorneys to "out of touch" CEOs, Cantone himself starts to lose his own sense of self.
With tales of how bands are used as pawns between record execs to the manipulation of musicians' careers just to feed egos, Flanagan writes with the conviction of an industry insider. Although the theme of the book is music and its business, anyone interested in an entertaining and captivating story should check this out. Musical interest is helpful but not a pre-requisite.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. Cullman on June 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've known Biill Flanagan over the years as a fellow traveler in music (we've written for a lot of the same magazines -- Musician, Rolling Stone, The NY Times, et al). I've always found him to be perceptive and clear-eyed about the music business while remaining a devoted fan of music, rarely cynical and unusually supportive, and those qualities serve him well in this novel. He's an engaging storyteller, and packs enough real adventure into the work--squalls at sea, a kidnapping, some street fights--to make me think that he could turn out some fine novels that have nothing to do with the music industry. But here he has great fun skewering the pretensions of the business while maintaining a genuine affection for his characters. Well done.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wellen on January 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
A & R is a blast to read. It breaks no new literary ground, but keeps you interested from beginning to end. I've long been fascinated by the entertainment industry (both in fiction and non-fiction form). I had never been much interested in the music industry, but Entertainment Weekly recommended the book and who I am to disagree? More seriously, this comic look at life in the big corporate world of music is really interesting. I'm guessing that Wild Bill is based on Clive Davis or someone like him. Jim, our hero, is a sympathic guy and we pull for him. We also pull for Wild Bill and some of the music acts. The characters are not all that well drawn, but enough so that you are interested. As many satricial novels, that is beyond the point. Flangan casts a critical eye at an ever changing industry and tells a fun story along the way. It won't win any big awards, but is a good read for those who like the entertainment industry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By stacey hood on June 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Flanagan, a big-shot with VH-1, knows the music biz...So it is only fitting that he has created a very life-like scenario. Enter Jim Cantone, a music-biz "suit" trying to hold onto to his youth while making the world safer with good music. Trials and tribulations apart, we meet music mogul "Wild" Bill Degaul, who shares Jim's passion for good music. If you have ever been in a band or in the business, you know the characters Flanagan has created. His writing is great and the story-line doesn't conveniently collapse at the conclusion. Superb dialogue, scenes and characters make this one a keeper!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jake Scudder on June 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I guess I'm one of those guys who knows a guy. I am a musician and have friends on both sides of the business (the artists and the labels) and have seen this book played out in reality several times. Flanagan is so dead on accurate with his hilarious portrait of the business he knows best. While this book has no shortage of satire, there is also a subtle plea for those who hold the pursestrings to remember the music.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DJ Joe Sixpack HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A tragi-comedic parable about a well-intentioned, bright-eyed boy scout of a music man who gets lured from his comfortable job at a prestigious independent label (roughly modeled on late-'70s Island?), into a corporate position as the number four man at a mega-label (Sony, perhaps?). Disillusionment and moral compromise ensues. Everything starts off just fine, with our hero club-hopping in an effort to sign his favorite band. Flanagan's real-life experience (as VP of VH-1) lends the right feel to the subterranean backbiting between rival record label execs, and the routine backslapping and insincere ego-stroking that are the industry's life blood are deftly drawn. The book stumbles, though, as Flanagan forces his characters out of New York and into an overdrawn, Hunter S. Thompson-ish romp in Brazil, which ends in tears and provides a flimsy pretext for one character to pursue a corporate coup. Frankly, I would have found it more interesting if he had kept things on a more realistic level, and relied on the petty personality wars of the entertainment industry to propel events... I'm sure there would be enough unbelievable material right there, and it would have been ultimately more rewarding for the reader. All-in-all, though, the book is fine, and for plebes like me who are eager for a glimpse into the world of corporate culture-making this may be an instructive foray. Speaking through his characters, Flanagan gets off a few understated broadsides at the sad state of post-'60s corporate culture-making, and the way in which record producing has become strictly a joylessly cynical, money-making proposition. So is there a happy ending? Hey - read it and find out!
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