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Showing 1-10 of 110 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 138 reviews
on May 27, 2012
Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of Watershed's music but never have seen the band perform live. After reading this book, I find myself scrambling to try and see them on their upcoming summer tour. I know live out West and the tour won't come anywhere near me, yet I feel the need to see this band after reading this book. That should tell you something. This book is powerful and makes the reader feel as if he has a connection with the author and band. Kind of like the band's music, only this is better. It hurts me to say that as Watershed has made great music over the years (I recommend all four full-length studio releases and the second live CD).

I purchased this book with the hopes of getting the full story of what happened to Watershed and how they quickly went from the next big thing to sort of a rock and roll nobody outside of Columbus, Ohio. I got that but also a whole lot more.

Instead of a chronological blow by blow account, the author brilliantly weaves story lines from the present and past all while thoroughly entertaining the reader. There are times you laughed, and others you cringed and thought of Spinal Tap and Anvil. Most of all, you appreciated the honesty of the author as he let you into his deeply personal feelings as the 20-something-year-old tale unfolds.

The writing, much like Watershed's ridiculously catchy rock/pop songs, is spectacular. The author hooks you with the premise of the book right off the bat and keeps you reading and wanting more. It took me about five hours to read this book, which was good and bad. It was good because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was bad because I enjoyed so much I could have read another 300 pages. It's no wonder he now teaches creative writing at the university level.

I read a lot of books about musicians, and many of them only are entertaining because the story is good. Many of them are so poorly written that it's like getting a root canal trying to finish them. This isn't one of those books. It belongs on the best-seller list, much the way Watershed's music does.

Kudos to the author for penning a masterpiece. Joe, you're not longer a hitless wonder. This book is a hit.

My only complaint: the footnotes should be on the bottom of each page and not all at the back of the book.
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on September 26, 2015
Having written my own rock 'n' roll memoir ("Off My Rocker"), I spend an inordinate amount of time reading others. I consider myself a rock 'n' roll lifer and love reading about others who were stung by the bug early in life and can't shake the disease. Bob Dylan's "Chronicles, Volume One," Patti Smith's "Just Kids," Levon Helm's "This Wheel's On Fire" . . . ooze the sweat, joy and frustration of leading a life devoted to music.
I just finished reading an incredible memoir and would be remiss if I didn't tell you about it. Written by an unknown singer/songwriter/bassist (Joe Oestreich) in an unknown band (Watershed), "HITLESS WONDER: A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll" is a love story. About the love of music, the love of your bandmates, the love of the road, the love of a woman. Watershed, like so many other bands, had several "almost made it" moments in their quest for rock 'n' roll stardom. A deal with Epic Records, opening slots for their heroes Cheap Trick, showcases at CBGB's and SXSW, making a record at the Record Plant, headlining an outdoor radio music festival in front of thousands of fans who sang along with every song . . . and yet . . .
Oestreich gave up the normal path of going to college and getting a real job to chase his rock 'n' roll dream. Watershed was the biggest band in Columbus, Ohio regularly playing sold out clubs and theaters. Drive a few hundred miles to Detroit (or virtually anywhere else in the country) and they'd play before a throng of five people, sell one CD and not even pay for gas money. Year after year after year.
I've heard this story before as I have a lifetime of friends who have come soooo close to the brass ring only to limp home, return to college in their 30s and prepare for another career. But no one has articulated this story as well as Joe Oestreich (now, in his 40's, a creative writing professor at Coastal Carolina University).
I won't give anything away, but the greatest thing to me is that Watershed is still making music. So many musicians sell their gear, give away their axes and even abhor the thought of playing a club again. But not Watershed. After finishing the book last week, I binged on their YouTube videos (1994-2015) and Watershed kicks ass with hook-laden, melodic power pop that I sang along with before the first spin ended.
Oestreich wrote the book in 2012 but it could have been written in the late 50's or twenty years from now. I (obviously) loved it and related to everything about it.
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on May 29, 2012
Hitless no more, Joe Oestreich ! I loved this book and expected no less from Joe - the Esquire & Sports Illustrated published and award winning author. By far the best music industry book I read this year (and I read a few by Butch Walker, Mike Doughty, Duff McKagan, Keith Richards...and didn't they all have, er, writing help?) and absolutely one of my favorite books full stop.

Joe's got a gift - his turn of phrase hooked long ago with the lyric in "can't be myself" :

"tonight this phone feels like a pistol,
black and cold against my temple
did just i leave a message or a suicide note
gotta suck the words back down my throat...."

while he's got a gift I'm sure he also works really hard craft/hone and re-craft these amazing descriptions which then flow into a superb story that takes you on a hell of a journey. Joe's the only one gifted enough to write about it - so just read his story. It's adorable (young men, basements & paper routes, city busses and Cheap Trick concerts, children and drum kits), cool (rock & roll!), heartbreaking (death, dashed dreams), romantic (love! lost love, love!), and victorious (rock & roll!!).

and one last lovely excerpt..... - a late in the "present day" tour through the south finds Joe with a rare moment of spare time. He ambles a bit down King Street in Charlestown, South Carolina to find things a bit "chain-ified" since his last visit - turned from small local shops and bars to Urban Outfitters, Pottery Barn and the like. He stops at Millennium Music (also since shuttered) to peruse the bins and finds their EP "Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust" , the original Epic record nearly 14 years after its release.. then continues down the street toward the now closed bar they had hoped to play - closed, blocked with a dumpster, likely about to be turned into a shiny chain coffee/furniture/clothing outlet as the rest of the neighborhood has. He muses:

" In a dust-caked window hangs a faded sign that reads support live music. I catch my reflection in the glass: an old timer holding an umbrella, staring into an empty storefront, window-shopping for his past."

Wow. Despite the fact that I disagree that he's an old timer, that's some damn fine writing.

Congrats Joe! Keep on rockin'! and I'm looking forward to your next book and the next Watershed release, Brick & Mortar, with equal enthusiasm! Brick and Mortar
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Great, well written memoir! Truly offers up the reality of the music business for the vast majority of musicians. I once heard Lou Holtz say he would tell his players that only 3-5% of them would make it to the pros, and that even if they did, most careers are 2-5 years at the most and often come with serious, long term injuries. I've studied this "reality" at length and it proves true across all careers. Regardless of how hard you work or how good you are, there are just a very limited number of people who go on to long lasting successful careers. A good point to remember is that even when they do, their lives do not always end up as wonderful as imagined. "Behind the Music" is just one example after another of the tragedy that fame & fortune can bring.
In many ways Watershed really did "make it". They got their foot in the door and got a fairly legitimate opportunity to give it a go with the big boys. Plus, they weren't just weekend warriors. They were on the road doing what it takes.
On page 279, Joe says, "If only our luck had been a little better...". As I said, I've studied this subject at length, and luck does seem to be part of the equation. I think we can all agree there have been successful acts and artists on the radio that probably shouldn't have ever been there. However, if you check out Watershed material, you'll see that they do have a very radio friendly vibe that probably should have done better.
The only reason I didn't give the book a 5 star rating is because I wanted to see a little more insight into the numbers. Oestreich does provide small glimpses into this aspect (see pages 160-161 & 192-193), and I totally understand it's not the focus of the book, but for the 97% out there, I thought this information would be good additional insight that really needs to be understood.
Again, great, well written, look at the rock & roll truth, and, let's face it, if it's in your blood, you really just have to follow your heart regardless of the outcome. Thanks Joe!
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on January 7, 2013
Having spent the better part of my adult life as part of a band, I found myself completely immersed in familiarity while reading this book. Being crammed in a van with other people and gear, long drives, knowing you're gunno go out there and play your best even though only six people showed up, knowing your family is back home wondering why you're still doing this.

You also get a very clear sense of the joy that goes along with making music, and of the drive that keeps you making music long after any rational sense would've said stop.

Oh, and it can be howlingly funny at times, too.

With the clarity of hindsight, you can see a lot of the trainwrecks coming. From the moment he says he was scouted by "the management team that discovered the Spin Doctors" you can see the dark clouds on the horizon. You can also see that no matter how much ambition and drive these guys have, their shot is done, even though it won't stop them. But it's only part of the story. The real story is in how the band members interact with each other, and how they interact with their families and friends through all the ups and downs of their career.

Anyone who's ever gigged as a weekend warrior or played a guitar in a cover band in college or humped their amps and gear around the country in a rented econoline really should read this book. Anyone who's ever thought about starting a band should read this book. Anyone who's ever wanted to see what the "rockstar lifestyle" is really like should read this book. It accurately punctures many of the myths surrounding the rich-and-famous record-deal lifestyle, while building new legends of getting out onstage with your buddies in front of a crowd that can sing along.

It's a really great book.
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on June 2, 2014
As both a musician/songwriter and now writer/storyteller, Oestreich delivers. The (mis?)adventures will certainly connect with those who've experienced the rock and roll 'biz': band eccentricities, dingy clubs, broken down vans, managers, booking agents, self-promo, endless driving, hauling gear, scrounging for everything, laughing cause you just can't cry anymore, etc. But even for everyone else, he touches on more universal questions we all face regarding careers and life: do you do what you love (and possibly starve) or one that you hate so you can pay the bills? Do you follow a dream, even if it means losing friends/family/dignity? At what point does optimism become delusion? "What are we fighting for?"

Oestreich doesn't answer those questions -- no one can. They're different for each person and circumstance. But he does a great job of laying it out. And in that regard, even if he doesn't sell a million copies, he is -- just like his band Watershed -- damn successful.
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on January 10, 2013
Oestreich, in my opinion, did an amazing job of telling the story of the "minor leagues" of rock and roll. As a fellow bass player, in a band that performs to crowds of typically no more than 20-30 people, I felt a special connection to his story. There were many passages in the book that, while reading them, I was certain I was reading my own conversations or thoughts. Watershed had a shot that hundreds, maybe thousands of other bands dream of every day- a major recording contract- only to have it snatched away, and I thought the way Oestreich described the feelings attached to the rise and fall was great. I shied away from giving the book 5 stars, only because at times I found the transitions between past and present to be a bit blurry/confusing. There are so many anecdotes from the book that I noted while reading, but the best of all for me was this: "Money and fame would have been nice, sure, but I think what we wanted most of all was to be included in the scene, in the record store, in the critical conversation." This concept is something my band, and I, can DEFINITELY relate to, and I believe goes beyond the music world and is easily relatable for almost anyone.
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on December 2, 2012
In "Hitless Wonder," Watershed vocalist & bass player Joe Oestreich engages the reader in a way that's impossible to resist. He describes in well-thought out, candid detail the ups & downs of the past 30-some odd years he & (other Watershed founder) Colin Gawel have played music together, as well as how wife Kate met him and they became the couple they are today. Through the arranging and endless miles driving to shows with their good friend / manager / caretaker "Biggie" McDermott, changing drummers from Herb Schupp to Dave Masica, the many colorful personalities encountered in the music business, and the coldhearted way in which Epic Records discarded them in the '90s... Joe tells all in an engaging recollection of the best band from the Midwest you may not have heard of. If you were ever there for any part of their travels, the book fleshes out some of the behind-the-scenes details that make you appreciate he & his companions even more. If you're new to Watershed, you'll read about the hard-earned, seemingly pointless traversing from show to show and realize that the love of the craft is what drives them to stick it out - even when the cause seems lost. Well worth any price you pay to page through this tome.
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on May 26, 2012
This one hits it out of the park. The throughline is, of course, the story of Watershed, a band from Columbus, Ohio, that just missed the pros -- its creation, the twists and turns of its journey. But along the way, the scope shifts widely, swinging from the particularities if individual relationships to the wide view of the music business in the United States, stopping along the way the consider the place of the Midwest in the American cultural landscape. It's a terribly hard trick to pull off, but in Joe's hands it's smooth as glass.

And did I mention that it rocks? Because it does. This is ballsy writing, kicking ass and taking names. Crack a beer or six, sit yourself down on a barstool, and read the heck out of Hitless Wonder; it's an enormously entertaining and exciting ride, and you won't regret it.
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on January 8, 2013
If you've ever lugged gear through rain, sleet or snow to play a 12:30am dive bar slot on a Monday night to a crowd that consists of only the bass players girlfriend and the three guys from the band before you that were nice enough to stick around, then you'll love every page of this book. Joe's experiences as a musician are immediately relatable to anyone who's ever picked up an instrument. This book is just plain fun to read. Joe's writing is often funny, at times touching and really nails what's it's like being in a band and why we keep at it despite overwhelming odds against it ever working out. It's also an informative first hand look into the music industry and culture during the last days of big label rock and roll as well as life in the post rock scene we currently live in. The book is as much about the death of rock and roll as it is about the band experience. I haven't really read a better take on the slow decline of the rock scene before anywhere. I found this book not only extremely entertaining but also fairly educational. Five stars for me, one of the most enjoyable reads I've had in a long while.
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