on December 2, 2011
I deeply enjoyed this book. The subject, Tribute Bands, could seem a bit off-putting. But it's the company of the writer that makes the project work. He's loose, humane and charmingly open about his own attractions to rock and the stardom fantasy. In the Stones-alike band Sticky Fingers and especially in the Mick-figure, Glen Carroll, he's got wonderful material. He handles it with kindness, intelligence and good will. He's got Whitman-like generosity--democratic good vibes.
on July 3, 2014
Possibly the most pleasurable book I've read in a long time -- well-written, and both very amusing and sad. What the author does is take us on tour with various "tribute bands" - music bands that mimic the appearance and songs of more famous rock bands. (This is a phenomenon that took off with the 1970s imitation-Beatles Broadway show, "Beatlemania".) Kurutz particularly takes us along with the group "Sticky Fingers", a Rolling Stones tribute band that is the main focus of the narrative.
We learn along the way that many tribute bands are made up of might-have-beens -- sincere and somewhat talented musicians who sought greatness in their own right but, when unable to do so, settled for the second-best option: the adulation of looking and sounding like a rock music legend.
The author spends less time with, though hints at, many apparently well-adjusted successful tribute bands who are simply happily in it for the fun and money, such as the all-female tribute band Lez Zeppelin. Despite some emphasis on the more interesting dark side of some tribute bands and their members, happily also for the reader, Kurutz doesn't belabor the negative or seek out or read into it all some Deeper Cultural Meaning. Nor, happily again, does the book trash the phenomenon of tribute bands.
Ultimately the author lets the "tribute band" members themselves tell, in vivid engaging detail, why these bands exist. The SPOILER is that explanation, which I will give here: basically it's a lot of fun and it beats just holding a regular unrewarding job someplace for a few dollars an hour.
And Kurutz lets us ride along with their adventures, rooting for them and trying to understand them and have fun with them.
The book's a journey, not a destination, and very well worth the ride.
on June 3, 2015
As a lifelong musician in a classic rock cover band for the last 25 years, I recognized and enjoyed reading about the challenges (psychological, artistic, economic, and physical) we have encountered doing what we love. The book is revealing and lays bare the occasionally darkly comical and often deeply humbling experiences of a top notch Rolling Stones tribute band whose success is limited by the reality that they will never replace the band they meticulously emulate. I also enjoyed the tales of numerous other successful tribute bands, especial Dark Star Orchestra, the preeminent Grateful Dead tribute band.
on June 15, 2008
Yes, rock and roll, much like the priesthood, tends to weed out all but the most hardy and dedicated. If you have ever taken a serious whack at the game, then you owe it to yourself to read this book. You'll laugh, you'll cry... Well, okay, you won't cry, but you'll certainly identify with the ups and downs, triumphs, failures, dysfunctions, stresses, joys, and fiascoes that are a part of that life. And if you threw in the towel a long time ago, you might just pat yourself on the back.
There are a lot of books about famous rock bands, but not too many that describe what it's like to be an average working musician, whether in a tribute band or not. The "tribute band" aspect lends an extra degree of absurdity to the whole business, especially today, when rock seems to be going through another one of its periodic death throes. (Believe it or not, a lot of us thought rock died around 1975. Shortly thereafter, disco was declared dead. Then punk also kicked the bucket. Remarkably, they all keep going.)
Among musicians there has always been a divide between the "cover band" types and the "original" types. This is even more pronounced when it comes to "tribute bands." There are those who find the concept repulsive, while others take a pragmatic view: "Hey, if you can play music and make money, why not? Beats digging ditches."
Well, maybe not. Rock and roll is sometimes incredibly hard work. A passage from the book summarizes things: "The members of Sticky Fingers and the Blushing Brides faced near poverty, small crowds, exhausting cross-country drives, and indifference from their peers and the world at large, in exchange for a few dollars and the chance to be onstage for a few hours."
Still, a good gig in front of an enthusiastic (albeit drunk) crowd is one of life's greatest highs, so that keeps these guys going.
Nevertheless, there is something unsettling about middle-aged men putting on wigs and doing impersonations of aging rock stars. A couple buddies and I could have formed a killer Elvis Costello tribute band back in the 1980s, but I'm not sure I'd want to be doing that now. You have to wonder how long the phenomenon will go on. Will it end with the last of the baby-boomers? Or will the nostalgia of the future involve aging hip-hop wannabes doing impersonations of Snoop Dogg? Stay tuned.
In the meantime, all you old school rock 'n' rollers and other aspirants to fame and fortune should get yourself a copy of this book. You're guaranteed to get a kick out of it and maybe even pick up some tips. It's a fast and fun read.
Kurutz loves his rock and roll, and LIKE A ROLLING STONE revels in the good ol' days when rock was king and musicians drank and did drugs like there was no tomorrow. His affection for rock shows through in every line, and before you know it you're right there in the van with Sticky Fingers, the east coast's most popular Stones tribute band. In one way or another it's been around since the 1970s, and its present leader, Glen Carroll, is an irresistible subject, sort of like the Falstaff of the tribute world. Yes, he drinks too much and yes, he's a liar, and no, he's not really a good singer, but Kurutz' writing is so persuasive I wanted the book to come with a DVD so I could see Sticky Fingers in action at one of the rundown nightclubs or frat houses they're booked to entertain in.
Sometimes it's life at the top, but more often Sticky Fingers' erratic financing make for tensions within the band. All of this is really intriguing, but the problem is of course, that it's really not enough material to make a book out of, and one gets the feeling Kurutz did all this research and then halfway through realized he had enough for a great magazine article, but that he was going to have to add more storylines if he wanted to get a book out of it. Thus we go back in time and meet with the original tribute band, the Broadway cast of "Beatlemania." Thus we go on the road with a second Stones tribute band, the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't Blushing Brides from Canada. Thus we are introduced to other sorts of tribute bands including some with real success stories, Dark Star Orchestra (DSO) which does the Grateful Dead, and ZoSo, the "ultimate Led Zeppelin experience." And in doing so, the focus of the book inevitably shifts away from Glen Collins and it becomes more about hardcore dollars and cents.
The cash nexus is never far from concern, yet what makes these tribute bands so endearing is that these guys aren't in it for the money--no, not really--they're doing something because they love it. And don't let me forget, also because evil life has got them in its sway.
on November 23, 2012
I'm not a rock fan; my ipod is full of Carolina beach music, R&B and Sinatra. Still, the dustjacket synopsis looked interesting, and the price was right (a remainder at BAM for two bucks.) The world of tribute bands was totally new to me, and Kurutz's smooth prose and obvious love of his subject quickly hooked me; I would have finished this in one sitting but I had to get some sleep.
The long, strange trip of competent musicians who make their living by living and playing the life and music of a well-known band is fraught with all sorts of pitfalls: the tendency to over-identify with the group they ape, the frustration of never having the fame and fortune of the real deal, the constant struggle to wish for some recogntion of their own talents for their own sake. Kurutz brings all these out with poignancy and grace, never mocking his subjects, while at the same time never letting us forget the odd lives they have chosen to embrace. A fascinating and entertaining read. Highly recommended!
on April 28, 2008
I picked up this book over the weekend and could not put it down until I was finished. Author Steven Kurutz captures "the sights, the sounds, the smells, of a hard-working rock band on the road" to quote "This Is Spinal Tap", with both hilarious and sometimes pathetic outcomes.
In the book, Kurutz travels cross country with two leading Stones trib bands, Sticky Fingers and Blushing Brides, and in documenting the highs and (very) lows, he manages to capture the humanity in what is becoming a dying industry - Live Music.
While reading this book one realizes that both Maurice Raymond and Glen Carroll (the Brides' and Fingers' Micks, respectively) are doing their thing not only because they crave the attention of being a faux Mick Jagger, but because they genuinely love the music of the Rolling Stones, even if it is being played to a handful of people in a dive bar.
And that being said, which is more rock and roll to you: A drunk singer shouting over too loud guitars to 50 sweaty drunks, or 100,000 people at the EnormoDome who paid $300 to watch the Stones on the JumboTron?
I choose the former.
If you're gonna buy one book on rock and roll this year, this is it!
on December 24, 2012
I'm so excited to find a cool book about Tributes and a little dissapointed.. but in a good way! I was seriously considering writing something similar but now will just enjoy this one. I run a large agency called Maximum Bands at [...] and we primarily book tributes for years.. and the stories I could tell you! From musicians that actually start to act and think they are the real thing to fans swearing it was the real band, to real bands joining tributes on stage, to folks selling their NASCAR tickets because they thought the REAL AC/DC was playing a local establishment..
It's a funny, cool, provacative world and it's growing. I'm so glad I found this book and have blasted this link to my Facebook and to many tribute bands to buy it!
on June 10, 2011
Wow, what a cool and fun look into the music business. I couldn't put this book down. It was a blast to go on this journey with the book's author as he spent time on the road with these musicians. Not just cover/tribute bands but truly great musicians that love what they do. That's what it's all about, right?
I love going to see these bands and getting a peek inside what it takes to pull off their shows night after night was really interesting. They really do love the music they play and their dedication is proven by what they experience every day.
If you love rock and roll, you will love this book. Well written and researched.
If you've never seen a cover/tribute band.....you will want to after reading this book, and if you have you will need to read the book too!
Thank you to the Author and the bands that play the music we all love!
on October 18, 2008
The older we rockers get, the more absurdly ironic becomes the practice of the art form by its original purveyors. This book takes a very skillful, insightful and loving look at what has become of us and our music. Reading this made me want to hang out with Glen Carroll and his mates. I think they'd probably be more interesting than Jagger and Richards at this point. And I may never choose to see the Stones again (cost, time and general usefulness), but I probably will go see Sticky Fingers if I ever get the chance.