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Bumping Into Geniuses: My Life Inside the Rock and Roll Business Hardcover – September 18, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The title comes from Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun's answer when asked how to make money with music: the way to get rich was to keep walking around until you bumped into a genius, as Goldberg paraphrases. Inside the industry for almost four decades, Goldberg now looks back at those he bumped into during his rise from rock writer to public relations to personal management, plus heading three major record companies (Atlantic, Mercury, Warner Bros.). As he puts it, The idea of this book is to give some impressionistic views, through my eyes, and through the examples of a handful of artists, of the rock and roll business from 1969 through 2004. He began at Billboard, where his rhapsodic review of the Woodstock festival established him as a rock journalist, and his opening chapter covers Paul Williams (Crawdaddy), Gloria Stavers (16 Magazine) and other editors and critics of the 1960s. Doing PR for Led Zeppelin was his introduction to the adrenaline of a big-time rock tour, and his backstage memories of those days are vivid and razor sharp, offering an intimate glimpse into PR strategies and tactics. The parade of personalities runs the gamut from Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks to Kurt Cobain and Warren Zevon. Goldberg summons up some fascinating anecdotes as he writes about these performers with much honesty and compassion, bringing it all back home. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Record label exec, publicist, and journalist Goldberg has interacted with many of the most successful pop acts of the last 40 years. Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Bonnie Raitt, and the Allman Brothers have all benefited from Goldberg’s acumen, and, among others, they populate his anecdote-laden memoir. He spins page after page of mots, many of them bon, and delivers insights like the observation that, before his suicide, Kurt Cobain frequently seemed listless and very stoned. Who knew? Well, for one, Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, also a client of Goldberg’s and also limned here. Many of Goldberg’s anecdotes seem fresh, and he tells them well. He spotlights some previously underreported aspects of the music biz, revealing, for instance, that Howard Bloom, his successor as editor of Circus, originally an “awkward schmoozer at best,” persevered to eventually have a roster of clients that included Prince and Michael Jackson back when having those two was a positive commercial situation. Great behind-the-scenes stuff told literately and with a minimum of pretension, this is both entertaining and cautionary reading. --Mike Tribby

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Edition edition (September 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592403700
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592403707
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,011,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This memoir begins in the blooming 1968 era rock scene, when rock and roll was becoming "rock" and it was beginning to be taken seriously as an art form. I think Mr. Goldberg's memoir is most successful in capturing the energy of that often chronicled era, though it gets short treatment in favor of the more detailed description of his activities in the more cynical New York rock scene of the early 1970's.

Another strong part:his status as a publicist for Led Zeppelin in the mid-70's allows a fascinating inside view of them. They were most exciting and innovative musicians, and he clearly was a fan of their music; but, as he confirms, they were also savages. In fact, at times some of them were real monsters. That was interesting reading. But this is one of the few instances in the book where he even attemptd to capture the raw excitement of the music. This excitement is,after all, the real reason why it was so popular a genre, and why it affords great business opportunities that Danny Goldberg discusses at sometimes tedious length. .

Indeed, the middle section of the book almost led me to discard it. It is clear he was bored by the most of the late '70's and 1980's music, and so the book gets boring. I got through this section, but it wasn't easy. You see, in this section Danny actually has praise for the music of Kiss, who he publicized. If Mr. Goldberg is a music fan first, as he claims, then how could he miss just how utterly lacking in musical talent-as distinct from promotional talent- those folks were? (inside comment: a longtime musician friend with 5 Grammies and 11 Emmies to his credit once told me that circa 1980, Simmons would say at industry events "I can't believe they pay us to play this s..t!") And while Mr.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a fan of learning the background and history of "classic" music and the artists that created them. The underbelly of the music industry often times combines all the elements that would be considered outlandish fiction, but with some insight into the creative process. With this in mind, I was interested in Danny Goldberg's reflections on his life in the music business.

Mr. Goldberg starts off with a quick run-through of his early life, and cataloging his musical tastes in the way most do to try to establish their bona fides with critics. Music is such a subjective thing that I tend to dismiss this tactic. But from there he documents his foray into the lower rungs of the music industry and his rise through various positions over the years. Therein lies my first criticism of this book.

Perhaps is was a fault of the writing itself, or perhaps it it trying to be humble (overly so), but I could never get a real handle on just how influential Mr. Goldberg was in these artists' careers. One almost gets the sense that he was "bumping into geniuses", but did so with no skills or abilities. With a few exceptions, he almost comes off as nothing more than a hanger-on, or - as a few reviewers have pointed out - an enabler of drug use and self-destruction (in the case of Nirvana).

My second criticism comes in Mr. Goldberg's narratives about his interactions with specific artists. He does fairly well in providing interesting details about Stevie Nicks, Warren Zevon, and - to some extent - Nirvana and Bonnie Raitt. But largely the interactions feel hollow, and there is no sense that we learned anything new or unique. Again, it almost stokes the feeling of being baffled that he ever got this far.
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Format: Hardcover
I admit that I was initially only interested in this book due to the final section's retelling of Warren Zevon's last year. From a personal standpoint, Goldberg deserves credit for whatever his role was in getting "The Wind" on the shelves.

In a generally solid, if a little vanilla, writing style,the author chronicles his good fortune at arriving at various important intersections where rock and roll made a left turn. It's not always clear what the author's role was; did he direct the traffic, or was he mostly a passenger along the way. Like many people in the entertainment business, and the music business in particular, one tries to walk the line between being subservient to an artist and maintaining whatever personal integrity one can. In the end, the lure of fame (even more than the money)and friendships of convenience win out. Some of the stories are entertaining, and carefully avoid the hyperbole that inhabits many "insider" books. But, then, the author refers to "genius" without really adequately defining it, as if it can really be defined anyway.

That was my main trouble with the book. "Genius" is a devalued term, and it's actually a disservice to lead the reader in this direction. Maybe this was by design, but to me there never seemed to be a unified theme. Maybe Goldberg realizes, as do most of us, that a genius might just be someone who puts something over on us for a while. It does a grave disservice to Warren Zevon to only print 4 lines from his song "Genius", but perhaps it puts it all in perspective:

"Albert Einstein was a ladies' man
While he was working on his universal plan
He was making out like Charlie Sheen
He was a genius"

Reading this book made me miss Warren's music all the more.
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